The path to yoga is not religious, but it is spiritual.
There are a variety of viewpoints on this matter, some contentious. I believe, however, that the ethical precepts espoused by Patanjali, especially on the yamas and niyamas, are universal in nature and applicable to anyone who desires to partake in conscious living.
Because yoga has its roots in pre-Vedic Indian traditions, the major theistic adoptions of yogic practices have historically been in Hinduism and Jainism. Sanskrit, the language of ancient Hindu texts, was the lingua franca in that period of history and thus was the language used by Patañjali when the Yoga Sutras (the “Sutras“) were penned. The philosophical underpinnings of the Sutras, are however, by no means restricted to any specific religion.
In his commentary on the Yoga Sutras, the learned Swami Satchidananda stated the following:
“Truth is the same always. Whoever ponders it will get the same answer. Buddha got it. Patanjali got it. Jesus got it. Mohammed got it. The answer is the same, but the method of working it out may vary this way or that. (page 115)”
The ultimate goal and the final limb of ashtanga yoga is Samadhi, and I assert that each individual has the right to form an opinion and interpretation of what this means to him or her. In Buddhism, the term nirvāṇa (enlightenment) is used. In Christianity, one can arguably draw a parallel to what is called salvation.
Scholars have long recognised the universality of the search for the a deeper truth, and it has been said that “the quest for truth is the quest for God. This is the core teacher of all religions. The Scientist’s motivation is to seek the very kind of truth that Krishna speaks about in the Bhagavad Gita.” (Prof. Harvey G. Cox, Hollis Research Professor of Divinity at Harvard University)
In any case, it does not matter if you have not yet formed a notion of who or what God is – it is enough that you simply acknowledge that there exists a power greater than yourself.
by Adriel J. Ho