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                    An Introduction to Yoga

                          Annie Besant


These lectures[FN#1: Delivered at the 32nd Anniversary of the
Theosophical Society held at Benares, on Dec. 27th, 28th, 29th,
and 30th, 1907.] are intended to give an outline of Yoga, in
order to prepare the student to take up, for practical purposes,
the Yoga sutras of Patanjali, the chief treatise on Yoga. I have
on hand, with my friend Bhagavan Das as collaborateur, a
translation of these Sutras, with Vyasa's commentary, and a
further commentary and elucidation written in the light of
Theosophy.[FN#2: These have never been finished or printed.] To
prepare the student for the mastering of that more difficult
task, these lectures were designed; hence the many references to
Patanjali. They may, however, also serve to give to the ordinary
lay reader some idea of the Science of sciences, and perhaps to
allure a few towards its study.

Annie Besant

                       Table of Contents

Lecture I.     The Nature of Yoga
     1.  The Meaning of the Universe
     2.  The Unfolding of Consciousness
     3.  The Oneness of the Self
     4.  The Quickening of the Process of Self-Unfoldment
     5.  Yoga is a Science
     6.  Man a Duality
     7.  States of Mind
     8.  Samadhi
     9.  The Literature of Yoga
     10. Some Definitions
     11. God Without and God Within
     12. Changes of Consciousness and Vibrations of Matter
     13. Mind
     14. Stages of Mind
     15. Inward and Outward-turned Consciousness
     16. The Cloud

Lecture II.    Schools of Thought
     1. Its Relation to Indian Philosophies
     2. Mind
     3. The Mental Body
     4. Mind and Self

Lecture III.   Yoga as Science
     1.  Methods of Yoga
     2.  To the Self by the Self
     3.  To the Self through the Not-Self
     4.  Yoga and Morality
     5.  Composition of States of the Mind
     6.  Pleasure and Pain

Lecture IV.    Yoga as Practice
     1.  Inhibition of States of Mind
     2.  Meditation with and without Seed
     3.  The Use of Mantras
     4.  Attention
     5.  Obstacles to Yoga
     6.  Capacities for Yoga
     7.  Forthgoing and Returning
     8.  Purification of Bodies
     9.  Dwellers on the Threshold
     10. Preparation for Yoga
     11. The End

Lecture I


In this first discourse we shall concern ourselves with the
gaining of a general idea of the subject of Yoga, seeking its
place in nature, its own character, its object in human

The Meaning of the Universe

Let us, first of all, ask ourselves, looking at the world around
us, what it is that the history of the world signifies. When we
read history, what does the history tell us? It seems to be a
moving panorama of people and events, but it is really only a
dance of shadows; the people are shadows, not realities, the
kings and statesmen, the ministers and armies; and the eventsÄ
the battles and revolutions, the rises and falls of states Äare
the most shadowlike dance of all. Even if the historian tries to
go deeper, if he deals with economic conditions, with social
organisations, with the study of the tendencies of the currents
of thought, even then he is in the midst of shadows, the illusory
shadows cast by unseen realities. This world is full of forms
that are illusory, and the values are all wrong, the proportions
are out of focus. The things which a man of the world thinks
valuable, a spiritual man must cast aside as worthless. The
diamonds of the world, with their glare and glitter in the rays
of the outside sun, are mere fragments of broken glass to the man
of knowledge. The crown of the king, the sceptre of the emperor,
the triumph of earthly power, are less than nothing to the man
who has had one glimpse of the majesty of the Self. What is,
then, real? What is truly valuable? Our answer will be very
different from the answer given by the man of the world.

"The universe exists for the sake of the Self."  Not for what the
outer world can give, not for control over the objects of desire,
not for the sake even of beauty or pleasure, does the Great
Architect plan and build His worlds. He has filled them with
objects, beautiful and pleasure-giving. The great arch of the sky
above, the mountains with snow-clad peaks, the valleys soft with
verdure and fragrant with blossoms, the oceans with their vast
depths, their surface now calm as a lake, now tossing in
furyÄthey all exist, not for the objects themselves, but for
their value to the Self. Not for themselves because they are
anything in themselves but that the purpose of the Self may be
served, and His manifestations made possible.

The world, with all its beauty, its happiness and suffering, its
joys and pains" is planned with the utmost ingenuity, in order
that the powers of the Self may be shown forth in manifestation.
From the fire-mist to the LOGOS, all exist for the sake of the
Self. The lowest grain of dust, the mightiest deva in his
heavenly regions, the plant that grows out of sight in the nook
of a mountain, the star that shines aloft over us-all these exist
in order that the fragments of the one Self, embodied in
countless forms, may realize their own identity, and manifest the
powers of the Self through the matter that envelops them.

There is but one Self in the lowliest dust and the loftiest deva.
"Mamamsaha"ÄMy portion,Ä" a portion of My Self," says Sri
Krishna, are all these Jivatmas, all these living spirits. For
them the universe exists; for them the sun shines, and the waves
roll, and the winds blow, and the rain falls, that the Self may
know Himself as manifested in matter, as embodied in the

The Unfolding of Consciousness

One of those pregnant and significant ideas which Theosophy
scatters so lavishly around is thisÄthat the same scale is
repeated over and over again, the same succession of events in
larger or smaller cycles. If you understand one cycle, you
understand the whole. The same laws by which a solar system is
builded go to the building up of the system of man. The laws by
which the Self unfolds his powers in the universe, from the
fire-mist up to the LOGOS, are the same laws of consciousness
which repeat themselves in the universe of man. If you understand
them in the one, you can equally understand them in the other.
Grasp them in the small, and the large is revealed to you. Grasp
them in the large, and the small becomes intelligible to you.

The great unfolding from the stone to the God goes on through
millions of years, through aeons of time. But the long unfolding
that takes place in the universe, takes place in a shorter
time-cycle within the limit of humanity, and this in a cycle so
brief that it seems as nothing beside the longer one. Within a
still briefer cycle a similar unfolding takes place in the
individualÄ rapidly, swiftly, with all the force of its past
behind it. These forces that manifest and unveil themselves in
evolution are cumulative in their power. Embodied in the stone,
in the mineral world, they grow and put out a little more of
strength, and in the mineral world accomplish their unfolding.
Then they become too strong for the mineral, and press on into
the vegetable world. There they unfold more and more of their
divinity, until they become too mighty for the vegetable, and
become animal.

Expanding within and gaining experiences from the animal, they
again overflow the limits of the animal, and appear as the human.
In the human being they still grow and accumulate with
ever-increasing force, and exert greater pressure against the
barrier; and then out of the human, they press into the
super-human. This last process of evolution is called "Yoga."

Coming to the individual, the man of our own globe has behind him
his long evolution in other chains than oursÄthis same evolution
through mineral to vegetable, through vegetable to animal,
through animal to man, and then from our last dwelling-place in
the lunar orb on to this terrene globe that we call the earth.
Our evolution here has all the force of the last evolution in it,
and hence, when we come to this shortest cycle of evolution which
is called Yoga, the man has behind him the whole of the forces
accumulated in his human evolution, and it is the accumulation of
these forces which enables him to make the passage so rapidly. We
must connect our Yoga with the evolution of consciousness
everywhere, else we shall not understand it at all; for the laws
of evolution of consciousness in a universe are exactly the same
as the laws of Yoga, and the principles whereby consciousness
unfolds itself in the great evolution of humanity are the same
principles that we take in Yoga and deliberately apply to the
more rapid unfolding of our own consciousness. So that Yoga, when
it is definitely begun, is not a new thing, as some people

The whole evolution is one in its essence. The succession is the
same, the sequences identical. Whether you are thinking of the
unfolding of consciousness in the universe, or in the human race,
or in the individual, you can study the laws of the whole, and in
Yoga you learn to apply those same laws to your own consciousness
rationally and definitely. All the laws are one, however
different in their stage of manifestation.

If you look at Yoga in this light, then this Yoga, which seemed
so alien and so far off, will begin to wear a familiar face, and
come to you in a garb not wholly strange. As you study the
unfolding of consciousness, and the corresponding evolution of
form, it will not seem so strange that from man you should pass
on to superman, transcending the barrier of humanity, and finding
yourself in the region where divinity becomes more manifest.

The Oneness of the Self

The Self in you is the same as the Self Universal. Whatever
powers are manifested throughout the world, those powers exist in
germ, in latency, in you. He, the Supreme, does not evolve. In
Him there are no additions or subtractions. His portions, the

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