The Project of History of Indian Philosophy, Science and Culture - Synthesis of Yoga - Introduction

Synthesis of Yoga - Introduction


This Volume is a sequel to three volumes in regard to the subject of yoga as envisaged under CONSSAVY (Consciousness, Science, Society, Value and Yoga) which is a sub-project under the Project of History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilisation (PHISPC).

This volume, therefore, carries forward the main arguments which have been presented in the earlier volumes on yoga. As in the earlier three volumes so in this volume too, the main contention is that no study of consciousness can be complete without the consideration of the relevant data in regard to consciousness which are available in various systems of yoga. This volume is, however, centred on the study of the theme of important systems of the synthesis of yoga which have developed in India right from the Vedic Age to the present day. The history of yoga as developed in India brings out two tendencies in the development of yoga through the ages:

  1. Complex effort of yoga seems to break up in the development  of specialised systems of yoga;
  2. These specialised systems tend towards the development of a synthesis.

Historical documents suggest that the earliest synthesis of yoga can be found in the Vedic Samhitas. The very first hymn in the Rigveda speaks of the old and the new, pūrvebhih nütanaih, and this suggests that there was an earlier tradition to which the beginnings of yoga can be traced. According to the ancient tradition, there was also even an earlier period, pre-Vedic period, during which there was a great striving to fathom the mysteries of the existence of the world and about the purpose of human life on the earth. [It has been claimed that Cabbala, which means ‘tradition’ contained the teaching that was originally handed down orally from generation to generation. According to one view, it is more than likely that much of the deep knowledge preserved in the Cabbala came from the Hebrews’ prolonged contact with ancient Egypt and, to an even greater extent to Chaldea in the Cabbala, whose constituent elements are mysticism and philosophy, is enshrined in the Jewish mystic lore. Even today, Cabbala is regarded as a secret doctrine and scholars like Max Theon who lived in Algeria during the first decade of twentieth century, had culled many seeds from the Cabbala and crossed-fertilised them with others from various ancient tradition such as the Vedas which he knew so well that he developed his own system which he called Cosmic Tradition. According to Theon the human heart is the chief centre of consciousness; this idea was to be also found in the Vedic system and with the Cabbala, which lays great stress on the Shekinah or/of a pervading divine presence in man and in the universe, regarded as the key to man’s mission of returning to the original harmony between man and God, or between Matter and the Divine. (vide Mother’s Chronicles, Book 3, by Sujatha Nahar, Mira Aditi, Mysore, 2007, p.68).] To be removed and taken to Endnotes.

Synthesis of Yoga - Introduction

Synthesis of Yoga - Introduction

The important point about the Vedic Samhitās is that the voluminous texts have remained uncorrupted for over 2000 years. Even though these texts are supposed to have an almost enormous antiquity, a supreme importance was attached to the accuracy of the text. That is the reason why today we find accuracy in respect of every syllable and of every accent. It is true that at an earlier stage, there was a greater freedom in the use of the principle of euphonic combination of separate words and sańdhi; the Vedic Rishis, therefore, combined some times the separate words, and sometimes they left them uncombined. But when, in due course, the Veda came to be written down, the law of euphonic combination had assumed a much more despotic authority over the language and the ancient text was written by the grammarians as far as possible in the consonance with its regulations. They were careful, however, to accompany it with another text, called the pada pātha, in which all euphonic combinations were again resolved into the original and separate words and even the components of the compound words indicated. As Sri Aurobindo points out, it is a notable tribute to the fidelity of the ancient memorizers that, instead of the vision to which this system might so easily have given rise, it is always perfectly easy to resolve formal text into the original harmonies of Vedic prosody. As a result, we have today a very reliable Vedic text. As Sri Aurobindo states:

We have, then, ….. (p.16 vol.10)

The authenticity and accuracy of the Vedic texts constitute a valuable asset as a part of the valuable heritage of ancient humanity. But there has been a wide difference in regard to the interpretation of the Veda. The original scholastic work on the Veda had begun with Yāska and his Nirukta, and even Yāska acknowledges that there were in his times at least three alternatives, ādhibhautika, ādhidavika and ādhyātmika. In due course, the ritualistic interpretation of the Veda tended to become more and more predominant, and when we come to Sāyaņa, whose commentary closes the period which began with Yāska, we find his interpretation obsessed always by the ritualistic formula. It is true that Sāyaņa admits the spiritual, philosophical or psychological element in the Veda, but this element is insignificant in bulk and in importance. The element of naturalistic interpretation preponderates. Sāyaņa’s interpretation and the modern scholarship tended to look upon the Veda as the hymnal of an early, primitive, and largely barbaric society, crude in its moral and religious conception, rude in its social structure and entirely childlike in its outlook upon the world that environ it. The modern theories are in harmony with the scientific theories of early human culture and of the recent emergence from the mere savage. But they do not accord well with the recent discoveries of the remarkable civilisations that existed in China, Egypt, Chaldea and Assyria many thousand years ago. These discoveries have also spoken of the Age of Mysteries that is found to have developed among these civilizations. It becomes, therefore, more and more reasonable to suppose that the development of history has not been purely linear but has been cyclical; it has therefore been suggested that history in its spiral movements passed during the period of infra-rational stage of early times, through period of Intuition and Reason when the powers of reason had reached high peaks of development. Only within such a framework, can we explain the profundity of the concepts that we find in the Vedic intuitions and in the Platonic rational insights.

Synthesis of Yoga - Introduction

Synthesis of Yoga - Introduction

The modern theories also rely upon comparative mythology which is the creation of the Hellenists interpreting un-Hellenic data from the standpoint which is itself founded on a misunderstanding of a Greek mind. The modern theories also rely completely on philology but in spite of its valuable contributions, comparative philology has failed to create a science of language. The cumulative result of the deficiencies of the modern theories is that the problem of interpreting of the Veda still remains an open field in which any contribution that can throw light upon the problem should be welcomed.

At this juncture, therefore, the contributions that have proceeded from Indian scholars starting from Maharishi Dayananda Saraswati (?) handled his materials with remarkable power and independence, and made creative use of that peculiar feature of old Sanskrit tongue, which has come to be known as the ‘multi-significance of roots’. There is no doubt that the right following of this clue is of a capital importance for understanding the peculiar method of the Vedic Rishis. Bal Gangadhar Tilak in his Arctic Home in the Vedas has established at least a strong probability that the Aryan races descended originally from the Arctic regions in the glacial period. T.  Paramasiva Aiyar has attempted to prove that the whole of the Rigveda is a figurative representation of the geological phenomena belonging to the new birth of our planet after its long-continued glacial death in the same period of terrestrial evolution. The theories of Bal Gangadhar Tilak and of Aiyar have stimulated fresh speculations and, whatever may be the defects of their works, they seem to serve as a starting-point for a new external interpretation of the Veda which may explain much that is now inexplicable and recreate for us the physical regions, if not the actual physical environment, of the old Aryan world.


There is also the interpretation of the Veda that we find in the writings of Pandit Madhusudan Ojha, who has relied largely upon the interpretations of the Brahmanas. In many respects, this interpretation seems to coincide with that of Sāyaņa but also departs from it significantly and is able to throw light on the inner and spiritual meaning of the Vedic texts. The hypothesis that Sri Aurobindo has put forward proceeds from a basis that clearly emerges from the language of the Vedas itself. It avoids, therefore, the danger of manufacturing a system out of the scholar’s imaginations and preferences instead of discovering the real purport of the figures chosen by the Rishis. This hypothesis has given rise to the Psychological Theory of the Veda, and a close study of this theory leads us to the conclusion that the Rishis arranged the substance of their thoughts in a system of parallelism by which the same cosmic powers and beings were at once internal and external powers and beings of universal Nature, and that they managed their expressions through a system of double values by which the same language served for their systems of the practice of yoga in both aspects. According to this psychological theory, the psychological sense predominates and is more pervading, close-knit and coherent than the physical. According to Sri Aurobindo, the Veda is primarily intended to serve for spiritual enlightenment and self-culture. The Veda is, therefore, primarily a book of yoga, and when we study this system of yoga, we find in the Veda a complexity and a synthesis of many lines of enlightenment and self-culture, the lines of jnāna yoga, as also the lines of karma yoga and bhakti yoga and also of mantra yoga as also of several other esoteric systems that developed later on in specialised forms of self-culture.

Synthesis of Yoga - Introduction

Synthesis of Yoga - Introduction

Intuitive thought which is a messenger from the superconscient and therefore our highest faculty, was supplanted by the pure reason which is only a sort of deputy and belongs to the middle heights of our being; pure reason in its turn was supplanted for a time by the mixed action of the reason which lives on our plains and lower elevations and does not in its view exceed the horizon of the experiences that the physical mind and senses or such aids as we can invent for them can bring to us. And this process which seems to be a descent, is really a circle of progress. For in each case the lower faculty is compelled to take up as much as it can assimilate of what the higher had already given and to attempt to re-establish it by its own methods. By the attempt it is itself enlarged in its scope and arrives eventually at a more supple and a more ample self-accommodation to the higher faculties. Without this succession and attempt to separate assimilation we should be obliged to remain under the exclusive domination of a part of our nature while the rest remained either depressed and unduly subjected or separate in its filed and therefore poor in its development. With this succession and separate attempt the balance is righted; a more complete harmony of our parts of knowledge is prepared. (Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, American Edition, p. 65).


Sri Aurobindo’s interpretation of the Veda enables us to look upon the Veda as possessed of the highest spiritual substance of the Upanishads but as a body of knowledge that is yet insufficiently equipped with intellectual and philosophical terms. Sri Aurobindo finds in the Veda a system and a doctrine, whose structure is supple and whose terms are concrete, and whose cast of thought is practical and experimental. In the Veda, he finds an ancient psychological science and the art of spiritual living of which the Upanishads are the philosophical outcome and modification and Vedanta, Samkhya and Yoga and other intellectual philosophies as late results of the labour of the rational logical endeavour.

The Vedic doctrine, as enunciated by Sri Aurobindo, describes a cosmology and he compares the seven principles of Vedic cosmology with the seven Puranic worlds with sufficient precision in the following way:

Synthesis of Yoga - Introduction

Synthesis of Yoga - Introduction
Principle World
1. Pure Existence – Sat

World of the highest truth of being

2. Pure Consciousness – Chit force World of infinite Will or conscious (Tapoloka)
3. Pure Bliss – Ananda World of creative delight of existence (Jnanaloka)
4. Knowledge or Truth -- Vijnana World of Vastness (Maharloka)
5. Mind World of light (Swar)
6. Life (nervous being)

World of various becoming (Bhuvar)

7. Matter The material world (Bhur)

Indeed, in the Vedic system, cosmic gradations are differently grouped, seven worlds in principle, five in practice, three in their general groupings:

1. The Supreme Sat-Chit-Ananda The Triple divine worlds
2. The link-World Supermind The Truth, Right, Vast, manifested in Swar, with its three luminous heavens.
3. The triple lower world  
Pure Mind Heaven (Dyaus, the three heavens)
Life-Force The Mid-Region (Antariksha)

Earth (the three earths)

Our earth, according to the Veda, has been shaped out of the dark inconscient ocean of existence, and our physical life lifts its high formations and ascending peace towards the heaven of mind having its own formations. The streams of the clarity and the honey ascend out of the Subconscient Ocean upwards and they seek the Superconscient Ocean above. That upper ocean sends downwards its rivers of the light, truth and bliss even into our physical being. Thus, in the ocean of physical Nature, the Vedic poets sing the hymn of our spiritual ascension.

Synthesis of Yoga - Introduction

Synthesis of Yoga - Introduction

The science and practice of that spiritual ascension is the secret science of the Veda or of the Vedic Yoga, the aim of which is immortality. This science assigns a great importance to Agni, the Mystic Fire which causes growth, and which increases the power and forges and welds relations among vegetations, plants and herbs and which pushes forward the greater forces of Intelligence and of the higher world of light, Swar. Agni represents warmth and heat of the Yogin creates the right condition for the path of sacrifice which in the secret teaching of the Veda, is the path of the offering of the works to the highest Object of light, knowledge and bliss. The entire significance of sacrifice and its practice, when examined properly, turns out to be the karma yoga of the Veda which is also, as explicitly stated in the Bhagavadgita, synthesis with jñāna yoga and bhakti yoga. Agni is not only the fire of the sacrifice, the fire of the journey of life, the élan of evolution, but also it is its leader and priest (purohits). Agni leads man in his search of the Truth (satyam). It is he who connects man with the cosmic forces and with all the gods of the three worlds (triloka), of earth (bhur), mid-world (bhuvar) and heaven (swar). At the head of swar is Indra, the god of Illumined Intelligence. It is Indra who shows man the path to the still higher realms and to the Supreme Reality. But before one can reach the Supreme or the Supreme Light, (Savitri), one has to cross the four gods Varuna, Mitra, Aryaman and Bhaga. They are to be embraced and to be fulfilled before they lead the seeker to his goal.


Varuna represents vastness, infinite wideness, limitlessness. The Truth that the Veda worships is infinite, it is spaceless and timeless and yet is all Space and Time. This truth cannot be possessed without the widest wideness in our consciousness and in our being. The seeker has to learn to comprehend and to contain all, all without limits. He has to grow in the wideness of Varuna, worship him and be as wide as he is.


But this is not enough, Mitra, the lord of Harmony is also to be fulfilled. The seeker must learn the secret of relations, know the threads that bind each to all and all to each. He must learn to be the friend of all creatures, of all men, of all gods. With the wideness of Varuna, he must combine the harmony of Mitra; wideness and relationships are both to be mastered. The Supramental Light is wideness but not empty of contents or relations. Hence the necessity of the union of Varuna and Mitra.

But even this is not enough. In all human endeavour, there is the stress and strain of effort. There is a struggle, and it is through struggle, through intense effort, that the narrowness is overpassed, that the conflicts are resolved, wideness is achieved, harmony is established. One must have therefore the capacity for the highest effort, the intensest tapasya, a perfect mastery over all that needs to be done. Aryaman is the god of this mastery. Through him the highest effort is accomplished. He is total endurance. Without this endurance, we are like the unbaked jar, which will be broken at the touch of the Supreme Light. It will not be able to hold the nectar of immortality. The jar, our instrument, our body, our entire being, has to be baked, baked fully by the heat and austerity of Aryaman.

Synthesis of Yoga - Introduction

Synthesis of Yoga - Introduction

But there is still Bhaga to be fulfilled. The Supreme Light is joy and we must learn not only the intensest effort but also the highest degrees of delight. The Supreme Reality itself is supreme delight. He is to be approached, and in unity with Varuna, Mitra and Aryaman, he has to be embodied.

In his upward journey, the seeker then proceeds to Savitri, the lord of the Supreme Light, the sun in which ‘all the gods unyoke their horses’, the supreme in which gods cease to be entities and become His aspects.

This marks the victory of Aryan seeker. He is now in the very home of the gods (swe dame). This is the home of the Truth, the Right and the Vast (satyam, ritam, bhrihat). This is the supramental Truth-Consciousness (Rita-Chit), the highest cosmic consciousness. It is that by which reality expresses itself, and in which expression, even the Idea-Expression, is the concrete body of the Truth itself. It may therefore be described as the Real-Idea.

Attainment of the truth-consciousness, Rita-Chit, implies a process of finding and expanding vision of light which leads to immortality. First, the truth is held and enriched in thought; next, it is diffused in the entire being, as explained by Parashara in Rigveda I.71.3,

dadhan ŗtam dhanayan asya dhiti
ād id aryo didhişvo vibhŗtrāh

And Parashara speaks of the path which leads to immortality in the following words: “They who entered into all things that bear right fruits formed a path towards the immortality; earth stood wide for them by the greatness and by the Great Ones, the mother of Aditi with her sons manifested herself for the upholding (RV I.72.9).” Commenting on this statement of Parashara, Sri Aurobindo states: “That is to say, the physical being, visited by the greatness of the infinite planes above and by the power of the great godheads who reign on those planes, breaks its limits, opens out to the Light and is upheld in its new wideness by the infinite Consciousness, mother Aditi, and her sons, the divine Powers of the supreme Deva. This is the Vedic immortality.” (Sri Aurobindo, The Secret of the Veda, Vol. 10, Collected Works of the Centenary Edition, p. 192)

Synthesis of Yoga - Introduction

Synthesis of Yoga - Introduction

The secret knowledge of which the Indian tradition speaks is contained in the Vedic descriptions that relate to the human journey starting from the awakening of Agni which lifts us up to attainment of immortality. It can be said that it is the Vedic science of the human journey in its upward rising towards truth-consciousness that has moulded Indian philosophical thought towards the goal of spiritual liberation and perfection, and this distinctive feature of Indian Philosophy owes its origin to the Veda.

The Vedic experience of human journey underlines the concept of Ignorance, which has been a major concept in the subsequent systems of philosophy. In the second hymn of the fourth Mandala, we find the Rishi’s prayer in the following words:

May he the knower discern perfectly the Knowledge and the Ignorance, the wide levels and the crooked that shut in mortals; and O God, for a bliss fruitful in offspring, lavish on us Diti and protect Aditi.” The state of knowledge is here compared to the wide open levels of consciousness, which are also termed as the states of citti, and Ignorance, which is indicated by the word acitti, is described as a state of crookedness (vŗjnā). The connection of Knowledge with Aditi and of Ignorance with Diti is also significant. Aditi refers to the power that is undivided and infinite, who is also considered in the Veda as the mother of the Gods or the Beings endowed with light. Diti is also called in the Veda Danu, which etymologically means division and whose powers are described in the Vedas as obstructing powers or vritras. These obstructing powers are referred to as Danus, Dananavas and Daityas. It is also significant that Knowledge is associated with the concept of bliss, and with the offsprings of bliss, which obviously are manifestations of the Divine consciousness and which are effective through the conquest of Diti. But what is the meaning of the prayer that aspires to be lavished by Diti and which aspires the protection of Aditi? This prayer may become clearer when we read the Ishopanishad which declares the possession of the Knowledge and Ignorance, the unity and the multiplicity in the one Brahman as the condition of the attainment of Immortality.

Synthesis of Yoga - Introduction

Synthesis of Yoga - Introduction

The central concept of the Veda, it may be said, is that of the conquest of the Knowledge of the Truth out of the darkness of Ignorance, and by the conquest of the Truth, the conquest also of Immortality. Inherent in this conception is the discovery of Ŗtam, which is the forerunner of the concept of Dharma and the law of Karma which are so prominent in the subsequent development of Indian philosophical thought. Ŗtam is the true being, the true consciousness and the true delight of existence which manifest the right action. The right action results from Truth-consciousness which has to be attained, as also the process of that attainment. That process is a process of thoughts, emotions and works in their upward journey, which is guided by the growth of true consciousness, true being and true delight of existence. This process is also the process of sacrifice which consists of giving by man of what he possesses in his ignorant consciousness to the higher or the Divine Nature. The sacrifice is governed by the law of the Ŗta which causes the ripening of the sacrifice into its corresponding fruits which consist of the gradual enrichment of the Faculties of Knowledge and the lavish bounty of the cosmic Divine, which can culminate in the total replacement of the Ignorance, and in the total possession of the Knowledge and of the attainment of Immortality. This process of sacrifice is conceived in the Vedic experience as a journey and as a progression, and the sacrifice itself is viewed as a travel led by Agni, the Mystic Fire, the burning aspiration and the zeal of self-giving. This journey is also described in the Veda as the battle, for it is opposed by the powers of evil and falsehood which are the results of Ignorance. The entire human life has been regarded in the Veda as a journey from darkness to higher light and still higher to the highest light – ud vayam tamasapari svah paśyanta uttaram, devam devatrā sūryamaganma jyotir uttamam. (Rigveda, I.50.10; see also Chhandogyopanishad, III 17.6,7)

Connected with the process of the attainment of Knowledge is the Vedic concept of Usha, which is the Divine Dawn. Her coming signals the rising of the Sun, which is the symbol in the Veda of the Supreme Knowledge. The Sun brings the day, the day of the true life in the true Knowledge, and the night he dispels is the night of Ignorance which yet conceals the dawn in its bosom.

The Veda speaks of the Angirasas, the forefathers who had traced the whole Path from Ignorance to Knowledge. In I.83.4.5, of the Rigveda, we have the description of the Angirasas, of Atharvan, and Ushanas Kavya, in their process and in their attainment of the Knowledge of the Truth: “The Angirasas held the supreme manifestation (of the Truth), they who had lit the fire, by perfect accomplishment of the work; they gained the whole enjoyment of the Pani, its herds of the cows and the horses. Atharvan first formed the Path, thereafter, Surya was born as the protector of the Law and the Blissful One, tatah sūryo vratapā vena ājani. Ushanas Kavya drove upward the Cows. With them may we win by the sacrifice the immortality that is born as a child to the Lord of the Law.”

Attainment of Knowledge is seen in the Veda, not as the possession of the intellectual knowledge, but as the direct experience, direct perception, which is not sensuous but super-sensuous, which can properly be called Darshana. It is against this background that we can understand rightly whey Indian Philosophy has come to be regarded as Darshana, and it is significant that all the systems of Indian Philosophy except the system of Carvakas, contend that they constitute a preliminary intellectual preparation for surmounting the ordinary consciousness so that it can be refined, subtitlised and ultimately transcended into supra-intellectual vision, Darshana. We see here once again the close connection between the Veda and the Indian Yoga and Philosophy.

Synthesis of Yoga - Introduction

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