More and more people are getting attracted towards Yoga, for good health and mental peace as stress and tension reaches to an intolerable level in our daily life. Unfortunately, many of us believe Yoga is some form of complicated meditation, while being completely ignorant about its positive effects as well. There are also quite a lot of people who feel that Yoga is merely an aggregate of stretching and warm-up exercises. But Yoga is much more than all this and Surya Namaskar, a simple form of exercise is an integral and important part of scientific Yoga.
Hence, I am very happy to see the book “Vedic Life of Suryanamaskar”. The book presented with lots of interesting information on Surya Namaskar.
The book is written by Yoga Master, Vincent Earth Kottayil. I feel that this book is most appropriate on Surya Namaskar because it gives us an opportunity to learn and understand one important aspect of our rich cultural heritage. I will be very happy if people profess and make Surya Namaskar a part of their daily life for living a good and healthy life.
Even in the current times of Environmental crisis, the power of Sun remains a significant part of wellbeing just as our forefathers had also placed Sun at the forefront in their lives.
Our Vedas have also narrated numerous instances of praying to the Sun for good health and prosperity. Some Vedic citations and verses have also been incorporated in our daily spiritual routine for welfare of human being through the Sun prayers.
Sun Prayer is definitely a novel gift to the world by us, which has been practiced by our saints and sages for centuries. Best part of Surya Namaskar is that it covers Exercise, Meditation and Prayer, which are the three pillars of Yoga. Surya Namaskar has been recognized as an act of praying to the Sun God, which has been professed for centuries by our ancestors but in our struggles of life, we are losing this glorious heritage, sacrificing it at the altar of our hectic and stressful lives.
I am suggesting that each one of us must start the day with this simple exercise. In my view, simply put, Yoga means that which keeps Mind, Brain, Body and Soul together to lay the foundation for an eternal and peaceful life. Every morning, if we do this exercise in the stipulated correct manner, it will keep our Mind and Body rejuvenated while removing all physical stress.
Once again, I am grateful to Vincent Earth Kottayil, who have made the intricacies of this subject so easy for the common man to understand. To progress in our life, we need to take care of both, our mind as well as body and to achieve this there is no other alternative to Yoga.
In the tradition of India Yoga has been considered as one of the six system of philosophy – Sat Darsanas (Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Sankhya, Purva and Uttara Mimamsas). All other darshanas have accepted the system as valid and most useful for aspirant seeking their salvation through their own Philosophy including the three main uttara mimasa systems of learning – advaita, visishtthadvaita and dvaita. Shakti-visishtadvaita also has used Patanjala Yoga in their practices. Patanjali is known for his great contributions through his 196 sutras in four padas – Samadhi, Sadhana, Vibhuti and Kaivalya padas.
While he has given the whole jist of his thesis in the first chapter after defining cutely the term Yoga as “citta vrtti nirodhah”, he goes to describe the types of vrttis as klishta and aklishta (painful or neutral); the five vrttis – pranama, viparyaya, vikalpa. nidra and smrtis are clearly elaborated. I considered that Patnajali’s greatest contribution is in including sleep – nidra also as a vrtti; all our vasanas and sanskaras – imprints or memory stores also are put into the gamet of vrttis or modifications of mind. If anyone aspiring to gain mastery over Yoga, he should not only get the same about the thoughts in wakeful stage but also those in dream and deep phase of sleep. He should be able to silence all the thoughts – both the vyakta (manifest) and the avyakta (unmanifest). The two-fold approach of understanding and practice (vairagya – renunciation and abhysa – practice) forms the key features for fastest growth in the pilgrimage of Yoga to go back home – svarupa – our original state of absolute silence called the Purusa or Isvara or Kaivalya. He says that Isvara is a perfect person having no bondages of klesas, karmas (bondage of actions) and vipakas (transformations). He describes in detail the concept of kleshas as five fold – avidya, asmita, raga, dwesa and abhinivesas as the manifestation of bondage from the casual state of ignorance through ego (“I” ness), attractions and repulsions culminating in identification with lower adjuncts as body and our possessions.
To gain freedom from these bondages and gain the mastery over to them, we need to resort Astanga Yoga – yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, and pratyahara as indirect ways to control the mind and dharana, dhyana, and samaadhi as direct ways to handle the distractions of mind and to traverse through subtler layers of mind. Through the tri-fold technique of samyama (dharana – dhyana – samaadhi). the specialised technique of Patanjali, we can bring the necessary transformations called parinamas. Three types of parinamas – ekagrata, samadhi and nirodha – have been described to give the glimpses of higher and advantage practices in Yoga. These sequentially lead to eight different types of samadhis – vitarka, vicara, ananda, and asmita the four types and smaprajnata and asamprajnata in each.
We have to understand the theory of Karma and its role in creating, vasanas or imprints of memory as smrti in us – so that this subtle bondage has to be systematically erased with proper understanding and behavioural transformations. In the sutra “Maitri, karuna, mudita, upekshanam-sukha duhkha, punya apunyanam bhavanatah citta prasadajam” he gives the formula for behavioural therapy. Using the freedom inherently present in all of us to modify our inner nature of mental modifications and external nature through behavioural transformations. Patanjali gives us the most valuable and comprehensive technology to gain total cessation of all thoughts to reach the highest mastery called Kaivalya or go back to our original svarupa.
This traditional text called Patanjala Yoga Sutra composed by patanjali (900 BC) is an un unbelievably fascinating text as the siddhis he described with such logical accuracy and methodology to get at them in Chapter 3 – called Vibhuti pada, are mind- boggling. For a general student of science this is all cock and bull story. But an adept of quantum mechanics which is equally mind – boggling with phenomena of non- locality, etc., Patanjali’s text makes more sense. For our ancient seers it was a treasure – house of knowledge, practices and techniques that could satisfy even the non- believers of God to take to the practice of yoga for their own limited purposes of developing concentration, memory, wealth, intelligence, creativity, etc. those mystics and tantriks who sought knowledge of seen and the unseen, found Patanjali’s techniques very useful. For philosophers of advaita and other acharyaas, Patanjali’s system was extremely useful to purify the mind, behavior, etc. For seekers of para-psychological powers of telepathy, clairvoyance, transmigration, Psucho-kinesis, distance viewing, etc. Vibhuti pada offers tremendous science and technology for their achievements from a sincere and deep sadhak. These secrets of practices are not elaborated anywhere in the ancient texts with such vividity and accuracy. And of course for all those who aspired salvation from all miseries and permanent relief from all bondages in life the set of sutras to reach them to Nirbija Samadhi from Sahija Samadhi is the most novel approach easily available to one and all.
The modernisation of the techniques of meditation by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi brought to the world at large, the grandeur of Patanjali’s system of Yoga in 1970s, which got spread throughout the world as one of the biggest movements backed up by extensive and intensive scientific research. Other components of Astanga Yoga as asanas to suit the convenience of people immersed in the busy schedules and hum-drums of city life of the world at large have brought into vogue thousands of books on Yoga which in turn have been published by publishers of the ancient traditions to sell them for a penny or distribute them free of cost to one and all in large numbers on one hand, while other publishers have gone ahead to bring out yoga books of enchanting packages to make big money through best sellers. The popularity of Yoga has grown so much that all these versions of yoga are hot cakes in the world today.
Swami Vivekananda included in the gamut of the meaning of Yoga as a process to elevate man from his animal level of instincts to normal human beings to seek wealth and pleasure to raise oneself to great human heights of sacrifice with selflessness offering all their life to the good of humanity. And also, to next, fathom the higher laws of subtle and causal layers of mind categorised into five layers of mind – panca koshas in the Upanisads, the associated laws and benefits of fathoming and practicing techniques to stabilise those higher states of super human existence. To use all these powers called as siddhis or vibhutis for the good of the society is the task of great yoga masters living in vijnansamaya kosha levels. Such yoga masters and spiritual saints in the end of their lives would leave the body voluntarily to reach the ultimate – Purusha as Patanjali mentioned, Moksha as mentioned in Upanisads – our original state of no Bondages.
In this definition of Yoga Swami Vivekananda was able to easily include all other system of philosophy and systematised the same as Jnana Yoga –the path of intellect, Bhakti Yoga – the path of emotions, Karma Yoga – the path of action apart from Patanjala Yoga which he called Raja Yoga. The second contribution of Swamiji is to proclaim that all these paths can independently lead to the same goal – Moksha and the modern man therefore can pick and choose any of these – one or two or all to reach that eternal freedom, Kaivalya, Moksha, Nirvana of Buddha, etc.
This book of Vincent Earth Kottayil captures the spirit of this four-fold path enunciated by Swami Vivekananda. Theory and practice put in simple language, practices categorised into three parts – simple, meditative and hard practices, he has tried to bring out the same in an attractive way. Any number of such books which contain the same wisdom and practices of Yoga published already will still be welcomed by people at large all over the world. By introducing a novelty of practices of asanas used in day to day life in our tradition in the villages here and there Vincent has made the book attractive.
We wish him all the best in this endeavour.
S.vyasa Yoga University, Bangalore.
Former Scientist at NASA, USA
Padma Shri Dr. H.R. Nagendra