“This time, however, my fear was a true novelty. It came from an unknown part of the world and hit me in an unknown part of myself.”
Carlos Castaneda

Journey to Ixtlan

Yoga – Philosophical Roots


As I was preparing to write about Prana in the “Yoga – Energy” series (which I haven’t yet done – at the time these words were written) I went back to Samkhya philosophy which I was introduced to briefly and where I found a root axiom which inspired me. But I wanted to go further back so I went searching again and found at DharmaDownloads what I was looking for – a book by Theos Bernard titled “Philosophical Foundations of India”.

I am not a fan of academic philosophy, it tires and bores me. This book seems to carry both that and inspiration, so I find myself sifting through it. I am trying to get a bigger picture of Vedic philosophy and make it more accessible & relevant for myself. Much of the text reads to me like “yadda yadda yadda” and so I am trying to whittle it down. This morning it dawned on me to do it in writing and on this blog, so maybe others can benefit from it as well.

The preface of the book hold what is to me the single most useful guide on how to bring any of this wisdom into your life. I quote it as is:

“According to the classic school of Hindu Philosophy, the method by which the individual can evolve himself during his life is through the practice of Yoga. This is the universal technique recommended to enable man to acquire actual insight into the true nature of things. All schools agree that until the faith is fortified with understanding, little progress can be made, for knowledge without application is like medicine that is not taken.”

Indian tradition is a collection of six “insights” – perspectives on one agreed “Ultimate Reality”. These are the six philosophical systems of India. They are attributed to philosophers who eventually put them into writing but they are not a creation of an individual mind – their real founders are unknown. The six system are interrelated and dependent on one another. They are often referred to as “Vedic” because they all grew out of texts called “The Upanishads” which are a part of the Veda – which is the most ancient known Indian texts – pretty much the root of it all.

All six systems share a few core concepts:

  • All accept the eternal (without beginning or end) cycle of Nature which goes through periods of creation, maintenance and dissolution.
  • All accept the principle of regeneration of the soul (life and death are two phases of a single, continuous cycle – which!!! can be stopped).
  • All accept Dharma as the moral law of the universe that accounts for the eternal cycle of Nature and the destiny of the human soul.
  • All agree that knowledge (don’t take for granted that you know what they mean by knowledge!) is the path to freedom.
  • All agree that Yoga is the method to attain final liberation.

The six system can be viewed as pairs.

Scientific – the physics and chemistry of how manifestations come into being:

  • Nyaya – a system of logic about acquiring “right knowledge”
  • Vaisesika – knowledge of the objective world of being.

Cosmic evolution – based on logical principles (this is my practice in this lifetime):

  • Samkhya – a metaphysical perspective showing that everything is made up of spirit and matter.
  • Yoga – the application of Samkhya for an individual.

Refinement – a critical analysis of the basic principles:

  • Mimamsa – correct interpretation of rituals and texts.
  • Vedanta – an inquiry into Brahman (the Ultimate Principle).

The book offers some background information on the known principals behind each system. I found that information mostly redundant at this point, but there is one thing that called out to me and I believe is useful to remember. These were all flesh and blood people (all men!), single individuals, each immersed in his own journey and each carrying his own system of faith that was relevant to and supported his reality. It is inevitable that, despite all attempts at philosophical objectivity, their personal beliefs and orientations tainted whatever knowledge they embodied and aspired to spread. They were as committed to suffering as you and me.

This entry was posted in Yoga, Yoga Philosophy. You are welcome to read 3 comments and to add yours