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YOGA can be a deeply rewarding experience. A large number of thoughtful people, both in the East and the West, are genuinely interested in the subject of Yoga. This is natural because a man who has begun to question life and its deeper problems want something more definite and vital for his spiritual needs than a mere promise of heavenly joys or ‘eternal life’ when he passes out of his brief and feverish life on this planet. Those who have lost faith in the ideals of orthodox religions and yet feel that their life is not a meaningless and passing phenomenon of Nature naturally turn to the philosophy of Yoga for the solution of problems connected with their ‘inner’ life.
People who take up the study of Yoga with the object of finding a more satisfactory solution to these problems are likely to meet with one serious difficulty. They may find the philosophy interesting, even fascinating, but too much enveloped in mystery and rigmarole to be of much practical value in their life. For there is no subject which is so much wrapped up in the mystery and on which one can write whatever one likes without any risk of being proved wrong. To a certain extent, this atmosphere of mystery and obscurity which surrounds Yoga is due to the very nature of the subject itself.
The philosophy of Yoga deals with some of the greatest mysteries of life and the Universe and so it must inevitably be associated with an atmosphere of profound mystery. But much of the obscurity of Yogic literature is due, not to the intrinsic profundity of the subject, but to the lack of correlation between its teachings and the facts with which an ordinary educated man is expected to be familiar. If the doctrines of Yoga are studied in the light of both ancient and modern thought it is much easier for the student to understand and appreciate them. The discoveries made in the field of Science are especially helpful in enabling the student to understand certain facts of Yogic life, for there is a certain analogous relationship between the laws of higher life and life as it exists on the physical plane, a relationship which is hinted at in the well-known Occult maxim ‘As above, so below’.
Some teachers of Yoga have attempted to meet this difficulty by taking out of the philosophy and technique of Yoga those particular practices which are easy to understand and practice, placing these before the general public as Yogic teachings. Many of these practices like Asana, Pranayama, etc. are of a purely physical nature and when divorced from the higher and essential teachings of Yoga reduce their systems to a science of physical culture on a par with other systems of a similar nature. This oversimplification of the problem of Yogic life, though it has done some good and helped some people to live a saner and healthier physical life, has greatly vulgarized the movement for Yogic culture and produced a wrong impression, especially in the West, about the real purpose and technique of Yoga.
What is needed, therefore, for the average student of Yoga is a clear, intelligible presentation of its philosophy and technique which gives a correct and balanced idea of all its aspects in terms of modern thought. For, while it is true that many aspects of Yogic life are beyond the comprehension of those confined within the realms of the intellect, still, the general philosophy and the broader aspects of its technique can be understood by the serious student who is familiar with the main trends of philosophical and religious thought and is prepared to bring to his study an open and eager mind. He can, at least, understand this philosophy sufficiently to be able to decide whether it is worth his while to undertake a deeper study of the subject and later, to enter the path of Yoga as a Sadhaka.
For, it is only when he enters the path of practical Yoga and begins to bring about fundamental changes in his nature that he can hope to gain real insight into the problems of Yoga and their solution. This post is meant to give to the serious student of Yoga a clear idea with regard to the fundamental teachings of Yoga in a language which he can understand. It does not present Yoga from any particular angle or on the basis of any particular school of philosophy.
Those who study the post will see for themselves that this Science of sciences is too comprehensive in its nature and too profound in its doctrines to be fitted into the framework of any particular philosophy, ancient or modern. It stands in its own right as a Science based upon the eternal laws of the higher life and does not require the support of any science or philosophical system to uphold its claims. Its truths are based on the experiences and experiments of an unbroken line of mystics, occultists, saints, and sages who have realized and borne witness to them throughout the ages.
Although an attempt has been made to explain the teachings of Yoga on a rational basis so that the student may be able to grasp them easily nothing is sought to be proved in the ordinary sense. The facts of higher Yoga can neither be proved nor demonstrated. Their appeal is to the intuition and not to the intellect.
There is a vast literature dealing with all aspects and types of Yoga. But the beginner who attempts to dive into this chaotic mass is likely to feel repulsed by the confusion and exaggerated statements which he is likely to find everywhere. Round a small nucleus of fundamental and genuine teachings of Yoga has grown up during the course of thousands of years a volume of spurious literature composed of commentaries, expositions of minor systems of Yogic culture and Tantric practices.
Any inexperienced student who enters this jungle is likely to feel bewildered and to come out of it with a feeling that his pursuit of the Yogic ideal might prove a waste of time. The student would, therefore, do well to confine himself to the basic literature to avoid confusion and frustration.
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