When we talk about the origins of Yoga we have to look way back in history to the ancient times. Some people say that Yoga was developed in the Indus-Sarasvati civilization which was a very long time ago. The Indus-Sarasvati civilization is the largest civilization in the ancient world developed in the Indus Valley of India over 12,000 years ago. The Indus and Sarasvati river valleys of Bharatvarsha (present India and Pakistan) were the home to the ancient civilization of Indus-Sarasvati.
Yoga and the Vedas
There is also the belief that Yoga was developed by the Vedas. The Vedas were a group of ascetic forest dwellers in ancient India who lived a Holy life. The Vedas are considered the earliest literary record of Indo-Aryan civilization and the most sacred books of India. They are the original scriptures of Hindu teachings, containing spiritual knowledge encompassing all aspects of life. The philosophical maxims of Vedic literature have stood the test of time, and the Vedas form the highest religious authority for all aspects of Hinduism and are a respected source of wisdom for mankind in general.
The word Veda means wisdom, knowledge or vision, and it serves to manifest the language of the Gods in human speech. The laws of the Vedas have regulated the social, legal, domestic and religious customs of Hindus up to the present day. All the obligatory duties of Hindus at birth, marriage, death etc. are guided by Vedic rituals.
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The Origin of the Vedas
It is difficult to say when the earliest portions of the Vedas came into existence, but it seems clear they are among the very earliest written wisdom documents produced by humans. As the ancient Hindus seldom kept any historical record of their religious, literary and political realization, it is difficult to determine the period of the Vedas with precision. Historians provide us many guesses but none are guaranteed to be precise. It is thought, though, that the earliest Vedas may date back to roughly 1700 BCE—the late Bronze Age.
Who wrote the Vedas?
Tradition has it that humans did not compose the revered compositions of the Vedas, but that God taught the Vedic hymns to the Sages, who then handed them down through generations by word of mouth. There was no language when the Vedas originated so they were orally transmitted from the Vedas to their students and then passed down from the students to their children. This continued until finally Sanskrit language was developed.
Sanskrit, meaning ‘perfected’ or ‘refined’, is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, of all attested human languages. It belongs to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European family. The oldest form of Sanskrit is Vedic Sanskrit that dates back to the 2nd millennium BCE.
Another tradition suggests that the hymns were “revealed,” to the Sages, who were known as the seers or “mantradrasta” of the hymns. The formal documentation of Vedas was done mainly by Vyasa Krishna Dwaipayana around the time of Lord Krishna (c. 1500 BC)
Classifications of the Vedas
The Vedas are classified into four volumes: the Rig-Veda, the Sama Veda, the Yajur Veda and the Atharva Veda, with the Rig Veda serving as the principal text. The four Vedas are collectively known as “Chathurveda,” of which the first three Vedas–Rig Veda, Sama Veda, and Yajur Veda–agree with one another in form, language and content.
The Rigveda is the oldest Vedic text. The term ‘veda’ in Sanskrit means ‘knowledge’ while ‘rig’ means ‘praise’. The Rigveda is therefore known as the book of knowledge in the praise of the Almighty. This particular Veda is accepted as the source of Hinduism.
Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda mean knowledge of sacrifice, knowledge of chants and knowledge of Atharvan (a powerful Sage who lived in the Vedic times) respectively. These books contain invaluable pearls of wisdom and describe in detail the concepts of Hinduism.
Since yoga features as one of the most important aspects of the Vedic texts, it can be said without doubt that it was a way of life back then. Descriptions of Yoga in these seminal texts encourage the practice of yoga to merge the material and physical realm with the spiritual realm.
The practice of Vedic knowledge is Yoga, meaning integration and unification. Knowledge of our true nature as pure Consciousness beyond all limitations of time and space naturally brings us Yoga or harmony and oneness with all. Veda is knowledge and Yoga is its practice. It is that simple. They are two sides of the same truth. Yoga not only leads us to Veda (Knowledge), but also expresses it. Veda (Knowledge) embodies itself through Yoga as its manifestation.
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