Which is the best Yoga?

There are so many kinds and versions of Yoga. Both Traditionally and also in the contemporary era we see so many thoughts and schools of Yoga. Which among them is the best? What kind of an approach will lead us to the best Yoga?

Do they Yoga texts have any inputs on this? Yes they do.

The Next verse from Sage Vyāsa’s commentary found in the Sūtra 1.48 – ṛtaṁbharā tatra prajñā offers an answer .

Vyāsa speaks about Uttama Yoga or Best Yoga in the Sūtra on ṛtaṁbharā prajñā.  ( ṛtaṁbharā tatra prajñā ॥ 1.48 ॥ ṛtaṁbharā  prajñā – is that state where the mind is brimming with clarity about the Puruṣa  – awareness/consciousness, who is ṛtam or the Truth, with very little distraction of the mind).

The verse on Uttama Yoga is as follows –

आगमेनानुमानेन ध्यानाभ्यासरसेन च।

त्रिधा प्रकल्पयन्प्रज्ञा लभत योगमुत्तमम् ॥

āgamenānumānena dhyānābhyāsarasena ca।

tridhā prakalpayanprajñā labhata yogamuttamam ॥

By knowledge attained from the Scriptures and the teachings of the teachers (āgama), by using the faculty of inference (reasoning) and also by the joy experienced by the practice of Dhyāna, the mind has to be prepared to attain Uttama yoga (the great Yoga – clear knowledge about Puruṣa -conciousness ).

In Tattvavaiśāradī, vācaspatimiśra suggests the following on the verse above āgama – refers to (the vedāntic self realization method of) śravaṇa – listening to teachings. anumāna – tallies with Manana and dhyāna is cintā (nididhyāsana) – contemplating or meditating and abhyāsa refers to practice of these again and again.

vijñānabhikṣu vārttika also adds the very useful input in connection with this verse – he states – In sabīja state (a state of Samādhi – absorption where refined single pointed-flow of thoughts exist) one has to refine one’s intellect with these three tools. The intellect thus refined coupled with higher vairāgya (Sūtra 1.16)(para-vairāgya)leads a person to the best yoga – Nirbīja-samādhi

It is very interesting to look at the well balanced nature of the three tools suggested to attain best yoga.

Firstly, Śraddhā (firm faith) about the Yogic Scriptural teachings,

then, using inference and applying one’s own reasoning faculty to ascertain the teachings. It does not end with ascertaining the truth with the one’s intellect.

It has to be experienced by practice. By practicing Dhyāna and the limbs of Yoga that will lead to the Joy of Dhyāna Experience. These are the tools that make our ordinary (laukika) Yoga – Uttama Yoga.

If we observe the three steps we can understand that these three are in accordance with human growth and development.

In Ancient times, Initially, children in Gurukulas received teachings (and follow it as it is), then, as their analytical faculty blossomed as they proceed in age, anumāna unfolds – they reflect on the teachings that they have received and the way that they are practicing it and then finally, in due course their abhyāsa/practice, changes into abhyāsa-rasa – blissful, meaningful and mindful practice of teachings (on every aspect of life) received. That culminates into anubhava – experience.

That is why we see so many thinkers, scholars and intellectuals emerging in ancient India and insight fully contributing to various disciplines.

Interestingly, in the current day Yoga we start with practice (abhyāsa) at the level of the body and the breath. If we are able to gradually build in the other two elements of āgama and anumāna – we are certain to reach Uttama Yoga.