Of the many Yoga paths leading to God or the Supreme Reality, four are more commonly known. These are Karma Yoga or the Path of Selfless Services, Bhakti Yoga or the Path of Devotion, Raja Yoga or the Path of Mind Control and Jnana Yoga or the Path of Intellectual Analysis. Even among these, Raja Yoga is popularly known as just "Yoga"; and similarly, Jnana Yoga is known as just "Vedanta".
Of the four paths, again, Raja Yoga is the one which is the most scientifically organised. It is also known as Ashtanga Yoga or the Yoga of Eight Steps, each step or rung leading in logical progression to the next one. Raja Yoga is the ladder connecting our phenomenal existence with the Great Noumenon and we have to ascend this ladder step by step with great care and circumspection. No step can be ignored or bypassed except at one's own peril. Progress is assured provided the rules of the game are adhered to. And violation of the rules is bound to cause its own peril. Such is Raja Yoga propounded by that ancient sage Patanjali in the form of Sutras or terse aphorisms collectively known as Yoga Darshana.
Yoga Darshana is a difficult text, difficult to understand straightaway even by those with a good knowledge of Sanskrit. So Maharshi Vyasa wrote a commentary on Yoga Darshana, and subsequently, one Vachaspati Mishra wrote a more elaborate Gloss explaining the full meaning of Sage Vyasa's Commentary. All these Sanskrit texts will still be Greek and Latin to the modern man unfamiliar with that ancient language.
So we brought out in 1982 a series of discourses given in English by Swami Krishnanandaji on Patanjali's Yoga Sutras under the title, Yoga as a Universal Science. It was very well received by the public thirsting for a knowledge of the deeper implications of the great science of Yoga. We have great pleasure now to bring out this companion volume on the same subject of Ashtanga Yoga by Swami Chidanandaji. The present volume contains the edited version of a series of lectures given by Sri Swamiji to the Third Batch of trainees who underwent the Three Months' Course run by the Yoga-Vedanta Forest Academy of the Divine Life Society. In the hands of Swami Chidanandaji, the Yoga Darshana comes to new life as a vibrant, living guide to spiritual practice. And Swamiji has delved deep into all the most essential aspects of Yoga Sadhana, and in doing so, has beautifully maintained logical sequence. And the whole volume reflects his earnest desire and longing that spiritual seekers should put to use this marvellous science of Yoga for furthering their spiritual advancement.
An earlier publication of ours, Path to Blessedness by Swami Chidanandaji, also deals with Raja Yoga, but it is more elementary in scope. It contains the essence of the discourses given by Sri Swamiji nearly thirty-five years ago, The reader who goes through both these volumes cannot fail to notice that the present work is the outcome, not only of the academic knowledge of the author on the subject, but more so of his own intense practice of the teachings of Patanjali.
We acknowledge with thanks the painstaking work put in by Kumari Srilata Bellare (now Swami Brahmanishthananda) who transcribed Swami Chidanandaji's lectures from the tapes and by Sr. N. Ananthanarayanan, who edited the manuscript into its present shape. May God's blessings be ever with them.
-THE DIVINE LIFE SOCIETY
About the Author:
Swami Chidananda was born as Sridhar Rao in Mangalore, South India, on September 24, 1916, the first son of an orthodox Hindu Brahmin family. When he was sixteen, he shifted to Madras where, in 1938, he graduated with a B.A. from the prestigious Loyola College. During these years, devotional songs and stories from the scriptures, as well as the lives and teachings of modern saints such as Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, Ramana Maharshi and Swami Ramdas awakened in him a fiery aspiration for the life spiritual.
In 1943 he joined the Himalayan Ashram of the sage and saint Swami Sivananda, the founder of the Divine Life Society, whose dynamic spiritual writings had long attracted him. Soon he was put in charge of the Sivananda Ashram medical dispensary, where his compassionate service, to all, including the lepers, earned him the affectionate title of Dr. Raoji. He also headed up the Correspondence Section and was frequently called upon to give lectures as well as attend to the special needs of many of the guests. In 1948 he was appointed General Secretary of the Society and on Guru Purnima, 1949, was initiated into the holy order of Sannyasa.
Ten years later, in 1959, in response to many requests, Swami Sivananda sent him to the West, a trip that lasted for over two years. Succeeding Swami Sivananda as President of the Divine Life Society in 1963, his life since has been one of almost continuous travel throughout India and to all continents of the globe in the holy Master's service and in the cause of the central objective of the Divine Live Society, dissemination of spiritual knowledge.
Although, in his travels, he is frequently received by high dignitaries and he is the head of an institution with many branches both in India and abroad, yet he still remains at heart a simple monk, whose aim in life is to do as much good as possible for as many people as possible and, above all, bring to them the heart-solacing and liberating message of Yoga, Vedanta and the living of a divine life.
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