Yoga Philosophy and Noble Truths

The Yoga system of Patanjali and the teachings of Buddha have a lot of theoretical and practical similarity in their components. Both the systems are well practiced in order to overcome the suffering. Yoga philosophy is based on the principles of Sankhya theory which explains the connection of cause and effect relationships in terms of metaphysics, Yoga approaches this theory and provides the stepwise practices of Ashtanga Yoga through the disciplining of the behavior, mind and body and the senses. Buddha practiced Yoga in both the aspects of its theory and practice. The Yogachara school of Buddhism combines Buddhist doctrine with many Principles and Practices of Yoga such as purification of intentions, the code of conduct in the form morality and the meditation techniques. Buddha used the four practical questions as the foundation of the four noble truths of Buddhism according to which

  1. There is suffering
  2. There is cause for the Suffering
  3. There is cessation of the suffering
  4. There is path for the cessation of the suffering

Each of these truths contains an insight into the actual nature of our world as well as offers practical advice on how to make your life free of sufferings. For years Buddhist practitioners of Ayurveda have incorporated these teachings into their healing philosophy. And in today’s life, these truths make all the sense.

The first noble truth is that life is full of suffering. This one is fairly easy to get through our head as we all know that things are not always as good. So the first noble truth seems like an easy one to accept. Although it is easy to accept that life is not free of pain and suffering, we still expect the pain to go away. There is no way one can avoid pain in life. Even if things are great in your life, you are still going to get old and die someday. This is a fact of life which cannot be avoided or escaped from.

The second noble truth is that the cause of suffering is craving. You may not always get what you want or what you think you may deserve, but still, you think that you can. Although this is not the case with all of us; in fact, most of us don’t think like that. But there are many people who think that they should get a particular thing just because they want it. For instance, you may develop a sense of entitlement that just because you want something the world is supposed to provide you with it. This sense of entitlement may leave a bad taste behind if you fail to get that thing.

The third noble truth is that there is always a way out of suffering. Though suffering is inevitable, it is not going to last forever. The best way to reduce the suffering and to experience personal and spiritual growth is to accept it. There is still a reason to have faith and hope, despite the fact that life is full of suffering.

The fourth noble truth leads the way out of suffering. This is an eightfold path which leads to enlightenment. This is the path which gives us hope that suffering is not permanent. Though life is full of suffering, there is always a way out. We cannot avoid the pain but suffering can be escaped. This can be done by following the eightfold path which comprises of Right Understanding, Right Speech, Right Thought, Right Action, Right Effort, Right Livelihood, Right Concentration and Right Mindfulness.

These noble truths of Buddha hold a lot of emphasis on yoga and meditation as only those who have a spiritually awakened mind (which can be obtained through yoga and meditation) could accept these truths in their lives and benefit from it. Not many people know this, but before Buddha got enlightened, he was a yogi, a mystic wanderer. After giving up his opulent life as a prince, he became a yogi and got familiar with practices of mantra, meditation.

The reason why an amateur finds Buddhism and yoga confusingly similar is that Buddhism originated from a source (Buddha) who was deeply submerged in yogic practices. Yoga and Buddhist teachings use several similar terms, principles and practices. Those who study yoga can find a lot of things common with Buddhist teachings and vice versa.