Wednesday, 9 December 2009

yoga and syzygy

Proto-Indo-European *yeug- "to join" became Sanskrit योग yoga "union". Yoga philosophy teaches "self-concentration, abstract meditation and mental abstraction practised as a system… its chief aim being to teach the means by which the human spirit may attain complete union with Īśvara or the Supreme Spirit" (Monier-Williams). The English cognate is yoke.

In Greek *yeug- became ζυγόν "yoke", which combined with συν "with" to form συζυγία "union, conjunction". This was borrowed as syzygy thru Latin. A syzygy, by the way, is an astronomical term for a conjunction or opposition of two heavenly bodies.

Another Sanskrit reflex is युग yuga a term for an age of the world. I quote the complete definition from Monier-Williams here because it's so interesting:

an age of the world, long mundane period of years (of which there are four, viz. 1. Krita or Satya, 2. Treta, 3. Dvapara, 4. Kali, of which the first three have already elapsed, while the Kali, which began at midnight between the 17th and 18th of Feb. 3102 B.C. [O. S.], is that in which we live ; the duration of each is said to be respectively 1,728 ,000, 1,296,000, 864,000, and 432,000 years of men, the descending numbers representing a similar physical and moral deterioration of men in each age; the four Yugas comprise an aggregate of 4,320,000 years and constitute a "great Yuga" or Maha-yuga

The Kali of the Kali Yuga, the yuga we are currently in, is the male demon named Kali, not the goddess Kālī.


be_slayed said...

The yuga names also, as I recall, appear as the names for various dice-rolls in some sort of gambling game (like what Yudhistira and Nala play)

Stan said...

You could say that the aim of yoga is yoga.

Dogberry said...

Yoga in the West tends to mean simply an exercise regime. There's a lovely line I read somewhere (but forget where) which said something like "The great danger of practicing yoga is that the new student may achieve enlightenment too fast and that his unprepared soul will be anihilated by the shock". My girlfriend was at a yoga class at the time and I became terribly worried.

Glen Gordon said...

I learn yet another strange word. Now I'll have to slip "syzygy" into a sentence when I visit with friends.