YOGA, YOGAS – A system of thought and practice

The word yoga is frequently used in Indian philosophy. It means “union” and con­notes uniting the individual self with the higher Self. The Bhagavad Gita defined yoga as “skillfulness in action” and “steadiness of mind.” Yoga as a system of Indian thought was founded by Patanjali, probably of the second century Around the time of the Bhagavad Gita Indian philosophers and theologians began to classify religious or spiritual experience according to three or four types, which they called ways (margas) or disciplines (yogas). Devotion (bhakti) appeared in both classifications of religious types. Devotion was the way (marga) or practice (yoga) known as bhakti marga or bhakti yoga. Two other types appeared in both lists: karma yoga (the way of works, or ritualism) and jnana yoga (the way of knowledge). The fourth type, raja yoga (the royal way), influ­enced the way jnana yoga was interpreted. In a list of three religious types, jnana yoga and raja yoga referred to mysticism—knowledge of the Absolute. Thus, both were essentially mystical paths, leading to knowledge of the Absolute. The distinctive yoga of cognitive, spiritual study (jnana) that produced far more than the six traditional philosophies (darsanas) was lost.
When four religious types are recognized, raja yoga is mysticism and jnana yoga is a rational, philosophical path of knowledge, meaning, and purpose.

Yoga is one of the surest practices to tapas, the austerities that gain siddhis, the powers so sought in Hindu myths. (TRIP)
Among these paths or spiritual disciplines, bhakti is the most accepting and appreciative of mythology and its uses, while the jnana yoga of Hindu rational­ism was unsympathetic and even hostile toward mythology. Rational Hin­duism’s modern manifestation, the Brahmo Samaj, is consistent with those philosophers of the past who rejected idols and myths. Mystical practice (raja and/or jnana yoga) entails renunciation of everything, including worship, images, and myths.

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