Yoga and Buddhism share over 1,500 years of history as well as many cultural and spiritual values. They have both been practiced uninterruptedly for centuries by hundreds of millions of men and women alike, and across many countries and cultures. Both born in India, Yoga’s importance and relevance in Buddhism is extraordinary.
A Buddha is a great yogi who has attained its highest truth in lifetime through yoga. Hatha yoga and Raja yoga played a very important role in Buddhism. Elements of Buddhist religious practices are found in yoga. Yoga influences Buddhist practices too. Lord Buddha used to practice yoga by meditating and doing different yogic postures. Yoga has been passed down through great sages and yogis until it reached and helped Buddha. Buddha’s experiences in yoga are included in his teachings which are followed widely across the world.
The combination of yoga and Buddhism helps in attaining the ultimate goal referred to as nirvana .
“Nirvana in Sanskrit means “the blowing out.” It is understood as the extinguishment of the flame of personal desire, the quenching of the fire of life.”The Meaning of Buddhism – Fundamental principles of the Theravada doctrine
BHIKKHU U THITTILA, FEBRUARY 1958 ISSUE
Yoga is an ancient practice and many sages have practiced but after Buddha it has become quite refined. Buddha presented the spiritual techniques in an easy manner so that a learner can learn quickly. The significance of yoga is explained in three sects in Buddhist teachings. Attaining accurate knowledge is the goal of yoga as well as Buddhism. Yoga is a discipline of physical and mental activity so that enlightenment can be achieved.
Both Yoga and Buddhism Originated in India – The Buddha was Familiar with Yoga!
The most important factors of yoga are body postures, breathing (inhalation and exhalation), meditation, devotion, control of senses and union with divine. Due to all these factors, a person practicing yoga can become calm and serene. The Buddha who was ‘Prince Siddhartha Gautam’ changed drastically as a person and became Buddha. He practiced yoga for forty-nine days by continuously meditating to attain the divine and cosmos energy.
Yoga and Buddhism both originated from India. After the Buddha, around 200 BCE to 200 CE, Patanjali wrote yoga sutra in which the Buddha’s teachings as well as traditions in yoga were explained systematically. Even modern scholars believe that yoga sutra is a combination of yoga and Buddhism.
There is a strong similarity between Buddhism and yoga. Many yogic traditions are developed from Buddhism. Apart from Buddha, there were other junior yogis who followed and continued the teachings of Buddha.
Yoga has gained immense popularity over the years and can be called as a spiritual practice. We can say that yoga is one of the origins of Buddhism as meditation helped Buddha attain the final step of Buddhism. Patanjali also played a huge part in refining the yoga traditions after the Buddha.
Yoga and Buddhism share an ancient history that stretches centuries, and they are highly related and interconnected. Yoga’s importance and relevance in Buddhism is explained below in the following five ways:
- The Yoga tradition
- Meditation and Yoga
- Yoga and Buddhism Both Recognize Dharma
- They Share Similar Ethical Values
- Devotion to God
The Yoga tradition
Nearly all Buddhist schools are following the technique of meditation and even yogic practices like pranayama and mantra. Modern philosophers and writers have named it as Buddhist yoga. People in China, Tibet, Japan etc. follow Mahayana type of Buddhism which is quite similar to yoga tradition. It has breathing exercises and mantras.
Meditation and Yoga
The most popular yogic posture is meditation which plays an important role in Buddhism. Buddhism has types of meditation like Zen and Vipasana. Learning postures and knowing the core importance of yoga and mediation is hardly seen in west. People blindly follow asanas in the west. Yoga and Buddhism both support meditation, concentration and Samadhi. Just merely having a beautiful flexible body and doing asanas is not enough. A yoga teacher should follow yogic asanas with Buddhist meditation.
Yoga and Buddhism Both Recognize Dharma
Realizing the truth about consciousness, rebirth and one’s own existence is the main dharma of yoga and Buddhism. Both yoga and Buddhism try to lighten the suffering of humans and animals by developing higher awareness and gives emphasis to remove one’s ego and return to original reality.
In this way both the traditions give enlightenment to individually practicing it and helps them in achieving self realization. So, we can say that yoga and Buddhism recognize dharma that is not confined to any particular religion or tradition. They are also called as Arya dharma or dharma of the noble men.
They Share Similar Ethical Values
Buddhism and yoga have common principles and values like truthfulness, non-violence, non-attachment etc. Vows taken by Buddhist monks are similar to the vows taken by monks in yogic tradition.
Devotion to God
Both the practices give a lot of significance to God or the creator. While Buddhism is devoted to Buddha, yogic traditions also surrender to Ishwara. Hence, devotion and existence of God is a part of these traditions.
Meditation techniques in yoga and Buddhism are common and they have similar values like protecting nature and planet, non-violence, dharma and karma etc. Yoga and Buddhism can be called as sister traditions as they evolved in ancient India. They have same spiritual culture. People in West often consider them as one because the importance of yoga in Buddhism is to a large extent. Both have similar principals and ethical values. Yoga has a great influence in Buddhist Mahayana scriptures and so their teachings are similar.
One should never forget the fact that Buddha attained enlightenment through practicing yoga. With the practice of yoga only he attained ultimate knowledge about the world and introduced Buddhism. Buddha was a devoted practitioner of yoga. The four noble truths in Buddhist teaching aroused due to yoga. Concepts like samadhi, happiness and bliss are explained quite well by Patanjali in yoga scriptures which holds an important place in Buddhist scriptures as well. The core teaching of Buddhism and yoga are rooted in compassion.
Followers of Buddhism and yoga sutra both believe that doing good actions will result in good karma which will result in contentment and peace. Being compassionate towards other beings whether animals or humans is a common goal in both yoga and Buddhism.
Both Buddhism and Yoga Seek Oneness and Enlightenment
True enlightenment and the pursuit of oneness and not otherness are the aims of Buddhism and yoga. Both recognize the fact that there is suffering in the world and if one wants, he can have freedom to end those sufferings. What Buddhists call as oneness of being, yogi may call as an absolute self. Dalai Lama calls yoga and Buddhism as twin brothers. Tibetan Buddhist monks practice yoga to further their practice.
When it comes to practice mindfulness, both yoga and Buddhism are common. Classical yoga and Buddhism both gives relevance to concentration and insight. Concentration helps in focusing on mind, one’s body, breath etc. rather than sensory inputs which are distracting. Deep concentration gives insight and helps one explore the steady mind. Hence with the continual practice of yoga and Buddhism, one can easily control the mind without any fluctuation.
Attention to one’s own body and not getting distracted while practicing is necessary in Yoga and Buddhism. So dharana, dhyana and samadhi can be adapted by a yogi to use the perfect discipline of concentrated mind. A meditation practitioner in both Buddhism and yoga observes the phenomenon and its causes and conditions. The four beliefs observed in both Buddhism and yoga are the belief that objects are permanent, the belief in ultimate reality of the body, the belief realizing the permanence in objects, the belief that our problem is temporary and eventually we can free ourselves from suffering.
Both traditions of Yoga and Buddhism support the training of concentration and insight so that one can accomplish the self realization state. It is for this reason both the traditions are authentic and have a complete path towards liberation.
Meditation is Fundamental in Yoga and Buddhism
In this way, yoga is a great complement to the Buddhist practice. Great similarities have been found in Buddhism and Patanjali’s yoga sutras. The tantric School of Buddhism follows the flow of energy of body in such a way that it is quite similar to yoga. As meditation is an important part in yoga as well as in Buddhism, the Buddhist teachers recommend yoga so that the body can become flexible and gain balance. Also with the practice of yoga, the body can experience relaxation.
With the help of certain yogic postures and breathing exercises one can experience a spiritual practice. Tibetan Buddhism follows ‘trulkhor’ which is similar to Hatha yoga. Many Buddhist practitioners have started following various advanced yoga and meditation techniques to keep the body supple. The effect of yoga on individuals is tremendous as it provides resilience to stress and helps in inner peace. Due to this, Buddhist religion has adapted yoga for growth, concentration, mediation etc. and so we can say that there is a great importance and relevance of yoga in Buddhism.