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Philosophy of Yoga

The philosophy of Yoga and how it applies to the modern age.

Yoga in the west is primarily associated with hatha yoga postures. Hatha yoga is actually only a small part of an ancient system of spiritual practices grouped together under the term yoga. The Sanskrit meaning of yoga is yuj; to yoke or unite. The goal of yoga is to unite oneself with God. Yoga involves various practices in which a seeker aspires to attain realisation of his true Self.

“Yoga is union. It is the union of the individual soul with the Supreme Self. Yoga is the spiritual science that teaches us how the Ultimate Reality can be realised in life itself.” [1]

Yoga does not negate any religion. Yoga is compatible with all the major religions. Religions are like different paths, which ultimately lead to the same goal. What yoga does is to provide spiritual practises, which enable a seeker to accelerate his journey of self-discovery. While religion is often concerned with outer forms and outer rituals, yoga is concerned with individual development and the practical application of spiritual ideas. Yoga encompasses all religions but at the same time goes beyond them.

“Without Yoga there is no self discovery. Yoga is not a religion. Yoga is the Universal Truth.” [2]

The teachings of Yoga originated many thousands of years ago when the Vedic Seers first started to write down their spiritual discoveries and spiritual realisations. Since the Vedic times the teachings of yoga have been refined and updated through a long succession of spiritual Masters and teachers. Although the teachings of yoga have been revised; the essential message of yoga has remained the same; Atmanam viddhi “Know Thyself.” Although coming from a different era the basic ideals of yoga are timeless and still very relevant for the modern age.

Yoga takes a fourfold approach to the discovery of truth. Individual seekers are free to concentrate on a particular path that appeals more. In the west the path of Karma Yoga is popular as it allows seekers to progress through dedicated service. The essence of Karma Yoga is to work without attachment to the result. If work is dedicated to God or the Supreme then it becomes no longer work but a spiritual sadhana (practise).

Bhakti yoga is the yoga of devotion. Many saints from different spiritual traditions have taken the approach of love and devotion to God (in whatever form they feel most inspired.) The essence of Bhakti yoga is often encompassed in the devotional poetry and songs of saints such as Mirabai, Rumi, St Teresa of Avila and Sri Ramakrishna.

Jnana Yoga is the yoga of wisdom and discrimination. In jnana yoga aspirants seek to discover the truth through renunciation of false ideas and wrong thoughts. He uses reasoning and discrimination to go beyond the domain of the mind and see the unity in the real essence of the universe.

In the hoary past aspirants would feel that to practise yoga it is necessary to renounce the world. However many modern spiritual teachers have shown it is both possible and desirable to practise yoga right in the heart of modern life. Worldly activities need not be separated from yoga and spiritual practise.


[1]Yoga and Spiritual Life by Sri Chinmoy
[2]Eastern Light for Western Mind by Sri Chinmoy

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