Urban Dharma Newsletter... April 6, 2004
This Issue: Yoga and Buddhism
1. Yoga and Buddhism ...by David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri)
2. Hindu Yoga, Buddhist Yoga, Jaina Yoga ...by Georg Feuerstein
3. An Introduction to the Practice of Yoga and Buddhism ...John
4. Temple/Center/Website: True
5. Book/CD/Movie: None
must believe in free will; there is no choice. - Isaac Bashevis
haven't failed, I've found 10,000 ways that don't work. -
Thomas Edison (1847-1931)
the work that is done in this world is to make things appear
what they are not. - Elias Root Beadle
illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot
read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.
- Alvin Toffler
Yoga and Buddhism ...by David
Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri)
and Buddhism are sister traditions which evolved in the same
spiritual culture of ancient India. They use many of the same
terms and follow many of the same principles and practices.
For this reason it is not surprising that many of us born in
the West, particularly after an initial exposure, are apt to
regard Yoga and Buddhism as more or less the same. The differences
that have existed between the two systems historically are less
obvious to us than their commonalities. Those who study Buddhism
may find so much similarity in Yoga that they will see a strong
Buddhist influence on Yoga. Those who study Yoga may find so
much similarity in Buddhism that they will see a strong yogic
influence on Buddhism.
the tendency to find commonality between these two great spiritual
traditions is not limited to the West. Swami Vivekananda, the
first great figure to bring Yoga to the West, examined the Buddhist
Mahayana scriptures (Sutras) and found much similarity between
their key teachings and those of Vedanta. In recent years with
the influx of Tibetan refugees, including the Dalai Lama, into
India since the Chinese occupation of Tibet there has been a
new dialogue between the two traditions that is bringing about
greater respect between them. Tibetan Buddhists often appear
at Hindu religious gatherings and partake in all manner of discussions.
is the attempt to connect the two traditions limited to modern
times. Various synthetic Hindu-Buddhist teachings have existed
through history. Buddha himself was born a Hindu and some scholars
have argued that Buddhism as a religion apart from Hinduism
did not arise until long after the Buddha had passed away. A
Shiva-Buddha teaching existed in Indonesia in medieval times,
and for many Tantric Yogis it is difficult to tell whether they
were Hindus or Buddhists. Buddha became accepted as an avatar
of Vishnu during the period while Buddhism was still flourishing
in India, and most Hindus still consider that we live in the
age of the Buddha-avatar. Most Hindus accept Buddha, even if
they do not accept all Buddhist teachings.
such synthetic trends did not exclude disagreements and debates
between the two traditions, which were quite common historically.
Nor did they ever succeed in fully uniting them. Their traditions
and lineages remain separate to the present day. Generally the
Hindu Yoga tradition sought to absorb Buddhism into itself by
reinterpreting Buddha in a more Hindu light. Buddhism however
strove to maintain its separate identity. Most Hindu and Buddhist
teachers, including those of the Yoga school of Hinduism, found
it necessary to discriminate their doctrines, particularly on
subtle levels of practice and insight. Hence while we can honor
the connections between these two systems, we cannot overlook
their differences either.
Yoga here we mean primarily the classical Yoga system as set
forth by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. Patanjali taught an eightfold
(ashtanga) system of Yoga emphasizing an integral spiritual
development including ethical disciplines (Yama and Niyama),
postures (Asana), breathing exercises (Pranayama), control of
the senses (Pratyahara), concentration (Dharana), meditation
(Dhyana) and absorption (Samadhi). This constitutes a complete
and integral system of spiritual training.
classical Yoga was part of the greater Hindu and Vedic tradition.
Patanjali was not the inventor of Yoga, as many people in the
West are inclined to believe, but only a compiler of the teaching
at a later period. Yogic teachings covering all aspects of Patanjali
Yoga are common in pre-Patanjali literature of the Puranas,
Mahabharata and Upanishads, where the name Patanjali has yet
to occur. The originator of the Yoga system is said to be Hiranyagarbha,
who symbolizes the creative and evolutionary force in the universe,
and is a form of the Vedic Sun God.
can be traced back to the Rig Veda itself, the oldest Hindu
text which speaks about yoking our mind and insight to the Sun
of Truth. Great teachers of early Yoga include the names of
many famous Vedic sages like Vasishta, Yajnavalkya, and Jaigishavya.
The greatest of the Yogis is always said to be Lord Krishna
himself, whose Bhagavad Gita itself is called a Yoga Shastra
or authoritative work on Yoga. Among Hindu deities it is Shiva
who is the greatest of the Yogis or lord of Yoga, Yogeshvara.
Hence a comparison of classical Yoga and Buddhism brings the
greater issue of a comparison between Buddhist and Hindu teachings
some misinformed people in the West have claimed that Yoga is
not Hindu but is an independent or more universal tradition.
They point out that the term Hindu does not appear in the Yoga
Sutras, nor does the Yoga Sutra deal with the basic practices
of Hinduism. Such readings are superficial. The Yoga Sutras
abounds with technical terms of Hindu and Vedic philosophy,
which its traditional commentaries and related literature explain
in great detail. Another great early Yogic text, the Brihatyogi
Yajnavalkya Smriti, describes Vedic mantras and practices along
with Yogic practices of asana and pranayama. The same is true
of the Yoga Upanishads. Those who try to study Yoga Sutras in
isolation are bound to make mistakes. The Yoga Sutras, after
all, is a Sutra work. Sutras are short statements, often incomplete
sentences, that without any commentary often do not make sense
or can be taken in a number of ways.
people in the West including several Yoga teachers state that
Yoga is not a religion. This can also be misleading. Yoga is
not part of any religious dogma proclaiming that there is only
one God, church or savior, nor have the great Yoga teachers
from India insisted that their students become Hindus, but Yoga
is still a system from the Hindu religion. It clearly does deal
with the nature of the soul, God and immortality, which are
the main topics of religion throughout the world. Its main concern
is religious and certainly not merely exercise or health.
Yoga is one of the six schools of Vedic philosophy (sad darsanas)
which accept the authority of the Vedas. Yoga is coupled with
another of these six schools, the Samkhya system, which sets
forth the cosmic principles (tattvas) that the Yogi seeks to
realized. Nyaya and Vaisheshika, Purva Mimamsa and Uttara Mimamsa
(also called Vedanta) are the remaining schools, set off in
groups of two. Yoga is also closely aligned with Vedanta. Most
of the great teachers who brought Yoga to the modern world,
like Swami Vivekananda, Paramahansa Yogananda, Sri Aurobindo,
and Swami Shivananda, were Vedantins.
six Vedic systems were generally studied together. All adapted
to some degree the methods and practices of Yoga. While we can
find philosophical arguments and disputes between them, they
all aim at unfolding the truth of the Vedas and differ mainly
in details or levels of approach. All quote from Vedic texts,
including the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Puranas for deriving
Western scholars call these "the six schools of Indian
philosophy." This is a mistake. These schools only represent
Vedic systems, not the non-Vedic of which they are several.
In addition they only represent Vedic based philosophies of
the classical era. There were many other Vedic and Hindu philosophical
systems of later times.
Buddhist schools, of which there are four in classical Indian
philosophy, though they shared many ideas and with Vedic spirituality,
like karma and rebirth, did not accept the authority of the
Vedas and rejected a number of key Vedic principles. All Buddhist
schools employ meditation but some add more specific yogic practices,
like Pranayama and Mantra. Such systems may be called Buddhist
Yoga by modern writers. However, Yoga as a term in lacking in
early Buddhist texts, particularly of the Theravadin type, and
becomes prominent mainly in the Buddhist Tantric tradition that
developed later, particularly as practiced in Tibet. Some Buddhists
regard that Buddha was a great Yogi, particularly relative to
the occult and psychic powers he was supposed to possess.
has basically two varieties, as well as many subvarieties. The
northern, Mahayana or "great vehicle" tradition prevails
in Tibet, China and Japan and adjacent countries. This is the
type of Buddhism that is most known and followed by the largest
number of people in the world. It includes Chan, Zen, Buddhist
Tantra, Vajrayana, and Dzog Chen. The southern, Theravadin,
prevails in the south of Asia, Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand.
Vipassana is the most commonly known practice of Theravada Buddhism.
Generally the Theravadin form is considered to be the older
of the two forms of Buddhism. However, most Indian Buddhism,
including the Sanskrit Buddhist Sutras, is of the Mahayana branch
and has probably been best preserved in Tibet, where it has
undergone a further development into Vajrayana.
are some disagreements between these two main Buddhist lines.
The Mahayana tradition calls the Theravadin tradition, the Hinayana,
or "lesser vehicle." Many Theravadins consider that
types of Mahayana Buddhism, particularly the Tibetan, are not
truly Buddhist because they have mixed Buddhism with indigenous
Mahayana tradition, particularly in its Tantric forms, uses
breathing exercises, mantras, visualizations and deities much
like the Yoga tradition. The Theravadin tradition has less in
common with Yoga, though it does use similar meditation and
concentration methods. It generally rejects devotional worship
and the use of deities such as occurs in Yogic paths. For example,
Vipassana teachers have often criticized the use of mantra,
which is common not only in Hindu Yogic traditions but in the
Mahayana Buddhist teachings. In fact it could be argued that
Tibetan Buddhism, with its mantras, deities and yogic teachings,
is closer to Hinduism in its teachings than to such Buddhist
grew up in a cultural base of Hinduism. For this reason Indian
and Tibetan Buddhism have included Ayurvedic medicine, Hindu
astrology, Sanskrit, the same rules of iconography and the same
forms of temple worship, and other common factors. A number
of Hindu Gods and Goddesses, like Ganesh and Sarasvati, appear
in the Buddhist tradition. Some figures like the Goddess Tara
appear in both. Yet as Buddhism moved to other countries many
of these connections were either lost or their basis forgotten.
has remained as one region of the Indian subcontinent in which
both these religions have continued, though Nepal has a Hindu
majority, a Hindu king and is officially a Hindu state. In this
regard Nepalese Hindus and Buddhist respect one another but
seldom combine the teachings of these two different religions
by way of their actual practices. They tend to follow one tradition
or the other but seldom both.
Yoga is most known for its asana tradition or yogic postures,
which are the most popular, visible and outward form of the
system. Buddhism is known as a tradition of meditation, as in
the more popular forms of Buddhist meditation like Zen and Vipassana.
This is rather strange because Yoga traditionally defines itself
as meditation, or calming the disturbances of the mind, not
as asana, which is taught merely as an aid to meditation. In
the Yoga Sutras, the classical text on Yoga, of which there
are two hundred Sutras only three deal with asana, while the
great majority deal with meditation, its theory and results.
In the West we hear people talk of "Yoga and meditation,"
yoga meaning asana or some other outer practice like pranayama.
If one states this in India, one hears "Yoga and meditation,
are they two?"
many people who have studied Yoga in the West have learned only
the asana or posture side of the teaching, not the meditation
side. Some of them may therefore look to Buddhist teachings,
like Zen or Vipassana, for meditation practices, not realizing
that there are yogic and Vedantic forms of meditation which
are traditionally not only part of the yogic system, but its
core teaching! The cause for this often resides with Yoga teachers
who have not studied the meditation side of their own tradition.
Some have not been taught it as purely asana-oriented teachers
have become more popular, no doubt owing to their appeal to
the physically oriented Western mind.
is nothing necessarily wrong with doing Yogic asanas and Buddhist
meditation but one who is claiming to be a Yoga teacher and
yet does not know the Yogic meditation tradition cannot claim
to be a real Yoga teacher. We could compare them with someone
who practices a Buddhist physical exercise system, like Buddhist
martial arts, but on top of this does a non-Buddhist meditation
system, and still claims to be a teacher of Buddhism! The real
Yoga tradition has aimed at producing meditation masters, not
merely beautifully flexible bodies. Mostof the Yoga System of
Patanjali is concerned with the science of meditation (sanyama)
as concentration, meditation and Samadhi (Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi).
In fact in the beginning of the Yoga Sutras Yoga is defined
as Samadhi or spiritual absorption.
and its related Vedantic systems includes numerous types of
meditation both with form and without. These include pranayama
techniques like So'ham Pranayama or the various types of Kriya
Yoga (like those taught by Yogananda), meditation on deities
of all types and various devotional approaches, every sort of
mantra from simple bija mantras like Om to long extended mantras
like Gayatri, the use of yantras and other geometrical devises,
diverse concentration methods, passive meditation approaches
and active approaches like the Self-inquiry taught by Ramana
Maharshi. It is a rich meditation tradition of which the rich
asana tradition is merely an aspect.
Differences Between Hinduism and Buddhism
Hindu-Buddhist philosophical debates have occurred through time.
There are Buddhist refutations of the different schools of Hindu
philosophy, including Yoga and Vedanta, and a rejection of Hindu
deities like Shiva and Krishna. There are similar Yoga-Vedantic
refutations of the different schools of Buddhist philosophy,
including the rejection of the omniscience of Buddha, criticism
of the Buddhist view of the mind, and so on.
scriptures both Mahayana and Theravadin contain refutations
of the Atman, Brahman, Ishvara, and the key tenets of Yoga and
Vedanta, which are regarded as false doctrines. Note the Lankavatara
Sutra, which is very typical in this regard. Refutation of Buddhist
teachings does not occur in Hindu scriptures, which are largely
pre-Buddhist but are common in the later literature. Many Vedantic,
Sankhya and Yoga texts contain refutations of Buddhist doctrines,
particularly of the four classical schools of Buddhist philosophy,
which are similarly regarded as untrue. Such criticism of Buddhist
teachings occur in the Yoga Sutra itself and are common in Advaita
or non-dualistic Vedanta.
critiques can be found among the works of the greatest Hindu
and Buddhist sages like Shankara of the Hindus, and Nagarjuna
and Aryadeva of the Buddhists. Relative to Yoga and Buddhism
one of the most interesting interactions was between Ishvara
Krishna (not Krishna of the Bhagavad Gita) and the Buddhist
guru of Vasubandhu, the founder of the Vijnanavada school. The
debate was won by Ishvara Krishna and the record of his arguments,
the Sankhya Karika was produced, which has become the main text
on Samkhya. Vijnanavada, also called Yogachara, is the closest
Buddhist school to classical Yoga, but curiously was the Buddhist
system most in conflict with it in philosophical debates.
have been similar, but more limited debates within each tradition,
with Advaita Vedanta critiques of other Hindu traditions like
Sankhya-Yoga, or Buddhist Madhyamika critiques of Buddhist Vijnanavada
and other Buddhist traditions. The Indian tradition cherished
debate as a means of finding truth and did not simply aim at
superficial intellectual agreements. This tradition of free
and open debate is alive not only in India but in Tibet. The
Indian tradition never required intellectual uniformity but
Yoga and Buddhism Compare
and Buddhism are both meditation traditions devised to help
us transcend karma and rebirth and realize the truth of consciousness.
They see the suffering and impermanence inherent in all birth,
whether it is animal, human or god, and seek to alleviate it
through developing a higher awareness. Both emphasize the need
to dissolve the ego, the sense of the me and the mine, and return
to the original reality that is not limited by the separate
self. Both traditions emphasize enlightenment or inner illumination
to be realized through meditation.
systems recognize dharma, the principle of truth or natural
law, as the basic law of the universe we must come to understand.
Such dharmas are the law of karma and the unity of all sentient
beings. Buddhism defines itself as Buddha dharma or the dharma
of the enlightened ones, which is seen as a tradition transcending
time or place 2E Yoga defines itself as part of the Hindu tradition
called Sanatana Dharma, the universal or eternal dharma, which
is not defined according to any particular teacher or tradition.
Both traditions have called themselves Arya Dharma or the Dharma
of noble men.
main differences between the two systems are over their cosmic
view and way of practice. Vedic systems are built upon fundamental
principles like the Self (Atman), the Creator (Ishvara), and
Godhead (Brahman). Buddhism rejects all such ontological principles
as mere creations of the mind itself. In this regard Vedic systems
are more idealistic and Buddhism systems more phenomenological.
from such philosophical differences both systems share the same
basic ethical values like non-violence, truthfulness, non-attachment
and non-stealing. The vows that Buddhist monks take and those
that monks and sadhus take in the Yoga tradition are the same,
so are those of Jain monks.
defines the absolute as a metaphysical principle Being-Consciousness-Bliss,
or Brahman in which there is perfect peace and liberation. Buddhism
does recognize an Absolute, which is non-dual and beyond all
birth and death. However Buddhism generally does not allow it
any definition and regards it as void. It is sometimes called
the Dharmakaya or body of dharma, though Sanskrit Buddhist texts
never call it Brahman.
generally rejects the Self (Atma or Purusha) of Yoga-Vedanta
and emphasizes the non-Self (anatman). It says that there is
no Self in anything and therefore that the Self is merely a
fiction of the mind. Whatever we point out as the Self, the
Buddhists state, is merely some impression, thought or feeling,
but no such homogenous entity like a Self can be found anywhere.
Buddhism has tended to lump the Self of Vedanta as another form
of the ego or the misconception that there is a Self.
Yoga-Vedanta tradition emphasizes Self-realization or the realization
of our true nature. It states that the Self does not exist in
anything external. If we cannot find a self in anything it is
no wonder, because if we did find a self in something it would
not be the self but that particular thing. We cannot point out
anything as the Self because the Self is the one who points
all things out. The Self transcends the mind-body complex, but
this is not to say that it does not exist. Without the Self
we would not exist. We would not even be able to ask questions.
discriminates between the Self (Atman), which is our true nature
as consciousness, and the ego (generally called Ahamkara), which
is the false identification of our true nature with the mind-body
complex. The Atman of Vedanta is not the ego but is the enlightened
awareness which transcends time and space.
a number of Buddhist traditions, particularly traditions outside
of India, like the Chan and Zen traditions of China, have used
terms like Self-mind, one's original nature, the original nature
of consciousness or one's original face, which are similar to
the Self of Vedanta.
defines reality in terms of mind and often refers to ultimate
truth as the One Mind or original nature of the mind. In Yoga
mind (manas) is regarded as an instrument of consciousness which
is the Self. It speaks of the One Self and the many minds which
are its vehicles. For it mind is not an ultimate principle but
an aspect of creation.
we examine the terms mind and Self in the two traditions it
appears that what Yoga criticizes as attachment to the mind
and ego is much like the Buddhist criticism of the attachment
to the self, while what Vedanta calls the Supreme Self is similar
to the Buddhist idea of the original nature of the Mind or One
Mind. The Self is the unborn, uncreate reality similar to what
Buddhism refers to as the transcendent aspect of Mind. The enlightened
mind which dwells within the heart of the Buddhists (Bodhicitta)
resembles the Supreme Self (Paramatman) which also dwells within
the heart. Yet these similarities aside, the formulations and
methodologies of the two systems in this regard can be quite
different. Classical Indian Buddhist texts do not make such
correlations either, but insist that the Vedantic Self is different
than the One Mind of Buddhism.
or the Creator
yogic tradition is based upon a recognition of, respect for
and devotion to God or the creator, preserver and destroyer
of the universe. One of its main principles is that of surrender
to God (Ishvara-Pranidhana), which is said to be the most direct
method to Self-realization. Some degree of theism exists in
the various Yoga-Vedanta teachings, though in Advatic systems
Ishvara is subordinated to the Self-Absolute, which transcend
even the Creator. This is perhaps the main point of difference
between Yoga and Buddhism. Buddhism rejects God (Ishvara) or
a cosmic lord and creator. It sees no need for any creator and
considers that living beings arise through karma alone. The
Dalai Lama recently noted that Buddha is similar to God in omniscience
but is not a creator of the universe.
we do note that some modern Buddhist teachers use the term God
and make it equivalent to the Buddha-nature. There is also the
figure of the Adi-Buddha or primordial Buddha in some Buddhist
traditions who resembles God. The Buddha appears as God not
in the sense of a theological entity but as the Divine potential
inherent in living beings, but is similarly looked upon as a
great being who is prayed to for forgiveness of misdeeds 2E
systems see karma as the main causative factor behind rebirth
in the world. However in Buddhism karma is said to be a self-existent
principle. Buddhism states that the world exists owing to the
beginningless karma of living beings. In the Yoga tradition,
however, karma is not a self-existent principle. The world is
created by God (Ishvara), the creative aspect of consciousness.
Karma as a mere force of inertia and attachment cannot explain
the creation of the world but only our attachment to it. Karma
is regarded as a force dispensed by God, which cannot exist
by itself, just as a law code cannot exist without a judge.
However some other Vedic systems, also, like Purva Mimamsa put
more emphasis upon karma than upon God.
recognizes the existence of a Jiva or individual soul who is
reborn. Buddhism denies the existence of such a soul and says
that rebirth is just the continuance of a stream of karma, not
any real entity.
Figure of the Buddha
Buddhist traditions go back to the Buddha and most emphasize
studying the life of the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni. The
Vedic tradition, on the other hand, recognizes many teachers
and there is no one teacher that everyone must follow or look
back to. There is no single historical figure like the Buddha
that dominates the tradition or whom all must follow, honor
or worship. Hinduism has accepted Buddha as a great teacher
but it has included him among its stream of many other teachers,
gurus and avatars. Buddhism does recognize the existence of
Buddhas both before and after the historical Buddha, and says
that a Buddha comes into the world every 5000 years. It is interesting
to note that the previous Buddha to the historical Buddha is
called Kashyapa which is also the name of one of the oldest
and most important of the Vedic seers. However Buddhism has
yet to include any of the great yogis and Rishis of Hinduism
as on par with the Buddha as enlightened sages.
term Buddha itself is common in Vedic teachings, as it is a
common Sanskrit term meaning wise, awake, aware or enlightened.
When Buddhism is referred to in Hindu literature it is called
Bauddha Dharma or Saugata Dharma, as there is nothing in the
term Buddha in Sanskrit that refers to a particular person or
religion. While Hindus make Buddha into an avatar, in Buddhism
Buddha cannot be an avatar because Buddhism has no God that
Buddha could manifest. If Buddha is an avatar in Buddhism it
is of the enlightened mind, not of the Creator.
systems regard Nirvana or mergence in the Absolute as a primary
goal of practice. However in the Buddhist tradition, particularly
the Theravadin, Nirvana is generally described only negatively
as cessation. It is given no positive appellations. In the Vedic
tradition Nirvana is described in a positive way as mergence
into Brahman or Sacchidananda, Being-Consciousness-Bliss, the
realization of the infinite and eternal Self, called Brahma
Nirvana. Yet both systems agree that this truth transcends all
concepts. Vedanta describes Nirvana as freedom or liberation
(Moksha). This term does not occur in Buddhism which does not
accept the existence of any soul that can be liberated.
with its recognition of God emphasizes devotion and surrender
to God (Ishvara-pranidhana) as one of the main spiritual paths.
It contains an entire Yogic approach based on devotion, Bhakti
Yoga, through which we open our hearts to God and surrender
to the Divine Will. As Buddhism does not recognize God, devotion
to God does not appear as a Buddhist path. That is why we don't
find any significant tradition of great devotees and singers
of Divine Love in Buddhism like Chaitanya, Ramakrishna, Tulsidas
or Mirabai in the Hindu tradition.
does recognize devotion to the Buddha or faith in the Buddha-mind.
However devotion to great teachers or to functions of the enlightened
mind does not quite strike the human heart with the same significance
as devotion to the Divine Father and Mother of the Universe,
the creator, preserver and destroyer of all, which requires
a recognition of God.
having God to guide and protect living beings, Buddhism has
developed the role of the Bodhisattva, the enlightened one who
stays on after enlightenment to teach and guide living beings.
As according to Yoga God and all the sages merged in him are
ever present to help all beings, so there is no need for such
a special Bodhisattva vow. Yoga values compassion as an ethical
principle, however, and says that we cannot realize our true
Self as long as we think that we are separate from other creatures.
and Goddesses/ Buddhas and Bodhisattvas
and Bodhisattvas, technically speaking, are not deities or Gods
and Goddesses. They are not forms of the Divine Father and Mother
and have no role in creating, preserving and destroying the
universe. They are not the parents of all creatures but merely
wise guides and teachers. They are often described as great
beings who once lived and attained enlightenment at some point
in time and took various vows to stay in the world to help save
example perhaps the greatest Buddhist Goddess, Tara is such
a Bodhisattva, anenlightened person - not the Divine Mother
like Durga or Kali of Hinduism - but a great enlightened sage
who has continued to exist in the world to help living beings.
She is not the Goddess or a form of God but a personal expression
of the enlightened mind and its power of compassion. There are
also meditation Buddhas (Dhyani Buddhas), who represent archetypes
though the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are not forms of God, they
can be prayed toto provide grace and protection. For example,
the Bodhisattva Tara was thought to save those in calamities.
Worship of various Bodhisattvas is called Deity Yoga in the
we can equate the One Mind of the Buddhists with the One Self
of Vedanta, make Buddha and God the same and give the Buddha
the power of creation of the universe, and make other such correlations,
both traditions could be synthesized. However this would essentially
absorb Buddhism into Hinduism and make the Buddhist rejection
of the Vedas unnecessary. This is what most Hindus incline do
with Buddhism. However prominent Buddhist leaders have yet to
make such statements. Until they do we cannot dismiss such differences
as unnecessary but must respect them as a different view of
truth or different approach to it. If you believe not only in
karma and rebirth but also the existence of God or the Creator,
you would be a Hindu, not a Buddhist in your views.
are a number of people in the West today, and even in India,
who are combining Yoga and Buddhism, as well as less related
traditions. Some people may try to follow gurus in both traditions
(generally without the approval of the teachers). Of course,
teachings which are common to both traditions like non-violence
are obviously easy to correlate. Different meditation techniques,
however, may not be so easy to combine. For example it may be
difficult to meditate upon the Supreme Self of Vedanta, while
meditating upon the non-Self of Buddhism. The Buddhist approach
requires doubting that there is any self at all. The Vedantic
approach requires complete faith in the Self and merging everything
into it. Above all it is hard to maintain certain devotional
approaches in a Buddhist context where there is no real God
this eclectic age such synthetic experimentation is bound to
continue and may prove fruitful in some instances, particularly
when one is still searching out one's path. Yet it frequently
gets people lost or confused, trying to mix teachings together
they do not really understand. Jumping back and forth between
teachers and traditions may prevent us from getting anywhere
with any of them. Superficial synthesis, which is largely a
mental exercise, is no substitute for deep practice that requires
dedicated concentration. The goal is not to combine the paths
but to reach to the goal, which requires taking a true path
out to the end. While there maybe many paths up to the top of
a mountain, one will not climb far cross-crossing between paths.
Above all it is not for students on the path to try to combine
paths. It is for the masters, the great lineage bearers in the
traditions, to do so, if this is necessary.
we are entering into a global age that requires the development
of a global spirituality. This requires honoring all forms of
the inner quest regardless of where and when they come from.
The unity of truth cuts across all boundaries and breaks down
all divisions between human beings. It is crucial that such
meditation traditions as Yoga and Buddhism form a common front
in light of the needs of the global era. All such true spiritual
traditions face many common enemies in this materialistic age.
Their common values of protecting the earth, non-violence, recognition
of the law of karma, and the practice of meditation are perhaps
the crucial voice to deliver us out of our present crisis.
in coming together the diversity of teachings should be preserved,
which means not only recognizing their unity but respecting
their differences. This is the same issue as that of different
cultures. While we should recognize the unity of humanity, we
should allow various cultures to preserve their unique forms,
and not simply throw them all into one big melting pot, in which
all their distinctions are lost. True unity is universality
that fosters a creative multiplicity, not a uniformity that
reduces everything to a stereotype. Truth is not only One but
Infinite and cannot be reduced to any final forms. Pluralism
is also true as each individual is unique and we should have
a broad enough view to allow others to have contrary opinions.
As the Vedic Rishis stated, "That which is the One Truth
the seers teach in diverse ways." This is to accommodate
all the different types and levels of souls.
INSTITUTE OF VEDIC STUDIES
PO Box 8357, Santa Fe NM, 87504-8357
David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri), Director
Hindu Yoga, Buddhist Yoga, Jaina Yoga
...by Georg Feuerstein
an article entitled “Yoga and Buddhism,” published
on the Web site of Hinduism Today, David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri)
speaks of Yoga and Buddhism as sister traditions. It would perhaps
be more appropriate to characterize Hinduism as a sister tradition
to Buddhism and Jainism. However, these three are not merely
particular spiritual traditions spawned on Indian soil but whole
cultures with their own distinct moral and spiritual teachings,
art, architecture, and social organization. There are many overlaps
but also significant divergencies. For instance, in the area
of social organization, Buddhism does not subscribe to the caste
system, which is a hall mark of Hinduism (though by no means
all Hindu traditions accept or support it).
is commonly understood to be an aspect of Hinduism. However,
both the term and the concept (in the sense of spiritual practice)
are also widespread in Buddhism. Thus it makes little sense
to compare Yoga and Buddhism, unless we define Yoga more narrowly
as the particular philosophical system known as yoga-darshana,
as expounded in Patanjali’s Yoga-Sûtra and its extensive
the broadest sense, Yoga is simply spiritual practice, or spirituality.
It is India’s version of what has long been known as “mysticism”
in Christianity, “Kabbalah” in Judaism, and “Sufism”
in Islam. Hinduism and Buddhism, as well as Jainism, are all
yogic cultures or traditions. That is to say, these cultures
are at heart spiritual: They acknowledge and promote the age-old
ideal of liberation (moksha), however it may be conceived. Yoga
has from the beginning been a liberation teaching (moksha-shâstra),
and as such has shaped Hinduism, Buddhism, and also Jainism.
is the name given to a particular developmental phase of the
complex civilization that originated in India over eight millennia
ago and that has meantime spread throughout the world. Buddhism
is not, as widely thought, an offshoot of Hinduism but of the
Indic civilization as such. Yoga is a unique contribution to
humankind by the Indic civilization.
Western Yoga students confuse Yoga with Hinduism and typically
pitch it against Buddhism. Many more Westerners confuse Yoga
with physical exercise (i.e., the yogic postures) and see in
Buddhism a path of meditation. But the oppositions "Yoga
: Hinduism" and "Yoga : Buddhist meditation"
are ill conceived.
is common to both cultural traditions and forms their spiritual
essence. Yoga must not be reduced to a mere system of physical
exercises but clearly offers many spiritual methods and approaches,
especially meditation. It makes no sense to say, as often heard,
that Yoga has no meditation practice and that therefore one
must resort to Buddhist meditation. Yoga has a wide variety
of meditation techniques, which include Buddhist, Hindu, and
Jaina meditation practices.
the past two and half millennia or so, Hinduism, Buddhism, and
Jaina have been in dialoguewith each other, and each cultural
tradition has incorporated elements from the others. It has
even been said that the disappearance of Buddhism from India
was largely due to the fact that Shankara and his school of
Advaita Vedanta, or nondual metaphysics, so successfully assimilated
Buddhist ideas that Buddhism lost its foothold with regard to
the dominant Hindu culture. The Moslem invasion of Northern
India was, however, a more decisive factor.
has traditionally been far less tension between Hinduism and
Jainism, since most Jaina adherents regard themselves as Hindu
or as not being in conflict with Hinduism. At times, the dialogue
between Hindu and Buddhist Yoga was indeed doctrinaire and fierce,
but when we look at the great teachers and teachings we also
find much common ground. Those of us in the West who are not
mired in religious ideology and have imbibed a cosmopolitan
outlook, the doctrinal squabbles among the Indic traditions
are of little relevance. We are hungering for practices that
can nourish us spiritually and in our pragmatist approach are
willing to regard their theoretical underpinnings with openmindedness.
the mid-1960s, I have endeavored to make Hindu Yoga accessible
to my fellow-Westerners. I have focused on such key scriptures
as the Yoga-Sûtra and the Bhagavad-Gîtâ, but
also have translated or commented on other, in the West less
well-known Yoga texts. I brought many of them together in my
book The Yoga Tradition, and in that volume also furnished a
broad overview of the history of Hindu, Buddhist, and Jaina
my scholarly work thus far, I have had less concern with Buddhist
Yoga, which, from the beginning of my career, I felt had received
better attention by preceding scholars than had Hindu Yoga.
Certainly over the past two decades, there has been an increasing
preoccupation with Buddhist Yoga in the form of Tibetan Buddhism.
What is more, the custodians of the Tibetan Buddhist heritage
have shown a great willingness to impart to Westerners the esoteric
practices underlying their sacred texts. In the case of Hindu
Yoga, this is no longer possible to the same extent, though
there still are masters capable of imparting the full range
of practices and expounding the teachings of specific schools,
such as Shrî Vidyâ, Kaula, Nâtha, Kashmiri Shaivism,
to Hindu and Buddhist Yoga, Jaina Yoga is a sealed book for
Westerner spiritual seekers, who may not even have heard of
it. Yet it has its own distinct path and practices, which are
kept alive by a few adepts and which definitely deserve to be
better known. However, the scriptures of the Jainas have been
neglected by scholars, and only a few texts are available in
Saint Shri Vidya Sagar
the vantage point of our own time, we can look upon the incredibly
complex and diversified heritage of Yoga and appreciate its
unique significance for the human race. The adepts of Yoga have
blazed trails to summits that at present we see only through
a glass darkly but that we sense are of utter relevance to our
human destiny. As we delve into the yogic heritage, we encounter
a breathtaking wealth of ideas and practices. Yet, at the bottom
of it all, are a handful of universal truths that, once we have
recognized them, can become powerful agents of transformation
for us. Equipped with that recognition, we can then engage any
form of Yoga or any specific practice with efficiency and tolerance.
© 2000 by Georg Feuerstein
An Introduction to the Practice of Yoga and Buddhism ...By
John C. Kimbrough
wanting to apply and benefit from a spiritual path and practice,
it is necessary to be knowledgeable about and understand the
path and the various mental and physical disciplines and practices
that make it up. The first thing to learn and understand is
what is the basic philosophy behind that path and its practices.
The second thing to learn and understand is what the path and
its practice actually consist of. The third thing is to learn
and understand is what we achieve from the implementation of
this path and practice. The fourth thing is to learn and understand
is what are those things that may stand in the way of us making
progress and succeeding in our implementation of this path and
can look at both Yoga and Buddhism in these terms and surprisingly
for some, we will see those four things to be the same or strikingly
similar. Both are based on the philosophy that there is suffering
in life and it is caused by mental defilements and the state
of our ego. Both put forth a path of mental and physical practices
in order to weaken and alleviate these tendencies of mind and
ego which create individual pain and pain in our actions with
others. This path of mental and physical practices revolves
around moral and ethical actions to ourselves and others and
postures of Yoga that most individuals perceive Yoga to be and
consist of are used to prepare the mind and body to be more
open to, understanding of and strong and disciplined enough
to practice the teachings in their entirety. The implementation
of these paths brings about a change in one’s consciousness
so states of consciousness that are already part of our being
are accessed, strengthened and cultivated. These are states
such as tranquility, concentration and mindfulness, among others.
Both Yoga and Buddhism refer to states of mental and physical
being that creates hindrances to growth, progress and success
in the spiritual path and practice. These include things such
as doubt, sensual desire, restlessness, and worry, among others.
So if one wants to learn about either Yoga or Buddhism, just
out of a general interest or with the idea to bring them into
their life so that there will be some meaningful and joyful
change to their being, one may want to learn and study them
from this perspective.
do not have to go to India or Thailand in order to learn these
things. Books and teachers are usually available in our own
countries and information can be easily accessed and downloaded
through the services of the internet and the various websites
that are devoted to these teachings. Because someone is from
Thailand, India or Sri Lanka does not make them more knowledgeable
about or more advanced in the teachings and practices of either
Yoga or Buddhism. We may need or benefit from what might be
termed hands on assistance, so a weekend retreat or a retreat
or stay in a temple or ashram that is longer may be beneficial.
In this environment we can get some support in cultivating our
understanding and practice and have others to answer our questions
and direct us in a skillful way as we are sharing this experience
with like-minded people and teachers who have more experience
in this and are skilled and knowledgeable in sharing the teachings
and practices that make them up with us. Also retreats and longer
stays in temples or ashrams offer a physical and logistical
environment that can create a new mindfulness of how we can
practice skillfully and effectively at home on our own. Then
it is really up to us to try to implement these things into
may approach this in various ways and have various results from
it. We may push ourselves quite hard and want quick expectations.
This may lead to burnout and disappointment, and one may give
up quickly. Another way that we approach it may be in an inconsistent
manner, practicing and studying here and there, when possible,
when we can and we are reminded as to how to practice. Another
way will be in a disciplined way, learning, studying and practicing
on a regular basis and building on what we learn, what we realize
and awaken to and on our meditation practice. Some may experience
all of these approaches and it may take months or even years
until they have developed a strong and consistent practice.
individual nature may be a factor in how they cultivate this
strong and consistent practice, as will what kind of habits
and behaviors they have to deal with and overcome and changes
that they may have to make in their life and free and leisure
time in order to practice on a regular basis. Sometimes it is
not cultivating the practice of meditation or posture practice
that is most demanding and challenging for a person to bring
into their lives as it is to bring into their lives those teachings
that one might call moral and ethical teachings and practices.
Sadly, in Yoga these teachings are frequently overlooked or
only touched on briefly. In Buddhism, they make up a major part
of the teachings and should be studied with an attempt made
to understood and implement them from the very first day of
one’s exposure to the teachings of Buddhism.
being exposed to these teachings is one thing. Understanding
and being able to implement them into all of our daily activities
and actions can be incredibly difficult. It may take daily study
and reflection on the teachings, in addition to whatever one’s
physical practice consists of, that being meditation and posture
practice. But to define these as being physical practices is
in itself an error as these practices where one is working with
the body and breath in a manner where the body is still in a
meditative posture for an extended period of time, or as one
performs a variety of postures that bend and twist the spine
in various ways, one is also working on the consciousness in
subtle and overt ways. For many, this is the starting point
of one’s practice and many of us know how much of a challenge
and effort this can be. Through this sort of discipline, we
do become more mindful and concentrated, and that in itself
opens us up more to understanding the wisdom and simplicity
of the teachings and makes it more possible for us to successfully
books below are highly recommended for those who want to learn
more about the paths and practices of Buddhism and Yoga.
Pandit Shambhu. Speaking of Yoga: A Practical Guide to Better
Living. New Delhi, India: Sterling Publishers 1991
Sophia. On the Gentle Path of Yoga in Sickness and in Health.
Thornleigh, N.S.W. :Gerard and Sophia Brandjes 1993
James. Teach Yourself Yoga. London, England: The English
Universities Press 1960
Sivinanda Yoga Center. The Book of Yoga: The Complete Step
- by- Step Guide. London, England: Ebury Press 1983
B.K.S. Light on Yoga. New Delhi, India: Harper Collins
Publishers India 1992
Swami. The Philosophy, Psychology and Practice of Yoga.
Tehri - Garhwal, U.P. India: The Divine Life Society. 1991
B.K.S. Light on The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. New Delhi,
India: Harper Collins Publishers India. 1993
Swami. Patanjali Yoga Sutras. Mylapore, Madras. Sri Ramakrishna
Math. Copyright date unknown
I.K. The Science of Yoga Adyar. Madras, India: The Theosophical
Publishing House. 1961
Aranya, Swami. Yoga Philosophy of Patanjali. Calcutta:
University of Calcutta. 1981
Sayadaw U. In This Very Life:The Liberation Teachings of
the Buddha. Kandy, Sri Lanka:The Buddhist Publication Society
Thera. The Heart of Buddhist Meditation. Kandy, Sri Lanka:The
Buddhist Publication Society 1962
Bhikkhu. The Noble Eightfold Path:Way to the End of Suffering.
Kandy, Sri Lanka:The Buddhist Publication Society 1984 (free
download at UrbanDharma.org - see eBooks page)
S. The Bhagavad Gita. New Delhi, India: HarperCollins
Swami Raja. Yoga. Calcutta, India :Advaita Ashram 1998
Swami. Hatha Yoga. Pradipka Mungar, Bihar, India Bihar
School of Yoga: 1985
Thera. The Buddhas Ancient Path. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist
Publication Society 1964
John C. Kimbrough (John lives and teaches in Bangkok, Thailand.
East Thousand Oaks Blvd.
Thousand Oaks, CA. 91362
9:45AM - 7:00PM
Tuesday 10:15AM - 5:45PM
Wednesday 9:45AM - 7:00PM
Thursday 10:15AM - 5:45PM
Friday 9:45AM - 6:00PM
Saturday 10:15AM - 4:30PM
Sunday Open for class time only.
TO TRUE YOGA . . . Yoga is an ancient tradition that enables
us to create a lifestyle which promotes health and happiness.
Literally meaning unity, yoga utilizes the power of breath to
strengthen the body and calm the mind. A yoga practice encourages
an internal focus so that we become aware of the natural flow
of energy that resides in our body. This natural energy is unlocked
through yoga asanas (poses) and maintains the vitality which
keeps us youthful and well spirited. At True Yoga, classes are
in Hatha yoga, the physical form of yoga. True Yoga offers the
invaluable exploration of the body, mind, and spirit which will
bring renewed energy and serenity to each individual that embraces
Sunday - True Yoga will be closed.
INTRODUCTORY CLASS, THE FIRST SUNDAY OF EVERY MONTH . .
. 2:00-3:30. Open to all students interested in our studio and
an excellent way to learn the fundamentals as well as ask your
Yoga with Shanthi. 5 classes, A great learning experience
for kids ages 7 - 12.
to Friday April 12 - 16.
Ayurvedic Solution with Arun Deva. Learn to apply the
principles of this ancient yet tangible practice in order to
create a healthier lifestyle. Sun. April 18, 1:00 - 4:00.
a Home Practice with Jessica Anderson. Learn the necessities
to establishing a well-rounded home practice when you are away
from the studio.
April 24th, 12:00 2:00.
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