Pratyahara, is not possible unless it is supported by Vairagya(dispassion), Viveka(discrimination) and Vichara (Self-enquiry).
Unless you have self-control, self-restraint, you cannot have Pratyahara.
Without pratyahara concentration meditation and Samadhi are not possible
Withought meditation and Samadhi Self-realization or Liberation is not possible.
Indispensable aids to the practice of pratyahara
Pratyahara is roughly translated as “withdrawal”. Withdrawal, it has already been seen, is an indispensable prerequisite to concentration. If you want to centralise the mind, first of all, it has to be interiorised. Because, if the mind is completely externalised and scattered over many things in this outer world of names and forms and human affairs, how can the question of concentration arise in such a mind? It is totally unequipped for centralising or focussing. It is not even inside. It is scattered over the seen world which is hundred per cent Prakriti(Maya-illusion) as long as we perceive it through the senses. But the same outer world is seen by the illumined Brahma Jnani (Knower of Brahman-Self realized) as Parabrahman through his Sakshatkara Anubhava, and so he says, “Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma; Sarvam Vishnumayam Jagat”.
For him, there is no Prakriti (Maya) at all; there is Parabrahman only. The whole of the external universe is nothing but Parabrahman for him. “Sarvam Sivamayam” he says, “Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma”. And the scriptures go on to say that there is nothing else besides Brahman—Neha Nanasti Kinchana. But that is a question of Sakshatkara(Direct realisation; experience of Absoluteness). Whereas, our approach to this whole human situation of bondage and suffering is from the point of view of the Mumukshu (Seeker after liberation), a Jijnasu (One who aspires after knowledge; spiritual aspirant.) who is in ignorance (Ajnana).
A Word of Caution
The Mumukshu (seeker or aspirant after Truth or liberation) is not a liberated soul or a Jivanmukta Purusha. He is only a struggling soul, caught in the net of the bondage of Raga-Dvesha, of Asha-Trishna. So, we cannot apply the Sakshatkara principle to the actual situation of the Jivatma. And we cannot say that there is no Prakriti. We have to very much accept Prakriti. One little sight, one little sound upsets us, makes us completely forget our Self our real Svarupa, our Purushahood and makes us completely enslaved by passion, anger, greed, hatred, anxiety, fear, depression and dejection. We are subject to so many mental modifications, Chitta-Vrittis. So, in this situation, we cannot ride the high horse of Brahma-Jnana or Jivanmuktahood. We cannot truthfully say, “I am transcendental Purusha or Atman”. We may practise saying it for the purpose of ultimate realisation. Such practice is called Brahma-Abhyasa Brahma-Chintana. We may practise affirming our real nature and asserting it. But on the practical side, we have to behave with caution and commonsense. We cannot foolishly run into situations which will make us turn a somersault and have a terrible fall and weep. We have to be very, very careful in going about in our Vyavahara, because we are still very much in the grip of the original self-forgetfulness or non-awareness. We are very much in the grip of delusion, of Maya. So, Gurudev used to say, “It is all right to say that Brahman is beyond time, space and causation. There is no world for the Brahma-Jnanis. It is all right for them to say, ‘I am Brahman; I am Jnana-Svarupa’. But, so far as you are concerned, if someone calls you a fool, you are immediately thrown into a violent temper, you are ready to quarrel with him, you are ready to fight, even to raise your fist. Let alone that, supposing you go and stand before some person and he is occupied with some other work, and does not pay attention to you, you feel very humiliated. You feel insulted. You will begin to think, ‘Oh! This man is treating me like this’. So, let alone someone doing some harm to you, if someone fails to do something which you are expecting him to do, you feel very insulted. You salute someone and he does not return it, because he did not notice it perhaps, but you feel very bothered. Your whole mental mood changes. It is all fine for you to say that there is no world in the three periods of time, but if you find that someone has forgotten to put salt in your Dal, immediately you cannot eat your food; you become upset. You say, ‘What is this? You have not put salt’. Supposing someone gives you tea without sugar, your Brahmanhood is nowhere. You immediately become upset in the absence of sugar in your tea. You do not drink it as it is. You will demand sugar and ask for it and complain, ‘No sugar has been put in my tea, no salt has been put in my Dal’. So, do not imagine things. Try to know where you are and start your Sadhana from that place”. Gurudev used to say all this. You are surrounded by Prakriti; you are surrounded by various manifestations of Prakriti. And so the mind is externalised and scattered amongst the various names and forms and objects, and human situations and affairs, which constitute Prakriti. It is thus in a state of involvement with external Prakriti in all its various forms. And this situation is the very antithesis of the ultimate Yogic state that you are trying to reach.
Brahmacharya means that pattern of conduct, that lifestyle, which leads to ultimate Brahma-Jnana (Realization of Brahman). So, Brahmacharya is a comprehensive term. That is why Patanjali has laid it down in his Niyama. Brahmacharya means self-control. Tapasya includes self-control. Therefore arises the necessity of Tapasya in relation to Pratyahara, of Brahmacharya in relation to Pratyahara. Unless you have self-control, self-restraint, you cannot have Pratyahara. The mind will continue to be bothered by the uncontrolled and turbulent senses.
The senses have to be kept in check. The senses have to be disciplined. The senses have to be trained, have to be subdued; and therefore, Yama and Niyama are to be practised throughout the entire course of your Yogic ascent right up to the point of Samadhi. Otherwise, if you do not keep up Yama and Niyama always with you, even after attaining the state of Dhyana, you can have a downfall. Even a Yogi can have a great downfall. So, you can never underestimate the importance of Yama and Niyama. You can never understate the need to keep them along with you right up till the last stages of the Yogic ascent.
Secondly, if Pratyahara is to be successful, you must have Vairagya. What is it that drives the mind outside seeking sense satisfaction and sensual enjoyment? What is it that drives the mind outside? It is desire. It is Asha and Trishna. It is the thirst for sense enjoyment. It is Raga. Unless you develop dispassion towards the external world, towards objective enjoyment and objective possessions, unless you say, “No, I do not want anything”, you cannot engage in successful Pratyahara. And unless you practise Pratyahara, you cannot get established in Vairagya or dispassion. So they are both interdependent. Pratyahara helps in becoming more and more well grounded in Vairagya. Vairagya helps in succeeding in the process of Pratyahara. Without Vairagya you cannot have Pratyahara and Pratyahara is necessary to become well established in Vairagya.
Now, ask yourself a question. Why is it that the Jivatma has so many desires, so many cravings? “I must enjoy this. I must possess this. I must come into contact with this.” Why all this craving? Vedanta tells you that it is due to a basic Avichara, a basic lack of proper philosophical enquiry. You do not keep up this enquiry continuously—this enquiry into the real nature of things, this enquiry into the real nature of the so-called sensual enjoyment. If you make a right enquiry, philosophy will tell you that this is not enjoyment, but this is suffering. What you think to be happiness is actually suffering. It is the cause of further suffering. Because, you go towards enjoyment and you become enslaved by it. You become addicted to it. If you do not find it you suffer. So, what you think to be enjoyment is actually suffering. These enjoyments that come due to the contact between the senses and the respective sense-objects—they are a source of sorrow, a source of suffering. Now a little bit of enjoyment, but afterwards suffering. “Ye Hi Samsparsaja Bhoga Duhkha Yonaya Eva Te” Who says this? Lord Krishna Himself. So, there is no real happiness here. Misery is mistaken for happiness, pain is mistaken for pleasure, because this happiness increases your craving. It makes it all the more. By satisfying your desire, you intensify your desire, and when you intensify your desire, it becomes a source of great agitation and mental restlessness. The more the desire, the more the restlessness. And where there is such restlessness in the mind, there cannot be happiness. When there is Ashanti in the Manas, in the Chitta, how can there be happiness? Ashantasya Kutah Sukham? There cannot be real happiness where there is constant agitation, constant restlessness in the mind due to countless desires and cravings. They are all together and you do not realise it, because you do not carry on Vichara. Where there is proper Vichara and Viveka, Vairagya is possible. Where there is no Vichara and Viveka, Vairagya is not sustained, Vairagya is not Pucca, it is not ripe, it is Kachcha. Sometimes it will help you, and at other times, at the time of need, it will abandon you. Vairagya will vanish, and you will be foolish, and to use an English expression, you will find yourself in a soup. You will get into hot waters. Why? Because of temporary abandonment of Vairagya. And you will commit some very foolish thing. Then, afterwards, Vairagya will come again. Afterwards, you will remember Vairagya. So they say that it is better to avoid getting into a wrong situation rather than get into a wrong situation, repent, open one’s eyes, and afterwards try to correct oneself. Be wise. Arise, awake. Be wise. Understand that discrimination and enquiry are very, very important in order to become established in Vairagya, by which alone successful and effective Pratyahara is possible.
Practice of Pratyahara—An Exercise as well as a Process
Pratyahara, it may be noted, is both an Abhyasa(practice) as well as a Prakriya (process). 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(Worldly activity).
Because, if you are trying to centre yourself in the inner Reality, in the Dhyana Lakshya (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 (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 (Places on the Himalaya mountains in India). 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( River Ganga) 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.
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 (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 (Worldly activity) 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 (duty), 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.
The Different Phases in the Process of Pratyahara
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( internal craving for sense-objects). In that case, the “I” of the Sadhak (one who practices seriously) which identifies itself with the awakened intellect, the Suddha Buddhi (pure intellect) or the Jagrat Buddhi (awaking intellect)—which is now his best friend because it is Vichara-Yukta and Vivekatmaka—comes to his rescue (capacity to enquire and discern). 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 (inner oragan: manas, buddhi, ego, chitta). 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 Indispensability of Vichara (enquiry) and Viveka (discrimination) 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 (name-form) 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 enquiry (Vichara). This is enquiry. You must tell your mind: “This object will give me only more confusion, more craving (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 enquiry (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 mirage in the desert -a Mriga-Marichika. 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 (worldly activities) 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 impressions (Samskaras). You no longer create any new Vasanas (subtle desires) for yourself. Otherwise, the whole life is nothing but the almost continuous loading of your Chitta (subconscious mind) 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 (thoughts, mental modifications) 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”.
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(study) and Vichara(enquiry) and Viveka (discrimination). Vichara and Viveka are supported by Satsanga, Svadhyaya and Sravana(Hearing of the Srutis or scriptures). 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 (worldly attachment) which he had formerly changes into Vairagya. The false notion or Viparita Jnana (contrary or perverted knowledge) 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 (Restlessness; absence of peace of mind; distraction), there cannot be any happiness (Sukha).
Also understand the relevance of Svadhyaya to Pratyahara, because it is through Svadhyaya that the Yogi is able to keep his Vichara and Viveka fresh and alive or active. With daily Svadhyaya, you begin to get a deeper and deeper understanding into the real nature of the world and things. Svadhyaya brings you wisdom. Svadhyaya brings you awakening. Svadhyaya keeps your Vichara and Viveka keen and sharp. That is the value of Svadhyaya and that is the connection between Svadhyaya and Pratyahara. And thus, with the help of Brahmacharya, with the help of Tapascharya, with the help of Svadhyaya, if you have your senses under control, and if you keep your Viveka and Vichara keen and active, then gradually, becoming an Avruta-Chakshu Jijnasu, becoming endowed with an internalised gaze, with the mind turned away from the external outside, you are able to gradually prepare yourself for the higher stage of Dharana or concentration. This withdrawal of Pratyahara should be supported by Brahmacharya, supported by Tapasya, supported by Svadhyaya, and supported by the Vichara and Viveka developed through Svadhyaya, and it should be always bolstered by Vairagya. Vairagya is very, very important if you must successfully practise Pratyahara. And in this process of Pratyahara, gradually you begin to progress and advance in keeping your mind always internalised, not moving towards the senses but moving towards the Self, the inner focal point within. And as you progress in this practice of Pratyahara, a stage comes when the senses gradually begin to change their nature, begin to give up their Vishayonmukha Svabhava, their innate tendency of always going towards the external objects, of always going towards their respective sense-objects. That nature they gradually begin to give up, having understood through Viveka, through Vichara, through Svadhyaya, through Satsanga, the foolishness of moving towards the external objects, having understood that the external world is an empty chimera, that there is no pleasure there, that there is no happiness there, that there is only pain there. By going towards fire, you will only get burnt. A child is attracted towards the brightness, the brilliance, of fire. And if it touches the fire, it will get burnt. In the same way, the moth goes towards its destruction by plunging towards a bright flame. The Sadhaka begins to understand that, likewise, in the glittering external world, there lies only harm or injury, unhappiness, sorrow, lamentation.
Once this idea is firmly implanted in the mind, the senses come under the influence of this new knowledge. Formerly there was a situation when the mind was constantly being influenced by the senses, powered by the senses, dragged by the senses. And now, a certain change has come over the mind. The whole situation is now reversed. Now, the senses, instead of influencing the mind, become influenced by the mind, because the mind has become established in Vichara and Viveka and Vairagya, and has become well-grounded in its new attitude to the external world. So it says, “No, my welfare does not lie there. My happiness lies inside”. The mind becomes well established in this conviction and determines not to go outside but to go inside. What happens then? This new determination of the mind has its impact upon the senses, and in this new situation the mind begins to influence the senses. And the senses now decide: “No, we will not drag the leader. We will follow the leader. The mind is our leader. We will do as he says”. So the senses stay put; they no longer bound towards the sense-objects, but they acquire a state of repose. They consent to stay where they are and they give up their old habitual, innate tendency of going outward. So, the senses attain a state of Dama. The senses become subdued, they become docile, and they decide to follow the mind. So, they also become internalised. They stay in their centres. They do not bother the Yogi any more. They no longer present themselves as factors which distract the mind and agitate the mind. So, the problem gets overcome. Instead of the mind being dragged out by the senses, the senses now consent to be brought inside by the mind. They follow the new tendencies of the awakened mind dominated by Vichara and Viveka, dominated by Vairagya, dominated by a higher discrimination. Such a situation becomes most suitable and helpful for the Yoga practitioner to take up the actual process of concentration or Dharana.
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.
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.