Yoga philosophy views an individual person as a whole being that includes his or her physical, mental, intellectual, emotional and spiritual nature. Its view of a human being is much grander than that of any other philosophy since it tries to see a person beyond the limits of time and space. It views the entire being and not just a few of his or her aspects. The final conception is that of a perfect being with perfect manifestation in the body, a divine human. Yoga is a process of growing, unfolding and becoming aware or conscious as a whole and not partially, so as to reach perfection: the psychological interpretation embraces the intermediary objective, while the spiritual interpretation formulates the lofty objective of liberation which is the final goal of yoga.
Yogic discipline works up gradually through its various techniques to unfold and develop all the forces that are existent in a human being. Such growth begins at the gross level or the physical plane and then proceeds slowly toward the subtler levels, finally ending in the spiritual plane. Of course, such transformation occurs very slowly and usually continues for many years before one realizes his or her inner self.
The achievement of the final stage of perfection in which an individual self merges into or becomes one with the universal self is extremely difficult. It remains beyond the reach of even many advanced yogis. Very few can reach the final stage of perfection after passing through the various planes below that highest level. Only a few exceptional yogis, worthy by their own merits, can attain such a level of perfection. For most ordinary human beings it remains beyond conception, let alone be attainable experience.
The approach of yoga is to unfold the real nature of self by bringing out all the best from within and to lead a finite human being towards the infinity. Yogic discipline enables one to differentiate between the ego and the true self through proper discrimination and right knowledge. Such discrimination and knowledge spontaneously dawn upon a person through the practice of yoga. They are born out of actual spiritual experiences.
On the other hand, the knowledge acquired by reading books or hearing discourses is dry understanding derived through the psycho-mental intellect. It is devoid of experience and is likely to be wrong at times. Moreover, such acquired knowledge depends upon one’s memory and is often forgotten after a lapse of time and certainly lost after death. Contrary to this, real knowledge born out of yogic experience is always true, and being transcendent (beyond the scope of intellect and memory), it can never be forgotten. Even the catastrophe of death cannot destroy it. Once it dawns upon a soul, it becomes eternally joined with that soul even if there is a rebirth.
The chief approach of yoga is that it envisages the fuller exploitation of one’s entire inner resources. As such, yogic discipline is an inward journey not dependent on any kind of outer aid. Its external techniques (only-so-called) are fully concerned with the body and partly with the mind, while its internal techniques are concerned partly with the mind and fully with the spirit. These external and internal techniques together constitute the scientific system of yoga, which is designed to bring about a complete and harmonious development of the three-fold aspects of human being- matter, mind and spirit. Yoga does not recognize the body, mind and spirit as a separate entity but as a trinity that covers all areas of human existence under a single fold. It approaches each unrealized area of human nature and expands human consciousness beyond the gross plane of experience. It makes one fully aware and inwardly conscious about one’s whole being through experiences on the spiritual plane.
Yoga should not be misunderstood only as a physical discipline or merely as a mental discipline, or even as a purely spiritual discipline. It is a unified system of all three. Beginning with physical prowess at a gross level, a student of yoga progresses toward the subtler phases of mental and spiritual development. Because of such a unified approach, yoga is frequently described as a process of harmonizing the body, mind and spirit.