"Seers of the vast illumined seer logically control their intelligence and mind. The One knower of all the ways of wisdom, he ordains the invocations of the Gods. Great is the affirmative being of the Divine solar Will."
Rig Veda, V.81.1.
This practical application of the Vedic teaching is called Yoga. As practice is more important than theory Yoga is more important than Veda, though neither need be separated from the other. The term Yoga itself means to "combine, coordinate, harmonize, integrate, utilize". It indicates the maximum coordination of energy towards transformation or liberation. All these meanings are present in the basic root of yoga, 'yuj'. This in turn is based on a more simple root "yu". "Yu" evolves from the vowel sound "i" meaning "will, direction, velocity, command, concentration".
"Yu" itself means both to unite or to separate, to unite with the real and separate from the unreal. To it is combined the consonant "j" additionally emphasizing energy, creativity and direction. Hence the meaning of Yoga arises as integration, discrimination and discipline. There are many synonyms for Yoga in Sanskrit and other languages. It is often called the way or the path or the work.
Yoga as work is not our ordinary work of seeking to gain things for ourselves or become something. It is not some form of attainment, achievement or acquisition. It is the spiritual work of dissolving our egoistic drives into the cosmic will. As such it is a path of inaction or action opposite the ordinary direction of outward expansion. It involves meditation, patience, perseverance, silence, solitude and peace.
The analogy of Yoga is like making an irrigation ditch from a river to irrigate a piece of land. The work does not create the water but only makes a channel for it to flow. Without contact with the inner waters of truth, Yoga therefore has no purpose. Hence in the ancient writings Yoga was also called "Yajna", meaning sacrifice, surrender, offering or consecration. The Yogic work is the sacrifice of the outer and the lower to afford a path for the inner and the higher to manifest. Yoga proceeds by a special grace or power. This is called the "Yoga Shakti" or power of Yoga. It is the Yoga Shakti that does the real work, not our personal will. This Yoga Shakti is the inner form of the Goddess, the secret energy and intelligence of Mother Nature in evolution.
It is the natural intelligence of the Yoga Shakti, which is the power of nature herself, that directs and plans the work of Yoga, not our own personal mentality. We can aid in her work. By our assent to the work we allow her force to act within us. But we cannot do the work ourselves. What is mortal, finite and limited cannot become immortal, infinite or unlimited.
But if we surrender our mortal nature to a higher aspiration we can create the space, the field and the matrix for the immortal powers to manifest themselves.
There are many different paths and styles of Yoga but all come under five different areas:
The Path of Knowledge,
The Path of Devotion,
The Path of Technique,
The Path of Service, and
The Integral Path combining all four.
While all spiritual and religious teachings have their practice, their Yoga, it is in the Eternal Teaching or Sanatana Dharma from the Himalayas that we find the greatest diversity and freedom of such approaches. It has no insistence that the individual must follow one path or another. Even within a particular path there is no insistence that the individual must follow one style or another. What is essential is that we follow a path, one which most appeals to our inner nature and true heart, and that we give our full attention and dedication to it, not as a matter of personal effort or striving, but as the expression of the fullness of our life and being and our need to transcend.
As usual in the systems of Vedic knowledge the attitude and concentration is what matters, not the form. The classical Yoga system of India is the Raja Yoga system outlined in the YOGA SUTRAS of Patanjali, which appear to date around the third century B.C. The term Yoga however is found already in the Gita and the Upanishads and is present in some very important Vedic hymns also, both in the Rig and Yajur Vedas. Most commonly the term Yajna, sacrifice, as already indicated is used in the Vedas instead of Yoga.
The most significant ancient form of yoga was Mantra Yoga, or the Yoga of the Divine Word. This Yoga is hidden in all the scriptures of the ancient world. Hence Yoga is as old as man and as old as human language. Language itself arose at first as an effort to communicate with God and his cosmic powers and presence as a means of reintegration of the human with the universal. Life itself is Yoga; that is, there is an ongoing will in life towards growth, evolution and transformation.
This will towards Yoga inherent in life is the Vedic Sun God of inspiration, Savitar, who is behind the manifestation of all the Gods. Life is also Yoga in the sense that it is an ongoing work producing a specific result. Whatever we do is a kind of Yoga, a concerted action to gain a particular end. While normally we unconsciously practice Yoga, making various efforts to develop our outer powers to gain the outer aims of life, in Yoga itself we learn to consciously direct our energies to gain the inner aim of liberation.
For this Yoga shows us how to align ourselves with the cosmic intelligence and use the cosmic energy. This provides a much greater power of action and transformation than the normal usage of our personal energies. The yogic path we follow should reflect what really attunes us to this greater Divine force.
By David Frawley > The American Institute of Vedic Studies > www.vedanet.com