Yoga at the speed of Light
19/01/2010 By Linda Johnsen Courtesy Yoga International

It is amazing how much Western science has taught us. Today, for example, kids in grammar school learn that the sun is 93 million miles from the earth and that the speed of light is 186,000 miles per second. Yoga may teach us about our Higher Self, but it can’t supply this kind of information about physics or astronomy.

Or can it? Professor Subhash Kak of Louisiana State University recently called my attention to a remarkable statement by Sayana, a fourteenth century Indian scholar. In his commentary on a hymn in the Rig Veda, the oldest and perhaps most mystical text ever composed in India, Sayana has this to say: “With deep respect, I bow to the sun, who travels 2,202 yojanas in half a nimesha.”

A yojana is about nine American miles; a nimesha is 16/75 of a second. Mathematically challenged readers, get out your calculators!

2,202 yojanas x 9 miles x 75/8 nimeshas = 185,794 m.p.s.

Basically, Sayana is saying that sunlight travels at 186,000 miles per second! How could a Vedic scholar who died in 1387 A.D. have known the correct figure for the speed of light? If this was just a wild guess it’s the most amazing coincidence in the history of science!

The yoga tradition is full of such coincidences. Take for instance the mala many yoga students wear around their neck. Since these rosaries are used to keep track of the number of mantras a person is repeating, students often ask why they have 108 beads instead of 100. Part of the reason is that the mala represent the ecliptic, the path of the sun and moon across the sky. Yogis divide the ecliptic into 27 equal sections called nakshatras, and each of these into four equal sectors called paadas, or “steps,” marking the 108 steps that the sun and moon take through heaven.

Each is associated with a particular blessing force, with which you align yourself as you turn the beads.

Traditionally, yoga students stop at the 109th “guru bead,” flip the mala around in their hand, and continue reciting their mantra as they move backward through the beads. The guru bead represents the summer and winter solstices, when the sun appears to stop in its course and reverse directions. In the yoga tradition we learn that we’re deeply interconnected with all of nature. Using a mala is a symbolic way of connecting ourselves with the cosmic cycles governing our universe.

But Professor Kak points out yet another coincidence: The distance between the earth and the sun is approximately 108 times the sun’s diameter. The diameter of the sun is about 108 times the earth’s diameter. And the distance between the earth and the moon is 108 times the moon’s diameter.

Could this be the reason the ancient sages considered 108 such a sacred number? If the microcosm (us) mirrors the macrocosm (the solar system), then maybe you could say there are 108 steps between our ordinary human awareness and the divine light at the center of our being. Each time we chant another mantra as our mala beads slip through our fingers, we are taking another step toward our own inner sun.

As we read through ancient Indian texts, we find so much the sages of antiquity could not possibly have known-but did. While our European and Middle Eastern ancestors claimed that the universe was created about 6,000 years ago, the yogis have always maintained that our present cosmos is billions of years old, and that it’s just one of many such universes which have arisen and dissolved in the vastness of eternity.

In fact the Puranas, encyclopedias of yogic lore thousands of years old, describe the birth of our solar system out of a “milk ocean,” the Milky Way. Through the will of the Creator, they tell us, a vortex shaped like a lotus arose from the navel of eternity. It was called Hiranya Garbha, the shining womb. It gradually coalesced into our world, but will perish some day billions of years hence when the sun expands to many times it present size, swallowing all life on earth. In the end, the Puranas say, the ashes of the earth will be blown into space by the cosmic wind. Today we known this is a scientifically accurate, if poetic, description of the fate of our planet.

The Surya Siddhanta is the oldest surviving astronomical text in the Indian tradition. Some Western scholars date it to perhaps the fifth or sixth centuries A.D., though the next itself claims to represent a tradition much, much older. It explains that the earth is shaped like a ball, and states that at the very opposite side of the planet from India is a great city where the sun is rising at the same time it sets in India. In this city, the Surya Siddhanta claims, lives a race of siddhas, or advanced spiritual adepts. If you trace the globe of the earth around to the exact opposite side of India, you’ll find Mexico. Is it possible that the ancient Indians were well aware of the great sages/astronomers of Central America many centuries before Columbus discovered America?- the M! ayans or Inca-s!!!

Knowing the unknowable: To us today it seems impossible that the speed of light or the fate of our solar system could be determined without advanced astronomical instruments. -as Sanjee argues!!

How could the writers of old Sanskrit texts have known the unknowable? In searching for an explanation we first need to understand that these ancient scientists were not just intellectuals, they were practicing yogis. The very first lines of the Surya Siddhanta, for of the Golden Age a great astronomer named Maya desired to learn the secrets of the heavens, so he first performed rigorous yogic practices. Then the answers to his questions appeared in his mind in an intuitive flash.

Does this sound unlikely? Yoga Sutra 3:26-28 states that through, samyama (concentration, meditation, and unbroken mental absorption) on the sun, moon, and pole star, we can gain knowledge of the planets and stars. Sutra 3:33 clarifies, saying: “Through keenly developed intuition, everything can be known.” Highly developed intuition is called pratibha in yoga. It is accessible only to those who have completely stilled their mind, focusing their attention on one object with laser-like intensity. Those who have limited their mind are no longer limited to the fragments of knowledge supplied by the five senses. All knowledge becomes accessible to them.

“There are [those] who would say that consciousness, acting on itself, can find universal knowledge,” Professor Kak admits. “In fact this is the traditional Indian view.”

Perhaps the ancient sages didn’t need advanced astronomical instruments. After all, they had yoga.


Namaste (pronounced “Nam-a-stay”) is used as a greeting or upon parting.
Namaste is a composite of the two Sanskrit words, nama, and te. Te means
you, and nama has the following connotations:
     to bend
     to bow
     to sink
     to incline
     to stoop
All these suggestions point to a sense of submitting oneself to another,
with complete humility.
Significantly the word ‘nama’ has parallels in other ancient languages also.
It is cognate with the Greek nemo, nemos and nosmos; to the Latin nemus, the
Old Saxon niman, and the German neman and nehman.
All these ex-pressions have the general sense of obeisance, homage and veneration.
The word nama is split into two, na and ma. Na signifies negation and ma
represents mine. The meaning would then be ‘not mine’.
The import being that the individual soul belongs entirely to the Supreme soul, which

is identified as residing in the individual towards whom the namaste is directed.

Indeed there is nothing that the soul can claim as its own.
Namaste is thus the necessary rejection of ‘I’ and the associated phenomena
of egotism. It is said that ‘ma’ in nama means death (spiritual), and when
this is negated (na-ma), it signifies immortality.

In general Namaste can interpret:
‘The God in me greets the God in you’ or
‘The Spirit in me meets the same Spirit in you’ or
‘I honor the Atma in you as in in me.’ There are many other interpretations,
all have the same meaning.

Swami usually turns to devotees, students, teachers, listeners, etc.
“Embodiments of Divine Atma,” and “Embodiments of Love,” it is principally
the same as “Namaste,” or more correctly the ex-pression of meaning the word
“Namaste” by more understandable way.

Translated into a bodily act, yogic practice, greeting and farewell, Namaste
has its complex meaning and symbolism.

     1. In general the gesture (or mudra) of Namaste is performed by
bringing together both palms of the hands before the heart, and lightly
bowing the head. In the simplest of terms it is accepted as a humble
greeting straight from the heart and reciprocated accordingly. (The
following points are more proper explanation of Namaste from different

     2. The whole action of Namaste unfolds itself at three levels: mental,
physical, and verbal.

     3. Namaste starts with a mental submission. This submission is in the
spirit of total surrender of the self. By performing namaste before an
individual we recognize the divine spark in him. Further by facilitating our
partaking of these divine qualities, namaste makes us aware of these very
characteristics residing within our own selves.

     4. We place the hands together at the heart charka, close the eyes, and
bow the head. It can also be done by placing the hands together in front of
the third eye, bowing the head, and then bringing the hands down to the
heart. This is an especially deep form of respect.

     5. We bring the hands together at the heart chakra to increase the flow
of Divine love. Bowing the head and closing the eyes helps the mind
surrender to the Divine in the heart. One can do Namaste to oneself as a
meditation technique to go deeper inside the heart chakra; when done with
someone else, it is also a beautiful, albeit quick, meditation.

     6. The proper performance of Namaste requires that we blend the five
fingers of the left hand exactly with the fingers of the right hand. The
significance behind this simple act in fact governs the entire gamut of our
active life. The five fingers of the left hand represent the five senses of
karma, and those of the right hand the five organs of knowledge. Hence it
signifies that our karma or action must be in harmony, and governed by
rightful knowledge, prompting us to think and act correctly.

     7. By combining the five fingers of each hand, a total of ten is
achieved. The number ten is a symbol of perfection, and the mystical number
of completion and unity. It is true for all ancient traditions. Ten is the
number of the Commandments revealed to Moses by God. In the Pythagorean
system, ten was a symbol of the whole of creation. Ancient Chinese thought
too thought of ten as the perfectly balanced number.

     8. Another significant identification of Namaste is with the
institution of marriage, which represents a new beginning, and the
conjoining of the male and female elements in nature. The idea of human
divine association was often expressed in terms of marriage, as in the
description of nuns as “brides of Christ”. Thus in the exhaustive marriage
rituals of India, after the elaborate ceremonies have been completed, the
new husband and wife team perform Namaste to each other.

     9. Namaste, which symbolizes the secret of this unity, holds the key to
maintaining the equilibrium of life and entering the area where health,
harmony, peace and happiness are available in plenty.

     10. Namaste allows two individuals to come together energetically to a
place of connection and timelessness, free from the bonds of ego-connection.
If it is done with deep feeling in the heart and with the mind surrendered,
a deep union of spirits can blossom.

     11. Namaste recognizes the equality of all, and pays honor to the
sacredness of all.

     12. Namaste recognizes the duality that has ever existed in this world
and suggests an effort on our part to bring these two forces together,
ultimately leading to a higher unity and non-dual state of Oneness.
Consequently, no sphere of our existence untouched by the symbolic
significance of Namaste.

     13. The gesture of Namaste is unique in the sense that its physical
performance is accompanied by a verbal utterance of the word “Namaste.” This
practice is equivalent to the chanting of a mantra. The sonority of the
sacred sound ‘Namaste’ is believed to have a quasi-magical value,
corresponding to a creative energy change. This transformation is that of
aligning oneself in harmony with the vibration of the cosmos itself.

     14. In general Namaste is usual for individuals to greet when they meet
each other. It is not only a sign of recognition but also an ex-pression of
happiness at each other’s sight. This initial conviviality sets the positive
tone for the further development of a harmonious relationship. In human
society it is an approach mechanism, brimming with social, emotional and
spiritual significance.

     15. It is said also that in Namaste the hands are put together like a
knife so that people may cut through all differences that may exist, and
immediately get to the shared ground that is common to all peoples of all

     16. It is interesting to compare Namaste with the ‘handshake.’ is
Though shaking hands is an extremely intimate gesture, namaste scores over
it in some ways. You do Namaste with God (and not shake hands). It has been
conjectured that both the Namaste and the handshake developed out of a
desire on the part of both the parties to show themselves to be unarmed and
devoid of malicious intention.

     17. As much as Yoga is an exercise to bring all levels of our existence,

including the physical and intellectual, in complete harmony with the rhythms of

nature, the gesture of Namaste is an yoga in itself. Any yogic activity begins

with the performance of this deeply spiritual gesture.

     18. According to Indologist Renov “Meditation depends upon the
relationship between the hands (mudras), the mouth (mantras) and the mind
(yoga)”. The performance Namaste is comprised of all these three activities.
It is in essence equivalent to meditation.

Submitted by:

Deepak Balani

Author: Please let me know, if you do (know), so that credit may be given where it is due.