Why study the scriptures ?,
How to study them ?,
How to teach them ?,
and finally, How to stay away from fake Gurus ?
I created this website so that people can search in the website search bar for terms and concepts from the yogic scriptures and get authentic references. I was drawn to the mind settling power of the ancient yogic scriptures, which I have described here. As mentioned in "Why this site ?", the challenge, these days, to the succession of the knowledge from these ancient scriptures to future generations, is not invasions by people who did not tolerate yoga and killed the yogis, but misinterpretation and the spreading of false knowledge, that is not in accordance with traditional interpretation, by self styled new age Gurus. I mentioned in this post about an instance of a completely wrong interpretation of the concept of karma by an ashtanga vinyasa yoga teacher. There are many such wrong interpretations of scriptures, especially in asana practice, that have resulted in bodily injury to many, including I. This is especially common in advanced asana practice like Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga where some teachers militantly enforce "rules" like forcing a student to do an asana irrespective of the student's capability or desire to do that asana just because it is part of a series and the wrong notion that asanas in a series should not be "skipped".
2) Why study the scriptures ?
The Indian scriptures consist of "Shruti" and "Smriti". Shruti is what has been heard or revealed to the ancient sages in their deep meditation. These texts do not have an author ascribed to them because it is heard or revealed knowledge. Generally people consider this to be the absolute truth because it is revealed by a higher power to sages in a very pure state of mind during deep meditation. Shruti provides guidelines and not orders for living. Shruti consists of the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Brahmanas and the Aranyakas.
Smriti means that which is remembered and it consists, among other literature, of the Shad (six) Darshanas (including yoga and sankhya), the Puranas (mythological legends) and the Ithihasas (that which is recounted exactly as it had happened). Smriti is composed by humans and have an author associated with them. The yoga sutras are smiriti and are authored by Maharishi Patanjali. The Ramayana and Mahabharata are the two Ithihasas.
The Bhagavad Gita, though it is embedded in the Mahabharata which is a Smriti, is considered a Shruti because it is considered a word of God due to it being narrated by Bhagavan Krishna.
Both the Shruti and Smriti are written from a meditative state of mind by the authors and therefore have the power to settle the minds of those who read them.
तत्र ध्यानजम् अनाशयम्
Tatra Dhyanajam Anashayam (Yoga sutra 4.6)
An action done from a meditative state of mind leaves no residues of attachment (and is thus, of high quality)
Some Smritis were written down
Shrutis were always taught by teachers to students by chanting
3) How to study the scriptures ?
I had written in this post about the importance of studying the scriptures according to traditional interpretation handed down from one generation to the next for several hundreds to over a thousand years. Now and then one would find self styled new age gurus who claim super normal powers and claims of witnessing divine beings in the Himalayas. While some of these new age gurus may still interpret scriptures correctly some of the time, there is a high chance that inspite of their claims of omiscience, their knowledge is limited and therefore they will make mistakes in interpretation. A true yogi never displays or makes claims to their superpowers, if they posess them at all. Yoga Sutra 3.38 states that "These Siddhis are obstacles to Samadhi but are superpowers in worldly pursuits".
4) How to teach the scriptures ?
These ancient scriptures, even though they were written down in sanskrit, transcend place, ethnicity and time and everyone who has benefitted from them have a small responsibility to transmit them correctly to the future generations, according to traditional interpretation.As I had mentioned in this note, when great teachers teach the scriptures, you do not hear them but an ancient voice from several generartions ago. In other words, they just act like a conduit for the scriptural information in much the same way a reiki master is said to act as a conduit for energy. A good teacher will maintain the sanctity of the scriptures and will preserve the mind settling energy that is contained in them. They will use modern analogies only as needed and will not flaunt their knowledge of quantum physics or management while talking about the scriptures and convert the scriptural rendering to that of a quantum physics or management class with scriptural examples.