Swami Niranjanananda explained the difference between vedantic pre-Patanjali raja yoga and the Samkhyan raja yoga of Patanjali. Then he described how raja yoga rectifies the mental and bhakti yoga the emotional expressions of the individual.
The idea of laya, dissolution, is simple: just as salt or sugar are dry, hard crystals, but when you put them in water, they don't remain dry and hard; they simply dissolve. Once they dissolve, the water in the glass takes on the essence of what has been dissolved, the taste – either sugar or salt.
Now, you pour that glass of water into a bucket of water; the water will again dissolve, it will become one with the existing body of water in the bucket, and in the body of water you won't taste either the salt or the sweet. It has dissolved into something greater than the small container – into the big container.
This is the idea that the vedantic philosophy gave to yoga. Even in hatha yoga, all the different components of shatkarma, asana, pranayama, mudra and bandha, pratyahara and dharana ultimately lead to the laya state – the dissolved state, where the lower tendencies have simply dissolved and you become the pure self.
The entire focus of the classical raja yoga, not Patanjali's raja yoga, is dissolution of the lower tattwas into the higher elements. The entire focus is on pratyahara practice, the perfection of pratyahara. It defines that pratyahara is not just a practice where you see yourself or internalize yourself and go into your mind, but pratyahara practice is withdrawal of every connection that you have had with anything in life – you withdraw it.
The pranic withdrawal is the ultimate of raja yoga, not samadhi. The original sadhana and practice of raja yoga is withdrawing the prana. You have a memory of a person who fought with you forty years ago. So much water has gone under the bridge, but the memory is still there. Why? Because prana is there in the memory. Remove the prana, let the colour that you visualize of that incident become black and white, remove the prana, and the memory dies. Remove the prana, disconnection takes place. If prana is removed from your body, what will happen to you? Will you be alive? No. So if prana is taken away from an experience, will that experience be alive? If prana is taken away from a memory, will that memory be alive? Therefore, prana pratyahara is the main subject of raja yoga, not samadhi. . .
Then comes bhakti yoga. Bhakti yoga is not the yoga of devotion as people think. Bhakti is an emotion, a feeling. It is a bhava. It is a sentiment. Today people associate bhakti with religion but at the time of Narada and Shandilya, at the time of other people who wrote their treatise on bhakti, bhakti was never described as religion because no religion existed at that time. They described it as a journey of an individual who is changing, fine-tuning the head, and attaining internal purity and enlightenment. That was the origin of bhakti yoga. Sage Narada says clearly about bhakti:
Sa tu asmin param prema roopa.
Bhakti is nothing but the transcendental experience of love.
Shankaracharya says about bhakti:
Swa swaroopanusandhanam iti bhaktih.
Bhakti is the way of one's peaceful self, the discovery of one's real self.
How do you come to this point? Bhakti is a process of elimination. You come to the point of this transcendental awareness by eliminating. What do you eliminate? There are clear instructions that in order to perfect bhakti yoga, first, you have to shun the company of bad people. That is the first rule. Shun the company of people who are evil, bad, negative and destructive. Shun that company, even if they are your family members. That is the first rule of the classical bhakti yoga, so that you remain in a supportive, positive environment. If you spend your time with negative people, your own thoughts, behaviours and actions will become negative. So don't follow adharma, follow your dharma. Shun negative people, that is the first rule.
The second rule is satsang. Listen to, think and talk about the good and the spiritual. The third rule is faith. Have faith not in a higher self, but in yourself. If you have faith in yourself, then that faith will convert into faith of the higher self.
Sage Narada and Shandilya outlined the qualities required by the individual to experience bhakti yoga. This is not the only requirement, for this requirement to perfect bhakti has been mentioned in many places, including the Bhagavad Gita (12:13):
Adweshta sarva bhootanam . . .
Don't see duality and multiplicity.
Maitra karuna eva cha . . .
Have a friendly and compassionate disposition towards all.
In this way, a list is enumerated by Sri Krishna and by previous sages, who say that if you are able to achieve these qualities then bhakti will become real in your life. If you miss any of these qualities, you will not experience the transformation of bhakti. If you achieve them bhakti will become experience able in your life.
Swami Gyanbhikshu told of his experiences with Sri Swamiji.
Swami Vedantananda reminded all teachers to remain learners and not to identify with the role of being a teacher
Swami Yogajyoti said that coming to the ashram was a constant reminder of remaining a sadhaka and disconnecting the identification of being a teacher.
Swami Prembhava spoke on her experience of bringing yoga ecology to society and the need to introduce simple and practical lifestyle adjustments.
The presence of Satyananda Yoga in the Netherlands was presented by Swami Annapoorna.
Swami Harishraddhananda spoke of the long history of Satyananda Yoga in Madhya Pradesh and Swami Nirmalananda said that a lot of the early research of the Yoga Research Foundation was carried out in this state of India.
The growth of Satyananda Yoga in Switzerland was explained by Sannyasi Anandaratna.