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RAJA YOGA  (The yoga of eightfold path)

Raja yoga is another term given to Asthanga yoga, complied by sage Pathanjali during the 2nd century A.D.  ‘Asthanga’ means eight steps.  The eight steps are yama, niyama, asana, prathiyakara, pranayama, dharana, dhyana, and Samadhi.

Yama and niyama are mandatory for spiritual growth as they constitute a moral code of ethical behavior, so necessary to develop one’s character and nobility.  Now, let us go briefly about the eightfold path in Raja Yoga.

Yama:  According to Saint Thirumular, yama is living harmoniously with all living beings and not doing any harm to them.  He further describes in detail about those principles.  They are not killing any living organisms, truthfulness, candor behavior, no stealing, spiritual inquisitiveness, gentleman, obedient, obeys rules and regulations in spiritual path, sharing of food, no drinking and moderate sex.  All these principles come under yama.

Niyama:  “Niyama” means doing good to others by means of charity and feeding the needy and poor.  You can classify a man under Niyama by the following practices which he adopts in life.  They are, powerful speech, building confidence in him and in others for spiritual development, seeing sex and drinks as hindrance in path of yoga.  He should do a lot of meditation, mantra japa, belief in God, charity, fasting for some days, listening to God’s incarnation stories, yajna, pooja to Siva, and worship of ‘Jothi’ (fire).  All these constitute niyama practices and one who follows it is said to be in niyama stage perfection.

Asanas:  The third stage in this yoga is asana or yogic postures, which is very important before sitting for long duration in meditation.  Let me say in brief some 10 yogasanas which you can learn and practice for better health issues.  Asanas are very good for building resistance against diseases.  Padmasana (lotus pose), sukhasana (ordinary sitting pose, Indian style), badrasana, kukudasana, siddhasana, verasana, vajrasana, Gomukhasana, bakasana, and artha padmasana.  Some mudras are also aimed in bringing meditation power.  Kesari mudra deals with concentrating on middle of eyebrow and sambavi mudra is concentrating on the tip of the nose.

Pranayama:  Pranayama means controlling of breath by hatha yoga techniques and thereby concentrating on God.  You need to use any one of the above said yogic pose to perform this exercise.  One type of pranayama is alternative nostril breathing.  This is also called nadi suddhi.  Next is retaining of breath after inhaling and last exercise is first exhaling, then in retention state and then inhale.  I am not giving in full detail since pranayama has to be directly learned from a Guru.  Some important exercises are discussed in the later pages of this book for beneficial purposes.

Prathiyakara:  The term means bringing the thought waves of the mind from external faculties to internal natural state of void.  This requires tremendous practice.  Saint Thirumular has dealt with this in detailed way.  Ordinary sitting in meditation can be considered as prathiyakara to some extent.

Dharana:  To stabilize the thought waves in mind and to concentrate in ‘void’ or ‘silent’ stage is called dharana.  This comes naturally after long practice of prathyakara.  This fetches immense yogic benefits and longevity of life.

Dhyana:  Continuous concentration to attain yogic state of immortality is Dhyana.  In dharana, you meditate intermittently, but in Dhyana, you continuously meditate of days together.

Samadhi:  Union of individual soul and supreme soul to be come ‘one’ is called Samadhi.  This is the final stage of Raja Yoga.  This requires tremendous yogic meditation and can be achieved by blessed souls.  No separate entity is there in Samadhi.  All become one and gets dissolved as a river merges into an ocean.  This is supraconsciousness, where only ‘silence’ remains.  This is about Raja yoga and its brief details.
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