Raja yoga: a seedless state
In the practice of raja yoga, the mind is seen as central to activating all other areas of the body. Above asanas or pranayama, a raja yoga session begins with a focus on attaining “nirbija,” a Sanskrit word meaning “without seed” or “seedless state.” Only here, when the mind is void of pulling thoughts, can a proper raja session begin.
From birth, our minds are shifted and changed by the psychological and social environment around us. At a very young age, parents, grandparents, friends, teachers, babysitters contribute to the way we think. And often without consciously knowing it, we may be as young as ten years old when we’ve already formed a firm set of beliefs. We have distinct opinions about the afterlife, what foods we love and hate, what family members we fear, and how we can manipulate others to get what we want.
We are socially constructed beings, carved and whittled by trusted others “who know better” to make us who we are today. Can you imagine what our lives would be like if none of this was so? It’s nearly impossible to imagine a time when we didn’t think anything, know anything, or have an opinion on something.
In raja yoga, the purpose is to do just that: undo the layers of the mind that have been molded, set, and dried to further concretize the self. Swami Satchidananda, Indian guru and early writer on hatha and raja yoga explained it best:
Every thought, feeling, perception, or memory you may have causes a modification, or ripple, in the mind. It distorts and colors the mental mirror. If you can restrain the mind from forming into modifications, there will be no distortion, and you will experience your true Self.
When you think of the mind in this way, it feels gratifying, easier to trust, and more liberating. As Westerners, we often feel that it is our political party, religion, or the city where we grew up that defines us. Raja yoga teaches us that it is so much more, and that that more is so little. It doesn’t require explanation because the true Self has nothing to explain, defend, or disagree with.
It can be the most powerful case for meditation that you have ever heard. It touches on the deeper truth: that Self is nothing more but presence, feeling, and being. It is, simply put, a seedless state.