Raja-yoga

Rāja-yoga is the path that studies and analyzes the mind. The Yoga-sūtras of Patañjali begin by defining yoga in the following manner:

yogaś citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ

“Yoga is the cessation of mental activity.” (Yoga-sūtras 1.2)

This yogic path teaches us to transcend the mind, with all its concepts and preconceived ideas about ourselves, and to discover our true identity above all limited mental conclusions. It is a path that leads us from what we believe ourselves to be, to what we really are.

Different theories have tried to explain the origin of the term rāja-yoga. According to one theory, this path received its name because the mind is considered a king- rāja in Sanskrit- who rules over all the functions of the body. This is also indicated in the Haṭha-yoga-pradīpikā (4.29):

indriyāṇāṁ mano nātho
mano nāthas tu mārutaḥ
mārutasya layo nātaḥ
sa layo nādam āśritaḥ

“The master of all the senses is the mind, the king of the mind is the breath, laya or dissolution is the master of the breath, and laya is dependent on the interior sound of nāda.”

 

The term rāja-yoga can also be said to connote a system that transforms us from slaves of the mind into masters of ourselves. We live as servants of our mind, constantly satisfying its demands. Rāja-yoga leads us to the realization that in reality, we are not the subject of the mind, but its ruler or mahā-rāja.

According to another interpretation, rāja-yoga received its name because it is the king of all the different yogas, and of all wisdom:

rāja-vidyā rāja-guhyaṁ
pavitram idam uttamam
pratyakṣāvagamaṁ dharmyaṁ
susukhaṁ kartum avyayam

“This is the king of all knowledge and the sovereign mystery. It is pure and excellent. It can be directly experienced, is in accordance with dharma, imperishable and easily performed.” Bhagavad-gītā (9.2)

The fact that primary importance is bestowed upon the mind in Vedic scriptures, to the point that in many texts the mind is spoken about to a greater extent than God, never ceases to surprise.

A rāja-yogī transforms the mind gradually into a true laboratory, in which, by means of observation and investigation of his psychic movements, he is able to become an alchemist of the mental contents. To enter into this aspect of yoga means to go deeper and to know ourselves.

To the extent that we allow this wisdom to touch our lives, we become involved in an integrative and holistic process that increases coherence between our feelings, thoughts, and actions. This involves not only theoretical knowledge, but also deep changes of an existential nature. Thus, we are not speaking of information, but of transformation. In this sense, it can also be stated that, unlike knowledge, this wisdom obligates us to change the way we live.

There are those who call this wisdom “yogic psychology”, since just as with western psychology, it is concerned with the mind. However, the difference between them is radical. While western psychology tries to harmonize our mind with society and our surroundings, leading it towards the state it considers “normal”, the intention of rāja-yoga is supranormal, because it aspires to go beyond the mind, transcending it completely. Therefore, although they essentially refer to the same thing, there is a basic difference between the two with respect to intentions and expectations.

No other method or discipline has reached a similar degree of precision, in its analysis of the human mind and its intricate activities, as rāja-yoga. This ancient wisdom holds that we are a reality which is transcendental to the mind. The rāja-yogī observes the mind, studies it, contemplates it, knows it, and finally, goes beyond it.

(An excerpt from Prabhuji’s writings)

Bhakti-yoga

Bhakti yoga is the yoga of love. Devotees aspire to a love different from the love in romance novels: it is not sentimental love that begins with sweet promises and ends in bitter disappointments, nor is it emotional love that arises from physiological processes and hormonal needs. For bhakti yogis, love does not depend on an external relationship. Instead, it is a state of the soul. Far from being an interaction with another person, love is the perfume that emanates from our own presence, here and now. Bhakti is the purest and most elevated love. It arises from the depths of consciousness and the peace and silence of meditation. When we experience this love, we discover that it is not an emotion or a feeling, but what is real within us. Because transcendental reality can only manifest itself in pure hearts, bhakti yoga offers a process of spiritual cleansing and purification.

Although it is said that the path of bhakti is accessible to everyone, I would say that it is a journey exclusively for those who hear the call of love from the depths of their souls. The message of bhakti yoga is unequivocal: love is the means and the goal. Without devotion, spiritual practice seems dry, prayer turns into unnecessary chatter, and religion becomes boring; it is reduced to a mere collection of laws, commandments, and ceremonies, and becomes more political than spiritual. Indeed, only by surrendering yourself to your own heart can you know what religion truly is..

(An Eexcerpt from Prabhuji’s book Bhakti yoga, The Path of Love)

 

 

Kundalini-yoga

Kundalini-yoga is a yogic path that stimulates the conscious awakening of kuṇḍalinī-śakti, or “coiled energy.” This energy is the transcendental consciousness; it is the creative power of God, and therefore, the creative potential in the human being.

Kundalini yoga invites us to awaken our divine potential and unveil the very secret of creation that lies hidden in the core of human nature. This involution banishes any sense of higher-lower or inside-outside. Many spiritual paths suggest giving less attention to time and space and recommend isolation. Kundalini yoga, however, teaches that deep within every moment, lies the eternal; within all places, lies the infinite; within every human being, lies God.

Kundalini-yoga is a sophisticated system that prepares us to develop our energetic nature. It includes four levels of sadhana: awakening of the serpentine power, its elevation, piercing the chakras, and meeting Shiva. These practices are intended to create the necessary conditions for reaching the highest level. Aspirants (sādhakas) who want to study kundalini yoga should comply with the essential requirements demanded by the scriptures: be properly initiated by an authentic spiritual master and loyally follow the master’s guidance and teachings. As egos, we are immersed in a noisy world saturated with ideas, concepts, and conclusions. Thus, we lack the necessary internal space to allow the Divine to manifest within us. Through sadhana, we silence the noise and expand our inner space.

Kundalini-yoga is a path that begins when we become aware that we are buried in the earthly. The master will say that there is nothing wrong with that, as long as we do not make the mundane our hearth and home. Kundalini yoga leads us to responsibility, maturity, freedom, and the heights. It teaches us that we are a seed of light with infinite potential, which, from the depths of the earthly and mundane, is capable of growing, elevating, and transcending, until it manifests as the most fascinating lotus of creation, as the most marvelous flower in the garden of the Lord.

(An Eexcerpt from Prabhuji’s book Kundalini Yoga: The Power is in You.)

Tantra-yoga

Tantra-yoga is a yogic methodology that combines a variety of techniques, such as mūdras, mantras, prāṇāyama, and dīkṣā in order to realize the very essence of the universe through delving into our own body. The practice of most of these techniques is aimed at cultivating the kuṇḍalini energy.

The Tantric path includes two very different ways. The left-hand one involves a certain ritualism. The right-hand one lacks ritualism and is much more abstract and subtle, contemplative, and internalized.

The practice of tantra-yoga demands great discipline and inner responsibility. One of its fundamental principles is that everything that can bring us down can also lift us up. If we slip because the floor is wet, by leaning on the ground we can stand up. If the senses can lead us to degradation, it is also possible to elevate ourselves through sensual effort.

In general, human beings denigrate themselves through food, alcohol, and sex. Tantric methodology will make use of these same elements in pursuit of elevation. Through ordinary sex, we descend to the lowest levels of our energy system. In Tantra, we use the basic instincts in order to strengthen the energetic system and make the energy flow from the heights.

Vedanta

Vedanta is one of humanity’s oldest paths of liberation. It is a pluralistic and universal path, suitable for every human being without any discrimination. Vedanta cannot be categorized as a philosophy, school of thought, or belief system as it goes beyond our definitions. It is a systematic and structured means of knowledge that guides us toward the direct realization of our authentic nature.

The Vedas are the oldest known sacred scriptures. They are transmitted generation after generation as they were revealed to the Vedic sages of antiquity. The initial portion of the Vedas refers to karma and karma-phala, or activities and their results. However, all results are temporary and perishable. Therefore, good deeds with good results may lead us to paradise, but such paradise will inevitably be perishable. The Vedanta is presented in the Upanishads, which correspond to the final portion of the Vedas. The term vedānta is a combination of two words: veda meaning “knowledge or wisdom” and anta, or “conclusion.” Therefore, the word vedānta means “the conclusion or essence of the Vedas.”

From the Vedantic perspective, God is absolute infinitude, consciousness, and bliss. Although consciousness as an impersonal reality is referred to as Brahman, it also accepts a personal God assuming a form in different eras. God resides in our heart as Ātman or the Self, which is eternal and transcendental to all human limitation or conditioning. For Vedanta, the Ātman is one with Brahman and human beings can realize Brahman as their authentic nature. The reality of the individual, the universe, and God is a single non-dual, non-objective, timeless, and pure consciousness. Consciousness is eternal and imperishable and constitutes the essence of what we are, not what we think we are.

According to Vedanta, the essence of these same truths is found in each and every different religion. The Rig Veda Saṁhitā (1.164.46) states emphatically, “They call it Indra, Mitra, Vāruṇa, Agni, and the celestial noble-winged Garutman. To that which is One, the wise give many names. They call it Agni, Yama, Mātariśvan.” That is to say that for the Rig Veda, despite being one, the truth is given various names. Conflicts between theological interpretations are more related to their dogmas and traditions than to the direct experience of their prophets or founders. Differences between religious organizations exist only externally. However, in their essence they are practically one. Each religion constitutes a different and unique path to the same ultimate reality.

The main Vedantic traditions are:

  • Advaita: non-dualism.
  • Bhedābheda: difference and non-difference.
  • Śuddhādvaita: pure nondualism.
  • Tattvavāda (dvaita): dualism.
  • Viśiṣṭādvaita: the qualified nondualism.

Today, new Vedantic styles have developed including Neo-vedanta and the development of Swaminarayan Saṁpradāya. Although each and every tradition of Vedanta differs in ontological, soteriological, and epistemological aspects, they share the basics and essentials. Vedanta, also called Uttara Mīmāṁsā, presents the revelations contained in the Upanishadic literature. All the different Vedantic traditions share a canon of revealed texts called prasthāna-trayī or “the three sources”:

  • Upanishads.
  • Brahma-sūtras.
  • Bhagavad Gita.

Most schools of Vedanta are related to Vaishnava theology and place special emphasis on bhakti, or “devotion.” For its part, Advaita Vedanta emphasizes knowledge, or jñāna. Within this context, we are referring not just to intellectual knowledge but to self-knowledge. It refers to transcendental knowledge of God because the nature of what we really are is divine.