FIFTH STEP – PRATYAHARA
Pratyahara is withdrawal of the senses from their respective objects. It is the abstraction of the senses. Real, spiritual or inner life begins when the Yogic student is established in Pratyahara.
Pratyahara checks the outgoing tendencies of the senses. The practice demands considerable patience and perseverance. It is a trying discipline of the senses. If you can disconnect the mind from the senses, there will be abstraction of the senses automatically. Control of the senses is absolute one-pointedness of the mind.
HOW TO PRACTISE PRATYAHARA
Just as a turbulent storm tosses a ship, so also the hidden desires toss the roving senses and the mind vehemently. Therefore, beware! Be on the alert. Be eternally vigilant. Annihilate all desires with the sword of dispassion and the axe of discrimination. This is the true secret of self-restraint. If you have intense dispassion, you can practise Pratyahara easily. Dispassion is the enemy of the senses and the friend of Pratyahara. Discrimination between the Real and the unreal helps a great deal in attaining success in Pratyahara.
No amount of human effort alone can give perfect success. Therefore, persevere and pray. Divine Grace is needed.
Pratyahara becomes easy after the practice of Pranayama. Pratyahara follows the practice of Pranayama automatically. Practice of Pranayama thins out the senses any prepares the Yogic student for the practice of Pratyahara.
Observance of silence, moderation in diet, steadiness in pose, dispassion, regularity in the practice of Pranayama, patience, contentment, perseverance, tenacity, celibacy, seclusion, are all aids to Pratyahara.
Withdraw the mind, the Prana and the senses. This is triple withdrawal. This is very powerful.
Success in Pratyahara depends upon the strength and force of past Yogic impressions. He who has practised Pranayama and Pratyahara in his previous birth to some extent will have success in Pratyahara within a short time in this birth.
He who is well-established in Pratyahara can meditate calmly even in a noisy place. Pratyahara develops will-power and inner spiritual strength. Nothing can distract the mind of one who is established in Pratyahara.
He who is eflicient in Pratyahara can enter into deep sleep the moment he lies down on his bed. Napoleon and Gandhiji could do this.
OBSTACLES TO PRATYAHARA
Unsteady Asana, too much talking, too much mixing with worldly people, too much activity, too much food, too much walking, too much curiosity in other people’s affairs, are all obstacles in the practice of Pratyahara.
If dispassion wanes and if there is slackness in the practice, the senses become turbulent.
A Bhakta or a devotee does not practise Pratyahara. He beholds his Lord in all objects.
A Jnana Yogi also does not practise Pratyahara. He tries to identify himself with the hidden Self in all objects by negating the names and forms.
A Raja Yogi alone practises Pratyahara deliberately.
That Yogic student who jumps at once to the practice of meditation without Pratyahara will not have success in meditation.
It is diffrcult to say where Pratyahara ends and Dharana or concentration begins.
SIXTH STEP – DHARANA (CONCENTRATION)
Dharana is fixing the mind on an external object or an intemal point. Concentration is purely a mental process. It needs an inward turning of the mind.
Concentration is fixing the mind; meditation is allowing one idea to flow continuously. A serene mind is fit for concentration. Keep the mind serene.
Celibacy, Pranayama, reduction of wants and activities, dispassion, silence, seclusion, discipline of the senses, Japa, control of anger, giving up reading novels, newspapers and visiting cinemas, are all aids to concentration. Give up TV watching.
Japa (recitation of Lord’s Name) and Kirtan (singing of Lord’s Name and His Glory) will develop concentration.
HOW TO CONCENTRATE
Do not leave the practice even for a day. It is very difficult to rise up again. Devotees concentrate on the heart, Raja Yogins on Trikuti (the seat of mind), Vedantins on Sahasrara or top of the head. Trikuti is the space between the eyebrows. You can also concentrate on the tip ofthe nose, the navel, or the Muladhara (below the last vertebra of the spinal column.
Concentration on the moon is beneficial to those of emotional temperament. Concentration on candle flame will give vision of Rishis and Devatas.
Concentrate on divine qualities such as love, mercy, compassion, or any other abstract idea such as infinity, omnipotence and omnipresence of the Lord, etc.
You can concentrate on the breath in your nostrils (Soham sound). There is ‘Soldering inhalation and ‘Ham’ during exhalation.
Do not concentrate when the mind is tired. Do not wrestle with the mind when you concentrate. When irrelevant thoughts enter the mind, be indifferent. They will pass away. Do not drive them forcibly. They will persist and resist. It will tax your will. But substitute with divine thoughts. Evil thoughts will gradually fade out.
Be slow and steady in the practice of concentration. Apply some Brahmi-Amla oil to the head if there is much heat. Take butter and sugarcandy. This will cool the system.
If you want to succeed in any walk of life, you must develop concentration. It is a source of spiritual strength. It is the master-key for opening the chamber of knowledge.
SEVENTH STEP – DHYANA (MEDITATION)
Meditation is an unbroken flow of knowledge of the object on which one meditates.
Meditation follows concentration. Concentration merges in meditation.
Concentration, meditation and Sarah (superconsciousness) are internal Sadhanas. When you practise concentration, meditation and Samadhi at a time, it is called Samyama.
Meditation is freeing the mind from all thoughts of sense-objects. The mind dwells on God alone during meditation.
BENEFITS OF MEDITATION
If you meditate for half an hour daily, you will be able to face the battle of life with peace and spiritual strength. Meditation kills all pain, suffering and sorrow.
Meditation is the most powerful mental and nervine tonic. Meditation opens the door to intuitive knowledge and realms of eternal bliss. During meditation the mind becomes calm, serene and steady. One idea occupies the mind.
Deep meditation cannot come in a day or a week or a month. You will have to struggle hard for along time. Be patient. Be persevering. Be vigilant. Be diligent.
All doubts will be gradually cleared through meditation.
HOW TO MEDITATE?
Meditate regularly in the early morning between 4 and 6 a.m. Have a separate meditation room, or convert by means of screens a corner of a room into a meditation chamber.
Use your commonsense throughout your Sadhana. Do not go to extremes. Stick to the golden medium or the middle path.
Meditate in the beginning on a concrete Form such as the image of your Ishta Devata, Lord Jesus, or Lord Buddha. This is Saguna meditation, or meditation on the form of the Lord with attributes. Think of His attributes such as omnipotence, perfection, purity, freedom, when you meditate on His form. Rotate your mind on His form from head to foot or from foot to head.
You can also recite Om while meditating. The short-accented Om burns all sins, the long accented gives Moksha, and the elongated bestows all psychic powers (Siddhis). He who chants and meditates upon this monosyllable (Om), meditates upon and chants all the scriptures of the world.
Meditate on the effulgence in the sun, or the splendour in the moon, or the glory in the stars. Meditate on the magnificence of the ocean and its infinite nature. Then compare the ocean to the infinite Brahman, and the waves, foams and icebergs to the various names and forms of the world. Identify yourself with the ocean. Become silent. Expand.
Gaze steadily on the formless air. Concentrate on the air. Meditate on the all-pervading nature of the air. Watch the flow of breath. You will hear the sound ‘Soham,’ ‘So’ during inhalation and ‘Ham’ during exhalation. Soham means “I am He.” The breath is reminding you of your identity with the Supreme Soul.
EXPERIENCES IN MEDITATION
The feeling of rising up during meditation is a sign that you are going above body-consciousness.
When you practise concentration and meditation, you are bound to get various powers and Siddhis. Do not use these powers for gaining some material end. Do not misuse the powers. You will get a hopeless downfall.
There is really no such thing as a miracle. When you know the cause, the miracle becomes an ordinary event. During meditation you will get rapture, ecstasy, thrill.
A flash is a glimpse of truth. It is Ritambara Prajna. This is not the whole experience. This is not the highest experience. Reach the Bhuma or the Infinite. This is the acme or the final stage. You have reached the final destination. Meditation stops here.
You will hear various sorts of Anahata sounds. You will see brilliant lights in the space between the eyebrows. Sometimes you will behold coloured lights: green, blue, red, etc. They are due to the presence of different Tattvas at a particular time.
Sometimes you will have vision of Rishis, sages, tutelary deity, Nitya Siddhas, astral entities, landscape, mountains, blue sky, beautiful lardens. Sometimes you may float in the air. Your Astral body may get detached from the physical body. You will move about in the astral world. You may go to Brahma Loka, the realm of Brahma or Hiranyagarbha.
Those who have entered the first degree of meditation will have a light body, sweetness of voice, beautiful complexion, clarity of mind and scanty urine and defaecation.
OBSTACLES IN MEDITATION
The chief obstacles in meditation are:
– Laya (sleep),
– Vikshepa (tossing of mind),
– the rising up of latent desires,
– lack of Brahmacharya,
– spiritual pride,
Other obstacles: company of worldly people, overwork, over-eating, self-assertive Rajasic nature.
Conquer sleep through Pranayama, Asanas and light diet. Remove Vikshepa through Pranayama, Japa, Upasana, Trataka, etc. Destroy desires through dispassion, discrimination, study of books which treat of dispassion, enquiry, etc.
Shun the company of worldly persons who always talk on sexual matters, money and worldly things. Observe moderation in diet. Obey the laws of health and hygiene.
Excerpts from “FOURTEEN LESSONS ON RAJA YOGA” by Sri Swami Sivananda