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    Pratyahara—Crux Of Raja Yoga Sadhana

    The fifth Anga in Raja Yoga is Pratyahara. We have already seen that Pratyahara is differently classified by some as belonging to Bahiranga Yoga or external Yoga; by others it is grouped with Antaranga Yoga or the inner Yoga or the Yoga proper. Both the classifications are valid and they hold good. Classifying Pratyahara with Antaranga Yoga is valid, because this process of Pratyahara has something directly to do with the mind, which is the Antahkarana, the control of which is part of the Antaranga Yoga. But, the other classification is also valid, because Pratyahara is involved in sense perception, in perception of the outer world and its objects. Therefore, from that angle, it is something that has to do with the outer world and it can be classified under Bahiranga Yoga. So, inasmuch as it is sitting on the fence, Pratyahara straddles both the outer and the inner worlds, the outer world of sense-objects and the inner world of the mind and its thinking process. It allows itself of being bracketed with either category—Bahiranga Yoga or Antaranga Yoga.

    As I had mentioned in an earlier chapter, I am inclined to include Pratyahara in the Antaranga Yoga, though Pratyahara is connected with the outer world. I am so inclined because from Pratyahara onwards it is the mind that is more involved in the practices of Yoga rather than the body or the Prana, which are the grosser lower aspects of the human personality. Therefore, Pratyahara is better classified under Antaranga Yoga, though there is no harm if you include it under Bahiranga Yoga and keep Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi as the Antaranga Yoga.

    Unlike Asana and Pranayama, Pratyahara is not something which you practise sitting in a particular place only, though that is one aspect of it. That aspect we shall consider first.

    Light on Different Aspects of Pratyahara

    When you sit upon your Asana for doing your daily Dhyana, then it is that the mind begins to roam all over the place; then it is that the mind begins to go into various directions and think of numerous objects. And there you have to be firm. As and when the mind goes out towards external thoughts, you have to bring it back again and direct it towards the focal point of concentration, towards the object of meditation. This tug of war process—some-times swinging that way, sometimes swinging this way—will go on for some time and this process is part of the Abhyasa of Pratyahara. You try to bring the mind back, withdraw it from where it wants to go and taste. The mind usually goes to various objects which it wants to taste. And you say ‘No’ and bring it back. So, this Abhyasa of Pratyahara may be practised as you are sitting in the meditation pose and trying to concentrate and the mind begins to wander. Actually, what happens? You are inside the room, inside closed doors, closed windows, with only the blank wall before you, and your eyes too are closed. You do not even see anything. Still, why should various thoughts come, of objects that are outside, which are not before you, which are out of sight? One would expect that the objects out of sight would be out of the mind also, but they are not. They are very much in the mind, they come up from within. Why? Because you have been constantly taking the impressions of those objects into your mind. You have been putting in Samskaras. So they are there. You have been creating impressions of the objective world within the mind. They have sunk to the bottom of the mind-lake. And when you sit for meditation, they rise up. They may be remote impressions from memory or they may be the most recent impressions from the day’s Vyavahara or activity. For instance, if you sit for meditation in the evening, what all had been there before you that day till evening time can come up and bother you during your evening meditation. Or if you sit for morning meditation, you may start thinking about all the objects that are likely to be encountered during the day. “I have to do this, I have to do that, I have to meet this man, I have to go to that place”—all such thoughts may start coming. Why? Because you have taken impressions of them. And how can you avoid taking these impressions? The moment you step out into the world, you are always surrounded by things, by sense-objects. They come to you through all the five Indriyas—sight, sound, taste, smell and touch—and they go inside. The moment you come out of your room, you are right in the midst of Nama-Rupa, right in the midst of variegated names and forms. It is precisely because of this that you must know how to practise Pratyahara even during Vyavahara, how to practise withdrawal even when you are right in the midst of lots of things and people and activities. That is to say, you must learn the art of being detached inwardly, the art of inner detachment even in the midst of activity. And you must learn the art how not to allow the external objects to go right deep into your consciousness even if they pass before your eyes like in a kaleidoscope or like on a cinema screen. The objects may present themselves to the eyes, and through the eyes they may be taken to the brain-centre inside. You cannot help seeing them. You may not deliberately want to look at them, but when they are before the eyes, you cannot help seeing them. You may not deliberately want to listen to something, but you cannot help hearing things anyway, because the ear catches sound, just as the eye catches sight. In this situation, what should you do? Detach the mind from the seeing centre, the hearing centre, the touching, smelling and tasting centres. Detach the mind; let it have some other background. Let it have some other focal point, even in the midst of Vyavahar. That is why it is said that the Yogi should carry on unbroken God-thought. There must be a current of unbroken God-remembrance within himself, always, always...in the mind. If there is unbroken God-thought in the mind, that God-thought would form the permanent background for the mind. And the mind would recede into that background whenever it is detached from the external world. So, you must cultivate the habit of staying inward partially, even amidst your Vyavahara, not giving hundred per cent of the mind to external things and being completely overcome by sights and sounds, etc. You should learn to give only a part of the mind to external Vyavahara, only that much of the mind as is absolutely essential and necessary, keeping the rest in God-thought. Instead of blending the mind completely with sense-objects and becoming one with them, you must learn to give to the external things only as much of the mind as is necessary, keeping the rest of it inwardly detached. That is Pratyahara, as it should be practised even while you are in the midst of Vyavahara. Do not take in the impressions of the various perceptions too deeply into your mind. At the most, let the impressions touch the instruments of perception—ear, nose, eye, etc.—and from there let them be conveyed to the brain-centres of perception. Thus perceive them, but do not react to them. Let not the mind be too much concerned. Bring about a detachment of the mind from the perceiving centres in the brain. This is one aspect of Pratyahara.

    There is another aspect to Pratyahara. Supposing, before you know, the impression has already entered the mind. The mind has started to think about this impression. All right. Detach the ego from the mind. Detach your doer-ship. Say, “I am not seeing, I am not hearing. I am not interested in it. The mind has grasped it, true, but I am not the mind. I will step back and be a dispassionate, unaffected, unattached witness-consciousness. I have not taken the impression. My mind has taken it, my mind is thinking about it, but I will not identify myself with this line of thought”. Thus asserting, you can bring about a withdrawal of the conscious “I” from the mind and its thoughts. So, disconnect your link with the mind. Do not say, “I am seeing, I am doing, I am thinking, I am feeling, I am hearing”. No. Say, “I am neither thinker nor hearer nor seer. I am the witness-consciousness. These processes that go on, I only witness them. They will not affect me. I will not allow myself to be affected by them”. In this way, bring about a severance of the connection between your ego-consciousness and your mind. That is also part of the Abhyasa of Pratyahara in the midst of Vyavahara.

    Some Yogis bring about a snapping of the link between them and the outer world, between them and the objects; they go away to Gangotri or they go away to some place where no one comes to them. They keep alone by themselves. That is one method of withdrawal—withdrawing oneself from the external objects. But that is not possible for all. You have to live and move among external objects. So, if you cannot break the link between the objective world of names and forms and yourself, at least snap the connection between the mind and the Indriyas or the perceiving centres in the brain. That is one successful step of withdrawal. Going deeper still, break the link between your ego-consciousness and whatever is put before the mind. Then, even if the mind has taken in some impressions or some thought-currents, you will stand apart from them, you will refuse to identify yourself with them. You will try to be Kevala Sakshi-Matra. This is the practice of actual Pratyahara or withdrawal. Even during the moments of actual activity and Vyavahara, in the midst of things, if this Abhyasa goes on, then the problem which arises when you actually sit upon the seat of meditation and try to withdraw the mind, that problem will be much lessened. The problem will be a great deal lighter, because you are already not allowing this problem to take root in the mind.

    Perception is automatic and spontaneous. It cannot be prevented. If you go out, naturally the eye will see, the ear will hear, every sense will function in its natural condition as it is meant to function. But, if you cut off the link between the mind and the inner sense-centre, the outer sense may perceive the object and the inner sense may register it, but the mind will refuse to pay attention to it. And if somehow the mind gets involved in the perception unconsciously, then detach your ego from the mind and assert that you are only a witness, that the perception will not touch you, that it has nothing to do with you. The sense perceives and the mind is involved in it, but you will remain only a detached, unaffected, witness-consciousness. It can then have no impact upon you. It can then bring about no change in your consciousness. Your consciousness is established in its own essential nature which is non-duality, which is peace, which never changes. So, detach the real ego—not the false ego which is a part and parcel of the mind—from the mind and remain as the witness-consciousness. Now, it is the higher discriminating intellect that has succeeded in awakening the higher awareness, an awareness of the Reality, an awareness of your essential Self. That higher discriminating intellect counters the effect of the involvement of the mind. Mind is the emotive mind; mind is the desire nature. Mind is nothing but the spontaneous nature of emotion and desire. That may get involved due to being interested in the sense perception, but the discriminating intellect now ranges itself on the side of your essential nature and counters the involvement of the mind and says: “No, I refuse to get dragged into this. I refuse to associate myself with this present condition of the mind. I stand apart from it. I am only a witness of it”. Thus saying, the intellect identifies itself with the pure consciousness which is unchanging and refuses to associate itself and identify itself with the mind and its present condition.

    Practice of Pratyahara—An Exercise as well as a Process

    Pratyahara, it may be noted, is both an Abhyasa as well as a Prakriya. Abhyasa means a practice that you do at a given time, in a given place, in a particular Asana; and it is in the form of an exercise. And in the form of an exercise, it becomes a valuable precursor to starting your meditation, because when you sit for meditation, your senses begin going outside. And in their wake, the mind begins thinking of objects. So, you have to withdraw the mind away from the senses. In that sense, Pratyahara is an Abhyasa. But in a more vital sense, it is a process. Pratyahara is not only a practice or an exercise, but it is also a process—a process that has to be constantly kept going throughout your wakeful hours of Vyavahara. Because, if you are trying to centre yourself in the inner Reality, in the Dhyana Lakshya or object of meditation, that effort is confined only to your hours of actual practice. And the rest of the time you allow the mind and the senses to go in the opposite direction towards the external things, towards the many things or the Aneka, towards the perception and enjoyment of sense-objects. So, what happens? Your Yoga practice will never succeed. Your inner Yoga practice can never succeed. It can succeed only if it has the full cooperation and support of the remaining part of your life, that is, your life outside the meditating hours, because your Yoga Abhyasa has to be done within the broad framework of your normal life. Your normal life you cannot ignore. You cannot make it disappear. There is no magic wand to do that. Your normal life is there, very much there. Day after day, the Yogi has got to cope with a certain pattern of external life.

    Here we are talking of the vast majority of Yogis in the workaday world. We are not talking of the microscopic minority, the few who may have succeeded in completely isolating themselves from the rest of the world and who may be staying in a cave in Gomukh or Gangotri. Such Yogis are only a microscopic minority and their pattern of living has no relevance to reality, has no relevance to the rest of the people who are all striving upon the same path. Leaving aside this minority, the vast majority of Yogis and practitioners have got a certain pattern of external life to deal with. They have got to cope up with it, and at the same time, they are authentic Yogis. They are as much genuine Yogis as the Yogis isolated in some remote seclusion, because their aspiration is as much real. Their desire for God and liberation is genuine. While the cave Yogi is trying to pursue his Sadhana in an extreme fashion, the generality of Yogis pursue their Sadhana as best as they can. Nevertheless, people belonging to either category are hundred per cent genuine, authentic Yogis.

    Now, in the context of the majority type of Yogis, Pratyahara cannot be an unhampered and undisturbed process of Abhyasa, completely cut off from the objective universe and all its distractions. In the case of the Yogi in isolation, there is not much of the objective universe there except his own body and the mountain and the rocks and Gangaji and the sky. But the majority of the Yogis striving to lead a life of Yoga may be in a city-surrounding or a town-surrounding or in any normal surrounding with their own families to look after, business to attend to, or service to be done. In their case, the special Abhyasa or exercise will be a small part of Pratyahara. They have to do their Yogabhyasa in the context of their social life, in the context of their professional activities, their home and family surroundings and environment. Each one of them has his preoccupations with his family, with his children, with his wife, with his profession, business or service, with his social engagements. For Yogis of this group, then, Pratyahara will be very important in its aspect as a continuing process throughout their waking hours, throughout their active hours, rather than in its aspect as a special exercise in the meditation chamber. For them, Pratyahara has to become a way of life. They have to live a life of Pratyahara. They have to practise Pratyahara in the midst of their daily activities at home, in society, in their specific field of professional life, in their specific field of service or business. In the Udyogic Kshetra, in the Samajik Kshetra, in the Parivarik Kshetra, in the Griha Kshetra—in all these places they have to practise Pratyahara.

    And this is precisely one of the salient features of the Gita Yoga. “To be in the world and yet not to be in it”. And, long, long ago, when in his early days Mahatma Gandhi made a Gujarati translation of Srimad Bhagavad Gita, he gave that translation the name “Anasakti Yoga”. “Asakti” means attachment. “Anasakti” means detachment. Gandhiji called his Gita translation “Anasakti Yoga” or “The Yoga of Detachment”; and he said that this was the message of the Gita. In the midst of the world, be detached from the world, like the lotus in the lake, unaffected and uncontaminated by water. The lotus is in the water, but it does not become wet. Likewise, one should be in the world, but be unaffected by the world. In this way one should live. And this is the process of living a life established in Pratyahara. You have to practise this type of Pratyahara in the midst of activity so that outer perceptions do not have an ultimate impact upon you. You are in a crowd and yet you are alone. You are involved and occupied in various activities. Why? Because it is your duty. It is your Kartavya Karma; it happens to be part of your Dharma. May be, you have to involve yourself in many things on account of your children, on account of your wife, on account of the marriage of your daughter, on account of trying to fix up your son in some job, on account of some litigation which has been forced upon you by your relatives or neighbours. There is no going out of all this. Yet, in the midst of it all, you know that you have nothing to do with it all. It is not because of your personal desire that you are involved in these things, it is not that all this Vyavahara has got some fascination or some attraction for you, but because they happen to be the immediate duties brought before you. You have no desire in the matter, but it happens to be your Kartavya Karma, it happens to be your Dharma as the head of the family. Wherever you may be placed, you have a certain duty to fulfil, a certain Dharma to discharge. In a particular location, in a particular context, you have a certain Dharma to fulfil. This is precisely what Krishna was trying to make Arjuna aware of on the battle field of Kurukshetra.

    “Yogastha Kuru Karmani”—Essence of the Gita Teaching

    Sri Krishna said: “Look here, Arjuna, whatever your personal sentiments may be, you are a prince of the Kshatriya race, of the warrior clan, whose Dharma is to defend the country and look after the welfare of the subjects and maintain law and order and Dharma. Here is absolute chaos. These unrighteous people have got the upper hand and they are bringing their unrighteous tyranny upon the people. The people are unhappy. Dharma is being completely destroyed. At the helm of affairs there is a complete absence of Dharma. So this is a Dharma-Yuddha, a righteous war. So, as a Kshatriya, as a prince, it is your duty to fight. And, moreover, on this first day of the War, you have taken over the task of leading your army as the Commander-in-Chief. So you must fight. It is your Dharma”. So, Arjuna had this duty to do; it was facing him as his immediate duty also. Moreover, he had assumed his duty, agreed to perform it, and come right upon the battle field, with the opposing army facing him there. In that particular context of his position as Commander-in-Chief of one of the two armies on the battle field, as prince of the Pandava race, this man’s hundred per cent duty was to fulfil his particular role, to fulfil the Kartavya Karma which was facing him. It was his Dharma in that particular context to lead the army and try to see that the unrighteous Kauravas were overcome and defeated.

    So, when Krishna told Arjuna that he must fight, what He meant was that Arjuna must do his duty—the duty which then faced him. The general notion of people that the Gita is a gospel of violence, a gospel of war, is a mistaken notion. It is a misconception. It betrays a complete failure to understand the central message of the Gita. Because the Gita happened to be delivered in a particular context, in the context of the battle field, the dramatic effect of it was heightened. Arjuna was told that even in the midst of the war, he was to be completely detached. He was to be established in God. He was to be rooted in God-remembrance. The Lord gave him this Sandesh: “Mamanusmara Yudhyacha. Remember Me constantly and fulfil your duty”. When the Gitacharya, Lord Krishna, addressed these words to Arjuna by the word “Yudhyacha” He meant only, “Do your duty”. And it just so happened that at that particular hour Arjuna’s duty was to fight as a warrior in a righteous war. Be it noted that Krishna’s emphasis was not so much on the word “Yudhyacha” as upon the word “Mamanusmara”. If the Gita had been preached to a Brahmin in a forest hermitage, this word “Yuddha” would never have got into the Gita. It would have taken a different terminology altogether. What the Lord meant to say was that even in the midst of the most intense and dynamically active field of human life, one should be in a state of Yoga inside—“Yogastha Kuru Karmani”. The entire emphasis in the Gita is: “Wherever you may be, and whatever you may be doing you must be in a state of Yoga. You must be closely linked up with the Universal Soul. You must be closely linked up with the Divine, and thus linked up, you must perform your activities”.

    So, it means that when this message, this teaching, this Yoga, that you must be linked up with the Divine and perform activities, that you must be grounded in God-remembrance and God-thought even while performing your activities, could be prescribed even in the tense circumstances of a battle field, then it goes without saying that it applies to all other fields of human activity. The most difficult field of human activity is naturally the field of battle, where the people clash and kill under the most violent, most dynamic and most complicated circumstances. And if Yoga can be practised there, then no one can give an excuse that he cannot practise Yoga because he is a business man or he is a somebody else. If Lord Krishna had given His message in some other context, then the soldier of the battle field might have protested that the Upadesh or teaching could apply to anyone else, but not to him because he was in a very, very complicated and difficult field, namely, the life-and-death battle field. Evidently, the Lord deliberately chose the most difficult, the most complicated, the most active and most violent, and the most externalised field of activity that is ever possible for a human being to practise the Gita Yoga of inward living. If the Gita Yoga is possible in the midst of the clash and clang of weapons in a field of battle, then it is possible anywhere and everywhere. Then, no one can ever come forward and say, “No, it is not possible in my particular context, in my particular circumstance”. So, once and for all, the possibility of anyone putting forward an excuse for not practising the Gita Yoga was effectively removed by the Lord when He chose the battle field to give His Upadesh to Arjuna.

    It is in the above context that we must understand Pratyahara also. You must learn to be detached in the midst of activities. You must learn to be grounded in the inner background in the midst of outward activity or outer dynamism. And this process of Pratyahara is an indispensable necessity if you want to practise Yoga in daily life. If you want to practise Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi in the context of a normal life lived in the world, the support of the process of Pratyahara in the midst of your normal activity becomes most significant and most important. Nay, it is indispensable. So, Pratyahara as a process has a greater importance to the Yogi in the normal context of worldly life than Pratyahara as a practice at a particular time just before meditation.

    The Indispensability of Vichara and Viveka for Successful Pratyahara Practice

    Now, the moment you move towards the external scene, you are surrounded by external objects, and each external object has got its own fascination for you. Each external object has got its own attraction for your mind due to long association. And naturally, the moment you are amidst those objects, this attraction starts pulling you out, because the mind is constituted that way. Every object is found to be desirable for some purpose or the other. The fascination of Nama-Rupa to the Chitta is part of the function of Prakriti, because the whole of Prakriti is nothing but Maya, and Maya is full of this power of tremendous attraction to delude the Jiva. Therefore, if you have to keep up the process of Pratyahara during the hours of normal daily activity, you have to have the process of philosophical enquiry and discrimination constantly active. You must constantly exercise your faculty of discrimination to distinguish between what is real and what is unreal. This is what is known as Nitya-Anitya-Vastu-Viveka or Sat-Asat-Vastu-Viveka or Atma-Anatma-Vastu-Viveka. You must also reason thus: “This object is attracting me; my mind is being pulled towards it. The senses are bounding towards it. Is it going to bring me any good? Out of this, can I achieve my welfare? Is it going to be conducive to my peace of mind? Will I get real happiness out of it? What is it going to give me?” This is Vichara. This is enquiry. You must tell your mind: “This object will give me only more confusion, more Trishna, more restlessness and agitation. Where there is desire, there is agitation, restlessness of the mind. The more I give in to it, the more the desire will intensify and multiply. This is the Law. A desire that is around in the mind never subsides with the satisfaction of the same. On the contrary, satisfying the desire only makes the desire-fire to blaze up with renewed vigour, with redoubled vigour. Desire is like a fire being fed with oblation—Ghee or oil. It will not receive the oblation and subside; on the contrary, it will blaze forth with redoubled vigour. Fulfilling the desire, surely, is not the way to overcome it. So I must renounce the desire, give up the desire. Rushing towards sense-objects will bring only ruin upon me. It will bring about greater restlessness, greater intensification of desire, more agitation. No, I will not allow my mind to be dragged away by the senses towards these sense-objects”. Such Vichara should be there, active Vichara or philosophical enquiry.

    Upon the basis of what you have learnt from the scriptures, upon the basis of what your Guru has told you, upon the basis of what saints and sages have taught you as a result of their own experience of this world, this world is hollow, this world is only a Mriga-Marichika, a mirage in the desert. You will run towards it and you will perish. Nothing will come; there is no water there. Therefore, do not be deluded by the sense-objects. Move away from them; be a Master. In the light of your own life in this world, you yourself know what bitter experiences you have by rushing towards objects. “Once bitten, twice shy” they say. Once you have known the real nature of fire, will you again go towards fire? Like that, upon the basis of your vivid recollection of your own previous experiences, upon the basis of whatever knowledge you have gleaned from your study of the scriptures, upon the basis of what your Guru has told you, upon the basis of the teachings of the saints and sages, you must be ever alert and vigilant and keep your discrimination constantly active.

    You must always do Vyavahara as a Viveki; then only you will be able to have Pratyahara in the midst of Vyavahara. If you want withdrawal and a state of detachment in the midst of active involvement in the objective universe, then this withdrawal is possible only if you constantly have this active philosophical enquiry into the illusory nature and the defective nature and the painful nature of sense-enjoyment. Where there is Vichara and Viveka, where there is such enquiry and such discrimination, then Pratyahara becomes progressive and successful. You can maintain Pratyahara in the midst of your activity. Then what happens? You come into contact with sense-objects, but they are never able to have their impact upon your inner consciousness. In your inner consciousness, you are always detached. The sense-objects may go only as far as the senses, they may go even as far as the inner centres of sense perception, but they will not be able to affect the mind, they will not be able to put the mind in a turmoil. They will not disturb your mind, much less your inner consciousness. Thus do you effectively succeed in preventing the external perceptions from making any impact upon your consciousness.

    What does that mean again? It means that you no longer create any new Samskaras. You no longer create any new Vasanas for yourself. Otherwise, the whole life is nothing but the almost continuous loading of your Chitta with more Samskaras and more Vasanas. If you go and involve yourself completely with external activities and objects, due to desires, due to attractions which make you succumb because of a lack of enquiry and discrimination, every sense perception, every experience, every sense contact that you engage in creates a new Samskara and a new Vasana. This is an unending process and you will never be able to liberate yourself. Already, a load of previous Samskaras and Vasanas are playing enough havoc by raising Chitta Vrittis within the mind, and the moment you sit for meditation these buried Samskaras and Vasanas are constantly coming to the surface and creating Vrittis and various ideas in the mind. That is enough. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Why should you make a bad situation worse by acquiring new Samskaras and Vasanas? You may ask: “How can I prevent doing it?” Because, the moment you go into the external world, new Samskaras and Vasanas are created. The way of preventing new Samskaras and Vasanas is to see that no ultimate impact is made upon the consciousness even though hundreds of perceptions and sense contacts take place. Pratyahara effects this. Pratyahara succeeds in checking the sense perceptions from affecting the mind and touching the consciousness. The mind just refuses to take them in. They come to the outer sense organ or sense instrument; they come to the sense centre in the brain; but when they try to get to the mind, the mind says, “No. I do not want these. I shall not take these things”.

    The Rare Pratyahara of the Byzantine Monks

    Pratyahara, as we have seen already, has a number of specific phases. One is withdrawing the senses from the sense-objects. But it is possible only for a person isolated in seclusion—an Ekantavasi in complete seclusion. It is not possible for the vast majority of people. Bringing about a disconnection of the senses from the sense-objects, going away from all sense-objects, going into absolute seclusion or Ekantavas is certainly not for the vast majority. But, for the few who manage it, there are no sense-objects, there is no sense world, there is no cinema, no radio, no T.V. There is no Gulab Jamun, Jhangri and Pakodi; there is no silk and gabardine and velvet. Nothing. They have only the jungle and the rock and the river. Some monks isolate themselves even today in the Christian monastic set-up, where, the moment they enter into a monastery and are ordained as monks, they become dead to the external world. Inside the monastery, there is no contact with the outside world at all. They cannot receive any mail, they cannot read any newspaper, they cannot read any book. They are absolutely dead to the world. Their monastic routine completely absorbs their entire attention day after day, month after month, year after year, until they die and are buried. And when they are buried, no identification mark is put upon their graves. Only a cross is put; we do not know whose body is lying underneath. No name, no date of birth or death. So, these monks, even when they are alive, are dead to the world, completely isolated. They do not know what goes on in the outside world.

    Even today there are a certain set of monks living in a certain part of Greece who are still living in a state of time that existed more than a thousand years ago. They follow a certain time-schedule which is called the Byzantian Time, because they went into this area and settled down as monks in the time of the Byzantian Empire, and that Byzantian Time is about six to six and a half hours in advance of our time. When it is six or seven in the morning here, it is already noon or midday for them. So, their sunrise and day start at about 1-30 a.m. when their clock will show 6-30 a.m. So, they still live only according to their time. When it is 7-00 a.m. in our timepiece, it is already midday, past midday, for them. So, they live according to that time even today. They belong to the Eastern Church, not the Western Church which has its allegiance to Rome, to the Vatican, to the Pope. They do not have any Pope. They are called the Eastern Church and they also call themselves the Orthodox Church. There are two groups—one belonging to Russia (the Russian Orthodox Church) and one belonging to Greece (the Greek Orthodox Church)—and they still maintain that old tradition. Generally, putting the two Orthodox Churches together, they call it the Eastern Church, as distinguished from the Western Church which is founded under the Pope in the Vatican. So, the Byzantine monks live a life totally oblivious of what goes on in the outside world. Many of the Byzantine monks in Greece, when I went there, did not know that two wars had taken place in 1914 and in 1948. They did not know who Hitler was and who Mussolini was; they did not know that World War II took place; they did not know that the atom bomb was dropped. They knew nothing. It was all news to them. They said, “We do not know what is going on in the outside world”. And they do not know. They live there and they die there and very few of those people are left now, because new candidates and novitiates are not freely forthcoming now as in olden days to enter into that order of monastic life. And many of the big monasteries there are vacant. The place is called Mount Ethos. So, the Pratyahara life of those monks is something totally different. They have nothing to do with the external world.

    The Different Phases in the Process of Pratyahara

    But, for the vast majority of people who are in the outer context, Pratyahara becomes an indispensable requisite for entering into still deeper realms of the Yogic process, namely, concentration and meditation. In the lives of those who have isolated themselves, the question of further impact does not come, because they have no sense-objects around them. But, for those who have sense-objects around them, the first disengagement, namely, the withdrawal of the senses from the sense-objects is not possible. In their case, the senses are very much involved in the sense-objects and the withdrawal of the senses from the sense-objects is possible only at the time of their meditation. They go into their meditation room and close the door and then there are no sense-objects around then except the picture of their Ishta Devata, the picture of their Guru and their Japa Mala and Svadhyaya book. But, for the rest of the time, they are very much involved in the sense-objects and the first withdrawal is not possible.

    The second withdrawal is the withdrawal of the sense centre or the perceiving centre in the brain from the actual sense. Let the eye look, let the eye see, but you do not involve yourself in this process of seeing. It is with reference to this withdrawal that both in the Upanishads and in the Gospel of Christ it is said that the ultimate realisation is possible only for that seeker who, even though having ears, does not hear, who even though having eyes, does not see. Such a seeker is blind even though having eyes. He is deaf even though having ears. That is the nature of the person who, even though he lives in the world, yet makes himself dead to the world, by refusing to allow his inner perception centres to cooperate with the outer organs of the senses. He succeeds in detaching the inner perceiving centres from the outer sense organs. But then, if this is not possible, or if somehow or the other an impression is made on the inner perceiving centre, then even as you are perceiving the object, let your mind say, “Yes, I see this, but I have nothing to do with it”. This last withdrawal involves detachment of the mind; it involves the severing of the mind’s link with the process of perception, with the act of perception. In the beginning stages of Sadhana, the moment perception takes place, the mind becomes involved, because the mind is still in a state of desire and craving, in a state of Asha-Trishna. In that case, the “I” of the Sadhak which identifies itself with the awakened intellect, the Suddha Buddhi or the Jagrat Buddhi—which is now his best friend because it is Vichara-Yukta and Vivekatmaka—comes to his rescue. His Buddhi is now combined with active enquiry, combined with Viveka or discrimination. So, the ego-consciousness identifies itself with the awakened, discriminating and enquiring intellect and says, “I refuse to involve myself even in the mind. I refuse to identify myself with this state of the mind, with this condition of the mind, when it is perceiving this sense-object, when it is involved in this sense-object. I refuse to associate myself with this condition of the mind”. So, the Sadhak who is endowed with this discriminating intellect now steps back and becomes only the detached witnessing consciousness. This is the withdrawal of the ego or the “I”, the awakened “I”, the discriminating “I”, from the mental involvement in perception. So, one or the other of these phases of Pratyahara should always be present in your Antahkarana. The first one is not possible for the people who are involved in the world. The second, third and fourth phases should be actively exercised; they should be dynamically present in your Antahkarana at any time. Thus, Pratyahara is a continuous process. And for this withdrawal, constant exercise of enquiry and discrimination are indispensable. They are also part of it.

    The Significance of Pratyahara from the Scientific and the Metaphysical Angles

    And this process of Pratyahara has a very important significance in the overall practice of Raja Yoga and its special significance is twofold. One is the purely scientific significance—the significance of Pratyahara as an integral part or process of Raja Yoga as an exact science, a science of mind-discipline, a science of concentrating the scattered mind, a science of focussing the concentrated mind upon a single object, a science of practising this focussing in a continuous and unbroken manner. So, Pratyahara is a purely scientific process. So, from this scientific angle, Pratyahara becomes important and significant in the sense that unless you first of all withdraw the mind from being externalised, concentration is impossible. The question of concentration can never arise unless first of all the externalised mind is withdrawn. Only if you first succeed in withdrawing or internalising the externalised mind, only then can you try to bring about a centralisation of it inwardly. When the mind is not even inward, how can you centralise it? When the nature of the mind is completely extrovert and the mind is externalised, where comes the question of your trying to centralise it? First of all, bring it in. Then, within the context or framework of your interior, when the mind is still thinking of other objects, try to gather it together. Try to subdue its restless objectward motion or thought and try to bring it together. So, from the scientific point of view, Pratyahara becomes the indispensable qualification or prerequisite in order to be able to think of Dharana or concentration. No Pratyahara, no concentration. Unless you withdraw yourself, unless you withdraw your mind from the external things, you cannot have concentration. So, inner Yoga is impossible without first becoming well established in Pratyahara. Antaranga Yoga depends entirely upon successful practice of Pratyahara.

    Now, leaving aside the scientific angle, from the metaphysical or philosophical angle also, you will find that Pratyahara becomes very, very significant. It becomes very, very significant in the context of the basic thesis, the prime thesis of Yoga. What is the prime thesis of Yoga? That all our woes, all our complications and all our problems have arisen due to the Purusha becoming involved in Prakriti. And the whole science of Yoga has been formulated in order to enable the Purusha to successfully disentangle himself from Prakriti and remain in his own pristine independent condition or native state. And in the context of this prime thesis of the philosophy and metaphysics behind Yoga, you find now that Pratyahara plays a very significant part or forms a very significant phase in the Yogi’s attempt to disengage and disentangle himself from his involvement in Prakriti. Now, what is the anatomy of your involvement in Prakriti? Through the channel of the senses the mind has been pulled out and embroiled or entangled in the objective universe. Why? Because the senses are turbulent, because the senses are outward-going, because the senses tend objectward, because the very nature of the senses is Vishayonmukha. And through the senses the mind is dragged out, and through the mind the Purusha gets completely involved in Prakriti, because the Purusha is in a state of total identification with the mind, which is one of its important Upadhis or limiting adjuncts. So, the Purusha weeps and wails, says, “Hai, hai”, and is hopelessly imprisoned and entangled. And in this process of liberating the Purusha from Prakriti, Pratyahara takes on an added significance.

    In the context of this philosophical background of the basic thesis of Raja Yoga, Pratyahara becomes an important phase of the Purusha—the Yogi—disentangling himself from involvement in outer nature or Prakriti, the world of names and forms, of Nama-Rupa, the world of Vishaya-Vastu, the world of Maya. In short, Pratyahara is the process of withdrawing yourself from Prakriti in the form of the external world of sense-objects. And so it has a very, very significant role, a specially meaningful role, in the overall process of the Purusha trying to disentangle himself from Prakriti once for all. So, that is the special place that Pratyahara occupies in the context of Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi both in a scientific sense and also in relation to the ultimate liberation of the Purusha from Prakriti from the angle of the metaphysics and philosophy behind Raja Yoga.

    Philosophy, Phychology and Practice of Yoga -- | Preface | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 |17 | 18 | 19

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