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Are the metaphysical truths of Hinduism achievable through the different techniques of Yoga (like breath meditation) without any preconceived notions or are we to rationally believe in them first and then meditate upon them to internalise them?

Is it possible for someone to understand God by just following Patanjali's yoga sutras while not actively trying to believe in them?

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    You do not have to believe. But simply doing pranayama will not give enlightenment. There are 8 steps in the practice of yoga as outlined in Patanjali's Yoga Aphorisms. Pranayama, although step 4, assumes you are already doing steps 1-3. You can't skip steps 1-3, and jump past steps 5-7. There is no royal road to enlightenment. Feb 12 at 7:06
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I will answer the question from a different perspective, Although It does not answer the question completely, the OP has written:

"Is it possible for someone to understand God by just following Patanjali's yoga sutras while not actively trying to believe in them?"

Someone will talk about yoga sutras, but the part of 'Believing' has got a prime importance.

In Nila-Saraswati Tantra of Chaukhamba Prakashan (S.N.Khandelwal) he have written a nice preface. He writes: (I am translating)

one of the problems faced by 'sadhakas' is 'Oghavigna' i.e. the problems faced in the path or the course or stream. Oghavigna is getting deflected from the choosen path or say determined decision. The core of any 'Upasana' or a 'mantra-sadhana' is having extreme trust in them. The Reason of this probelm in path of a sadhaka is 'urapoha' which means extra interpretations and becoming suspicious about the methodology itself. E.g. Will I really get the fruit of 'Upasana'? Etc. Due to these thoughts a sadhaka gets deflected or detached from his path. The only way out is trust or Believing in them.

To conclude 'Belief' is important aspect for any sadhana in general. (The next two problems (vignā) listed there, are faced by people performing tantric sadhanas especially kulacharis, viracharis etc)

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Not only the faith in Ishwara but also an attitude of surrendering the self to the Ishwara (or devotion to Ishwara) is very important to succeed in the path of Yoga because there are several obstacles in this path which will vanish by meditation on Om.

Following are some qualities required to march in this path: (Refer the first chapter of Yoga sutras)

श्रद्धा-वीर्य-स्मृति-समाधि-प्रज्ञा-पूर्वक इतरेषाम् ॥२०॥

  1. To others (this Samadhi) comes through faith, energy, memory, concentration, and discrimination of the real.

As said in next Sutras:

  1. Success is speedy for the extremely energetic.
  2. The success of Yogis differs according as the means they adopt are mild, medium, or intense.
  3. Or by devotion to Ishvara.

Following sutra states the obstacles in the path:

  1. Disease, mental laziness, doubt, lack of enthusiasm, lethargy, clinging to sense-enjoyments, false perception, non-attaining concentration, and falling away from the state when obtained, are the obstructing distractions.

And by meditating on Om, one attains the ability to overcome these obstacles:

  1. From that is gained (the knowledge of) introspection, and the destruction of obstacles.

Now talking about having doubt on what has been said in Yoga sutras, When the practitioner focuses his/her mind on the objects suggested in sutras, s/he starts getting extraordinary experience which clears the doubts and establishes the faith according to Swami Vivekananda:

विषयवती वा प्रवृत्तिरुत्पन्ना मनसः स्थितिनिबन्धिनी ॥३५॥
35. Those forms of concentration that bring extraordinary sense-perceptions cause perseverance of the mind.

This naturally comes with Dhâranâ, concentration; the Yogis say, if the mind becomes concentrated on the tip of the nose, one begins to smell, after a few days, wonderful perfumes. If it becomes concentrated at the root of the tongue, one begins to hear sounds; if on the tip of the tongue, one begins to taste wonderful flavours; if on the middle of the tongue, one feels as if one were coming in contact with something. If one concentrates one's mind on the palate, one begins to see peculiar things. If a man whose mind is disturbed wants to take up some of these practices of Yoga, yet doubts the truth of them, he will have his doubts set at rest when, after a little practice, these things come to him, and he will persevere.

So, when one starts believing in Yoga Sutras, s/he will also establish a faith on Ishwara that eventually can lead to realization of the Ishwara.

After all this path of Yoga has the feature of validating all the things by realizing them, Ishwara can also be realized and attained but one need to have a stable mind to success and without keeping faith on Ishwara (or having doubts) one will face the issue of having a disturbed mind which is not eligible to march further in the right direction.

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  • Thanks for the answer. If i may ask, have you experienced any of these things? Feb 14 at 10:48
  • @SatwikAgrawal No, I have not experienced it, to be honest, I am not putting sufficient efforts for meditation.
    – Pandya
    Feb 14 at 11:48

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