Undoubtedly, this is the most popular yoga path in modern times. Many people practice it for short term benefits like health, flexibility and stress reduction. Many of them would have not understood the real meaning and purpose of yoga.
There is nothing wrong in benefiting from yoga – we get them even if we don’t want! If we practice yoga knowing its meaning, it will help us in this life and beyond. OK. Enough digression. Let us come back to the topic of discussion. What is Raja Yoga by the way?
Popular interpretation of the term “Raja Yoga” is king of yoga. However, if we dig deeper, we understand its mystical meaning. For this, we need to resort to dhatupata of Panini Maharishi. Raja comes from the Sanskrit dhatu(root word) Raj Diptau which means shine, glitter or appear. What is shining? Universal Self. So, this yoga path shows our shining Universal Self within us by controlling the mind. How? Let us have some analogies.
Mind is like a mirror using which we can see our own Self shining within us. Continuous thoughts are like dust. The moment we clean the dust we see glowing Ultimate Reality. Similarly, mind is like pond and thoughts are like waves in the pond. Once we stop the waves in the mental pond, we can see the ultimate reality in its full glory. This is exactly is the process and meaning of Raja Yoga.
Maharishi Patanjali laid out the solid foundations of this path in his famous revelations Yoga Sutras. He prescribes eight limbs or steps (astanga) to merge with the Absolute via meditation. So, it is also called Astanga Yoga. Shri Patanjali Maharishi defines this yoga in one of his opening aphorisms as:
Yogah chitta vritti nirodhah || – Patanjala Yoga Sutras 1.2
Yoga is nothing but cessation of mental activities.
Mind is always doing something or the other just like a monkey! It is continuously busy in some or the other thought. As we discussed, continuous thinking disturbs us. We cannot see our own Individual Self. What happens if we control the monkey business of the mind? Greatest Yoga Master Shri Patanjali Maharishi answers authoritatively:
Tada drastuh swaroope avasthanam || - Patanjala Yoga Sutras 1.3
Then, we will settle down in the observer’s real nature.
Very powerful statement indeed from our revered Maharishi Patanjali! Who is the observer? Individual Self. i.e. whoever is watching the mind and observing the mental activities. It helps to remember: our Individual self is nothing but ultimate reality(Universal Self) and the real goal of any yoga is to experience our own self.
What is the real nature of our own self or universal self? That is the state of complete peace and bliss!
So, accessing and experiencing the infinitely blissful nature of our own individual self by controlling the mental activities is the real goal of Raja Yoga!
Yogena chittasya padena vachaa malam sharirasya cha vaidyakena|
Yopakarottam pravaram muninam Patanjalim pranjaliranatosmi ||
I salute Shri Patanjali Muni, who eradicated dirt of mind, speech and body by his books yoga sutras (on yoga), vyakarana mahabhashya (on grammar) and charaka samhita (on medicine) respectively.
Let us pray Shri Patanjali Muni kaya-vacha-manasa(by body, speech and mind) for his grace!!
Next topic: Raja Yoga Part – 1: Yama. Stay tuned!
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Om Namah Shivaya ||