Yoga-sutras (Ancient and Modern Interpretations)

by Makarand Gopal Newalkar | 2017 | 82,851 words | ISBN-13: 9780893890926

This page relates ‘Introduction to Darshana: (Indian) philosophy’ of the English translation of the Yoga-sutras of Patanjali: an ancient Indian tradition spanning over 5000 years old dealing with Yoga:—Meditating the mind on the Atma leading to the realization of self. This study interprets the Yogasutras in light of both ancient and modern commentaries (e.g., Vyasa and Osho) while supporting both Sankhya and Vedanta philosophies.

Part 1 - Introduction to Darśana: (Indian) philosophy

Man is a thinking animal.

From the day of the evolution of living beings, āhāra (eating for survival), nidrā (sleeping for taking rest), bhaya (fear of unknown, like fear of death) and maithuna (procreation through copulation) are the traits which are common to animals and humans. It is however the power to think, contemplate and introspect due to developed intellect which puts humans in a higher category. Once the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter were met with, man began to think. Capacity to think logically and rationally separates man from other animal species[1] .

āhāranidrābhayamaithunāni samāni etāni paśubhiḥ narāṇām |
dharmo hi teṣāṃ adhiko viśeṣaḥ dharmaṇa hīnāḥ paśubhiḥ samānāḥ ||

The man has the intense yearning to know the unknown. The curiosity to learn about the universe and the laws governing the universe has been the uppermost in his priority. The man’s continuous quest about the fascinating nature, solar and lunar systems, galaxies, oceans, wind, the changes in climates and so on have led to many scientific discoveries and laws. The study of physics and sciences has come about from the pursuit of these aspects.

While seeking answers to several mysteries of nature which necessarily are external to man, he has also been having continuous quest to know his inner world. He has been also interested to know who he is. What is the nature and characteristics of the world? How and why the universe came to be about? Does this universe have any cause to exist? Or is it without a cause? What is soul or ātman, what is jīva? Does God exist, or he does not exist? What is the nature and characteristic of God? What is the evidence of existence of God? What is the ultimate cause of human life? What are the means to obtain valid and true knowledge? What is virtue? What is sin? What is life? What is death? What happens after death? Who controls the universe and all that happens both within and without? Can he feel sense and experience that higher being which can be seen? How the thoughts come into existence? What is mind? -From such fundamental questions and debates the Philosophy came into being. In the Indian context, the sages and seers sought and received the answers to many such questions during their intense sādhanā and deep contemplation. They then propagated this vital knowledge to the future generations of seekers and aspirants through literatures such as Vedas, Upaniṣads, Brāhmaṇas, Āraṇyakas etc. This is the reason the Vedas are construed to be apauruṣeya.

The emergence of six philosophical schools of thought in India, more popularly known as ṣaḍ-darśanas along with Jaina, Buddhist and Cārvāka schools led to a very systematic and scientific study of the man’s inner world.

Philosophy attempts to explain logically the answers to such fundamental queries based on intellect rather than through mere beliefs and emotions. Thus, the entire universe is a subject of contemplation for darśanas. As the human beings ponder over such questions at some point of time or the other, they can be truly considered as dārśanika. The only degree of skill or efforts separates us.

The Indian darśanas loosely mean Philosophy. Philos is love /attachment/belonging and Sophia is knowledge. The word darśana is derived from root dṛś meaning ‘to see or to take assistance of’. Thus, in Indian context, darśana means a school of thought through the study of which one can experience ‘true knowledge’. Indian darśanas do not merely explain mysteries of the universe at intellectual level but offer the capacity to have experiential knowledge. Darśanas are way of life. They allow the aspirant to see and experience.

Through the spiritual practices given by these, one gains intuitive knowledge. It is through intuitive knowledge alone, the true experience of universe is possible. Thus, intuitive knowledge is believed to be of superior quality compared to intellectual knowledge.

Indian schools of philosophy are very practical in their approach in as much that they attempt to show the path to “end of miseries of life.” As the man found that the life is full of miseries, his quest to find the ways and means of ending these miseries led to development and acceptance of philosophies. Knowledge of the Supreme Reality alone ends misery forever and leads to the state of Bliss and Silence.

Footnotes and references:


Sharma Vishwamitra, Chanyaka Niti, Manoj Publications, Delhi, 17-14

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: