What is Samadhi? Samadhi is the experience of union, it is the experience of dissolution of the outer nature, that is the aim of Raja Yoga.
Even in Bhakti Yoga, nine stages have been defined and the ninth stage is the stage of sayuja. Sayuja means total identification and oneness with the object of contemplation, fusion with the object of contemplation. In this sayuja, there is also the dissolution of the external nature. In this way, we find that the end of every yoga takes the aspirant towards the experience of re-merging with the cosmic or universal consciousness.
Laya Yoga has been identified as a separate yoga which can, without going through the other processes of inner harmonization, lead you to this experience. In Raja Yoga you have to go through the practices of asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, these are the steps. In Bhakti Yoga you have to go through the various stages of bhakti.
In Laya Yoga, you can straight away dive into mooladhara and re-emerge from vishuddhi, provided that you have educated yourself, you have disciplined yourself, you have focused yourself, and this discipline and focusing are one of the first aims and description of yoga.
In the Patanjali Yoga Sutras, the first sutra is Atha yogah anushasanam, which is translated as “Now begins instruction on yoga” because the practice of Raja Yoga is to be done after Hatha Yoga. For example, the description of asana in Raja Yoga is sthirah sukhamasanam, “a posture in which the body is still, comfortable and at ease”.
Now in order to come to this understanding and to this level where there is absolute harmony, comfort, and ease, one must have gone through some basic preparation which happens through Hatha Yoga. Even in the description of pranayama, Patanjali stops after saying that pranayama is inhalation, exhalation, and retention.
This indicates a state of awareness where you have already attained control over the breathing pattern and the pranic force. He anticipates that you have this awareness and skill, he has not described the practices of pranayama because they have already been described in the Hatha Yoga texts.
So the system of Raja Yoga follows Hatha Yoga and the first sutra is important Atha yoga anushasanam. Those who have studied yoga say, “Well, control of the mental vrittis is the purpose of Yoga,” but if we look at this first sutra we find the control of the mind is not the purpose of yoga which has been defined by Patanjali.
He has used the words: Atha, meaning now or therefore, shasan, meaning to govern or rule, plus anu, which is a prefix representing the subtle structure of the human personality. So we get, “Now or therefore, the practices of yoga lead to anushasanam”. According to Patanjali, if one asks,” What is Yoga?” the reply is “Yoga is a way to rule or govern the subtle nature of human personality.”
If you then ask him, “What is the result of this ability to govern?”, he will say, chittah vritti nirodhah,” The ability to govern gives one the ability to control the fluctuations, the modifications of chitta”. This is how the Yoga Sutras begin. So, if you adopt this approach in your attempt to understand the Yoga Sutras, the first statement is most important – gaining the ability to govern the subtle nature.
And how do we attain that? Through practicing discipline, awareness, dedication, and abhyasa. Abhyasa means to practice and Patanjali himself has defined abhyasa in a very beautiful way. In his fourteenth sutra, he says “Practice is something which is to be done regularly for a long period of time with conviction, faith, and determination, this will lead to the preparation of a solid ground from which you can take off.”
So practice, when combined with regularity, conviction, and faith, becomes sadhana. Sadhana means to perfect something, it could be yoga sadhana, a perfection of the yogas, it could be jivan sadhana, perfection of life, it could be karma sadhana, a perfection of the actions, it could be manas sadhana, a perfection of the mind.
In order to succeed in any path, the system of life or yoga, it is necessary to have the attitude of a sadhak, one who tries to become perfect. It doesn’t mean that one becomes a perfectionist because even they have no control over their mind, they can get so funny that sometimes when even a small picture frame is tilted half a millimeter they can’t sit in the room because they feel that something is not right.
Perfection leads to harmony and harmony is the keyword.
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