Sūrya Namaskār Ᾱsana (Controversy over Sūrya or God?)

Sh. Vidya Sagar Verma

Declaring International Day for Yoga is a great tribute to the seers and sages of India who propounded the Yoga Discipline.

The literal meaning of the word ‘Yoga’ is union. Union of what? Answer to this question has been given by renowned commentator on Yoga Darśana Yajñyavalkya: Samyogo Yoga Ity Ukto Jivātma-Paramātmanoriti, i.e., Yoga is the union of Soul and God. There is a divine spark in all of us and that, because of ignorance, we are not aware of it and, hence, the advice is to know ourselves. And that can be done only through Yoga. God being present everywhere is present in our souls too and can be discerned there directly.

Thus, Yoga and its purpose defined by many seers, scholars, philosophers-

Gita offers a secular definition of Yoga, viz.,

योग: कर्मसु कौशलम्

Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam

i.e., Yoga is perfection in action. By controlling the thought currents of one’s mind, one attains deep concentration on any subject matter and, thereby, attains complete knowledge of the matter pondered over.

Sage Patanjali in his Yoga-Sūtra said :

योगश्चित्तवृत्तिनिरोधः 

Yogah Chitta Vritti Nirodhah

i.e controlling the modifications / thought currents of mind is Yoga. It is a holistic system having both physical and psychological traits.

Rudolf Steiner has also said “Meditation is the way to knowing and beholding the eternal, indestructible, essential centre of our being” (https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/edit-page/Dissolve-thoughts/articleshow/347676.cms).

Philosopher Allie M. Frazier has also defined Yoga: 

The purpose of Yoga is to unite man with the Divine Ground, with the Cosmic Consciousness. Yoga is the psychological linking of the mind to the super-ordinated principle ‘by which the mind knows’. 

Every human being possesses three things – Body, Mind and Soul (Spirit). Yoga aims at the composite development of human personality — physical, mental and spiritual. The Vedas and the Upaniśads advise ‘Ᾱtmānam Vidhi’, i.e., Know Thyself.

आत्मानं रथिनं विद्धि शरीरं रथमेव तु।

(कठोपनिषद्, अध्याय १, वल्ली ३, मंत्र ३)

To know oneself, one has to concentrate deeper inside. Performing Yoga-Ᾱsanas is not just a way to physical fitness but also helps in deliberating deeper essence of his/her body. Out of 84 Ᾱsanas of Hatha-Yoga, two are very prominent and effective — Shirṣa-Ᾱsana and Sūrya-Namaskār Ᾱsana.

The Sūrya Namaskār Ᾱsana energises the whole body, it wards off many diseases related to the spine, stomach, thyroid gland, arthritis, et al. It is, therefore, recommended that this Ᾱsana must be learnt and performed by all the practitioners of Yoga.

It is unfortunate that the Yoga Capsule devised by the Ministry of Ayush for the International Day of Yoga Celebrations, Sūrya Namaskār Ᾱsana has been excluded, whereas, in many countries, it forms a prominent part of the Yoga Demonstration on this day celebrated by almost all the countries in the world.  

The word ‘Sūrya’ in the Sūrya Namsakar does not mean Sun, but God.

सूर्यो वै सर्वे देवा:।

(शतपथ ब्राह्मण १३.७.१.५)

In the Vedas Indra, Varun, Sūrya, et al, are all the names of God and he (Sun) is worthy of being bowed to by all. Brāhmaṇas of Yajurveda narrated various references where Sūrya is said to be ‘द्वादश’.

आदित्यो  द्वादश:।

(तैत्तिरीय ब्राह्मण १.५.३.४; शतपथ ब्राह्मण ११.६.३.५)

विष्णुर्धाता भग: पूषा मित्रेन्द्रौ वरुणोऽर्यमा….॥

सूर्य (आदित्य) के बारह नाम – विष्णु, धाता, भग, पूषा, मित्र, इन्द्र, वरुण, अर्यमा, विवस्वान्, अंशुमान्, त्वष्टा, और पर्जन्य।

(ब्रह्मपुराण ३१.१७-१८)

To avoid the controversy over Sūrya Namaskār Ᾱsana, a humble suggestion is that it be renamed as Iśa Namaskār Ᾱsana as Sūrya here means God.

Prof. Max Muller’s following words in ‘India: What Can It Teach Us’ are worthy of attention: 

“They were all meant to express the Beyond, the Invisible behind the Visible, the Infinite within the Finite, the Supernatural above the Natural, the Divine, Omnipresent, Omnipotent.”

It is not only the Vedas, but many religions, philosophers and scholars declare God as the Soul of the Universe: 

All are but parts of (the Universe is) one stupendous Whole

Whose Body Nature is, and God the Soul.

— Alexander Pope (https://www.bartleby.com/360/4/13.html)

Sh. Vidya Sagar Verma, Former Ambassador

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