Yoga as a Reductive Process


You are not your body, you are not your mind, you are not the thoughts that run through it (the mind), nor are you the emotions that result as a response to those thoughts. Well then… Who or what exactly are we?

Embed from Getty Images

Before we try to understand this un-answerable question, lets first think about this: How much can we see with the naked eye? The human eye can distinguish over 10 million colors. In a recent study at Rockefeller University, scientists were able to prove that the human eye is capable of perceiving a single photon (light particle)–that’s right, just one! On a clear night the furthest object a human can see is the Andromeda galaxy, a staggering 2.6 million light-years away. If the earth was flat (hehe) we would be able to detect a solitary candle light over 30 miles away on a dark night. Even with all of that amazing capability, the human eye is profoundly limited in its ability to perceive all that there is to see. Modern astronomers have instruments that allow us to visualize the full electromagnetic spectrum, revealing to us a picture of space that is beyond our wildest dreams. So through an additive process, science has created instruments that allow us to expand our abilities beyond our human limitations.

Back to the Q; if we are not our minds, bodies, thoughts, or emotions, what exactly are we? And what does all of this have to do with eyeballs and astronomers? In short, we are the observer, that one thing that is always witnessing thoughts, feelings, emotions, dreams, and dreamless sleep. The Mandukya Upanishad tells us that there is a state of awareness that is beyond cognitive awareness, dreaming and deep sleep. This state is called turiya (the fourth state). A state that is beyond time, space and causality, without beginning or end. A state that is unaffected by reality, yet is the foundation of all that we perceive to be real. Turiya is also known as God, Spirit, Creator, consciousness, awareness, ultimate reality, the list goes on. So according to yoga, we are actually the all mighty, omnipotent, omnipresent thing we call–well call it what you want. They are all just names for something that cannot be named or comprehended anyway.

Humans understood some time ago that our eyes were limited in their abilities, so we created instruments designed to compensate for those limitations. In the case of astronomy for example, we add the use of a telescope to see beyond our physical threshold. However, there is no amount of technology that will ever show us who we truly are. In fact, according to Patanjali Yoga, our mind is an instrument that is obstructing our ability to know our true self, and answer the question “who/what are we?” So if the phenomenal world requires and additive process to gain deeper understanding and knowledge, then the aspect of reality that is precedes time, space, and causality can only be understood through a reductive process.

The beautiful thing about the Sanskrit language is that when defining a word, scholars often times not only define what the word is, but also, what it is not. For example the Cambridge dictionary gives us two examples of the definition for the word “daytime.”

First definition: daytimenoun [ U ]

The period of each day when the sun is up and there is light

Second definition:​ daytimenoun [ U ]

The period between the time when the sun rises and the time it goes down, or the part of the day that is neither evening nor night


This is a pretty basic example, but you get the idea, and see how the second definition is more concise. In order to define that which cannot be defined, we can only understand everything that it is NOT. Just as everything gets flipped around from additive to reductive, finite to infinite, when examining the world outside versus the world with in, so arrises the answer to the question “who am I?” The answer is: You are not your body, you are not your mind, you are not the thoughts that run through it (the mind), nor are you the emotions that result as a response to those thoughts. After that, the real you is all that is left.


Embed from Getty Images