What is the Foundation of Yog & Why Indian Thought Was the Only One To Discover Yog


Tomorrow is the first International Yog Day. It is a major event. So we thought it would be helpful to lay out what is Yog, what is the foundation of Yog, why rigorous pronunciation of various Sanskrut mantra are important to Yog, and why Indian Dhaarmic Thought was the only one to discover Yog. By the way, the term “discover” is used with deliberation instead of “invent”. 

1. The Foundation of Yog

The foundation of Yog is described best in the simple but profound Shlok (verse) from the Katha-UpaNiSad, one of ten most important treatises on Indian Dhaarmic Thought.  

Understand the Aatman as the owner/rider of the chariot & the Body as the chariot

Understand Buddhi as the charioteer/driver and the Mind as the Reins*

The second line is paramount to our discussion but for the sake of completeness allow us to touch on the first line. The Aatman is the “Self” that enters the physical body at birth, resides within the body and leaves the body upon the death of the body. Suffice it to say, for this discussion, that the Aatman is the connection  between the life within a human body and the Universal Life or Life-Energy that pervades creation.

Mind is, of course, mind as is generally known in English. The term Buddhi is a unique concept of paramount importance in all discussions of Indian Dhaarmic thought and seems totally absent in any Greek-European school of Thought. The simplest description in English terms is that Buddhi is the seat of understanding/intellect (cognition) & Mind is the seat of feeling (connation). 

The unique understanding that Buddhi is separate & distinct from the Mind led Indian Sages to the discovery of Yog. The science of Yog was designed to develop the capability of Buddhi to direct the Mind which is the instrument to control the senses or physiological processes (“Indriya”) of the Body.

That the Buddhi and Mind are separate, distinct and of different hierarchy is a central concept of Indian Dhaarmic Thought. This concept led the Indian Sages to develop the conceptual framework and techniques that enable the Buddhi to control/manage the Mind. As a corollary, Yog enables the Buddhi to diagnose and correct the alignment of the Mind with the physiological processes of the Body. Just as the driver of a chariot diagnoses and corrects the alignment of the reins to control the horses that propel the chariot.   

Note: What governs the relationship between the Aatman and Buddhi is beyond the scope of this discussion. Attaining that “paraa” or ultimate  “Buddhi” is the province of liberation. Gautam was termed “Buddha” after he attained that ultimate stage of Buddhi which leads to Nirvaan & liberation from the cycle of Life. 


2. Why Could Indian Dhaarmic Thought Discover Yog & Why European Metaphysics/Philosophy Could Not? 

The above discussion makes it very simple – Greek-European philosophy/metaphysics doesn’t separate Buddhi & Mind. Instead, Greek-European analysis has always considered ‘Thought” to be an attribute of the mind and often confused Mind with Self. From its very beginning, Greek-European philosophy/metaphysics has treated the three functions of Cognition, Connation & Affection on par as functions of the Mind.

When you jumble up the functions of the Buddhi & the Mind, you lose, by definition, any ability to develop the science to enable Buddhi manage the Mind. Ergo, the inability of European Philosophy or Metaphysics to discover Yog. 

It is not as if European thinkers have been unaware of the gap in their thinking. From what we read, Plato himself said that “cognition has two forms though only one name” (Philebus 57). Kant also formulated two senses of cognition in terms of the distinction between Understanding and Reason. Unfortunately, as we are told, Hegelian Idealism turned it into a dogma, rather than develop the logic underlying it. And the protest movements in Post-Hegelian thinking allowed the distinction to lapse.

In any case, the above attempts were essentially peripheral and Greek-Europeans never understood the fundamentally distinct separation of Buddhi & Mind.  That eliminated any possibility of Greek-European thought ever discovering Yog.

3. The Integrated Discipline of Yog 

The basic discussion above should make it amply clear the discipline of Yog is much broader & deeper than what is known as the physical science of Breathing & Aasan-postures. In our metaphor, the physical techniques for training the horses (senses & physiological process), for ensuring the optimal alignment of the reins to manage the horses & the chariot is only a part of total science of chariot management. The central function of chariot management is centered on the driver – the discipline, knowledge & techniques required for the driver to manage the chariot under different conditions. 

Yog is the integrated system of achieving

  1. a correct state of Buddhi, focused stable Buddhi,
  2. that ensures the optimal mental state – control of emotions, feelings – which results in
  3. the optimal physical conditioning of the body in consonance with the Buddhi & Mind.  

What came first is Step 1, the most important step. That discipline called Buddhi-Yog is best discussed in Chapter II (Verses 39-53) of the Bhagvat-Geeta. What constitutes the correct emotional state or state of Mind arising from a stable Buddhi is discussed in Chapter II (verses 55-72) of the Bhagvat-Geeta. These discussions are of every day relevance in the success of any endeavor you undertake. This is why Yog was characterized in Chapter II of the Bhagvat-Geeta as in the verse – “Yog is realized in expertise of actions/functions – योगः कर्मसु कौशलम्  (Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam)“. 

What came later is the development of physical techniques to create the optimal state of the body to receive the direction from a stable Buddhi. These disciplines developed over centuries were finally integrated by Rushi (Sage) Patanjali in his ancient (pre-Christ) treatise Yog-Darshan, the View of Yog.

The Yog that is practiced in America and the Yog that is now being celebrated in the International Yog Day is merely the third step – the purely physical component that provides benefits to the physical body. It is based on the Yog-Sutra compiled by the Maha (Great) Rushi Patanjali from the works of previous centuries. This compilation was an enormous achievement that lives to this day and that will be celebrated around the world tomorrow.

Read what Bhoj, the eminent 11th century commentator on Patanjali’s Yog-Sutra, wrote about Rushi Patanjali:

  • “My Namaskar with my hands together to the eminent sage Patañjali, who removed the deficiencies of the mind through Yog, of speech through Phonetic Grammar, and of the body through Vedic Medicine.

Once again, the central function of Yog as the controller of the Mind is stressed in this salutation. It also brings us to the discussion of why correct phonetic grammar is an important element of Patanjali’s Yog.


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4. The Importance of Sanskrut Verses in Physical Yog

Sanskrut is absolutely unique in the world in that it achieved its greatness before writing became widely used. Sanskrut was designed to be learnt and propagated in verbal form via verbal techniques. That is why, to this day, Sanskrut is best learnt via hearing & reciting. This may be why the phonetic structure of Sanskrut is so advanced. Sanskrut verses are designed to maximize the input of energy into the physical body by optimizing breathing via correct pronunciation.

Indian Thought placed an enormous emphasis on breathing as the essential process of life itself. It built a science around the concept of Praan, the concept of life inside a human being composed of & controlled by breath. This, in turn, led to the development of the science of Praanaayaam = Praan + Aayaam (प्राणायाम). In fact, a school of Indian Dhaarmic Thought considers life to be breath itself.

This is why appropriate Sanskrut verses accompany the practice of Patanjali’s Yog to ensure optimally correct breathing to deliver an integrated energy component to maximize physical benefits to the body. No one doubts the linkages between respiratory system & the blood circulatory system of the body. So why should anyone, apart from reasons of dogma or obstinacy, break the linkage between Sanskrut verses that optimize breathing with the physical Aasan of Yog?

We suggest you try a simple experiment to see what we mean. If you say Yog with emphasis on the “o”, you will notice a different feeling in your chest & lungs. It is a feeling that comes from intake of energy. Now say Yoga – you will feel energy leaving your body with that exhaling breath.

Does it really matter whether you inhale or exhale energy in saying Yog or Yoga? Does it matter whether you sing say, “reunited we feel so good” or “we will rock you” when performing Patanjali’s Yog? Not really, at least not at the level at which most people who practice Physical Yog. But are you getting the optimal benefits of a integrated system that was designed to make your body, its energy of breath, your Mind & your Buddhi work together harmoniously for a total positive experience? The simple answer is No.

So the next time you get into your Yog-Aasan, remember the chariot analogy. The key to an optimal ride in a chariot is the balance between the driver, the reins & the horses. If you remember and embrace that, then you will begin to get the harmonious balance between your Buddhi, your Mind and the physiological processes of your Body – the true essence of Yog. 


* The Shlok from Katha-UpaNiSad, a part of the immortal dialog between Yam & the student Nachiketas, is as  below:

आत्मानम् रथिनम् विद्धि  शरीरम् रथम् एव तु (Aatmaanam Rathinam Viddhi; Shariram Ratham Ev Tu)

बुद्धिम् तु सारथिम् विद्धि  मन: प्रग्रह्म् एव च (Buddhim tu Sarathim Vidhi ; Manah PraGraham Ev cha)


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  1. The author gives little evidence that he understands the deeper meaning and processes of Yog. For example, he does not show how “the harmonious balance between your Buddhi, your Mind, and the physiological processes of your Body” is achieved. He claims that balance is the goal of Yog but it is not. That harmonious balance is only the beginning of the spiritual process of Yog. It is when that balance is attained that the ultimate work of Yog can begin. Yes, he mentions praan and mantra, but show no understanding of how they work to attain their goal. A follow-up article would be appreciated.

    1. The word “spiritual” is loaded with different meanings depending on the religion & philosophy of the user. In our view, it is an inappropriate word. The spiritual journey is the journey of the Rathin or Chariot-owner. What the journey is frankly is immaterial to balanced chariot management. Our article discussed this harmonious balance of Saarathi, reins & the chariot or Buddhi, Mind & Body that Material or A-Para Yog delivers. It takes you to the Na Karma Lipyate Nare dictum of Isa-UpaNiSad, still in the Material or A-para sphere. The Yog that you refer to is the balance between Aatman & Buddhi, the “para” Buddhi that leads to Moksha & end of cycle of life. That is the topic for a totally different article – in fact a summary of the Bhagvat-Geeta & other relevant UpaNiSad.

  2. The author continues to deal in generalities, providing little evidence that he knows his subject matter in depth. One of his statements, “What the journey is frankly is immaterial to balanced chariot management.”, reveals that he understands neither why such ‘chariot management is necessary, nor toward what end the chariot is being managed, nor even the details of such ‘chariot management’. He uses ‘praan’ and ‘mantra’ as buzzwords to imply some knowledge but does not reveal that he actually knows how those concepts contribute to ‘chariot management’. Similarly, he mentions ‘apara’ and ‘para’ but only as generalities and again without much substantive evidence that he understands them. He agrees that a follow-up article is necessary but thinks it should be still more generalities regarding the Gita and the Upanishads. Hindusim is well-known for providing detailed answers to any and all questions that an aspirant might have. What is required from this author is some evidence that he understands in depth the details and purpose of chariot-management, the destination of the chariot and the relevant Upanishads.

    1. Do you have any specific objections to any part of our article? Cab you point to any specific point that is, in your opinion, wrong of untrue? Ours is an article for generalist readers who wish to understand the basic points about Yog. As a Blog article, it is not intended to be a multi-page paper. If you have any specific questions, please send them to us and we will strive to answer them. Of course, you are welcome to send us your own in depth detailed points. Unless your sole purpose is to throw mud in which case you should look up the Anyokti about Gold & Goldsmith of Pandit Jagannath – रे हेमकार परदुक्ह विचारमूढ ….. Pls let us know if you would like us to quote this Anoykti in full. May Svasti be Unto You. स्वस्ति अस्तु ते

  3. For the third time, the author’s comments are so general and his replies so evasive as to (1) be uninformative and (2) indicate that the author does not actually understand what he is writing about . The internet is littered with writers who use buzz words and archetypal images to convey the impression that they have an indepth knowledge of their subject matter when, in fact, they do not. All I am asking is that the author provide at least some evidence that he possesses more than a superficial acquaintance with his subject matter. I suggested many topics to which the author has already alluded which are in need of some more indepth commentary from the author to establish his credentials. But instead the author chooses to argue and avoid informing the reader. In addition, the author also seeks to avoid the issue by claiming that such evidence of his knowledge would run to several pages when it would not. – a single cogent paragraph or two on any of the subjects suggested would be sufficient. The author’s suggestion that I send him my own detailed explanation of the points suggested, that is merely an attempt to find the details he seems to lack. I have been interviewed on radio and TV and interviewed for newspapers and magazines so the author’s second suggest that I am merely throwing mud is just another attempt by the author to avoid having to admit that he has only a superficial notion of the subjects upon which he pronounces. The author spends more time avoiding the issue of the depth of his knowledge than he does demonstrating his knowledge. In do so, he leaves the reader no choice but to assume the author does not have the knowledge he pretends to have. The author fails to realize that (1) the immediate purpose of managing the chariot is to control ego. and (2) his inability to demonstrate that he actually knows what he is talking about is an example of an out-of-control ego. He is just another instant internet guru without substance.

    1. Mr. Beacham has not offered a single instance where our article is wrong. He has not offered any alternative analysis or treatment. Apparently, Mr. Beacham has nothing of value to add and is choosing to engage in invective. There also seems to be a note of “hate” underlying his invective.

      For the record, Macro Viewpoints offer analysis. We have great respect for the Guru-Shishya tradition. The greatest Gurus any one can find are the Ved, the UpaNiSad, Bhagvat Geeta and the Mimaamsa. In fact, the very word UpaNiSad means sit near – a term a Guru would use to a student before beginning a discussion. This is why we have zero claim or the slightest interest in the “guru” label.

  4. The bottom line is that all of real Yoga is Hinduism, taught by Hindus and not for a fee. The Sanskrit/Hindu word “yoga” actually has nothing to do with physical exercise. The word “Yoga” means: “Yuj Atman Brahman ca” (“to yoke to one’s Soul and Soul source”). That various (real) Yogas are the means by which Hindus achieve this Self/Soul-Realization: Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga and Jnana Yoga. Within these classic Yogas are others such as Hatha Yoga which are not only deeply Hindu devotional but also suppose to be kept rather secret. Today’s so-called “yoga” and “yoga teacher” is nothing but a scam.

    Swami Param

    1. Thank you for your comment. With respect, the more correct spelling is Yog and not a feminine noun “Yoga”. You are correct about the different aspects of Yog. We did write that the Bhagvat Geeta discusses Karma-Yog & Buddhi-Yog (Geeta term) and how they are the same as Samkhya approach. Bhagvat Geeta also shows how Bhakti-Marg is integrated with Karma-Yog & Dnyaan-Yog. The Yog described by Patanjali is different from the Yog discussion in Bhagvat Geeta. That is what our article focused on. The Yunjan between Aatman & Buddhi is a part of para-Vidya as explained in various UpaNiSad or profoundly in “Tat Tvam Asi Svetaketo” dictum.

  5. After reading your article, I thought it is worth the time for people to read it. So, I shared it with my distribution list. Thanks for taking time and writing this article in a simple language and with verifiable references.
    Here is a summary of feedback to your above article that I received from readers of my list.
     Thanks. (4) – Next Generation Hindus.
     Thanks for sharing (10+)
     So beautifully explained (3) – Next Generation Hindus.
     Was worth reading (5)
     Right off the bat, I admire this gentleman coz he is a rarity using yog and not yoga (1)
     Fresh air to see som one using “Yog” not “Yoga” (1)
     Very informative article (2) – Next Generation Hindus.
     Makes me value Yog even more. (4)
     You are right. It is very good article (2)

  6. Feedback 1.
    This article is a good contribution to correct so many misgivings, falsehoods, distortions, and wrong practices that have been widespread and commercialized, and many amongst the greater Indian community either are unaware of or poorly informed; and we repeat (spout-bad word) the same distortions and don’t see their consequences. Just to name a few: Yoga is an exercise form, Yoga is religion, if we chant OM we turn off people of other faiths and therefore they will not accept Yoga, and on and on, including the Power Yoga, the Hot Yoga, and specific poses being copyrighted or trademarked as if all this thing happened in the 21st century.

  7. Feedback – 2
    My comment for what it is worth is that there is nothing to compare to Patanjali yoga in Western philosophy or religions: and there is no need to compare or contrast incomparables. Astanga yoga has been practiced by people who did not believe in Atma (Antatta vaadinns like Budhists) and even Jains who have a slightly different view of Atma, unlike that in Katopanishad. I hold the view that Yoga is Bharatiya sampradaya than just Hindu, depending how you define the later term.

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