Paramahansa Yogananda ( 1893 – 1952) was an Indian monk, Yogi and guru who introduced millions to
the teachings of meditation and Kriya Yoga through his organization, the Self-Realization Fellowship. He lived 32 years in the US where he was sent by his Guru, Sri Yukteshwar to spread the wisdom of Kryia Yoga to the West. Here, he explains what a Yogi truly is, what is the goal of Yoga and how we shouldn't mistaken the result of the practice (say the perfect Asana r the perfection of any yogic practice) with the objective of Yoga (liberation). He reminds us that mastery of the self through Yoga is to control the body and the mind and remove the Ego from the equation.
"There are a number of great men living today in America or European or other non-hindu bodies who although they may never have heard the words "Yogis" and "Swami" are yet true examples of those terms. Through their disinterested service to mankind or through their mastery over passions and thoughts, or through their single-hearted love of God or through their great power of concentration, they are, in a sense, Yogis. They have set themselves the goal of Yoga: Self Control.
These men could rise even to greater heights if they were taught the definite science of Yoga which make possible a more conscious direction of one's mind and life.
Yoga has been superficially misunderstood by certain Western writers. But its critiques have never been its practitioners. Among many thoughtful tributes to Yoga, maybe mention one by Doctor CG. Yung, the famous Swiss psychologist: "When a religious method recommends itself as scientific, it can be certain of its public in the West, Yoga fulfils this expectation".
Quite apart from the charm of the new and the fascination of the half-understood there is good cause for Yoga to have many adherents. (..). Every religious or philosophical practice means a psychological discipline. That is, a method of mental Hygiene. The manifold purely bodily procedures of Yoga (Dr. Jung here is referring to Hatha Yoga), also mean a physiological hygiene which is superior to ordinary Gymnastics and breathing exercises, in as much as it is not merely mechanistic and scientific but also philosophical. In its training of the parts of the body, it unites them to the whole to the spirit. As it's quite clear for instance in the Pranayama exercises where Prana is both the breath and the universal dynamic of the Cosmos.
Yoga practice would be ineffectual without the concepts on which Yoga is based. It combines the bodily and the spiritual in an extraordinary complete way. In the East, where these ideas and practices have developed and where for several thousand years, an unbroken tradition has created the necessary spiritual foundations, Yoga is, as I can readily believe, the perfect and appropriate method of fusing body and mind together, so that they form a unity which is scarce to be questioned. This unity creates a psychological disposition which makes possible intuitions that transcend consciousness.
Many uninformed persons speak of Yoga as Hatha Yoga or consider Yoga to be magic, dark mysterious rites for attaining spectacular powers. Hatha Yoga is a specialised branch of bodily postures and techniques for health and longevity. Hatha is useful and produces spectacular results.
But this branch of Yoga is little used by Yogis bent on spiritual liberation. When scholars speak of Yoga they mean the system expanded in Yoga Sutras. Also known as Patanjali's aphorisms: Raja (royal) Yoga.
The treatise embodies philosophic concepts of such grandeur as to have inspired commentaries by some of India's greatest thinkers, including the illuminated Master Sadasivendra.
Like the other 5 orthodox vedas-based philosophical systems, Yoga Sutras considers the magic of moral purity, the 10 commandments of Yama and Niyama, to be the indispensable preliminary for sound philosophical investigation.
This personal demand, (not insisted on in the West), has bestowed lasting vitality on the 6 Indian disciplines.
The cosmic order (Rita) that upholds the universe is not different form the moral order that rules men's destiny. He, who is unwilling to observe the universal moral precepts is not seriously determine to pursue Truth.
Section 3 of Yoga Sutras mentions various yogic miraculous powers: Vibhutis and Siddhis (see note below). True knowledge is always power. The path of Yoga is divided into 4 stages. Each with its Vibbhuti expression. Achieving a certain power, the Yogi knows that he has successfully passed the test of one of the 4 stages. Emergence of the characteristic powers is evidence of the scientific structure of the Yoga system, wherein delusive imaginations about one's spiritual progress are banished. Proof is required.
Patanjali warns the devotee that unity with Spirit should be the sole goal, not the possession of Vibhutis (i.e not achieving the perfect asana, or mastery of a discipline). (...)
God does not reveal himself to a seeker with any lesser attainments. The thriving Yogi is therefore careful not to exercise his powers lest they arise false prides and distract him for entering the ultimate state of Kaivalya (see note below).
When the Yogi has reached his infinite goal, he exercises the vibhutis (here, the manifestation of his power) or not, just as he pleases. All his actions (...) are then performed without Karmic involvement.
The iron filings of Karma are attracted only where the magnet of personal Ego still exist.
The western day is nearing when the inner science of Self-control will be found as necessary as the outer conquest of nature. The atomic age will see men's minds sobered and broadened by the now scientifically indisputable truth that Matter is in reality, a concentrate of energy. The human can and must liberate within itself". By Yogananda, in "Diary of a Yogi".
The concept of Rita led to the doctrines of dharma (duty) and karma (accumulated effects of good and bad actions). Rita is the physical order of the universe, the order of the sacrifice, and the moral law of the world.
Vibhuti: means the Forms or manifestations.When any entity changes its visible or non visible states to transform into one or more visible formation, then it is called Vibhuti.
Siddhis: Complete understanding; enlightenment or mastery over oneself. Kaivalya: (कैवल्य), is the ultimate goal of Raja yoga and means"solitude", "detachment" or "isolation", a derivation from kevala "alone, isolated".
For more information on Yogananda, you can watch the documentary on his life, called #Awake or read his "Biography of a Yogi".