By Bal Ram Singh
In inductive knowledge or the Agam gyan, an individual is given quite a bit of freedom to observe, analyze, and conclude. It is all based on self-determination, which comes from self-knowledge, and that self-knowledge from practicing yoga to focus on uniting the self to the rest of the body, mind, intellect, consciousness, and to one’s existence. When one realizes the depth which one needs to travel to understand the true meaning of yoga, only then it may be possible to devise ways to use it for health, peace, communication, and harmony in this world.
Most medical and scientific studies being conducted on the value and mechanism of yoga in one’s life is mostly at the physical (body and brain) and perhaps at mental level, which have limitations as at these levels the idea of yoga does not converge, as these reflect more of divergence amongst the people.
Thus, the studies of meta-analysis as reported in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology on the cardiovascular benefits of Yoga, despite their considerable scientific rigor, can only provide superficial yet useful knowledge that needs to be pursued with appropriate training and approach but to remind the reader that such studies merely skim the surface of Yoga.
The ashtanga yoga provides steps to climb on the path of yoga, and Yama is the very first of those steps. It requires understanding what to neglect, give up, or realize not possible. Knowing what is not knowable is the ultimate realization in the pursuit of the truth.
Vedic texts present the concepts both in abstract terms for those familiar with the system and have knowledge, and in terms of stories for those less familiar with the tradition. Natarajan (2015) cites a book by Robert Calasso entitled ‘Ka’ to state the contemplation of ancient Indians that the world “only exists if consciousness has perceived it as existing. And if a consciousness perceives it, within that consciousness there must be another consciousness that perceives the consciousness that perceives”. The same consciousness also called “Atman” is defined in the Upanishads as “that which sees you without being seen, that which hears you without being heard, that which feels you without being felt, and that knows you without being known”.
In Vedic texts stories are used to explain certain concepts. For example, a story is used in Katha Upanishad through a dialogue between Yama the Lord of death and a 12-year-old boy Nachiketa that “even the Devas (gods) and wise men do not know what happens to a person after death; that there are two roads; one to the Godhead, and the other to worldly pleasures.
One path intentionally goes away from the other, like light and darkness they conflict. The discerning person distinguishes between these two, one leading to an imperishable spiritual realm, the other to the perishable physical material world. There is one part of us which must die; there is another part which never dies. When one can identify with the undying part, then one gets to be with God (Brahman), one overcomes death. The imperishable cannot be attained by the perishable, moreover no amount of observance of rituals or ceremonies can earn the imperishable and eternal. This imperishable or Self (Atman) also cannot be attained by the study of Scriptures or intellectual pursuit, nor by frequent listening. Self is attained by only those whom God chooses, by them only is it attained” (Natarajan, 2015).
Natarajan (2015) posits that “Yama explains that after knowing “That” which is touch-less, odorless, tasteless, beginning-less, endless, beyond the Un-manifested, can a person escape from the cycles of birth and death (Samsara). This innermost essence never dies, cannot be heard or felt or smelled or tasted. The Almighty (Brahman) cannot be discerned by the 5 senses, hence all knowledge of Him must be acquired by the subtler faculties of heart, intellect and mind, which are developed only through the purifying practice of meditation (dhyan). When the five organs of perception and the mind become still, and the intellect ceases to be active; that is called the highest state. This state of equilibrium leads to super conscious vision.”
“This firm holding of the senses is what is called Yoga. Yoga literally means to unite the lower self with the Higher-Self, the worshiper with God. But you must be warned that he who thinks he does not know It, knows It; he who thinks he knows it, knows It not. The true knowers realize that they can never fully know It because of Its infinity, while the ignorant think they know It.”
Balram Singh is a Professor and the President of the Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, Massachusetts, researching Ayurveda, Yoga, Vedic education, and Vedic social and political traditions. He is also an adjunct faculty at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi.