The  system  of Raja yoga as it is expounded by Patanjali in  his Yoga-suthra is now recognised by the students and practitioners of yoga as the most authentic, systematic and scientific treatise on the psychology of yoga.  It has a  great appeal for the modern rational mind because of this scientific and  systematic treatment  of the theory and practice of yoga.  Undoubtedly  Patanjali’s  yoga sutra  is  one of the few among the ancient texts on the subject  inwhich  the practice  of  yoga  is dealt with as a pure  psychological  discipline  and  a scientific  system  of  inner self-development with a  minimum  of  religious, theological or metaphysical beliefs.  But this scientific approach to yoga has its  advantages  as well as drawbacks.   The advantage is that it  provides  a clearly formulated path, system and practice of inner development which can  be tested  and  verified  by  any one who is willing  to  undergo  the  necessary discipline.   The disadvantage is that any system, especially in the realm  of the  psyche and spirit, which is too rigidly and  scientifically  systematized tends   to  loose  its  capacity  for  living  and   progressive  adaptation, assimilation  and  synthesis  with  the  changing  conditions.   The  original psychological  and spiritual insights and experiences which gave birth to  the system  of  yoga get gradually encrusted in the rigid forms  of  practice  and thereby  loose the capacity for fresh innovation in new forms.

Let us briefly examine the central features  of  Rajayoga.   Patanjali  defines yoga as “stopping of the modifications of the chitta” and in the  next verse the text says “when this happens the consciousness of the seer stands in its  own  essential nature”.  This sums up the central aim  and  principle  of Rajayoga.  To realise our own being in its true essential nature as the  self-luminous  seer Purusha and as the detached, uninvolved Witness of the  play  of energy of being Prakrithi.  In Rajayoga, this state is called Kaivalya; it is a state of consciousness in which, as yogasuthra states, “qualitative modes of Nature the gunas, becoming devoid of any purpose for  the  purusha  are drawn back to their original form  and  the  energy  of consciousness of the purusha chit-sakthi abides to his own essential self”.   Another verse describes the state of kaivalya as “when the  element of sattwa in the chitta acquires the same purity as the purusha”.  And the process by which this happens is described in a beautiful image  “when the  modification (of the chitta) have become weak, then  (the chitta) becomes like a transparent jewel and there is a cognitive blending  of the knower, the knowledge and the known.”

This  means, to put in a simple language, when the chitta the “stuff”  of the mind is made pure and still and transparent like a crystal it acquires the power for reflecting and identifying with the truth of what is presented to it or  meditated upon.  This power can be used for any type of knowledge, spiritual or mundane.   This process of identification is called in Rajayoga, as samyama.  There are different levels or depths of identification; and  the highest  form of identification is called as Samadhi.  In Rajayoga this  power of  identification  is  used mainly to identify with the  supreme  Purusha  in Samadhi.  This is in brief the central aim of Raja Yoga.

Now  coming  to  the method of practice, how to make the  mind  pure  and still?   Here  the rajayogic approach is not through  ascetic  suppression  or control but by eliminating the root causes which creates modifications in  the mind  chitta  vritti.   These  root  causes  of  chittavritti  are  called  as “affliction”  Klishas.   When all these afflications of the  mind  which  cause  the modifications of the chitta are eliminated,  then  the  mind becomes  deeply and spontaneously still without any effort.  This is in  brief the approach of the sadhana of Rajayoga.

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