An Ancient Science, Rediscovered
Yoga is quite possibly the most ancient science known to man. Seals depicting human figures in various yoga postures have been unearthed in the Indus Valley, where the findings date back more than 5,000 years. Who knows how old yoga was at that time?
It is curious that information of this type should have come down from such ancient times … It is only the more perceptive people even in our sophisticated age who recognize that all things, no matter how diverse, reflect an underlying unity. Science tells us that a loaf of bread is not essentially different from a stone, both being manifestations of energy. Even the scientist commonly finds this a hard crust to swallow. To primitive man, the thought would appear absurd.
Yet it is this thought which forms the very basis of yoga, the actual meaning of which is “union.” It is the stated aim of this science to take the practitioner (or yogi) to an awareness, not only of the underlying unity of all things, but also of his own essential identity with this deeper reality.
Unlike the usual primitive observance of totems and taboos – unlike even the devotion to unproved, if beautiful, abstractions on the part of Western philosophers – yoga has always insisted on positive proof of its premises. Like modern science, its approach has always been pragmatic, even if in its pragmatism it has penetrated to regions far subtler than any yet contemplated by the physical sciences.
Perhaps the most striking contrast between the science of yoga and the musings of primitive peoples is yoga’s specific emphasis on energy (prana) as the fundamental reality of physical matter. A simple person might, conceivably, imagine a sort of poetic kinship between himself and the rocks and trees. But that all the forms of nature are merely energy in different illusory manifestations would be, for him, unthinkable. Science itself has only recently attained this understanding. The ancient traditions of yoga are every bit as specific.