It is pointless to tell a yogi to “shun the yoga powers” any more than it would be to tell a child to avoid adulthood. Certainly, an adult is subject to many more delusions and addictions than a child, and has the ability to work much more harm to himself and others. Nevertheless, adulthood is inevitable. And so it is with the yogi: these powers will manifest in him. If he keeps his eye upon the goal of liberation in Brahman, those powers will ripen into something more, into spiritual realizations, much the same way that sexual energies conserved are transmuted into far higher and greater forces within the consciousness of the yogi. Both sexual energy (and all the body-energies) and the yogic powers are the ore that can be refined into the gold of Self-realization.
There is externalized practice that is really just Hatha Yoga with a veneer of Raja Yoga. This is most important to understand, because in our time Raja Yoga means just about everything it is not. A great deal of physical involvement and cultivation of bodily control is believed to be Raja Yoga. Body identification is at the core of such activities that are not only not sadhana, but the destroyers of authentic sadhana.
Nearly everything called Raja Yoga in India is this fraud. Because of this, and lest I fall into a yoga pit, one day in Varanasi Mother Anandamayi spoke to me very plainly about false Raja Yoga. “Raja Yoga deceives its practitioners,” she said, “by giving them just a touch of what they should attain. Then after years of practice it evaporates and leaves them totally empty.” This I have observed myself through the years. The number of burnt-out Raja Yogis I have seen shuffling around with dead eyes and blank faces and speaking in weak, hoarse voices, having ruined their throats and vocal cords with their thoroughly material and abnormal practice, I cannot calculate. And then there are those with the neurological problems brought on by it, and those who have become alcoholic through it. Truly pathetic are those with dementia. I have known them all. And it was a result of their false yoga. Sincerity did not save them.
Of course, Ma was not speaking of the real Raja Yoga, but of the delusive imitations. As the ads used to say in my childhood: Accept No Substitutes.
Only those yogic processes which take place in the Sahasrara are the true Raja Yoga. The process of liberation begins at the Ajna, but eventually pervades the entire Sahasrara.
The real purpose of Hatha Yoga was the maintenance of the health of hermit-yogis whose way of life precluded normal physical exercise. The main object was the ability to sit for many hours (even days and weeks) in meditation without it being detrimental to the yogis’ bodies. Spiritual life not health was their sole interest.
Raja Yoga is the seat of non-dual consciousness, of liberation. In its highest level Raja Yoga is spiritual consciousness. Authentic Raja Yogis are following the path of Spirit, of moksha.
Brahmanirvana, the state of liberation (nirvana) that results from total union with Brahman, is itself Raja Yoga–not a practice but an attainment. It is transcendental and therefore beyond all qualities and forms. It cannot be expressed or explained, but it can be experienced and made one’s own natural state.
Next in Living the Yoga Life: Reincarnation