Contemporary Hindu culture originated primarily with the Aryans who invaded India about 1500 B.C. bringing with them the Sanskrit language and the Vedic religion. However, for at least 1000 years prior to this invasion, there existed a culture in India about which we know very little.
The cities of the Indus river valley left
no large monuments and although they did have a written language, it has
not yet been translated. From some fragmentary evidence that does remain,
scholars conclude this early culture contained within it many elements
that were later incorporated into the Hindu religion.
The Language of Consciousness
The exploration of consciousness has developed to a remarkable degree in the Hindu culture. In fact, the Sanskrit language has shown itself to be sufficiently precise in describing the subtleties of consciousness exploration that many Sanskrit words, with no adequate English equivalents, have become commonplace in our own contemporary culture. Consider for example these terms:
asanas: postures used to stimulate flow of life-force through the body and to aid meditation.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali prescribe a system of eight stages, or limbs for one's higher development. The first two limbs are known as yama and niyama. They involve a highly ethical and disciplined lifestyle -- control, indifference, detachment, renunciation, charity, celibacy, vegetarianism, cleanliness, and non-violence. The third step involves the development and care of the body through the use of exercises and postures called asanas. The fourth stage involves pranayama breathing exercises. The next stage, pratyahara, involves meditation, by means of which one withdraws consciousness from the senses.
The fifth limb of yoga is called dharana which means concentration. An object of contemplation is held fixedly in the mind; it must not be allowed to waver or change its form or color -- as it will have a tendency to do. Often the yogi will concentrate on different chakras or focal points within the body. Self-analysis is used to observe breaks in concentration. Often he will carry a string of beads and one is pulled over the finger every time a break begins. The next stage of dhyana occurs when the sense of separateness of the self from the object of concentration disappears and one experiences a union or oneness with that object. In the final stage, samadhi, one experiences an absolute, ecstatic cosmic consciousness. This does not, as some suppose, entail a loss of individuality. "The drop is not poured into the Ocean; the Ocean is poured into the Drop." The self and the entire universe are simultaneously experienced.
In the past decades, Western scientists
have begun to study the abilities yogi practitioners can achieved. Body
functions such as heartbeat, temperature, and brainwaves, that which had
been previously thought of as totally autonomic, have been shown to be
under the conscious control of some yogis. This research has paved the
way for the newly emerging science of consciousness which will be discussed
in Sections III and IV.
. A. L. Basham, The Wonder That Was India. New York: Grove Press, 1959. A fascinating and scholarly account of ancient India.
. The English word yoke is derived from the same proto-Indo-European root word as yoga. Thus we can see the close linguistic connection between spiritual freedom and physical bondage.
. Rammurti S. Mishra, Yoga Sutras. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1973. Linguist, yogi, physsician Mishra has been one of the most articulate representatives of the Hindu tradition in the West.
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