by 200-hour Purple Lotus Yoga student

Oh the Monkey Mind

Raja Yoga pertains to discipline of the mind.   Through meditation, a yogi strives to gain control to still the mind and ultimately reach “realization” of the Divine.  Raja literally means “king” in Sanskrit and is referred to as the “king of all yogas,” indicating its encompassing role.

Swami Sivananda concisely outlined Raja Yoga from Patanjali’s Sutra and I have used this to guide and summarize my interpretation.

The first chapter in the Sutra deals with concentration or meditation.  According to the Sutra there are many Obstacles to Meditation: disease, dullness, doubt, procrastination, laziness, world mindedness, delusion, inability to reach higher states on consciousness, and the inability to maintain higher states of consciousness.

Also thought patterns or tendencies may emerge from one’s Karma and lead to emotions that will distort understanding.  Fortunately there are ways to gain clear knowledge: perception, reasoning, and verbal communication from those who have true knowledge.

Constant spiritual practice and detachment lead to clear knowledge and allow one to achieve highest contemplation, Asamprajnata Sumadhi.

The arduous journey to high contemplation can be examined in the five states of the mind. 

The agitated mind is the state when thoughts are running in a thousand directions at once.

The next state is the dull or lethargic mind.

Then we have the distracted mind.  This is sometimes arrived at during meditation when a practitioner works to steady the mind but thoughts repeatedly intrude.

The focused mind is that which inner and outside activities do not interfere with the meditation.

And finally, the state of deepest still or tranquil mind, in which there is realization of true self.   .

Afflictions of the mind also hamper the road to clear knowledge. 

These include ignorance, egotism, attractions, aversions, and self preservation.  Hindrances can be dormant, hidden deep in the subconscious, or can manifest in anything from a psychological issue to a minor tension.  The Yogi strives to reduce afflictions with self discipline (Tapas), study (Svadhyaya) and submitting to the Divine (Isvara pranidhana).

Practice through Asanas and Pratyahara (detachment) are also critical to the journey toward Yama (restrictions) and Niyama (observance).

The third chapter of the Sutra, deals with transition.  This chapter describes the stages of attention; concentration (Dharana), meditation (Dhyana), and knowledge (Samadhi).  Practice of attention results in discrimination, or Samyama, one tool for reaching the goal of detachment.

The fourth chapter of the Sutra speaks of liberation.  This is achieved when the yogi has detached from creation, preservation, and destruction.   The mind must allow these operations of existence to resolve back into their cause in order to bring freedom from pain, the final liberation.

Mastery of the mind allows the yogi to discriminate between the basic nature of intelligence by which the universe exists and the Self which pervades the universe and achieves power of knowing of everything.