Swami Vivekananda’s Raja Yoga – Br. Shankara

Sunday, November 12, 2017

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November is a month for study of Raja Yoga, a spiritual path often called the yoga of meditation. A raja yogi uses ancient, proven spiritual techniques to quiet the mind and gain control of her or his attention. Regular daily practice of concentration may lead to meditation, which can reveal God and liberate you from the cycle of rebirth and death.

Raja Yoga Swami VivekanandaSwami Vivekananda (Swamiji) wrote Raja Yoga to help his English and American followers understand and practice Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. The book was published in 1896 and immediately became a best-seller. It was credited with having a major influence on the spiritual and intellectual thought currents of in the English-speaking world.

In the book’s Preface, Swamiji said:

“Raja-Yoga declares that each man is only a conduit for the infinite ocean of knowledge and power that lies behind mankind. It teaches that desires and wants are in man, that the power of supply is also in man; and that wherever and whenever a desire, a want, a prayer has been fulfilled, it was out of this infinite magazine that the supply came, and not from any supernatural being …

There is no supernatural, says the Yogi, (instead) there are in nature gross manifestations and subtle manifestations. The subtle are the causes, the gross the effects. The gross can be easily perceived by the senses; not so the subtle. The practice of Raja-Yoga will lead to the acquisition of the more subtle perceptions.”

That last sentence is a big promise, with even bigger implications: Once subtle causes are understood, their effects may be restrained. This can yield relief from life’s suffering and misery, since even our thoughts are the effects of subtle causes. These ideas are rooted in the Samkhya philosophical system, in which Raja Yoga and Yoga Psychology are based.

In this talk, we explore and discuss six of Patanjali’s “limbs” of yoga, and Swamiji’s interpretations of them. Our emphasis will be on the step-by-step personal and spiritual growth that can come from the persistent practice of Raja Yoga.