Raja Yoga

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Raja yoga is the science of the mind. Through the practices of raja yoga, the yoga practioner is led to be more aware and to use creatively one's mental forces.

Definition of raja yoga

Raja yoga can be defined as the royal path to unity, the meditative path. As such it is considered to be the supreme form of yoga. Hatha yoga can be understood as a preparation for raja yoga. Raja yoga deals with the mind and is also known as ashtanga yoga, the eightfold path or the eight limbs of yoga. Often, people consider it as separated and higher. But in fact, its practices which are dealing with the mind may be and should be integrated to the other paths of yoga. Then raja yoga enriches and complements hatha yoga as well as jnana yoga, karma yoga and bhakti yoga.

The aims of raja yoga

The main objective of raja yoga is to control the mental energies which are generally dissipated and fluctuating. The mind has infinite capacities but due to its rajasic nature, it remains in constant activity. It is a very big task to concentrate and master it without negating or injuring it. The goal of raja yoga practices is to acknowledge, accept and redirect the mental activities without generating self-judgement and conflicts in the personality.
The eight limbs of Raja yoga
In the book "Yoga Sutras", Patanjali has defined the eightfold path :
- yama and niyama, personal and social rules of behaviour ;
- asana, major static postures concerning mainly meditation ;
- pranayama, the control of breath and pranas ;
- pratyahara, the withdrawal of the senses, which is the first stage in meditation ;
- dharana, concentration ;
- dhyana, the state of meditation ;
- samadhi, self realization and unity.
When this text was written, it was quite normal to begin with rules about behaviour. But later on, with the emergence of hatha yoga, it was stated that the first need of human beings is to undergo preliminary work on the body and energy, before applying these codes of conduct. Nevertheless, when a yoga practitioner feels ready, he or she has to find a smooth, harmonious way to apply the individual and social rules advised by Patanjali because it will ensure success in the higher levels of yoga and spiritual life.

Principles of Raja yoga

To ensure the success in raja yoga and avoid troubles in the personality, the sadhana of raja yoga has to respect the mind whatever happens. Never try to stop the thinking process because you want to meditate ! Listen to the mind is the first step because we all have the need to become friend with our mind. This attitude has to be maintained all along the raja yoga processes in failure as well as in success.
Raja yoga must be practised after or along with hatha yoga techniques. It should be associated with karma yoga, the yoga of selfless action. In this way, a purely inner process is fruitfully combined with a harmonious outward expression.
Jnana yoga is also a path which complements raja yoga : self-awareness is an essential aspect of raja yoga and jnana yoga. The witness attitude or drashta plays a fundamental role in yoga and spirituality. The ability to observe the body, energy and the various activities of the mind allows to know and accept one 's self. Due to this deep self-knowledge and self-acceptation, raja yoga brings about positive results in the long term.