This is about Yoga in its full sense. The gymnastic "yoga" familiar in Western lands is only one small part of it.
Yoga is torn between dharma and moksha.
Dharma is moral and ceremonial duty after the pattern of the Vedas.
Moksha (aka nirvana) is escape, via contemplation, from the the cycle of rebirth.
Yoga, in many variations such as Buddhism and Hinduism, dominated South Asia until the 20th century CE.
In its Buddhist form, Yoga has also had some influence in East Asia, where it has always competed with the native Taiji.
Dharma-thinking was brought into India by Aryan migrants, upheld by the Brahmin caste that acted as literati to the Kshatriya regimes, and associated with their songbooks the Vedas.
Probably yoga originally just meant "practice" or "technique", and was associated with moksha rather than dharma, but later it gained its full specific yet comprehensive sense.
For instance, bhagavadgita mentions the dharma-orientated karma yoga as well as the moksha-orientated jnana yoga and bhakti yoga.
Moksha-thinking may have drawn elements from relatively aboriginal Indian cultures, but the idea flourished from about 900 BC and led in the following centuries to the shramana movements (such as Jain and Buddhism).
The Buddhist and Hindu forms of yoga both contain the duality of dharma and moksha. Brahmin orthodoxy dismissed the shramanas as nastika because they rejected the Vedas, but proceeded to assimilate much of their thinking, especially in its Shaiva branch, so that wild Shiva became a counterweight to respectable Vishnu as these two figures dominated Hindu literature banishing the once-dominant Brahma into obscurity; hence the saying "Vaishnava in public, Shaiva in private", advocating a conflicted devotion to both idols. And Buddhism, notwithstanding its original focus on nirvana, retained an emphasis on dharma.
Artha (business) and kama (pleasure) are sometimes listed as on the same level as dharma and moksha, but really are subordinate, as is bhakti (reverence); none of these disturbs the structure of the basic attitude.
In Europe, Arthur Schopenhauer propounded a version in his 1818 The World as Will and Presentation.
Back to The Major Cogniframes.