Raja Yoga -cultivation of the mind using meditation
The following article is from Raja Yoga. (2009, May 10). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 14:22, May 15, 2009, from
Rāja Yoga ("royal yoga", "royal union", also known as Classical Yoga or simply Yoga) is one of the six orthodox (astika) schools of Hindu philosophy, outlined by the sage Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras. Raja yoga is concerned principally with the cultivation of the mind using meditation (dhyana) to further one’s acquaintance with reality and finally achieve liberation.
The term Rāja Yoga is a retronym, introduced in the 15th-century Hatha Yoga Pradipika to distinguish the school based on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali from the more current school of Hatha Yoga expounded by Swami Swatmarama. The term was later used to describe the entirely unrelated meditation practice of the Brahma Kumaris involving the focus of one’s mind and surrender to a channelled entity they believe to be the Supreme Soul.
Raja Yoga is sometimes referred to as Aṣṭānga (eight-limbed) yoga because there are eight aspects to the path to which one must attend. Patanjali himself called his system of yoga ‘Kriya Yoga’ as is known in his first sutra of the second chapter: Tapas svadyaya ishvarapranidhanani kriya yogah (2:1), "Discipline, insight, and devotion are the pillars of Kriya Yoga". This is not to be confused with the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga of K. Pattabhi Jois.
Raja Yoga is so-called because it is primarily concerned with the mind. The mind is traditionally conceived as the "king" of the psycho-physical structure which does its bidding (whether or not one has realized this). Because of the relationship between the mind and the body, the body must be first "tamed" through self-discipline and purified by various means (see Hatha Yoga). A good level of overall health and psychological integration must be attained before the deeper aspects of yoga can be pursued. Humans have all sorts of addictions and obsessions and these preclude the attainment of tranquil abiding (meditation). Through restraint (yama) such as celibacy, abstaining from alcohol and other hard drugs and careful attention to one’s actions of body, speech and mind, the human being becomes fit to practice meditation. This yoke that one puts upon oneself (discipline) is another meaning of the word yoga.
Every thought, feeling, perception, or memory you may have causes a modification, or ripple, in the mind. It distorts and colors the mental mirror. If you can restrain the mind from forming into modifications, there will be no distortion, and you will experience your true Self. – Swami Satchidananda
Patañjali’s Yoga Sutras begin with the statement yogaś citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ (1.2), "Yoga limits the oscillations of the mind". They go on to detail the ways in which mind can create false ideations and advocate meditation on real objects, which process, it is said, will lead to a spontaneous state of quiet mind, the "Nirbija" or "seedless state", in which there is no mental object of focus.
Practices that serve to maintain for the individual the ability to access this state may be considered Raja Yoga practices. Thus Raja Yoga encompasses and differentiates itself from other forms of Yoga by encouraging the mind to avoid the sort of absorption in obsessional practice (including other traditional yogic practices) that can create false mental objects.
In this sense Raja Yoga is referred to as the "king among yogas": all yogic practices are seen as potential tools for obtaining the seedless state, itself considered to be the starting point in the quest to cleanse Karma and obtain Moksha or Nirvana. Historically, schools of yoga that label themselves "Raja" offer students a mix of yogic practices and (hopefully or ideally) this philosophical viewpoint.
Raja Yoga aims at controlling all thought-waves or mental modifications. While a Hatha Yogi starts his Sadhana with Asanas (postures) and Pranayama, a Raja Yogi starts his Sadhana with the mind, although a certain minimum of asanas and pranayamas are usually included as a preparation for the meditation and concentration. In Samadhi Pada I,27 says Pantanjali that the word of Ishvara is OM, the Pranava. Through the sounding of the Word and through reflection upon its meaning, the Way is found.
Eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga
The eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga are:
- Yama – code of conduct, self-restraint
- Niyama – religious observances, commitments to practice, such as study and devotion
- Āsana – integration of mind and body through physical activity
- Pranayama – regulation of breath leading to integration of mind and body
- Pratyahara – abstraction of the senses, withdrawal of the senses of perception from their objects
- Dharana – concentration, one-pointedness of mind
- Dhyana – meditation (quiet activity that leads to samadhi)
- Samādhi – the quiet state of blissful awareness, superconscious state.
They are sometimes divided into the lower and the upper four limbs, the lower ones – from yama to pranayama – being parallel to the lower limbs of Hatha Yoga, while the upper ones – from pratyahara to samadhi – being specific for the Raja yoga. The upper three limbs practiced simultaneously constitute the Samyama.
Yama (restraints) consists of five parts: Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (celibacy), and Aparigraha (non-covetousness). Ahimsa is perfect harmlessness, as well as positive love. The five directives of Yama lay down behavioral norms as prerequisites for elimination of fear and angst and contribute to a tranquil mind.
Niyama is observance of five canons: Shaucha (internal and external purity), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (austerity), Svadhyaya (study of religious books and repetitions of Mantras), and Ishvarapranidhana (self-surrender to God, and His worship). Niyama, unlike Yama, prescribes mental exercises to train the mind to control emotions.
Asana is postures. Asanas develop physical health and flexibility, but more importantly work to redirect the vital energies and kundalini towards the crown chakra. Asana are not necessarily ‘gentle’ or comfortable physical exercise, or a ‘series’ of exercises (one particular important asana is standing on your head for hours). Asanas are not really exercise at all. In the west they have become popular for health alone, but this is an abuse of yoga. They were not designed just to ‘tone muscles’ or keep ‘joints supple’ etc. They were designed to aid in the union of your self with the divine. They were designed to bring kundalini to the crown chakra and aid in merging the yogi’s consciousness with the divine consciousness of shiva.
Pranayama is life force energy control (prana=life energy, yama=control). Breathing is the medium used to achieve this goal. The mind and life force are correlated to the breath. Through regulating the breathing and practicing awareness on it, one learns to control prana. There are many different kinds of pranayama, each with specific goals. All pranayama ultimately works towards the awakening of the kundalini shakti at the muladhara chakra. The awakening of kundalini energy and its ascent to the crown chakra is the final goal of Raja Yoga, NOT "control of thinking process".
Pratyahara is bringing the awareness to reside deep within oneself, free from the senses and external world. The Goal of Pratyahara is not to disrupt the communication from the sense organ to the brain. The awareness is far removed from the five senses. Pratyahara cannot be achieved without achievement of the preceding limbs (pranayama, niyama, etc.). The awareness comes to rest deep in the inner space and during this time the yogi’s breath will be temporarily suspended. Pratyahara should not just be likened to concentration or meditation, etc. It is a yogic practice which takes on adequecy in the prior 8 limbs as prerequisites.
Real Yoga starts from concentration. Concentration merges into meditation. Meditation ends in Samadhi. Retention of breath, Brahmacharya, Satvic (pure) food, seclusion, silence, Satsanga (being in the company of a guru), and not mixing much with people are all aids to concentration. Concentrate on Trikuti (the space between the two eyebrows) with closed eyes is preferred. The mind can be easily controlled, as this is the seat for the mind. (*Coherence and Citation needed*)
Sleep, tossing of mind, attachment to objects, subtle desires and cravings, laziness, lack of Brahmacharya, gluttony are all obstacles in meditation. Reduce your wants. Cultivate dispassion. You will have progress in Yoga. Vairagya thins out the mind. Do not mix much. Do not talk much. Do not walk much. Do not eat much. Do not sleep much. Do not exert much. Never wrestle with the mind during meditation. Do not use any violent efforts at concentration. If evil thoughts enter your mind, do not use your will force in driving them. You will tax your will. You will lose your energy. You will fatigue yourself. The greater the efforts you make, the more the evil thoughts will return with redoubled force. Be indifferent. Become a witness of those thoughts. Substitute divine thoughts. They will pass away. Never miss a day in meditation. Regularity is of paramount importance. When the mind is tired, do not concentrate. Do not take heavy food at night.
The mind passes into many conditions or states as it is made up of three qualities-Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Kshipta (wandering), Vikshipta (gathering), Mudha (ignorant), Ekagra (one-pointed), and Nirodha (contrary) are the five states of the mind.
By controlling the thoughts the Sadhaka attains great Siddhis. He becomes an adept. He attains Asamprajnata Samadhi or Kaivalya. Do not run after Siddhis. Siddhis are great temptations. They will bring about your downfall. A Raja Yogi practices Samyama or the combined practice of Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi at one and the same time and gets detailed knowledge of an object.
Control the mind by Abhyasa (practice) and Vairagya (dispassion). Any practice which steadies the mind and makes it one-pointed is Abhyasa. Dull Vairagya will not help you in attaining perfection in Yoga. You must have Para Vairagya or Theevra Vairagya, intense dispassion.
Meditation on OM with Bhava and its meaning removes obstacles in Sadhana and helps to attain Samadhi. Avidya (ignorance), Asmita (egoism), Raga-Dvesha (likes and dislikes), Abhinivesha (clinging to mundane life) are the five Kleshas or afflictions. Destroy these afflictions. You will attain Samadhi.
Samadhi is of two kinds:
- Savikalpa, Samprajnata or Sabija; and
- Nirvikalpa, Asamprajnata or Nirbija.
In Savikalpa or Sabija, there is Triputi or the triad (knower, known and knowledge). The samskaras are not burnt or freed. Savitarka, Nirvitarka, Savichara, Nirvichara, Sasmita and Saananda are the different forms of Savikalpa Samadhi. In Nirvikalpa Samadhi, Nirbija Samadhi or Asamprajnata Samadhi there is no triad.
A Bhakta gets Bhava-Samadhi, a Jnani gets Badha-Samadhi, a Raja Yogi gets Nirodha Samadhi.
In a lay-persons terms, Samadhi would be described as enlightenment.