The Relationship Between Yoga and Vedanta

Question: Yoga has become very popular and spread out, with a huge variety of forms, techniques, and names.  Yoga is originally rooted in the Vedic tradition, for example as a subject matter in Patañjali’s Yoga Sutras.  In your opinion, where is the place of yoga within Vedanta and where is its place in contemporary life?

SwamijiSwamiji: The price for popularity is always like this. You, the subject matter, become a shadow.  Then only it is popular. So whatever becomes popular, generally loses its depth, its profundity.   It need not be a rule, but generally.  Because for the people in general to understand the profundity of your own subject matter, it takes definitely a lot of effort on their part, commitment on their part—commitment, which people may not have. Therefore…if Yoga has to be popular, then it has got to be simple.  So it is presented in a very simple form like asanas (postures).  Even though [asana is] a part of the Patañjali Yoga, [it is] only a small part.  But that [only asana] is presented as Yoga.  It’s like [you saying that] my little finger is Swami Dayananda…It’s an anga [limb].  Yama, niyama, asana, pranyama…asana is an anga1.  And if [only asana] is presented as yoga, how is [the teaching] going to be complete?

Therefore, what is necessary is the people who are teaching yoga should pay more attention to understand Yoga as it is to be understood.  Totally.  It has to be understood totally…And this teaching can be made available everywhere.  People should learn, and then they should teach—because you cannot teach without knowing.   Yoga is a part of Vedanta—in the sense that to prepare a person for this understanding, you require Yoga.

Yoga means a way of living.  Yama, niyama really tell you [how] exactly you should live, what should be your attitudes—towards yourself, towards the society, towards money, towards power.  What should be the healthy attitude.  So [Patañjali’s Yoga] does talk about all that.  And then [Patañjali] talks about various other disciplines, so all these prepare a person for Vedanta.  Therefore, Yoga and Vedanta go together.

Nobody is totally prepared for Vedanta—[i.e.] when I say you are Brahman, you are limitless, you are non-dual.  Even if I am able to convince a person, the person always asks the question, “Swamiji, I know I am Brahman, but how to become Brahman?”  A sugar crystal thought it was bitter.  Then, with great difficulty, I made the sugar crystal understand that it is sweet.  Then, it asked me, “Swamiji, I know I am sweet, but how to become sweet?”  Do you understand?  So, this ‘how to become sweet,’ this question, as long as it is there, that crystal has not understood that ‘I am sweet.’  Some kind of a sense is there, [but a] problem is there.  Then, you require Yoga.  So you have to make the sugar crystal do all the asanas (laughter)…and introduce the crystal to pranayama.  Then, some disciplines. Then afterwards, you teach…it will work.

1. See Patañjali’s Yoga Sutras, Chapter 2, Sutra 29.

Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, September 2000
Lygia Lima Entrevista com Swami Dayananda Saraswati
As seen on Vimeo, “Swami Dayananda Saraswati – Part 1” (10:55-18:50)

Swami Dayananda Saraswati – Parte 1 from Lygia Lima on Vimeo.

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