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Date Posted: 11:55
Author: ketch - 8 Jun 2001
Subject: Is Yoga Scientific
In reply to: Mike Drake - 6 Jun 2001 's message, "Retraction: Ketch Is Right" on 11:54

Of course Yogananda was not a scientist in the strict sense of the word, and you would not expect him to have introduced new scientific theories.

When scientists use the word "scientific" they are usually using a fairly narrow definition of the term, which requires criteria such as falsifiability before something can be accepted as scientific. When we use the term in describing yoga we are using a broader "laymans" definition of the term.

One of the definitions of the word science given in the Oxford English Dictionary is:-

"The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena."

In contrast to those following conventional spiritual paths the yogi carries out experimentation and investigation as required by science.

A Christian for example may go to church every Sunday, read the bible, and generally do his best to follow the Christian path. However after a lifetime of following this path he may not receive any inner experience, or evidence of the correctness of what he believes. Everything is accepted in blind faith.

The yogi on the other hand is required to believe nothing as a matter of blind faith, but simply practices his techniques (experimentation) and receives certain experiences and inner proofs (observation) of his path.

This is what we mean when we describe yoga as a science. It has theoretical explanations and basis, but it is also largely experimental and based on observation. The yogi does not need to accept anything on faith unlike conventional religions.

As an example of this, yoga postulates the existence of "prana" or life force which it is claimed the yogi can direct around his astral body. Pranayama (the control and movement of prana) plays an important part in kriya yoga. At first the yogi may attempt to practice pranayama and may experience nothing, however after a while the yogi will gain the ability to feel the movement of prana (more accurately the yogi experiences sensations of energy moving in his body which he attributes to the movement of prana, but which a sceptic could probably explain as imagination or the result of self hypnosis etc.) and is thereby given evidence of it's existence.

Of course virtually all such "proofs" which the yogi experiences are entirely subjective, and it could therefore be argued that the methods of yoga are not really scientific.

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