Yoga is an ancient Indian practice of acquiring mental, physical, and spiritual rigor. However, these are the means and not the end. Yoga aims for some much higher and loftier goal. To understand the primary objective, Patanjali sutras are a valuable and authentic reference source. The “Yoga sutras of Patanjali” talk about enlightenment, practice, results and finally liberation as the objectives of Yoga. The Yoga sutras are the basic philosophical writings on Yoga. Unfortunately, Yoga as a practice has got diluted over the ages and is today understood as a physical fitness regimen through which people seek to acquire health, resilience and longevity. The present times have seen a complete transformation of the exercise and with Yoga training becoming a big business there are charlatans masquerading as Yoga trainers who claim to train people to achieve magical powers through the practice.
But Yoga is essentially means to acquire a higher level of consciousness through which Moksha or liberation can be attained. Though regular practice of Yogic exercises helps a practitioner in acquiring robust internal and external health yet it is not the same as the original mentioned in the Yoga sutras. It was this Yoga that Lord Krishna talked about in The Gita explaining to Arjuna both the significance and the ultimate aim. Yoga that helps a sincere practitioner acquire the ability to rise above the sensual urges. It is about the unity of the Prusha and Prakrati, the essence of this universe. It is the practice that leads from darkness of ignorance to illumination of bliss. It helps a seeker and practitioner acquire the unity with Brahman, the illuminating light of consciousness by which everything is known intellectually, realized intuitively and experienced practically. It is this light of wisdom that removes all confusion and makes one experience the light of soul. When Prakrati or the matter merges with Purusha the vital truth, the pure consciousness is realized.
This is the lesson embodied in the “Sankhya School of Indian Philosophical Thought”. As Lord Krishna declares, matters or the world of objects constitute the surreal or Maya which is perceived by the sprit. The knowledge of this reality is what the aim of Yoga sutras is. It is the path to Yogic integration which even the Lord admits that the great masters of the past before him have experienced. The Gita is the product of a wisdom that was realized in a rare moment of Yogic integration. It was narrated in a full state of Yoga. Modern Yoga as practiced today is thus a poor reflection of the original and has become a physical exercise for the mundane. It is not understood in the real sense as the path to get illuminated by the divine light. That, however, is not to negate whatever is being done these days in the name of Yoga.
But the difference between the two needs to be understood. One is the practice of aligning the mind, the body and the soul while the other is related to largely physical and physiological health, and to a very little Psychological health. One is the path to the supreme knowledge while the other is the road to the mundane, a means to fulfil certain desires. The problem is that with seriousness gradually being lost gimmickry and mimicry in the form of practices like Chair Yoga or Beer Yoga seems to be catching up.
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