Yoga Vidya

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

In his farsightedness, Sri Swami Sivananda realized that the future generation will need the intervention of a spiritual discipline, and that discipline would be yoga. Therefore he taught the science of yoga to all his disciples, although for sannyasins our personal philosophy is of Vedanta as enunciated by Adi Shankaracharya. That is our life of sannyasa and our philosophy of sannyasa. Swami Sivananda said, "Maintain the ideal of Shankaracharya as your personal life: Vedanta. Live Vedanta and practise Vedanta in your personal life, but Vedanta is not the need of human society. The need of human society is yoga. In your professional life become a yoga propagator, and in your personal life remain a sannyasi and a follower of the ethics of Shankaracharya, and the traditions of this civilization."

Vidya and jnana

Our guru, Sri Swami Satyananda, also inspired in us this thought: 'In your personal life be a sannyasi, and in your professional life be the best and most competent yoga teacher that society has ever seen.' He gave us the understanding of yoga. Yoga is a vidya, not a sadhana; sadhana is the component of yoga vidya. Vidya means to know; yoga vidya to know yoga. Knowing yoga is not knowledge of yoga but 'knowing yoga'. Jnana is knowledge; if you say yoga jnana then that is knowledge of yoga. When you say yoga vidya, then it is 'knowing yoga'. There is a difference between knowledge and knowing. Knowledge is impersonal, knowing is an integral part of your behaviour, your mind, your understanding, your thinking, your logic and what you believe in. Therefore, jnana is knowledge, and vidya is knowing, realizing. The word used with yoga is not yoga jnana, but yoga vidya, which is something you attain and experience, not something you only know intellectually. You also realize what is being spoken about.

The real taste of chocolate

Here is the example of taste: sweet. Look up any dictionary. Webster dictionary, Oxford dictionary, or Cambridge dictionary, and try to find out how the taste of sweet is defined in a dictionary. No dictionary will be able to define the taste of sweet. It will give the chemical composition, the breakdown of sweet and sugar, yet no dictionary can define or convey to you the experience of sweetness that you have once you put a sweet in your mouth.

Knowledge of the composition of how chocolate is made is there, however, this knowledge cannot give the experience. Jnana is there for you to know the composition, and how chocolate is made. Yet, when you taste the chocolate and become familiar with the taste of the sweetness which is inherent and contained in the chocolate, and when you have realized that sweetness, then that is known as anubhava. Anubhava indicates that you have understood and experienced a subject. That subject is not alien to you, it has become part and parcel of your understanding and your individual culture. This is known as vidya.

Four aspects of vidya

If you dissect vidya, you will discover it has many levels. One is a lifestyle, for what you know should translate into your behaviour and action. Your behaviour and action is your lifestyle. Another aspect of vidya is sadhana, knowing and perfecting. Another aspect of vidya is darshan, which is the philosophy of that subject. Another aspect of the vidya is sampradaya, the tradition, knowing how that vidya has developed over a period of time through a tradition. These are the four aspects: philosophy, sadhana, lifestyle and parampara or sampradaya. These four aspects constitute the total picture of vidya, whereas jnana is only an intellectual analysis and intellectual gymnastics.

In jnana there can be discussions and debates, yet in vidya there is only knowing and realizing. Therefore, when we speak of yoga, at least within our parampara, we refer to yoga as vidya.

—13 April 2014, Chembur, Mumbai, India