What do we mean by “yoga” and “science”?
Scott V. Anderson
To ground ourselves in consensual opinion, a search of Google and Bing finds they both defer to Wikipedia for their definitions. There we find (in bold):
Yoga is a Sanskrit word with a general meaning of “connection, conjunction, attachment, union”: a generic term for several physical, mental, and spiritual disciplines originating in ancient India.
Commentary: This anemic summary of the word yoga is from the Wikipedia page “Yoga (disambiguation).” It almost entirely misses the central feature of the yoga tradition: that yoga is simultaneously the goal and the means of emancipation, moksha, Buddhahood, and inherent Buddhahood—what the word means as its definitions are refined by the practice itself (and as described in a rich array of revealed source teachings). A better phrasing would be “a member of the class of soteriologic disciplines of inherent inseparability.” The main Wikipedia article on Yoga likewise totally ignores this key point.
Science1 is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.2
1. (from Webster’s online dictionary, the “simple definition”) knowledge about or study of the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation.
2. (from The Oxford Companion to the History of Modern Science)… modern science is a discovery as well as an invention. It was a discovery that nature generally acts regularly enough to be described by laws and even by mathematics; and required invention to devise the techniques, abstractions, apparatus, and organization for exhibiting the regularities and securing their law-like descriptions.”
Commentary: I feel this is a rich definition that I can endorse for what it says positively. What it does not say, however, regards the key fact that science is an enterprise taking place within a larger and highly complex global reality with distinct centers of power and a long series of historical phases of development. As a result of these many forces, science as it is currently practiced may or may not be well suited to the investigation of yoga, especially its deeper aspects.