Pratyahara For Meditation
21 Oct 2021 HYN Himalayan Yoga Academy
PRATYHARA means ‘withdrawal’. In yogic context, it means ‘withdrawal of senses’. We have five gross organs of perception, namely, two eyes (the organ of vision), two ears (the organ of audition), the nose (the organ of olfaction), the taste buds in the oral mucous membrane and on the tongue( the organ of gustation) and the skin ( the tactile organ). These gross organs of perceptions cannot be withdrawn. They receive stimuli from the external world. The input data are subjected to preliminary processing in the gross organ of perception. Information is transmitted from the gross organ of perception. Information is transmitted from the gross organ of perception to the corresponding cerebral center in the uppermost part of the brain. This is electromagnetic transmission on the nerve-pathway. We do not know what exactly happens thereafter. The corresponding cerebral centre makes a connection with the manas, ahankara, and buddhi – the antahkarana, which is lighted by the jivatma sitted at the bindu in the blissful sheath. It is the antahkarana that perceives and conceives. It orders the subtle organs (ghranendriya) gustatory subtle organ (rasanendriya), visual subtle organ (darsanendriya) tactile subtle organ (sparsanendriya) and auditory subtle organ (sravanendriya) and auditory subtle organ (sravanendriya) are located in the muladhara, svadhisthan, manipura,anahata, and visuddhi chakra, respectively. Each of these subtle organs goes out to the reach the source of the stimulus. Thus there is a two-way communication between the source of stimuli and the antahkarana-indriya-complex.
In the process of pratyahara, the subtle sense-organs (jnanendriyas) are withdrawn into Egoity (ahankara) which is an evolute of the evolvent buddhi (intellect). In the course of evolution, ahankara is the evolvent and the five sense-organs are the evolutes. It is the general rule that evolutes are withdrawn into the evolvent. As a result of this withdrawal, the subtle sense-organs cannot reach the sources of stimuli and sense-perceptions are blocked.
The theory of pratyahara, as outlined here, has not been well spelt out in most modern books on yoga. The practice of pratyahara is still more hazy. Here we propose to present the concrete steps that may be adopted and practised for getting success in Pratyahara.
We recommend pranayama to precede each session of meditation, although we do not propose to make it compulsory. Pratyahara stands on a different footing, however. It should be a regular practice of the yogi, but it is not necessary to precede every session of meditation. It improves the power of concentration. A meditator, without the previous practice of pratyahara, can hardly get full success in meditation.
Techniques of Pratyahara
Intense concentration on the activity of one sense keeps the other senses withdrawn. This principle is made use of by using one of the three sense- organs, namely, eyes, ears and nose.
Use of olfactory concentration for pratyahara
Any aromatic substance may be used for this purpose. The aroma should be soothing and pleasant; not obnoxious, unpleasant and repellent. The Yogi should be fully absorbed in sensing the aroma with pin-pointed focus on it. If this is done, the other senses remain withdrawn. However, the sense of smell is less commonly used for pratyahara comparison with the visual or the auditory sense.
Use of visual concentration for pratyahara
Do trataka on a black spot drawn on a white paper, on a crystal, on the tip of the flame of a candle or lamp, on the vermilion spot of a diety, on the sandalwood spot of diety, on the letter AUM, on the picture or statue of a diety, or on any such other thing already indicated in the section under trataka. If you have made some progress in Yoga and you are well acquainted with the subtle anatomy of the chakras of the subtle body, you may do trataka on the inner mandala of a chakra or on the jyotirlinga in sahasrara.
Sit with sambhavi-mudra, agocari-mudra ( nasikagra drsti), or yoni mudra. The techniques of these mudras have already been described. The vision may be inner ( antadrsti) or outer (bahirdrsti). In the former, the eyes are closed. Concentrated vision brings to a state of pratyahara.
Use of auditory concentration for pratyahara
Low-Pitched Sound In Harmony And Synchrony
Such sound may be orally produced by the yogi. It may also be an instrumentally recorded sound. Traditionally, it is a mantra repeated for a period. The best mantra is AUM.
For the present context kritana is the loud repition of a mantra in a devotional ectasy. It has characteristics apparently opposed to yoga. Nevertheless, here it is recommended for yoga. It may or may not be accompanied with instrumental music. Kritana brings to a state of pratyahara.
Concentration on the anahata dhvani for pratyahara
Dhvani means ‘sound’. The literal meaning of the word anahata is ‘unbeaten’. That sound which is produced otherwise than by beating is anahata dhvani . It is sound AUM, which is otherwise known as pranava.
Ordinarily vibrations are produced by beating and sound is produced by vibrations. The anahata dhvani is an exception, however. Nature and everything of Nature constantly and continuously produce the sound AUM. And this sound is produced without beating and vibrations. The whole of Nature and all parts of Nature do mantra- japa by continuously repeating the one-sylabbed pranava(AUM) which verbablly stands for Brahman.
By listening to the anahata dhvani and concentrating on it for about ten minutes a day, one may attain to the pratyahara state. Here is a problem, of course. Persons, without practice of meditation, can hardly listen to the anahata dhvani. And concentration on the anahata dhvani takes to the state of pratyahara which prepares the seedbed of meditation. Hence this technique cannot be suitable for beginners in meditation. This is, however , a very potent and useful technique for persons who have already made some practice of meditation.
Use of Mantra-japa for pratyahara
The repetition of a mantra is known as japa. Every mantra has a diety(devata) and contains the name of htat diety. Mantra japa is done out of three- ways, namely, vaikhari, upamsu, and manasika. Verbal repetition of the japa is done in the vaikhari variety. Repetition in a whisper or humming , with the movements of the lips,without the japa being made audible to others, is known as upamsu. The mental repetition of the japa is known as manasika. Maharsi Patanjali recommends meditation on the meaning of the mantra while doing the japa.
For non-adepts in yoga, vaikhari japa is recommended for th initial stage. The loudness of the japa shuts out all extraneous thoughts and stops them form entering into the mind. One may proceed from vaikhari to upamsu and finally to manasika in the course of the practice of japa. Upamsu japa is better than vaikhari and manasika japa is better upamsu. However, manasika japa is not very suitable for the beginner due to the fact that all sorts of extraneous thoughts and external sounds enter into the mind during the japa in silence.
Japa should be done with unwavering faith (sraddha), devotion(bhakti) ,and intense love(prema). When this done, the mind stays in the emotional state with pin-pointed attention to God. In this mental state, all the subtle senses( indriyas) are withdrawn into ahankara ( Egoity) and hence are rendered non –receptive.
In all the three varieties of japa, the state of pratyahara is attained partially or wholly. But the manansika( silent and mental) japa is the most effective one in producing the state of pratyahara japa has other benefits too , one gets all those benefits in addition to getting the pratyahara state preparatory to meditation.