(Sanskrit) Union; one of the six Darsanas or schools of philosophy of India, founded by Patanjali, but said to have existed as a distinct teaching and system of life before that sage. Yajnavalkya, a famous and very ancient sage of pre-Mahabharatan times, to whom the White Yajur-Veda, the Satapatha-Brahmana, and the Brihadaranyaka are attributed, is credited with inculcating the positive duty of religious meditation and retirement into the forests, and therefore is believed to have originated the yoga doctrine. Patanjali's yoga, however, is more definite and precise as a philosophy, and imbodies more of the occult sciences than any of the extant works attributed to Yajnavalkya.

The objective of the Yoga school is attaining union or at-one-ness with the divine-spiritual essence within which is virtually identical with the spiritual essence or Logos of the universe. True yoga is genuine psychology based on a complete philosophical understanding of the entire inner human constitution.

There are several states leading to spiritual powers and perception. The eight stages of yoga usually enumerated are: 1) yama (restraint, forbearance); 2) niyama, religious observances such as fastings, prayer, penances; 3) asana, postures of various kinds; 4) pranayama, methods of regulating the breath; 5) pratyahara (withdrawal), withdrawal of the consciousness from external objects; 6) dharana (firmness, steadiness, resolution) mental concentration, holding the mind on an object of thought; 7) dhyana, abstract contemplation or meditation freed from exterior distractions; and 8) samadhi, complete collection of the consciousness and its faculties into union with the monadic essence.

There are several types of yoga such as karma yoga, hatha yoga, bhakti yoga, raja yoga, and jnana yoga. "Similar religious aspirations or practices likewise exist in Occidental countries, as, for instance, what is called 'Salvation by Works,' somewhat equivalent to the Hindu Karma-Yoga, or, again, 'Salvation by Faith — or Love,' somewhat similar to the Hindu Bhakti-Yoga; while both Orient and Occident have, each one, its various forms of ascetic practices which may be grouped under the term Hatha-Yoga.

"No system of Yoga should ever be practiced unless under the direct teaching of one who knows the dangers of meddling with the psycho-mental apparatus of the human constitution, for dangers lurk at every step, and the meddler in these things is likely to bring disaster upon himself, both in matters of health and as regards sane mental equilibrium. The higher branches of Yoga, however, such as the Raja-Yoga and Jnana-Yoga, implying strict spiritual and intellectual discipline combined with a fervid love for all beings, are perfectly safe. It is, however, the ascetic practices, etc., and the teachings that go with them, wherein lies the danger to the unwary, and they should be carefully avoided" (OG 183).

The various forms of yoga from the standpoint of theosophy when properly understood are not distinct, separable means of attaining union with the god within; and it is a divergence of the attention into one or several of these forms to the exclusion of others that has brought about so much mental confusion and lack of success even in those who are more or less skilled. Every one of these forms of yoga, with the probable exception of the lower forms of hatha yoga, should be practiced concurrently by the one who has set his heart and mind upon spiritual success. Thus one should carefully watch and control his acts, acting and working unselfishly; he should live so that his daily customs distract attention as little as possible away from the spiritual purpose; his heart coincidentally should be filled with devotion and love for all things; and he should cultivate, all at the same time, his will, his capacity for self-sacrifice and self-devotion to a noble cause, and his ability to stand firm and undaunted in the face of difficulties whatever they may be; and, finally, in addition and perhaps most importantly, he should do everything in his power to cultivate his intuition and intellectual faculties, exercising not merely his ratiocinative mind, but the higher intuitive and nobly intellectual parts. Combining all these he is following the chela path and is using all the forms of yoga in the proper way. Yet the chela will never obtain his objective if his practice of yoga is followed for his own individual advancement. He will never reach higher than the superior planes of the astral world even in consciousness; but when his whole being follows this yoga as thus outlined with a desire to lay his life and all he is on the altar of service to the world, he is then indeed on the path.


Dr. Moises Lichinger on Yoga


Liza Gopika Lichtinger, MS, NCC, PC