PRATYAHARA

   

Pratyahara is the fifth stage of Yoga, where the senses are brought under control.  Pratyahara means to restrain or to withdraw.  In Pratyahara the Yogi remains quite.  He does not get distracted or disturbed by things which he sees, hears, smells tastes or feels.  If a man's reason succumbs to the pull of his senses he is lost.  On the other hand, if there is rhythmic control of breath, the senses instead of running after external objects of desire turn inwards and man is set free from their tyranny.  

When this stage is reached, the seeker goes through a searching self examination.  to overcome the deadly but attractive spell of sensual objects, he needs the insulation of adoration by recalling to his mind the creator who made the objects of his desire.  He also needs the lamp of knowledge of his divine heritage.  There is bondage when the mind craves, grieves or is unhappy over something.  The mind becomes pure when all desires and fears are annihilated.  The Yogi prefers the good to the pleasant.  Others driven by their desires, prefer the pleasant to the good and miss the very purpose of life.  The Yogi feels joy in what he is.  He knows how to stop and therefore, lives in peace.  The Yogi knows that the path towards satisfaction of the senses by sensual desires is broad, but that it leads to destruction and that there are many who follow it.  The path of Yoga is like the sharp edge of razor, narrow and difficult to tread, and there are few who find it.  The Yogi knows that the paths of ruin or of salvation lie within himself.  

According to Hindu philosophy, consciousness manifests in three different qualities and they are as follows:

                   1.  Sattva (The illuminating, pure or good quality), which leads to clarity and mental serenity.
                   2.  Rajas (The quality of mobility or activity), which makes a person active and energetic, 
                        tense and willful.
                   3.  Tamas (The dark and restraining quality), which obstructs and counteracts the tendency of
                        Rajas to work.    

Tamas is a quality of delusion, obscurity, inertia and ignorance.  A person in whom it predominates is inert and plunged in a state of torpor.  The quality of Sattva leads towards the divine and Tamas towards the demonic, while in between these two stands Rajas.  The faith held, the food consumed, the  sacrifices performed, the austerities undergone and the gifts given by each individual vary in accordance with his predominating quality.  He that is born with tendencies towards the divine is fearless and pure.  He is generous and self-controlled, pursues the study of the self and he is non-violent, truthful and free from anger.  This type of Yogi renounces the fruits of his labor, working only for the sake of work and has a tranquil mind, with malice towards none and charity towards all, for he is free from craving.  He is gentle, modest and study, is illumined, clement and resolute, being free  from perfidy and pride. A man in whom the quality of mobility predominates has inner thirst and is affectionate, as he is passionate and covetous.  He that is born with demonic tendencies is deceitful, insolent and conceited.  He is full of wrath, cruelty and ignorance.  In such people there is neither purity, nor right conduct, nor truth.  They gratify their passions and bewildered by numerous desires and caught in the web of delusion.   

The working of the mind of persons with different predominating qualities may be illustrated by their different ways of approach towards a universal commandment like 'Thou shall not covet'.  A man in whom the dark and restraining quality predominates might interpret it thus: others should not covet what is mine, no matter how I obtained it.  If they do, I shall destroy them.  The quality of mobility or activity type is a calculating self-interested person who would construe the commandment as meaning: 'I will not covet others' goods lest they covet mine.  He will follow the letter of the law as a matter of policy, but not the true spirit of the law as a matter of principal.  A person of the illuminating, pure or good quality temperament will follow both the  letter and the spirit of the precept as a matter of principal and not of policy, as a matter of eternal  value.  The Yogi who is also human is affected by these three qualities.  By his constant and disciplined study of himself and of the objects which his senses tend to pursue, he learns which thoughts, words and actions are prompted by Tamas and which by Rajas.  When the Illuminating, pure or good quality alone remains, the human soul has advanced a long way towards the ultimate goal.  

Like unto the pull of gravity is the pull of the quality.  As intensive research and rigorous discipline are needed to experience the wonder of weightlessness in space, so also a searching self-examination and the discipline furnished by Yoga is needed by a seeker to experience a union with the creator of space when he is freed from the pull of the quality.  Once an aspirant has experienced the fullness of creation or of the creator, his thirst for objects of sense vanishes and he looks at them ever after with dispassion.  He treats the two imposters triumph and disaster with equanimity.  He has emancipated himself from these pairs of opposites.  He has passed beyond the pull of the qualities and has become a one who has transcended the qualities.  He is then free from birth and death, from pain and sorrow and becomes immortal.  He has no self-identity as he lives experiencing the fullness of the Universal soul.  Such a man, scorning nothing, leads all things to the path of perfection.  

   


 
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