At first glance, it would seem that Yoga and Vaishnavism have little in common. After all, Yoga, as it is commonly understood, is an eight-limbed practice—technically called Aß†åõga-yoga—for gaining mastery over body and mind, ultimately, of course, with spiritual ends in sight. Vaishnavism is solely about the heart—about surrendering to God in a mood of loving devotion (bhakti). Yoga is a process leading to kevalya (emancipation or ultimate freedom). The word kevalya, in fact, is often translated as
“isolation,” implying that, by practicing Yoga, one’s true self becomes isolated from the illusions associated with ordinary existence, situating one in a type of mukti, or liberation. This liberation is often viewed as a merging with the Supreme—we are “alone” (kevalya) because we are all one. Vaishnavism, on the other hand, rejoices in the company of devotees; it seeks to commune with God and His eternal associates both in this world and in the hereafter. While it, too, seeks to separate matter from spirit, and its practitioners endeavor to isolate the false self from the true, it views prema, or love of God, as the ultimate goal of life, and it shuns “aloneness” as an inferior form of liberation. Vaishnavism, it must be said, acknowledges various forms of mukti, including kevalya, as legitimate, but it understands intimate, loving relationship with a personal God as the highest form of liberation.