Yoga is not what you think. Yoga is not what you see in a “yoga studio”—this is but a pixel in a much bigger picture.
Yoga is a science. If you have an interest in spiritual development, you are interested in yoga. You may be disinclined to refer to this interest in these terms, but you will not object to it if you know what yoga really is.
Yoga is a spiritual science that is older than our current western scientific community would consider possible. But they are coming around, though they are avoiding terms like ‘spiritual’ and ‘yoga’. They avoid these terms because they associate them with the non-physical (which is an incorrect assumption), and science has to prove things on the physical-material level in the manner explained in the following definition:
A Dictionary’s Definition of “Science”
“The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. An organized body of knowledge on a particular subject. Archaic knowledge of any kind. Latin scientia, from scire ‘know’.” This definition describes the science of yoga…as far as it goes.
The Science of Yoga
Someone once asked me about my position on science verses spirituality. My answer was that where yoga is concerned, science, which deals with the physical, is perfectly compatible with the spiritual; it validates it.
The idea that spirituality and science are different is based on an incorrect assumption generated by misinformation. Genuine spirituality and science are not inherently different. Both want to know. Both want Truth. Both demand definite proof. Both insist that proof be repeatable by the same means. Both deal with the physical-material and the subtle—consider the scientific position on the observation of a discrete particle causing that particle to change due to having been observed, even though the observer must assume this change based on knowledge of the original condition as opposed to the resulting effect.
The western world is committed to proof being obtained through experimentation that can be repeated with the same results. The science of yoga satisfies this demand. Science requires that this proof be ascertained by the physical senses, so that anyone with scientific knowledge in a specific sphere can “look” at it and see, feel or touch that proof. In other words, so that one person or group can prove it to another. This last is where the science of yoga differs from modern-day western science, and it is the only place.
Yoga relies on the individual and the experiential proof of direct perception, whereas western science relies on the perception of proof by means of the physical senses.
To rely on personal experience one must genuinely want Truth. This requires a high degree of personal commitment, self-honesty, repetition, and the patience and willingness to wait for results. Most people are not interested in real yoga for this reason—they don’t like to wait. But to us, yoga is our lab, and we are the lab equipment as well as the object of experimentation. We subject ourselves to this daily. We want Truth, so we are willing to wait for it, and we keep on repeating the procedure until the results show themselves.
To satisfy ourselves as to the validity of the results, we demand that the results match three criteria: (1) the oral teachings of our guru lineage, (2) personal experience in our lab, our meditation room, and (3) the written texts of those who have successfully attained the primary aim of yoga. What one regards as their religion is one hundred percent irrelevant. Anyone from any religion, or no religion, can practice yoga.
Why do we call it “yoga“? We could call it anything, but union with God/Truth—we want to experience the Truth about God—is what we want so this is what we call the process of getting it.
- Yoga – Sanskrit, ‘union’, from yuj, ‘to yoke together’.
What Yoga Isn’t
An interesting thing about this business of science, spirituality and yoga is that, to a yogi, the word God and the word Truth are synonymous terms. This brings me to another misunderstanding generated by misinformation.
Words like ‘spiritual’ and ‘spirituality’ are not common in yoga terminology, but have been adopted in the west for the purpose of communicating the inclusion of the subtle, non-physical aspects of yoga. That is to say, yoga involves both the physical and the non-physical, the gross (visible) and the subtle (invisible physical and non-physical). By ‘spiritual’ I mean ‘of the spirit’, the subtle, non-physical part of you that is the Real You.
What I do not mean is what I just this moment found in a dictionary. I mean neither of these two definitions of ‘spiritual’:
- Said of a person not concerned with material values or pursuits.
- Of or relating to religion or religious belief.
Neither of these define yoga. Yoga does not ask you to have no values in the physical realm. And yoga is not about beliefs. It is about Truth and the scientific process of attaining union with That (what better proof could there be?).
The common concept of belief was brought home to me many years ago on an occasion in which I was giving a talk followed by a question and answer period, and someone asked me a question about my ‘belief system’. I had not heard this term before and thought it to be very strange question. I asked this man what a belief system was. (I could see it in his eyes that not knowing this would invalidate anything further I had to say.) After listening to his description, I answered, “I don’t have one”. I never saw that man again. It seemed that having a belief system was assumed to be a positive attribute of any ‘spiritual’ person. And that’s another thing that yoga is not: yoga is not a belief system.
And yoga is not a religion. A religion is an organized group of people that surfaces only when the beliefs of those involved are organized and in agreement. In other words, when there is a belief system to hold it together.
Real Yoga, on the other hand, has been preserved for millennia through lineages of enlightened masters who pass down knowledge to their disciples. Truth is what it is, it doesn’t change, but the way teachers teach will be different from one teacher to another, making a diverse range from which each individual seeking their guru can find their own teacher and spiritual path.
Namaste (I bow to the Divine One that You really are),