What is Raja Yoga?

Raja Yoga Practice Leads to Transcending Mind for Supreme Consciousness

Three-fold objectives of Raja Yoga are: establishing a moral control over egoistic, rajasic nature, focusing mind on a single object for concentration and finally, merging mental consciousness with the Supreme Consciousness, in yogic trance, Samadhi.    


raja yoga


Focus on Mind

Still Your Mind for Consciousness to Descend


Hatha yoga and raja yoga, though converging in many aspects, are different from each other in their respective points of emphasis.  The former is focused nearly completely on the perfection of the body and the vital (life) being of man. The latter, though not denying the importance of purified body and vital being, fixes its focus on the mind, believing that mind can be freed from its slavery to the body-life complex and enabled it to transcend itself and get lost in the Supreme Consciousness of Bliss in Oneness. Although raja yoga embraces in its scope asanas and pranayamas it is not as much concerned with them as hatha yoga is.


Mind Is Entangled

Monkey Mind of Man Is Like Animal Mind


If you study your mind as a witness, as though seeing from outside how your mind works-mind studying mind- you would understand that though man is called a mental being the mind of man is entangled nearly fully in the unconscious operations of physical/nervous system.

This entanglement of mind seems so great that science and psychology would tend to dismiss the idea of mind acting as an independent entity outside the mechanical functioning of the physical/nervous system.  And this dismissal is not unjustified, for our mind seems little developed or ill-developed, almost remaining at par with the animal mind.

However, the Yogic Science (Psycho-Physical Science) has remained unshakably convinced for thousands of years that mind is an independent entity. The God-realized yogis affirmed long, long back that though it might appear enmeshed in the physical/nervous system it could be progressively disentangled through concentration. This desire to release the mind led to the detailed inner study and from it emerged raja yoga, the classical school of yoga meant to free mind from body-life entanglement.


Much of Mind Yet Unexplored, Unused

In Mind Are Hidden Supernormal Powers


While seeking to open the closed doors of the mind, the Rishis of ancient India found that the mind can be made to lose itself into something much greater than mind.

As the study of mind further progressed, the key to open the closed doors of the inmost soul was found. This inner adventure of consciousness finally led to the finding of the Supreme Divine Energy dwelling somewhere deep in the lowest part of the body like a sleeping serpent, coiled, at rest.

As the intuitive adventure went still deeper, the yogis found that if this serpent can be awakened from sleep, it would rise fiercely upwards, breaking free of the physical/nervous shackles and bringing astounding supernormal experiences which are beyond the wildest imaginations of the normal mind.


From Mind to Higher Minds

Raja Yoga Royal Path to Fulfillment


The name ‘Raja Yoga’ makes it clear that this particular school of yoga holds an exalted place in the yogic hierarchy. The word Raja in Sanskrit means kingSo, raja yoga means the royal path to self-realization: the luminous self-fulfillment, the supreme goal of all the yogic paths.

The focus of raja yoga is on mind, on purifying and preparing mind to have higher and higher spiritual experiences which culminate in the experience of the individualized consciousness completely dissolving into the Supreme Consciousness.

Although it principally deals with mind, it takes into its scope purification of body to receive the higher truths, making it a quiet base for the mind to emerge from the body-life tangle.  It affirms that mind, freed from its shackles, is the only instrument in man to go beyond mind to have spiritual fulfillment.

But the ordinary crude mind is the greatest hindrance to the desired ascent of consciousness.  The mind, as we all know, is almost incurably restless: running about from object to object, from thought to thought, moving endlessly in a cycle day and night, uncontrolled and seemingly uncontrollable. So, this restless mind must be quieted down, made void of all thoughts and mental actions, to receive the higher lights, the Divine Light.


Four Stages

Raja Yoga Ends in Blissful, Static Consciousness


Raja yoga involves going through four steps, each step leading to the next.

First, you must stop mind from going outwards with the concentration unwaveringly fixed on a single object.

Second, the mind must be trained through Rajayogic techniques to increase the depth and duration of the concentration.

Thirdly, there must be a complete ingoing of the mental consciousness so that it gets lost to the world outside, all mental connections with the outside world severed.

Finally, with the breaking waves of consciousness stilled, the pure mental consciousness gets completely absorbed in the supreme object of concentration: the blissful Consciousness of the Supreme Lord of the Universe, in yogic trance, Samadhi.


Moral Purification

Practice of Some Moral Principles Imperative


Moral purification of mind is the first stage of raja yogic practice. Yama (moral conduct), aiding mastery over rajasic passions and desires, and Niyama (self-discipline), leading to freedom of mind from its habitual lower functions, are two important tools employed by raja yoga as enunciated in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.

Asanas chosen by raja yoga are the easiest for the practitioners.  As far as pranayamas are concerned, they here hold a more important place than asanas for sound reasons. Pranayamas purify the nervous system and help equal circulation of life energy through the body. This helps open the seven centers of the psycho-physical system which helps awakening the sleeping serpent of Divine Energy. And this consummates in the concentration going deepest: lost in the blissful oneness of Samadhi.


Shortening Time to Perfection

Individual Becoming Divine Is the Goal of Life


Swami Vivekananda beautifully explains the spirit of yoga in his lecture on raja yoga in the West: “The whole science of yoga is directed to the end of teaching man how, by intensifying the power of assimilation, to shorten the time for reaching perfection, instead of slowly advancing from point to point and waiting until the whole human race has become perfect.”

This is the rationale behind the yogic practice. In one span of life or even in the span of a few years of a single life, one through yogic practices can shorten the time to reach perfection.

The union of the individualized consciousness with the Supreme Divine Consciousness is the ultimate goal of life. As Swami Vivekananda says: “One will reach it now or later, in this life or after hundreds or even thousands of lives. Every form of life that exists, from the microscopic to the gigantic, is a portion of the infinite divine energy.”

Yoga teaches how to bridge this gulf of time and raja yoga seeks to shorten the time for man to evolve spiritually by developing the power of mental concentration and then the power of transforming the limited human consciousness into the illimitable Divine Consciousness: going from the finite to the Infinite, from time to Eternity, from transient pleasures of short-lived life to the Eternal Bliss of Timeless Existence.


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