THE STAGES OF YOGA BASEL
The right means are just as important as the end in view. Patanjali enumerates these means as the eight limbs or stages of Yoga for the quest of the soul. They are:
1. Yama (universal moral commandments);
2. Niyama (self purification by discipline);
3. Asana (posture);
4. Pranayama (rhythmic control of the breath);
5. Pratyahara (withdrawal and emancipation of the mind from the
domination of the senses and exterior objects);
6. Dharana (concentration);
7. Dhyana (meditation);
8. Samadhi (a state of super-consciousness brought about by profound
meditation, in which the individual aspirant (sadhaka) becomes one with the object of his meditation – Paramatma or the Universal Spirit).
Yama and Niyama control the yogi’s passions and emotions and keep him in harmony with his fellow man. Asanas keep the body healthy and strong and in harmony with nature. Finally, the yogi becomes free of body consciousness. He conquers the body and renders it a fit vehicle for the soul. The first three stages are the outward quests (bahiranga sadhana).
The next two stages, Pranayama and Pratyahara, teach the aspirant to regulate the breathing, and thereby control the mind. This helps to free the senses from the thraldom of the objects of desire. These two stages of Yoga are known as the inner quests (antaranga sadhana).
Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi take the yogi into the innermost recesses of his soul. The yogi does not look heavenward to find God. He knows that HE is within, being known as the Antaratma (the Inner Self). The last three stages keep him in harmony with himself and his Maker. These stages are called antaratma sadhana, the quest of the soul.
By profound meditation, the knower, the knowledge and the known become one. The seer, the sight and the seen have no separate existence from each other. It is like a great musician becoming one with his instru- ment and the music that comes from it. Then, the yogi stands in his own nature and realizes his self (Atman), the part of the Supreme Soul within himself.
There are different paths (margas) by which a man travels to his Maker. The active man finds realization through Karma Marga, in which a man realizes his own divinity through work and duty. The emotional man finds it through Bhakti Marga, where there is realization through devotion to and love of a personal God. The intellectual man pursues [fiana, Marga, where realization comes through knowledge. The medi- tative or reflective man follows Yoga.Marga, and realizes his own div- inity through control of the mind.
Happy is the man who knows how to distinguish the real from the unreal, the eternal from the transient and the good from the pleasant by his discrimination and wisdom. Twice blessed is he who knows true love and can love all God’s creatures. He who works selflessly for the welfare of others with love in his heart is thrice blessed. But the man who combines within his mortal frame knowledge, love and selfless service is holy and becomes a place of pilgrimage, like the confluence of the rivers Ganga, Saraswati and [amuna. Those who meet him become calm and purified.
Mind is the king of the senses. One who has conquered his mind, senses, passions, thought and reason is a king among men. He is fit for Raja Yoga, the royal union with the Universal Spirit. He has Inner Light.
He who has conquered his mind is Raja Yogi. The word raja means a king. The expression Raja Yoga implies a complete mastery of the Self. Though Patanjali explains the ways to control the mind, he nowhere states in his aphorisms that this science is Raja Yoga, but calls it Astanga Yoga or the eight stages (limbs) of Yoga. As it implies complete mastery of the self one may call it the science of Raja Yoga.
Swaztmarama, the author of the Hatha Yoga Pradfpikd (hatha = force or determined effort) called the same path Hatha Yoga because it demanded rigorous discipline.
It is generally believed that Raja Yoga and Hatha Yoga are entirely distinct, different and opposed to each other, that the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali deal with Spiritual discipline and that the Hatha Yoga Pradfpikd of Swatmarama deals solely with physical discipline. It is not so, for Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga complement each other and form a single approach towards Liberation. As a mountaineer needs ladders, .ropes and crampons as well as physical fitness and discipline to climb the icy peaks of the Himalayas, so does the Yoga aspirant need the knowledge and discipline of the Hatha Yoga of Swatrnarama to reach the heights of Raja Yoga dealt with by Patafijali.
This path of Yoga is the fountain for the other three paths. It brings calmness and tranquillity and prepares the mind for absolute unquali- fied self-surrender to God, in which all these four paths merge into one.