Clarify your doubts: What is the relationship between yoga and Buddhism

In this section Javier Ruiz Calderón offers answers to our doubts about yoga, its philosophy and its techniques from an updated and critical view of the yogic tradition. We are all invited to write to Javier raising our doubts or uncertainties.

Buddha Statue in Bodhgaya, India

Question: What is the relationship between yoga and Buddhism?

Response: In India there are several religious (or spiritual, if you prefer) traditions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, etc. In broad sense, is traditionally called yoga to any spiritual path (Loam) belonging to the Hindu tradition, such as the paths of devotion (bhakti marga), of the action (karma marga), knowledge (jñana marga), etc. In strict sense, yogas are those Marl whose practice focuses specifically on psychophysical self-control, such as Patáñjali yoga or tantric yogas (including hatha yoga). In this second stricter sense, the term yoga is also sometimes used in Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism. In particular, within Buddhism yoga is spoken in some streams of Buddhism Mahayana ("big vehicle") as the school yogachara ("yoga practice") and, above all, tantric Buddhism or Vajrayana ("diamond vehicle") to which Tibetan Buddhism belongs. In summary: although what we often know as yoga is Hindu yoga, there is also yoga strictly in other Indian traditions, including Buddhism.

What's this all about? Around the 8th – 6th centuries Aec there were in India some characters, the Shamans, who, dissatisfied with the ritualistic Hinduism that prevailed at the time, departed from society and engaged in reflection and meditation, seeking truth and inner freedom. With them were born the Indian philosophy and spirituality that we know. Some of these Shamans remained within Hinduism, adding the philosophical and spiritual dimension to the previous ritualism. The first testimonies of this reform within Hinduism are found in the úpanishad (6th – 3rd centuries aec), in which precisely the tradition of Hindu yoga begins. Other Shamans, on the contrary, they completely cut with Hindu ritualism and gave rise to new "heterodox" traditions. One of the best known is Siddhartha Gáutama ("the buddha» "he who has awakened"; 5th century aec), the founder of Buddhism.

In Buddhism we have found from the beginning a very systematic spiritual path, the "noble orctuple path", that takes the seeker to the Nirvana, the "extinction" of ignorance and suffering, and which has a lot in common with Hindu yoga. We do not call it "yoga" simply because the oldest streams of Buddhism did not use that term to refer to the spiritual practices they proposed. Just as we also do not call yoga in our own sense to Christian mystique, kabbala, Sufism or Taoism because, even if they are spiritual paths, we would be imposing on them from the outside a term outside their own vocabulary, and it seems more respectful and "better educated" to refer to different traditions using their own words.

Anyway, if you're looking forward to it, there wouldn't be much trouble speaking metaphorically, in a very broad sense, of the heartless Buddhist path as a yoga, just as there has sometimes been talk of raja yoga San Juan de la Cruz, Taoist yoga, etc. In this maximum extension of the word, all spiritual traditions would be yogas and the term "yoga" could simply be translated as "spirituality".

Javier Ruiz Calderón (Shankara) He holds a phD in philosophy specializing in Asian thought and philosophy of religion, subjects he teaches at the Universidad Pontificia Comillas (Madrid) and elsewhere. He has been studying and practicing yoga, vedanta and meditation for forty years. He teaches these disciplines, as well as Sanskrit and Vedic singing, and has published six books and dozens of articles on these topics.

Upcoming activities: On weekdays, in the center of Madrid: Yoga And Philosophy and meditation ( 5-6 October, Donostia: «Mysticism, Buddhism and contemporary yoga» ( October 2019 – June 2020: Madrid and at a distance, some Saturdays: «Studying the scriptures of yoga and Vedānta: The Bhagavadg.t.» ( and 'Introduction to advaita ved'nta. The yoga of knowledge» (

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By • 6 Sep, 2019 • Sección: Javier Ruiz Calderón