Wittgenstein, one of the most important philosophers of the twentieth century, famously said that philosophy’s most practical use is ‘untying the knots in our thinking.’
Yoga and philosophy make wonderful companions. The yoga tradition is explicitly philosophical; Shankaracharya the renowned exponent of Advaita Vedanta exhorted the aspirant to cultivate Viveka (the faculty of discrimination) as the most important part of the spiritual life without which we cannot attain Moksha (freedom).
Philosophy can be understood as a system of inquiry, a method of formulating and seeking to answer questions with the aim of furthering understanding. The quest for truth is central to the philosophic endeavor. By the same token the yogic path brings one closer to a life lived in truth and authenticity – Satya.
Yoga is primarily concerned with the journey inward to the self, a journey signposted by the question ‘what am I?’ As we become more established in the practice of yoga, and more skillful in thinking clearly, we simultaneously become more adept at dis-identifying with the ceaseless fluctuations of mind, emotion, sensation, feelings and perception. Thus we become less reactive and more responsive. We gain some freedom. In Shankaracharya’s words we learn to discriminate the real from the unreal.
Asatoma Sat Gamaya
Tamasoma Jyotir Gamaya
Mrityorma Amritam Gamaya
Lead me from the unreal to the real
Lead me from the darkness to the light
Lead me from the temporary to the eternal