The earliest Seers who realised the Truth have explained the cosmic process as the work of Maya, the inscrutable power of the Supreme Spirit. By the mysterious operation of this veiling power, the undivided Absolute Blissful One is made to reflect Itself in an infinite multiplicity of names and forms. As described in verse 6, Chap. IV of the Gita, Maya brings about this phenomenal existence with its duality and diversity. Each centre of consciousness thus involved from the Infinite has therefore to transcend Maya to realise its essential identity with the Supreme Being.
Now Maya is the eternal negation as distinguished from the Ultimate Reality that shines as the Eternal 'I am', the Eternal 'SAT'. Maya is used to denote the sum-total of the forces of negativity. Nescience, oscillation, delusion, attachment, egoism, disharmony and discord, sensuality are some of the prominent forms in which it finds expression upon the human plane. Yoga then concerns itself in enabling the individuals to effectively deal with and overcome the above factors that keep him pinned down to the phenomenal existence. A state of knowledge through a constant discrimination between the real and the unreal, combined with a ceaseless assertion of an identification with the ideas of omniscience and perfection, a state of unshakable equilibrium and one-pointedness, non-attachment to everything mundane coupled with an intense unabated attachment to some particular aspect of the divine, a complete self-effacement and active selflessness, constitute, therefore, the major means of obtaining a victory over Maya. A determined development along any one or more of these lines broadly go to form the paths of knowledge, occult meditation, devotion or divine love and selfless action.
The process of Yoga embodies an ascent into purity, into that absolute perfection, which is the original state of man. It implies therefore the removal of the enveloping impurities, the stilling of the discordant vibratory tempo of the lower Kosas and the establishment of a state of perfect balance and harmony.
Now all the above-mentioned factors that bind down the Jiva may be seen to be operating upon a larger scale through humanity as a whole. The present age is enmeshed in ignorance, characterised by restlessness, a blind clinging to earthly existence; perverted individualism and voluptuous abandonment to pleasures of the flesh and violence, strife and discord in all walks of life.
Modern age is the machine age. As such, it is power-ridden. Discovery of newer ways of generating power, exploiting fresh aspects of known forces, inventing machine to make machine is the present craze under man's control but man himself does not have his senses and mind under his control. This has resulted in the misuse and abuse of the fruits of civilisation and science, ecause all power corrupts. The adoption of the Yogic way of life is the release from and the guarantee against such abuse of power and the resultant disaster. Training in Yoga brings to man several supernormal powers that no machine can ever generate. Yet the discipline laid down on the path ensures against their abuse.
All methods of Yoga have ethical training and moral perfection as their basis. The eradication of vices, the development of certain virtues forms the first step in the ladder of Yoga. Disciplining of your nature and the formation of a steady and pure character through a set of right habits and regular daily observances is the next step. This is Yama-Niyama in Raja Yoga. The acquiring of Sadhana-Chatushtaya by the neophyte on the path of knowledge and the insistence upon Sraddha, Sadachara and self-consecration, desirelessness, sacrifice for the devotee and the Karma Yogi respectively have as their aim the development of character and ethical perfection. Thus the ringing in of a new world order of love and sacrifice, of cooperation and brotherhood and the realisation of the ideals of universal perfection can be effected by a willing unreserved allegiance to even the initial stages of Yoga. Upon this firm foundation of a well-established and virtuous moral character is built the further structure of Yoga.
The inherent restlessness of the mind constitutes the greatest problem to the follower of Yoga. By its very nature, mind is ever outgoing. Also it is always unsteady. The resolute turning away from earthly attachment, the determined effacement of the ego, deliberate stoppage of all inharmonious mental processes and the constant dwelling upon a single idea, all these methods require a firm control of the mind and the conscious direction of its powers towards the desired end.
The greatest external manifestation of the mental impulses is physical action. Actions when repeated crystallise into habits. In course of time, habits through indulgence get incorporated as definite traits in the individual's personality. The plan of Yoga Science, in obtaining mastery over the mind proceeds step by step most systematically, regulating and controlling first the grosser and then the subtler manifestation. Yama overcomes all vice and implants virtue. It weakens out all evil traits and implants godly qualities. Niyama regulates the habits and aims at giving the Sadhaka mastery over his behaviour. Instead of being a slave to habits the aspirant now controls his conduct and develops certain habits by determined will. Next the inherent urge to activity is checked through Asanology. By a practice of a system of steady postures, the tendency to unrestrained and aimless movements is curbed and overcome. Character developed, ennobling traits acquired, old habits overcome and replaced by new ones, activity regulated and checked, now the vagaries of the mind are next restrained by a control of its counterpart, namely the breath. This stage is Pranayama. Though thoughts are checked, the mind yet continues to agitate in the form of desires and cravings. Thus fifth limb of Yoga is the withdrawal of all the centripetal senseward movements of the desire element in the mind, turning away from the external world and withdrawing the senses from the objects. Pratyahara paves the way for the sixth rung in the Yogic ladder, Dharana or concentration of the mind at a single point. The indrawn mind is made to fix upon any one given idea or image technically referred to as the Lakshya or object of meditation. Dharana deepened and made lengthened becomes meditation. When Dhyana (meditation) is intensified and made continuous Samadhi results. A state of blissful union with the Infinite Spirit, the Oversoul, frees him from the thraldom of birth and death. This transcendental experience makes him transformed into a being endowed with the cosmic vision beholding everywhere a Divine unity behind apparent diversity. Henceforth his entire life becomes a spontaneous expression of the unhindered flow of the Supreme Energy through every act. He lives and acts purely for the welfare of all Humanity, carrying on the Divine Plan to its glorious consummation.