Om Aha Mani Foundation

An Introduction to Raja Yoga.

Page Contents.



Beloved Immortal Souls! Radiant Children of Light! Greetings to you all in the name of Yoga. Yoga, the ancient science of India, is the common heritage of humanity, though evolved in the East, though practised and expounded in India. This science of attaining universal consciousness is the common wealth of mankind. It is a science that goes beyond the barrier of any particular faith or religion, system or theology, and takes on the nature of spiritual process that is capable of being worked out within the interior of human consciousness irrespective of the personality. This consciousness shines as the universal common denominator, as the common factor in all life. It runs as a subtle invisible cosmic link in all life, just as a thread runs as the common inner support through a necklace of beads of variegated colours, shapes and appearances, holding them all together, unifying them into one object, a necklace. Here is this Sutra or a thread, a unity within diversity.

Consciousness or the spiritual essence is similarly the unifying factor that underlies all forms in this universe that are apparent as different objects to our superficial, physical gaze. All such objects hold, within their apparent diversity, this inner Unity of Consciousness. The spirit within is the universal common denominator underlying all forms of existence, but it has become involved in mental processes, and through them got caught up within the meshes of sensual and physical nature.

Yoga presents a system of liberating the spiritual essence from this involvement, this entanglement in mental and physical processes. It achieves the effect of restoring the spiritual consciousness to its pristine state, its untrammelled, pure original state. The thesis of Yoga based upon the direct experience of those who became its expounders, is that your true nature, your real and essential nature, is pure bliss. It is pure peace. It is Ananda and Santi. Not sorrow. Not misery. Not grief. Not restlessness. Not agitation. Not tears. But peace and joy. Thus Raja Yoga is a scientific method of liberating the consciousness from the bondage of mind, senses and matter. It does not come into clash with any set of dogma or any specific religious belief. For, in the ultimate context, if you try to analyse religion to its gross roots, you will discover that all religions have as their ultimate aim, showing to the individual the path beyond sorrow, the way to supreme blessedness. Call it divine felicity, call it eternal beatitude, call it salvation, emancipation, liberation - the term which you use does not matter; the aim or the ultimate objective of religion remains the same. If you try to grasp the central essence of religion, the central spirit behind all the elaborate rituals and ceremonials, you will find that it is to bring man to God. And this Reality or this Cosmic Being called God denotes a state of perfection that transcends the imperfect experiences of this finite earth-life, that transcends sorrow and suffering. It denotes a positive state of perfect joy and peace.

Yoga therefore is a system, a science, a practice. Though it had its origin in India, though it was systematised by a people who professed the Vedic religion which we call Hinduism, Yoga is beyond religion and occupies a place in the spiritual life of man which is the common meeting ground of all humanity and has come down to us in this 20th century as a part of the universal heritage of mankind.


The Nature of the World.

Yoga, by itself, is a term that implies the bringing to an end man's involvement in sorrow and suffering. The life of man here in this universe is characterised by experiences which he does not like, experiences which are painful, experiences which he seeks to avoid but dixawcrs by the time he appioaches the end of his life that they arc unavoidable. These are part and parcel of what we call earthly life here. Pain, sorrows and sufferings of various kinds seem inevitable and yet man all nvcr the world tries to avoid suffering and sorrow, pain and misery, and tries to obtain, somehow or the other, a state of joy, of happiness. In this, man fails. He has failed in this ever since the dawn of creation. Not so much because this state of absolute transcending of sorrow and experience of absolute bliss, does not exist, but merely because he searches for it in the wrong direction. He looks for it in the outer world, in objects.

And no wonder he fails to find the perfect and absolute experience of joy there, because finite things, changeful things, perishable things, imperfect in their very nature, have a beginning and an end; they are conditioned in time and space. These things naturally cannot give perfect experience, because these things are fragmentary. Everything is relative. Everything is one of a pair of opposites. And our relationship, our contact, with all things is also short-lived. All coming together ends in going apart, and over and above this, that very instrument through which man has to relate himself to all things here is characterised by much imperfection.

What is that instrument through which man relates himself to this external world?

The body with the five senses is that instrument

And that primary instrument through which the dweller within has to contact and perceive this phenomenal world is itself defective. lt has a birth and ultimately goes to extermination in death; all the five senses through which it perceives the universe gradually fail when disease comes and gradually destroys them. If disease does not destroy them, the natural process in old age makes them weaker. Eye-sight weakens, hearing fails, limbs become feeble, and all the senses gradually grow cold. Thus the body suffers its natural characteristics of birth, growth, change, disease, old age, decay and death. Numerous other factors also torment this body, factors beyond the control of man. You have natural calamities like earthquakes, epidemic and famine. Then war, revolution, wicked people, malarious mosquitos, yellow fever, consumption, TB., cancer, venereal disease, dysentery, cholera ad infinitum.

Then there are natural calamities like the fury of the elements, cold wave, heat wave, drought, either too much rain or no rain, typhoons, hurricanes and blizzards. Then there are those other afflictions which are man-made and also coming from various kinds of creatures and as though these miseries are not enough, from within one's own nature there arise factors that torment and destroy the peace of the human individual. Anger, hatred, jealousy, envy, frustration, disappointment, failure to achieve one's objective, fierce passion in the form of lust and greed - these fires in the human being inflame his mind, torment his heart and disturb his peace. How much of the ills of man come from his own inner psyche! The various agitating conditions upon which he has no control, the various cravings, desires, ambitions and urges which constantly keep the mind in a state of turmoil - a little of this inner inferno has been perceived and touched upon by Western psychologists.

So, elements beyond one's control, other forms of life outside oneself and factors within oneself, all these afflict man in addition to the inevitable fate of the body. Thus, real happiness or joy seems to be an ever-receding horizon and its contrary seems, to be an all-too-immediate ever-present reality; and thus, man's quest for escaping, avoiding or overcoming pain and suffering and entering into a state of joy seems to be a wild-goose chase, seems to be a futile pursuit doomed to failure. And hopeless seems the quest of man for happiness. It is precisely in this area of man's aspiration, in this area of life's quest that the science of Yoga becomes relevant to all of us. It becomes very significant and meaningful and very important, for it emphatically declares that despite the deplorable fact that sorrow is the nature of this temporary earthly existence, the destiny of man is supreme joy. That is the thesis of Yoga. That is the emphatic declaration of Yoga.

Man is made for the attainment of supreme joy and this supreme joy or perfect state of bliss is not to be a post-mortem attainment, is not to be an after death state of being, but it is something that is capable of being attained here and now. And if man would claim his birth-right, it is within the reach of every human individual to attain to this perfect experience right here, even while dwelling in this body, in this very life.


The Purpose of Yoga.

The purpose of Yoga is to try to restore to man his pristine state of perfect bliss; and this it does by liberating the human individual from his involvement in body, senses and mind. This involvement itself is the prime cause for keeping him away from itself, is the greatest obstacle to his attainment of that experience which the Yoga science says lies right here, present at this moment. To become liberated from the bondage of pain, thus bringing to an end the union of man's nature with pain, is Yoga. How is this cessation of pain brought about by uniting the consciousness with that which is of the nature of Bliss? And that factor which is of the nature of pure bliss is called the Self; is called Brahman; is called God; is called Allah; is called Isvara, the Thing-In-Itself, Ahuramazda. It is the Deity. It is the Universal Soul, the Cosmic Reality, the Eternal Divine Principle which is the Alpha and Omega of all beings, which is the origin and fulfilment of this and all that exist.

To bring into a state of oneness with it, relate yourself to it and achieve a perfection of relationship with it, is Yoga. And to achieve this end, you will have to carefully withdraw your involvement in the passing,the finite, the limited, the non-eternal. This is a condition, is a prerequisite. Yoga teaches both - how to sever your connection to the non-eternal and how to enter into that connection to the eternal, the all-perfect, the infinite. Yoga teaches that both these aspects are two in one, that is, uniting yourself with the Divine and thus attaining the Bliss which you seek in vain in finite, earthly objects. That is Yoga. That is the purpose of Yoga. The process of Yoga is the turning away from that which is characterised by sorrow, by pain and which is perishable, destructible in its nature.


The Fourfold Path.

This process of turning away from the finite, from the imperfect, the temporary, the passing and entering into a conscious connection with the Eternal, with the Divine, sums up the process of Yoga. how this can be done? Is there only one way or are there many ways? The answer to this is both. There is only one way, and there are many ways. And why this dual answer?

There is only one way in the sense that all Yoga is movement towards the Divine, movement towards the Infinite, movement of the personal towards the Impersonal, of the individual towards the Universal, movement of man towards God. So, there is only one Yoga. But then, this movement can be accomplished through several levels of the human personality. This Godward movement, movement towards the Divine may be initiated and carried out through one or other, or, one or more of the powers, of the capacities, of the faculties that you possess.

And depending upon which one of the faculty you make use of as a medium for bringing about Godward movement, movement towards the Reality, depending upon that faculty, Yoga assumes a particular pattern and derives a particular name.


Jnana (Gnani) Yoga - intellect and rationality.

If you do this movement through philosophical speculation, you make use of your intellect and your power of reasoning as the medium of attaining the knowledge and experience of that Reality by diverting your consciousness as expressed through intelligence. Then you are a philosopher and the Yoga becomes what is known as Jnana Yoga, Jnana Yoga of the Vedanta Philosophy.


Bhakti Yoga - devotion and love

And, instead of the intellect, if you make use of your feeling, your love potential, your ability to love, to exercise affection, devotion, sentimental and emotional aspect - this potential as your medium, then it becomes what is known as the Yoga of devotion or the path of love or Bhakti Yoga.


Raja Yoga - mind and will

If you make use of the power of your thought, power of the mind, will to urge your entire inner being to resolutely move towards God or the Universal Consciousness, determined that you will not allow your mind to be divested or distracted in any way, then you become a Raja Yogin or the mystic who treads the path of contemplation, concentration and meditation.


But in all these methods, though they make use of one or the other faculties that you are endowed with, they seek to work out the self-same process, the one identical movement. Therefore, Yoga is one in spite of being different according to the medium of your movement. Why this movement? The single reason that God did not create man from the assembly line. God did not create him as a stereo-type. There are diverse temperaments. There is diverse nature, and also, some time diverse inclinations.

One is inclined towards a particular path; even one's nature has a balance of all these three ingredients in equal proportion, mind and will, intellect and rationality, devotion and love. Yet, by one's inclination one may have a tendency towards one particular path. To suit all temperaments, all capacities and different tastes, diverse forms of a single, identical approach have been evolved in the ancient land of Yoga, without doing violence or altering the central fact of the spiritual essence, meeting needs arriving out of the diversity of human nature and taste. And among various paths, three main paths are just now mentioned.

Approach through the intellect and rationality is Jnana Yoga, approach through devotion and love is Bhakti Yoga, and approach through mind and will is Raja Yoga.

In India, these different paths are based upon certain original source scriptures, certain definite authority, scriptures that were brought into being by those who had experienced the Reality. They were people who had not only experienced the Reality, but had become established in that Reality Consciousness permanently. So, they were adepts, they were perfect beings, the Masters of Wisdom. And they have left for the benefit of posterity, their Wisdom and hints about the methods in brief aphorisms. They are just hints and pointers. These aphoristic teachings have a certain logical unity. So, they formed one successive logical field of utterances making up one whole system.

Therefore, they are called Sutras. Sutra is a thread that tied together, linked together. So they are no haphazards. These great Sutras are the Brahma Sutras, the most authoritative of all sources of aphorisms for the Vedantin or Jnana Yogin, the one who follows the path of knowledge; and the Bhakti Sutras of two great sages, Narada and Sandilya, the basic authority source for the expounding of the path of devotional philosophy.


The Nature of Mind.

And then, the Yoga Sutras of the great sage Patanjali, which expound the system of mental discipline and the technique to turn the mind away from the passing phenomenon and to direct it towards the permanent reality. And it is these Yoga Sutras of Patanjuli that we are concerned with. As I mentioned, the central thesis is the Yogie vision of man, Yogic knowledge of man's reality. Though apparently a physical creature and a mental personality, man is in reality a spiritual entity.

That spiritual entity is of the nature of Perfection and Peace. It is the mental personality that keeps depriving the individual of an experience of one's real spiritual Reality. That spiritual Reality which is of the nature of pure Bliss is veiled over by the mind-stuff; and the mind-stuff being constantly in a state of unceasing activity, holds the consciousness of man in its grip.

Thus, the human individual is ever conscious of himself as one or other of the moods of the mind and never conscious of himself as he always is apart from the mind, because of his constantly being involved in the ceaseless activity of the mind.

So, the consciousness of human individual is either that `I am thinking', `I am feeling', `I am seeing', `I am hearing', `I am tasting', `I am touching', `I am smelling', or `I am sleeping', `I ani remembering', `I am disapproved', or `I am dissatisfied', `I am in need', `I am hungry', `I am humiliated'- in this way, one is always aware of oneself as being something or other in relation to the mind and never apart from this involvement in the mind. This is the problem. And the sage Patanjali shows the way up, tackling the mind successfully in the light of his deep knowledge of the mind.

Now, the European modern psychologists also have entered into the study of the mind. They also have discovered the vagaries of the mind, different states of the mind that give rise to lot of imbalance and disturbance and which make man miserable and ultimately even bring about physical symptoms, give rise to various physical struggling to prescribe various methods of trying to free himself from these conditions based upon their knowledge of this human interior mind and its vagaries; but with what results! More psychological tests, more psychologists, more psychoanalysts, more psychiatrists, but more psychoses and more complexes.

These have not solved any problem, but have only expounded man's knowledge of the problems.

So everyone knows now that there is this complex, there is that complex, there is this obsession. Man is not anywhere near to a solution. What may be the reason for this? It is Patanjali who will tell you. Because, all those solutions that the psychologists are trying to formulate and find out, prescribe and work out, still lie within the realm of the mind. The main thing has not been achieved. If there are a hundred problems of a prisoner inside a jail, and the supprintendent of a jail or the minister of prisoners or the jail-wardens thought out various solutions for the problems of the prisoner, but all are within the four walls of the jail.

So, the prisoner is still a prisoner. He continues to be a prisoner. So you may just treat the trouble just like the modern medication. If there is an ear-trouble, he puts some antibiotics and suppresses it there. It is only shifting the pain or changing its outer shape and it only takes on a different appearance. In the same way, all essence of psychology to correct psychological ills within the framework of the mind, has its fate. Because, the prime cause of all these problems, of all these states, is the mind. Unless and until you formulate a method which will try to take you beyond the mind, as long as the mind and its limitation exist, mind-reactions exist. It will always manifest its nature. There is no stopping it.


The Psychology of Yoga.

The Yoga of Patanjali formulated a means by which the sum total of the very nature of the mind was checked. Mind in all its various manifestations was mastered through a set of disciplines, a system of disciplines by which he arrived at a state of mind-transcendence. He had the advantage over the Western psychologists. In the entire study of modern Western psychology, specially the modern psychology as started by recent psychologists, you will find that the genesis of this science is based upon the study and observation of an imbalanced mind.

It was morbid psychology actually. The study itself arose from this morbid, abnormal mind. Whereas in the case of Patanjali and the ancient seers, they took for their study, not the abnormal mind, they took for their study not even the human mind, not even the mind which has already become individualised in the human personality, already become conditioned by the human personality and assumed a finite shape, but they made their study of the mind-principle as such, the original mind-principle, the cosmic mind-principle as such.

So, they went into a study of the mind-stuff as it was. It is here that you have to go into the cosmology, coming into the projection of this manifest universe, evolved from the Unmanifest. So, among many things that were evolved, grosser things like the five elements - the earth, fire, air, water, ether - and the five different kinds of forces in nature took the form of the universe, and the mind-stuff, the universal mind-principle.

As such, they entered into a study of mind in itself, the mind-principle as it was originally, not when it became a human mind, the finite mind, conditioned by personality. No. So they have this advantage - studying the mind as it was. They discovered certain basic features of the nature of the mind, and based upon this knowledge of the nature of mind, they formulated a system of overcoming it, mastering it. Basing the studies of this knowledge, they evolved a system of Yoga.

Firstly, that the mind-stuff by itself is centrifugal. It always goes out. Its tendency is extroverted, Bahirmukhatva. It is its first nature.

Secondly, the inveterate nature of the mind-stuff is to get hold of name and form, of some objects. It cannot be by itself. It has always to assume the name and form of some object. This second inveterate nature of the mind is called objectification. They call it in Sanskrit as Vishayakara Vritti. It always takes the form or Akara of Vishaya - meaning it takes the form of something. It has always to think of something.

And the third inveterate tendency which Patanjali tells about the mind is that it does not stay content to assume the form of one thing and keep on to it. It has the inveterate tendency of constantly wanting to move from one thing to another. It cannot stick to one object, and so, Nanatva, multifariousness, the tendency of constantly jumping from one object to another.

So, these are the three basic tendencies of the mind, out going tendencies of the mind. They are objectification, multiplicity and multifariousness. No wonder, endowed with these tendencies in the mind, you are totally deprived from the experience of the Self. Why? These three contradict the basic nature of your true reality, of the Self within. Because, the Self is the very innermost centre of your being from which the mind constantly draws the consciousness away, out.

Secondly, the Self is not an object of perception. It is the perceiver of all that is perceived. It is the Seer of all things that are seen. It is the Supreme Subject. It is that, that which is connoted by 'I', not of this or that, the very opposite of multifariousness. Mind, therefore, catching the consciousness of our human interior draws it forth outside. It involves it in objects and scatters it among the many. Thus it effectively prevents the consciousness from moving within and resting in its original state as the unaffected, untouched, impartial Seer and finding its oneness, a total freedom and liberation from all distraction.

So, this is the problem.

Raja Yoga gives you this, stage by stage, methods of transforming the nature of the mind, and overcoming it. You see this duality. The Self is the innermost from within. The Self is the Supreme Subject and the Seer, and It is of the nature of non-dual consciousness. Mind is ever going outside, ever objectifying itself, thinking in terms of things and ever scattering itself amongst the countless objects of this universe.

What are the disciplines and how Patanjali moves towards the successive solutions of these problems. It is a beautiful subject. What are the various ways in which the mind manifests its activity of the outgoing nature? How to overcome them? What is the method or the discipline according to Patanjali? What are the obstacles to ttiese methods? What are the different solutions to these obstacles? How to counter these obstacles and successfully enter into the state of Self-experience?



Lectures on Raja Yoga, by Swami Chidananda.

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