According to a 2017 survey, about 200 million people worldwide practice yoga. Yoga studios can be found in almost every city; popular books and journals on yoga can be found in every major bookshop; yoga and meditation is taught in hospitals, schools and even prisons. Yoga has been embraced by people from all walks of life, of all age groups – yoga, it seems, is taking the world by storm!
The origins of yoga go back to the timeless wisdom found within the Vedic literature. The Upanishads define yoga as “the firm restraint of the senses” and the process by which one “transcends the state of material conditioning.” As most serious practitioners of yoga know, the Sanskrit word yoga is derived from the root yuj, meaning to unite or harmonise the individual consciousness with the Supreme Consciousness. The true goal of yoga is the cessation of undesirable mental activities so that one becomes self-realised and situated in a state of transcendence (samadhi). Thus, yoga is the system by which one attains self-realisation and realisation of the Supreme.
However, most of what is presently referred to as yoga is something quite different. The world of yoga seems dominated by commercialism, impersonal philosophy and instructors that are eager to apply their names to ‘new’ innovative techniques. For many practitioners, yoga is merely defined by popularity, fashion and a series of physical exercises that keep one healthy, trim, stress-free and beautiful and has as much to do with self-realisation as soccer, gymnastics or tennis. Many yoga instructors stress the physicality of asanas and lay little to no emphasis upon the true purpose of the yoga process. One can choose to ignore the spiritual aspects of yoga and concentrate solely upon the physical, but that isn’t yoga – that is eastern gymnastics!
There are also instructors who mix quasi-spiritual teachings with yoga. Such teachers tell their students that through the practice of yoga they can become one with the universe, or that the goal of yoga is for the individual consciousness and the Supreme consciousness to merge and become one – in other words, to become the Supreme.
In this book, Yoga Vichara – A Brief Deliberation on the Yoga System, Swami B.G. Narasingha, based upon the Vedic version and his own unique experiences as a bhakti–yogi spanning almost six decades, cuts through the superficial hype and monistic misconceptions that surround yoga today. He brings us back to the basic understanding of what yoga truly is – namely the theistic path of spiritual perfection. At a time when so many seekers of the truth look towards the east for answers to life’s questions, Yoga Vichara is a timely publication and it is our hope that the reader will obtain guidance and benefit from this book.