Yoga Philosophy of India

As you are well aware that “Yoga” (pronounced:- YOG) has been India’s priceless gift to the world. It is the exalted practice which has taken millions out of moral, emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual deprivation.

I want to take you a little deeper into the “Yoga Philosophy”, the theoretical aspect of that uplifting exercise.

“Yoga” word originates from the Sanskrit word “yuj” meaning union. It refers to the union between the Aatma (man,soul) and the Paramatma (God,supersoul). The modern Yoga practice derives from the “Yoga sutras of Patanjali” which was compiled by Patanjali in 400 A.D. but Patanjali was not the founder of the Yoga practice. It is a very ancient practice of India extending beyond the history of which humanity is aware of today.

Lord Krishna elucidates 3 kinds of Yoga in the Bhagavad Gita:

1. Bhakti Yoga

2. Karma Yoga

3. Jnana (Gyaan) Yoga

Despite the fact that the West has reduced the Yoga practice to enhance only the physical well being of a practitioner (called “Yogi”), Yoga actually stands for something more holistic. The physical well being aspect is only a means to gather enough physical strength to endure the more challenging form of Yoga i.e. the Yoga meditation.

All schools of Indian philosophy except Carvaka (Jainism, Buddhism, Samkhya, Nyaya, Vaisesika, Vedanta, Aurobindo) are surprisingly in corcordance towards the Yoga philosophy even though they differ in several other aspects. All these orthodox and heterodox schools of thought in the Indian philosophy agree to the teachings of the Yoga philosophy just as the Yoga philosophy borrows some points from them.

Yoga philosophy is a complimentary philosophy to the Samkhya philosophy as Samkhya philosophy elaborated in great detail on Purusa (consciousness) and Prakriti (unconsciousness) but was not able to logically prove the coordination (samyoga) between the two! This was explained by Yoga philosophy which charted out the path to liberation (kaivalya, moksha).

Patanjali Yoga is also known as Raja Yoga.

Raja Yoga explains the way to control and regulate the mind (mann, manas) . Mind defines the synthesis between the sense organs (jnanendriya) and action/motor organs (karmendriya).

Controlling the mind has been regarded as an essential component to reach the divine as the mind controls senses which always run towards the outward external objects. And if a man allows his senses and mind to roam free, the man essentially becomes an objectivist/materialist trapped in the unbroken chain of birth and death forever.

Yoga sutras of Patanjali defines 4 padas:-

1. Samadhi pada

  • Samadhi = sam + adhi = proper + sitting
  • This pada deals with the nature of meditation.

2. Sadhana pada

  • This pada deals with the means to reach the ultimate goal/end i.e. kaivalya or moksha or liberation.

3. Vibhuti pada

  • Vibhuti means supranatural powers.
  • This pada deals with the ways to attain supranatural powers.

(Disclaimer: Don’t simply assume that true Yogis with supranatural powers don’t exist just because you haven’t met a true one! Exceptional Yogis who can walk on water and get elevated in the air do really exist in India, but showcasing their powers is not their ultimate goal which they want to achieve through Yoga. Read the “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Swami Paramhansa Yogananda to delve deeper into this aspect of Yoga.)

4. Kaivalya pada

  • This pada describes the nature of liberation and reality of the transcedental self.

Now, there are some basic concepts in the Yoga Philosophy. These are:-


  • Pronounced: Chitt
  • Refers to Purusa or pure consciousness.

Citta (चित्त)

  • Also pronounced: Chitt
  • Refers to Prakriti or unconsciousness.

Evolution Process

  • Mind, ego and intellect are collectively referred to as Citta. (मन + बुद्धि + अहंकार = चित्त )
  • Cit attaches with Citta.
  • Cit gets covered by Citta.
  • Modifications in Citta take place. (Development Theory of Samkhya philosophy)
  • Cit misidentifies itself with these modifications of Citta.
  • Citta is also known as Antah karan (अन्तः करण) or internal sense.

Cittavrtti (चित्त वृत्ति)

  • Citta is the first evolution of Prakriti and has the pre-dominance of Satguna.
  • When all the 3 gunas are balanced, then modifications of Prakriti stop and Purusa relaizes itself.
  • Citta is itself unconscious but being nearest to Purusa, it has the power to reflect Purusa and therefore appears as if it is consciousness, For example Yoga philosophers compare this to: If you have a bunch of red roses behind a crystal and you look at the crystal, the crystal appears red.
  • When Citta is completely Cit, then Citta is modified in different forms. This is “Vrtti”.
  • There are 5 kinds of Vrtti/modifications:-
  1. Right cognition / Pramana
  2. Wrong cognition / Viparyaya
  3. Verbal / Vikalp
  4. Sleeping / Nidra
  5. Memory / Smriti
  • Verbal Cognition is false cognition. E.g.: Hare’s horn, sky flower, etc.
  • Nidra is absence of cognition. This absence of cognition is known by an individual when he/she wakes up.
  • Smriti is memory or recollection of the past experience through the impressions left behind.

KLESA (क्लेश)

  • Cit is pure consciousness but Cit reflects in Citta then Citta is modified in different forms.
  • These modifications create a lot of suffering.
  • According to Yoga philosophy, there are 5 kinds of suffering (klesa):-
  1. Ignorance / Avidya
  2. Egoism / Asmita
  3. Raga / Attachment
  4. Dvesa / Aversion
  5. Abhinivesh (Clinging to life and instinctive fear of death)

Cittabhoomi (चित्तभूमि)

There are 5 levels of mental lives i.e. Cittabhoomi. The differences in the levels are due to the pre-dominance of different gunas. They are:-

1. kshipta

  • Lowest level.
  • Restless
  • Excess of Rajguna

2. mudha

  • Torpid
  • Tamguna is dominant.
  • Dull, lethargic

3. vikshipta

  • Distracted
  • Here initially Satguna pre-dominates but Rajguna again re-establishes its dominance.

4. ekagra

  • Meditation
  • Full dominance of Satguna

5. niruddha

  • Concentration
  • Highest level
  • Mental modifications are completely arrested.

NOTE: Only “ekagra” and “niruddha” are suitable for leading a yogic life.

Astanga Yoga

Yoga advocates control over body, mind and senses.

For this, Astanga Yoga gives an 8-fold path of discipline:-

  1. Yama
  2. Niyama
  3. Asana
  4. Pranayam
  5. Pratyahar
  6. Dharna
  7. Dhyan
  8. Samadhi

1. Yama

  • Self-discipline
  • Yama means abstention (internal control) and includes the 5 vows of Jainism:-
  1. Satya – Always speaking the truth.
  2. Ahimsa – Non-violence (includes not killing animals for food)
  3. Brahmacarya – Controlling the senses.
  4. Asteya – Not stealing.
  5. Aparigraha – Renouncing the world.

2. Niyama

  • Self-culture
  • Includes external and internal purification:-
  1. Shaucha (Cleanliness)
  2. Santosh (Contentment)
  3. Swadhyaya (Self-study of scriptures, spirituality, etc.)
  4. Tapa (Austerity)
  5. Ishwar Dhyana (Devotion to God)

3. Asana

  • Comfortable posture.
  • Making oneself physically strong.
  • Discipline of the body.

4. Pranayam

  • Discipline of breathing
  • Control of breathing by inhalation, retention and exhalation.
  • Inhale – Purak
  • Retain – Kumbhak
  • Exhale – Rechak

5. Pratyahar

  • Discipline of the senses.
  • Because our senses have the natural tendency to run towards outward objects.
  • Senses must be checked and directed towards the internal goal.
  • It is the process of introversion.

6. Dharna

  • Meditation
  • Fixing the mind on the object of meditation like the mid-point of forehead between the eyebrows or on the heart or on a deity.
  • Mind must be like an unflickering flame of a lamp.

7. Dhyana

  • Meditation without any break.
  • Undisturbed meditation

8. Samadhi

  • Concentration
  • Final step of Yoga.
  • In this step, mind is completely ceased from all types of mental modification.
  • The process of Samadhi has 2 stages:-
  1. Samprajnat Samadhi
  2. Asamprajnat Samadhi

Samprajnat Samadhi

  • In this stage, consciousness of the object is existing.
  • It has 4 kinds:-

Savitarak – When the Citta is concentrated on gross object of meditation.

Savichar – When the Citta is concentrated on a subtler object like Tanmatra (तन्मात्र).

Sananda – When the Citta is concentrated on a still subtler object like senses.

Sasmita – When the Citta is concentrated on ego. Ego defines the relation between Cit and Citta.

Asamprajnat Samadhi

  • This is supraconscious concentration where the meditator and the object of meditation are completely fused together and there is not the slightest consciousness of the object of meditation.
  • Here no new mental modification arises.
  • They are checked (niruddha).
  • This is the highest form of Yoga but this type of concentration comes for a short duration of time.
  • But great Yogis attain this form for a long period and this ideal form is the LIBERATION / KAIVALYA / MOKSHA !
  • In this mode, Cit is completely detached from the modifications of Citta and obtains pure consciousness form, which is the highest reality.

I hope now my friends from the West can realize what they are missing out on by concentrating only on the fitness aspect of Yoga! 🙂

-Ribhu V.


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