|[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 320 ]
These are the most ancient of texts revealed to the sages and saints of India, which explain and regulate every aspect of life from supreme reality to worldly affairs. They are the oldest books in the library of mankind today, yet their exact origin remains lost in antiquity. There are four VEDAS in number: RIG VEDA, YAJUR VEDA, SAMA VEDA and ATHARVA VEDA. These are then further divided into SAMHITA, BRAHMANA, ARANYAKA and the UPANISHADS. Yogacharini Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani gives the following brief description in her book, The History Of Yoga From Ancient To Modern Times:
"The VEDAS were ancient hymns, sung in the forests, by Rishis who lived ascetic lives in hermitages. Yet, they were filled also with the joys and sorrows, gains and losses, fears and desires of worldly life. Originally, they were sung. They were not put in written form. Who knows for how many centuries or millennia these sacred chants were passed from Guru to disciple? Hindu tradition puts the VEDAS as far back as 10,000 years.
In this Vedic Period, the word 'yoga' was used occasionally, often in reference to homas, fire ceremonies. The practical aspects of yoga were not formalized, but were part and parcel of the Vedic seer’s life. To perform homa, the sages had to sit immobile for days, weeks, even months in asanas, straight, still, sitting positions of the body. The Mantras chanted required tremendous breath control (Pranayama). The ritualistic accuracy and purity required intense dharana (concentration). The senses had to be controlled, as fasting and other physical disciplines were part of the ritual. Hence, the ritualistic worship of the Vedic seers implied a very strong practice of yoga sadhana, even without the word 'yoga' being applied to this sadhana."
The VEDAS, as with all teachings of such ancient origin, were originally passed down through an oral tradition. They were eventually organised and written down by Ved Vyasa, the author of other important works such as the PURANAS and the MAHABHARATA...
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