What are the basic concepts of Raja Yoga?
See the presentation of AAB in “Modern Esotericism” .
There are many translations and comments of Yoga-Sutra (Yoga verses) of Patanjali, very unequal between them.
Among the most interesting include:
– Patanjali and Yoga and Yoga Techniquesby the historian of religions Mircea Eliade,
– Yoga of the Indianist Tara Michaël,
– The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali and the Yoga-Bhashya of Vyasa by the Indianist Michel Angot.
Apart from the Indian yogic tradition, let us quote the remarkable work of the Lama Kasi Dawa Samdup, published by the Tibetologist WY Evans-Wentz, entitled:
– Tibetan Yoga and the Secret Doctrines or the 7 Books of the Wisdom of the Great Path .
The following is a summary of a work in progress Origin of Samkhya and Yoga
The Indian yogic tradition is older than Vedism. As evidenced by the Rig Veda , ascetics are already mentioned in the Vedic period. More and more evidence suggests that Meditative Yoga is of Dravidian origin, that it is an inseparable part of the indigenous peoples of India.
The same meditative practices are evoked in China and throughout the rest of the Far East.
In Vedism, the Rishi Yajnavalkya, author of Yajur Veda “white”, Shatapatabrahmana and Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, is at the origin of this reversal consisting in understanding the sacrifice as an interior act (to make sacred) and not exclusively as an external ritual. This Rishi emphasized the importance of meditative asceticism and retreat in the forests.
His Yajnavalkyadharmashastra ( Yajnavalkya Law Teaching) digresses into Samkhya, Yoga, and the doctrine of rebirth according to Karma.
Yajnavalkya is probably one of the first Rishis to bridge the tradition of Raja Yoga, based on the Samkhya, and the ancient Vedanta, based on the Vedas .
The Indian esoteric tradition makes it a Rishi from the time of Rama (at the court of Sita’s father, wife of Rama) at a time much earlier than Krishna.
Before the other ways of Yoga were distinguished, the Indian tradition had always associated the term Yoga with ancient Darshana, with the meditative system, which went back far in the history of India and was later codified, there is more 2000 years old, by Patanjali.
We name it using the late term “Raja Yoga” to differentiate it from other Yogas.According to Krishna, Yoga would go back to Vivasvat (Sun) who taught it to Manu Vaivasvata who, through Kashyapa and his son Marichi, passed it on to Ikshvaku, the father of the solar dynasty in India. Then the Raja-Rishis (Sages-Kings) transmitted it from generation to generation. The Rajputs, to which Master Morya belongs, call themselves the descendants of Ikshvaku and Rama. This may explain the name given to this meditation: Raja Yoga or Royal Yoga, sometimes translated as Synthetic Yoga. The Buddha’s own family is supposed to come down from Rama, although Buddha himself is associated as Krishna with the lunar dynasty.
Rama, Krishna, Mahavira and Buddha all belonged to the warrior caste and not to that of the Brahmans.
Contrary to what is often asserted, the yogic tradition is not of Vedic origin: no reference to Veda and Brahmanic culture appears in the Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali.In the Mahabharatathe two Darshanas (philosophical schools) of Samkhya and Yoga are considered as one system. Tradition presents Samkhya as the oldest philosophy of India, as the theoretical basis of Patanjali’s practical Yoga and as the ancestor of Vedanta. Vivekananda himself made Samkhya the ancestor of all Indian philosophies, including Vedanta, which Shankaracharya later reformed. The Vedanta fought the Samkhya to get rid of it.
Kapila has built the philosophical system of Samkhya that will be reused and rehabilitated in all religions and later schools in India. Kapila is the prototype of the yogic ascetic, a manifestation of Shiva for some, a Vishnu Avatar for others.
The Samkhya has developed a digital system linking the planes of consciousness, the subtle bodies, the senses and the elements. He founded the theory of ignorance, karma and liberation.► Patanjali
Panini and Patanjali are considered Shiva Avatars.
The Orientalists assign more recent dates to Panini (4th century BCE) and Patanjali, through which they distinguish two characters (2nd century AEC for the grammarian commentator, and 1st to 4th century EC for the yogi). Nothing is known about Patanjali’s life.
Master Djwal Khul, referring to the work of the first Patanjali, made the following statement:
“A great opportunity is offered to you; the success of the Raja-Yoga system, the Royal Science of Mind (instituted by the great initiate Patanjali, eleven thousand years ago) is manifesting itself and its techniques assert themselves. What he has said about the White Grand Lodge is now satisfactorily disseminated, and the original design for the most part has been justified. Over the next seven thousand years, his system will be used to train disciples to master the mind. Through this system, they will reach the stage of “isolation in unity” and in this unity of which they are aware, alone, and yet with many others – they will take the initiation that will allow them to liberate energy in the world of men, who waits and asks. »
(Discipleship in the New Age, volume 2 ).Raja Yoga in Hinduism
All aspects of Indian philosophy are included in Yoga-Sutra : the fluctuating functioning of the mind, the necessary detachment, the place of psychic powers, the different types of asceticism and meditation techniques, the stages of meditation, the explanation of the principle of causality engendering rebirth, the state of spiritual realization engendered by a complete mastery of the mind … It is a synthetic text of great wealth. The Bhagavad Gita (gathering the words of Krishna) and the Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali, are the two most translated and commented Indian sacred texts in the world.► Shankaracharya
From her childhood, Shankara studied the revealed texts (shruti) and also the traditional philosophies (smriti) such as the Kapila Samkhya and the Patanjali Yoga. We found a Yoga-Sutra Commentary attributed to Shankara, a youth work.
Gaudapada, the Master of Govinda, Shankara’s Paraguru, wrote the famous Commentary on Mandukhya Upanishad as well as a Commentary on Ishvara-Krishna’s Samkhya-Karika . It has been said to be imbued with Buddhist philosophy still very present in its time (especially the doctrines of Prajna-Paramita). An Eastern tradition asserts that before incarnating, Shankara would have donned the subtle bodies (Nirmanakaya) left by Buddha Shakyamuni. The esoteric tradition also asserts that Buddha Maitreya, after having besieged Shankara, reused the subtle bodies of Buddha Shakyamuni. These subtle bodies being necessary for the incarnation of the Great Beings.
Shankara is therefore aware of the three major Darshanas: Samkhya, Yoga and Vedanta.
A succession can be seen between Kapila, Patanjali, Gautama, Shankara and Maitreya.In Kashmir Shaivism, the reference to meditative Yoga is present: the breath, the mantra, or the image of divinity are used as in all Asian meditative practices.
Like Patanjali’s text, 112 methods of meditation are described in the Vijnanabhairava-Tantra whose origin is probably very old.
Shiva is the boss of all yogis.Similarly, Kriya Yoga, passed down from Babaji’s lineage to Yogananda, is no exception. According to Yogananda, Babaji previously transmitted it to Shankara. This Yoga is a Raja Yoga mixing a breathing technique. The very word of Kriya Yoga is quoted in a Patanjali sutra as being the combination of svadhyaya, tapas and Ishvarapranidhana. These three terms also cover multiple and profound meanings: study of sacred scriptures for oneself or the reading of the Self in all things (sva-dhyaya), asceticism or internal heat produced by prana (tapas, the equivalent of the Tibetan technique of tumo), devotion to a deity or surrender to the absolute Lord (Ishvara-pranidhana).
Taken from a purely technical point of view, Patanjali’s Kriya Yoga would contain three major methods of meditation: pranayama (mastery of breath), recitation of a mantra, and devotion including concentration on an image of Divinity.
With regard to Tantrism, the three basic techniques are the mudra (the body), the mantra (the word) and the yantra (the spirit), which became the mandala in Buddhism.
Shri Mahesh Yogi’s transcendental meditation is based on the Himalayan yogic tradition, which, like all Yogic schools of meditation, is based on the universal teaching codified by Patanjali.
In one way or another, the Avatars such as Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Ramanamarshi … have drawn from the raja yogic practice which constitutes a common background completely assimilated to Indian spirituality, to the point that this practice is no longer distinguished as Patanjali’s Yoga.
Certainly, there are ways to meditate that seem more spontaneous. Like the meditation of which Krishnamurti spoke who preferred to speak of total and permanent attention of consciousness rather than concentration technique. It is true that his Vedantic teaching (those who think he invented some philosophy display their ignorance of Indian culture) was in fact very close to the Buddha’s teaching which he particularly loved, in addition to the meditation on emptiness of consciousness. Krishnamurti’s teaching is in fact very close to Madhyamika Buddhism.
When asked about Krisnamurti, who advocated stopping all concentration, Ramana Marshi very rightly answered that in order to reach such a state, Krishnamurti had had to concentrate in his other lives. Indeed, once the concentration acquired for an initiate, meditation becomes more natural and spontaneous, and it can relate to the very nature of consciousness as practiced in Vedanta and some Buddhist schools.
However, before having acquired a good command of the concentration, such meditations can lead to a soft relaxation, to a simple emotional or mental emptiness, that one will take illusorily for a high meditative state.
Raja Yoga in Buddhism
The presence of Patanjali before the historical Buddha would explain the strong presence of yogic terms and practices (from the Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali) in Buddhism.
Anyway, even accepting the anteriority of the Buddha on Patanjali, Jean Filliozat specifies in Classical India, Manual of Indian studies, Volume 2 (co-written with Louis Renou):
“These correlations and numbers of others may be borrowed from YogasutraBuddhist texts, but they express rather a general community of techniques between Buddhism and Yoga, well before the writing of Yogasutra . Yoga, long before being the object of the dogmatic exposition of Yogasutra, lent to all religions or better to all the wisdoms of India. It is far from exclusively Brahmanic, it has a general importance, because it is in all the Indian civilization that it is a universally usable technique of self-control “.
Let us also specify that the founders of the three forms of Buddhism (Hinayana, Mahayana, Vajrayana) were all Indian, and that for Vajrayana, the Indian Tantric influence was major.
Mahavira’s Jainism and Gautama’s Buddhism are philosophies very similar to those of Raja Yoga: all rest on the Samkhya (the system of numbers where the number 5 is recurrent). The 5 moral rules are common to the three systems: continence, lack of covetousness, truth in word, harmlessness and absence of theft.
The 5 Buddhist forces (balas), to achieve enlightenment, are found in Patanjali about the means (upaya) guaranteeing access to samadhi (contemplation): faith (shraddha), energy (virya), attention (smriti) ), meditation (dhyana), wisdom (prajna). Virya, dhyana and prajna form three of the six major paramitas, the virtues of the Mahayana. The last stages of Raja Yoga are therefore the culmination of these Buddhist virtues: Dhyana and Prajna (which is the wisdom obtained in samadhi).
The obstacles to samadhi are almost the same in Buddhism and Raja Yoga. Compare also Buddhist and Yogic kleshas (afflictions). Other Sanskrit terms are still common to both systems.
We can also compare the 5 yogic elements of the 5 Buddhist aggregates and all the 5 analogies attributed to the 5 Buddhas.
Buddhism has its eightfold path and Raja Yoga its 8 members (Ashtanga-Yoga: its 8 members can be understood as 8 different forms of meditation, not to be confused with the 8 members of Hatha Yoga where everything is seen through the postures and breathing).
The Buddhist truths (on ignorance, suffering, causal links, conditioned production, the need for liberation, etc.) as the philosophy of Yoga, have their source in Kapila.
Atheism has been spoken of for Kapila as much as for Gautama: agnosticism, or rather the absence of recourse to a personal Deity, would be a more just formulation.Several types of Buddhist meditation refer directly to the stages of Raja yoga. In one form or another, there are often Shamatha (tranquility of mind), Vipashyana (penetrating vision) and Shunyata (the state obtained from the emptiness of consciousness).
The famous meditative technique called in Vipassana pali (Vipashyana in Sanskrit), issued from Theravada Buddhism, corresponds to the first stages of Raja Yoga: Shamatha (from the root Sham: to calm, to pacify) which makes it possible to keep the spirit permanently in peace, then Vipashyana (from the Sanskrit root Vipash: to observe, to distinguish) which plunges into this tranquility of mind in order to reach the depth of emptiness.
In Raja Yoga, these two practices correspond to Prathyahara (withdrawal of the senses or withdrawal in one of the 5 senses, allowing the absence of disorder) and to Dharana (concentration or sustained attention). The latter leads to Dhyana (meditation or prolonged concentration).
The basic teaching of Raja Yoga is summarized here:
According to the universal foundations of Raja Yoga, sustained concentration leads to the meditative state. In Buddhist practice, although at first breathing, sensations etc. can be used to calm the mind, gradually, the object of meditation becomes abstract: it is directed towards the real nature of the consciousness and the world which is the Vacuity.
The Chinese school Tien-Tai (Tendai in Japanese) took over the Shamatha-Vipassana method named Chih-Kuan (Shikan in Japanese).
The name of the Lotus Sutra (the basic text of this school) becomes influenced by Nichiren and his school, a mantra used as a medium for meditation.
In Chinese Buddhism of the Pure Land or Ching-tu-tsung (Jodo-shu in Japan), the mantric invocation and meditation on the Earth (bhumi) of Amitabha is the essence of meditation.
The worship of Amitabha was imported into China by Nagarjuna. This great Indian follower was the founder of Madhyamika School. Nagarjuna is also considered one of the 84 Mahasiddhas (great ascetics honored in Hindu and Tibetan Tantrism), as the founder of the Chinese school Tien-Tai, the 14th patriarch of Zen and finally the 3rd patriarch of Japanese Tantric Buddhism (Shingon) .
The worship of Amitabha replaced the older Hinayanist cult of Maitreya.
The return to meditation (Dhyana) has been regularly preached in Buddhism. Bodhidharma went to China to preach the way of Dhyana, called Chan in Chinese and Zen in Japanese.
Chan made Mahakashypa his first patriarch, Nagarjuna his 14th and Bodhidharma his 28th patriarch. Comparing Buddha to Manu, Kashyapa appears in both cases as the first in the lineage, as if the ancient tradition of Yoga (related to the Krishna solar line) was repeated in that of Chan and Zen Buddhism.
In Zen, posture, mudra of the hands, breathing and concentration on the abdomen (hara) are only objects of concentration to reach the meditative state.
The Asanga Buddhist School, named Yogacara, relies entirely on the practice of Raja Yoga: this ancient Mahayanist school codified the stages of Yoga in detail to the point of developing a true Buddhist school of Raja Yoga. Raja Yoga has in fact influenced all Buddhist meditation practices: Indian, Sri Lankan, Burmese and Indochinese in general, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Tibetan and Mongolian.
Yogacara became Fa-Hsiang School in China and Hosso School in Japan. Vasubandhu (21st Patriarch of Chan), Asanga’s brother (whom he converted to Yogacara), wrote a Commentary on Ishvara-Krishna’s Samkhya-Karika. Because some of Patanjali’s sutras contain themes related to Yogacara, Patanjali was meant to be a contemporary of Asanga (between the 3rd and 5th centuries CE).
HPB supports the existence of two Asanga: the one who is known and who has always been confused with the first Asanga, the direct disciple of Buddha Shakyamuni according to HPB. This first Asanga thus codified the teaching of Raja Yoga within nascent esoteric Buddhism.
The succession of phases of meditation is equivalent in Mahayanist and Raja-yogic Buddhist practices. There are three main stages in relation to the three bodies of the Buddha and the three worlds.
1) First of all, the 4 types of samadhi with object recognition (samprajnata-samadhi) of Patanjali were as much taken up in Gautama Buddhism as in the Vedanta of Shankara.
Their names are vitarka (thought), vichara (reflection), ananda (bliss) or priti (joy) or sukha (happiness) or upeksha (impassibility, out of dualities), then asmita (Soi) or ekagrata (acuity or unity of the psyche).
2) Then, Patanjali explains that samyama is the complete mastery of the concentration-meditation-contemplation triad: in Samkhya language, this is possible when the antahkarana connects the mind (manas), the individual soul (ahamkara) and intuition (Buddhi). The ahamkara is called the causal body in esotericism because it is the source of the self-consciousness (individual soul or Ego). In kama-manas (the mind mixed with the emotional), ahamkara becomes the ego, self-centered consciousness (personality or selfishness).
Access to Buddhi frees awareness of the very notion of the individual soul.
After these three unified states (samyama), Patanjali cites 7 stages (bhumis) of samadhi without seed, that is to say without relation to a psychic object (asamprajanata-samadhi or nirbija-samadhi). The evolution described is close to the Tibetan Mahamudra technique.
Samyama and the 7 bhumis can be compared with the 10 bhumis (lands or spheres) forming the Bodhisattva stages, each stage being associated with one of the 10 paramitas (virtues). The last stage is called “the cloud of the law” (dharma-megha), a term cited by Patanjali towards the end of his book as the culmination of samadhi. This cloud is Sanatana-Dharma (the Law or Eternal Wisdom, which we call Ancient Wisdom). Like a spiritual rain still condensed, ready to overshadow the initiate, this cloud represents the spiritual Hierarchy of the Masters of Wisdom, the eternal inspirers of Ancient Wisdom.
3) Dharma-megha is actually the gateway to the highest meditative states that Buddhists call the 4 spheres or 4 levels of arupa-samadhi (formless contemplation): these are the spheres of space, of the Higher Consciousness, the Void, and the Unnamable and Attributeless Sphere.
The last sutras of Yoga-Sutra seem to allude to these high meditative states.
It is not surprising that the systems of bhumis (spheres of consciousness) and trikaya (the three bodies of the Buddha) were codified by the school Yogacara of Asanga (under the inspiration of Maitreya).
Tibetan meditation practices clearly refer to Indian Tantric Yoga, from which great saints (Mahasiddhas) such as Tilopa are derived. The 6 yogas of his disciple Naropa evoke exercises cited by Patanjali. Milarepa, disciple of Marpa (himself a disciple of Naropa), symbolizes the yogi having perfectly mastered the techniques of the Kaguypa school. The 6 Yogas of Naropa are meditations “with form” that can develop certain abilities, fully mastered by the Masters of Wisdom: the Tumo (internal fire), the Mayavirupa (illusory body or self-creates), the transfer of consciousness, mastery of the dream state, stages of death (Bardo) and clear light.
The Mahamudra (Great Seal) of Kagyupa School tries to affix the seal of emptiness to consciousness.
Shamatha-Vipashyana is “ordinary exercise” or exoteric, from the Theravada school: it is said to be Tibetan or Burmese Zen. Then comes the “extraordinary exercise” of Mahamudra, corresponding to the obtaining of samadhi (meaning the complete / sam maintenance / adhi): the fact of installing and sealing the mind in an absolutely stable and empty state, without that the later forms appearing on the screen of the consciousness and do not disturb this state.
The technique of the Dzogchen (the Great Perfection) of the Nyingmapa school (incarnated by Padmasambhava) requires an intense presence, a sustained concentration on the state of emptiness so that the mind finds this original condition.
It recalls the Pratyabhijna (Reconnaissance) school of Kashmiri Shivaism, to which the famous Shaivite Abhinavagupta is associated.
► Tsong Khapa
The most advanced example of meditation with support is the visualization of Kalachakra’s mandala and its internalization down to the smallest detail.
Kalachakra is the most esoteric practice of the Gelugpa school founded by Tsong-Khapa, whose study center was first Shigatse (capital of Panchem-Lamas) before moving to Lhasa (capital of the Dalai Lamas).
Tsong Khapa inaugurated the order of the Panchem Lamas (scholars) who instructed the various Dalai Lamas even before the name of Dalai Lama was given to them (16th century) and before the political order of the Dalai Lamas was instituted in Lhasa ( 17th century). The teaching of Kalachakra from Tashilhunpo Monastery was transferred to Lhasa by the 8th Dalai Lama.
Raja Yoga in Taoism
Taoism has its own methods of meditation that have been enriched by Indian and Chinese Buddhist instructors. Taoism has always been associated with Chinese Buddhism: the abstraction of meditative methods and Buddhist values have elevated Taoist energy techniques to higher spiritual levels, aiming more at the immortality of the mind than at the body.
In this sense, Lao Tzu’s philosophical Taoism is very close to the Buddha’s teaching: Tao and Shunyata are in fact equivalent. Taoist “yoga” is based on symbols close to Indian Tantrism, such as the union of yin (yoni) and yang (linga). The respiratory and visualization techniques of chi (qi) play a big role.
In religious Taoism, as in the School of Hygiene of Inner Divinities, the complex visualization of bodily divinities, especially in the palaces or energetic centers of the head, is a form of Raja Yoga. The purified body of the adept becomes the temple of the heavenly Gods who end up incarnating (at least their rays), making the adept an immortal. “Keeping one” here means returning to the Tao, symbolized by the Polar Star connected to the top of the head and the sacred Kunlun Mountain. As in Hinduism with its primordial Rishis (sorts of celestial Yogis), the Chinese Gods of the stars of the Big Dipper play an essential role in Taoist meditation that connects them to points of the head or organs.
The harmony found between Heaven and the body of the adept also recalls the initiation to Kalachakra, which also borrows the Chinese astrological system. The teaching of Kalachakra comes from Shambhala, located in the Gobi Desert in northern China.
The Himalayan Masters being the interpreters of this teaching.
Raja Yoga in the West
The influence of Raja Yoga could have won the West, thanks to Pythagoras.
The Greek tradition tells us that he traveled to the Middle East, Mesopotamia, Persia where he was educated by Zoroaster, and to India where he met the Buddha. The Indian texts speak of Yavanacharya: the Greek instructor.
Pythagoras brought back to Samkhya philosophy and Buddhist philosophy in Greece and Italy (metempsychosis, vegetarianism, respect for all life, moral purity …), accompanied by a yogic asceticism which will then win over the Platonists, the Neopythagoreans, the Neo-Platonists, the Christian gnostics, as well as the Jewish Nazarenes and Essenes whom Pythagoras visited, and in whom are found practices, terms and beliefs of Buddhist origin.
All these Jewish, Judeo-Christian and Hellenic-Christian movements rested on the idea that man could unite his spirit with the Divinity.
The Neoplatonist Jamblicus tells us that Pythagoras had stayed with the Essenes at Mount Carmel and had instructed them. Jesus, having lived in Galilee, and who is known to have belonged to the order of the Essenes and Nazarenes, could not ignore the Pythagorean and Buddhist wisdom. The maxims of Pythagoras are, moreover, largely included in the New Testament.
The esoteric tradition teaches us that Jesus reincarnated one last time as Apollonius of Tyana, the great miracle worker of the beginning of the Christian era, who was a fervent follower of Pythagoras.
Even outside of Pythagoras, it can not be denied that Jain and especially Buddhist missionaries (first sent by Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century CEA) spread throughout the Middle and Near East, via the Mediterranean. to go back to Northern Europe where we found traces of Buddhism.
As for Plotinus, the great Neo-Platonist, he went to Persia and India, explains his biographer Porphyre, in order to study their philosophy.
In disregarding the mystical practices of the Neo-Platonists and the Christian Gnostics, it is only to consider the Christian monks of the desert to be convinced of the striking yogic influence on primitive Christianity: we think of the practice of Hesychasm (immobility , silence) hermits from Egypt, Greece, the Middle East, the Middle East and Asia Minor.
The Cappadocian Fathers (Neoplatonicists and Origenists), inspired by the monks of the desert, transmitted to the Orthodox Church the respect of the meditative asceticism. Gregory Palamas (14th century) was a famous representative of Hesychasm.
The Bogomiles (in Bulgaria) then the Italian and French Cathars (Albigeois) had ideas and practices of Essene origin; they are close to Gnosticism, Manichaeism and Origenism.
The Order of Carmel, to which insiders such as Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross were attached, inherited the ancient practice of silent prayer, intended to awaken the presence of Christ in the heart, in connection with the sacred heart of Jesus.
Many other religious orders have put mystical practice forward, prayer being used as a way of meditation and communion with God. Their most famous representatives are Saint Benedict (Benedictines), Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (Cirstercians), Saint Francoise of Assisi (Franciscans) and Ignatius Loyola (Jesuits), whose Spiritual Exercises simply evoke Raja Yoga.
The individual and collective search for contact with the Holy Spirit is found among Protestants, Anglicans, the many Evangelical Churches and Catholic members of the Charismatic Renewal. In a way, it is an attempt to free oneself from the religious institution and to experience immanent God in man, whether by seeking grace through prayer, or by methods (sometimes close to the trance) more or less adapted.
It is certain that to achieve this high goal, a Raja Yoga-type approach (no matter what name one would give it) would be needed to create the state of spiritual tension that is the antithesis of trance and any passive attitude. .
It should be noted that some Christian communities have used Zen in their religious practice and have tried to trace the roots of Christian meditation.
We can also find yogic influences in certain Shiite and Sufi movements, inspired, among other things, by the presence of Islam in India: in addition to dance, methods of breathing and the use of the recitation of the various names of ‘Allah, serve as meditation techniques.
Let us conclude with Sophrology, which has also drawn heavily on the techniques of Raja Yoga: its founder, Caycedo, studied the yogic methods of India, Tibet and Zen.
Meditation and service are the two universal means to achieve spiritual fulfillment and to foster the evolution of one’s neighbor.
Thus, contrary to what one can read, there is no need to be a practitioner of Hatha Yoga or Qi Gong to begin the practice of Raja Yoga.
A good hygiene of life and a moral virtue are however necessary: these are besides the 4 preparatory steps of Yoga with 8 members, preparatory stages on which Patanjali does not extend. The aspirant has the unfortunate tendency to focus too much on it.
The next 4 steps are about Raja Yoga proper and are the ones that are widely commented on throughout the Patanjali treatise.
Recall these 4 steps: withdrawal of the senses, concentration, meditation and contemplation.
No need to contort in all directions or to adopt restrictive breaths to practice Raja Yoga.
If practitioners of Hatha Yoga or Qi Gong concentrate intensely at the center of the forehead during their practice, they will get the best results possible. Consciousness must not wander, otherwise it always descends to the level of the solar plexus and energy practices then stimulate more the emotional life of the individual (at his expense).
It is not the gestures or the breath that matter, but the level where the consciousness is placed: from this level depends the quality of the energy that will enter the centers and the meridians.
Any practitioner concerned about this starts a Raja Yoga.
The purpose of Raja Yoga
Raja Yoga is not a meditation method among others but the exposition of the universal principles underlying all forms of meditation.
This is why Patanjali describes these principles as well as various types of meditation as an illustration.
The methods of meditation are only means more or less precise and adapted to reach the meditative state, even the contemplation.
In schematization, we can say that India has presented two fundamental methods to which all the others are attached:
– the vertical method of the Hindu type, directed towards the higher world of the Self (Transcendence),
– the horizontal method of Jaino-Buddhist type , internalized in the state of emptiness (Immanence).
The three Monotheisms are related to the transcendental method, while Taoism and Shintoism join the immanent method.
Roughly speaking, we find two major blocks: the Semioto-Indo-European approach and the Far Eastern approach.
Of course, within each religion, there is still the presence of the other trend.
Whatever the meditative method, the concentration remains a sustained attention which can be carried on various psychic objects: sounds (mantras), images (mandalas or yantras), creative visualizations and abstract objects such as Vacuity, Tao , Shiva or the Self, according to the tradition retained.
Success in meditation requires the maintenance of a “spiritual tension” (understood positively) to pierce the different planes of consciousness.
Contemplation is equivalent to successfully placing and maintaining one’s consciousness on the Budhhic (Buddhi) or Christ (Christos) level, above the individual soul (place of meditation).
It is the highest state that man can reach (outside the Masters): some will call it emptiness, others the Atman because the ray of the Self is reflected in Buddhi. This level corresponds to the state of arhat in Buddhism, the 4th initiation, the crucifixion in esoteric Christianity. This is the level of intuition and group consciousness.
The Masters of Wisdom are those who have attained the higher state, the state of Nirvana (Buddhism), called Kaivalya (the Isolated Unity) by Patanjali. The isolation here corresponds to the complete absorption in the Unit.
All in all, there is a first preparatory state (withdrawal of the senses and concentration), which leads to meditation with an external or internal support, with form or without form. Then, the deeper state of contemplation implies, by its very nature and its level, the absence of any formal object of meditation, even interior.
The meditator contemplates his true nature.
By its mental approach, Raja Yoga is perfect for Westerners. There is no question of a vague mystical reverie as there is too much tendency to associate it with meditation, or experiences of outbursts or psychic powers, mediumship etc.
It is indeed a question of accessing a progressive control of one’s mind, in order to use it correctly in order to reach one’s deep nature, the soul and then the Self.
The realization of the Self (Ishvara, Shiva or Atman), the Way (Tao) or Emptiness (Shunyata), is the profound goal of Raja Yoga.
Serenity, deep joy, compassion and detachment are the consequences of his practice.
From an esoteric point of view, meditation is meant to put us in touch with the energy of the soul on one of the 7 rays: the same soul ray of lives in lives. Then, contemplation allows us to come into contact with the ray of Self reflected on the plane of intuition. Atma-Buddhi are the two agents of the Self.
The ray of Self or Monad expresses one of the three Aspects of Divinity: Power, Love-Wisdom, or Intelligence.
The various Trinities, the families of Archangels, Buddhas, Kumaras or Avatars, all belong to it.
Meditation must be expressed through active service to others and, in general, to everything that lives. Otherwise, the acquired energy turns against the practitioner, creating neurotic or depressive states, selfishness or spiritual pride, resulting from the non-use of spiritual energies that remain fundamentally impersonal.
If you want to meditate, serve too!