Most students with only minimal knowledge of Indian religio-philosophy would, after an initial reading, probably come up with the following observations: 1. The text is actually a neat exposition of Samkhya philosophy; 2. Part of the YS feels like reading a Buddhist treaty (same notions, same argumentation, same conclusions); 3. The overall sign system or philosophy that describes and gives meaning to yoga is not related to the Brahmin Vedanta philosophy we found in the Upanishads. 4. Part of the document is about the supernatural power an adept obtains by practising yoga – which, the reader is eventually told. is not really important; 5. Two yoga systems (kriya and ashtanga) seem to be portrayed, but is not clear why and how they relate. Let us look into these five general observations.
The general themes of the YS
(1). One would be hard pressed to find any differences between the philosophy of Samkhya and YS. It could be argued that one is more atheistic than the other (but then you will find scholars who say that they both are atheistic in basic outlook) or that one operates with a plurality ofpurushas (universal consciousness) while the other only has one240. But, basically, the YS expounds Samkhya philosophy, and the YS is about how you find your way through the world of prakriti back to purusha with the help of yoga.
(2). Similarly, the text is full of Samkhya and Buddhist notions, explanatory models and methods241. Why? One explanation is that all the different groups of renouncers constantly and widely copied from each other. The effect was that over time the cultural field of liberation built up a common sub-stream of ideas and practices. Samkhya and yoga were often mentioned together as for example in the yoga discussions of the Mahabharata. The Epic often treated Samkhya as synonymous with theoria and yoga with praxis. So it should be no surprise to find that Samkhya notions and philosophy penetrate the whole sutra: certain social strata signified yoga with Samkhya signs.
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