Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

Table of Contents | Cover Page  |  Editors  |  Contributors  |  Introduction  |  Web Version


Beliefs and practices originating in Indian religion that operate on different levels. An ancient Sanskrit text called Yoga Sutra is attributed to Patanjali (second century B.C.E.). Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism each have incorporated elements of yoga. On the religious plane, its basic objective is to make the aspirant fit in mind and body so that she or he can receive illumination.

According to yogic belief, in the human body there are seven chakras (or nerve centers) that, when awakened, lead to spiritual ascent. These centers are located in the body in an ascending order. The three lower centers are found in the pelvic region, and their functions relate to alimentation, procreation, and the instinct to survive. The four higher centers are found in the suprapelvic region (heart, base of neck, pineal region, and upper part of the skull); their functions relate, respectively, to awakening of compassion, transcendence of gender differences, acquisition of paranormal powers, and attainment of supreme consciousness. The paranormal powers include telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance, and so on.

The main reason for the use of yogic techniques is the enforcement of religious discipline. Usually these techniques are taught by a master to his disciples. The training can be prolonged and difficult. In Indian religions, intellectual understanding of religion is not regarded as sufficient. Religion must be experienced by the mind-body set so that the aspirant undergoes a holistic development. Transcendental Meditation (TM) is a modern yoga popular in the West with demonstrated physiological benefits.

See also Hinduism, Wellness

C. N. Venugopal


H. Benson and M. Z. Klipper, The Relaxation Response (New York: Avon, 1976)

J. Campbell, The Power of Myth (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1968)

D. Chattopadhyaya, Indian Philosophy (New Delhi: People's Publishing House, 1982).


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