Raja Yoga and the Transcendent Goal of the Traditional Yoga of Knowledge

Sri Aurobindo uses the systematic progression of steps of Raja Yoga as an example of the use of concentration as part of the discipline used in the Yoga of knowledge to achieve spiritual liberation. In the traditional Yoga of knowledge there is a focus on the abandonment of the “illusory” life of the world, and an absorption into the status of the highest transcendent Brahman: “…it implies also in the end a renunciation, a cessation and lastly an ascent into the absolute and transcendent state of Samadhi from which if it culminates, if it endures, there is, except perhaps for one soul out of many thousands, no return. For by that we go to the ‘supreme state of the Eternal whence souls revert not’ into the cyclic action of Nature; and it is into this Samadhi that the Yogin who aims at release from the world seeks to pass away at the time of leaving his body.”

Taking up the theme of Raja Yoga: “We see this succession in the discipline of the Rajayoga. For first the Rajayogin must arrive at a certain moral and spiritual purity; he must get rid of the lower or downward activities of his mind, but afterwards he must stop all its activities and concentrate himself in the one idea that leads from activity to the quiescence of status. The Rajayogic concentration has several stages, that in which the object is seized, that in which it is held, that in which the mind is lost in the status which the object represents or to which the concentration leads, and only the last is termed Samadhi in the Rajayoga although the word is capable, as in the Gita, of a much wider sense. But in the Rajayogic Samadhi there are different grades of status,–that in which the mind, though lost to outward objects, still muses, thinks, perceives in the world of thought, that in which the mind is still capable of primary thought-formations and that in which, all out-darting of the mind even within itself having ceased, the soul rises beyond thought into the silence of the Incommunicable and Ineffable.”

Along the way, the mind is trained in concentration by focusing it on varying objects, whether external forms, or sounds, or internal visualisation or concepts. “the highest support according to the Upanishads is the mystic syllable AUM, whose three letters represent the Brahman or Supreme Self in its three degrees of status, the Waking Soul, the Dream Soul and the Sleep Soul, and the whole potent sound rises towards that which is beyond status as beyond activity. For of all Yoga of knowledge the final goal is the Transcendent.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 4, Concentration, pp. 304-305

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