Yoga is the world’s only ancient and complex system that has survived to this day in its original, unchanged form.
In the case of yoga, we are talking about a tradition some 5,000 years old, whose form, teaching method and language look exactly as they did at the time of its inception.
Modern man sees before him a form of movement involving flexibility and strength, although yoga is the fourth branch of ancient philosophy (darshan). Its aim is not to acquire flexibility, but to master meditation and through it to attain enlightenment.
An extremely interesting fact is that for thousands of years, exclusively men were considered capable of practicing yoga, as deep meditation excludes emotional inclination and linear rationalism. However, today, 95% of all yoga studio practitioners are women.
In the 1950s, B.K.S. Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois and Indra Devi – three disciples of the greatest yogi of the time, Sri Krishnamacharya – began teaching and spreading yoga in the West and America. Their teachings proved so successful that India finally opened its doors, and since then millions of teachers from thousands of schools have been passing on the infinite wisdom of this profound philosophy to new generations. One of the most likely reasons for the tradition’s survival is that yoga can be taught by people with a wide variety of views.
What most people think of as yoga (physical and breathing exercises, meditation) is called “Raja Yoga”, which means “the royal path”. Having chosen this path, the adept finds a teacher, spreads a mat in his room, and for many years practices the exercises, mostly physical, that he must master.
In Bhakti Yoga, yogis live a life pleasing to God, often withdrawing from worldly life and forming secluded communities. They live every minute of their lives observing the ethical rules of yoga, taking care not to harm any living being – be it human or animal – moreover, striving in every possible way to make them happy. Devotees of the god Krishna are also bhakti-yogis, and many of them never perform physical exercises.
Karma yoga is the path of actions and deeds, which focuses on actions and their causes and effects. Because the consequences of all our actions affect our mind and consciousness, adepts of karma yoga often follow these principles “professionally” in their daily lives. They take it upon themselves to perform the kind of social work that allows them to realize themselves in service to people or living beings.
The fourth path of yoga is Gyana Yoga, or the path of Knowledge. Throughout the several thousand years of yoga’s existence, a priceless literature has emerged that could fill countless libraries. Traditional philosophy dates back to the ancient teachings of the Vedas, which were later embodied in the writings of the Brahmans and in the Aranyakas. The great epics of India, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, followed by the Puranas, the Shastras and the Yoga Sutras, were created.
The six branches of classical Indian philosophy (darshanas) were formed, leading to the birth of the literature of the second divine revelation, which include the Tantras, Agamas and Sankhitas. All of this is extremely interesting for the reason that although there is a comprehensive, incredibly detailed spiritual science, we still know very little about it…
The task of Gyana Yoga is to impart this knowledge to modern man.
As we can see, there is a definite path for this. Or, as Yoga says, darshana, which is more of a point of view, a way of thinking and an attitude. We can view ourselves as souls who take full responsibility for our actions, for our way of life, for anything we “cause” to ourselves or to the external world.