What is Yoga? – A Classical and Practical Review
The answer to the question ‘What is Yoga?’ requires authenticity. This answer, therefore, needs to come from none other than Maharashi Patanjali, the great sage of yoga. His book about yoga is Yoga Sutram, which is considered a classic. This is the most authentic book of yoga. Maharashi Patanjali answers the question with an aphorism [ अथयोगानुशासनम् (Athayoganushasanam)] “yoga is discipline or discipline is yoga”. This is the exact answer for the question, what is yoga?’ Yoga existed before Patanjali too. From the Rigvedic era, yoga was in vogue. Maharshi Patanjali had to cover a vast ground to further the yogic knowledge systematically. This yoga, however, was not in formulation but individually dispersed experiences at the time of the Maharshi. Patanjali took the best out of the then existing practices, aphorized (made concise) and made it apprehensive as a textual treatise for all of us.
Patanjali perused all the views and ideas concerning yoga, and only then did he revolutionize the traditional concepts and ideas of yoga. Yoga is tradition and Patanjali was not the first to modify it and systemise it. Maharshi Kapil was another sage who was known to have forwarded the knowledge of yoga for coming generations. Each and every sage knew well about yoga, as a personal persuite. Later, Maharshi Patanjali enriched and systematized it for those who are not sages.
There were some root words in Patanjali’s mind. Those root words directed him to put the word ‘discipline’ in the aphorism.
1. Yuj samadhau means to attain the trance state of mind or the highest consciousness.
2. Yugiryoge – means to unify.
3. Yuj Samayamane means to temperate, to maintain the discipline in every way.
The word yoga originated from all the above three roots; and does not violate the meaning and spirit of the roots. Patanjali uses the word Anushasanam ‘discipline’ because the word discipline completely ratifies the traditional approach and justifies the spirit of yogic succession. So, Patanjali uses this particular word and states that ‘yoga is discipline and discipline is yoga’.
The cosmos moves in a very disciplined way. All the milkyways move in a very disciplined manner. The whole solar family moves in a very disciplined way. All the planets move in their disciplined ways. If any planet of the solar family violates the discipline, a big bang may occur and a big hazard may take place. It is discipline which keeps the whole universe in order. It is discipline which makes a man great. It is discipline which makes society, the country and the nation great.
The whole universe rests on law and order. Nature is governed by its laws. All the nations are governed by laws. The object of Constitutions is only to maintain law and order, which means discipline. There is no violation of discipline in the whole universe, and if there is any violation, that’s only among human beings.
There is no violation among animals.
Only human beings are indisciplined creatures because man is a social animal. So he violates the values and decorum of society, breaks rules and regulations, laws and orders of the society. Human beings disobey law and order.
The ultimate aim of yoga is to realize God and it is the human being who has this privilege. Therefore, the human being requires discipline and this discipline is nothing but yoga.
Yoga is, however, not for all the beings because all the beings have a limited capacity. Human being has unlimited capacity. Some human beings are rational, and some are rascals; human beings have efficacy or scope of rationality and rascality in a maximum way. Yoga is the science to ratify the rationality in human beings and to minimize the rascality in order to tune the human being to the order of nature or cosmos. The climax of the attunement is realization of the supreme entity or God.
Actually, this is yoga. Thus, discipline is a very important part of the creation.
Children are taught yoga in order to make them disciplined and civilized, so that human beings can achieve the consequences of discipline or the fruits of discipline. Though there are many definitions of yoga, irrespective of this wideness of definition, that yoga is discipline and discipline is yoga’ is seminalised. It is a base for all the definitions.
Yoga and Mindstuff
Patanjali uses a second aphorism to answer the question ‘What is Yoga?’ (Yogashchittabritti nirodhaha)]. Yogah = Yoga, Chitta (mindstuff), Vrittih (thought waves), Nirodhah (containment).
It means-the secession of thought waves in the mind is yoga.