The Vedas as Yogic Teachings
The Vedic mantras, starting with the oldest Rigveda, form first of all, a path of Mantra Yoga. The Vedas are said to manifest from the cosmic sound, OM that is the foremost of all mantras, the very Divine Word itself. Hindus continue to chant mantras from the Rigveda after thousands of years.
One example is the Gayatri Mantra which in one form honors Surya Devata, also known as Savitri, the solar Godhead or Lord of the sun. As the effulgence that brings life and illumines all activities in the world, Savitri represents the supreme light of Consciousness – the Self of all.
Also there is the Mrityunjaya Mantra to Lord Shiva in order to access the highest wisdom and grace. Along with the Gayatri mantra it holds the highest place among the many mantras used for contemplation and meditation.
Om Tryambakam Yajaamahe Sugandhim Pushtti-Vardhanam
UrvaarukamIva Bandhanaan Mrityor-Mukssiiya Maamrtaat
We Meditate on the Three-eyed Reality (Shiva) which permeates and nourishes all like a fragrance. May we be liberated from death for the sake of immortality, Even as the cucumber is severed from bondage to the creeper.
But, every one of the ten thousand verses of the Rigveda holds this mantric power. Mantra is not only the language of the Veda, but also the language of the Yoga. Jnana and Bhakti or knowledge and devotion are the two ways of reading the Vedic mantras. The Vedas extol the Self as the Supreme Reality, which is Jnana, but also approach it through deities and devotional attitudes, which is Bhakti. The attitude of devotion or Bhakti Bhava takes us to knowledge or Jnana. Bhakti and Jnana are however separate paths spiritually and are not practiced as one.
Vedic rituals arise from the Vedic mantras as Karma Yoga. Typical books on Karma Yoga in India have always dealt with the performance of Vedic rituals, including yajnas, havans and pujas, as well as daily lifestyle practices, according to the tenets of Dharma. Veda is the teaching of Dharma on all levels (Dharma is explained below.)
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The Four Goals of Life
The Vedic tradition recognizes four great goals of human life: Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha.
Dharma here refers to our true purpose in life, which is our inner work to manifest our higher spiritual potential.
Artha is the goals that we need to achieve to fulfill our Dharma.
Kama is the lasting happiness that we experience in rightly pursuing our Dharma. This takes us to
Moksha or liberation which is Enlightenment or merging with the Supreme Father.
Yoga is said to be the primary means of achieving Moksha or liberation, and yoga has as its goal Liberation, the highest goal of life. So, all life is Yoga.
That is why the practice of the eight limbs of Yoga begins with the dharmic values and disciplines of the Yamas and Niyamas, like ahimsa (non-violence) and satya (truthfulness).
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