Where did the name ‘yoga’ come from?

The name yoga’, charged and orientated within the sign system of still mind, karma, the soul and its liberation, suddenly appeared around the time of Buddha, in the Upanishads. It was this very specific context of signs which turned a word derived from the yoking of oxen and horses into something entirely different: a discipline for release.

At the time the yoga sign was coined, the Brahmins spurred by Sramanic competition, had probably already developed meditative techniques. But these home grown meditative techniques – like upasana and element meditation’ – received their significance from Brahmin sign systems – not from signs like moksha and karma. However that changed after a while. As the yoga sign finally appeared in the Brahmin texts, it was primarily charged with and enveloped in the Sramanic and Kshatriya sign systems that we have just investigated.

Where did the yoga word – the semiotic signifier – come from? The texts of the Buddhists and Jains did not use the word yoga to signify ascetic meditation and liberation. They employed a range of signifiers – for instance dhyana. They did not have a collective signifier for their practices. The Buddhist would talk about Buddha’s dharma – his teaching. Yoga for them was to live according to the dharma’. The yoga signifier was probably not used among the major Sramana groups.

The yoga word would more probably have surfaced in a social milieu where the word played a prominent role. The yoga signifier was probably coined as ascetic-meditative techniques entered the Upanishad milieu of the Brahmins and Kshatriyas. S. Cohen (2008) observes that the word yoga ‘ in the Upanishads emerged as part of a metaphor of a chariot yoking wild horses (a metaphor for the human senses). Yoga was signified as disciplining’. Hence it might be from this chariot metaphor of disciplining and controlling (i.e. yoking) that the word yoga was derived, congruent with the practices of Sramanic still-mind mortification’.

And who was the driver and master of the chariot? Who was renowned and acknowledged for their skills of taming the wild horses of the chariot? The noble warrior, the Kshatriya.

Hence I have suggested that we call the Sramanic practice of body-mind selfmortification, geared for the release of the immovable self, proto-yoga, and that we give the highly educated elite Kshatriya the honour coining the technical term yoga’.

Where did the name ‘yoga’ come from? Photo Gallery

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