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Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda

Raja Yoga
(Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda Vol I)

* Preface and Introductory

  • Practice of Raja-Yoga reveals the subtle Nature which is not perceivable to gross senses; the yoga is scientific in its methods and is better than superstitious belief in some supernatural being which eventually weakens man mentally and spiritually.

  • Patanjali's Sutras are the foundations for Raja-Yoga. The philosophy of Patanjali and that of Sankhya have only two differing points: '… first, that Patanjali admits a Personal God in the form of a first teacher, while the only God the Sankhyas admit is a nearly perfected being, temporarily in charge of a cycle of creation. Second, the Yogis hold the mind to be equally all - pervading with the soul, or Purusha, and the Sankhyas do not.'

  • Science is based on common verifiable experiences of humanity while for religion faith and belief seems the only criterion; but all religions of the world too, 'have been built upon that one universal and adamantine foundation of all our knowledge - direct experience.'

  • Without actual experience of soul/God/Truth, religion becomes futile exercise or at best just a tool for maintaining basic morality in society. 'The science of Raja-Yoga proposes to put before humanity a practical and scientifically worked out method of reaching this truth.'

  • As in external sciences, the internal science of mind too requires observation and analysis; but there being no instrument to observe the internal thought world, the psychologists all over the world have been quarrelling, except those few who found out the means of observation. 'The science of Raja-Yoga, in the first place, proposes to give us such a means of observing the internal states. The instrument is the mind itself.' Power of concentration of mind is required in this science. The knowledge revealed by the internal science of mind will remove misery as it will uncover the Pure, Immortal Self. More concentrated a mind, more powerful and revealing it is.

  • Majority of humanity has not developed mind; 'The vast mass of humanity is very little removed from the animals. Not only so, but in many instances, the power of control in them is little higher than that of the lower animals. We have very little command of our minds.'

  • According to Raja-Yoga, gross is always the effect while subtle is the cause and it proposes to gain control over internal as well as external nature; the progress of civilization means only this gain of control over nature.

  • In religion, as in all other matters, discard everything that weakens you, have nothing to do with it. Mystery - mongering weakens the human brain, and it has almost destroyed Yoga.

  • Raja-Yoga is based on Sankhya philosophy. As per Sankhya philosophy of perception, impressions of external objects - received through external senses and corresponding brain centres - are carried by the mind to the only immaterial thing in us - Purusha. The mind can be attached to one or more sense-organs or it can be detached from them all completely; perfected mind can attach to all senses simultaneously. Raja-Yogi should initially be careful about his/her food and also should avoid extreme luxury or austerity.

* The First Steps

  • Yama and Niyama are the moral training and base without which no yoga is possible; along with them Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahar, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi are eight steps of Raja-Yoga. Best Asana i.e. body-posture is one in which the spinal chord is free allowing the activity in Sushumna (central nerve current) to begin; sitting erect with chest, neck and head in straight line, is best. Hatha-Yoga deals with physical body and has little spiritual benefits.

  • After Asana, simple 'anulom-vilom-pranakriya' should be practiced to purify nerves and then Pranayama. In Yoga, practice is must; obstructions to practice are: unhealthy body, doubt (story of Indra and Virochana going to learn from Prajapati). Human body is better suited for Liberation than animal or angel body.

  • Pranayama - 'external breath control' leads us to 'subtle and inner nerve control' which in turn leads to still 'subtler thought control' and ultimately to 'subtlest Prana control' and final Freedom. (Story of minister escaping from high tower with the help of silk thread, pack thread, twine, and rope); breath is external manifestation of Prana. For Pranayama, early morning and early evening calmness is best; if possible have separate room for practice which should be kept pure and holy. Pray for all after sitting on Asana.

* Prana

  • Pranayama is little to do with breath; it is knowledge and control of Prana. 'Prana' is the energy, force of universe which manufactures everything in phenomenon out of the all-pervading substance - Akasha. One who has controlled Prana has controlled all minds, bodies, universe; how to control Prana? We can start from the little wave of Prana nearest to us i.e. our own mind and body. If we can do that then we can control entire universe.

  • Thought and reason (which has its own limited circle) are subtle manifestations of Prana; even unconscious thought/instinct (automatic reflexes of body) is a manifestation of Prana. And the highest manifestation of Prana is the super-conscious state in which mind comes in contact with facts which are above the limits of instinct and reason.

  • Both, gross and subtle world are vibrations of a one single homogeneous substance and the differences between objects and beings are illusory. 'Beyond the vibrations of matter in its gross and subtle aspects, beyond motion there is but One. Even in manifested motion there is only unity.'

  • The motion of lungs in body causes breath to come in and go out and the motion of lungs is caused by Prana, thus 'Pranayama is not breathing, but controlling that muscular power which moves the lungs. That muscular power which goes out through the nerves to the muscles and from them to the lungs, making them move in a certain manner, is the Prana, which we have to control in the practice of Pranayama.' Prana can be transmitted from one body to another, from one place to another distant place as there is no break between distances, it is one substance throughout. Faith healers are mistaken when they think faith alone cures, it is Pranashakti that cures, faith alone can't do it. Disease is deficiency of excess of Prana in the affected part of body; Pranayama can regulate the flow of Prana to that part and cure the disease.

  • Raja-Yoga shortens the time require by a soul to reach Perfection by using the power of assimilation gained by concentration of mind. Different planes of existence are different rates of vibrations of Prana. Raising mind to higher vibrations through concentration is called Samadhi; lower type of Samadhi can reveal different spheres of existence while the highest type reveals the Self. Physical sciences are also manifestations of Pranayama done on external objects; when Pranayama is done on inner psyche, it is Raja-Yoga.

* The Psychic Prana

  • Spinal column has ida, pingla and sushumna running through it; plexuses along the column, mentioned in modern physiology, can correspond to different 'lotuses' mentioned by Yogis. Regulated breathing makes the nerve currents move in one direction making them akin to electricity; this is the effect of mind turning into will. When motion of body become rhythmic, all molecules of body move in same direction and Yogi's body becomes a gigantic battery of will.

  • Elemental space - Mahakasha, mental space - Chittakasha, knowledge space - Chidakasha. Kundalini - the coiled-up power in Muladhara lotus - when aroused and made to pass through Sushumna awakens perceptions in mental space and when it reaches Sahasrara (thousand petal lotus in brain), the (objectless) perceptions are in knowledge space. 'The columns of sensory and motor fibers in the spinal cord are the Ida and Pingala of the Yogis. They are the main channels through which the afferent and efferent currents travel.' (similar to electricity through wires) 'If we can send the mental current through the hollow canal without any nerve fibers to act as wires, the Yogi says, the problem is solved, and he also says it can be done.' (wireless transmission!)

  • Sushumna - which is closed at lower end in ordinary persons - can be opened by practice and nerve-current can be made to pass through it; then different centers along the spinal column get activated and various motions and/or perceptions are experienced. All perceptions are reactions from brain center to external stimuli received through nerves which in turn get the stimuli from external objects. In case of memory or dream too this process follows despite external stimuli being absent; the stimuli in these cases are the stored-up impressions of past perceptions. In Muladhara center all impressions are stored.

  • Awakening Kundalini is the only way to get super-sensuous and ultimately super-conscious experience. This force can be awakened by many ways including devotion, analytical enquiry, grace of perfected sages, Raja-Yoga etc.

* The Control of Psychic Prana

  • Simple basic Pranayama done twice a day keeps body-mind calm and gives beautiful voice in six months; with the imagination of breath striking Muladhara triangle during Pranayama, practiced regularly and for more number of times per day, will arouse Kundalini. 'To open that Sushumna is the prime object of the Yogi.' It gives super-sensuous, super-conscious knowledge as it passes through the six lotuses along the spinal column. All the energy in the body, in its highest form, is 'Ojas' - which the Yogi tries to store in brain as it gives him/her more intellectual and spiritual power; he/she tries to transmute all sexual energy into 'Ojas'. 'It is only the chaste man or woman who can make the Ojas rise and store it in the brain; that is why chastity has always been considered the highest virtue'. Without perfect chastity in thought, word, and action, Raja-Yoga is impossible.

* Pratyahara and Dharana

  • If mind is controlled and thus feeling & willing is controlled then it can be detached sense-organs and man would not do foolish actions. This is Pratyahara - "gathering towards", freeing mind and will from the thraldom of senses. Faith-healers and hypnotists us this on their patients but it is reprehensible as the control over will is external and not internal and ultimately it leads to ruin.

  • Even religious sects which temporarily arouse the consciousness by singing and dancing ultimately do make people powerless, passive, and morbid; so beware of anything that takes away your freedom. Use your own mind to control your body & will, do not allow extraneous will to work on you.

  • Mind is like a monkey drunk on wine of desires, stung by the scorpion of jealousy, and finally possessed by the demon of pride! It is difficult to control mind; controlling it and not allowing it to join with senses is Pratyahara. It can be achieved by continuous, patient struggle of practice over years.

  • Next comes Dharana - concentrating mind to certain points to the exclusion of others. Yogi should: practice continuously, control speech, control activity, and avoid too much mixing with others. Sound health and calmness of mind are results of some practice of Raja-Yoga; deeper practice can give glimpses of subtle-shimmering lights or sounds. For higher practices, strict diet regime is indispensable; perceptions become subtler and subtler. Avoid vain talks and argumentations, read books written only by seers. '…those who want to go to the highest, must avoid all company, good or bad. Practise hard; whether you live or die does not matter.'

* Dhyana and Samadhi

  • Human mind works on conscious and unconscious plane; internal functions of body are carried out unconsciously without the feeling of egoism associated with it. Higher than these two, there is another state: super-conscious or Samadhi; if man/woman enters Samadhi, he/she comes back enlightened.

  • The super-conscious state is beyond the circle of reason (conscious plane) but from It comes all answers to eternal questions about death, soul, God etc. and from It comes all ethics and morality. All inspired men, too, get their inspiration from the realm of the beyond; but some stumble upon It and hence interpret it as coming from outside of themselves. Mohammad stumbled upon It and hence Koran has wonderful truths mixed with superstitions; thus Islam did lot of good to the world but also produced much evil.

  • Instinct (unconscious), Reason (conscious), and Super-consciousness are states of a mind in development and hence each successive step does not contradict the lower state but fulfil it. Yoga teaches us the scientific way to reach super-conscious state. 'Experience is the only teacher we have.' Mere book knowledge about God/Self would not do, we have to experience It.

  • After Pratyahara and Dharana the next step in Raja Yoga is Dhyana (meditation). Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi together are called Samyama. Only to the soul that has become desire-less and deeply meditative, 'witness-like', the world appears like a panorama of beauty and sublimity.

  • Shabda (external vibrations of objects), Artha (reaction from mind to Shabda), and Jnana (knowledge of the object) - every act of perception involves these three and we can distinguish between them by practice, though in majority of cases they are almost indistinguishable. Yogi can penetrate deeper and deeper in his/her mind and perceive subtler forms, sounds etc., acquire supernatural powers etc.; but if he/she is able to overcome attraction of these, then he/she reaches the highest goal of attaining complete suppression of waves of ocean of mind; thus he/she discovers the immortal, all-pervading Self. Samadhi is the property of every being but it has to be experienced.

* Raja-Yoga in Brief (free translation from Kurma-Purana)

  • Two yogas - Abhava and Mahayoga; former: to meditate on one's self as zero and without any attributes;later: to meditate on one's self as full of bliss and one with God; both are capable of revealing the Self to the aspirant.

  • Raja-Yoga limbs: Yama, Niyama, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi (each is described in brief as also some meditation methods and qualities of ideal yogi).

  • Story of Narada coming across two yogis who ask him about Salvation. 'Only perseverance, like the man who was willing to wait aeons, brings about highest result.'

( Notes on further chapters of the book which contains the translation of Patanjali's Yoga aphorisms by Swami Vivekananda, are not taken. Readers can go through the book fully by downloading the Vol I of Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda here )

----------- Om Tat Sat -----------