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.