Text of the Bhagavagd Gita (Mother's Institute of Research) - Session 4: Sankhya, Yoga and Vedanta (12 September 1998)

Quietude is quietude: devoid of activity. Now, how can quietude be introduced in this movement of activity unless there is a principle of Purusha? This Purusha who is by nature very quiet, inactive, immobile, it can introduce a principle of quietude through only one instrument, powerfully, that is Buddhi, because Buddhi is the one principle which discriminates. Through the principle of Buddhi you can discriminate the quiet Self, the Purusha, and the dynamic Prakriti. But buddhi itself being in the clutch of all these manas, and ahaṁkāra, and indriya(s), and all the objects of indriya(s), the all pañca mahābhūta(s)… even Buddhi is constantly running out of itself, instead of discriminating, it is clouded. By introducing the power of Purusha on Prakriti, on buddhi, you can start as a process: some steadiness of buddhi can be brought about by the power of Purusha.

Now, this putting the pressure of Purusha by himself on buddhi is called “yoga”, starting point of Yoga. The quietude of the Purusha, being imprinted on Buddhi, so that Buddhi, which is being run out all the time, becomes slowly steady, one-pointed: this is the starting point of Yoga. It is an effort by which the quietude of Purusha is attempted to be imprinted on buddhi; and because buddhi is a power of discrimination, it can receive the command of Purusha, discriminating it from the command of Prakriti. Therefore the instrument by which you can do your Yoga is buddhi. And this Yoga gives you first of all, when you make this buddhi more and more steady, it gives you the realisation of the difference between the ‘mobile’ and the ‘immobile’, between the ‘perishable’ and the ‘imperishable’. And this is the starting point of Bhagavad Gita’s teaching: to make a distinction between the ‘mobile’ and the ‘immobile’, the ‘perishable’ and the ‘imperishable’.

And then comes the 2nd part of the 2nd chapter where Sri Krishna says that, “I shall now teach you the poise by which, even while doing action, you will still be free”. To distinguish between the ‘mobility’ and ‘immobility’, and arriving at ‘immobility’, is one realisation, one liberation. But even while doing action, still you feel ‘immobile’, that is “karmabandhaṁ prahāsyasi” (II, 39), that is: “Even while doing action, while performing actions, you will not be bound, you will still be different, distinguishable and capable of remaining quiet, even while engaged in action”.

Now this: ‘How to become quiet even in action, so that you do not have to throw away the action’. The teaching of Sri Krishna is: “You fight!”, that is to say he is asked to fight, to do action: but action means normally going into Prakriti, into identification immediately, and all the trouble which Arjuna is now riddled with, viṣāda (depression), so, how that viṣāda could go and yet action could be, that was the real issue. So, Sri Krishna says, “I will now teach you that which you will be able to act and yet you will have no viṣāda, you really be free”.

 The other method is easy: ‘just come out of the action, renounce the action’. And according to Sankhya, there is no possibility of what Sri Krishna says. According to Sankhya: to be in action and yet to be free from action is not possible; that is the limitation of Sankhya. That is why you cannot say that teaching of Gita is Sankhya’s teaching. It takes into account Sankhya; it enunciates the whole Sankhya; it is aware of what Sankhya says, but answers that if you take only Sankhya, you can be liberated, if you want only liberation, fine!, then Sankhya is enough, but ‘I will tell you, you act and even while you act, you get the result of Sankhya, you still feel free’. This is the alchemy and this is the novelty of the teaching of the Gita, which was not available in Sankhya: according to Sankhya the moment you discriminate between Purusha and Prakriti, then what happens? Purusha withdraws; it disengages itself; it remembers itself; self-forgetfulness is gone; identification is gone; discrimination is complete; it knows it is different from Prakriti. And then surprisingly, because the glancing activity is over, Prakriti comes back to…It does not anymore catch the Purusha; it becomes quiet also. In an analogy it is said: “Prakriti is like a dancer who starts dancing only when the master wants her to dance and the moment the master feels disinterested in the dance, she stops dancing”.

 Therefore, according to Sankhya: ‘Become disinterested in all these movements; detach yourself from everything and by Vairagya (vairāgya), complete disinterestedness from it, the moment you come out of it, you will be free’. That is the remedy of Sankhya. And although Sri Krishna admits that this is a right process, valid process…It does happen, if you really withdraw yourself, your consent, your intention to look at Prakriti and identifying itself with you with it, you can become completely quiet, arrive at a complete quietude. All the riddles of the world, everything comes to a stop, you are free. But then do not expect that you will be acting at the same time and having this! By Sankhya alone you do not have that answer.

  Therefore, there is another knowledge, which Sri Krishna says ‘The knowledge of Yoga’. The word is used by Sri Krishna in a very peculiar sense, which Sri Krishna defines in the 3rd chapter; not in the 2nd chapter, but in the 3rd Chapter, He says that, “By Yoga, I mean Karmayoga”: so, Sankhya is therefore the path of Knowledge. There is only discrimination by buddhi, buddhi which was caught by the three gunas, but buddhi which was hijacked as it were, by movement of ahaṁkāra, and manas, and indriya(s), that buddhi becomes separated, discriminating, and knowing that there is a Purusha behind, it itself become steady. Now, it becomes free from the clutches of the ahankara, ego falls away, the movement, the driving force of three gunas goes away,  and the Purusha returns to a stage where there are no three Gunas at all, completely quiet and silent. That is the path of Knowledge: you know that there is a difference between the Purusha and Prakriti; all movements are Prakriti’s movements; Purusha is quiet and immobile; in ‘Immobility’ there is no viṣāda, no consequences, no problem, no bondage; you are absolutely free. This knowledge, this attainment of this knowledge is called Sankhya.

But by this process, you do not have the answer to the question of Arjuna when Sri Krishna says: “You must fight!” So, Sri Krishna says that, ‘The result of Sankhya can be obtained also by what I am telling you and much more. Therefore, if you have to choose between Sankhya and Yoga, I will tell you to choose Yoga, and not Sankhya. I do not deny the validity of Sankhya, but I will give you a preference to Yoga because you get through Yoga both the answers’.

This is what we shall do now next time, the process of Yoga, the buddhi applied to the movement of action, and then, even while in action, how do you get the result of Sankhya and much more than what Sankhya cannot give you? All right? 

So, last time we had a good analysis of the Sankhya. The word ‘Sankhya’, itself comes from the word ‘sāṁkhya’. It is called ‘sāṁkhya’ because it enumerates how many elements ultimately the whole world can be reduced to. It answers the whole world, as they see it, can be reduced to 24 elements, plus there is Purusha, so 25 constitute the whole world. So, because it has enumerated these 25 elements therefore it is called ‘sāṁkhya’. Again between the 25, 24 are one side and 1 is on the other side: Prakriti on one side and Purusha on the other side. So, again there is a numbering, number two, in other words Sankhya philosophy is called “dualistic philosophy”. It considers two principles to be ultimate. The word “Dualism” also is also used in Indian philosophy for something else: the philosophy which says that there is a difference between ‘God’ and ‘Man’, the supreme soul and the individual soul, philosophies which distinguishes between the two are also called ‘Dualistic’, but Sankhya is called ‘Dualistic’ because it considers the distinction between ‘Prakriti’ and ‘Purusha’: Sankhya does not accept the existence of God, it is atheistic.

According to Sankhya you can explain the world without needing the existence of God. The whole world is nothing but the activity of Prakriti which is triggered of by Purusha, by his glancing; and then the whole world can be explained in terms of these two principles interacting with each other. Now, there is also seṣvara sāṁkhya (theistic), nirīṣvara sāṁkhya (atheistic) is the classical Sankhya; there is also seṣvara sāṁkhya which also accepts that there is God, but it accepts God not as the ‘cause’ of the world, but as the ‘ruler’ of the world. The causation of the world is actually only between Purusha and Prakriti. But there is also a supreme soul who can control things: it has control, it intervenes; now, it is this Sankhya, seṣvara sāṁkhya, which is accepted by Yoga as we understand today.

As I told you last time there is an understanding of Sankhya, which is not exactly shared by the Sankhya as understood in the Gita. The word Sankhya is used, and when you read the word Sankhya we think that Sankhya in the Gita means what we mean by Sankhya today, but that is not what Sri Krishna means by Sankhya when He uses the word Sankhya in the Gita. And I was trying to clarify that confusion. Up till now, whatever I have told you about Sankhya, I have to add only one word to whatever I have said last time: that Purusha, according to Sankhya, is multiple, there is not one Purusha but there are many Purushas: each one of us is a Purusha, each one distinct from the other.

 Now, according to the Bhagavad Gita, the word Sankhya is used to indicate all that I have described so far plus the idea that Purusha is not multiple but One. According to Vedantic Sankhya which is the Gita’s Sankhya, Purusha is One, (not many), therefore it is called ‘monistic’, not ‘dualistic’, but monistic. So, Bhagavad Gita’s Sankhya is monistic, Vedantic Sankhya is monistic, there is only one Reality. Even the so called Prakriti which is regarded separate from Purusha in the Sankhya is according to the Gita a power of Purusha Himself: it is not something different from Purusha. Prakriti is itself power of Purusha, and in regard to Prakriti, Purusha has 4 functions. In the case of Sankhya, as we understand normally, Purusha has only two functions: one is that it is draṣṭā, it is a witness; and it is bhoktā, it enjoys; it is also anumantā, it is also the one who give sanction, but very passively. In the case of Bhagavad Gita’s Sankhya, which is Vedantic Sankhya, the Purusha is first of all Maheshwara (maheśvara), He is the supreme Lord: so, Prakriti is under the control and command of Purusha. He is bhartā, He is not only Maheshwara, but he is also bhartā; bhartā is the one who actually fills Prakriti with all His energy. Prakriti would be nothing if this bhartā and this Purusha were not there. It is Purusha who fills; it is Purusha who husbands Prakriti. He is also bhoktā, also anumantā, He also gives sanction but not like Purusha of Sankhya, where Purusha gives sanction passively. In the Bhagavad Gita’s view, Purusha is an active sanctioner. And He is also draṣṭā, He also witnesses.

Now, these are some of the great statements of the Bhagavad Gita: what is the nature of Purusha? In one of the chapters, you will come across this very description, very clearly: draṣṭā, anumantā, bhartā, bhoktā, maheśvara. In other words, Purusha according to Bhagavad Gita is Ishwara (īśvara) also. Purusha is also Brahman. According to Sankhya as we understand it today, Purusha is not Brahman, Purusha is not Ishwara: in the Bhagavad Gita, the Purusha is ‘at once’ Brahman, Purusha, Ishwara.

And the energy, what is called Prakriti in the Sankhya, ordinary Sankhya, Sankhya as we understand it, is again three fold: it is the power of the Supreme, therefore it is the Shakti: Prakriti is Shakti. Prakriti is Maya (māyā), in the sense that it is that which measures the ‘Immeasurable’: not in the sense of illusion, but in the original sense, the word Maya means: ‘that which measures’. The original word is , mā mamati sa māyā, that which measures, the Reality is above all measure, is immeasurable; the Immeasurable is being measured because all the forms that we see are all measurements. So the forms are brought out from the Immeasurable, and that is the function of Maya. So, in so far as the energy of the Lord, measures are out from the immeasurable, she is also the Maya. She is also Prakriti, in the sense that she is an obedient servant of the Purusha, of the Brahman or the Ishwara.

So, this energy has three functions: she is the supreme ruler of all that is created, and shares therefore the rulership with the Supreme, Purusha; she measures out from Purusha, from Brahman, from Ishwara all that has to be brought out, and she executes all that is willed by Purusha. This is the basic difference between the Sankhya, as we understand it normally and the Sankhya that is given in the Bhagavad Gita. So, to concluded, all that we said about Sankhya last time is to be found in the Sankhya of the Gita, but add to that these three concepts: first Sankhya does not accepts the existence of God at all, except in the early form of Sankhya which is called seṣvara sāṁkhya; secondly, according to Sankhya, Purushas are many; according to Bhagavad Gita’s Sankhya, Purusha is only one; thirdly, according to Sankhya, Purusha is only draṣṭā, and anumantā, but very passive anumantā, and bhoktā, whereas according to Bhagavad Gita, Purusha is draṣṭā, anumantā, bhoktā, bhartā, maheśvara. And along with it therefore, the concept of Prakriti is different in the Sankhya, in the Sankhya of the Gita, namely that Prakriti is Shakti, she herself is a ruler, creator, she is Maya, she measures out from the Immeasurable and she is executrix: she executes all that is willed by the Supreme. In the ordinary Sankhya these three are not present, only one, namely ‘executrix’, it is the only function in the ordinary Sankhya; Prakriti is only executrix: she is neither Shakti, nor Maya.

Now, after having said this, one more word has to be added: that although Purusha is one, Sri Krishna says that ‘This one is capable of multiplicity’. According to Sankhya, Purushas are many ultimately; each one is different from the other, each one is ultimate. According to the Gita’s Sankhya, Purusha is one, but that very Purusha is multiple; ‘multiple’ is not ‘ultimate’; ‘ultimate’ is only ‘one’, but ‘that one’ is ‘multiple’. In other words, each one of us is not an ‘independent Reality’ ultimately: each one is nothing but a ‘partial manifestation’ of the ‘One’. Each one of us is actually a ‘manifestation’ of the Supreme.

There are three important words about the ‘individual’, given in the Bhagavad Gita. The one word is that ‘individual’ is called ‘Jiva’ (jiva): Jiva is so called because it is that by virtue of which we seem to be alive; because it is breathing in us, we are alive, therefore it is called Jiva. Secondly, that this Jiva is mamaivāṁśaḥ sanātanaḥ, (XV, 7) this is the expression of the Bhagavad Gita where Sri Krishna says that Jiva mamaivāṁśaḥ, is my own portion: Jiva is not independent, but my own portion. In other words Jiva is ‘Myself’, as much as a portion can be oneself; sanātanaḥ: it is eternal, ‘it is my eternal portion’.

And how does it become manifest? It is the first sentence, it becomes manifest parā prakṛtir jīvabhūtā,(VII, 5), this is an other expression of the Bhagavad Gita, parā prakṛtir jīvabhūtā: the Jiva is that in which parā prakṛtir has manifested itself. ‘Para Prakriti’, not Prakriti but Para Prakriti, and ‘this’ is a major difference between the ordinary Sankhya and Bhagavad Gita’s Sankhya. In ordinary Sankhya, Prakriti is only what Bhagavad Gita calls Apara Prakriti (aparā prakṛti). But according to Sri Krishna, in the 7° chapter, you will come across this expression that, “I have two Prakriti, not one Prakriti. What is called normally Prakriti is only my ‘lower’ nature, is my Apara Prakriti. But I have a ‘higher’ nature: I have Para Prakriti”.

The Apara Prakriti consists of three gunas: sattwa, rajas and tamas. But Para Prakriti is not at all this triguṇātmaka: it does not consist of this three Gunas. It is dynamic, but not triguṇātmaka: it is my ‘higher’ nature, it manifests my ‘own’ nature, the ‘supreme divine’ nature which is not limited, which is not obscure, which has not become lower, which has not become ignorant. The lower nature is a divisive nature, which seems to be dividing everything, which creates the sense of division, the sense of disharmony, the sense of strife. Whereas Para Prakriti is full of harmony, full of peace, full of knowledge, full of dynamism without obstruction, not a dynamism in which there is strife, which is the nature of rajas, not the nature of fever which is also the nature of rajas in the lower nature. Human beings who are in the Apara Prakriti… 

…..human beings who are all in Apara Prakriti, they act by fever: there is a fever of desire, fever of impulse, fever of passion. It is by these movements that we act, but Para Prakriti does not act by any of these feverish movements. It acts supremely, sovereignly. It acts because it has got all fullness within Her, and when there is a fullness, you do not act to gain something from outside, you act only to express what you already possess. It is not a seeking proposition from outside; it is simply an expression, which is a free expression. And it is therefore…it is a play; that expression is not an expression of any struggle: it is a real play; it can play freely, sovereignly. That is the nature of Para Prakriti.

      Now, this concept is completely absent with the Sankhya as we know it. It is in the Bhagavad Gita that this concept of Para Prakriti is greatly enunciated, very clearly brought out. This concept of Para Prakriti is also to be found present in the Upanishad; it is also to be found in the Veda, but not so clearly laid out, as in the Bhagavad Gita. That is the great contribution of the Bhagavad Gita in the whole movement of Indian thought.

In the Veda, there is the concept of Aditi. Aditi is the supreme Mother of the world. In the Upanishad also there is a concept. In Kena Upanishad for example, there is a story (Kena U. 3rd part): gods had conquered…This is the story: gods had conquered in a battle; and all the gods became extremely gratified, and they became proud. Their victory was theirs. They had become victorious by their own power. Vayu, Agni, Indra, these three were the principal gods, and all the three were rejoicing in their prime. Then, the supreme Lord comes forth as a small straw and challenges them to disturb it. But none of them is able to disturb. Vayu tries his best by the blow, wind, to move it, and Vayu returns. Agni is very proud that anything in the world, which has come into existence; it cannot be without his knowledge. Agni is called jātaveda, in the Veda: one who is born with knowledge and anything that is born is known to it: that is why it is called jātaveda. But even Agni is not able to make out what is ‘this’! Indra also is not able to find out. But then Indra goes forward in search; he admits he cannot find out, and then he is in search. Then he meets “The Woman”, this is the word in the Kena Upanishad, he meets “The Woman”, that is umā haimavatī; and then it is Uma who reveals to him the supreme Lord, and then says it is by the Supreme Lord,s power that you conquered: it is not ‘your’ power. And that is why Indra became full of knowledge of the Supreme Lord.

Uma therefore, represents the Para Prakriti who is even above these gods: gods are children of Uma. According to the Veda, Aditi is the Mother of all the gods, of all the things in the world. So, this concept of Aditi, this concept of Uma, it is the same as Para Prakriti in the Bhagavad Gita. In other words, you will see now, in the Bhagavad Gita there is a synthesis of Sankhya and Vedanta: Vedanta is ‘monistic’, and this theory is monistic because Reality is only one. Even Prakriti is nothing but a power of the One. Yet it accepts the distinction between Purusha and Prakriti, a subordinate distinction: Reality is one, but one that is two. It is at once Purusha and Prakriti, therefore the truth of Sankhya is also accepted. It also now reconciles Sankhya with Yoga. Now, it is ‘that’, which I want to consider upon today.

The Gita’s thought reconciles Sankhya, Vedanta and Yoga. In the time when this exposition was made by Sri Krishna to Arjuna, all the three schools of thought were prominent, and all of them were in quarrel with each other. Sri Krishna brings a kind of a harmonising alchemy, and puts them all together, and that is why Bhagavad Gita is called an ‘integral knowledge’: it puts everything in its proper place, and heals the quarrel between the three positions.

It is on that harmony, that synthesis, that in the method of approaching Reality, there is a harmony of knowledge, action, and devotion: Karma, Bhakti, and Jnana. All the three are reconciled, because the Reality that has to be realised is integral, therefore the method also has to be integral. That is why the teaching of the Gita is an integral teaching, both ways: the object to be known, to be realised, to be possessed is integral; the method by which you approach is also integral.

But before we come to that, let us concentrate now, upon the word ‘Yoga’. The word Yoga appears first in the 2nd chapter, which we have read through, when Sri Krishna says: “So far, I have explained to you Buddhiyoga, and I have given you the knowledge that can be obtained by Buddhiyoga”. Then, He says: “Now, I shall tell you how Buddhiyoga can be applied in Yoga, and how by applying that Buddhiyoga in Yoga, you can be free even while acting. By the application of Buddhiyoga, as far as the knowledge is concerned, Sankhya is concerned, you can be liberated from all actions, once you discriminate between Purusha and Prakriti, and you can come out of the clutches of Prakriti”. That is what Sri Krishna has already explained in the first part of the 2nd chapter.

Now, in the second part of the 2nd chapter, Sri Krishna explains how in Yoga, even while doing actions, you can be free. The Sankhya can give you liberation when you come out of action: you withdraw from action and you can be liberated. But now, Sri Krishna says that even while doing actions, you can still be free: “That secret”, He said, “I shall now explain to you”.

Now, what does Sri Krishna means by using the word “Yoga”. What He means by this word is explicated stated by Sri Krishna in the 3rd chapter. In the 3rd chapter He says: “There are two ways of liberation: there is one way, which is the Sankhya way, there is the second way, which is the way of Yoga”. Then He says: “the Sankhya way is the way of Knowledge”. He makes it Himself clear, “the Sankhya way is called the way of Knowledge. The Yoga is the way of Works”. Yoga is used by Sri Krishna in the sense: “Works”.

Now, this definition that “Yoga” refers to “Works”, may sound to those who are familiar with the word ‘Yoga’ today, rather strange, because today the word yoga is specifically referred to a system, which is called: “The system of Patanjali”. It is a system, which is called ‘Rajayoga’. So, we must distinguish between Rajayoga, which is today famous as “Yoga”, and the word “Yoga”, which is used in the Bhagavad Gita. If you don’t make this distinction, and if you read the Bhagavad Gita with our familiarity with the Rajayoga of Patanjali, we will be misled, and we will not understand properly.

So now, let us understand what is meant by “Yoga” today, so that we can make very clear distinction between “Yoga”, the word used by Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, and the word “Yoga” as understood today in an ordinary manner, in ordinary situations today in our country.

As you know, Indian Philosophy has 6 systems, which are called: ‘Orthodox systems of Indian Philosophy’. All the 6 systems of Indian Philosophy, which are ‘orthodox’ accept Veda as ‘prāmāṇa’, they accept the authority of the Veda, they accept that whatever is in Veda is what we are expounding, each one, although each one is quarrelling with the other, but each one claims that it is expounding what is in the Veda and the Upanishads.

There are two other philosophies in India, which do not accept the authority of the Veda: these are Buddhism and Jainism. But both of them accept spiritual experience: in that sense these two systems are in agreement with the other 6 systems, which also believe in spiritual experience. These two are called ‘heretic’ philosophies. Heretic means: those which oppose the authority of the Veda. There is another system, one more system; it is called ‘Charvaka system’ (cārvāka): it is a materialistic philosophy; it does not accept spiritual experience at all. It believes that human body and Matter is the only reality, and after the body is burnt away, after death, what remains? Nothing remains. Therefore it says that while you live, you try to gain maximum pleasure in the world: “You avoid water and drink ghee: jala tyatva ghṛtam piba”. Because after the world the whole body is finished, what remains? Nothing remains. Can you see anything? Nothing remains. All is gone.

So, Indian philosophy has got basically 9 systems: 6 philosophies are ‘orthodox’, which all accept the Veda; 2 are ‘heretic’ philosophies which do not accept the authority of the Veda: they are Jainism and Buddhism, but both of them accept spiritual experience; Charvarka is a purely materialistic philosophy. In the entire History of India, there have been so many philosophers; they have belonged to one or the other of these nine philosophies.

Now, these 6 systems of Indian philosophies are known as follows: Nyaya (nyāya), Vaisheshika (vaiśeṣika), Sankhya (sāṁkhya), Yoga (yoga), Purva Mimansa (pūrva mīmāṁsā), and Uttara Mimansa (uttara mīmāṁsā), which is also known as Vedanta (vedānta), Uttara Mimansa is also known as Vedanta. So, these are the 6 systems of Indian philosophy. Now, you will find that in this enumeration, there is one word ‘Yoga’ there. So, today if you speak of Yoga, people mean by that word ‘Yoga’, that philosophy, which is one of these 6 systems.

Now, what is this system? And what does it expound? Let us take it very briefly some of the basic propositions of this philosophy. It is Patanjali who is supposed to have formulated the aphorisms of this philosophy. Just as Gautama is supposed to have formulated the aphorisms of Nyaya, Kanada of Vaisheshika, Kapila of Sankhya, Patanjali of Yoga, Jaimini for Purva Mimansa, and Baidarana for Uttara Mimansa. These are the basic philosophers, you might say, who gave the formulation in aphoristic forms. It is a very peculiarity of Indian philosophy that basic texts of Indian philosophy are in aphoristic forms.

The very first aphorism of Patanjali’s Yoga is…he defines Yoga: “cittavṛttinirodha yoga”, Yoga is nothing but “cittavṛttinirodha”; “nirodha” means controlled, cessation; “cittavṛtti”, “vṛtti” means tendencies of consciousness; “citta” is of course the stuff of consciousness. “cittavṛtti”, human being finds that his whole consciousness is full of tendencies; these tendencies are in constant mobility. It is like a market place the whole human mind is a market place: hussle-bustle and there is no place even to move about.  One idea comes upon another idea and before it is grasped the third idea has already invaded you, and it is a tremendously busy place, a constant commerce is going on between outside and inside. To make this consciousness absolutely still, according to Patanjali, that is “Yoga”.

Now, what is the process of making it still? The following is the process: first of all you should observe Yama and Niyama (yama, niyama). Yamas are five and Niyamas are five. Yamas are rules, regulations: Yamas are certain attitudes which you develop in every activity: Satya (satya) is the first; Ahimsa (ahiṁsā) is the second; Brahmacharya (brahmacarya) is the third; Asteya (asteya) is the fourth (not stealing, do not steal, do not covet possessions of the others); Aparigraha (aparigraha), do not store upon a certain limit, Aparigraha: (Parigraha (parigraha) is a storing, accumulating, Aparigraha is ‘non-accumulation’: do not accumulate).

In all your activities of life, according to Patanjali, we should practise these five things. In every activity, in thought, in mind and speech, be ‘truthful’; ‘never hurt anybody’, complete non-injury; Brahmacharya, complete ‘continence’; Asteya, ‘do not steal anybody’; if something belongs to somebody else, this is from the Isha Upanishad that we had seen earlier: tena tyaktena bhuñjīthā mā gṛdhaḥ kasya sviddhanam, (Isha U. 1), “By renunciation you enjoy, but do not covet somebody’s else wealth”; mā gṛdhaḥ, do not covet; mā gṛdhaḥ kasya sviddhanam, the wealth which belongs to anybody, whatsoever, do not covet it: this is asteya. Aparigraha is to keep your requirements limited and never accumulate. These are Yamas.

Then, there are five Niyamas. Shaucha (śauca): keep yourself clean. This is a Niyama; this is a rule, rule of life: clean. Shama (śama), be calm. Tapa (tapas), always be hard working with austerity, concentrated, full of attention. Svadhyaya (svādhyāya), apply yourself to the study, and Santosha (satoa), have contentment. These are the five Niyamas.

Now, when you have conquered these five things or you have done this for a long time, then a strict process of psychological practice begins. Many people, not realising the importance of Yama and Niyama, they neglect these two important steps, they go straight to the third step: this is Asana (āsana). Asana is to take your posture; erect, stable, comfortable: this is Asana. Try to seat always, as much as possible without any kind of movement of your body, without any kind of flagging, without any idleness, with all diligence and try to be able to seat in the same position as long as possible. This Asana has also a psychological meaning, not only a physical meaning. You have seen many people flying from one work to the other, taking up one work, giving it up after some time, taking up a second work, after some time giving it up, third work…this is the lack of asana. For any kind of Yoga, when you start a work, keep stable to that work. If you go on flying from one work to the other, then you can never attain any kind of goal. This is like a rolling stone, which gathers no moss: so do not become a rolling stone. You be stable. So, this is the third step: Asana. When you can be strong enough to rest in one good position, comfortable position, without strain, then you have achieved asana.

Then comes the process of Pranayama (prāṇāyāma): it is based upon the idea of control of breath. It was found by the Yogis in India that breath is an extremely vital thing in human life and in the world. In fact, the whole world is nothing but breathing, the whole world: it is the supreme Lord breath, the whole world is the supreme Lord’s breath. If you therefore know how to control the breath, then you can command the whole world. And how do you do that? One of the simplest methods is our own breath control. If you can control your own breathing…and the simplest process of breathing consists of three parts: there is inhalation of breath and there is exhalation of breath; in between there is a period when you can keep the breath inside your body, neither inhaling, nor exhaling, Kumbhaka: pūraka, kumbhaka, recaka. You inhale, keep it steady, and exhale. Now, when you can do this, you will find a great flow of energy in the body, and the powers of our consciousness begin to flower. Sometimes the capacity of write begins to flower: you may not be a poet till now, suddenly poetic faculty begins to open up. You may not be able to work hard for hours together and suddenly you find that now you are able to work for hours together without fatigue. These are some of the results that you find from pranayama.

Then, when you have reached a certain stage of conquest in pranayama, then comes the starting point of the real psychological process: these are only physical processes; asana and pranayama are only physical processes basically, although they have psychological impacts also, and pysiological aspects also.

That starts with what they call: Pratyahara (pratyāhāra). Pratyahara is followed by Dharana (dhāraṇā); Dharana is followed by Dhyana (dhyāna); and Dhyana is followed by Samadhi (samādhi). These are the four processes, which are purely psychological: Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi. 

Pratyahara is the attempt to fix yourself on one idea, one word, one image, one spot, one object, whatever it is: select anything that you like. It is said that Yoga is a science, and here you are not required to believe in anything as opposed to religion, because religion starts with a belief, you should have a belief, whether in Yoga have no belief, you just select any object of your choice, then see that you go on concentrating upon that object; and the first stage what will happen that so many ideas will come together apart from that very object. You start saying: “I shall concentrate upon only this piece of metal”, and immediately so many other ideas will also cross in my mind. Pratyahara is a process with which you will try to eliminate others and try to fix on one. So, it is much more a kind of a struggle, you might say, pratyahara is a struggle in which you try to eliminate all other ideas, excepting one idea on which you want to concentrate: this is pratyahara.

Then, when you are able to fix your mind upon one idea for some time, then comes Dharana. Dharana is to hold; now you continue to hold upon one object, that which you have succeeded already in concentrating upon one object, now try to hold it for certain duration.

 When you are able to hold it, then become fully concentrated upon it and that is Dhyana: you be fully concentrated on an object, where nothing else than the object really remains in your consciousness. Like Arjuna shooting the eye of the bird, and he could see nothing else than that eye of the bird, that is Dhyana.

When you do this, then the object begins to reveal itself. This is the ‘secret’ of Yoga: the object begins to reveal itself in the state of concentration, of dhyana.

Patanjali says that if you want to know anything, form an idea of that object, form a word representing that object, or keep that object before you, mentally, and when the stage of Dhyana will be reached, after Pratyahara and Dharana, then the object itself will begin to reveal the knowledge which is regarding that particular object. This is what is called ‘revelation’ of the object: object reveals itself.

It is based upon the original concept that the ‘knower’ and the ‘known’ are basically one: the knower and the known, the subject and the object of the knowledge are basically one, but this oneness is destroyed by our divisive consciousness, by our restlessness. Therefore the knower and the known, when they meet each other there is no concentration, therefore the object is obscured. There is too much of movement of other ideas coming across our consciousness, and therefore the object is not revealed to us. But if you can concentrate upon it, then because the knower and the known are one, in the exact state of identity, the knowledge is revealed, directly.

In fact there is one full chapter in the Rajayoga, in the Patanjali‘s Yoga Sutras, which is called Vibhuti Pada: various powers that begin to develop as a result of this concentration. If you want to know the knowledge of the whole astronomical objects, concentrate upon one astronomical object, and that knowledge will come to you: even the language of the birds, he says, can be understood if you can concentrate upon some, and so on…tremendous faculties develop in consciousness.

But that is not the goal; they are only powers that develop as a result of this: the goal is Samadhi. It is the last state of the entire process. When you attain to samadhi, there is a tremendous intensity of concentration, so much of intensity that everything else is abolished. There is such an identity between you and the object! In fact there are cases of people who go into trance when externally they become so unconscious, that even to awake them is difficult; from sleep it is easier to awake somebody, but this is such a state that even to awake them is difficult. Sometimes you have even to inflict some pain on the body to make the body awake and to bring back the individual to the ordinary consciousness.

It is said of Sri Ramakrishna, when he use to go into samadhi, to bring him back you had to shout in his ears and then try to bring him back. But this is a state of intensity; in that state…there are two stages, savikalpa and nirvikalpa: savikalpa is that there is still a seed of thought; nirvikalpa is one in which there is no seed of thought. It is such a silence, supreme silence, that you can remain for ever in that silence: even if the body is left in that condition, the consciousness which has attain that silence remains, and then you are liberated from the entire movement of the world. So, through samadhi you enter into a complete immobility of consciousness.

Now, Yoga system accepts the distinction between Purusha and Prakriti as in Sankhya; therefore it says that when you concentrate upon an object, you can concentrate upon Purusha; among many objects, you can also take Purusha as one of the objects. And if you concentrate upon Purusha, then you realise the complete immobility and silence of Purusha, and you become liberated. Or, Yoga philosophy departs from Sankhya to some extend and says there is also the Lord. In the Sankhya proper it is nirīṣvara, but in Yoga, Yoga accepts the existence of God as a controller of the world; so it also say that you can devote yourself to the Lord, and if your are in samadhi, if you go into that samadhi, you can become united with the Lord: īśvaraḥ praṇidhāna, surrender to the Lord; īśvaraḥ praṇidhāna, is also one of the niyamas in the yogic philosophy.

You remember, I gave you five Niyamas: Shaucha, Shama, Tapa, Svadhyaya, Santosha. Now, Svadhyaya has an option, either so Svadhyaya or īśvaraḥ praṇidhāna; this is also one of the five rules of the yogic philosophy. Now, this is in brief the entire net of the philosophy that is called Yoga.

Now, you will see that in this Yoga there is not merely discrimination between Purusha and Prakriti as in Sankhya, there is much more. In the pure Sankhya, there is only a perception by buddhi, a distinction between Prakriti and Purusha, and when you discriminate between the two, you arrive at a perception of Purusha, that is the method of Sankhya, in the ordinary Sankhya, not the Gita’s Sankhya.

In Yoga, this process of discriminating between Purusha and Prakriti is not exactly by Buddhi Yoga, we may do it, but it is not necessary, you still can concentrate upon any object, that is enough and then you can go by Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi. Secondly, pratyahara has to be preceded by pranayama and asana. In the Sankhya as properly known today these two processes are not there at all. Nor is in the Sankhya the prescription of yama and niyama. In Yoga there is both yama and niyama. In Sankhya there is no īśvaraḥ praṇidhāna, but in Yoga, yoga īśvaraḥ praṇidhāna. So, you can see that Yoga known today is quite different from Sankhya known today; and you will see that Yoga is much larger a process than the process that is proposed in Sankhya.

 Now, if you want to summarise what is the distinction? You will find that there are three distinctions: one is yama and niyama is largely connected with action. Yama and niyama, both of them are to be applied in daily life, daily life of activity. Therefore you might say, that there is a lot of Karmayoga in what is known as Yoga today. Secondly, there is also the process of concentration, which is also in Sankhya; in Sankhya there is no Karmayoga at all, in Yoga, there is karmayoga. In Sankhya there is a process of concentration, here also there is a process of concentration; so, in this respect, it is very similar to Sankhya. In Sankhya there is no īśvaraḥ praṇidhāna, but here there is īśvaraḥ praṇidhāna, therefore lot of devotion. So, Yoga, as we know it today, has these three elements of Karmayoga, Jnanayoga and Bhaktiyoga, all the three are present, but the karmayoga is greatly subordinated; bhaktiyoga is optional (svadhyaya or īśvaraḥ praṇidhāna). The main emphasis is upon concentration, upon dhyana. Therefore, Yoga today as known today is largely a process of jnanayoga, also other elements are present, but the word Yoga used by Sri Krishna…He Himself says that Yoga is primarily karmayoga, this is fundamentally karmayoga…