The term Yoga comes from the root “yuj” = to yoke or join. The philosophical basis of Yoga is the Samkhya. The ancient teachers extended Samkhya laws that govern the evolution of the universe to cover the evolution of the individual, showing that the individual is but a microcosm of the macrocosm.
Yoga techniques and teaching have been accumulated through a ceaseless stream of adepts, self-fulfilled personalities, who have handed it down from generation to generation through a group of devoted followers. Patanjali is credited with having given us the present literary form of Yoga in his treatise – the Yogasutra.
The paramount aim of Yoga is to free man forever from three sorts of pain: pain that arises from his own infirmities and wrong conducts; pain that arises from his relations with other leaving things; pain arising from his relations with external nature. This is accomplished by first achieving non-attachment, then by gaining restraint over the mind and its creations and finally attaining positive and absolute union of the individual soul and universal soul – this condition is known as Samadhi and is the true purpose of Yoga.
The Yogi views nature as a single force working in two directions. From the outside, it struggles to separate; from the inside it struggles to reunite. The inner force is called Life; the outer force is called Death. The purpose of Yoga is to unite these two.
Yoga assumes that the individual is part and parcel of the universal substance, but so involved in the matter of Time and Space as to have lost all recognition of his or her true reality. Yogi’s hold that all in the manifest and unmanifest world comes from one source, the divine and primordial intelligence; that man is but a spark of this intelligence and, by the process of Yoga is able to get a glimpse of it.
The best proof of the practical nature of Yoga and the extent of its influence is the fact that every system of religion in India and every school of philosophy has recognized Yoga as the most scientific means of realizing philosophical truths. The systematic study of Yoga has now been stopped for hundreds of years, having gone into a state of decay on account of idleness, ignorance, and the unscrupulous of the generality of its latter-day followers. Yoga was compelled to retire to secret abodes, until in this day only mere remnants of its are available to the average seeker. Even in India, home of Yoga, supreme ignorance prevails about Yoga in general, and especially is this so in educated circles.
Yoga assumes the same cosmological doctrines as set forth in the Samkhya system. Both are based on the fundamental logical premise that something cannot come out of nothing. Therefor Yoga maintains that the gross individual must have a subtle aspect from which it manifests itself and to which it will return. This subtle aspect is but a spark of the divine and is the sole concern of Yoga. He is constituted of both the gross and the subtle. The gross can be known by perception, but the subtle can be known only by the power of spiritual perception. The subtle aspect consists of the abstract energies of his nature, they are always invisible, for they are beyond the mind, beyond the senses, never to be seen, but to be known only through the practice of Yoga.
The Yoga system is based upon the principle that there si but one law that governs a single force which operates in all conditions of nature, manifest and unmanifest. That force is called Life. Life is not the creation of something new, it is only an expansion of what is. Death takes away the manifest individual, but the continuance of life is not affected. We see only the middle link in the chain of individual existence and call it life; we utterly fail to take notice of the preceding and succeeding invisible stages.
Man is a combination of self-conscious self and five kinds of matter formed into an organic body. The soul is spiritually present as one’s voice is present throughout the room. It has no inside or outside, but is only a mass of intelligence, just as a mass of sweetness has no inside or outside, but is simply a mass of taste. The manifestation of an individual is the reduction of the universal force to an individual principle caused by a stress raised in the universal consciousness. This stress is caused by the dynamic energy of the individual’s past actions (karma). As the individual consciousness begins to manifest, it takes on forms and becomes a thinking, speaking and experiencing entity. The more compact and condensed this conscious energy becomes, the more power if manifests.
Jiva (“jiv” = to live) is the individual spirit (as distinguished from the universal soul – Purusa). It is the spark of life, the animating principle, the feeling of persistency experienced by every individual. It is that which produces the feeling of being. It can never be seen, no more then the center of gravity can be seen.