by C Kali Aitken
RAJA YOGA means king and Raja Yoga is known as the kingly Yoga. This Yoga is usually attributed to Patanjali who first codified this system, although he didn’t call it Raja but simply a vision of Yoga. Patanjali’s teachings are found in a treatise consisting of four volumes or books which go into analysis and explanation of psychology, the body, mind, psychic system and the cause and removal of suffering and delusion. His two most quoted sutras are “Yogas chitta vritti nirodaha”, and Yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, samadhi. They are translated in various ways, often with subtle but profound differences. The first, for example, as “Yoga is the stilling of turbulence in consciousness” or “Yoga is the control of the mental modifications.” The second might be translated as Yoga consists of observances, purifications, posture, control of life force, turning the senses inward, concentration, meditation and super-consciousness or re-integration.” These are usually seen as the eight limbs or steps of Yoga and hence this system is also called Ashtanga Yoga or eight limbed Yoga. Hatha Yoga is often included as part of Raja Yoga but many also see it as separate and complete.
One of the appealing things about Raja Yoga is also its very limitation. It appears to be a scientific, step-by-step path to truth or enlightenment. This makes it especially attractive to the western mind which seeks order and explanation for everything. It is the Yoga of control and what is more controlling than a king? Most interpretations of Raja Yoga emphasize controlling the mind, the senses, the life force, thought, breath and most other aspects of life. Hence when imbalanced it can become rigid and mechanical.