To someone who inquired about the nature of authentic Raja Yoga.
Raja Yoga is the science of Prana, the breath being the main yogic instrument for its accomplishment. It is much more than controlling or refining the breath (for real pranayama is refinement, not control), it is the Way of Unity.
Raja Yoga both leads to and is the experience of unity with the Self and Brahman. Total unity is its only goal. This is important to recognize, because Raja Yoga involves mastery of our inner and outer life, which inevitably involves the emergence of inner powers which can easily be wasted or misapplied.
Raja Yoga and yoga powers (siddhis)
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 certainly 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. Those who misdirect and waste them become lost in the maze of illusion, including illusions of enlightenment. But a worthy Raja Yogi stays intent on Unity and lives in that context alone.
Externalized Raja Yoga
Since I have expatiated so on Raja Yoga I must explain that 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 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. I cannot calculate 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. Some have neurological problems brought on by their practice, and others have turned to alcohol and drugs through their frustration at getting no real results–while still keeping up the practice.
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.