Yoga means union. The object of Union is the Divine Reality. One of the aims of the yogic discipline is to mould our human nature in the image of the divine nature of the Reality. So a clear understanding of the nature of divine Reality is an important part of the yogic path. But the aim of yoga is not merely a mental understanding but an inner realisation of the Divine in depth or height of our consciousness in the form of a living, concrete, experiential contact, union or identity with the Divine.
The Unity of Consciousness
We exist in the world and in relation to the world and according to Indian wisdom both, Man and the World exist or derive their existence from a transcendent Reality beyond them.
The discovery of a transcendent Absolute beyond space and time which is also the immanent within space and Time is the foundation of spiritual traditions all over the world. But the uniqueness of the Indian spiritual tradition lies in the precise articulation or conceptualization of the nature of this supreme Reality. The most important eastern insights on the nature of the Reality are the principles of “Consciousness” and or “Unity of Consciousness.”
The Indian seers perceived a supreme, universal and eternal Consciousness beyond Mind as the source of the Individual and the Universe. Consciousness and not Matter, is the essence of Man and the Cosmos. Even physical Matter, of which our body and physical universe is made, is an expression of the consciousness. To be more precise, Matter is a form or configuration of the energy of consciousness. Modern science has discovered the equation between Matter and Energy. Matter, says modern science, is a form of Energy. But ancient Indian sages have discovered the equation between Consciousness and Energy.
This Energy itself, according to Indian yogis, is an expression of consciousness; it is an inherent and inseparable power of consciousness. So in Indian yogic terminology, the words for consciousness and energy are combined together into a single word “chit-‘Shakti” which means consciousness-energy. All that is in the individual and the universe, physical as well psychological, are the expressions of the Energy of Consciousness, Chit-Shakti.
And this Supreme Consciousness is an indivisible Unity. An immutable all-conscious Oneness is the foundation of all existence. All are linked together by this Oneness. This truth of the Unity of all existence is probably the greatest discovery of Indian wisdom.
The Unity of Being
This Law of Unity is the most fundamental and eternal Law which pervades all creation in all levels – physical, psychological and spiritual. There is an essential spiritual Oneness which holds together all creation. This spiritual unity is the basis of all other unities; it is the “One without a Second”: nothing else exists other than That. All creation is made of the indivisible substance and energy of the consciousness of the spirit. The Indian scriptures describe this spiritual unity as the “undivided One which exists as if divided in the creation.”
But this Law of Unity exists not only at the spiritual level but at all the levels of cosmic existence. Not only the spirit is One but also the Mind is One, Life is One and the Matter is One. Our individual Mind, Life and Body are part of the universal Mind, Life and Body of the Spirit. Thus the entire creation from the world of Matter to the world of Spirit is a single, unbroken and indivisible Unity.
The other unique discovery of the Indian seers is that in the deepest core and essence of our individual being we are one with this divine Oneness, where we can feel our unity with all creation as a part of our own self.
The Impersonal and Personal Divine
In Indian Yoga, this divine Reality or Oneness is experienced either as an absolute, infinite, eternal and impersonal Self of our own being and the Universe or an absolute, infinite and eternal Person who also dwells within each individual as the indwelling Divine. The impersonal Divine is the aim of the yoga of knowledge, where it is experienced as something formless, featureless and supporting the universe but not creating it. In other path of yoga this same divine Reality can be experienced as the divine Person who creates, sustains and destroys the universe, made of infinite qualities, taking numberless forms and the absolute of all virtues or all our human aspirations like truth, beauty, goodness, wisdom, love, power, knowledge. In the yoga of love this divine person is experienced as the absolute being of Love, Beauty and Bliss, dwelling within our heart as the indwelling Divine and with whom we can enter into intimate personal relationship as Father, Mother, Friend and Beloved. In the yoga of Works or tantra yoga this divine Reality is experienced as the absolute power, creativity of an eternal and universal Energy inherent in the Reality.
The Experiential Science
Thus Indian yoga is a non-dogmatic experiential science which doesn’t confine itself to any specific or one-sided concept or experience of the Divine. There are many ways of experiencing the Divine and all have an equal validity. And the main thrust in yoga is not on theory or concept but on practice and experience. This doesn’t mean denial of the intellectual, literary or creative expression in the form of philosophy or literature. But in yoga, philosophy has to be the intellectual expression of an inner experience, vision or intuition of the divine Reality. If a philosopher, thinker or scholar doesn’t have this experience or intuition she must base her thoughts on the experiences or intuitions of other accomplished yogis or seers or an authentic spiritual tradition. But the philosopher should not remain satisfied with her mental knowledge or faith. She must pursue a yogic discipline which can lead to the experience or intuition which she has chosen as the spiritual inspiration of her thoughts. For, this experience comes not by thinking but by the practice of an inner discipline.