Yoga Retreat
Mother As First Guru ( By Swami Gurupremananda Saraswati
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~What Is Yoga - What Is Tantra?~

~Background and History~

    We must begin our discussion on the yogic approach to motherhood and all that it entails with a brief look into the philosophy and concepts of yoga and tantra. My explanations here do not purport to be a complete expose of these topics since they are both vast subjects in themselves. For the purposes of this book, only the essentially relevant theory and practices have been included.
   Yoga and tantra (pronounced tun-tra) are ancient spiritual sciences the historical roots of which are only partially known. Whereas yoga is well known these days as a method of health and mental development, much less is properly understood about tantra. It is postulated that yoga evolved out of tantra some 4,500 years BC and since it is known to be far older than this, tantra is often said to be the mother of yoga. What is known for sure, both from the historical records as well as the experiences of their practitioners, is that the systems of yoga and tantra have very much in common and in fact depend upon each other for accurate interpreta-tion and implementation.
   Throughout the book, many of the concepts and practices are drawn from both these areas. In my daily life and in my yoga teaching, I find the two inseparably intertwined. For the yogic beginner and the aspiring mother though, what is most important is their essential similarities and practical relevance rather than any historical, theoretical or doctrinal differences.
   Regarding the matter of defining the terms, I must state at the outset that I invariably find dictionary and encyclopaedia definitions of yoga and tantra substantially incorrect. Many of these references define both yoga and tantra as Hindu and / or Indian in origin, however some other sources and many actual yoga masters, do not agree with this at all. There is now a growing belief that yoga and tantra existed on other continents within prehistoric civilisations long before the period in which they were known on the Indian subcontinent. Whilst much evidence definitely shows that the Indian yogis maintained, refined, classified, systematised and documented yoga for many thousands of years, this does not make yoga "Indian". Just because Henry Ford (an American) may have developed the first mass marketed motor car, that does not make vehicles


intrinsically American. In the same way, there is just so much of yoga and tantra which is common to so many other ancient cultures and civilisa-tions such as the Australian Aboriginals, Central American shaman, the South American Incas, Druidic and ancient Egyptian civilisations, that it would seem these ideas and practices are in fact universal and may even be "wired in" to the human psyche. There are many people the world over who have discovered and realised the same truths as yoga espouses. There have been many incidents of people - both within and outside of the yoga fraternity - spontaneously performing certain postures (yoga asanas), gestures (mudras), visualising particular shapes (bija yantras), uttering sacred sounds (bija mantras) all of which correlate exactly with the methods codified in the ancient yogic texts.
   Another common misconception, which to the annoyance of many yoga practitioners, the dictionary editors (and many Hindus for that matter) continue to propagate, is that yoga and tantra are something to do with Hinduism. They are not. Yoga, tantra and Hinduism have each evolved separately, yet nearby and in parallel to each other for thousands of years it is true, but in fact, tantra (and its offshoot yoga) indisputably predates Hinduism. Although only a small discrepancy to some, I believe that this single error of fact is responsible for the greatest barrier to many people taking up the practise of yoga. "Ah, but yoga is part of Hinduism" they say - as if that immediately excludes them and their Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, agnostic or atheist backgrounds. Newcomers to yoga are frequently asked upon arrival home - "So, did you get the big rave about the Hindu pantheon of Gods and Goddesses?" Such attitudes are only ever held by those who have never actually attended a yoga class, including the academics and historians who study Indian culture rather than yoga itself.
   And one more thing! Yoga is not a religion. Since I have satisfactorily (to my mind at least) now divorced the science of yoga from the religion of Hinduism, I will now also make the bold and unusual statement that yoga and tantra are not in the business of helping seekers find God. If you want to find God (of any kind) that is OK. Yoga can help you do that - but that is not what yoga is for. If you want to leave God right out of your life, then yoga accepts that too. If you already have a God seeking system (commonly called a

   
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Please Note:
The complete ‘Mother As First Guru’ Set also contains Book 2 + 2 audio cds. Book 2 relating to comprehensive Yoga Practices as well as the Audio Instructional practices (2 cd set) are only available with your purchase and is NOT available on the Reading Room.

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