Yoga Philosophy



The Yoga Darshana is an orthodox system accepting the authority of the Vedas. The aim of its founder, sage Patanjali, was to complete Samkhya system. This is why Yoga has been allied with Samkhya because both of them are considered as complementary schools of Indian philosophy.

The word Yoga in Patanjali's interpretation is seperation instead of union. In fact, seperating the mind from the objects of matter has been the prime concern of sage Patanjali. Thus, he has not rejected the metaphysics of Samkhya but he has included in his philosophy a place for God. Thus, when Samkhya is allied with yoga, it becomes a complete philosophy.

While founding the Yoga Darshana, sage Patanjali has accepted the Purusha and Prakriti of Samkhya. But, Yoga has been more inclined towards control of the mind for the attainment of Kevalya. Thus, Yoga accepts the mind as the medium for the attainment of liberation. The mind in Yoga has been known by "Citta".

According to Yoga Darshana, the "citta" is always pure when it is not disturbed by mental modification. It is as calm as an ocean without waves. As a result sage Patanjali has developed the yoga philosophy with the aim of keeping the "citta" in its original state of purity and stability.

Yoga phiosophy has also explained how the citta is distubed by mental modification also known as "Vritis". According to yoga philosophy, 5 types of mental modifications have been explained as follows:

1.Pramanas
2.Vikalpa
3.Viparyaya
4.Nidra
5.Smriti

These 5 Vritis always disturb the citta that it becomes impossible for the indivdual to concentrate upon the state of Kevalya.  

Pramanas means true cognition. Thus, whenever truth and knowledge is attained, the citta is transformed from a state of ignorance to that of knowledge. Thus, this creates attachment in the citta towards worldliness.

Vikalpa means verbal knowledge which is often based upon doubts. Therefore, such a knowledge will lead to the citta towards uncertainties whereby the individual would not be able to control it.

Viparyaya is false cognition which often leads the citta in a state of darkness.

Nidra refers to sleep. Thus, Yoga holds that even during the state of sleep, the mind is still under modifications because it is affected by dreams and nightmares.

Smriti means memory and it often causes modifications to the citta. When events of the past are recalled, there are several types of modifications that lead the citta to be attached to these past memories.

However, Sage Patanjali has spoken of Citta-vriti-Nirodha or cessation of mental modification. It is only when these vitris are removed that the individual can attain mental purity. Consequently, with his pure mind, he realises God and easily attains the blissful state. In order to free the citta from Vritis, the individual has to follow the practical and ethical means. This is called Astang Yoga or the 8 limbs of Yoga.

Sage Patanjali has described the astama Yoga in the form of 8 steps of discipline by following ehich, the individual can reach the highest state of consciousness and thereby attain Kevalya or liberation. The 8 limbs of yoga are considered to be both a means and an end. Consequently, the yoga philosophy mentions that it is in the 8 limbs that the individual can be free from all worldly miseries. These 8 limbs of Yoga are:

1.Yama
2.Niyama
3.Asana
4.Pranayama
5.Pratyahara
6.Dharana
7.Dhyana
8.Samadhi

The 8 limbs of yoga help the individual to attain salvation by means of his own effort by controlling his mind and senses. Consequently, these 8 steps are also a preparation for the individual to lead a life free from attachment and attain eternal bliss. Each limb of the Astana Yoga is related to the other.

Yama is a stage of discipline and control. It is impossible for the individual to meditate if he has not controlled his mind and senses. Thus, Yama comprises of the 5 cordinal virtues namely: truth, non-injury, non-stealing, non-attachment and celibacy.

After observing these 5 virtues, the individual can follow the step of Niyama, whereby he should be a cultured individual. He should observe the 5 cultural values such as contentment, purity, austerity, regular study of the scriptures and devotion to God. Thus, by following these values, the individual is able to follow the remaining limbs of Asana Yoga.

Asana is another important limb of Asatanga Yoga. Asana means physical postures which are very important in putting Yoga into practice. There are several types of Asana which people perform in order to be saved from diseases and mental stress. The performance of Asana is also to strengthen the physical limbs. As a result, Yoga is very important in the form of Asana because so long the physical limbs are not in a good state of health, the individual will never be able to perform meditation.

Pranayama and Pratyahara are interlinked because both of them have spoken about control of the mind and the breathing system. Pranayama means to control the breathing system by the appropriate way of inhaling, exhaling and retaining the breath inside the body. Pranayama has evolved to such an extent today that it has been considered as a medical treatment for the individual. As far as Pratyahara is concerned, it means that the mind must be completely controlled and withdrawn from the different objects of worldliness. Just like a tortoise withdraws its limbs into its shell at the time of a danger, in the same way, man also should not let his mind and senses travel towards their different object of attraction.

Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi are interlinked with each other. All these 3 stages are the 3 types of meditation at different stages. To begin with, Dharana means fixing the mind upon the object without any break. Dhyana means fixing the mind upon the object of contemplation with any break. So, when these 2 levels of meditation has been accomplished, the individual has within himself all the prerequisites to go into the stage of Samadhi.


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