Rushi Patanjali has written ‘Yogasutra’ about 2500 years ago, in which, the principles of Rajayoga are described. There is also a subtle explanation of Samadhi, Kaivalyapada (ultimate liberation) etc in shvetasvatar Upanishad. Swami Vivekananda has discussed these principles in details in his book ‘Rajoyoga’. Here, bases on his book, I am trying to explain the concept of Rajyoga in simple words. I am writing this based on my own experiences.
Rajayoga is one of many tools to achieve the ultimate goal of both dvaita(duality) or advaita (non-duality). Many different paths like Bhakti (devotion), Sannyas (monkhood), Karma etc. eventually become one and the same. In the beginning, each road may look different, but strict adherence to one automatically leads to a common path.
Here are the eight steps of Rajayoga:
- yama (control):
This includes 5 padas (steps)-
satya (truth) – describe things/incidents as they are perceived/observed
ahimsa (non-violence)- do not harm any object / creature
asteya (no-stealing) – do not grab any thing belonging to others
aparigraha (non-acceptance) – do not take any donation from anyone under any circumstances
brahmacharya (celibacy) – restraint of all senses (not suppression)
Much can be written about each step, but in the end, it depends on the discretion and social rules of the adherent. Here, being strong in it eliminates animosity.
Being a believer in the satya (truth) yields the fruits of deeds without doing deeds.
All the gems are attained by being steadfast in the fold (asteya – no-stealing).
Being steadfast in brahmacharya (celibacy) offers power.
Being steadfast in the aparigraha (non-acceptance) brings back memories of previous lives.
- niyama (rule):
This includes 5 padas (steps) –
tapa (penance) – self imposed bodily suffering
swadhyay (practice) – continual literal / semi-literal / mental chanting
shaucha (chastity) – external (physical) and internal (mental) chastity
santosh (contentment) – acceptance of any results/situations/events
ishvara praNidhan (devotion to God) – bhajan, kirtan, prayer, devotional singing/music etc.
Again, it depends on the discretion of each adherent, social rules and country/time.
With tapa (penance) the body and the senses harmonize.
From shaucha (chastity) comes the purity of the mind, happiness, concentration of the senses and introspection.
santosh (satisfaction) leads to the highest happiness.
ishtadeva (God) is realized with swadhyaya(practice).
samadhi (trance) is obtained from ishvara praNidhan (devotion).
- aasana (posture):
Sitting for a long period of time in one posture, keeping the neck, head, spine firm and erect is called aasana. As body permits, Padmasan (lotus posture), Sukhasan (comfortable posture), Sidhdasan (posture of expert), Mulbandhanasan (root locking posture), Vajrasan (posture of thunder) etc. can be adapted as one of the postures. asana (posture) eliminates the effects of duality.
- praNayama (breathing control):
We breathe through three nadis (pulses): ida (sun, left), pingala (moon, right), sushumna (middle). The respiratory process continues through each pulse simultaneously. purak (inhalation) is called process of breathing inward. rechak (exhalation) is the process of exhalation from the body. The process of blocking the breath within the body is called aantarik kumbhak (internal pause), and the process of blocking the outside of the body is called the baahya kumbhak.
If pranayama is done with a mental mantra, it is called sagarbha pranayama; the pranayama without mantras is called agarbha pranayama.
Before performing the pranayama as a routine practice, it is necessary to purify the nadi. With pranayama the mind becomes fit for perception.
- pratyahara (avoidance):
The action of the senses to renounce their sensory activities and to divert them into the mind. This is the first step in the pursuit of meditation. It overcomes the senses becoming hurdles.
- dharaNa (assumptions):
This is called perception if the mind is concentrated on one target for 12 seconds.
- dhyana (meditation):
The concentration of the mind for up to 3 minutes is meditation.
- samadhi (trance):
The concentration of the mind is fixed for up to 30 minutes. There are many types of samadhi.