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Yoga: Union? Separation? Or BOTH?

There was one thing that shocked me from Ramaswami’s Yoga Sutra workshop.  He started by saying that Patanjali’s definition of yoga is about ‘separation’, not ‘union’.  Or at least that is how I interpreted. It changed the game for me and sent me down the rabbit hole searching for answers.

The separation he was speaking about was between pure awareness (what is known as the Self) and our identification with it (Mind, or what mind does).

Even when he talked about the yogi superpowers that the practice may bring along he said they are all to be avoided except for 3.36, which is focusing all of our attention on this very distinction, what is real and what is not, because this super power is what brings us to unveil reality, see behind the curtain, notice there is no wizard and rather that we were all there all along all together.

Most people know that the word yoga means union… but Patanjali refers to yoga as a process of separation. How can this contradiction be explained?… Can be explained by the  Samkhya philosophy which is the basis of the yoga sutras

Fortunately today I come across a clarification paragraph (from Satyananda’s “Four Chapters on Freedom“) that explains the point of: Is it union? Or, is it separation? Or is it both?


The answer: Both

One leads to the other

In Patanjali’s yoga (Following the Yoga Sutras), we start with separation to reach union.  We go from the gross to the subtle, from the darkness to the light.

Samkhya divides existence and individual being into two aspects… the Seer and the Seen…. practice of yoga is concerned with Viyoga, separating awareness and the mind-body… “

that can only be experienced by experience and the writer warns that no amount of reading will ever convince anyone, then

“First the seer and the seen are separated and when this is achieved they are perceived to be the same”

So separation leading to union.

Now I see.  Let’s practice to experience.

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3 Responses to Yoga: Union? Separation? Or BOTH?

  1. Quentin August 10, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

    yoga is one of 6 philosophies recognizing the vedas and the yoga sutras are based upon Samkhya philosophy, dualistic from Raja Yoga, Purusha (consciousness) and Prakriti (phenomenal realm of matter). one progresses from cognizer and object as separate until self realization that consciousness is one. The Jiva is no different from the ultimate reality.

  2. Claudia August 10, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

    You know it Quentin!

  3. Rebecca August 11, 2011 at 4:32 am #

    Thanks so much. I love new clues into yoga awareness that are intrinsic but not so well explained in popular yoga parlance (and by popular, I do not mean NY Times, but among people who practice a great deal). We get caught up in past teachings, and cling to ideas of what we have read around the globe, and let's be honest, on Wikipedia. These subtler truths, though, are what really help the