An Essay on
© 2008 by Academic Services International, Los Lunas, NM, USA
The terms used in describing or practicing Yoga are mainly derived from sanskrit. Sometimes the words can get quite lengthy. We see references like Shivatmadarshana, and wonder if we need to go to Indian language school.
That is why we try to keep the terminology simple, and always accompanied by English meanings.
Raja Yoga is the "Royal" Yoga of ancient times.
One depiction of this format is that it was practiced by the upper classes, or royalty, due to its non-ascetic nature.
It could even be performed while sitting in a chair - How civilized!
Of course, it really can be practiced by anyone, in any financial or civil position.
The point is, one does not have to be a Rajah sitting in a chair ... or ... a dirty, scantily-skinned hermit who sits on woven mats or animal hides deep in the wilderness of poverty.
Or, that's exactly what you can be.
Raja Yoga has eight (8) divisions. The first two (2) are moral/ethical in nature, and have no specific technique associated with them. The next four (4) are practices to be undertaken - they each have their own specific techniques. The final two (2) are results, and therefore are merely descriptive.
1. Yama - The Code of Conduct ("Thou shalt not ... "): Yama really means "control" or "restraint."
- You know the command? "Don't do it!"
This consists of not doing bad works.
These are the restraints (non-indulgences) we employ in our dealings with the external world. Although many examples are given in Indian texts and in western codes like the Ten Commandments, one merely needs to find out what actions result in making your conscience unhappy ... and then don't do it!
Patanjali's five Yamas are: Harmlessness (this is the "main" yama - the others support it), Truthfulness, Non-stealing/coveting/entering into debt, Divine conduct, and Non-avariciousness.
2. Niyama - Observances ("Thou shalt..."): Niyama means "doing good works."
These are the "observances" that we engage in our dealings with the internal world. Again, with many examples being given in Indian texts and in western codes, one merely needs to find out what actions result in making your conscience happy.
.Patanjali's five Niyamas are: Purity, Contentment, Austerity, Spiritual Study, and Self-Surrender.
Some Considerations of Any Moral Code
These concepts (Yama and Niyama) involve the establishment of a "Moral Code," with the idea that once you formulate it, you will stick by it.
Two difficulties now present themselves: (1) Morals, including the terms "good and bad," are later (at higher levels of consciousness) discovered to be completely relative to any given situation and, perhaps, totally irrelevant.
(2) The "Moral Code" that one establishes for one's self might not be one that is held by one's subconscious mind. Thus, exposure to higher states of consciousness may inflame moral behavior that differs greatly from one's consciously chosen code of conduct.