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YOGA (Skt. yuga, "yoke"), one of the six classic systems of Hindu philosophy, distinguished from the others by the marvels of bodily control and the magical powers ascribed to its advanced devotees. Yoga affirms the doctrine that through the practice of certain disciplines one may achieve liberation from the limitations of flesh, the delusions of sense, and the pitfalls of thought and thus attain union with the object of knowledge. Such union, according to the doctrine, is the only true way of knowing. For most Yogi (those who practice Yoga), the object of knowledge is the universal spirit Brahma. A minority of atheistic Yogi seek perfect self-knowledge instead of knowledge of God. In any case, it is knowledge and not, as is commonly supposed, feats of asceticism, clairvoyance, or the working of miracles, that is the ideal goal of all Yoga practices. Indeed, Yoga doctrine does not approve of painful asceticism; it insists that physical and mental training is not to be used for display but only as a means to spiritual ends.The Eight Stages. Yoga practice forms a ladder leading to perfect knowledge. (1) Self-control ( yama ) involves truthfulness, abstinence, avoidance of theft, refusal of gifts, and not doing injury to living things. (2) Religious observance ( niyama ) embraces austerity, poverty, contentment, purification rites, recital of the Vedic hymns, and devoted reliance on the Supreme Being. (3) Postures ( ă sana), of which there are a great many, are regarded as basic to all the stages that follow. (4) Regulation of the breath ( pră năyăma) includes altering its depth and rhythm, breathing through either nostril at will, and the virtual suspension of breath. (5) Restraint of the senses ( pră tyăhăara) means their withdrawal from external objects and the consequent turning of the mind upon itself. (6)

Steadying of the mind ( dhă răna) narrows attention to some one part of the body, such as the navel, the tip of the nose, or the middle of the brow, and in that way renders the practitioner insensitive to outside disturbance. (7) Meditation ( dhyă na) fixes the mind on the object of knowledge, especially Brahma, to the exclusion of all other thoughts. (8) Profound contemplation ( samă dhi) is the perfect absorption of thought in the object of knowledge, its union and identification with that object. The achievement of samă dhi liberates the self from the illusions of sense and the contradictions of reason. It is thought that has gone beyond thought, reaching its goal by its own negation. It leads to an inner illumination, the ecstasy of the true knowledge of reality.Liberation. The final stage, in Yoga doctrine, rarely can be attained in one lifetime. Usually, several births are required to achieve liberation, first from the world of phenomena, then from thoughts of self, and finally from the spirit's entanglement with matter. The separation of spirit from matter is Kăivalya, or true liberation.

As adept Yogi approach Kăivalya,they are supposed to acquire certain remarkable capacities. They become insensible to heat or cold, to injury, to pleasure or pain. They can perform supernatural mental and physical feats and even change the course of nature. They can distinguish the subtlest elements of matter and can, at the same time, see the universe as a whole, comprehending both microcosm and macrocosm in the same thought.

Such are the powers claimed or promised by Yoga. Few, if any, of these powers have been successfully demonstrated to disinterested observers. Nevertheless, extraordinary achievements have been reported by sober witnesses. Most impressive, perhaps, is the Yogi-sleep, in which animation is nearly suspended, enabling the Yogi to be buried alive for days. The Yogi-sleep has been explained by some authorities as a sort of cataleptic state induced by self-hypnosis and not essentially different from the cataleptic states that can be seen in mental hospitals.Various Systems of Yoga. Aspirants have a selection of practices to suit their capabilities and environments. Many of the wonder-working Yogi and almost all Occidental devotees are practitioners of Hatha (physical) Yoga. The latter is the basic system because it is concerned with developing those bodily controls from which all else follows. The other systems differ mainly in the varying emphases placed on the several phases of Yoga practice. Perhaps the most popular system in India is Bhakti (devotional) Yoga. This system emphasizes the first two stages of Yoga discipline, that is, self-control and religious observance. Other important Yogas are Mantra Yoga, which devotes itself to uttering the name of Krishna and other incantations; Karma Yoga, the path of work and service; and Jnana Yoga, the way of intellect. The synthesis of Bhakti, Karma, and Jnana Yogas is called Raya (royal) Yoga. History. The doctrines and practices of Yoga date from the period of the Upanishads. The Maitri Upanishad in particular outlines the essential practices of Yoga. These practices were elaborated and given a philosophical foundation in the Yoga SUtra of the Indian scholar Patańjali (fl. 2d cent. BC?), who is traditionally regarded as the founder of Yoga. Patańjali derived his doc trine from Sămkhya, the oldest of the classic systems of Hindu philosophy. In order to explain evolution, he departed from the system by grafting the concept of God (IŠvara) upon the atheistic outlook of Sămkhya. The concept is not an integral part of Yoga doctrine; indeed, some authorities consider it actually in contradiction with the rest of the system. In any case, Yoga, unlike other systems of Hindu philosophy, has subordinated doctrine to the refinement of practice. Systematic study of Yoga doctrine has declined in recent centuries.

As a system of practice, Yoga has from the beginning been one of the most influential features of Hinduism. Yoga exerted a powerful attraction upon Hindus because of the wonders attributed to it and because it gives countenance to the performance of austerities, to which Hindus are so strongly inclined. The strong influence of Yoga can also be seen in Buddhism, which is notable for its austerities, spiritual exercises, and trance states. As knowledge of Yoga spread, it fascinated and won followers among Westerners. Among more recent students of Yoga are the British writers Major Francis Yeats-Brown (1886-1944), Aldous Huxley, and Christopher Isherwood; the Romanian-born writer on religion Mircea Eliade (1907-86); and the British violinist Yehudi Menuhin. In recent years Yoga exercises have been recommended by some physical fitness experts as a means of cleansing the body of impurities, of reducing weight, of toning up the nerves and muscles, and, generally, of improving health and prolonging life.

Buddha's Teachings. The Buddha was an oral teacher; he left no written body of thought. His beliefs were codified by later followers. The Four Noble Truths. At the core of the Buddha's enlightenment was the realization of the Four Noble Truths: (1) Life is suffering. This is more than a mere recognition of the presence of suffering in existence. It is a statement that, in its very nature, human existence is essentially painful from the moment of birth to the moment of death. Even death brings no relief, for the Bud dha accepted the Hindu idea of life as cyclical, with death leading to further rebirth. (2) All suffering is caused by ignorance of the nature of reality and the craving, attachment, and grasping that result from such ignorance. (3) Suffering can be ended by overcoming ignorance and attachment. (4) The path to the suppression of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path, which consists of right views, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right-mindedness, and right contemplation. These eight are usually divided into three categories that form the cornerstone of Buddhist faith: morality, wisdom, and samadhi, or concentration.Anatman. Buddhism analyzes human existence as made up of five aggregates or "bundles" ( skandhas ): the material body, feelings, perceptions, predispositions or karmic tendencies, and consciousness. A person is only a temporary combination of these aggregates, which are subject to continual change. No one remains the same for any two consecutive moments. Buddhists deny that the aggregates individually or in combination may be considered a permanent, independently existing self or soul ( atman; q.v.). Indeed, they regard it as a mistake to conceive of any lasting unity behind the elements that constitute an individual. The Buddha held that belief in such a self results in egoism, craving, and hence in suffering. Thus he taught the doctrine of anatman, or the denial of a permanent soul. He felt that all existence is characterized by the three marks of anatman (no soul), anitya (impermanence), and dukkha (suffering). The doctrine of anatman made it necessary for the Buddha to reinterpret the Indian idea of repeated rebirth in the cycle of phenomenal existence known as samsara. To this end he taught the doctrine of pratityasamutpada, or dependent origination. This 12-linked chain of causation shows how ignorance in a previous life creates the tendency for a combination of aggregates to develop. These in turn cause the mind and senses to operate. Sensations result, which lead to craving and a clinging to existence. This condition triggers the process of becoming once again, producing a renewed cycle of birth, old age, and death. Through this causal chain a connection is made between one life and the next. What is posited is a stream of renewed existences, rather than a permanent being that moves from life to life in effect a belief in rebirth without transmigration.Karma. Closely related to this belief is the doctrine of karma. Karma consists of a person's acts and their ethical consequences. Human actions lead to rebirth, wherein good deeds are inevitably rewarded and evil deeds punished. Thus, neither undeserved pleasure nor unwarranted suffering exists in the world, but rather a universal justice. The karmic process operates through a kind of natural moral law rather than through a system of divine judgment. One's karma determines such matters as one's species, beauty, intelligence, longevity, wealth, and social status. According to the Buddha, karma of varying types can lead to rebirth as a human, an animal, a hungry ghost, a denizen of hell, or even one of the Hindu gods.

Although never actually denying the existence of the gods, Buddhism denies them any special role. Their lives in heaven are long and pleasurable, but they are in the same predicament as other creatures, being subject eventually to death and further rebirth in lower states of existence. They are not creators of the universe or in control of human destiny, and Buddhism denies the value of prayer and sacrifice to them. Of the possible modes of rebirth, human existence is preferable, because the deities are so engrossed in their own pleasures that they lose sight of the need for salvation. Enlightenment is possible only for humans.Nirvana. The ultimate goal of the Buddhist path is release from the round of phenomenal existence with its inherent suffering. To achieve this goal is to attain NIRVANA (q.v.) , an enlightened state in which the fires of greed, hatred, and ignorance have been quenched. Not to be confused with total annihilation, nirvana is a state of consciousness beyond definition. After attaining nirvana, the enlightened individual may continue to live, burning off any remaining karma until a state of final nirvana ( parinirvana ) is attained at the moment of death.
In theory, the goal of nirvana is attainable by anyone, although it is a realistic goal only for members of the monastic community. In Theravada Buddhism an individual who has achieved enlightenment by following the Eightfold Path is known as an arhat, or worthy one, a type of solitary saint.

For those unable to pursue the ultimate goal, the proximate goal of better rebirth through improved karma is an option. This lesser goal is generally pursued by lay Buddhists in the hope that it will eventually lead to a life in which they are capable of pursuing final enlightenment as members of the sangha.

The ethic that leads to nirvana is detached and inner-oriented. It involves cultivating four virtuous attitudes, known as the Palaces of Brahma: loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. The ethic that leads to better rebirth, however, is centered on fulfilling one's duties to society. It involves acts of charity, especially support of the sangha, as well as observance of the five precepts that constitute the basic moral code of Buddhism. The precepts prohibit killing, stealing, harmful language, sexual misbehavior, and the use of intoxicants. By observing these precepts, the three roots of evil lust, hatred, and delusion may be overcome.EARLY

DEVELOPMENTShortly before his death, the Buddha refused his disciples' request to appoint a successor, telling his followers to work out their own salvation with diligence. At that time Buddhist teachings existed only in oral traditions, and it soon became apparent that a new basis for maintaining the community's unity and purity was needed. Thus, the monastic order met periodically to reach agreement on matters of doctrine and practice. Four such meetings have been focused on in the traditions as major councils.

UPANISHADS, Hindu esoteric and mystical writings grouped in the Aranyakas, which are part of the VEDA (q.v.) . The philosophical concepts contained in the Upanishads served as the basis of one of the six orthodox systems of Hindu philosophy, VEDANTA (q.v.) . Some 150 Upanishads exist (108, according to the traditionally accepted number). Most are written in prose with interspersed poetry, but some are entirely in verse. Their lengths vary: The shortest can fit on 1 printed page, while the longest is more than 50 pages. In their present form, they are believed to have been composed between 400 and 200 BC; thus they represent a comparatively late aspect of Vedic Hinduism. (Some texts, however, are believed to have originated as early as the 6th century BC.)

The underlying concern of the Upanishads is the nature of Brahman, the universal soul; and the fundamental doctrine expounded is the identity of atman, or the innermost soul of each individual, with Brahman. Formulations of this doctrinal truth are stressed throughout the Upanishadic writings. Other topics include the nature and purpose of existence, various ways of meditation and worship, eschatology, salvation, and the theory of the transmigration of souls.


MAHABHARATA(Skt., "Great Story"), longer of the two great epic poems of ancient India; the other is the Ramayana. Although both are basically secular works, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana are ritually recited and are thought to confer religious merit on their hearers.

The central theme of the Mahabharata is the contest between two noble families, the Pandavas and their blood relatives the Kauravas, for possession of a kingdom in northern India. The most important segment of the poem is the Bhagavad-Gita, a dialogue between Krishna, the eighth incarnation of the god Vishnu, and the Pandava hero Arjuna on the meaning of life. It has influenced devout Hindu believers for centuries. The Mahabharata was composed beginning about 300 BC and received numerous additions until about AD 300. It is divided into 18 books containing altogether about 200,000 lines of verse interspersed with short prose passages. The Harivansha, one of several late appendixes, discusses the life and genealogy of Krishna.

PURANAS, Sanskrit writings about primordial times; part of the sacred literature of Hinduism. Tradition attributes the Puranas to Vyasa, a semilegendary rishi, or sage, purportedly the compiler also of the Veda and the epic poem Mahabharata. Scholars, however, regard the Puranas as having been compiled by many hands between the 4th and the 16th centuries AD.

In all, there are 18 great Puranas (many more subordinate works, and some modern ones, dealing with primordial times also are known as Puranas). All are written in verse, are represented as being divinely or supernaturally transmitted, and take the form of a dialogue between an interpreter and an inquirer. They vary in length from about 10,000 couplets each to more than 81,000 couplets; the 18 Puranas are said to contain, collectively, about 400,000 couplets. Each Purana is devoted largely to one of the three Hindu gods; each is also characteristically pantheistic, telling of other gods as well. Thus, six are devoted primarily to Brahma, six others to Siva, and the remaining six to Vishnu. On the whole, Vishnu is probably the most prominent.

According to tradition, each Purana is supposed to deal with five topics; this subject matter marks the Puranas as genuine and sets them all apart from other writings. The five distinguishing topics are the creation of the universe; the destruction and recreation of the universe, including the history of humankind; the genealogy of the gods and holy sages; the reigns of the Manus; and the history of the lunar and solar dynasties. The Puranas date from a later time than the Veda and the epics and thus represent a different stage of Hinduism, in which the Vedic and epic concepts and legends concerning the Hindu pantheon gradually were transformed according to the sectarian tendencies of the masses.

Buddha's Teachings. The Buddha was an oral teacher; he left no written body of thought. His beliefs were codified by later followers. The Four Noble Truths. At the core of the Buddha's enlightenment was the realization of the Four Noble Truths: (1) Life is suffering. This is more than a mere recognition of the presence of suffering in existence. It is a statement that, in its very nature, human existence is essentially painful from the moment of birth to the moment of death. Even death brings no relief, for the Bud dha accepted the Hindu idea of life as cyclical, with death leading to further rebirth. (2) All suffering is caused by ignorance of the nature of reality and the craving, attachment, and grasping that result from such ignorance. (3) Suffering can be ended by overcoming ignorance and attachment. (4) The path to the suppression of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path, which consists of right views, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right-mindedness, and right contemplation. These eight are usually divided into three categories that form the cornerstone of Buddhist faith: morality, wisdom, and samadhi, or concentration.Anatman. Buddhism analyzes human existence as made up of five aggregates or "bundles" ( skandhas ): the material body, feelings, perceptions, predispositions or karmic tendencies, and consciousness. A person is only a temporary combination of these aggregates, which are subject to continual change. No one remains the same for any two consecutive moments. Buddhists deny that the aggregates individually or in combination may be considered a permanent, independently existing self or soul ( atman; q.v.). Indeed, they regard it as a mistake to conceive of any lasting unity behind the elements that constitute an individual. The Buddha held that belief in such a self results in egoism, craving, and hence in suffering. Thus he taught the doctrine of anatman, or the denial of a permanent soul. He felt that all existence is characterized by the three marks of anatman (no soul), anitya (impermanence), and dukkha (suffering). The doctrine of anatman made it necessary for the Buddha to reinterpret the Indian idea of repeated rebirth in the cycle of phenomenal existence known as samsara. To this end he taught the doctrine of pratityasamutpada, or dependent origination. This 12-linked chain of causation shows how ignorance in a previous life creates the tendency for a combination of aggregates to develop. These in turn cause the mind and senses to operate. Sensations result, which lead to craving and a clinging to existence. This condition triggers the process of becoming once again, producing a renewed cycle of birth, old age, and death. Through this causal chain a connection is made between one life and the next. What is posited is a stream of renewed existences, rather than a permanent being that moves from life to life in effect a belief in rebirth without transmigration.Karma. Closely related to this belief is the doctrine of karma. Karma consists of a person's acts and their ethical consequences. Human actions lead to rebirth, wherein good deeds are inevitably rewarded and evil deeds punished. Thus, neither undeserved pleasure nor unwarranted suffering exists in the world, but rather a universal justice. The karmic process operates through a kind of natural moral law rather than through a system of divine judgment. One's karma determines such matters as one's species, beauty, intelligence, longevity, wealth, and social status. According to the Buddha, karma of varying types can lead to rebirth as a human, an animal, a hungry ghost, a denizen of hell, or even one of the Hindu gods.

Although never actually denying the existence of the gods, Buddhism denies them any special role. Their lives in heaven are long and pleasurable, but they are in the same predicament as other creatures, being subject eventually to death and further rebirth in lower states of existence. They are not creators of the universe or in control of human destiny, and Buddhism denies the value of prayer and sacrifice to them. Of the possible modes of rebirth, human existence is preferable, because the deities are so engrossed in their own pleasures that they lose sight of the need for salvation. Enlightenment is possible only for humans.Nirvana. The ultimate goal of the Buddhist path is release from the round of phenomenal existence with its inherent suffering. To achieve this goal is to attain NIRVANA (q.v.) , an enlightened state in which the fires of greed, hatred, and ignorance have been quenched. Not to be confused with total annihilation, nirvana is a state of consciousness beyond definition. After attaining nirvana, the enlightened individual may continue to live, burning off any remaining karma until a state of final nirvana ( parinirvana ) is attained at the moment of death.

In theory, the goal of nirvana is attainable by anyone, although it is a realistic goal only for members of the monastic community. In Theravada Buddhism an individual who has achieved enlightenment by following the Eightfold Path is known as an arhat, or worthy one, a type of solitary saint.

For those unable to pursue the ultimate goal, the proximate goal of better rebirth through improved karma is an option. This lesser goal is generally pursued by lay Buddhists in the hope that it will eventually lead to a life in which they are capable of pursuing final enlightenment as members of the sangha.

The ethic that leads to nirvana is detached and inner-oriented. It involves cultivating four virtuous attitudes, known as the Palaces of Brahma: loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. The ethic that leads to better rebirth, however, is centered on fulfilling one's duties to society. It involves acts of charity, especially support of the sangha, as well as observance of the five precepts that constitute the basic moral code of Buddhism. The precepts prohibit killing, stealing, harmful language, sexual misbehavior, and the use of intoxicants. By observing these precepts, the three roots of evil lust, hatred, and delusion may be overcome.EARLY DEVELOPMENTShortly before his death, the Buddha refused his disciples' request to appoint a successor, telling his followers to work out their own salvation with diligence. At that time Buddhist teachings existed only in oral traditions, and it soon became apparent that a new basis for maintaining the community's unity and purity was needed. Thus, the monastic order met periodically to reach agreement on matters of doctrine and practice. Four such meetings have been focused on in the traditions as major councils.

RAMAYANA(Skt.,"Story of Rama"), shorter of the two great Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Mahabharata (q.v.) . Rich in its descriptions and poetic language, it consists of seven books and 24,000 couplets and has been translated into many languages. It was probably begun in the 3d century BC, with the beginning and possibly the ending added later. The Ramayana tells of the birth and education of RAMA (q.v.) , a prince and the seventh incarnation of the god VISHNU (q.v.) , and recounts his winning of the hand of Sita in marriage. Displaced as rightful heir to his father's throne, Rama goes into exile, accompanied by Sita and by his brother Lakshmana. Sita is carried off by the demon king Ravana. With the aid of the monkey general Hanuman and an army of monkeys and bears, Rama, after a long search, slays Ravana and rescues Sita. Rama regains his throne and rules wisely. In the probable addition, Sita is accused in rumors of adultery during her captivity. Although innocent, she bears Rama's twin sons in exile, sheltered by the hermit Valmiki, said to be the author of the poem. After many years Rama and Sita are reunited.
Although basically a secular work, the Ramayana incorporates much of the sacred Vedic material ( see VEDA). Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, and Hanuman are widely revered as ideal embodiments of princely heroism, wifely and brotherly devotion, and loyal service, respectively. Reciting the Ramayana is considered a religious act, and scenes from the epic are dramatized throughout India and Southeast Asia. Known widely through translations and recensions (the best-known version being that of the 16th-century Hindu poet Tulsi Das), the Ramayana exerted enormous influence on later Indian literature.