Any distinction between "yoga" and "marga"?

Dominik Wujastyk ucgadkw at
Mon Oct 9 17:46:33 UTC 1995

Peter Claus said:
> In the previous several comments on yoga, esp. hatha yoga,
> there seems to be something of a tenor of discrediting it
> as part of a health practice in ayurveda because of its
> late inclusion.

Yes, it is all to easy to use "late" as though it were a denounciation
of something.  But the emotional tone of the use of this word normally
derives from its use to combat a-historical claims of unreasonable

> Might this better be thought of as a
> further development, an enhancement, in line with the larger
> 'philosophy' (ie. not just medicines, diagnosis, surgery,
> etc.) and prevention of ill-health implied in ayurveda from
> the start?

Well, no.  The purpose of ayurveda is getting and staying healthy; the
purpose of yoga is liberation, or more specifically "cittavrttinirodha"
so that asamprajnaaasamadhi can arise.  The sastras are internally quite
clear about their different aims.  The commentator Cakrapanidatta says
this explicitly in his discussion of Caraka's recommendation of "maitri"
as a suitable moral attitude.  Cakra is bothered about the use of meats
an animal broths as medicines, and sees this -- rightly, I think -- as a
contradition of the ideal of "maitri".  His conclusion?

  na hi aayurvedavidhayo "dharmasaadhanam evopadi"santi, ki.m
  tarhyarogyasaadhana.m "dhaatusaamyakriyaa coktaa tantrasyaasya
  prayojanam (Suu.a.1) ity ukte.h" (Ca.Su.9.29).

  Thre rules of ayurveda are not taught to further Dharma, but to
  promote health.  After all, it is said that "the purpose of this
  system is stated to be making the humours balanced".

This is a very interesting passage.

> Need there be value only in that which was
> "passed down the various lineages of gurus since time immemorial"?
> To imply that with regard to Indian sciences is to treat
> them very differently than the expectations that we have
> of Western (so-called) sciences, where the latest developments
> are more highly valued than what the ancients practiced and
> the folk medicines past down through family lineages.

The difference is simply whether one is trying to heal people, or to
understand history.  The aims are different.  I'm unashamedly trying to
understand the history of Indian science.

> Is not ayurveda and yoga such a living, dynamic, growing 
> set of sciences?  Don't practioners see it that way?  Shouldn't
> we?

Some ayurvedic doctors do (the a"suddha, or "impure" school), others
don't (the "suddha people).  Earlier this century there was a big and
rather violent debate within the community of ayurvedic practitioners
about whether ayurveda was eternal, true, complete and static, or
whether it should adapt to cosmopolitan medicine and absorb features
from it.  Charles Leslie has written insightfully about this in his book
_Paths to asian medical knowledge_ (also edited by him).  The whole
question of change and continuity in ayurveda is a very difficult and
interesting one.

Dominik Wujastyk


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