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3.0 out of 5 stars Hatha yoga from a spiritual and religious point of view, 9 April 2010
By 
Dennis Littrell (SoCal) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Philosophy of Hatha Yoga (Paperback)
Underpinning the practice of hatha yoga are the pillars of theory: philosophic, symbolic, and--yes--religious. Most books on hatha yoga skip over the pillars and correctly emphasize the practice. Here Arya concentrates on the spiritual and religious philosophy of yoga, especially as presented in Patanjali's famous sutras and in the meditative practice of kundalini yoga as seen through the filter of Hinduism.

Arya sees hatha yoga as a "gateway to the subtle body," the subtle body being composed of chakras, nadis, and other phenomenon "too subtle" to be discovered by modern science. He calls kundalini the "yoga of real intangibles, to which maybe one out of five hundred million humans may have access."

From my point of view and from my experience I would say that kundalini is an elaborate means to meditation. Regardless of the terminology, it amounts to the same thing: a technique to achieve samadhi. While Arya sees the chakras as real intangibles, I see them as symbolic representations of stages on the way to samadhi. Some authorities point out that the chakras correspond in location to various glands in the physical body, and that by concentrating on those areas, one can achieve insights or psychic or psychological experiences.

One of the interesting parts of the book is dubbed "Watching the Mind Watching the Body." This idea goes back to the Upanishads and is exemplified in the phenomenon of becoming a pure observer, which can be seen as the goal of nonattachment leading to moksha and freedom from the pair of opposites. Indeed in the Upanishads there is the "self" and the "Self," the former merely the evolutionary product (as it were) of the physical world, while the latter is Brahman (The Ineffable), as a drop of water is to the ocean. This latter Self is that pure observer uncolored by desire or karma.

In this connection Arya also sees hatha yoga as "karmic purification," which is interesting, and as "daily discomfort," which isn't as it should be and suggests a practice gravely in arrears.

The book is academic but accessible to the general reader and of interest to those who would like an introduction to a religious/spiritual view of yoga.

By the way, Pandit Usharbudh Arya, who, thanks to initiation by the late Swami Rama of the Himalayan Institute seven years after this book appeared, became Swami Veda Bharati in 1992. As such, Arya renounced the world and all its goodies and devoted himself to self-study on the way to self-realization.
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The Philosophy of Hatha Yoga
The Philosophy of Hatha Yoga by Usharbudh Arya (Paperback - Jun 1985)
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