aja Yoga means 'King of all Yogas'. It aims at controlling all thought-waves or mental modifications. Raja Yoga is suitable for men of mystic temperament with leaning towards the occult. A serious practice of Raja Yoga can be thought of only after you have purified your mind and have gained some control over your senses and appetite.
The eight limbs of Raja Yoga are Yama (self-restraint), Niyama (religious observance), Asana (posture), Pranayama (restraint of breath), Pratyahara (abstraction of the senses), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (super-conscious state).
I. YAMA AND NIYAMA
Yama is the practice of non-injury, truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy and non-covetousness in thought, word and deed. This is the foundation of Yoga.
Niyama is the observance of the five canons - internal and external purity, contentment, austerity, study of religious books and worship and surrender to the Lord.
Impure motives, lack of celibacy, overeating, indolence, oversleeping, false fears, building castles in the air, allurement of minor supernatural powers like clairaudience and clairvoyance are all obstacles in this path.
II. ASANA AND PRANAYAMA
Any comfortable and steady pose is Asana. A steady pose gives concentration of mind. If you have mastery over the seat, the dualities of heat and cold and all other pairs of opposites will not disturb you. You must be able to sit in one Asana for three hours at a stretch. The pose becomes steady by thinking of the Infinite.
There are some other Asanas such as Sirshasana and Sarvangasana that are very useful for the preservation of good health and Brahmacharya (celibacy).
Prana is energy. It is life-breath. It is the life-principle. When Prana vibrates, the mind begins to think. Prana is expended in thinking, willing, acting, talking, etc. The excess of Prana is stored up in the brain and nerve-centres.
If you can control Prana, you can control all the forces in the universe.
Prana manifests as motion, gravitation, magnetism, electricity. The knowledge and control of Prana is what is really meant by Pranayama. Pranayama removes diseases of the body, steadies the mind and purifies it. It strengthens the intellect and augments the intellectual capacity. It increases the power of memory. When you practise Pranayama, you will have to be careful about your diet. You should avoid overloading the stomach. You should take light, easily digestible and nutritious food.
III. PRATYAHARA AND DHARANA
Pratyahara is abstraction or withdrawal of the senses from their objects. Pratyahara checks the outgoing tendency of the senses. The practice demands considerable patience and perseverance. It gives tremendous power. During the course of the practice you will have to withdraw the mind again and again from the sense-objects and fix it on the point of meditation. That Yogi who is well-established in Pratyahara can meditate quite calmly even in the battlefield where countless machine-guns roar in a continuous stream.
Dharana or concentration is centering the mind on one single thought. During concentration the mind becomes calm, serene and steady. The various rays of the mind are collected and focussed on the object of meditation. There will be no tossing of the mind. When there is deep concentration you will experience great joy and spiritual intoxication. You will forget the body and surroundings.
Concentration increases by curtailing wants and desires, by observing silence for one or two hours daily, by practising Pranayama, by prayer and by increasing the number of sittings in meditation daily. You must always try to be cheerful and peaceful.
IV. DHYANA AND SAMADHI
Meditation (Dhyana) follows concentration. The mind dwells on God alone during meditation. Deep meditation cannot come in a day, or a week or a month. You will have to struggle hard for a long time. Gradually you will enter into deep meditation and Samadhi (superconscious state). You will have to pass through the six stages of meditation and finally you will enter into perfect Nirvikalpa Samadhi or super- conscious state. Form perception will totally vanish.
V. REWARDS OF SAMADHI
The meditator and meditated become one. You will attain highest Knowledge and Supreme, Eternal Peace. This is the goal of life. This is the aim of existence. This is the final beatitude of life. You will be absolutely free from pain, sorrow, fear, doubt and delusion. You will experience: - I am the Immortal Self. All indeed is God. There is nothing but God.
You will feel that the whole world is nothing but pure consciousness. The tables, chairs, men, women and other things will appear to contain this consciousness just as vessels contain their contents. You will feel that the Lord is sporting in all things as this pure consciousness. You will actually lose the sense of material nature of things around you. This rare experience will give you great bliss.
May you all attain success in Yoga and enter into Nirvikalpa Samadhi or the Blissful Union with the Lord by controlling the mind and the senses and practising regular and constant meditation!