Raja Yoga is one of the various methods of yoga. By its practice, it becomes possible to calm the restlessness of the mind and bring it to a state of complete concentration. Raja Yoga is the means of concentration of the mind.
In ancient times, a book has been composed by Maharishi Patanjali on this subject in the name of ‘Yogasutra’. The ‘Yogasutra’ is the main text of Raja Yoga. It was used by Swami Vivekananda on Ashtanga Yoga as propounded by Maharishi Patanjali in medieval times. His lectures given in this regard in later times have been compiled in a book called ‘Rajyoga’. The description of Ashtanga Yoga comes under Raja Yoga. According to the Yoga Sutras, the control of the tendencies of the mind is called Yoga. Concentrating the human mind and reaching it to the state of samadhi is the subject of Raja Yoga.
What is Raja Yoga?
Raj means emperor. The emperor acts in self-subjugation, with self-confidence and assurance. Similarly, a Raja Yogi is also autonomous, independent, and fearless. Raja-Yoga is the path of self-discipline and practice.
The definition of Raja Yoga presented by Patanjali – “It is the science of the mind.” In Patanjali Yogasutra, four yoga parts – Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi are considered under Raja Yoga, but some scholars are of the opinion that only Samadhi comes under Raja Yoga, the other three are external from the point of view of this Samadhi or come under Hatha Yoga.
Since Raja Yoga is the royal path of meditation, it is seen as a form of mind-body-spirit control with a focus on meditation and energy. It covers all the three dimensions of human existence (physical, mental and spiritual).
In about 200 BC, Maharishi Patanjali collected Yoga in writing and composed the Yoga-sutras. Patanjali is called the father of yoga because of the creation of the Yoga-sutras. The yoga of Maharishi Patanjali is called Ashtanga Yoga or Raja Yoga.
Raja Yoga according to the Yoga Sutras
Raja Yoga is called the king of all yogas because in it some material of every yoga is definitely found. The king acts independently, with self-confidence and assurance. Similarly, a Raja Yogi is also autonomous, independent, and fearless. Raja Yoga is the path of self-discipline and practice. Raja Yoga is also called Ashtanga Yoga because it is organized into eight limbs. The description of Ashtanga Yoga as propounded by Maharishi Patanjali comes in the Yoga Sutras.
Maharishi Patanjali has suggested the way forward for those with a contained mind by taking the help of practice and dispassion and Kriya Yoga for those with a deranged mind. By using these means, the sorrows of the seeker are destroyed, the light of knowledge spreads by becoming happy and the fame of wisdom is attained.
In the 19th century, Swami Vivekananda compared Raja Yoga with the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. As such, Raja Yoga has been used interchangeably with Ashtanga Yoga, or the ‘Eightfold Path’ to spiritual liberation.
All types of yoga are included in the above eight limbs of yoga. The Eightfold Path of Lord Buddha is also a part of the above eight limbs of Yoga. Although the Ashtanga Yoga of the Yoga Sutras is a later creation of the Buddha. Ashtanga yoga means eight limbs of yoga. In fact, Patanjali has classified all the disciplines of yoga into eight parts.
Eight limbs of Raja/Ashtanga Yoga
The eight parts are- (1) Yama (2) Niyama (3) Asana (4) Pranayama (5) Pratyahara (6) Dharana (7) Dhyana (8) Samadhi. The above eight organs also have their own sub-parts. Presently only three parts of yoga are in vogue – asana, pranayama, and meditation.
Yama – Self-Control
For this restraint, physical, verbal, and mental, five conducts like non-violence (ahimsa), truth (Satya), non-stealing (asteya), brahmacharya (chastity), and non-possessiveness like aparigraha, etc. are prescribed. All these purify the mind. Spiritual meditation is impossible without purity of mind. Yoga without self-control can harm the practitioner of yoga.
Niyama – Discipline
Niyama has been enacted to make a man obedient to duty and to streamline life. saucha (purity), Santosha (contentment), tapas (self-discipline), svadhyaya (self-study), Ishvara-pranidhana (devotion or surrender). Saucha includes both external and internal purification.
Asana – Physical Exercises
Patanjali has called the act of sitting still and comfortably as asana. Later thinkers have conceived of many asanas. In fact, asana is one of the main subjects of Hatha Yoga. But the general principle of the asana is that the spinal cord should be left free. In this, the yogi sits upright and he feels relaxed and can think.
Pranayama – Breath Exercises
Pranayama is the practice of controlling the breath. Breath is the instrument for the proper role of yoga and the regulation of breathing and exhalation for their awakening. Pranayama is very helpful for overcoming restlessness and disturbance of the mind.
Pratyahara – Withdrawal of the Senses
The removal of the senses from the objects is called pratyahara. The senses make man outwardly. By this practice of pratyahara, the seeker attains the state of introversion, the most essential for yoga. Through pratyahara, a yogi can withdrawal the mind from external objects.
Dharana – Concentration
Concentrating the mind on a particular place is Dharana. Candle meditation (tratak), specific asanas and pranayama, helps a lot in improving the ability to concentrate.
Dhyana – Meditation
In the state of complete meditation, the knowledge or memory of any other object does not enter the mind.
Samadhi – Complete Realisation
This is the state of mind in which the mind is completely absorbed in the contemplation of the object. Yoga philosophy considers the attainment of salvation possible only through samadhi.
Raja is considered a bit more difficult than other forms of yoga, as it requires more discipline and control than other yogasanas. Raja Yoga focuses on concentration, meditation, and discipline of mind and body.
Raja Yoga is one of the oldest systems of yoga referred to by many ancient spiritual texts. It is considered the ultimate goal of yoga practice as it leads to samadhi or the final state of consciousness. It emphasizes the practice of meditation for spiritual growth and self-realization.
This is compiled and integrated by the sage Patanjali in his famous text, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, where he outlines Ashtanga Yoga—the eightfold path.
The system of Raja Yoga is known by different names, sometimes it is known as Dhyana Yoga. Maharishi Patanjali has performed this system of meditation in the name of Ashtanga Yoga.
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