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An Essay on
© 2008 by Academic Services International, Los Lunas, NM, USA
Raja Yoga - Continued
5. Pratyahara ("introspection"): Pratyahara really means "removing indriyas [tentacles] from material objects." This is the stage in which a yogi controls the tentacles of consciousness that are called indriyas in Sanskrit.
Pratyahara is possibly the most difficult stage to describe due to many historical mis-translations and inherited mis-understandings.
It has been translated as Introspection, Abstraction, Withdrawal, Sublimation, Drawing Back, Retreat, Control of the Senses, Inhibition, Internalization, Looking Inward and Cutting the Ties that Bind.
.These terms all imply that the practitioner turns his or her attention away from the external world and looks inward.
The concept of indriyas exists only in the Indian spiritual culture. Westerners, calling upon their sometimes simple, and sometimes complex, religious ideas, are often incapable of understanding this concept. Even when translating from the Indian languages, they almost always substitute senses for the word indriyas, and the term comes to lose its original meaning.
The most common translation of pratyahara is control over the senses. However, the senses are not all that is included in the term indriyas, for indriyas also includes the mind. The image of tentacles associated with the word indriyas gives rise to a subtle understanding of how the mind functions, as well as the methods for controlling it.
Whenever we think about something or someone, the mind creates its own indriyas. Highly sensitive people can sense other peoples indriyas touching them. In some cases, they can even see the indriyas and are thus able to influence them.
This concept also suggests how martial artists can sense the nature and timing of an attack, and are thus able to successfully defend against it.
Indeed, concentration on any object via any sense organ, or with the mind, is energetically the same as extending a tentacle to it from ones body. These tentacles are also described, by clairvoyants who can see them, as streamers, cords or ribbons.
One of the techniques that a practitioner must learn is how to draw all the indriyas away from the material world, and from any mental thoughtforms, and gaze inwards. Then one is free to extend the indriyas into inner awareness in order to embrace the primordial consciousness.
This allows the yogi to see into the subtle (supra-mental) layers of multidimensional space, as well as to exit the physical body into these subtle layers, and to be in them, accustoming himself to their qualities.
Notes: When we are completely engaged in regulating the breath in pranayama, pratyahara automatically occurs - to a certain extent. In this case, the mind has become so occupied with the breath control, that all links between the mind, the senses, and any external objects (that do not involve the breath) are cut off.
A person experiences pratyahara, to a certain degree, just before drifting off to sleep and upon awakening. There is an awareness of what is happening externally, and there is also a greatly reduced influence from the senses and the mind. One should be ably to enter a similar state at any time of the day by practicing pratyahara.
A practitioner who is influenced by outside events and sensations, and by mental thoughtforms, can never achieve oneness with the primordial consciousness (the Adi.).
The essence of Pratyahara is to gain a reasonably effective power of inhibition over any type of thought. The yogi will probably persist for weeks and months, examining thoughtforms while attempting to suppress or "cut" them.
There are techniques for stopping (inhibiting) thoughts. There are also techniques for actually cutting (severing) the tentacles (indriyas). Both of these can be correlated with the magical concept of "banishing."
Eventually, this "cutting" or "stopping" power will manifest in full force all at once, just like the "result" in Asana. Without losing any power of observation, the mind will suddenly stop. This has also been called "Stopping the World." Success in this practice is accompanied by a genuine sense of peace and tranquility.
This process is also known as Escape from the Matrix. The Matrix is the multi-dimensional, holographic illusion that we call "external reality."
< Link to Escape from the Matrix website
Regardless of whether the "stopping" power is partially or fully acquired, the practitioner will (sooner or later) advance to the next phase: Dharana, which is concentrating the mind on a single object . . .