Raja Yoga – Part 11: Pratyahara

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Welcome back!In the earlier post, we discussed pranayama  in Raja YogaPranayama brings clarity and calmness to the mind.

Our question now is: how to control the senses (eye, ear, skin etc.) which constantly stir our mind? Pratyahara, the next step of Raja Yoga addresses this. Our great master Maharishi Patanjali defines it as:

Swaswavishaya asamprayoge chitta swaroopanukara iva indriyanam pratyaharah | – Yoga Sutras 2.54  

Withdrawal of mind from the objects of senses results in – senses following the mind. This is pratyahara.

What a beautiful technique by Maharishi to control the senses! Let us have a clear understanding now.

We have five senses: ear, eye, tongue, nose and skin. They naturally go after sensing their objects: sound, sight, taste, smell and touch respectively and report to mind. Here is the interesting part: if the mind withdraws from the objects of senses, the senses follow the mind! This is pratyahara.

 Let us take an example, suppose the mind determines not to hear anything from outside and decides – “I am not interested in hearing any sound.”  Then the ear, sense responsible for detecting sound, does not report sound to the mind! One feels the absolute silence!

This is because mind is the king! So, it can command and control the senses, if it wants to. The senses follow the mind, just like honey bees following their queen!  But, if the mind itself is not controlled first, what happens? It starts following the senses!  Just amazing!!

This is why the first four steps of Raja Yoga focus on controlling the mind. Once our mind starts listening to our commands, we order the mind to control the senses in the fifth step pratyahara.

If we stabilize in pratyahara, what happens? Our Maharishi explains:

Tatah paramaa vashyata indriyanam | – Yoga Sutras 2.54

Then, one can have complete control of senses.

Naturally!  By practicing pratyahara, the senses will be completely controlled by us. As discussed, we control the mind and mind controls the senses.

By now,  at the the fifth stage of Raja Yoga practice, our mind has become calm and composed. Senses are not disturbing us now! What should we do further? We will see that in the upcoming post.

Next post: Raja Yoga- Part 12 on Dharana. Stay with us!

Sarvasyarti hare Devi Narayani namostu te |

Our salutations to Devi Narayani, who eliminates all our problems!

Om Namah Shivaya ||

– Kalidas

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