YOGA (H. K. Kaul), derived from Sanskrit root yuj having its equivalent in Latin as jugum, in Gothic as juk, in German as jock, is the equivalent of yoke in English. Yoga refers to yoking or harnessing of mind in order to cultivate paravidya or higher knowledge, the result of those psychical and physical processes which are employed to discover man’s supreme inner essence through samadhi. Samadhi being the ultimate stage, certain other ascetic practices precede it in the different varieties of Yoga such as Mantra, Hatha, Laya and Rajyoga. Rajyoga or eight-limbed (astang) yoga is based on Patanjali’s Yogasutras which are further rooted in the metaphysics of Sankhya system, sometimes held to be a pre-Aryan postulation. It is generally held that various yoga practices were in vogue before Patanjali who codified the scattered sutras into one treatise which later came to be known as Yogasutras, an authoritative critique on Yoga. Whether this Patanjali is the same man Patanjali, the grammarian, is a problem which still awaits solution. The constant activity of the mind being the major obstacle to realization, the Yoga has been defined as silencing of the mental ripplings—yoga chittvrtti nirodha.
In the Bhagavad-gita, various aspects of the term yoga such as karmayoga, jnanayoga, and bhakti yoga have been taken into account. Aurobindo saw a new vision and possibility of advancement in spiritual life through yoga. In view of the complete transformation of the ‘being’ wherein all the yogas are taken into consideration for reaching the superamental level, he calls his yoga as the integral yoga.
Equanimity of mind can be attained through different ways. On the basis of the degree of renunciation and control of body, yoga has been generally classified under four major heads: Mantrayoga, Hathayoga, Layayoga and Rajyoga. But these four or many other types of yoga are not totally compartmentalized spheres. They are rather closely linked and overlap one another. Though yoga is a system which has a vast scope and variety yet the popularly known yoga is Hathayoga which professes the control of the different systems of the gross body in order to attain mastery over the subtle body.
In Mantrayoga this creation is held to be namrupatmak (full of names and forms) which is required to be deduced into one idea with the help of the mantras and then by entering into that idea the yogi can reach the final cause of the universe. Hindu scriptural science and idol worship much depend on this Mantrayoga. In Layayoga certain pressure points under the names of chakras are identified and the kundalini lying in the base lotus is harnessed to reach the last lotus, the sahasrar, situated in the uppermost region of the skull. This meeting of Sakti with the Siva in the skull is held to be conducive to the Mahalaya samadhi which is the aim of Layayoga. In hathayoga, gross-body-oriented exercises are undertaken and then the subtle body is mastered which being devoid of all filths of worldly passions comes face to face with the Supreme Reality. The chief practices of hathayoga are six practices (sat karmas), asana, mudra, pratyahara, pranayama, dhyana and samadhi. Analytical wisdom is the main force to be realized in Rajyoga, in which ripplings of the mind are to be silenced with the help of yama (don’ts), niyama (do’s), asana (posture), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (control and withdrawal of senses), dhyana (contemplation), dharana (meditation) and samadhi (superconscious absorption).
Yoga has much to do with a diseaseless body so that hard penances and physical exercises may be undertaken. Yogasutras being the authoritative work on yoga, other popular treatises on yoga are: Goraksa Satak by Gorakhnath, Hathayoga Pradipika by Svatmarama, Gheranda Samhita by Gheranda, a Vaisnavite ascetic of Bengal and SivaSamhita, a tantric text.
Sikhism rejects the traditional forms and practices of yoga and teaches its followers the blessings of intense love and reverence for God. It teaches the brotherhood of mankind. Like true karmayogis, all Sikh Gurus led very active lives without any attachment to this world. Before the advent of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh, many distortions of Patanjali’s Yogasutras and Hathayoga Pradipika had been in vogue. By the time of the Gurus, yoga had been reduced to a mere instrument of earning sidhis and intimidating others in order to multiply the number of the followers. The Sikh Gurus have used the terminology of yoga in their verses and recognized the utility of self-realization but the methodology prescribed by them is that of nam-simaran, remembrance and praise of God rather than self-mortification. Gurbani primarily aims at the welfare of mankind. In Jabala Upanisad, Goraksa Satak and Hathayoga Pradipika, we do come across a detailed account of body-based six chakras, sixteen bases, nine doors, pranayama besides different types of vital air. Many hints about these ingredients of yoga are available in the Guru Granth Sahib also, but according to the Gurus, first of all, man is required to become gurmukh in order to unravel the mysteries of the universe and bear the unstruck sound of the word after rising above the nine outlets. A spiritually blind man cannot remove the dirt of the mind even with frequent baths and mortificational yogic exercises (GG, 1343). Guru Nanak says that observance of six-fold actions, Vedas, Samrti, reading of Sastras, yogic exercises and pilgrimage are useless and this can push an adherent into hell if he does not enshrine love of God in his heart (GG, 1124). Guru Gobind Singh also pays court to this fact in the Akal Ustati included in the Dasam Granth.
A description of six chakras exists in Gurbani. There is also reference in it to the “upside down” lotus. When this “upside down” lotus blooms, God realization takes place (GG, 108). Guru Nanak says that this lotus blooms when all the four kinds of fire—violence, selfishness, anger and greed—are extinguished by remembering God and the sadhak experiences the ecstasy by drinking nectar of nam. The description of navel-lotus is given in detail in Sidh Gosti where Guru Nanak regards this navel-lotus as the abode of prana vayu, the vital breath. Where yogasutra is based on the metaphysics of the Sankhya, and lays emphasis on the dissociation or the negation of one’s self from the Prakrti or the worldly activities in order to attain the kaivalya or aloneness, the Gurus have accepted the household-life as most fulfilling because only through it one can remain in touch with the world. The attainment of nidhis-sidhis which was the principal aim of the yogis in the medieval period, has also been rejected in Sikhism. Self-realization through devotion and the conquest of ego have been applauded.
Both Yoga and Sikhism are essentially mystical faiths. While Yoga is mysticism without social and cultural roots, Sikhism is firmly embedded in society as well as in the world. A Sikh mystic aspires to spiritual perfection to serve the cause of Truth and God, to justify His ways to men, and to bear testimony to His existence, grace and love.