By Swami Premananda
Yoga is the realization of God. It is the attainment of soul’s absolute oneness with the supreme Spirit. It is the revelation of the transcendental nature of the highest Self of man. Self-realization is Yoga. The attainment of the complete conscious cognition of his highest Self is the culmination of the knowledge of man. Self-knowledge is wisdom. Yoga recognizes man as a spiritual being, a divine entity. Man is a soul, the immortal, eternal, ever-seeking, ever-revealing and ever-realizing spirit. Truth is not only the ideal of man, it is also his essential nature. It is true that divinity is the supreme goal of man but it is equally true that the reality and the attributes of the Deity constitute the substance of his soul. Yoga seeks to awaken man to the realization of his spiritual self. It points out to him that he is a son of God, a light which is illumined by the absolute Light. He is a universal soul, an infinite spirit and an eternal being.
Yoga postulates the existence of God. According to the philosophy of Yoga, God is one. All creations are emanations from his being and all souls are integral parts of himself. He is the life of all that exists, the intelligence of all conscious beings and the perfection of love. In him is the attainment of immortality, infinity and bliss.
God is the central truth of Yoga. The fundamental purpose of Yoga is to guide man towards God. Man must first seek God and his attributes. He must establish his life on God and his divine righteousness. He must establish his life on God and his divine righteousness. He must saturate his life with love, devotion, adoration and realization of God. He must illumine every aspect of his life with the light of God. A life of Yoga is a God-permeated life.
According to Yoga, the attainment of the realization of God is within the spiritual power of every man. Every one of us is capable of knowing, revealing and realizing God. God has endued each and all of us with the ability to see him within the light of our pure-consciousness, to perceive him within the illumination of our righteousness and to realize him within the divinity of our soul.
Yoga is living in conscious union with God. It is practicing the presence of God constantly and under all circumstances. All religions are based on Yoga because all religions propagate the truths of God and prescribe the life of righteousness. In Yoga no truth of religion, however simple or primitive it may be, is rejected. Every aspect of spiritual life is accepted and understood in the light of man’s endeavor to know God and to realize his perfection. Each seeker after truth, every devotee of god is a Yogi, a follower of Yoga. Yoga is the life of spirituality and righteousness.
Yoga is not a denominational religion. It is above and beyond all sectarianism, just as God and soul are above and beyond all denominational dogmas and sectarian creeds. Yoga unites all religions on the one fundamental truth which is God-realization. God is the one God of all, and our souls are all substantially the same. Our ideal is the attainment of the realization of God with our soul. This is Yoga. Yoga is not only devoted to helping man to unite his soul with God but it also seeks to establish unity among all religions and faiths. Ignorance is the tenet of division and dissension. Knowledge is the law of unity and progress. In the knowledge of the law of spiritual truths lies the foundation of religious unity and universal peace.
Yoga is the science of God-realization. It is the way of self-realization. Etymologically, the word Yoga, a Sanskrit term, signifies unity, oneness, or absolute identity. It may be studied and practice in its following eight aspects:
1. The Yoga of the body or HATHA YOGA
It is the realization of God’s power and beauty within our body organism and nervous system. Our body is the divine instrument of God-realization and soul manifestation. It is sustained by the substance of God and it functions in accordance with the law of the Spirit. Hatha Yoga is not physical culture as is commonly thought. Harmonization of the body organism and nervous system with the truth and law of God is the purpose and principle of Hatha Yoga, the Yoga of the body.
2. The Yoga of the mind or LAYA YOGA
It is the complete absorption of the mind in the thought of God, so much so that all the mental faculties and functions are illumined only by the light and righteousness of the supreme Spirit. It is constant identification of mind with the light and attributes of God until only the divine qualities illumine, inspire and guide all the mental potencies.
3. The Yoga of the Sacred Word or MANTRA YOGA
A Mantram is that specific sacred Word which embodies and connotes truth about God and godliness. A word is the symbol of thought. A thought is the projection of an ideal. A spiritual ideal awakens righteous thought which is expressed in a sacred word. A Word carries the power of thought as well as that of the truth behind the thought. A Mantram, a sacred Word of God, awakens the thought of God which finally leads to the revelation and realization of God. Mantra Yoga is the attainment of the realization of God by chanting, especially by mental and silent chanting, together with conscious contemplation upon the truth and significance of the sacred Word of God.
4. The Yoga of pure consciousness or JNANA YOGA
It is the unification of our consciousness with God-consciousness. Consciousness is independent of all thoughts and concepts. All thoughts and concepts are various waves, so to speak, in the ocean of consciousness. Consciousness is infinite and pure. It is cosmic and absolute. It is Self-conscious. By the unification of our consciousness with the pure Self-consciousness which is within us we enter into the effulgent cosmic consciousness and attain to the realization of God.
5. The Yoga of service or KARMA YOGA
Service is action with devotion unto God and love of soul. Service is self-expression. It is the constructive manifestation of the righteous qualities of the soul. Karma encompasses all positive and noble expressions of our thought, volition and feeling. To give manifestation of the attributes of God through all expression of our life and being is the Yoga of service. It is rendering service unto God through the performance of our actions. Deeds without devotion unto God are vanity. Love of soul is the divine inspiration of righteous self-expression. In the manifestation of the attributes of God through our service our soul abides in constant union with him.
6. The Yoga of love or BHAKTI YOGA
Love is the most potent and most sublime of all our feelings and emotions. It is a divine force, the most sacred power within us. It is the power of god in the soul of man. In its supreme perfection love is absolute devotion unto God. In Bhakti Yoga God is love, and the way to God-realization is love and love alone. Love is spiritual oneness. It is oneness of soul. God is one with us in love and only by the love of our soul can we become one with God. By the realization of our spiritual oneness with all that exists in his cosmic universe our soul becomes one with God. Bhakti is the supreme spiritualizing force. It instantly transforms and transmutes everything into God and godliness. Love at once reveals God before our visible perception and lifts our soul to his transcendental and blissful perfection.Bhakti Yoga is the most beautiful of all Yogas because it makes all things beautiful and perfect.
7. The Yoga of sublime serenity or RAJA YOGA
Serenity is the dynamic tranquility of soul. It is that state of inner calmness wherein the total revealing power of soul is focused on God. There is a state of profound calmness within our consciousness. Raja Yoga is the way which leads our self-consciousness into that state of sublime stillness wherein our soul realizes God in his divine glory.
8. The Yoga of the Self or KRIYA YOGA
The supreme Self is God. The individual self is the soul. The difference between the supreme Self and the individual self is quantitative and not qualitative. The self possesses in potential form all the attributes of the Self. Within our soul is enshrined all the righteousness of God. Kriya Yoga is the self, like the blossoming lotus, unfolding all its potential divine qualities until they reach the perfection of the attributes of the supreme Self. At this state of transcendental spiritual unfoldment, the self becomes one with the Self and attains to its absolute perfection. This is Self-realization. This is soul revealing, realizing and becoming one with God. The fundamental truth and technique of Kriya Yoga have been taught from time immemorial and are now being expounded more fully by all true mystic orders and religions everywhere.
The practice of Yoga, the communion of soul with God, is vitally important to our physical well-being, mental enlightenment, spiritual realization and peace.