Raja yoga or Royal Yoga is the science of mind control. Through the practice of its techniques the student learns to control his mind; once has finally achieved absolute control, he can experience-in deep meditation- that spark of Infinity within himself that is his real self. Jnana means spiritual knowledge, and it is with this that Jnana Yoga, or the yoga of knowledge, deals.
That man does have an eternal principle within his being- whether one calls that principle “self,” “soul,” “psyche,” “spirit,” “purusha,” or “atman,”- is the contention of Indian sages. It was through prolonged introspection that they made contact with this infinite self. The methods they used are mind stilling techniques of Yoga. The sole criterion by which to judge the validity of their teachings is personal experience: the “proof” that the self exists and can be reached lies in each individual’s discovery of his own self. Yoga is the Sanskrit term for union. The various branches of Yoga are but different avenues of approaching the same goal- integration with Infinity. In Raja Yoga the mind is joined to the self; in Jnana Yoga this self, which so far has been regarded as belonging to man. Or vice versa, is joined to Brahman, the world soul. Whereas Jnana Yoga inquires into the nature of the universe and of the human soul, which it finds to be identical, in Raja Yoga the self is sought and experienced directly by means of intellect-transcending meditation. In Raja Yoga the instrument used is the will, and in Jnana Yoga the tool is the intellect. This however does not mean that Jnana yoga is a purely intellectual approach. The sages knew that the intellect has its own limitations, that although it takes the thinker far, it cannot take him all the way. In the end, it is only the stilled mind that can fully comprehend. Some people will feel more attracted at first to the practice of mental discipline, preferring to trust intuition rather than intellect. Others revere their thinking powers, and feel irresistible drawn to the study of Yoga philosophy. One may follow one’s inclination in the early stages of training, but all soon find that in order to achieve success either in Raja yoga or Jnana yoga, both the subjects need to be practiced and studied simultaneously.
To the Practitioner of Yoga
If you decide to take up the study and practice of Yoga, you will find that it may well be the turning point of your life. There is much to be gained. You must approach the subject positively. The man who has faith succeeds. At first, you may not fully comprehend the magnificence of the ultimate goal- you cannot yet appreciate it fully. But as you progress, you will become increasingly aware of it. Although its final attainment may seem distant to you at this stage, remember that all journeys commence with the first step. Therefore, begin at the beginning.
In many of the ancient scriptures the student is advised to find a personal teacher, a guru. This is now no longer necessary. Because there were very few books, and few people were able to read, the sacred teachings were handed down orally for many centuries; and were put down in writing only after perhaps a thousand years. Today, when so many books containing the classics are easily available, the need for a personal teacher is eliminated. The written word is the best of all gurus. Through books the great masters speak to us directly.
The mental training involved in Yoga will result in a change of personality. Consider, therefore, the effect this may have on the people close to you. The yoga student should live in harmony with his surroundings and with other people. He should avoid disturbing others.
There is no set required length of practice. To some, success will come only after long striving, while for some the realization may come sooner, in a magnificent, all encompassing flash. Much depends on one’s previous mode of life, some come better prepared than others.
The path that you will be following was laid out meticulously by the masters of yore especially for you and for those like you. Since ancient times, thousands upon thousands have travelled the path. Many thousands are making their way along it on this very day, and countless thousands will proceed along the same route in the future. As you travel, all these seekers are with you in spirit.
The quest for Yoga can be seen as climbing of the mountain that reaches into the heavens. A path to the top has been hewn out by the great sages, who left guideposts along the way. Standing in the valley, the prospective climber looks up with longing and admiration at the high peak, glistening white against the blue sky. Joyfully he commences the ascent. Soon, however, he may discover that there are many obstacles to be overcome. Often the path is steep and strewn with rocks. But no matter how the traveler is equipped and how difficult he may think the climb, he will derive great assistance from the directions left by those who went before. If only he perseveres, he will, thanks to their help, finally reach the top. During the journey, he may become tired, and want to sit down to rest. There are many vantage points where he can relax for a time and view the distance already travelled. This will give him new strength and confidence. Refreshed and intent, he will rise to his feet again and head once more toward his goal, approaching nearer to it with every step.
In the rarefied atmosphere at the summit, he will breathe deeply of the pure air. From the heights, he will view the panorama spread out beneath him as one who conquered all.
He who has attained Yoga has received the greatest of all gifts: he will possess profound spiritual knowledge, and he will have cast aside the erroneous notion that he is a lone, finite entity. He will have discovered what he really is- Infinite, absolute Being.