Yoga deals with the experiential aspects of man’s liberation from human imperfection and suffering, and is concerned with practical methods for attaining this state, using the philosophical doctrines of Samkhya as their basis. Samkhya philosophy supports the philosophy of yoga—samyak akhyate, that which explains the whole. The Samkhya school of philosophy admits of two ultimate realities: purusha, or cosmic consciousness, and prakriti, or elemental matter. The manifest universe evolves out of prakriti. It results from the coming together of purusha and prakriti, matter being permeated by consciousness.

What is more, this scheme of evolution applies both to the macrocosm (the universe) and to the microcosm (a human being). Yoga bases its teachings on this scheme of evolution in the microcosm. It concerns itself with the practical aspects of involution or the return from identification with the manifest body and mind to ultimate consciousness.

Yoga teaches you how to be and gives something that religion does not provide. Yoga is an exact science that helps you to know yourself on all levels—body, breath, mind and spirit. From your childhood onward your education has led you to examine and verify things in the external world, which is constantly changing. Your education has not helped you to become aware that there is another reality within that never changes. You have to learn to accommodate and understand both realities and the whole structure of life, including the known and the unknown, the apparent and the real. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali emphasizes the importance of understanding life within, while not ignoring the external world. According to Patanjali, the prime goal of human life is to establish oneself in one’s essential nature.

Yoga science asserts that the human mind is not established in its true nature because it identifies with the objects of the external world. The purpose of yoga science is to lead you within to the highest state of tranquility, wisdom and bliss, in which you remain fully conscious and aware of the reality. Yoga teaches you how to see within. If you remain an outsider, your mind will continue to be scattered and you will not understand why you have come to this world, what the goal of life is or how you should relate to others. You do not know yourself, yet you are trying to know others. In order to know and understand yourself on all dimensions, you will have to search within. Once you understand and know yourself, you will be able to analyze the entire universe and your relationship with the universe and with other beings. By analyzing a drop of water, you can know the ocean; by analyzing this human life, you can know the whole universe. The same Self that dwells within you dwells in everyone. That Self is the center of consciousness.

The term yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj (to yoke or join). In yoga philosophy yoga means “to unite with the Universal Self.” Your prime duty as a human being is to know yourself and then to know the Self of all. For that, you will have to train yourself. Others can inspire and help you, but self-training requires effort. No matter how powerful are the instruments or other means that you have, those means cannot help you to know the reality within. Even the finest telescope through which you can see the stars and planets clearly, cannot help you to know your internal states. You don’t have to go anywhere to train yourself because every walk of life presents an opportunity to learn. You don’t need drugs, a guru or any other external help. But you need guidance in how to practise and how to conduct your life so you can attain happiness in this lifetime, here and now. As a human being you have all the knowledge within, but you have to make effort to come in touch with that knowledge. Human effort is called ascending power.

When you have exhausted all effort and used all the resources you have, finally the power of the Lord will touch you. That is descending power, or grace. You cannot get enlightened without grace. There are four types of grace: grace of God, grace of the scriptures, grace of a teacher who loves you selflessly and grace of yourself.

Reprinted from Sadhana the Path to Enlightenment, an HIHT publication.