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 is primarily concerned with the journey inward to the self, a journey signposted by the question ‘what am I?’ Part of answering this question is realizing that I am not my thoughts, my memories, my sensations, feelings or emotions. Realizing that I can put some distance between the content of my awareness and my awareness itself yields freedom. If I am not my thoughts and emotions, then I am not defined by them.
So what am I? (What are you?)
There may not be one correct answer to this question but yoga offers a system of time-tested techniques for making the enquiry. The ‘who am I?’ question can be approached using meditation, asana, chanting, pranayama, the yoga of relationships
Philosophical method is hall-marked by clarity and the quest for truth. Shankaracharya, the father of Advaita Vedanta (non-dualism) taught that cultivating viveka (discernment) is one of the most important yoga practices and one that improves every aspect of life. Discernment is necessary to recognize that our true nature is ultimately eternal.
Viveka helps us to differentiate the real from the unreal and bring clarity to our judgements. This clarity enhances our lives and all of our relationships, including our relationship with ourselves. Socrates, the father of Western philosophy, counselled that the unexamined life is not worth living, and echoing the yogis, that self-knowledge is the highest knowledge.
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