The Limitations of the Path of Raja Yoga

As with Hatha Yoga, the serious practitioner can obtain very solid, even remarkable results through the practice of Raja Yoga. There are of course, practical limitations for most people in practicing Raja Yoga. The stilling of the mind-substance (chitta) is a process which takes serious practice, including all the basic steps to quiet the vital being, stabilize the physical being, and systematically learn how to withdraw the mind from running after or reacting to the impinging sensations from the sense-organs, not to speak of detaching the mind from involvement in plans, projects and results in the outer world, at least during the time of the practice. While one can theoretically close the eyes and shut out visual sensations for the most part, the question of blocking the internal impact of sound and smell in particular is much more difficult to answer.

In today’s world with sounds blasting everywhere in day to day life, few people have the luxury of a quiet environment within which to practice with less need to block out the sounds. Even more of a concern may be the proliferation of electronic devices with their vibratory action taking place subliminally as well as the omnipresent humming they produce.

Thus, to seriously carry out the deeper practices of Raja Yoga, there is a virtual necessity to devote substantial time to it, and do so away from everyday life in the external world for the most part. This turns into a limitation for those who have lives to lead in the world, as they will likely not be able to easily attain the deepest levels of realisation possible; and for those who devote themselves to the practice fully, for they will have to essentially abandon the outer life and the positive impact they could have on that life, in order to carry out their practice.

Sri Aurobindo points out further limitations: “But the weakness of the system lies in its excessive reliance on abnormal states of trance. This limitation leads first to a certain aloofness from the physical life which is our foundation and the sphere into which we have to bring our mental and spiritual gains. Especially is the spiritual life, in this system, too much associated with the state of Samadhi. Our object is to make the spiritual life and its experiences fully active and fully utilisable in the waking state and even in the normal use of the functions. But in Rajayoga it tends to withdraw into a secondary plane at the back of our normal experiences instead of descending and possessing our whole existence.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Introduction: The Conditions of the Synthesis, Chapter 4, The Systems of Yoga, pg. 32