Yoga Vasistha [English], Volume 1-4

by Vihari-Lala Mitra | 1891 | 1,121,132 words | ISBN-10: 8171101519

The English translation of the Yoga-vasistha: a Hindu philosophical and spiritual text written by sage Valmiki from an Advaita-vedanta perspective. The book contains epic narratives similar to puranas and chronologically precedes the Ramayana. The Yoga-vasistha is believed by some Hindus to answer all the questions that arise in the human mind, an...

Chapter XVI - Criticism on yoga practice

Disbelief in yoga.

Notwithstanding all that we have said and the authorities we have cited in the preceding article on the efficacy of yoga, we find some scholars in Europe and many educated men in this country, are disposed to discredit the efficiency of yoga to effect supernatural results or to be good for any thing. We shall state some of these objections which will be found to bear their own refutation on the grounds of their misrepresentation and self-contradiction.

 

Its painful practices.

Professor Monier Williams says that, "yoga system appears, in fact, to be a mere contrivance of getting rid of all thought, or at least of concentrating the mind with the utmost intensity upon nothing in particular. It is a strange compound of mental and bodily exercises consisting of unnatural restraint, forced and painful postures, twistings and contortions of the limbs, suppression of breath and utter absence of mind". (Indian wisdom p. 103) (so also Wilson's Hindu Religion p. 132).

 

Its questionable Features.

He then starts the question, "How is it that faith in a false system can operate with sufficient force upon the Hindu, to impel him to submit voluntarily to almost incredible restraints, mortifications of the flesh and physical tortures? How is it that an amount of physical endurance may be exhibited by an apparently weakly and emaciated Asiatic, which would be impossible to a European, the climate and diet in one case tending to debilitate and in the other to invigorate?" (Ibid p. 104).  Their Illegitimacy.

Professor Monier's statement of the existence of the aforesaid self mortifications and voluntary contortions of the limbs of the yogis for two thousand years or since the invention of yoga philosophy, is open to refutation on the ground of there being no mention of them in the old systems of yoga inculcated either in the Vedanta or Patanjali's philosophy, or even in the Yoga Vasishtha, as it is evident from the practices and processes of yoga we have already given before. Those processes are seen to be simply moral restraints, and no physical torture of any kind, and such moral restraints must be acknowledged on all hands, to be indispensable to the concentration of the mind on any subject of far less importance than the contemplation of the inscrutable nature of the Divinity.

 

Abuses of Hatha yoga.

The abuses he speaks of must be those of the arduous practices of the Hatha yoga, which have been in vogue with pseudo yogis of the later times, from their superstitious belief in bodily tortures as their best penance and only means, (as the author himself avows), "of their fancied attainment of extraordinary sanctity and supernatural powers." (Ibid). But such practices as have degenerated to deceptive tricks in this country, and are carried on by the cheating and cheated fools under the false name of yoga, present their counterparts also in the trickeries of the fanatics and fakirs under every form of faith on earth, without affecting the true religion or creating any misconception of the yoga doctrine.

 

Sacrifice of the spirit.

In vindication of our spiritual yoga we have to say that it is no exoteric religion, and requires no bodily mortification or sacrifice in any shape whatever, as it is the usual practice of all forms of religion among mankind. The yoga is the speculative training of the human soul, and concerns the castigation of the spirit and not the mortification of flesh. It has nothing to do with the body which is of this earth, and which we have to leave here behind us.

 

Sacrifice of the Body.

The universal doom of death pronounced on the original guilt of man, is not to be averted by physical death or any deadly torture of the body, as it is commonly believed by the bulk of mankind, to consist in bodily mortifications and sacrifices; but in the contrition and penitence of the spirit, and sacrifice of the soul as the only sin-offering for the atonement of our original and actual transgressions. The Purusha medha sacrifice of the Veda which is misunderstood for the offering of a male-being, a man, a horse, a bull or a he-goat or male of any animal, meant originally the sacrifice of the human soul, or self-immolation of the purusha or embodied intelligence to the Supreme Spirit, by means of its concentration into the same through the instrumentality of yoga abstraction. Dr. K. M. Banerjia's interpretation of the Purusha medha as typical of the crucifixion of Christ, is more conformable with his Christian view of the mysticism, than the spiritual sense of self-sacrifice, in which it is generally understood by the speculative Yogi and the philosophical Vedantist.