Theosophists including Madame Blavatsky also had a large influence on the Western public's view of Yoga.[210] Esoteric views current at the end of the 19th century provided a further basis for the reception of Vedanta and of Yoga with its theory and practice of correspondence between the spiritual and the physical.[211] The reception of Yoga and of Vedanta thus entwined with each other and with the (mostly Neoplatonism-based) currents of religious and philosophical reform and transformation throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. Mircea Eliade brought a new element into the reception of Yoga with the strong emphasis on Tantric Yoga in his seminal book: Yoga: Immortality and Freedom.[212] With the introduction of the Tantra traditions and philosophy of Yoga, the conception of the "transcendent" to be attained by Yogic practice shifted from experiencing the "transcendent" ("Atman-Brahman" in Advaitic theory) in the mind to the body itself.[213]


A yoga system that predated the Buddhist school is Jain yoga. But since Jain sources postdate Buddhist ones, it is difficult to distinguish between the nature of the early Jain school and elements derived from other schools.[89] Most of the other contemporary yoga systems alluded in the Upanishads and some Buddhist texts are lost to time.[90][91][note 12]

The chronology of completion of these yoga-related Early Buddhist Texts, however, is unclear, just like ancient Hindu texts.[85][86] Early known Buddhist sources like the Majjhima Nikāya mention meditation, while the Anguttara Nikāya describes Jhāyins (meditators) that resemble early Hindu descriptions of Muni, Kesins and meditating ascetics,[87] but these meditation-practices are not called yoga in these texts.[88] The earliest known specific discussion of yoga in the Buddhist literature, as understood in modern context are from the later Buddhist Yogācāra and Theravada schools.[88]


The Rigveda, however, does not describe yoga, and there is little evidence as to what the practices were.[7] Early references to practices that later became part of yoga, are made in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, the earliest Hindu Upanishad.[67] For example, the practice of pranayama (consciously regulating breath) is mentioned in hymn 1.5.23 of Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (c. 900 BCE), and the practice of pratyahara (concentrating all of one's senses on self) is mentioned in hymn 8.15 of Chandogya Upanishad (c. 800–700 BCE).[68][note 8] The Jaiminiya Upanishad Brahmana teaches mantra repetition and control of the breath.[71]
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Description of an early form of yoga called nirodhayoga (yoga of cessation) is contained in the Mokshadharma section of the 12th chapter (Shanti Parva) of the Mahabharata (third century BCE).[109] Nirodhayoga emphasizes progressive withdrawal from the contents of empirical consciousness such as thoughts, sensations etc. until purusha (Self) is realized. Terms like vichara (subtle reflection), viveka (discrimination) and others which are similar to Patanjali's terminology are mentioned, but not described.[110] There is no uniform goal of yoga mentioned in the Mahabharata. Separation of self from matter, perceiving Brahman everywhere, entering into Brahman etc. are all described as goals of yoga. Samkhya and yoga are conflated together and some verses describe them as being identical.[111] Mokshadharma also describes an early practice of elemental meditation.[112] Mahabharata defines the purpose of yoga as the experience of uniting the individual ātman with the universal Brahman that pervades all things.[111]
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