(Sanskrit) "Royal Yoga." Swami Sivananda from his book Raja Yoga: "Raja Yoga is the king of Yogas. It concerns directly with the mind. In this Yoga there is no struggling with Prana or physical body. There are no Hatha Yogic Kriyas. The Yogi seats at ease, watches his mind and silences the bubbling thoughts. He stills the mind, restraints the thought-waves and enters into the thoughtless state or Asamprajnata Samadhi, Hence the name Raja Yoga. Though Raja Yoga is a dualistic philosophy and treats of Prakriti and Purusha, it helps the student in Advaitic Realization of oneness eventually. Though there is the mention of Purusha, ultimately the Purusha becomes identical with Highest Self or Purusha, or Brahman of Upanishads. Raja Yoga pushes the student to the highest rung of the spiritual ladder of Advaitic realization of Brahman."
Patanjali's Raja Yoga is generally termed the Ashtanga Yoga or the Yoga of Eight Limbs, through the practice of which freedom is achieved. These eight limbs are:
- Yama or Eternal Vows: • Ahimsa (non-violence) • Satya (truth) • Asteya (non-stealing) • Brahmacharya (continence) and • Aparigraha (non-avariciousness);
- Niyama or Observances: • Saucha (purity) • Santosha (contentment) • Tapas (austerities) • Svadhyaya (study) and • Ishvarapranidhana (surrender to God);
- Asana (firm, comfortable meditative posture);
- Pranayama (the regulation of the Vital Force);
- Pratyahara (abstraction of the senses and mind from objects);
- Dharana (concentration);
- Dhyana (meditation); and
- Samadhi (superconscious state or trance)
"These eight limbs have been scientifically arranged and dealt with. They are the natural steps in the ladder which takes man from his human to the real divine nature. From the gross to the subtle, all the chords that bind the Purusha to Prakriti are cut asunder. This snapping of the ties releases the Purusha to enjoy his Independence, Kaivalya Moksha. This is the goal of Raja Yoga.
"Yama and Niyama purify the individual's actions and make them more Sattvic. Tamas and Rajas which are the pillars of Samsara are pulled down through the practice of the Ten Canons of Yama and Niyama. Inner purity is increased. The individual's nature itself is made Sattvic. Asana gives the individual control over the Rajasic impulses; and at the same time it forms the foundation of the grand structure of Antaranga Sadhana, or the Inner Yoga-process. Pranayama brings the aspirant face to face with the Life-Principle. Control of this Life-Principle gives him an insight into its motive force. He is made aware of the fact that it is desire that sustains the life-force. Desire is the cause of externalization of the mind. Desire is the bed of Vrittis. Vrittis together form the mind, and it is the mind that links Purusha with Prakriti. The mind or the Chitta is the subtlest form of Prakriti's manifestations. If mind is to be destroyed, Vrittis are to be eradicated. If Vrittis are to be eradicated, desire is to be rooted out. The Yogi than rapidly withdraws all the rays of the mind from their external propulsion (Pratyahara). To find the root of the mind, the Seed-Desire, he needs the light of the whole mind. At the same time, prevention of the externalization of the mind breaks the vicious circle, as desire is deprived of its active manifestation. This concentrated beam of light is then directed towards the root of the mind itself (Dharana); and the mind is held in check. Now the consciousness which had so long been flowing outward collects itself and flows back into its source - the Purusha within, which is Dhyana. The link with Prakriti is gone. The Purusha experiences the transcendental state of independence - Kaivalya - in Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Now ignorance is destroyed. The Purusha realizes that it was only His consciousness that gave Prakriti its power to please Him, to give Him joy, to delude Him, and to bind Him. He enjoys the bliss of His own nature and remains for ever independent and blissful. All thought ceases once for all in Nirvikalpa Samadhi. The seeds of Desire and Vasanas and Samskaras are fried in toto; this is Nirbija Samadhi. The Yogi in this supreme state loses all external consciousness, all awareness of duality and multiplicity; he loses even the I-idea (Asmita) in Asamprajnata Samadhi. That is the Supreme State where the Seer (Purusha) is established in His own Svarupa.
"Do not imagine that you are an Uttama Adhikari and that you have only to sit in meditation and enter into Samadhi. You will have a terrible downfall. Even after years of practice you will find you have not progressed an inch forward, because there are deep within you lurking desires and cravings, evil Vrittis which are far beyond your reach. Be humble. Make a searching analysis of your heart and mind. Even if you are really a first-class aspirant, think you are an aspirant of the lowest class and practice the eightfold Sadhana prescribed by Raja Yoga. The more time you spend in the first two steps, viz., Yama and Niyama, the less will be the time needed to attain perfection in meditation. It is the preparation that takes very long. But do not wait for perfection in Yama and Niyama, in order to take up the higher practices of Asana, Pranayama and meditation. Try to get established in Yama and Niyama, and at the same time practice Asana, Pranayama and meditation as much as you can. The two must go hand in hand. Then success will be rapid. You will soon enter into Nirvikalpa Samadhi and attain Kaivalya Moksha. What that supreme state is no one has described, and no words can describe. Practice, O bold aspirant, and realize it for yourself. May you shine as a Yogi in this very birth!" —Swami Sivananda from his book Raja Yoga
"The work with the philosophical stone, the eight steps of yoga, are exclusively for those who respect the principles and laws of the holy eight, and never those of the henchmen of black or gray tantra." —Samael Aun Weor