Ashtanga Yoga - Spirituality with Raja Yoga
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Different Styles of Yoga

Raja Yoga

Spirituality with Ashtanga Yoga

Raja yoga or Ashtanga Yoga is the path of yoga that is concerned mainly with the mind and control of thoughts so that they get directed towards the realization of the divine. The spiritual experience of Ashtanga yoga is also similar in content with the rest of branches of yoga but this style is considered to be the path followed by the kings. This yoga does not take the help of struggle with the vital Prana in order to control the external influence of air entering into the system. Neither does this system take help from the various postures of Hatha yoga and Kriya yoga. This system deals with controlling and silencing the thought process. The yogi or Sadhak sits down in one place and just starts with controlling his mind.

The spirituality thus experienced is also very direct. The end result though remains that of complete salvation and deliverance. Maharishi Patanjali has written about Ashtanga yoga in the form of Sutras. This is called Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The Sutras are verses written in a cryptic format to express any thought. These are difficult to read and understand as proper interpretation of them can be done by a person who has immense knowledge of the entire text. This ancient text explains the spiritual journey of a Raja yogi by verses arranged in four chapters. A brief description of these is as follows:

Samadhi Pada: This is the first chapter of Yoga Sutra's of Patanjali. This has fifty-one verses or sutras that deal with obstructions faced by people in meditation. These are verses that explain the details of controlling the mind while meditation process that in Sanskrit is called Citta Vritti Nirodha. Many kinds of Vairagyas experienced by people by the process of meditation are described here. The importance of uniting the Purusha with the Ishvara is also explained in cryptic poetic format.

Sadhana Pada: This chapter deals with the actual practices required to direct the thought process into the direction of God. These are basically processes of Kriya yoga that Sadhak or yogi is required to perform in order to progress on the path to the divine entity. This chapter contains fifty-five Sutras. It describes the importance of Yama, Niyama, Tapas, Asana and Pratyahara.

Vibhuti Pada: This contains fifty-six Sutras and they explain the process of concentrating the thought process and senses onto the divine path. They explain how with withdrawing of the senses inwards a person can achieve detachment of Purusha from Prakriti and move forward on the direction of salvation. It emphasizes the importance of Dharana, Dhyana, Samyama, Siddhi and Chakras.

Kaivalya Pada: This is the chapter that is the shortest among all. It contains thirty-six sutras and deals with explanations regarding complete detachment of Purusha from the Prakriti. It is the ultimate stage of Sadhak or yogi and he experiences the self merging with the divine.

Raja yoga basically takes the mind onto a progressive journey where the mind goes through the following stages of development of thought process.

Khipta: This is the stage of mind where the thoughts in the mind are naturally running wild. All the thoughts are in different directions and the mind just thinks of a lot of things all at the same time.

Mudha: In this state since the thoughts are still not directed into one way the mind is like the sun with its light scattering everywhere. Its energy is directionless so the rays do not have the intensity to burn anything. In order for the light to be well guided and bright all its rays have to be focused in one direction. Then the rays become powerful enough to start a fire. This state of mind leads to a lot of foolish actions which are invariably regretted later. Also it gives rise to lot of forgetfulness because the mind is so cluttered.

Vikshipta: In this stage the mind tries to concentrate but the thoughts still run wild. It is as if the thoughts still remain scattered at times and on other times they may remain concentrated.

Ekagra: This is the state of complete concentration when the thoughts stop running haywire.

Niruddha: This is the state of mind when the Sadhak experiences complete concentration and in his thought process he realizes the detachment of self from the universe.

While the mind goes through transitions the person cultivates following virtues which help him in reaching the ultimate goal of salvation. These virtues are:

Maitri: This means developing a friendly attitude towards everyone. There is attachment and detachment in this kind of friendship. There is a sort of constancy of emotion towards one and all. This takes care of the vice of not keeping everyone on the same platform. This develops a sense of fair judgment in the Sadhak which is very important for his duties as a king.

Karuna: This is a virtue of kindheartedness towards one and all. This asset mainly defines the characters of complete unselfishness in all one does.

Mudita: This is feeling happy about others achievements and gains through life. This feeling mainly deals with curtailing of all feelings of jealousy towards friends or foes.

Upeksha: This is another virtue by which a person truly comes close to the divine. This is the quality of complete indifference towards others who harbour negative feelings towards the individual. There is no feeling of anger towards others.

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