Theosophists use the word Yoga as a convenient word, but we do not use it so much in order to express our Theosophical discipline. Why? Because in the West the word has come to signify one or other of the five different Hindu Schools of Yoga; whereas the Theosophical yogic discipline includes the best in them all, and tops them with a nobler, a sixth.
Now, what are these five Indian Yoga Schools? They are these, beginning with the simplest and lowest: Hatha-yoga, the yoga of physiological psychical training, dealing almost wholly with the body and the lower mind. Next, Karma-yoga, from the word "karman," action. Third, Bhakti-yoga, the yoga of love and devotion. Fourth, Jñâna-yoga, the yoga of wisdom or knowledge, of study. Fifth, Raja-yoga, the yoga of self-devised effort to attain union with the god within, the yoga of discipline, such as the kings of the Kshattriya or Warrior Caste were supposed to exemplify as the leaders of their states; and the sixth, which we Theosophists add, is the Brahma-yoga, the yoga of the spirit, practically including the other five.
It is a sheer absurdity, taking human psychology and nature into account, to think that India is the only land that has ever known what Yoga is; yoga here meaning discipline, training, in order to attain self-conscious union with the god within, with the Inner Buddha, or the immanent Christ — call it by what name you like.
Take Karma-yoga: something of this form of discipline has been known for centuries in the Christian Church, as "salvation by works." It is a well-known training in the Christian discipline. Or Bhakti-yoga: something of this form of discipline has been known for centuries in the Christian Church as "salvation by devotion," or "love," "self-dedication": exactly the same things that the Hindu means by these words, and that the Theosophist means, and which arose spontaneously in the heart of Christendom, as they arose spontaneously in the heart of Hindusthan, or in any other country. Then again there was the training of the Stoics — these and others are all different kinds of yoga. They did not call these trainings by the word "yoga." That is a Sanskrit term pertaining to, belonging to, Hindusthan; but the disciplines were known. The Christians called them salvation by this, salvation by that. The Hindus said union by this discipline, union by that discipline, etc.
The Theosophical occult discipline comprehends them all, because these different types of training or union correspond with the five main types of human minds or psychology, some men finding salvation in work, using the Christian term; others in love or devotion; others in theology or high thought. Why, even Christendom, in the monasteries especially, has known in the past a kind of Hatha-yoga in their physiological training — their flagellations, whippings, the wearing of sackcloth, and other practices of mortification and self-denial; in order, as they expressed it, to control and subordinate the lower passions and the body. These are typical examples of hatha-yoga of the lowest kind. However, when a man has the fortunate type of mind which will lead him into the training of the inner life, these other things follow sanely, automatically, if at all.
It is so with us Theosophists. Our training surpasses these different yogas. We do not have to bother with breathings and postures, flagellations and tortures. We know that to do our duty, we must work reverently, dedicate ourselves to duty, to effort, in the simplest things. We know that this is karma-yoga. We know that we must control the body from within, as well as our psychical impulses and our emotions, and keep the body clean and healthy, so that it be a fit instrument of the human spirit, and of the human soul. That is the real Hatha-yoga. We likewise know that to do our duty by ourselves and our fellow-men and by the glorious Movement to which we have dedicated ourselves, we must learn to give ourselves in devotion, in utter love, to the sublime objective — and this is Bhakti-yoga. We know that in order to understand life around us and our fellow-men, and our own selves, and the glorious truths of the laws of nature upon which nature herself is builded, we must study the sublime god-wisdom intellectually — Jñâna-yoga. We likewise know that to practice all these lower yogas we must arouse the feeling of love for self-discipline, finding marvelous joy in the fact that we can control ourselves, that we are men, striving to be masters of ourselves, and not slaves. We do not need to think twice about that idea. Look at the man who can control himself, and look at the man who cannot control himself: master and slave.
Yoga when properly understood is what we might call the moral, spiritual, intellectual, psychical, and the occult training that the Theosophist has, if he is worthy of the name Theosophist. Of course if he merely accepts the philosophy because it appeals to him, because he thinks it is logical and fine, and that nothing has yet overthrown it, he is simply what Pythagoras and the great men of his School would merely call akousmatikoi, "hearers," "listeners." This stage is indeed something, much, but lacks greatly of the higher degrees of understanding and development.
And the final yoga, the sixth, Brahma-yoga, is the one that most Theosophical chelas, disciples, aim for. It means taking all the best in the lower forms of yoga that we have just spoken of, unifying them into one as it were, carrying them all up and nailing them as it were to the Spirit within. The thought, the emotions, the wish, are fixed like the flag nailed to the mast. It cannot be hauled down: Brahma-yoga, union with Brahman, the Spirit; the Âtman.
I would like to point out one thing more: How is it that these particular forms of yoga exist always in India? All yoga in India is discipline, as stated, methods of training; and these arise mainly in the key-thought contained in what the Hindus called the greatest, grandest, most comprehensive verse in all the Vedas, in, 62, 10, of the Rig-Veda called the Gayatri, or often the Savitri. This the Hindu recites upon rising in the morning, after he makes his ablutions, before he sleeps at night. Occidental Orientalists do not understand why the Hindus so reverently regard these two Sanskrit lines in the Rig-Veda. But the reason is that the Rig-Veda is the chiefest of the Vedas; and, said the Hindus, within these two lines, are the heart of Rig-Veda. In Sanskrit they run thus:
Tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi,
Dhiyo yo nah prachodayat.
And they mean this (I will give a close translation, only slightly paraphrased, so that you will get the heart of the great Rig-Vedic verse out of which sprang all Hindu philosophy, and all Hindu yoga.):
"That lofty inner soul of the god's sun, may it unite the thoughts of us, its offspring, and urge us into that union, the union of the lower with the superior, of the individual with the spirit of man, with divinity." When this union or yoga is won, achieved, then we have those grand cases of god-men, or men-gods: Jesus the Avatâra, Krishna, Buddha-Gautama and all the other Buddhas; even Apollonius of Tyana — there have been hundreds. When this union is less complete, we have the great Teachers, less great than those just spoken of, but great.
Out of this one phrase, this one yoga, as the Sanskrit word is, of the Rig-Veda, sprang all the philosophy and religion and occult science of archaic India, all the systems of training by which men have sought to ally that divine solar spark with themselves, to become in individualized union with the cosmic Spirit — first with Father Sun, and then with the Spirit Universal. For so reverent were these ancients, that nought in them was divorced from divinity. Every atom, every stone, every animal, every man, every deva or god, whatever it be, high or low or intermediate, was a child of the cosmic heart of Being, and could by degrees rise higher and higher into the self-conscious union, yoga with That. And when this glorious consummation is achieved, then you have a man-god, a god-man.
These thoughts are not anything particularly unique in Hindusthan. On the contrary, they are commonplaces of archaic and modern Theosophy. They were commonplaces actually of the Stoics, of the Platonists, and of other schools of Greece and Rome. They have been known from immemorial time in Egypt and Persia. Read the ancient writings of these folks.
Yoga therefore, is training, discipline, by which that holiest of all human possibilities may be achieved: growth from manhood, expansion out of manhood, into godhood, divinity, which in our highest we already are. We simply become our highest selves. That is yoga achieved. I and my Father are one. Any Christ says the same. Any Buddha makes the same declaration. When you understand the profound wisdom behind it, there is nought of egoism in it. It is the spirit speaking through the lips of devotion in man.