We will start writing about the science of yoga right from the beginning so that there shall be no misunderstanding or misconception about this great and life-saving science, which the rishis of the past discovered in the silent practices.
The reference to the word ‘yoga’ first appears in the most ancient book, Rig Veda, in which it is said that Brahma, the cosmic creator, preached the science of yoga to Hiranyagarbha, the golden womb. In Hindu mythology Brahma, the creator, represents the creativity in the individual and the creative power in the cosmos. In each and every being, there is that cosmic art of creativity, and that cosmic art of creativity is the mythological Brahma of the Vedas, who preached yoga to the people.
The rishis and sages tried this science and in meditation they had experiences of light, or unconsciousness. These experiences led them to discover all they could about yoga, and right from the Rig Veda period they tirelessly investigated the mystic, the mysterious, the great secrets and wonders that were being manifested by the human mind unconsciously and super consciously.
Then came the Upanishads which tried to define yoga, and finally this science was summed up by the great rishi Patanjali in his sutras on yoga. Today these yoga aphorisms of Patanjali come to us in Sanskrit with commentaries in different languages. In the beginning of the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali gives us a definition of yoga as being the complete control over the patterns of consciousness. Therefore, following Patanjali, we shall say that yoga is a method by which we have absolute knowledge of all the states of consciousness, of all the patterns of consciousness.
The individual awareness in us functions in different states of sleep, dreaming and experience over which we have no personal control. As such it is not possible for one to harness the great energies which are inherent in this consciousness, to realize the great powers which one has in oneself. It appears that every human being, that every individual has great power, has great knowledge, great experience and great understanding in him, which is part of his own self. Consider how, with the conscious mind, with conscious awareness of which man has become master, how many miracles he has been able to realize and how many discoveries he has made. However, if only he could also master the subconscious forces, how much more would he be able to accomplish.
Yoga can be defined as a method by which we can maintain individual consciousness even in an unconscious state. The development of this awareness is realized through meditation and practices of willpower. Yoga is a method of seeing the subconscious and unconscious. Yoga is a process of knowledge, awareness, understanding, observing and fulfilling our experience. This is how we define yoga. The first definition is that yoga is an art by which we have complete mastery over all the patterns of awareness. The second definition of yoga is that it is an art by which we become a spectator of all the experiences of awareness. The third definition of yoga is that it is a process of dehypnotization of all the stages of consciousness.
Yoga is a science of consciousness. Yoga is a science of personality and a science of creativity. Come to yoga, and you will definitely realize that you have something more to give, something more to learn, and something more to gain.
—Published in YOGA – Education and Youth, Indian Institute of Yoga, Sixth Anniversary Souvenir 1975