What is yoga as per the main text of Ayurvedic, Charaka Samhita?

I have now shown in many posts over time, what is yoga as referencing various Vedic texts. From many of the Puranas to the Upanishads to Yoga texts to dharmashastra texts etc etc etc….. I will now do the same with the Ayurvedic text of Charaka Samhita from 5000 years ago. It is the main text of Ayurveda. It is amazing how all of these texts speak of what is “yoga”. There are no styles mentioned although they are from different sources. This is what is known to anyone with any knowledge of yoga in India. This is their heritage. All of them are coming from the same foundational understanding. What foundational understanding is Western yoga from? And how is that working for you?

I love Ayurveda’s explanation of yoga because it goes so deep into explaining disease. From this explanation you might take away how the Western yoga’s take on yoga has nothing at all to do with yoga and is infact just the opposite and is deeply disease forming* as per what is copied below as per the text. After reading this, go to http://www.elephantjournal.com or yogadork.com and read a few articles about what modern yoga is. You will see that most of what is written is about relationships, love, being uplifted emotionally, motivated, sharing of opinions, etc etc etc… all of which do not have one thing to do with yoga… at all. All of it mere Western mental self help cittavritti and Western exercise disguised as asana. Just the opposite of what all these texts have explained as yoga.

*see all sorts of past articles on this blog
also just as an example: Kunjal Kriya in Western/Modern Yoga, the lack of proper understanding of how it is done and when it is done and who should do it and more specifically who should not do it and why. It is just done whenever and by anyone and there is no instructions of what it is when it is done correctly or incorrectly and what to do to correct that imbalance that was done. Go ahead and try to find any of that information in any book or online or in any training course. Vamana in Ayurveda gives all of this understanding, and even in the texts it states that vamana with just salt water is the least form of vamana, hence kunjal kriya.
This can be extrapolated through the different teachings in yogaland.


So on to the text of Charaka Samhita and what he has to say yoga is back 5000 years ago.


Disease Causality (Trivida hetu):
There are three main causes for the disease i.e. – Asatmendriyaartha samyoga (Not using the five sense organs in the right way), Prajnaparadha (crimes against one’s own wisdom) and Parinama/ Kala (time/season). The Atiyoga (excessive use), Ayoga (under use) and Mithyayoga (improper useof these three factors are the main cause for all the diseases where as their Samyakyoga (proper useleads to health. The first one is directly related to the indriyas/sense organs. Prajnaparadha is directly related to the mind and spirituality. Ayurveda clearly explains the bad deeds of manas/mind, kaya/body and vak/speech are come under prajnaparadha and should not be done in any condition. (not “just this little bit won’t hurt”) After reading the following you might also grasp the reason and function of what pratyahara is. Further seeing the huge distinction of what is being thought of as “yoga” in the modern world.


This section of Charaka Samhita starts in Sharirasthana (volume/section/chapter on the body) around verse 94 onwards where Punarvasu is asking his teacher Agnivesha pretty deep questions. Prior to where we start was explanation about the soul, mind, manifestation, as well as karma and other stuff of such profundity. Soon the questions start to arise about disease and then into explanation in the text of the cause of all diseases. This is where we start.


What is stated directly about yoga is highlighted in RED



So we start by talking of the senses and the disease related to them. Why do you think that is?????



Unwholesome contacts/use of the sense objects is of 3 categories: underuse, overuse, and wrong use (trivida hetu). This is the cause of vitiation of the doshas.

Unsuitable Use of the Senses:
Sense: Wrong Use/ Conjunction (yoga):

Sound – By hearing intense sound, no sound or too little sound, the auditory sense organ is destroyed. The contact of the organ of hearing with sound that is harsh, is fear causing, is inauspicious, is unpleasant, that coveys mishap is known as unwholesome contact.

Touch – The lack of touch, excessive or touch of the objects that are not to be touched, leads to diseases and disorders of the tactile sense organ. Untimely contact with micro organisms, spirits, poisonous gases and toxic winds, untimely contact of oily (ex. abhyanga when their is indigestion), untimely contact of cold, and untimely contact of hot substances is known as unwholesome contact.

Sight – By excessive gazing at brilliant objects, looking at very minute object, and not using the sight at all, the visual sense organ is damaged. Seeing that which is disliked, fierce, those sights that create fear, that which is tamasic, too distant, too near and too faint objects is known as unwholesome contact.

Taste – Excessive intake of one type of food or taste, avoidance of taste in utter disregard without thought, faulty intake, in respect of habitual suitability (i.e. what one has habit to eat may not cause disease because of habitual intake but this does not mean it is healthy for the individual and one good day it will have an effect) etc., eating poisonous foods, and little intake of food is harmful leads to the destruction of the sense organ of taste. Inadequate intake of the six tastes creates destruction of the gustatory faculty.

Smell – Inhaling too mild or too sharp odors or completely abstaining from use destroys olfactory sense organ. The contact with foul smelling, infested with micro organisms, poisonous, disliked smells, smell that produces disgust or aggravation, and also with those which are unseasonal.

These are the three types of unwholesome contacts (atiyoga, hinayoga, mityayoga) with use of the senses to their respective objects (see above trividyahetu) that aggravate the doshas and create disease.
That which is not suited to the person (not following the rule of sahaatma or that which is not accompanying ones soul) is known as “asatmya” (unwholesome).

The disease originated by the impairment of the senses known as “Aindriyaka” arises due to wrong, excessive and inadequate use of the sense faculties.

Those 3 types of unwholesome contacts are responsible for all miseries (sukha). Balanced (samayoga) use (of time, intellect, and sense organs) brings heath but is very difficult to attain and is attainable through yoga only.

Neither the sense organs nor the senses are the causes of happiness or unhappiness. They are only created by the 4 fold uses of senses i.e. proper utilization, insufficient use, overuse, and wrong use (it is all created by how you attach your senses). Even with the existence of sense organs and sense objects, there would be no disease, no misery, or happiness without the involvement (yoga) of the 4 fold uses of the senses. Therefore, these combinations are the causation for all happiness or unhappiness. (if there is no conjugation of the sense organs with any object, there is no sukha or dukha = yogas chitta vritti nirodhah)

There can not be happiness or unhappiness without the soul, sense organs, mind, intellect, sense objects or the results of past karma. In the context of the science of medicine, only the four fold uses are at the causation of all happiness and miseries. The wholesome combination adherence is required while the unwholesome being given up is required for the maintenance of good health.

There are the 2 ways of contact that give rise to happiness or misery, contact with the tactile sense organ and that of the emotions to the mind.

Happiness (sukha) and unhappiness (dukha) are create desire (trsna) in the form of attraction (iccha) and aversion (dvesha). Desire is the primary cause of happiness and unhappiness. Pain (vedana), the sensations of happiness and misery, is the outcome of the contact of desire with the body and mind. If there is no contact, sukha and dukha do not exist.

The location of manifestations of happiness and misery is sense organs combined with the mind and the body except head hairs, body hairs, tip of nail, excreta, fluids. (exclusion because these do not have consciousness)

All sensations of happiness and unhappiness cease to exist in the state of yoga and moksa (liberation). In moksa, the cessation is complete while yoga is the means to gain moksha. (moksha is the absolute detachment of the soul from all mental and physical contacts and the course of yoga serves as a means to attainment of moksha) (“yogamokshau nirvatako” used in this shloka is meaning that this is the only way that there is of eradication of the sensations of happiness and unhappiness)

Soul, sense organs, mind and the sense objects provide knowledge of all forms. Not initiating any happiness and misery is only possible by making the mind stable. When this happens there will be no contact with these, both cease to exist and the mind is controlled. This state is known as “yoga” by the expert sages that are well versed in this subject.


Entering into other’s body (avesa), knowledge of other’s mind (chetah gnanam), controlling the sense organs at will (chandata kriya), supernatural vision (drishti), supernatural hearing (srotram), superhuman memory (smriti), superhuman brilliance (kanti) and disappearance at will (istadaschapya darsanam) – these 8 are said as natural strengths of the right path of yoga. All this is possible only by the purity of mind that is free from rajas (desire and passion) and tamas (darkness).

Moksa (emancipation) is possible only by absolute absence of rajas and tamas in the mind, annihilation of the bindings of past karma, and detachment from all the sources of worldly pleasures. 

Devotion to the path of truth and righteousness (satyam upasanam), avoidance of the wrong path (asatam parivaarjanam), observance of vows (chariya), fasting (vrata) and other rites (upavasa) and rules (niyama), study of and compliance of dharma (dharanam dharmashastra), higher knowledge (vishesha vijnana), staying away from society (vijana), attachment to being alone (vijana gati), detachment from objects of sense and worldly pleasure (visheshu arati), restraint and mind control (driti), non-initiation of all good and bad actions (karmanam asamarambha), destruction of past deeds (by prayaschitta or punya karmas), inclination to getting away from the worldly trap (nishkramnyam), absence of ego (aahankarah), having fear of conjunction that creates happiness and misery (sanyoge bhayarshanam), maintaining balanced state of mind and intellect (mano budhi samadhanam), analysis of, then attachment to,  the measures that will lead to moksha (artha tattva pariksha), having the proper memory (smritti) – all these leads to moksha (eternal liberty from the bondage of earthly life).

Absence of sorrow (dukha) is necessary to have a good memory. For one who follows a path of truth, there is better control of the mind. After emergence of memory one gets rid of misery by recollecting the creation of beings.

The 8 factors which brings emergence of memory: knowledge of cause (nimitta), of form (rupa grahana), of similarity (sadrisha), of contrast (viparita vastu), predominance of sattwa (smarana), practice (abhyasa), attainment of knowledge (gnana) and subsequent partial communication of an event (purnah smarana). Memory is defined as recollection of direct perception, heard and previously experienced things.

There is only one path (eka ayanam) to attaining the liberation (moksha). (following right dharma, earn through right artha, have proper kama) A person attached to knowledge of truth (tattva smritti gnana) can attain moksha. Once attained one never returns. One who has attained this is called a knower of supreme knowledge (paramatgnani). People who understand dharma as well as the sankhya philosophers say that complete understanding of true dharma is the path of moksha. 

All that has causality is misery (dukha) and is temporal (anitya). All that has cause is no concerned of the soul. Soul is initiator of the karma through the mind and it gives wrong notion of I-ness . Until and unless one understands the true knowledge one reamins believing that they are creating the karma, the one who has realized the truth, that atma is called a gnani. (one experiences and subjects them self to miseries only so long as they identify with the worldly events. When they realize that those events are only consequences of the wrong knowledge, they conquer misery completely) When the atma crosses all the boundaries of all dukha it is known as charamasannyas and the 

In the attainment of the state of final renunciation in respect to all subsequent actions, all consciousness with its final causes in form of determinate, indeterminate, and scriptural knowledge is eradicated.

Thereafter the soul identifies with Brahman (brahmasvarupa) and the empirical soul ceases to exist, no more rebirths. They are not perceived (no pramana can be used to understand) as being devoid of all entities he possesses no sign of existence, no features (budhi, ahankara, asta prakruti, 16 vicaras). This is scope only for the knowers of Brahman (brahmagnani) and not the ignorant (agnani) one who is incapable of grasping this at all.


Okay, you get all of that?

So what? Still think what you are doing in that western exercise class on a rubber mat has anything at all to do with yoga? Really?

All of this funny enough sounds pretty close to what is described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali as well. Actually, this is the same from pretty much all the ancient texts posted and quoted on this blog, huh?

So whats the deal, really think that getting some poses on a paddle board in the middle of a lake can have any comparison to what is written above? That may bring you some Western exercise benefits, but it is the furthest thing from yoga.


If exercise is rajasik, what is it doing to that mind?



The final freedom on the material realm (bhuloka) is freedom from desires of the mind. This is not moksha but is the best your gonna get in the worldly life. Desires bind you. They are the reason for rebirth. You chase after, run your life by your desires. If  the desires are fulfilled, they only create more desires, they lead to greed, if not they will lead to anger and hatred. This is understood by the wise and has been written in every ancient philosophy. Not just Yoga. From birth your mind is hungry with desires and there is a void in your mind, which you try to fill up by going after objects and fulfilling your desires and your mind ever remains agitated. No stillness can be had, no silence, no peace. Not one step closer to yoga. Funny thing is that this knowledge has to actually be experienced, it cannot be a concept in the mind. It has nothing to do with rushing off to a class of stretching from your busy day of rushed overworking and excessive talking to let some stress out. That is nothing less than a culturally accepted form of schizophrenia. What’s in your Yoga?



2nd part to this? What is the path?



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