What is Yoga


YOGA, a Sanskrit word signifying union of the individual soul with the Supreme Spirit and the disciplines for its attainment. It covers a wide field of spiritual practices adapted to different temperaments. Karma-yoga, suited to active minds, deals with the performance of duty, in which the doer renounces attachment, motive, and result; jnana-yoga, for philosophieal minds, teaehes how to discriminate between the real and the unreal and renounce the unreal; bhakti-yoga, meant for emotional minds, shows the way to cultivate love of God for His own sake, without hope of reward or fear of punishment; and râja-yoga, suited to the introspective, deals with self-control and mental concentration. The final aim of ali these yogas is liberation of the soul from the bondage of matter. Hatha-yoga, dealing mainly with physical exercises, is for the most part concerned with health and longevity. A yogi is one who follows yoga disciplines.
Râja-yoga constitutes what is generally known as Yoga, one of the six systems of Hindu philosophy. It is set forth in the Yogasütras ascribed to Patanjali (q.v.), a sage who flourished in the 2d century b.c. The Yoga and Sâmkhya systems accept the same philosophieal doctrines regarding such matters as cosmology, psychology, and liberation. They agree that man’s bondage results from identification of the soul with the body and that his liberation is attained through the knowl-edge of their separateness. Unlike Sâmkhya, which is nontheistic, Yoga admits devotion to God as a help to meditation. The God of Patanjali however, is neither creator nor rewarder and punisher, but a special person untouched by misery, desire, or action and its results. Om-niscient, He is the teacher of the ancient teachers. Devotion to God is to be cultivated through re-petition of the mystic syllable Om (Aum) and refleetion on its meaning. The soul’s essence, pure intelligence, is obscured by mental activities, whose suppression is the main purpose of Yoga. The mind is to be controlled by constant practice of meditation and nonattaehment to material objeets. The ultimate result is the suppression of ali mental tendencies, conscious or latent.

Yoga lays down eight steps to achieve this end: yama (control) and niyama (religious observances) are mainly ethical disciplines; asana (posture) and pranâyâma (regulation of the breath) give the student physical fitness for further Yogic practice; pratyâhâra consists in restraining the sense organs from their objeets; next come the mental Yogic disciplines—dharanâ (holding the mind to a particular object), dhyâna (the unbroken flow of awareness of that object), and samâdhi (complete absorption in the idea behind the object, to the exclusion of its form or outer part). While practicing concentration, the yogi acquires various supernatural powers that belong to the worldly state and must therefore be discarded as obstacles to Yoga. In the end the mind itself is dissolved, and the isolation (kaivalyam) of the soul from the body is realized. The disciplines of Yoga have been accepted by ali schools of Indian philosophy, ineluding the Buddhist and Jaina.

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