Zeitschrift für Spiritualität und Transzendentale Psychologie 2011, 1 (3) /
Journal for Spirituality and Transcendental Psychology 2011, 1 (3)

The Spirituality Check:

What is really meant by Yoga?

Vanamali Gunturu



In a society in which large ecclesiastical institutions, endowed with the power to dictate a layperson’s beliefs, do not control religious practice any more, diversity can become a problem. Who is not an expert, often needs qualified guides in order to distinguish sincere spirituality from misleading ways. An objective appraisal what can be a sincere form of spirituality and what not is difficult to find because most experts advance their own worldview. With this series of articles, called The Spirituality Check, we want to illustrate from the perspective of a transcendental science of religions what distinguishes sincere from dubious uses of spiritual terms. Therefore, a concept will be presented with its etymology, its theoretical provenience, its practical application, and its occurrence today, and will be discussed with regard to its serious applicability.



It is a popularly held view in the western countries that yoga is a type of physical exercise. The word has on the contrary a lot of meanings and connotations in the Indian society and tradition. (a) In Indian astrology and in the Hindu calendar it is, for example, a hint on a particular planetary constellation und an indication for the results that might ensue from it. In such a context, the word yoga would be attached to the actual word as suffix, for e.g., amritayoga, maranayoga, vishayoga, kartariyoga, pancananayoga, patanayoga or gajakesariyoga. (b) Yoga also denotes the favourable or unfavourable conditions of a man in a particular phase of his life. The advantageous constellation of a man who makes progress on all the fronts of life und meets with only success everywhere is known as rajayoga, the royal yoga. This does not necessarily mean that he is going to be king! Patanayoga on the other hand means that a respected and successful man in question meets everywhere with unhappy experiences: his own people denounce him, they insult, punish and betray him. The word yoga also has a moral connotation. In this regard, duryoga means something negative and sadyoga means something positive. (c) Yoga also denotes a best performance in any field of activity, which a man can achieve. Yogyata, a word related with yoga, means qualification or suitability. d) In the context of religion and theology, the word means a way, a method, or technique. One may think of terms like Bhakti-, Karma- and Jñanayoga – the ways or methods of love, action or knowledge to reach God. It is interesting to note in this regard the concept of ‘Ashthanga yoga’, with which Patañjali, the author of the ‘Yogasutras’, terms the entire part of his work dealing with the practice and technique of yoga.


Dvivedi, Patañjalis Yogasutras, Delhi 1992

Swami Virupakshananda, Sankhyakarikas of Isvarakrishna, Madras 1995

Swami Nirvikalpananda, Srimadbhagavadgita, Madras 1944

Swami Vevekananda, The complete works, Vol. VIII, Calcutta 1977

Dasgupta, Surendranath, A study of Patanjali, Delhi etc. 1989

Hiriyanna, M., Essentials of Indian Philosophy, Bombay 1978

Radhakrishnan, S., Indian Philosophy, Vol. II Bombay etc. 1996

-, The Principal Upanisads, Bombay etc.1990


About the author:

The author was born in 1956 in Nellore/A.P., India in a family of scholars and studied Sanskrit literature, English literature and history in Hyderabad. He received a doctor’s degree in western philosophy in 1995 from Ludwig-Maximilians University, München. He now lives as author and lecturer near München. Among his publications are, besides novels: Krishnamurti: Leben und Werk, Diederichs 1997; Mahatma Gandhi: Leben und Werk, Diederichs 1999; Hinduismus: Die große Religion Indiens, Diederichs 2000; Hinduismus, Diederichs Kompakt 2002; Mensch sucht Sinn, Gabriel Verlag 2004; Der Kamasutra-Ratgeber: Sex, Lust und die Kunst der Verführung, Atmosphären Verlag 2004; Heiliger Sex: Die erotische Welt des Hinduismus, Eugen Diederichs Verlag, 2009.

Homepage: http://www.gunturu.de/

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