Some Yoga and Dhyan Upanishads

Categories : Spirituality

Yoga and Dhyan have remained inseparable parts of the life of the great ancient seers about whom we learn from our religious scriptures. Stories of intense Tapasya (penance) abound in Puranas and Mahabharat for obtaining boons from Gods. The old gurukuls were a little away from settlements, surrounded by forests known as Tapovans. These must have remained the ideal grounds for yoga and pranayama. These must have formed an essential portion of the curriculum in those olden days.

However, the first attempt to theorise yoga was made by Patanjali in about the 2nd Century BCE in his yoga sutra which has remained the standard composition till date. Yoga continued to remain popular in modern times also. In recent centuries it has been popularized by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Acharya Rajneesh (Osho), Dhirendra Brahmachari etc. Its latest promoter has been Baba Ramdeo whose yoga demonstrations in camps helped the growth of yoga and meditation practices on a much larger scale. The U.N.O has also recognised the significance of yoga for human well-being and health and has declared 21st June as Yoga Day for the entire world.

Former Sankhya had no place for God in its philosophical treaties. However, it began to be bracketed with yoga when yoga associated itself with AUM for pranayama. Almost every Upanishad on yoga and Dhyan looks dependent on AUM for control of breath which is the prime requirement for yogic exercises and pranayama. Even today we find practitioners of yoga who demonstrate their capabilities for controlling their rhythm of breathing, their heartbeats and their capacity to survive on water and air. The invisible AUM which is a sound resounding throughout the Universe always remains associated with them. The relationship of AUM with Pranayama is wonderful.

Yoga was popularised in the West particularly in America by Maharshi Mahesh Yogi. However, Yoga as practiced by Patanjali was slightly different from the yoga taught in modern times. Modern yoga is Kundalini based which requires it to be raised for its upward journey towards the head travelling through the intermediate chakras. Reference to nerve-based Pranayama is found in Upanishads also.

There are many Upanishads which seem devoted to Yoga and Pranayama. They seem to be teaching the methods of yoga and Pranayama in a very simple way. A short description of some important Upanishads has been given below.

Jabal Darshan Upanishad:

This Upanishad belongs to Samveda and is a comparatively larger Upanishad divided into 10 chapters. The first chapter begins with the incarnation of Vishnu into Dattatreya who is regarded as the Supreme authority on yoga. His disciple was guru-devoted Shankriti who requested Dattatreya to explain the details of yoga to him. The entire Upanishad is in the form of explanations regarding various aspects of yoga provided by Dattatreya.

The teacher explains the eight steps of yoga known as Yam, Niyam, Asan, Pranayam, Pratyahar, Dharana, Dhyan and Samadhi. In the very first chapter, a detailed explanation of Yam (the first step) is found. Yam is the exhibition of 10 qualifies in a yogi known as non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy, simplicity, pardoning capacity etc. There is a detailed explanation of all the ten qualities in the first chapter.

In the second chapter the second step “Niyama” is explained. Niyam also describes 10 qualities like purity, austerity, contentment, study of the Vedas and devotion to God etc. All the 10 qualities have been explained.

In the third chapter nine types of Yogic asans have been explained. They include Swastikasan, Gomukhasan, Padmasan, Veerasan, Sinhasan, Bhadrasan, Muktasan, Mayurasan and Sukhasan. Methods of all asanas have been explained.

In the fourth chapter, the nervous system has been described. Dattatreya makes it known that there are 72000 nerves in the body of which fourteen are the main ones named Susumna, Pingala, Ida, Saraswati, Pusa etc. The spread of the nerves has been described. Ten types of Pran Vayus have been described of which Prana, Apan, Vyan, Saman and Udan are the main. The functions of all ten Vayus have been outlined. Distribution of Tirtha in the body has been described and the supremacy of Shiva has been explained.

The fifth chapter describes the methods for keeping the nervous system in a healthy state. Purity of mind and the self is the other method indicated.

The sixth chapter describes the method of Pranayama in association with Omkar through Purak (slow inhaling), Kumbhak (holding the breath for a duration) and Rechak (slow exhaling) for repeated times continuously emitting the sound of AUM. Types of Pranayam and its rewards have been explained.

The seventh chapter is related to Pratyahar. Concentrating on AUM by the complete exclusion of distracting thoughts and remaining fixed on the point is called Pratyahar. Remaining fixed in the Self is the best method recommended.

The eighth chapter is related to Dharana. The method is to remain concentrated on Brhma (earth part), Vishnu (water part), Shiva (Agni part), Ishwar (Vayu part) and Sadashira (Ether part) for yoga.

The ninth chapter describes two types of Dhyan. The first type relates to the union with Shiva and the second type with Brahma.

The tenth and final chapter describes the state of Samadhi when the Atma Tatva of the yogi gets fully dissolved in the Parmatma Tatva. This may be designated as the Turiyatit stage of yoga.

Thus, Dattatreya completed the whole sermon relating to yoga.

Dhyanbindu Upanishad:

This is a Krishnayajurvedia Upanishad having only one chapter. The Upanishad describes the glory and forms of meditation from mantras 4-7 the subtleness of Brahma has been described.

From mantras 9-11 the meditation of Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva has been recommended with Purak, Kumbhak and Rechak types of breathing. From mantras 12 to 14 the location of chakras in the body has been described. In mantras 16 and 17, the union of controlled breathing (Purak, Kumbhak and Rechak) with AUM has been recommended. Mantras 17-18 describe the glory of AUM. The reference to Kundalini exists in the Upanishad. Raising it by meditation provides immense power.

Amritnad Upanishad:

This Upanishad also belongs to Krishna Yajurveda. It has only one chapter but contains 38 slokas. The Upanishad signified the importance of Pranav Upasana, describes the limbs of yoga, teaches about the method of Pranayama and explains the benefits accruing from Pranayama.

The Upanishad says that ‘A’ from AUM is related to Vishnu, ‘U’ to Brahma and ‘M’ to Shiva. Therefore, AUM should be contemplated as such. The sound of AUM has to remain associated with Purak, Kumbhak and Rechak breathing with the mental chart of the mantras AUM Bhuh, AUM Bhuvah, AUM Svah, AUM Mahah, AUM Janah, AUM Tapah, AUM Satyam with Gayatri Mantra for three rounds for completing the Pranayama.

The Upanishad says that the Pran Vayu resides in the heart the Apan in the excretory organs, the saman in the navel zone and udan in the throat area. The Vyan Vayu circulates throughout the body. The colour of the Vayus has also been described. Pranvayu is red, Apan Vayu is also reddish like Birbahuti, the Sam Vayu in the navel zone is white, Udan Vayu is grey and Vyan Vayu resembles the flames of fire.

The Upanishad says that Pranayama with AUM and recommended mantras can relieve one from the cycles of birth and death.