Introduction to Veda Yoga Philosophy
In the west yoga has become a health and fitness regime leaving behind its roots as a spiritual journey to link up with the Supreme. In this teacher training course we revisit these roots and learn how we can apply them to our lives in this day and age. This part of the course encourages a personal undertaking of spiritual growth which has no direct relationship to the teaching of yoga asanas. An introduction to the Veda Yoga Philosophy can be experienced and understood by attending classes at the Australian School of Meditation & Yoga. Please view their web site asmy.org.au to view the times.
On line resources: http://wisdom.yoga/
VYTT Yoga Philosophy Overview
Dear friend, the philosophy course included in this Yoga Teacher Trainee Course is fairly intensive. We will be going on a journey, and pointing out views that you may not have seen before and, if you’d like to come with us to the end you will find the final destination provides an expansive and enlivening vista.
We emphasise the importance of incorporating meditation practices along with the learning of philosophy. The mantras are designed to cleanse the heart and mind and make it possible to not only intellectually understand these ideas, but to, if you desire, realise them on a deeper level. So, even now, before looking at this preview of the course, if you have learnt Gauranga breathing, please spend a few minutes quietening your mind with this technique. If you are new to this method, please copy and paste this link into your web browser
and practice for a few minutes. Once you have done this, please carry on reading.
These days it is normal, while studying, to use the Internet to source answers to questions that arise. In the case of this philosophy course we don't advise this. For one thing unless the source of your information is authoritative, you may not even get accurate information. There is a lot of questionable material on the Internet.
Another reason is that there are many different ways that various terms and aspects of philosophy are described in different schools of thought, so what you find may not actually be what is being discussed in this course, which will lead to confusion
As this is just a preview, do not be surprised if you have some questions, which will probably be answered while doing the full course. But if you have any pressing questions please email me.
These are the units we will be doing in the course.
Methods of Knowledge
The Three Modes of Material Nature
Three Features of the Supreme
Each person will come to this course with a different background and view of the world. We are presenting a particular view of the world which will possibly be different from that which you currently have. By what authority do we present this knowledge?
Yoga philosophy is not something put together over the years by different people sitting round and experimenting and discussing. The process of gaining yogic understanding differs from the western scientific method.
When we consider transcendental knowledge, that is, knowledge of matters beyond the senses, knowledge that transcends the everyday world, it is not possible to access this via our or anyone else’s senses, it is only possible to gain such knowledge via a descending process. This is a succession of teachers and students, known as a disciplic succession. We shall also look at other methods of gaining knowledge by the descending process.
Identity and Mind
Over these three weeks we will explore the temporary nature of the material body and the changing nature of the mind, and how we are separate from both these coverings.The yoga term is “atma” meaning the living entity, the spirit soul, the self, who is temporarily covered by the subtle body of the mind, and the gross physical body. This atma, the spiritual spark, is eternal, but the body is temporary.
The difference between the self (atma) and the mind, is a little more difficult to grasp. We discover how the mind is a possession of the self, just as the gross body can be compared to a suit of clothes, the mind can be compared to the underclothes.
We shall go into this important point in more detail. For the aspiring yogi, the ability to calm and control the mind is a large part of the task of advancing in yoga. And so it is important to begin to understand the mind, what it is, how it works, and how to work with it. And all this is linked up with understanding that it is not me. I am not the turbulent, stubborn, agitating mind.
Having explored the essence of the self, the atma, as being a spiritual entity separate from the body and mind, we will look at the constitutional position of the atma. Some people like to think the atma, the spiritual self, is the Supreme Spirit, controlling “our universe”. Some of us would like to think we are in control of others lives also. But in either case it is an illusion and we give examples of the extreme limitations of our control.
Once we have explored the ways that we are not in control the conclusion will be presented that the living entity, the atma, is, by constitutional position, always in a dominated and controlled position. We are never the Supreme Controller. Just as a spark of sunshine never becomes the whole sun, or a leaf on a tree is part of the tree, but is never the whole tree, we never become the Supreme. Our essence is eternal spirit, indivisible and indestructible, but we are infinitesimal, not infinite.
Modes of material nature
The modes of material nature are a fascinating subject which you will find can have a wide application in your life. We discuss these after the unit on position because they are a further illustration of our dominated position. These three modes of nature, or “gunas”, are the subtle energies that run through the whole universe, affecting every movement, thought and action of every living entity. We will study these mainly by readings from the Bhagavad-gita, in which the speaker, Sri Krishna, very clearly describes the workings of these three energies.
Having come to a preliminary understanding of ourself as the atma, our essence as an eternal living individual completely distinct from the body and mind, and our constitutional position as a dominated infinitesimal spark of the Supreme, the next step is to understand what our constitutional, natural function is.
If we are dominated there must be someone or something dominating us and our function will be in relation to that entity. So in this unit we will be looking at who or what is the dominating energy, and what our relationship or function is in relation to this dominating energy.
We provide a number of ways of appreciating the existence of a Supreme Cause of all Causes and we look at the natural function of the small atma with the Supreme Atma.
In the relationship between the atma, the tiny dominated living entity, and the Supreme Dominator, the natural function of the dominated living entity is as the loving servant of the Supreme. This relationship is sweet, full of love and ananda or bliss. It is not like the situation in the material world where the concept of being dominated is a negative one. Here the situation is fully positive and the atma finds ultimate bliss in such loving service.
We discuss the fact that it is natural for us to be engaged in loving service and how such love is the happiness of the living entity, and is most fully expressed in relation with the Supreme.
Three Features of the Absolute Truth
In this unit we will look at the three ways the Absolute Truth can be experienced.
The first of these is the experience of merging into the Brahman. The second feature of the Absolute is that of Paramatma realisation. The Supreme Atma, the Supersoul expands Himself to travel with each of us, and is there for us to turn to at any time. The mystic yogis make their life’s goal meditation on and realisation of this Paramatma within their heart.
The third feature of the Absolute Truth is Bhagavan realisation. Bhagavan Sri Krishna, the Supreme Person, is the source of both the impersonal Brahman and the Supersoul within the heart. This is described time and time again in the ancient yoga texts. In the Bhagavad-gita Sri Krishna Himself states “I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman”. Bhagavan realisation is the ultimate goal of all forms of Yoga, and is the highest bliss of the soul.
Ashtanga Yoga is not the specific pattern of asana practice developed and made fashionable by Pattabhi Jois. Rather it is a holistic path of yoga, designed for a more peaceful and austere age. It is also know as Mystic Yoga, or the Yoga of Eightfold Mysticism. In this unit an understanding of the 8 limbs of this mystic yoga system are presented.