THE GREAT BOOKS OF INDIA
Complied by Liisa O’Maley
With the help of Ram Dass
1. THE VEDAS
2. THE BRÂHMANAS
3. THE ÂRANYAKAS
4. THE UPANISHADS
7. YOGA-SÛTRA OF PATANJALI
SACRED AND TRADITIONAL LITERATURE
• SHRUTI (“hearing”) — directly revealed literature (i.e.VEDAS, BRÂHMANAS, ÂRANYAKAS, UPANISHADS)
• SMRITI (“recollection”) — remembered knowledge, written(i.e.MAHÂBHÂRATA, RÂMÂYANA, various SÛTRAS , various PURÂNAS (“ancient stories”, “encyclopedia” — dealing with the origins of things -from genealogies of royal families to the genealogy of the universe itself, mixture of myth and history, tradition and innovation)
Special case: TANTRAS (“loom”, from the root TAN meaning “to extend”, “expand”) are a post-Vedic revelatory literature. They bring– they discuss a wide range of subjects but focus on Goddess worship through rituals and visualizations
1. VEDAS — knowledge
• RIG-VEDA: “knowledge of praise,” consisting of hymns of worship addressed to various deities which are recited by the hotri (“caller”)
• SÂMA-VEDA “knowledge of song,” consisting of hymns chanted by the udgatri (“singer”) according to prescribed melodies
• YAJUR-VEDA: “knowledge of sacrifice,” consisting of hymns representing sacrificial formulas (yajus) chanted by the adhvaryu (general priest)
• ATHARVA-VEDA: “Atharvan’s knowledge,” consisting of hymns representing magical formulas and spells designed to promote peace, health, love and material or spiritual wellbeing.
RIG VEDA A collection of 1028 hymns codified around 1000 B.C.E. Contains poetic and philosophical accounts of creation, hymns in praise of the gods, and indications of a search for immortality.
SAMA VEDA A collections of hymns to be chanted at various sacrifices of soma (ritual intoxicant) complied about 900-800 B.C.E. from the hymns of the Rig Veda for liturgical use. Include a belief that the proper tone and pitch could secure creative power for the chanter.
YAJUR VEDA A collection for priestly use of sacrificial prayers, procedures, and formulae that are especially concerned with full and new moon sacrifices, the Soma Sacrifice, and Agnicayana. Text was compiled around 700-600 B.C.E.
ATHARVA VEDA Collection of hymns compiled around 600 B.C.E. and oriented toward domestic rituals. In time material was added on the Soma Sacrifice, which put stress on charms and curses intended for healing or inflicting injury.
UPANISHADS The divinely inspired philosophical and mystical writings that comprise the closing part of the Vedic literature. Major themes include 1. The identification of Brahman and atman 2. Rebirth (samsara) is contingent on one’s action (karma) 3. Liberation (moksha) comes through detachment from this world 4. The way to moksha is through meditation (dyhana). Compiled around 500 B.C.E.
BHAGAVAD GITA “Song of the Lord.” A conversation found in the Mahabharata between Arjuna and Krishna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra that has as its main theme the disinterestedness that is required in the performing of one’s duties. Compiled around 200 B.C. E.
PURANAS “Stories of Old.” Legendary and mythological versions of creation, the history and destruction of the world, and other topics. Accounts emphasize the tri-murti, the Hindu “trinity” of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Began as stories of edification especially for the lower castes and Women. Texts stress bhakti and miraculous manifestations of divine grace.
2. BRÂHMANAS – are prose works expounding and systematizing the Vedic sacrificial rituals and their accompanying mythology.
3. ÂRANYAKAS – are ritual treatises composed by and for forest hermits. This genre of scriptures ideologically stood midway between the esotericism of the Upanishads and the sacrificial ritualism of the Vedas and Brâhmanas.
4. UPANISHADS – (from SAT “to sit,” UPA + NI “close to,” that is, to sit close to one’s teacher) are texts containing esoteric knowledge that was transmitted from teacher (guru) to student (shishya).
All UPANISHADS are looked upon as part of the sacred revelation (shruti) and are regarded as belonging to the wisdom part (jnâna-kânda) of the VEDIC heritage. They represent a refinement of the spiritual teachings of the ancient VEDAS, characterized by the mystical internalization of the Vedic key notion of sacrifice. The UPANISHADS wanted from the beginning to be understood as secret teachings (rahasya), and their metaphysical thinking revolves around three closely related themes:
• the teaching of the transcendental core — the innermost Self (âtman) of one’s being is declared identical with the transcendental ground (brahman) of the universe
• the doctrine of repeated embodiment (punar-janman) of human beings, or, as the earliest Upanishads put it, their repeated death (punar-mrityu)the doctrine of karma and retribution, which seeks to explain the metaphysical effects of a person’s actions
• the notion that the production of karma and future reincarnation can be prevented through spiritual practices, notably renunciation and meditation
5. MAHÂBHÂRATA — “Great (Story of) Bhârata” was composed by Vyâsa (“arranger”), this is the grand epic of India telling of the war between the Kauravas and the Pândavas, or the struggle between good and evil, right and wrong, in the world and in the human heart and showing a way to freedom by observing the cosmic moral law (dharma).
BHAGAVAD-GÎTÂ — “Lord’s Song,” which forms chapters 13-40 of the sixth book of the Mahâbhârata, is a dialogue between the incarnate God Krishna and his pupil Prince Arjuna. This immortal conversation is the climax of the entire epic. It also is the earliest full-fledge Yoga-scripture, restating ancient truths. The central message of Lord Krishna’s Song is the balancing of conventional religious and ethical activity and the ideal of spiritual liberation.
ANU-GÎTÂ — “After Song” is a recapitulation of the teachings of the Bhagavad-Gîtâ. After the last battle, Arjuna asked his divine teacher, Krishna, to repeat the teachings he had received at the commencement of the war. The Anu-Gîtâ is Krishna’s response.
MOKSHA-DHARMA — “Liberation Doctrine” consists of chapters 168-353 of the twelfth book of the Mahâbhârata. Next to the Bhagavad- Gîtâ and the Anu-Gîtâ, this portion of the epic contains the most significant materials on Yoga. It brings teachings of many schools of Pre-classical Yoga and Sâmkhya (in their epic forms) prior to their systematization by Patanjali and Îshvara Krishna respectively.
6. RÂMÂYANA — “Life of Râma” composed by Vâlmîki, India’s second great national epic consisting of the following chapters:
• Bâla-kânda – the story of Râma’s childhood
• Ayodhyâ-kânda – Râma’s life in Ayodhyâ and his banishment
• Âranya-kânda – life in the forest and the abduction of Sîtâ, Râma’s wife
• Kishkindhya-kânda – their life with monkey allies
• Sundara-kânda – Râma’s crossing to Sri Lanka
• Yuddha-kânda – battle with Râvana, rescue of Sîtâ and return to Ayodhyâ
• Uttara-kânda – Râma’s life in Ayodhyâ, Sîtâ’s banishment, their reunion, death, ascent to Heaven
The Mahâbhârata and the Râmâyana can be compared to the Iliad and the Odyssey.
7. YOGA-SÛTRA OF PATANJALI — The “aphorisms on Yoga”
comprising four chapters (pâda) with a total of 195 aphorisms (sûtra meaning “strand” or “thread”):
• samâdhi -pâda (“chapter on ecstasy”) dealing with the transformation of consciousness
• sâdhana-pâda (“chapter on means”) developing the basic concepts of Kriya-Yoga and also the eightfold path of Ashtanga- Yoga
• vibhuti-pâda (“chapter on paranormal powers”) listing many extraordinary yogic abilities or siddhis but also dealing with the higher stages of yogic practice (i.e., the last three limbs)
• kaivalya-pâda (“chapter on aloneness”) bringing many important philosophical notions and discussing the final stages of Yoga (i.e., dharma-megha-samâdhi and kaivalya or liberation)
Legend of Patanjali derives his name from water having fallen (pat) on her palm (anjali).
Hiranyagarbha (“golden germ”) is the real “father of Yoga”, the source-point of existence and higher mind (buddhi), often thought of as an embodied sage.
8. HATHA-YOGA-PRADÎPIKÂ — “Light on Severe Yoga” or “Light on the Forceful Yoga,” a widely used manual on Hatha-Yoga composed by Svâtmarâtma Yogendra in the mid-14th century:
• integration of physical disciplines with higher spiritual goals and practices of Râja-Yoga
• 16 âsanas, six acts (shat-karma) performed before prânâyâma
• 8 types of breath control (kumbhaka)
• 10 seals (mudrâ), 3 locks (bandha), kundalinî
• ecstatic states (samâdhi)
9. YOGA-YÂJNAVALKYA — This early text medieval text has many parallels with the Yoga-Upanishads (esp. Shândilya-Upanishad):
• discusses Hatha-Yoga in 485 stanza distributed over twelve chapters
• presented as a dialogue between the sage and his wife Gârgî
10. GHERANDA-SAMHITÂ — “Gheranda’s Collection” is a popular manual on Hatha-Yoga, which was composed at the end of the 17th century and describes:
• 21 hygienic techniques
• 32 postures
• 25 seals (mudrâ)
11. SHIVA-SAMHITÂ — “Shiva’s Collection,” composed in the 17th-18th century and includes:
• philosophical treatment of Vedantic nondualism
• esoteric structures of the human body (i.e., cakras/chakras)
• discussion of competent teacher and qualified student
• breath control, and 3 levels of yogic accomplishment
• bandhas, mudras
• obstacles on the yogic path
• secret bodily center
• emphasizes the householder (grihasthin) life arguing that it is possible to attain liberation if all duties are observed
12. GORAKSHA-PADDHATI — “Tracks of Goraksha,” composed in the 12th-13th century:
• 200 stanzas outlining the Hatha-Yoga path
• esoteric structures of the body (i.e., cakras and nadis)
• emphasis on breath control
THE SIX DOCTRINES (SHAD-DARSHANA)
1 & 2 YOGA — PATANJALI
SÂMKHYA — KAPILA
3 & 4 VAISHESHIKA — KANÂDA
NYÂYA — GAUTAMA
5 & 6 PURVA MÎMÂMSÂ — JAIMINI
VEDÂNTA — VYÂSA
3 Major Darshanas (classical forms of philosophical schools)
YOGA SÂMKHYA VEDÂNTA
Patanjali Îshvara Krishna Bâdarâyana (Vyâsa)
Yoga-Sûtra Sâmkhya-Kârikâ Brahma-Sûtra
(200-300 CE) (450 CE) (100 CE)
dualism dualism nondualism
(prakriti/purusha) (prakriti/purusha) (âtman as the One)
satkârya-vâda satkârya-vâda mâyâ-vâda
(realism: pot preexists in clay) (pot/clay is illusory)
26 categories 25 categories 1 category (=âtman)
ecstatic merging discernment of discernment of categories (tattvas) Real/unreal
kaivalya kaivalya moksha
• KARMA — causality, transmigration
• MÂYÂ — eternal return, cosmic illusion
• NIRVÂNA — pure Being/Consciousness beyond karma & mâyâ, absolute
• YOGA — techniques for attaining Being/Consciousness, effectual techniques for liberation
EVOLUTION OF HINDUISM
VEDIC AGE (4500-2500 BCE) — creation and cultural prominence of the wisdom tradition embodied in the hymns of the four VEDAS.
BRÂHMANICAL AGE (2500-1500 BCE) — theological-mythological speculations and the ritual preoccupation of the priesthood are captured in the Brâhmana literature, also creation of the Âranyakas (ritual text of forest-dwelling ascetics) and the extensive Sûtra literature.
UPANISHADIC AGE (1500-1000 BCE, post-VEDIC) — Upanishads with distinct metaphysical and cultural flavor.
EPIC AGE (1000-100 BCE)–Mahabharata and Ramayana, preclassical developments of Yoga and Samkhya. This also is the age of emergence of Jainism and Buddhism challenging and stimulating Hinduism.
CLASSICAL AGE (100 BCE-500 CE) — crystallization of earlier traditions into philosophical schools and triumph of Advaita Vedânta and the Yoga-Sûtra of Patanjali.
TANTRIC AGE (500-1300 CE) — creation of a new cultural style and synthesis of a variety of approaches embodying Tantra and emergence of Hatha-Yoga around 1000 CE.
SECTARIAN AGE (1300-1700 CE) — flourishing of the bhakti movement, especially in the circles of Vaishnavas and Shaivas.
MODERN AGE (1700-present) — collapse of the Mughal empire and the establishment of British rule; 1947 India’s Independence; in the late 19th century, Hindu teachings were introduced to the Western culture).
• HINDUISM is more than a religion. Like the other world religions, it is an entire culture with its distinct lifestyle characterized by a unique social structure, i.e., the caste system.
SANÂTANA-DHARMA is the eternal teaching incorporating all aspects of Truth.
THE FOUR STAGES OF LIFE
1. BRÂHMACARYA (stage of the brahmacarin or celibate student) ideal of chastity (see Bhagavad-Gita + tapas)
2. GRIHASTHA (stage of the grihin or householder) — fulfillment of social obligations
3. VÂNA-PRASTHA (stage of the vana-prasthin or forest-dwelling ascetic) — study and intense practice of mediation
4. SAMNYÂSA (stage of samnyasin or renouncer) — renunciation and efforts solely directed toward liberation
• SÂDHANÂ — PRACTICES THAT LEAD TO MASTERY OF ONE OF THE YOGIC PATHS
SADH — to exert oneself
SIDDHI — result, accomplishment
• SIDDHA — accomplished on
• DARSHANA (root DRISH “to see”) — view, vision, point of view, doctrine
SVÂMIN — owner or lord
• common title of respect
• written “swami” in English
• master of himself (sva) rather than other people
• thought to possess paranormal powers (siddhi)
• in classical Yoga standing for the transcendental Self (purusha)
• sva signifies Nature (prakriti)
TAPAS — literally meaning “heat” or “glow;” any self-discipline that seeks to overcome one’s karmic (egoic) tendencies
GUNAS — modes of being, exist simultaneously
• SATTVA — luminosity / intelligence
• RAJAS — motor energy, mental activity
TAMAS — static inertia, psychic obscurity
SÂTTVIKA RÂJASA TÂMASA
• bodily austerity desire to win control self-torture,
• mental austerity or fame torture of
• vocal austerity other
THE WHEEL OF YOGA (YUJ = “TO JOIN”)
1. KARMA-YOGA — Yogic discipline of self- transcending action
2. HATHA-YOGA — Yogic discipline of integration via the body; HA represents the sun and THA represents the moon
3. RAJA-YOGA — Yogic discipline of the “royal” (RAJA) path of mind training to the point of ecstasy (SAMADHI)
4. JNANA-YOGA — Yogic discipline of discernment between the Real and the unreal on the basis of the philosophy of nondualism
5. BHAKTI-YOGA — Yogic discipline of devotional self-surrender to the Divine in the form of Krishna, Rama, etc.
6. MANTRA-YOGA — Yogic discipline of the recitation of potent sacred sounds, such as OM
7. LAYA- OR KUNDALINI-YOGA — Yogic discipline of dissolving the bodily elements through the awakening of the serpent power, inner sound or light current, focus on subtle senses (indriya pratyahara_
INTEGRAL YOGA — A MODERN SYNTHESIS
ASHTANGA-YOGA of PATANJALI
1. YAMA: roots of the tree
• AHIMSÂ – NON-HARMING, NON-VIOLENCE
• SATYA – TRUTHFULNESS
• ASTEYA – FREEDOM FROM STEALING
• BRAHMACHARYA – CONTROL OF SENSUAL PLEASURE, MODERATION
• APARIGRAHA – FREEDOM FROM GREED,
2. NIYAMA: trunk of the tree
• SHAUCA – CLEANLINESS, PURITY
• SAMTOSHA – CONTENTMENT
• TAPAS – HEAT OR GLOW, AUSTERITY
• SVÂDHYÂYA – SELF STUDY & EDUCATION
• ÎSHVARA PRANIDHÂNA – SURRENDER TO
GOD, SELF SURRENDER
3. ÂSANA: branches of the tree
4. PRÂNÂYÂMA: sap of the tree
5. PRATYÂHÂRA: leaves of the tree
6. DHÂRANÂ: bark of the tree
7. DHYÂNA: flower of the tree
8. SAMÂDHI: fragrance of the flower
(KAIVALYA – fruit of the tree)
prâna: breath or life force
THE 5 BREATHS
THE 8 RETENTIONS (kumbhaka/breath control)
1. SÛRYA-BHEDA : SUN PIERCING
2. UJJAYÎ : VICTORIOUS
3. SIT-KÂRÎ : SIT MAKER
4. SHÎTALÎ : COOLING
5. BHASTRIKÂ : BELLOWS
6. BHRÂMARÎ : HUMMING
7. MÛRCHÂ : SWOONING, FAINTING
8. PLÂVINÎ : FLOATER
INHALATION *** EXHALATION *** RETENTION
MUDRÂ: locks /seals
KRIYÂ: deed, operation, effort, act rite
BANDHA: (bond or bondage, lock or constriction)
• MULA-BANDHA — root
• UDDIYÂNA-BANDHA — upward, navel
• JÂLANDHARA-BANDHA — Jâlandhara’s lock, throat
SHAT-KARMA (six acts of Hatha-Yoga)
1. VASO-DHAUTI — cleansing by cloth
2. VASTI (or BASTI) — “bladder”; jala or water, shushka or dry
3. NETI — with thread or with jala (water)
4. NAULI — rolling
5. TRÂTAKA — gaze (drishti)
6. KAPÂLA-BHÂTI — “skull brightening,” shining
SAMÂDHI — “ecstasy”, from DHA (“to establish”)
• a state of consciousness that lies beyond waking, dreaming, and deep sleep, and in which mental activity (VRITTI) ceases. It is a total absorption in the object of meditation. If that object is God or the Absolute, the result is God-realization.
THERE ARE VARIOUS STAGES OF SAMÂDHI
• SUPRACONSCIOUS ECSTASY
• CONSCIOUS ECSTASY
• FORMLESS ECSTASY
NIRVIKALPA-SAMÂDHI (Vedânta equivalent of asamprajnâta)
• ECSTASY WITH FORM
SAVIKALPA-SAMÂDHI (samprajnâta equivalent)
THE CAKRA SYSTEM (CHAKRA)
1. MULÂDHÂRA EARTH LAM (LUM)
2. SVÂDHISHTHÂNA WATER VAM (VUM)
3. MANIPURA FIRE RAM (RUM)
4. ANÂHATA AIR YAM (YUM)
5. VISHUDDHA ETHER/SPACE HAM (HUM)
6. ÂJNÂ GURU AUM (OM)
7. SAHASRÂRA SELF/PURE CONSCIOUSNESS
SAUH (SAW) SPINAL LOCATION
IDA-NADI (cooling) “channel of comfort” MOON (chandra)
Parasympathetic nervous system
SUSHUMNA-NADI “most gracious channel”
PINGALA-NADI (heating) “tawny current” SUN (surya)
Sympathetic nervous system
MANTRAS ARE ENERGY BASED SOUNDS.
MANTRAS ARE CHAKRA BASED SOUNDS.
MANTRAS FOCUSED WITH INTENT INCREASES ITS’ EFFECT.
MANTRAS HAVE ONLY AN APPROXIMATE LANGUAGE BASED TRANSLATION.
MANTRAS ENERGIZE PRANA.
MANTRAS ARE ENERGY THAT CAN BE LIKENEND TO A FIRE.
MANTRAS EVENTUALLY QUIET THE MIND.