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    More About Pratyahara

    We tried to bring out in the last chapter how the fifth Anga of Raja Yoga, namely, Pratyahara, is not possible unless it is supported by Vairagya, Viveka and Vichara. We tried to bring out the connection between Svadhyaya and Vichara and Viveka. Vichara and Viveka are supported by Satsanga, Svadhyaya and Sravana. Just as Svadhyaya provides material for contemplation and concentration, material for a permanent spiritual background of thought, even so, it provides right inspiration and right guidance for the Sadhak’s Vichara and Viveka. It provides an insight into the real nature of this world and exposes the hollowness of sensual objects and sensual enjoyments. When the Sadhaka’s eyes are opened thus by Svadhyaya, by his recognising the hollowness of things, the Raga or worldly attachment which he had formerly changes into Vairagya. The false notion or Viparita Jnana which he had, that objects are desirable, that objective enjoyments are pleasurable, now yields place to the recognition, to the realisation, that objects are sources of pain. They are, on the contrary, the source of restlessness in the mind which destroys one’s happiness. The more the desires, the greater the restlessness in the mind. The more you satisfy the desires, the more do they intensify and the greater the agitation in the Chitta. Where the Chitta is thus always agitated and full of Ashanti, there cannot be any Sukha.

    The Role of Svadhyaya in Arousing Viveka

    How does this recognition come? How does the Sadhaka come to be aware of this aspect of the world, of this real nature of the sense-objects, the sense contacts, and the sense enjoyments born out of the sense contacts? Through Svadhyaya, through Sravana, through Satsanga. Thus, Svadhyaya plays its further role of helping Viveka and Vichara and inducing Vairagya, all of which are indispensable for effective and successful Pratyahara. Otherwise, you may draw the mind away from the objective universe a hundred times or even a thousand times, and yet, it will go back again to the Vishayas like a street dog always strolling in the lanes and bylanes after castaway food, no matter how impure, how Uchhishtha or Jhuta it may be. Even if the dog is kicked out or stoned or shooed away, even then it will come again. It will return to the same place; it is never tired. It is only when the conviction is laid deep in the mind as a result of repeated intake of the right type of instruction and knowledge that the Sadhak’s way of thinking gradually changes. It is only then that the Sadhak’s ways of looking at things and appraising them changes. What he once thought desirable, he now knows to be undesirable. What he once thought was the surest way of getting happiness, he now knows is all folly. That way lies misery; that way lies entanglement. In this manner, the Sadhak’s approach, his view of things, changes. His evaluation of experiences takes on a new quality and he begins to see things with the eye of discrimination. He comes to realise the truth of the saying, “Sarvam Duhkham Vivekinah”. To a Viveki, to one in whom discrimination has been aroused, everything is pain only. The Viveki sees no pleasure. He sees only pain. And this gradually growing conviction in the mind fortifies and supports his Pratyahara.

    However, right from the very start, we have to see how Pratyahara is not just some technique only, but rather more a way of moving about in the world. Pratyahara is a continuing state of our mind even in the midst of varied occupations in the outer world in different fields of human activity—a state of mind in which discrimination is always active, in which philosophical enquiry is always present, in which the mind is always awake and alert, in which it does not want to go out, jump towards objects, but wishes to remain within always. Pratyahara is a state of mind in which there is awareness—psychological, moral and metaphysical awareness. There is psychological awareness; the Sadhak is aware of the state in which his mind is, whether it is hankering after outer things or whether it is staying put. There is moral and ethical awareness—the Sadhak is aware that he has taken the vows of Ahimsa, Satyam, Brahmacharya, Asteya and Aparigraha and that he is to abide by these vows as a Sadhaka, as a Raja Yogi. So he is aware that he must not budge from these vows, that he must strictly adhere to these vows, and therefore he cannot allow his mind to behave as the mind of an ordinary person in this world whose entire approach in this world is enjoyment-oriented, sense-oriented, indulgence-oriented. The Sadhak tells himself, “No, I am in the very opposite. I am risen into a very different plane of living and behaving”. This moral and ethical awareness is there in the mind. It helps Pratyahara. And metaphysical and philosophical awareness also is there. The Sadhak feels: “My real identity is that of the Purusha, divine, independent, ever-free, liberated from the clutches of Prakriti, liberated from all afflictions. And the environment in which I am moving, this outer surrounding, is Prakriti and my great mission is to see that I maintain my Purushahood. I should not get caught or entangled in Prakriti. Therefore I should move through these objects as an Anasakta Purusha, as a Nirlipta Anasakta Purusha, as an unattached spiritual being, as a spiritual entity. My mission is to free myself and liberate myself from Prakriti which is the outer universe with its various names and forms. So, while I am in the midst of these names and forms, I should not be of them. I must be detached. I must live in this world like the lotus lives in the pond untouched by water”. This constant awareness in the Sadhak is part of the picture of successful Pratyahara, is part of the picture of effective Pratyahara. So, if Pratyahara is to be practised successfully, the inner contents of your mind should be characterised by this threefold awareness.

    Keeping a Metaphysical Awareness of the One in the Midst of the Many

    We have further supportive material in the scriptures in the matter of this ongoing process of a life characterised by Pratyahara. Pratyahara is to direct the vision towards the One, even while being compelled to move in the midst of the many; and the scriptures suggest to the Yogi a certain Sadhana by which even while in the midst of the many, he may be centred in the One and that Sadhana is called Brahmabhyasa in Vedanta. Of course, that Sadhana becomes possible after serious discipleship and earnest and diligent study of Vedanta. The Mumukshu, sitting at the feet of the Guru, listens repeatedly to the exposition of the Great Truth. He is told again and again the Great Truth in diverse ways, through many illustrations. For instance, they say that no matter how variegated may be the items of pottery you may be beholding at a moment in the house of a potter, you are beholding only one element and that is clay. So many different shapes and sizes and varieties of pottery may be there that may be attracting your eye by their artistic quality, craftsmanship and delicacy; yet you are aware that you are beholding only clay. In a shop dealing in textile goods, innumerable varieties of cloth, different in colour, texture and style, may be there. You may behold a bed-sheet, a table-cloth, a handkerchief, a towel, a shirt, a Pyjama, a gown, a pillowcase, a curtain; yet, you are looking only at cotton; you are seeing nothing but cotton, whether it is coloured red, white, blue, green, purple or yellow. Similarly, in a goldsmith’s shop, varieties of jewellery may be there—all different in their size, in their purpose, all meant for different parts of the body. The bracelets, rings and necklaces may reveal wonderful craftsmanship and intricate design. But ultimately, a man of discrimination knows that he is looking only at one thing and not at many things; he knows that he is looking only at gold, though that gold is beaten into different forms and given different names. The substance is one only and that is gold. There is only cotton in a textile shop. There is only clay in a potter’s shop. In the same way, there is only one Brahman in the universe, though sporting in diverse names and forms.

    Sings Tukaram: “Vyapuni Jagata Tuhi Ananta, Bahuvidha Rupa Ghesi Ghesi, Pari Anti Brahma Ekale, Pari Anti Brahma Ekale.” What is the meaning? “Vyapuni Jagata Tuhi Ananta”—Pervading the entire universe, Thou art the Infinite One. “Bahuvidha Rupa Ghesi Ghesi”—Thou taketh numerous varieties of form. “Pari Anti Brahma Ekale”—But when you look at it ultimately, there is nothing except one Brahman, that One Supreme Eternal Essence called Brahman, Satya. This is a Bhakta’s realisation of Vedanta. The Vedantin, of course, says, “Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma”. And if the Yogi on the path of Yoga gradually tries to imbibe this vision gradually, then it becomes to him a tremendous help while he is at the practice of Pratyahara. No matter upon what object his senses may alight, no matter towards what object his eye may set or his ear may be directed, he feels that there is but one Tattva only. There is Brahman within and there is Brahman without. There is only one thing. So he tries to successfully overcome the distracting influences of the outer environment by trying to be rooted in his vision of oneness, thus keeping his Pratyahara supported by the lofty revelations of the scriptures, so that whether he is in Abhyasa or whether he is in Vyavahara, his mind is not distracted, his mind is not scattered and dispersed in the many. For, amidst the many, he trains himself to become aware of the One. He says that the many is only an outward appearance and that, in truth, it conceals the One. “Eko Deva Sarvabhuteshu Gudah” The inner consciousness, as the witness of all modifications, physical and mental, attributeless, untouched by the five sheaths, untouched by the three bodies, ever the same and unaffected in all the three periods of consciousness—that is Brahman, the Supreme, the One. That innermost Reality is one and it is present in all things, hidden in all things, like butter in milk, like oil in oilseeds. It is hidden, but it is there.

    Thus, with the support of such great truths expounded in the scriptures, founded upon revelations, founded upon the experiences of the great ones, the Yogi tries to be in a state of inwardness even while moving and acting in the outer plane of many objects. Thus, the Yogi’s Pratyahara is supported by all these different levels of awareness in the mind—psychological awareness, moral awareness of having taken certain great vows never to deviate from them, metaphysical or philosophical awareness of one’s own Purushahood and of the ultimate truth that there is only One in the midst of the many. The result is that no matter where the senses may take the Yogi’s mind, it cannot be away from the presence of the great Reality; and a stage comes in the practice of Pratyahara of the Yogi that even in the midst of the many, even in the midst of the most distracting situations, he is not distracted because his inner gaze is fixed upon the One that is present in the midst of the many.

    Some Practical Exercises in Pratyahara

    Then, as a discipline and as a practice, various exercises are suggested in the light of the practical experience of the Yogis. For instance, try to sit in your study, take up a book and start reading. At the same time, keep a timepiece, a few feet away to your right. Close your book and concentrate upon the ticking sound of the clock for some minutes until you are fully aware of the continuous ticking of the clock. Then, say to yourself: “I shall not be disturbed by it; I am going to take my mind away from it. I shall give my mind entirely to the study”. Then open your book, start reading and strongly order the mind that it shall no longer pay any attention to the ticking of the clock; withdraw your attention from there and fix it upon the reading. Practise this till you become totally oblivious to the ticking of the timepiece. Then, proceed even further into a still more difficult aspect of the same exercise. Close the book, close your eyes, sit straight and try to concentrate upon an inner focal point; it may even be an idea from the book itself. Try to fix your mind upon it; it may be a Sloka or it may be an inner object. Try to fix your mind upon that and tell your mind, “You are now no longer aware of that clock; your mind is now going to be fixed upon this”. And try practising Dharana or concentration, completely ignoring the previous sound. Go on doing it until you succeed. You are not aware of the sound. The sound is there, but you are not aware of it. You are completely successful in fixing your mind within.

    Here is another exercise. Put a soft piece of candy in your mouth, a soft piece of candy like a piece of chocolate or a toffee. Do you know what will happen? Immediately the teeth will want to chew upon it; immediately the tongue will want to start tasting it. And normally, the very fact of your having put the piece of tasty candy inside your mouth instantaneously makes the entire mouth start working, and within half a minute, the whole thing is finished. The candy is not there. But you put the candy in your mouth as a Yogi and say, “I am not going to touch it, I am not going to interfere with it. I am not going to chew upon it. I am not going to pass my tongue over it. Let it dissolve by itself if it wants”. So, sit with your candy and start repeating your Bhagavad Gita mentally or start repeating your Japa mentally or start recollecting some passage from some scripture mentally and do not allow the mind to pay attention to the candy in your mouth. Take the mind away from your Rasana, from your sense of taste, and try to engage in some process other than tasting. This is Pratyahara. This is a practice in Pratyahara.

    A third exercise. As you move along the road, because of the inveterate habit of the mind, the gaze will not be fixed in one place; it will always be roving about. And simultaneously with this, it has also the tendency to go searching after pleasant sights, sights that please or tempt or stimulate the sense of seeing. The Pratyahara exercise is that you must withdraw this gaze. Gurudev used to say that the Yogi, when he walks along the bazaar, will have his gaze fixed on the ground, just two or two and a half yards ahead of him. He will not be looking hither and thither like a monkey. He will walk in a dignified way, with his gaze fixed upon the ground only. He will have his head straight. You will have to practise this. You do not have to assume the pose of a bride sitting in a Mantapam, but your head and face should be straight. And your gaze should be on the ground, two yards in front of you. Like that you should walk in the most crowded and attractive bazaar.

    These are practices in Pratyahara. You can devise similar Sadhanas for yourself according to your facility, your need, your nature. Sabda, Sparsa, Rupa, Rasa and Gandha—they are the factors that take the mind out and make it scattered and get caught in the outside universe. Counter them. Make devices of your own and practise Pratyahara in a variety of ways. And never forget that the greatest support that your practice of Pratyahara can receive is ultimately through the great declarations of the scriptures which enable you to be centred in the Self even in the midst of the multifarious objects of the universe. And thus, diligently practise the central truths of Vedanta, the central truths of Bhakti Yoga.

    “He who sees Me in all things and he who sees all things in Me, between us there is no separation. I shall not lose hold of him and he will not move away from Me.” So says the Lord in the Srimad Bhagavad Gita. It is a suggestion to adopt a certain way of living even in earthly, worldly surroundings. The Lord Sri Krishna indicates how even in the midst of the world you may still be centred in the Divine; you may still be rooted in the one Reality. All scriptures mention the same truth in different ways. The Upanishads, Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam—they all say the same thing. Srimad Bhagavatam cites the great example of Prahlada. The Isopanishad starts with this declaration at the very outset. The Bhagavad Gita reiterates the same truth again and again in all the chapters. The intelligent Yogi therefore tries to utilise these great revelations as the constant support for his Yogabhyasa and he raises his mind to a state of perpetual awareness of the presence of the Divine at all times, in all circumstances and surroundings, and amidst all activities.

    Effective Pratyahara Stops the Creation of New Samskaras and New Vasanas

    When Pratyahara is practised in such a comprehensive way, then gradually the outer world starts to lose its hold upon the mind of the Yogi. Outer objects and their names and form appearances lose their power to influence and change the mind of the Yogi. The Yogi retains his spiritual consciousness and awareness in the midst of the objects and in spite of the objects. That is effective Pratyahara. That is success in Pratyahara. It results now in a great game when, thus established in proper Pratyahara, the Yogi reaches a stage where new Samskaras and new Vasanas are no longer created. Otherwise, the creation of new Samskaras and new Vasanas is a perpetual process. There is no end to it. Normally, as you move in the outer world, you go on creating newer and newer Samskaras and Vasanas. It poses a serious problem to the Yogi. He has difficulty enough in trying to deal with the Vasanas and Samskaras already brought over from his previous birth. And he cannot afford to add on to it a further difficulty of having to deal with fresh Samskaras and Vasanas. The point to note is that unless you live like a Yogi, it is impossible for you to avoid creating more and more, newer and newer, Samskaras and Vasanas. The Yogi is able to put a stop to this process of the creation of additional new Samskaras and Vasanas, precisely by the practice of successful and effective Pratyahara. In his case, the perceived objects do not impinge upon the consciousness any more. They pass off like shadows. They do not take root. They do not go and lodge themselves in his Chitta. Pratyahara thus wards off the creation of new Vasanas and Samskaras, and through the help of Viveka, Vichara and Vairagya, turns the mind away, and the mind becomes gradually transformed into a Yogic mind, an indrawn mind, an Antarmukha Manas. The inveterate tendency of the previous mind to habitually always be running about hither and thither, that innate previous tendency gives place to this newly created nature and quality of remaining inward, of moving towards its own inner centre. That is a great achievement. That is a vast stride, much ground cover and it is this indrawn mind that is the hallmark of the Yogi. It is a specific quality of the Yogic mind to be at repose within and the ground is now prepared for taking advantage of this state of the mind and making use of this indrawn mind to concentrate and focus on the great Lakshya, the Dhyana Lakshya, the object of meditation, the object of Yoga. What is Yoga ultimately? Yoga is nothing but meditation and it is the indrawn mind that becomes the fit instrument for such meditation.

    One who has succeeded in practising Pratyahara becomes a person with Samahita Chitta, a person with his mind brought under control, a person with a subdued mind. And this subdued mind is a prerequisite for meditation. Where there is Asamahita Chitta, there cannot be any real Dhyana. This is what all the scriptures say.

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