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The Original Teachings of Yoga- From Patanjali Back to Hiranyagarbha

Hiranyagarbha and Vedic Yoga                  
Who then was Hiranyagarbha, a human figure or a deity? The name Hiranyagarbha, which means “the gold embryo”, first occurs prominently as a Vedic deity, generally a form of the Sun God. There is a special Sukta or hymn to Hiranyagarbha in the Rig Veda X.121, which is commonly chanted by Hindus today. The Mahabharata speaks of Hiranyagarbha as he who is lauded in the Vedic verses and taught in the Yoga Shastra (Shanti Parva 339.69). As a form of the Sun God, Hiranyagarbha can be related to other such Sun Gods like Savitri, to whom the famous Gayatri mantra is addressed. Therefore, the Hiranyagabha Yoga tradition is a strongly Vedic tradition. We can call it the Hiranyagarbha Vedic Yoga tradition.

Krishna states in the Bhagavad Gita (IV.1-3) that he taught the original Yoga to Visvasvan, another name of the Sun God, suggesting Hiranyagarbha. Vivasvan taught this Yoga to Manu, the original man or first king, making it into the prime Yoga path for all humanity.

The Mahabharata (Shanti Parva 340.50) additionally identifies Hiranyagarbha, as other texts do, with Brahma or Prajapati, the creator among the Hindu trinity, who among other things represents the Vedas and is the source of all higher knowledge. It also identifies Hiranyagarbha with the Buddhi or Mahat, the higher or cosmic mind (Mahabharata 302.18), with which Brahma is often connected.

The chief disciple of Hiranyagarbha in the ancient texts is said to be the Rishi Vasishta, the foremost of the Vedic seers (seer of the seventh book of the Rig Veda), who passed on the Yoga teachings to Narada (Mahabharata Shanti Parva 308.45).  Vasishta teaches the Yoga Darshana in the Mahabharata (Shanti Parva 306.26): “The Yoga Darshana has so been declared by me according to the truth.” He also passes on his knowledge to his son, Parashara, in whose line was born Veda Vyasa, who compiled the Vedas and wrote the Mahabharata.

Vasishta is made into the prime early human teacher of such other Vedic disciplines as Advaita Vedanta (the tradition of Jnana Yoga or the Yoga of Knowledge), and of carrying on the Yoga teachings of Shiva and Vishnu as well as that of Hiranyagarbha. There are several very important Yoga texts in the Vasistha line including the Vasishta Samhita and Yoga Vasishta, the latter of which is often regarded as the greatest work on both Yoga and Vedanta.

The original Yoga tradition is not the Patanjali tradition but the Hiranyagarbha tradition. It teachings are found not only in the Yoga Sutras but in the Mahabharata, including the Bhagavad Gita, Moksha Dharma Parva and Anu Gita, which each contain extensive teachings on Yoga from many sides. The Hiranyagarbha Yoga tradition is the main Vedic Yoga tradition. The Patanjali Yoga tradition is an offshoot of it or a later expression of it.

Samkhya, Yoga and Vedanta are all presented as aspects of this same tradition in the Mahabharata. Ayurveda and Vedic astrology are important aspects of its outer application. If we want to go back to the real roots of Yoga and restore the original teachings of Yoga, we should return to the Hiranyagarbha Yoga Darshana.

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