An Introduction to Raja Yoga

Raja yoga aims at controlling chitta vrittis, thought waves or mental modifications. It concerns the mind, its purification and control. Raja yoga is a philosophy and practice of absolute control of mind and its modifications, which teaches us how to transmute the unregenerate nature and attain the state of divinity.

Raja yoga is an exact science; it aims at the harmonious development of the body, mind and soul. Hence it is called raja yoga, king of all yogas. It is also known as ashtanga yoga, yoga with eight limbs. The founder of the ashtanga raja yoga system, Patanjali Maharshi, was not only a philosopher and yogi, but a physician as well. He is said to have lived about three hundred years before Jesus Christ.

The eight limbs of Patanjali’s raja yoga are: yama (self-restraint), niyama (religious observances), asana (posture), pranayama (restraint of breath), pratyahara (abstraction of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (super-conscious state). Yama and niyama discipline the senses and purify the mind. Asanas steady the physical body, and bandhas and mudras make the body firm. Pranayama makes the body light and helps to control, regulate and coordinate the subtle forces within the body.

Pranayama or control of breath makes the mind firm and steady and thereby fit for concentration. It removes the veil of rajas (passion) and tamas (inertia) that envelops sattwa (purity), and purifies the nadis (energy channels). The dross of the mind is cleansed by pranayama, just as the dross of gold is got rid of by melting. Nadi shuddhi produces steadiness of mind. Having acquired these qualifications the mind can be withdrawn from the sense objects and concentrated on Brahman. Only then meditation goes on steadily with ease and happiness.

You will have to ascend the ladder of raja yoga patiently through its different rungs and attain the highest summit. If you really aspire to unfold the divinity within and get rid of the meshes of samsara, you must know the technique of thought control which is embodied in the system of raja yoga. You must know the ways of right living, right thinking, right speaking and right acting. You must practise the five rules of yama, right conduct or sadachara.

A method of mind management

Raja yoga aims at controlling the mind and its modifications. Knowledge of the ways and habits of the mind, its operations, the laws of the mind and the methods of mind control and mental discipline is very necessary if you want to enjoy real happiness and abiding peace.

In the practice of raja yoga, there is a reversal of the normal outgoing activity of the mind. This requires the turning away of the senses from the objective universe and concentrating on the mind within. Steadiness of mind is very essential for a reversal of the normal outgoing activity of the mind. Unless the mind is first made steady and brought under complete control, it will not be possible to change its course to the opposite direction.

You must know how to withdraw the mind from external objects and fix it on one point. You must know the right method of concentration and meditation. Then alone you can be really happy. Then and then alone, you will attain peace, freedom and perfection. Practise raja yoga, control the thoughts, discipline the mind, meditate regularly and attain independence, immortality, freedom and perfection. The culmination of raja yoga is that state of absolute peace wherein there is neither imagination nor thought. It is stated in the scriptures:

Dhyanam nirvishayam manah.

When the mind becomes nirvishaya (free from thinking of sense objects and their enjoyments), it is meditation.

Benefits of raja yoga

Life today is full of stress and strain, tension and nervous irritability, passion and hurry. If one puts into practice a few of the elementary principles of raja yoga, one would be far better equipped to cope with this complex existence.

Raja yoga brings in perfection, peace and lasting happiness. You can have calmness of mind at all times by its practices. You can have a restful sleep, increased energy, vigour, vitality, longevity and a high standard of health. You can turn out efficient work within a short space of time. You can have success in every walk of life. It will infuse in you new strength, confidence and self-reliance. The body and mind will be at your beck and call.

The practice of raja yoga will help you to control your emotions and passions. Lust for power, material greed, sensual excitement, selfishness, passion for wealth and lower appetites have drawn people from their true life in the spirit into the materialistic life. One can regain the lost divine glory if one practices, in right earnest, the principles of yoga. The practice of raja yoga will give you the power to resist temptations and to remove the disturbing elements from the mind. It will enable you to always keep a balanced mind.

Raja yoga will also help you in your profession and daily life. It will increase power of concentration at work. It will remove fatigue, confer serenity and calmness. Through the yogic disciplines, the mind, body and the organ of speech will work together harmoniously.

The discipline of raja yoga provides poise and tranquillity and miraculously rebuilds one’s life. A new outlook, better health, greater awareness and a new philosophy rush in and vividly transform one’s life.

The path of raja yoga leads from ignorance to wisdom, from weakness to strength, from disharmony to harmony, from hatred to love, from want to fullness, from limitation to infinitude, from diversity to unity, and from imperfection to perfection.