Yoga and the Human Systems

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Dr Ishwar V. Basavaraddi

Yoga is not just an ancient traditional practice, it is a discipline that has the power to regulate the whole of Human Systems. Given that Yoga is a mind-body technique that aims at bringing relaxation through the means of meditation and a set of physical practices performed in sync with breathing, it is a prerogative means of understanding how to maintain a healthy body and lifestyle.

Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga organised an online webinar on the topic “Yoga and the Human Systems” expounded by one of the most respected Sanskrit traditional scholars, Prof. M.A Lakshmithathachar. He is a recipient of the Award of President of India for his outstanding scholarship in Sanskrit and contribution to building a bridge between the Ancient Knowledge Systems and Modern Science. Prof. Lakshmithathachar is the incumbent President of Samskriti Foundation, Mysore and is presiding over many organisations in multiple positions such as Chairman, Centre for Literary Research, Indian Institute of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine (IIAIM), Foundation for Revitalization of Local Health Traditions (FRLHT), Bangalore; Member, Academic Council, & Visiting Professor, VYASA University, Bangalore; and he is also Senior Honorary Advisor, FRLHT, a centre of excellence under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Bangalore; among other positions.

The webinar was conducted by Dr Vandana Singh with Director, MDNIY, Dr I V Basavaraddi and Communication and Documentation Officer, Taiyab Alam along with other staff members on the panel.

Dr I V Basavaraddi gave his introductory remarks for the session by elaborating on many great achievements and commendable work done by the honorary guest of the webinar Prof. Lakshmithathachar. Dr Basavaraddi eulogized how Prof. Lakshmithathachar has dedicated his life towards proving to the world ‘the modern relevance of traditional knowledge systems‘ in the varied fields of information technology, agriculture, horticulture among others.

Adding more to this, he also applauded the momentum that has been brought into furthering the ‘Indian Knowledge System’ under the special guidance of Prof. Lakshmithathachar, who has contributed in developing software and applications such as; Semusi (Sanskrit noun generation and analysis), Pratibha (Machine translation from language to language), Ekadanta Vidya (Sanskrit Speech Synthesis), etc., for the promotion and development of Indian Traditional Knowledge System in general and Yoga in particular.

On the topic of the webinar, ‘Yoga and the Human systems’ Dr Basavaraddi emphasised upon the objectives of this session and the others, conducted previously, which aim to further the importance of ‘Yoga for Immunity’ – a drive started by the Ministry of Ayush to promote large scale development of public health and wellness. He stressed upon the role of traditional treasures that will help us overcome the pertinent threat of COVID-19 pandemic by improving our immunity and maintaining the high standards of leading a healthy life.

Prof. M A Lakshmithathachar delivered an astounding lecture on the topic “Yoga and the Human Systems” by connecting it with Nathamuni’s Yoga tradition and how it could be a virtuous device for the maintenance of the human system.

With a very precise and comprehensive approach on the subject, Prof. Lakshmithathachar drew a clever comparison between the Computer System and the Human System. He first broke down the definition of ‘What is a System?’ conceptualizing it as a collection of elements or components that are organized for a common purpose with its own goal and mode of functioning.

Breaking down the components of a system into inputs, outputs and feedback mechanisms, he compared them with what constitutes a human shell that is – the mind and the body. A ‘system’ is always carried out by the amalgamation of various ‘Subsystems’ that work together to bring out the overall function of the main system. Prof. Lakshmithathachar collated the human body with that of a Computer Hardware, just like the latter has input (Keyboard, mouse, etc.) and output (monitor, speaker, printer) system, a human body is composed on eyes, ear, nose, tongue, skin (inputs) and mouth, finger, hands, legs (outputs).

Image Source: Presentation on Yoga and the Human Systems (Prof. M.A Lakshmithathachar)

He further breaks down this comparison with an understanding of the human and computer subsystems. Like that of the computer subsystems ‘Hardware’ and ‘Softwares’, a human subsystem consists of ‘Physical’ and ‘Spiritual’ components. Taking context from Taittiriya Upanishad, Prof. Lakshmithathachar explained various elements of these components as;

Physical Components        

  • Manomayakosha
  • Pranamaya Kosha
  • Annamayakosha

Spiritual Components

  • Anandamaya
  • Vijnanamaya Kosha

He elaborated that these components are mutually dependent and therefore constantly influence each other. Without the mastery of physical components, one can’t attain perfection in the spiritual component. Here he talked about the Nathamuni’s yoga tradition as a device to achieve perfection of the complete human system. 

In order to understand the human system, one has to learn the kinds of pleasure that often influence our actions. Prof. Lakshmithathachar talked about two kinds of pleasures – The Spiritual and Sensual. He took an interesting approach to demonstrate how one reaches the place of attaining these pleasures. A person takes the Bottom-up method – Up-gradation – to rise from physical to spiritual pleasure and in contrast, clips the Top-Down method – Degradation – moving from Spiritual pleasure to physical pleasure.

After explaining this, he provides an illustrative view of how to maintain the physical and spiritual components of the human system by four methods of Ashtanga Yoga (external and internal each).

Image Source: Presentation on Yoga and the Human Systems (Prof. M.A Lakshmithathachar)

In order to experience the “spiritual happiness,” he talks about various types of Yama (Brahmacarya, Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Aparigraha) and Niyama (Svadhyaya, Shouca, Santosha, Tapas, Atmaniyama).

He also remarks on the significance of Asanas (Yoga Postures) and Pranayama (Breathing exercises) for creating conducive mechanisms of a healthy human body.

Prof. Lakshmithathachar puts special emphasis on the internal methods of bringing spiritual happiness by connecting one with the “Supreme Power.” He comments that “Pranayama and Pratyahara together enable to control the mind so that it will get focussed on the Supreme Brahman without wavering. This is called Dharana.”

Subsequently, he defines Dharana as Nirantara Smriti Santana Roopa  which means continuously thinking of the Supreme Brahman only.

The session came to an end by a cumulative interaction between Dr Basavaraddi and Prof. Lakshmithathachar wherein the director asked the professor’s view on the importance of Dhyana in aiding the immune system of the human body.

Prof. Lakshmithathachar said that “Dhyana helps us in preserving the human system and maintaining the high standards of spiritual happiness, moreover, for the last three-four months I have been doing Dhyana which I think has personally aided me to collect my mind and keep myself healthy during COVID-19 pandemic.” He further stated that, “viruses attack the weak systems, therefore I can say immunity is a part and parcel that we need in order to keep the entirety of Human System strong, both the physical and the spiritual components together spell for a healthy system.”

In conclusion, the webinar was a huge success as it helped all the panellists and viewers understand why a system is designed and how it works towards achieving that goal. The proper functioning of the human system can be maintained by understanding and making immunity our short term goal to achieve the ultimate long term goals of leading a healthy lifestyle.

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