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Why yoga and meditation are used as separate terms by people across the globe?

This article aims to solve the much-debated use of yoga and meditation as separate concepts among scholars.

 

Antah Yog Yoga and Meditation

Image by 李磊瑜伽 from Pixabay

Gautama Buddha and hatha yoga

By the sixth century A.D., Nepal and India had seen several centuries of spiritual progress. Two great personalities were born in the sixth century B.C. Siddharth Gautam, born in Nepal, is globally recognized as Buddha, while the other was Mahavir, the founder of the Jain sect, an Indian cultural tradition. They both practiced severe austerities and taught ‘non-violence’ (ahimsa).

Buddha’s final teachings are known as the ‘Four Noble Truths. ‘ Two of Buddha’s systems achieved worldwide recognition. One is called vipassana, and the other is Anapanasati, which translates to “contemplation.” Buddha accomplished this by establishing the ‘Eightfold Path,’ a system of ethics comparable to the yama and niyama of raja yoga.

As a result of Buddha’s popularity, meditation dominated spiritual practice across the subcontinent. Nonetheless, the preparatory procedures were disregarded. Ethics and morality were emphasized far too heavily. At this time, Indian intellectuals began to reconsider Buddha’s system.

Indians thought meditation was the highest path, although they disagreed on one point: that one can instantly begin meditating. Instead, they feel that preparation is necessary.

Five hundred years after Buddha and one hundred years before Christ, in India, at Nalanda in Bihar, a Buddhist university devoted to the Hinayana school was founded. Hinayana means ‘narrow way,’ which refers to the traditional Buddhist doctrine. Tens of thousands of students from all over the world came to study religion.

However, another Buddhist sect disagreed with the traditional interpretation of the teachings. They believed that that was not what Buddha had taught. Therefore, they founded another university named Vikram Shila in Bihar, eighty miles east of Munger, which became the epicenter of the Mahayana teaching tradition. 

Mahayana means ‘grand way.’ They were not orthodox Buddhists but relatively liberal, open-minded Buddhists. In this Mahayana school, they also began integrating tantra; however, this was not something Buddha lectured directly on, and thus, traditional Buddhists did not believe in it. 

From Vikram Shila arose the sects Sahajayana, the ‘way of spontaneity,’ and Vajrayana, which encompasses sexual matters between a man and a woman. Consequently, the practices of tantric sects were grossly misunderstood by the orthodox.

After roughly five hundred years, the popularity and influence of Buddhism decreased, along with the practices of these tantric groups.

 

Then, in the 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries A.D., after the time of Buddha in India, some great yogis adopted the science of the tantric system and set out to purify it. Matsyendranath, Gorakhnath, and other traditional yogis saw that some people ignored this critical topic and taught the wrong things. Consequently, they separated the 'hatha yoga' and 'raja yoga' practices of the tantra from the rest and omitted the tantra ceremonies entirely without mentioning them.

When they selected the practices, they extracted the helpful, practical, and noble yoga practices from the tantric system. At that moment, it became necessary to categorize specific unclassified tantric instructions.

Buddha was a brilliant personality, but his teachings were later restricted to only psychological experiences. Therefore, it became vital to reinstate a suitable meditation system. This is how the hatha yoga system was formed. Matsyendranath founded the Nath cult during this period, which held that the body and its elements must be purified before engaging in meditation techniques. This concept is central to hatha yoga.

 

The foundation and origin of the Yoga Sutras

According to one version, Hiranyagarbha (Brahma) composed the Yoga Sutras. Perhaps, but for the sake of simplicity, he formulated them with the assistance of Patanjali.

Some academics assert that Sage Patanjali existed in the fourth century A.D. In contrast, others believe he lived in the year 50 A.D., yet others say he existed in 400 B.C., and still more say he existed 5,000 years before. Uncertain but commonly agreed, the date is approximately 400 years before Christ. 

This date is estimated using multiple methodologies. One technique compares the Yoga Sutras’ practices and ideas with those of other books, such as the early Upanishads and the Samkhya and Buddhist scriptures. The primary fault of the ancient texts is that they cannot be securely dated. 

Additionally, it is challenging to determine who inspired whom and which writing appeared earlier. Furthermore, scripture does not fix the chronology of a philosophical system; scripture could have been written hundreds of years after the conception, development, and spread of a particular philosophy.

Patanjali appears to have composed the Mahabhashya and Charakapratisanskrita, two more writings on Sanskrit grammar and medicine. Whether this Patanjali is the same one who wrote the Yoga Sutras is still being determined.

 

If so, it argues that the Yoga Sutras were composed about the same period as or shortly after Buddha and the renowned grammarian Panini, around 500 BCE.

It is said that Rishi Kapila founded the Samkhya philosophy, which forms the basis of the Yoga Sutras. This school existed before the emergence of Buddhism. Many scholars claim that Buddha studied Samkhya at an ashram known as Alarkalam during his quest for enlightenment. 

Samkhya was a prevalent philosophy in India at that time. Samkhya rejects all God theories, arguing that the existence or nonexistence of God is immaterial to individual sadhana or spiritual practice. 

Buddha stated the same thing; he did not teach belief or nonbelief in God. But, the influence of Samkhya on Buddha’s teachings has a weak basis. While there may be some similarities between Sankhya and Buddhist thought, it is inaccurate to say that Sankhya philosophy directly inspired the Buddha.

On the other hand, Sage Patanjali diverges from both Samkhya and Buddhism in that he presents the concept of God, but he does it deftly and as a potent sadhana for those inclined toward the path of bhakti yoga.

Some claim that Sage Patanjali was affected by the Jains, while others assert that he was the one who influenced them. Others argue that Sage Patanjali based much of his writing on Buddhist beliefs and practices. 

It is more likely that “six of one and half a dozen of the other” applies since no system grows in isolation. Both historical and modern techniques have influenced every approach.

There are strong similarities between the teachings of Buddha and Patanjali, especially in the basic rules of yama and niyama and the fundamental philosophical notions. However, whether the Yoga Sutras were written before or after Buddha is still being determined.

The Yoga Sutras’ impact is evident in subsequent Buddhist literature, such as the Vishuddhi Magga, although this does not establish the dating of the Yoga Sutras.

Intriguingly, Sage Patanjali does not quote or refer directly to other literature. This suggests they were created before many of India’s well-known scriptures and religious traditions.

In contrast, the language of the Yoga Sutras is more recent than that of Buddha's period.

This appears to place the date at the generally accepted period of roughly 400 B.C., although there are still many other considerations to examine. The language of the Yoga Sutras may have been revised after the original manuscript was written, the original having been lost, or the Yoga Sutras may have existed in an unwritten form for a considerable time before being committed to paper.

Our position can be summed up as follows: all raja yoga practices existed long before Sage Patanjali, even in a dormant state within the collective unconscious mind. The Yoga Sutras are likely a collection of previously known texts transmitted orally from teacher to disciple. Patanjali’s brilliance was responsible for putting the system into a thorough textual form.

Conclusion

The Samkhya system might or might not have influenced the teachings of Lord Buddha, but it has a definite influence on Maharshi Patanjali. Both of them popularized meditation. But raja yoga, the yoga system of Maharshi Patanjali, is believed to have been popularized after the teachings of Buddha. 

Since meditation from both the systems Maharshi Patanjali and Lord Buddha focused much on psychological experiences, the practices couldn’t be generalized for ordinary people as those techniques demanded control of the mind by mind and were challenging, to begin with. 

Hence, a system of hath yoga was introduced by great yogis Matsyendranath and Gorakhnath so that anyone could begin yoga sadhana with the body and prana and eventually gain control over their mind. No practices are superior or inferior but greatly depend upon the eligibility and needs of the practitioners.

 

About the Author

Picture of Sanjeev Yadav, M.A. Yoga, P.G. Psych., DNHE
Sanjeev Yadav, M.A. Yoga, P.G. Psych., DNHE

Mr. Sanjeev is a yoga professional specializing in applied yoga, psychology, and human excellence with over more than 8 years of experience as a health and life coach, well-being trainer, and psycho-yogic counselor. He is completing his Ph.D. dissertation in Yoga.