Mudrashram Institute of Spiritual Studies
A Brief Exposition of Raja Yoga
By George A. Boyd © 2001
In the Mudrashram® System of Integral Meditation, we introduce the practice of Raja Yoga. Swami Charan Das gives us the following exposition about what Raja Yoga is and how it is practiced.
What is Raja Yoga?
"Raja Yoga is the practice of directing the attention to discrete focal points. The deeper aspect of Raja Yoga isolates the attentional principle and projects it out of the body into the inner Planes. The three phases of Raja Yoga are external concentration, internal concentration, and direct projection."
"The process of Raja Yoga begins by directing attention to a discrete focal point, which is called concentration, or dharana. As attention is held one-pointedly at that focal point, the awareness begins to awaken, and you contemplate the object of concentration. This contemplation of the content of mind has been called dhyana. The final step is called samadhi, where your energy flows into the focal point, and you experience a state of absorption and union with the object of concentration. When these three processes flow together seamlessly, it is called samyama." [To learn more about samyama, see our article, "Samyama: the Three Foci in the Practice of Meditation."]
"Attention is composed of mind stuff, or chittam. It resembles an extremely fine multi-colored mist that can expand or contract. Intention is used to contract, or concentrate the mind stuff, and focus it on specific locations."
"Classical Raja Yoga practice begins the training of attention by focusing on external objects such as:
"In focusing on external objects, the meditator reaches a state of union with the object of concentration. Later in classical Raja Yoga practice, this external focus of the concentration is moved inside.
For example, a meditator concentrating on a candle flame may be asked to imagine that the candle flame is inside the head at the point between the eyebrows. [This visualization internalizes the attention to focus on the attentional principle.]
The crystal vase likewise may be imagined to be in the heart. [This visualization internalizes the attention to focus on the Astral Soul.]"
"Internal concentration directly focuses attention on the seed atoms of vehicles, chakras, and centers of integration such as the Self, the spirit and the Soul. We use internal concentration exclusively in this system of Integral Meditation."
"In classical Raja Yoga, the meditator begins the practice of internal concentration by focusing upon the chakras of the Subconscious mind. He or she imagines these centers as colored lotus flowers. Within each lotus flower, he or she visualizes a god or goddess; on each petal, Sanskrit letters comprising the mantras of the chakras. Contemplation is then taken progressively deeper until the attention is able to focus in the vehicles at the level of the First Cosmic Initiation."
Swami Charan Das goes on to describe an even subtler practice, called Direct Projection. [We introduce Direct Projection in the Mudrashram® Master Course in Meditation.]
"In this innermost method of Raja Yoga, you will focus your attention on your attentional principle. Then, united with the attentional principle, you will project the attentional principle out from its pituitary center ground state into landmarks outside the body."
"In the highest stages of this meditation, you will first gain union with your Soul. Then you will move beyond your Soul past the veil of the higher unconscious to behold the seed of Soul Purpose. Then you will dip into the Great Light of Liberation."
For many Westerners who have never meditated, asking them to immediately jump to the "innermost method of Raja Yoga" is asking a lot. Indeed, without the Light Immersion sitting involved in introducing this practice, it would be very difficult for most of them.
By way of contrast, in classical Raja Yoga training, meditation students might spend two to three years on the external Raja Yoga practices before they would ever begin to meditate on a chakra or other internal image. Direct projection may not be introduced for a year after that.
We realize, however, that Westerners are impatient. If instant enlightenment were available, they would demand it. It is clear that few people you and I know would spend two to four years to get to the point where they can direct their attentional principle out of their body onto the higher Planes.
Fortunately, we have found ways to greatly expedite this process in the Mudrashram® system of Integral meditation. We see this as a series of seven stages of understanding the process of Raja Yoga. These are detailed in the table below.
One of the main shortcuts we have found is that most people can dispense with the external concentration exercises altogether. Let's see that saves you about two years
A lot of the introductory practices you can readily learn, and ready yourself for the deeper work. There is information on this web site to help you learn these methods. There are introductory exercises for step one below, and articles to help you with steps two and three.
Then, when you're ready for the deeper work, you can learn them with us, or find some one else to teach you.
Introductory Exercises to Explore Concentration
Ready to dive in? We invite you to try these two exercises described below to explore voluntarily moving your attention. You can do these exercises comfortable seated on the floor, or sitting up in a chair.
Where is your attention is focused right now?
Notice the material that is arising in your awareness right now.
Move your attention to become aware of your right hand notice what you become aware of as your attention is focused here.
Next, shift your attention to your left hand notice what you become aware of as your attention is focused here.
Pick another place in your body to move your attention. Notice what you become aware of as your attention is focused here.
Pick another place and do the same.
Pick another place
Let your attention ease back into waking awareness again. There, that wasn't so hard. You can voluntarily move your attention!
Close your eyes. Notice what it is like to just be in the ground state of your awareness.
[The ground state of awareness is in the medulla oblongata center at the point where your neck meets the back of your head].
Now shift your attention to focus on the present moment of your life, flowing onward, heartbeat by heartbeat.
[If your not sure of where this is, try focusing your attention at the point where your nose meets your forehead.]
Open your eyes. Shift your attention to awareness of the senses pay attention to sight hearing smell taste touch the sensations your body is receiving in this moment.
Close your eyes and bring your attention into your body. Notice the sensations that arise in your body with each moment tension in the neck itch on the forehead observe each one until it passes and you become aware of the next sensation.
Next shift to your feelings. Notice what you are feeling in this moment. Notice each feeling arise any words that are giving voice to that feeling memories that arise in association with that feeling sense of release or relaxation. Let the next feeling arise notice the quality of the feeling words memories
[If you are having problems focusing on your feelings, try placing your attention on the solar plexus in the pit of your stomach. Some of you will find better results focusing on your breastbone area above the heart.]
Next transfer your attention to the awareness of your thoughts. Listen in on your inner dialog. What are you thinking about now?
[You can find the thinking center at the top of your forehead.]
Next focus on your sense of identity as this body, as your unique life. Notice the people who are in your life the possessions you have the roles you play what your life is like in this moment. Notice the I AM statements that arise I am a parent I am a musician Notice any thoughts and impressions that are associated with these I AM statements projects you have undone appointments people you need to talk to
[This center is called the ego. It's located in the midbrain area.]
Then shift to the edge of your bubble of consciousness. You may become aware of impressions that are coming into this field of your Conscious mind from your Subconscious mind, like waves ebbing and flowing on a beach. Notice the ideas and impressions that come into your awareness in each moment
[Moving up from the center in your midbrain, you come to this edge of your conscious awareness. This center is called the preconscious. You get a sense of your bubble of consciousness that is your entire Conscious mind here, and how it interfaces with your vast Subconscious realm of mind.]
Now go back down ego thoughts feelings sensations arising in the body sensations from the environment awareness of the present time ground state of awareness
Give yourself time to settle to reorient yourself reflect for a moment on what you experienced inside
Congratulations! You have successfully shifted the focus of your attention!