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The Three Important Definitions Of Yog

The word ' yog ' is derived from the Sanskrit root 'yuj', which means 'to join', 'to yoke', or 'to unite'.

There are two different ways to understand yog. On one hand, it is seen as the union of the individual soul with the universal Soul. Here, it is cut off from the material world and irrelevant to our daily lives. On the other hand, it is interpreted as purely physical, the Hath Yog . This only gives us a narrow glimpse of actual yog.

Comprehending yog in these ways makes us miss the essence of the purpose and goal of yog and its philosophy. Here are three definitions of yog derived from our scriptures to help us understand its real meaning. First is Patanjali 's Yog Sutras - 'Yogah cittavrtti nirodha' (1.2). The skill of yoga is demonstrated by the conscious non-operation of the vibrational modes of the mento-emotional energy. In simple terms, it is the ability to control our thought processes. Yog recognises that the mind is central to our life, behaviour and actions. Mind decides the route of our life. Either we control the mind, or we get controlled by it. In our practical life, the mind is neither calm nor peaceful. If it is reined in, the purpose of yog is largely achieved.

The Bhagwad Gita has the second and third definitions. Krishn, while trying to remind Arjun of his duty, says ' Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam ' (2.50). It means that excellence in action is yog. Meaning skill or perfection; discharging our work with full concentration. Krishn knows that we have many reasons to justify the performance or non-performance of our tasks. Either we are diffident and confused or overconfident, which affects our focus on such tasks. Often, we ignore our mandatory duties due to our emotional make-up or moods. Keeping aside our emotions, feelings and perceptions, if we can perform our tasks perfectly and to the best of our abilities, then it is nothing short of yog.

The third definition is - 'Samatvam yoga uchyate' (2.48). It means that being steadfast in performing our duty by abandoning attachment to outcomes such as success and failure, such equanimity is called yog. We are generally not consistent in performing our duties as we are influenced by their outcomes. If we fail, we abandon our duty or perform reluctantly. Or even when we succeed, we rejoice so much that we delay performing the next task.

So, our leanings towards dualities of life - success and failure, gain and loss, pleasure and pain, praise and insult - determine our decision to act or not to act. Consistency in performing our duties is possible only when we go beyond these dualities, not abandoning actions but accepting all situations with a stable mind.

If we examine these three definitions together, we find that yog is performing our tasks skilfully, karm yog, with a concentrated mind, dhyan yog and not be attached to the outcomes, jnana yog. If we can achieve this, then we are surely moving in the right direction, that is, to succeed in uniting our individual soul with the universal Soul.

Authored by: KVS Rao