Is there an equivalent of “redemption” in the Yogic system?

UnknownQuestion:
Is there an equivalent of “redemption” in the Yogic system? Getting out of the trouble caused by Avidyā?

Response:
A complex question as all the major Religious traditions have different views as to what it is and how it works.

The word redemption is from the root ‘redimere’ to buy back. Being saved from sin, error or evil and protection from damnation or disgrace, eternal or temporary.

Thus we have a language that is more Theological, as in Christianity or Hinduism, than Psychological, as in Yoga, Sāṃkhya or some schools of Buddhism.

We also have to consider who is redeeming, usually a.n.other such as a higher power and also for what, usually a price to pay before or after.

In terms of ‘by my hand’ or ‘by anothers hand’ you can consider a spectrum of power where we have Yoga at the end of self-power and in contrast, say Catholicism at the end of other-power. Yoga says it is only up to us and our efforts, however we interpret redemption.

In terms of getting ‘in’ or ‘out’ of trouble caused by Avidyā, the key here is our skill in our actions, hence the phrase skilful action or unskilful action as a point of reflection. Yoga doesn’t do ‘sin’.

For example, one of the three primary definitions of Yoga in the Bhagavad Gītā Chapter Two verse 50 talks about skilful actions as a fruit of Buddhi Yuktaḥ.

Or how we are yoked to the more discerning aspects of the psyche rather than just to the more grasping aspects of the psyche.

To help understand this, the premise in Yoga psychology is that ‘spiritual development’ is an oxymoron. Spirit can neither be developed or undeveloped, it just is, unchanging and always accessible if we can but reduce and sustain the reduction of confusion.

A metaphor here could be to think about the notion that the sun is always shining. Whether we can ‘see’ the sun depends on how much cloud there is at the time. Hence the Cit or awareness is clouded within our efforts at perception by our past, inherent within the CItta or psyche.

Thus the goal of Yoga is clarity as in Yoga Sūtra Chapter Four on Kaivalya. The starting point, as in Yoga Sūtra Chapter Two on Sādhana, is how we can start to reduce confusion.

So nothing to do with Cit or awareness, apart from a gradual reduction of confusion in the Citta. This is the goal of Aṣṭāṅgā Yoga in Yoga Sūtra Chapter Two verse 28

“Following and abiding by the limbs of Yoga the impurities diminish
and knowledge illuminates up to recognition of discrimination.”

This is also why vital practices such as Prāṇāyāma described in the Aṣṭāṅgā section of the Yoga Sūtra Chapter Two verse 52 are directly geared towards this goal.

“From that the covering of the light dissolves.”

So no redemption from Avidyā only a gradual reduction of illusion though our own efforts with an appropriate Sādhana.

It seems that the process of Yoga is actually more about becoming disillusioned rather than ‘enlightened’.

As Sāṃkhya says ‘Until the dancer (Citta) realises that the audience (Cit) is not interested, the dancer continues to dance’.

The inquiry into the ‘character’ of that which doesn’t change and can’t be seen (Cit), is through an inquiry into the ‘character’ of that which does change and can be seen. As demonstrated by the Mahāvakya (great saying) Ne’iti Ne’iti – not this, not that.

So if there is any form of redemption as in a forgiveness then it seems that we can only learn the skills to truly forgive ourselves through skilful action increasingly free of the blemishes from the past that cloud our perception, rather than seeking it elsewhere.

Some Buddhist teaching talk about that in this quest one can rely on no one and on nothing but oneself, neither gods nor priests, neither church nor sacraments, nor faith nor works are of any avail.

This is also the view of Patañjali in terms of the Yoga Sādhana discussed in his fine compilation of what Yoga is and what Yoga isn’t.

Thank you for your question.

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