Self Realization Through Raja Yoga

by | Feb 1, 2022 | Nurturing Your Practice

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Raja yoga, or Patanjalian Yoga, as it is sometimes referred to, is a highly scaffolded practice where the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are used as a road map towards liberation. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are broken into four Padas, which you could call sections or even chapters, according to Nischala Joy Devi. Each Pada discusses a different aspect of the human condition and the need for Yoga.

In the first Pada, Samadhi Pada, Patanjali discusses the reason Samadhi is important, and that this is the aim of life. According to Patanjali, our misperceptions and stories cloud our ability to see our true nature and this leads us to a life of suffering. Patanjali says that the state of Samadhi brings about blissful liberation that eliminates suffering and enhances the human experience. The mind prevents us from seeing the truth, which ultimately prevents us from being in a state of Samadhi.

In Samadhi Pada, Patanjali talks about the five fluctuations of the mind. We might call them cognitive patterns today. These patterns include truth, perception, verbalization, memory, and sleep. Truth is the ultimate reality. Perception is someone’s perception of reality, essentially whether they like something or not. Verbalization is the story someone assigns to their perception. Finally, memory and sleep are the amalgams of the understood and the misunderstood distorted through perception and the unconscious mind. When we buy into the idea that our perception of reality and that it can be applied to other people as right or wrong we experience distortion through Maya. This is the human condition that many people remain in as they move through the cycles of birth and death governed by rajas and tamas.

The second Pada is called Sadhana Pada. In this Pada, Patanjali talks about the reasons we can’t see our perception from the truth and the reason we attach ourselves to the story. He explains that this is a function of the kleshas. The kleshas include ignorance, ego, attachment, aversion, and the fear of death. In Sanskrit, we would say avidya, asmiti, ragas, devasha, abidivesha. Desikachar said that ALL of these five are actually avidya, ignorance. In Sadhana Pada Patanjali teaches us the eight-limbed path, or eight-fold path that will lead us away from the kleshas and towards Self actualization.

The third Pada is rarely taught in traditional YTT; Vibhuti Pada discusses Antaranga Yoga, the subtle states of Yoga including Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. These are states of being that come with siddhis or special powers. The powers that arise from sitting in these states of being are psychic in nature or metaphysical in nature. Essentially, Patanjali ends Samadhi Pada by discussing Pratayhara, the practice of withdrawing the senses. Vibhuti Pada picks up with the states of being that precipitate out of the practices that precede.

The fourth Pada explains what liberation is, in so many words. Here, in Kaivala Pada, Patanjali discusses the many ways one can experience liberation. He talks about liberation in death, liberation in life, and even liberation through faith or religion. Patanjali really leaves room for all walks of life to take something from the discussion on liberation. Ultimately, liberation is understanding that you’re not separate from God. Knowing that you are whole and complete cognitively is different from really Realizing that you are an embodiment of God, and in fact you ARE God. Everyone is God. Realizing this is Self Realization and this is liberation on Earth, embodied, in life. Patanjali says it’s ok if that doesn’t happen for you, that in death it all becomes transparent; essentially, we’re all liberated from the bondage of suffering one way or another.


The structure of Raja Yoga is the same structure as Psychotherapy, and as a result, it speaks to the psychologically adept. People who like metacognition and self-reflection and who can access states of meditation find Raja Yoga preferable. It provides them with the background knowledge of the inter-workings of the mind while supporting them in a detailed description of how to conduct a personal practice. Then it helps them to understand siddhis will be activated through practice and attaining states of being, and then it reassures the aspirant that there are many forms of liberation or liberation experiences. Raja Yoga speaks to the Yogi that wants to connect physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually to their practice and to the phenomenal world. Through this desire, and the practice of the eight-fold path they arrive in union with the Divine.

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