I’m still doing my online Kabbalah classes, but along with the Kabbalah classes, I’ve started reading the book, Raja-Yoga by Swami Vivekananda. I’m finding the book quite interesting, though some of the terms require me to do more research in order to have a better understanding of what Swami Vivekananda is talking about. In case Raja-Yoga is something new to you, I will give an outline of what it is.
What is Raja-Yoga?
Raja-Yoga is a spiritual discipline that is divided into eight steps:
Continence (self restraint)
None receiving gifts
Self surrender to God, the Creator of all, or whatever your beliefs are.
Yama and niyama is moral training in thoughts, words and deeds. This includes the whole world, not just other people.
Asana is a series of exercises, both physical and mental, that are practiced until certain higher states are reached. These are similar to Hatha Yoga, except Hatha Yoga is more concerned with keeping the body healthy and strong. Therefore, Hatha Yoga by itself doen’t progress a person towards spirituality or enlightenment.
Control of prana
Pranayama is practiced for the purpose of controlling prana. Prana is the life sustaining force which pervades all living organisms and the universe. Though pranayama is associated with the breath, the real purpose of pranayama is control of prana, with control of breath being usually the first practice towards this goal.
Restraint of senses from their objects, i.e. detachment
Fixing the mind on a spot
Pratyahara and dharana
The mind is a slave to physical objects
Pratyahara means the withdrawal of the senses from their objects. This practice has to do with perceptions. When an external object and internal body sensors and the mind join together, they attach themselves to the external object, then it is perceived. All actions, internal and external, occur when the mind joins itself to certain centers or sensors.
Swami Vivekananda states, Willingly or unwillingly people join their minds to the centers and that is why they do foolish deeds and feel miserable. If the mind is under control they would not do these things. When we control the mind, it will not join itself to the centers of perception.
Those who has succeeded in attaching or detaching their mind to or from the centers of the senses at will, has succeeded in pratyahara; checking the outgoing powers of the mind, freeing it from the enslavement of the senses. This is a giant step towards freedom.
Practicing pratyahara and dharana
To practice pratyahara, Swami Vivekananda suggests sitting for a period of time and let the mind run. Let it go where it will while you observe its activities. The purpose of this exercise is for you to become aware of the activity of your mind. Because you have to have knowledge of what your mind is doing before you can learn to control it.
After practicing pratyahara daily for some time, then move onto dharana, which means holding the mind to certain points, i.e. forcing the mind to feel certain parts of the body, excluding other parts. Focusing on the third eye, the area between the eyebrows, would be an aspect of this practice. But it could be any part of the body you choose, such as the tip of your nose, or a hand and so forth.
The superconscious experience
Dhytana and samadhi
Dhytana is a state of deep meditative absorption of the mind characterized by lucid awareness and achieved by focusing the mind on a single object.
Samadhi is when the kundalini energy becomes active and consists of four meditative stages associated with the movement of the kundalini force through the spine leading ultimately to the union with God without the need for bodily fixations or a deep trance.
Though I have and do use Yoga postures, this is my first study of Yoga as a method towards self discovery and mastery as part of my spiritual journey. I also experienced the movement of Kundalini energy through my spine before I left the US to go to India. But because it was accidental, I didn’t know what triggered its movement, how to manage it or how to move it beyond the chest region. Without a proper understanding of this energy, eventually I got caught up with events that entered my life while in India, and this energy went dormant again. But I remember the experience and have been interested in acquiring more knowledge on this powerful energy force.
I’ve been meditating for a few years now, but I haven’t been experimenting much lately in my sessions. So for my meditation practice, I will bring back the experientations I have used in the past, as well as add disciplines mentioned in the book that I haven’t used before. I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of results I get.