What is the difference between Yoga and Vedanta?

India has a very rich cultural heritage. Many wonderful philosophies have originated from this land. Six of these philosophies are considered extremely important and together they are called as the “Shat Vaidika Darshanas”, the six Vedic Philosophical schools. The role of all these philosophical schools was very simple.  They wanted to eleminate our sufferings. But the methods they chose to eliminate the sufferings were slightly different. Among these six philosophical schools are Yoga and Vedanta. So in an effort they are of these six philosophical schools.

While Yoga understands that our sufferings come from our mind based on to see the world and therefore he prescribes a path of understanding the mind, training the mind and utilizing the mind to its full potential.  Vedanta takes a slightly different approach where the Vedanta says that the reason we are suffering is because of the disconnection we have from the divine. Yoga is more like a psychological school. It asks us to look into our self to understand and explore the mind and find solutions to problems in the world. Vedanta is asking us to look at the entire world as a part of the world with grand divinity. This is the fundamental difference between the two systems. Yoga system authored by Patanjali is presenting all the different ways in understanding the human system and gives connection to the divine as a choice.

Whereas in the Vedanta school the connection to the divine is not a choice, but a necessity. This is the very fundamental difference between the two schools. Yoga is also saying that the liberation is freedom from suffering. The school of Vedanta says that liberation is freedom from birth and rebirth, the cycle of life.  So there are certain fundamental differences between the two tradition. What is common is that both of them are meant to reduce human sufferings.

What is very unique about the Vedanta tradition is that while the Vedanta tradition rejects the idea of Yoga’s presentation of the divine, it still says that the method to meditate on the divine must be taken from the Yoga school. In a sense, the Vedanta accepts the meditation and other practice aspects of Yoga however the difference is that the Vedanta Schools says that we must choose to meditate only on the divine. Patanjali’s Yoga school says that we can choose to meditate any on the objects in this world which is includes the divine.

By Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga® Teacher