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History of Yoga

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Sangeetha Rajah

There are an inumerable Types of Yoga. Over the course of history, many different types of yoga have been lost to us. These types of Yoga are inumerated in various scriptures. The Bhagawad Gita enumerates Asthanga Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Gyana Yoga, and Karma Yoga.

Yoga in the Vedas[edit]

The word yoga has its first mention in the Rig Veda, the oldest of the Vedas. This text, a collection of hymns or mantras, defines yoga as "yoking" or "discipline," but offers no accompanying systematic practice. The term yoga turns up again in the Atharva Veda, most particularly in the fifteenth book (Vratya Kanda) where it refers only to a means of harnessing or yoking, but focuses on the breath that needs controlling. The Vratya Kanda introduces a group of men, the Vratyas, who worshipped Rudra, the god of the wind. These Vratyas composed and performed songs and melodies. They found they could sing their songs a lot better-and probably hold the notes longer-if they practiced Praanaayaama, a type of breath control.

This, then, is the very beginning of yoga as we know it, the first mention of a physical action as part of a discipline or practice.

Pre-classical Yoga[edit]

Yoga played a more prominent role in the Upanishads, the sacred revelations of ancient Hinduism. Here, yoga referred to a discipline used or path taken to achieve liberation from suffering. Two yoga disciplines in particular gained prominence during this time: karma yoga, the path of action or ritual, and Jnana yoga, the path of knowledge or intense study of scripture. Both paths led to liberation or enlightenment.

Gurus taught that the Self or ego (not an animal or crops) must be sacrificed in order to attain liberation. The means to do that, these revelations showed, came not through action or ritual, but through knowledge and wisdom (Jnana yoga).

One of the earliest Upanishads to teach specific yoga meditation practices was the Maitrayaniya Upanishad. This Upanishad defined yoga as a means of binding the breath and the mind using the syllable Om. According to its author, "The oneness of the breath and mind, and likewise of the senses, and the relinquishment of all conditions of existence-this is designated as yoga." The Maitrayaniya took the concept of yoga a step further by presenting an actual method or discipline for joining or yoking the universal brahman with the Atman within all beings. This six-fold yoga path includes controlling the breath (pranayama), withdrawing the senses (pratyahara), meditation (dhyana), concentration (dharana), contemplation (tarka), and absorption (samadhi). The vibrational power of sound, as exemplified in the primordial word Om, came to signify the inner meaning of a yogi's actions, and speech enabled the yogi to express that meaning.

The Bhagavad Gita[edit]

The most famous-and most beloved-of all yoga texts, the Bhagavad Gita has its roots in the Upanishads. The Bhagavad Gita provides the most comprehensive description of yoga of its time. The Gita brought together moral teachings and mystical lore as Lord Krishna instructed his pupil Arjuna on the ways of the world. While the Maitrayaniya Upanishad outlined a six-fold path to liberation, the Gita advocated a three-pronged approach: karma yoga, the path of service; Jnana yoga, the path of wisdom or knowledge; and Bhakti yoga, the path of devotion.

In the Bhagavad Gita, jnana yoga signified meditation, or the path of wisdom, much as it did in the Upanishads. Using this type of yoga, a practitioner would try to discriminate between real and unreal, in an attempt to separate the Self from the non-Self. Karma yoga of the Gita was still a yogi's path of action, what Krishna called Arjuna's Sva-dharma. As a warrior, Arjuna's obligation (his dharma) is to fight against the forces of evil, no matter what.

The Philosophy of Yoga[edit]

The concept of universal consciousness, or brahman, developed out of the metaphysical teachings of the Upanishads. Yoga has lots of names for it: Atman, the transcendental Self, the Divine, Isvara, Purusha, pure awareness, the seer, the witness, and the knower are but a few of the more popular ones. At this point in preclassical yoga, everything resided within this consciousness and nothing existed outside of it. It was both the seer and the seen, and even the act of seeing. Purusha, the Upanishads taught, was all-knowing, pure, male, and infinite. Some schools of yoga and Hindu philosophy taught that this universal consciousness manifested itself in everything, beginning with the grossest, most visible realm of the five Bhutas (air, fire, water, earth, and ether) and moving into the subtlest realm of the soul or Atman.

When Sanyaasa gained popularity to attain Moksha, Yoga philosophy felt that renunciation alone was not enough. Yogis had to practice karma yoga (the path of action) and Jnana yoga (knowledge or meditation) to achieve true liberation. Suffering, according to the Samkhya tradition, occurred when the yogi became attached to things that were not the Self, and when he mistakenly identified those things with pure consciousness (purusha).:

In the early Samkhya system, the gunas were neutral manifestations of prakriti; only later did they become aligned with certain qualities. The Bhagavad Gita also taught that the gunas came from nature, but believed that their existence bound humans to a particular body. Sattva, for example, denoted goodness and pure essence. The Bhagavad Gita taught that a sattvic nature was illuminating and "immaculate." The downside of having a sattvic nature was that a yogi could too easily become attached to the joyful feelings it produced. Being rajasic, in the Gita, meant he was bound by and attached to action. Rajas energy is dynamic, passionate. Later Upanishads translated rajas to mean greed, lustfulness, desire, possessiveness, passion, and clinging to material goods. Tamas became known as an obstacle that would bind a yogi to a life of sloth, heedlessness, and despondency. Its energy is heavy, slow, and thick. These gunas appear later on in Patanjali's Yoga Sutra.

Patanjali's Yoga Sutra[edit]

The most famous proponent of the Samkhya world view was an enigmatic philosopher/writer known only as Patanjali. Nearly every yoga teacher today is familiar with his treatise, the Yoga Sutra, which is considered to be the first systematic presentation of yoga, and reveres its author as the father of modern yoga. Patanjali clearly succeeded in codifying the concepts of an ancient, oral tradition. His collection of 195 sutras (aphorisms or "terse statements") compiled most probably in the second century C.E., provides the first practical treatise on daily living, beginning with how to conduct oneself in society and culminating in the act of final liberation or enlightenment. Because Patanjali believed one could attain final liberation only with the help of a guru, these aphorisms are not really a self-help guide. They exist to assist the guru in his teachings.

Patanjali embraced a dualistic view of existence. On the one hand, he taught, there is purusha, the all-present, all-knowing ethereal consciousness, made up of countless Atmans, who watch as the cosmos unfolds before them. Male, formless and unmanifest, Purusha attaches to nothing; immobile yet pervasive, he simply sees all and knows all. Prakriti, on the other hand, is nature incarnate. Female, visible, and dynamic, prakriti constantly moves, creating and changing as she goes. She is all that is manifest in the world. Existing only to serve purusha, prakriti is unconscious and insentient. Nature exists through a complex interplay among the three gunas-sattva, rajas, and tamas-which are visible aspects of her character. Much like in the Bhagavad Gita, Patanjali aligned these gunas with specific characteristics in humans. When the element sattva presents itself, according to this philosophy, the energy is light, clear, and joyous; a predominance of rajas produces passionate feelings, desire, and even greed, as one becomes attached to worldly goods; when tamas gets the upper hand, it brings energy that is slow, heavy, and thick, and can bind a person to a life of sloth and despondency.

Like the Samkhya philosophers, Patanjali believed suffering resulted when humans become attached to external phenomena, when they hold on to the fruits of their actions. Patanjali thought that conflict among the three gunas, each vying for dominance, was at the heart of human suffering. Only hard work (karma yoga) and deep meditation (jnana yoga) could relieve human suffering and lead to liberation. In fact, only through strict adherence to his eight-limbed path of yoga (ashtanga yoga) could a yogi tame the gunas and bring them back into balance, as they existed in primordial nature. Ultimately, by releasing attachments to the natural world, a yogi could allow the transcendental quality of purusha to shine through his true Self.

His eight-limbed yoga path is a combination of practices that serves as a blueprint for living in the world and as a means of attaining enlightenment.

Patanjali's Kriya Yoga[edit]

Patanjali also presented a version of kriya yoga, the path of transmutative action (i.e., the act of changing into a higher form) in his Yoga Sutra. Kriya yoga can best be described as a form of internal karma yoga. That is, by perfecting the niyamas or self-disciplines of Patanjali's eight-limbed path, particularly tapas (austerity), svadhyaya (self-study), and isvara pranidhana (devotion to the Lord), a yogi erases Samskara (subliminal activators) from his subconscious. Samskaras are like karma scars that result from good or bad behavior. They are indelible memories, imprinted on the subconscious, that propel the conscious mind to act; they are what dictate a person's birth, life experiences, and death. These activators cause the constant chatter or fluctuations in the mind that separate a person from purusha and make it impossible for him to experience it. An individual has good kinds of samskara and bad kinds, according to the Yoga Sutra. The bad kind keep the conscious mind actively seeking experience outside itself, regardless of whether that experience is pleasurable or painful. The good kind stop the conscious mind from seeking and attaching itself to external objects and senses. The resultant cessation (nirodhah) of vritti (fluctuations) and samskara brings true liberation.

The Post-classical Era of Yoga[edit]

Patanjali's Yoga Sutra defined yoga practice in the early part of the first millennium, and his eight-limbed path became a central aspect of the yoga systems that followed. The Yoga Sutra, however, was firmly rooted in the dualism of Samkhya philosophy and the Gita. Certain concepts and tenets from Patanjali and the early Upanishads continue unchanged or only slightly modified throughout the post-classical period. Schools such as tantra or hatha yoga, which took exception to or radically departed from many of these older tenets, expanded the practice of yoga in often radical ways. The one thing both mainstream and new-age post-classical philosophers had in common was their rejection of Patanjali's dualistic world view. That marked the close of one era and the beginning of a new one.

For Patanjali it was purusha and the nondualistic tradition of Advaita Vedanta called it Atman or Self. Although this Atman resides in each one of us, he (purusha may be formless, but he's still considered to be male) cannot be understood by the senses-he can't be seen, heard, smelled, touched, or tasted. Both schools understood that humans suffer when they become disconnected from this higher Self, and both believed that liberation comes when humans realize their true, transcendental Self.

A person could free himself from suffering only when he let go of his attachments to such things and realized-not with the intellect, but with the heart-that the transcendental Self resided within and that the Self was the ultimate reality. For the nondualist in pre- and post-classical yoga, suffering began when an individual tried to make a distinction between Self and no-Self; when he failed to understand that he was a small part of something much larger than himself; when he forgot that everything he did, all that he sensed, was simply a manifestation of the transcendental Atman or purusha. A nondualist released himself from suffering when he came to understand that his Self was not separate, but an integral part of the transcendental Self or Atman.

It's somewhat easier to see the Divine in the mundane when you take the nondualistic view of reality, because the Divine is everywhere and in everything. When Atman or purusha is separate, how can anyone glimpse its luminous nature in everyday life? Patanjali never really answered that question, but later commentators explained that by practicing yoga (the eight-limbed path), the yogi attains the highest level of existence. At this point prakriti becomes so transparent and illuminating (sattvic) that purusha, the transcendental Self, shines through and reveals himself. The path toward true liberation lies in experiencing (not just believing) the universe as one. This combination of jnana yoga (yoga of wisdom and knowledge) and karma yoga (yoga of taking action) is similar to the ideas espoused in the Bhagavad Gita.

Tantra Yoga[edit]

Tantra emerged early in the post-classical period, around the fourth century C.E., but didn't reach its full flowering until 500 to 600 years later. This school represents a rather radical departure for yoga philosophy. In what could only have been understood as heresy, tantra rejected the Vedas as irrelevant. It refuted the notion that liberation could be attained only through rigorous asceticism and meditation, and it dismissed the Samkhyan precept that a yogi must renounce the world in order to free himself from it. Tantra also eschewed karma yoga (the path of action or service), choosing instead to focus on devotion (bhakti), most particularly worship of the Goddess.

In teaching about the causes of suffering and the path to liberation, tantra shares common ground with its ancestors. Like the nondualistic authors of the early Upanishads, tantric yogis believed that human suffering comes from the illusion of opposites, from the mistaken notion that the Self is somehow separate from the objects it desires. Being good nondualists, tantrikas (tantric yogis) see all possible sets of opposites, all dualities (good and evil, hot and cold, hard and soft, male and female) contained within the universal consciousness. The only way a yogi can liberate himself from suffering, according to tantra, is to unite all the opposites or dualities in his own body. Like Patanjali, tantrikas believe in the need to have a strong, pure physical body.

Tantrika, on the other hand, celebrated the physical body, which they considered to be a sacred temple of the Divine, as a means to conquer death. The body became the vehicle for attaining liberation. In tantric yoga, the universal consciousness, which earlier philosophers called purusha, became Shiva and resided within the body. The principle of nature or creation, called prakriti in earlier yogic thought, became Shakti and lived at the base of the spine. The ultimate unity-the male energy of Shiva with the feminine principle Shakti-took place internally and led to final liberation or Samadhi. Tantrikas believed that the whole world was not an illusion, but a manifestation of the Divine and that all experience brought the practitioner closer to his or her own divinity.

The Vamamarga, or left-handed path of tantra, employed traditionally forbidden pleasures, including sexual intercourse, to achieve samadhi. After all, they reasoned, how can an individual know what to transcend if he doesn't experience it first? The more conservative, right-handed tantrikas, on the other hand, weren't quite so literal. In fact vamamarga practices horrified them.

They considered these practices dangerous, and preferred more symbolic means of uniting male and female energies. The right-handed tantrikas relied on arduous practices of asana, pranayama, mudras, and bandhas to awaken the female energy (shakti), draw it up through the body, and unite it with the male Shiva at the crown of the head. Both types of tantra respected women far more than their yogic predecessors and most of their contemporaries, and revered the feminine deity (Shakti) as the necessary, active energy that made liberation possible.

Not everything in tantra broke with yogic tradition. Before a yogi could even begin tantric practices, he had to adhere strictly to the yamas and niyamas (ethical standards and moral disciplines) and the asanas and pranayamas as outlined in Patanjali's eight-limbed path in the Yoga Sutra. From there, the adept learned to concentrate (pratyahara) on a single point (ekagraha); for a tantrika, this point was an icon of a deity. Once he mastered pratyahara, he was ready to study visualization, which included feeling the deity's presence and summoning the sacred force of the deity in order to experience its divinity.

Similarly, tantra's use of mantras (sacred sounds) is as old as the Rig Veda, but tantrikas employed these sounds in a very different way. Each letter of the mantra (given to the student by his guru) corresponded to a place in the body and each place in the body represented a force in the universe. By chanting the mantra, the yogi could awaken the body and its corresponding universal forces. In order to practice this form of mantra meditation, the body must be pure and strong and the mind clear and alert.

Tantric yogis liked to use visual aids, such as mandalas, in their meditations. Generally made of wood, paper, or cloth, tantric mandalas were drawings of circles and geometric designs. Regardless of how simple or complex these drawings were, they always contained a seed or beeja at the center, which represented the union of the cosmos and the mind; concentric circles, which represented the various levels of existence; and a square "fence" around the circles, with open gates, to protect the sacred space. Ultimately, by meditating and visualizing, the tantrika entered into the mandala and realized that the unity of all things resided in him and that there was no separation between him and the Divine.

Hatha Yoga[edit]

Hatha yoga, out of which came the physical postures the Western world now embraces, first appeared in the ninth or tenth century. Despite its rather detailed and complex philosophic underpinnings, it was little more than a small and somewhat radical sect during the post-classical period. In fact, among some Hindus of the period, hatha yoga had the reputation of being nothing short of heretical in its focus on the physical and in its fascination with magical powers. Hatha yoga's principles arose from tantra, and incorporated elements of Buddhism, alchemy, and Shaivism (worship of the transcendental Shiva).

Like tantrikas, hatha yogis believed that creating polarities (male vs. female, hot vs. cold, happy vs. sad) caused suffering and brought about disease, delusion, and pain. The very name hatha yoga, a combination of "ha," meaning sun, and "tha," meaning moon, denotes the union of opposites. Hatha also means a force or determined effort, and yoga, of course, translates as yoke or joining together. Therefore, hatha yoga implies that it takes a lot of strength, discipline, and effort to unify opposing forces and to bring together the body and the mind. The biggest obstacles to practice for the hatha yogi include greed, hatred, delusion, egoism, and attachment.

Interested less in the sexual union of opposites than tantrikas, hatha yogis strove to transform the physical body into the subtle, divine body and thereby attain enlightenment. The transformed body was said to be impervious to disease, void of any defects, eternally youthful, and the bearer of paranormal, magical powers. Before hatha yoga students could even hope to accomplish such transformation, however, they had to learn an intricate physiology of the body, including the muscles, organs, chakras (energy channels), and tissues, and the gods that govern each. Hatha yogis also had to perform intense purification rituals before they could begin asana and pranayama practices. As with all yoga practice at the time, yoga students received instruction from their gurus.

Even though hatha yoga remained a somewhat marginal sect during the post-classical period, it produced an impressive number of treatises and prescriptive manuals. The first and primary text was written by a yogi named Goraksha, the person most often deemed the father of hatha yoga. Like most early gurus, Goraksha was a rather elusive figure. Quite possibly a member of the weaver caste in the Punjab, he probably lived in the ninth or tenth century C.E.., although later hatha yoga texts also place him in the twelfth or thirteenth century. Goraksha founded the Natha sect of yogis and was considered by some to be a miracle worker, saint, and revered teacher.

Interested less in the sexual union of opposites than tantrikas, hatha yogis strove to transform the physical body into the subtle, divine body and thereby attain enlightenment. The transformed body was said to be impervious to disease, void of any defects, eternally youthful, and the bearer of paranormal, magical powers. Before hatha yoga students could even hope to accomplish such transformation, however, they had to learn an intricate physiology of the body, including the muscles, organs, chakras (energy channels), and tissues, and the gods that govern each. Hatha yogis also had to perform intense purification rituals before they could begin asana and pranayama practices. As with all yoga practice at the time, yoga students received instruction from their gurus.

Even though hatha yoga remained a somewhat marginal sect during the post-classical period, it produced an impressive number of treatises and prescriptive manuals. The first and primary text was written by a yogi named Goraksha, the person most often deemed the father of hatha yoga. Like most early gurus, Goraksha was a rather elusive figure. Quite possibly a member of the weaver caste in the Punjab, he probably lived in the ninth or tenth century c.e., although later hatha yoga texts also place him in the twelfth or thirteenth century. Goraksha founded the Natha sect of yogis and was considered by some to be a miracle worker, saint, and revered teacher.

Yoga Comes West[edit]

The American brand of yoga we love today focuses primarily on the physical poses called asanas and is thus clearly an offshoot of hatha yoga, even though jnana yoga (the path of knowledge) and the raja yoga of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra were the first to gain currency in the West. Like Indian yogis, the first Westerners to encounter yoga were more interested in-and fascinated by-methods and practices that took them out of their bodies, transcending the physical to put them in closer touch with the absolute.

Nearly 50 years before yoga landed on American shores, a group of Englishmen formed the Asiatic Society of Bengal (in Calcutta) and took it upon themselves to study all things Indian. Their research and translations included essays on the Vedas, yoga, and the poetry of Shankara (800 c.e.). Society member Sir Charles Wilkins published the first English-language translation of the Bhagavad Gita in 1785, his colleague Sir William Jones weighed in with his own translations of the Isha Upanishad and a collection of hymns from the Vedas, and Henry Thomas Colebrooke wrote essays on the Vedas and on yoga, most particularly the Samkhya Karika, Ishvara Krishna's commentary on Samkhya.

The contemplative paths of yoga also resonated with a group of American intellectuals and self-described transcendentalists that included Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson and that drew inspiration from the Bhagavad Gita. Fifty years later, Madame Blavatsky, a Russian immigrant, occultist, and student of ancient India, established the Theosophical Society in New York City and in Europe. Her writings, most particularly Isis Unveiled (1877) and The Secret Doctrine (1888), captivated her audience with the secrets of the ancient Vedas.

By 1893 Americans were sufficiently smitten by yoga exotica to embrace Swami Vivekananda, the first Indian spiritual teacher (and perhaps the first East Indian) they had ever seen. Vivekananda spoke passionately about raja yoga at the first Parliament of World Religions held that year in Chicago, and the crowd went wild. He lectured extensively for another two years before moving on to European cities and then returning to India. When he came back to the United States in 1899, he set up the New York Vedanta Society, a still-thriving community dedicated to four branches of yoga practice: bhakti (devotion), karma (service), jnana (knowledge), and raja (the eight-limbed path of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra).

About the same time, the Germans discovered the beauty of the Sanskrit language and the mystery of the Vedas. Although several scholars of the Romantic era welcomed the rich literature of India, Max Muller, comparative religions pioneer, most influenced Vedic scholarship and helped birth the flurry of European translations of ancient Indian texts that continued throughout the nineteenth and into the twentieth century. Among the greatest of these was the work of Johann Wilhelm Hauer, who, according to Feuerstein, was the first to study the history of the Vedas. He produced a translation of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra as well. Of course the English and the Germans weren't the only Europeans to gravitate toward yoga research. Feuerstein mentions Poul Tuxen, a Dutch scholar, who wrote a history of the yoga tradition in 1911. Twenty years later, Swedish researcher Sigurd Lindquist published two books on yoga, focusing on its psychological aspects, and by the 1940s, the Frenchman Jean Filliozat had added his translations of several works, and Italian scholar Giulio Cesare Evola his own writings on tantra yoga.

Yoga asanas gained a little more prominence in America around the turn of the twentieth century when hatha yoga adherents began to look more seriously at the physical benefits of their practice. Back in India, partly in an attempt to shore up hatha yoga's sagging popularity, Paramahansa Madhavadasaji encouraged local scientists and medical doctors to explore the physiological aspects of asana practice.

One of his students, Kuvalayananda, established the first institute devoted solely to such exploration-the Kaivalyadhama Ashram and Research Institute in Pune, India. Madhavadasaji sent another of his adepts, Yogendra Mastamani, to the United States to set up the first American branch of the institute. Mastamani's connections with the Eclectic Physicians and Benedict Lust, the founder of naturopathy, gave yoga a foothold in the burgeoning holistic medicine practice of the day.

Up through the mid-1920s, Americans embraced a steady stream of Indian swamis coming to the West. But in 1924, the federal government imposed a quota on Indian immigration. No longer able to bring their gurus stateside, Americans traveled to India to find them. Paul Brunton, a former writer and editor, discovered one of yoga's greatest teachers, Ramana Maharshi, and wrote A Search in Secret India in 1934, to introduce him to the world.

J. Krishnamurti, an Indian philosopher, drew huge numbers of followers, beginning in the early 1930s and culminating at his death in 1986. For many, Krishnamurti epitomized jnana yoga, about which he so eloquently spoke, and his life and teachings influenced thousands of educators, philosophers, and laypeople. Krishnamurti was also an enthusiastic student of yoga asanas, spending many summers in Gstaad, Switzerland, with yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar and, later, with yogi T.K.V. Desikachar.

In 1947, Theos Bernard, another passionate student who studied in India for many years, wrote Hatha Yoga: The Report of a Personal Experience, one of the first guidebooks to yoga asanas. Indra Devi, after studying with yoga master T. Krishnamacharya in India, wrote how-to manuals and had scores of Americans bending and stretching to her guru's yoga. In 1950, Richard Hittleman, a spiritual disciple of Ramana Maharshi, began teaching the physical aspects of hatha yoga in New York City. By 1961, thanks to the power of television, Americans everywhere were learning a non-religious, decidedly unspiritual form of yoga exercise. The teacher was the same Hittleman, who hoped to convince these new converts that yoga meditation and philosophy could forever change their lives. His books, including The Twenty-Eight-Day Yoga Plan, sold millions of copies and put hatha yoga on the American map. Ten years later, yoga teacher Lilias Folan consummated America's love of this gentle physical form of yoga in her PBS-TV series "Stretching with Lilias." Her openhearted, energetic manner convinced millions more that anyone could and should practice yoga. Today she has produced 11 yoga videos, which have sold more than 700,000 copies, and she continues to teach and lead workshops all over the world.

While America's World War II generation moved and stretched to the yoga of Richard and Lilias, the postwar baby boomers there and abroad yearned for a more spiritual awakening. These young college-age kids turned on and tuned in to Eastern spirituality in general and yoga principles in particular through Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda. Although written in 1946, this introduction to the power of yoga spoke to a generation of young people in the 1960s and '70s who wanted more spiritual and transcendental experiences than they could get in their local churches or synagogues. Many of these seekers incorporated asanas into their yoga practice, but their primary goal was enlightenment, not perfect alignment in Downward-Facing Dog. Many of these same novices embraced the teachings of another bhakti yogi, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, whose Transcendental Meditation enticed everyone from college freshmen to the Beatles, with its offer of experiences even more awesome than drug-enhanced trips.

Richard Alpert, a Harvard professor fired for his psychedelic experiments, found that a spiritual lifestyle could be even more powerful and life affirming than all his past acid-trips. He left for India in the late '60s and returned to America as Ram Dass, adept of Neem Karoli Baba. His book, Be Here Now, opened the eyes and hearts of many thousands of Western students. Ashrams and spiritual communities burgeoned during the '60s and '70s, and while some taught aspects of yoga asana and pranayama, the other paths-bhakti, jnana, and karma yoga-prevailed.

A remarkable and eventful century in the history of Hinduism and of Yoga closed with the publication in 1999 of Eckhart Tolle's worldwide bestseller, 'The Power of Now'. Based on a powerful personal observation of ahamkara, ego, this is a straightforward manual setting out what can follow from simply remaining in the present moment -- or in yogic terms, resting the mind in the consciousness of atman as witness. Thus presenting as simply as does Ramana Maharshi (one of the sources that Tolle incorporates, along with Ram Dass), both the essence and the first steps of Yoga, Tolle ushered in a 21st century full of the promise of the spiritual path for those who care to take it.