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Yoga Sutras 2.54-2.55: Pratyahara or Sense Withdrawal; Rung #5 of 8

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  • Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati
    Yoga Sutras 2.54-2.55 PRATYAHARA OR SENSE WITHDRAWAL, RUNG #5 OF 8 http://www.swamij.com/yoga-sutras-25455.htm (Useful graphics are at this link)
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 10, 2006
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      Yoga Sutras 2.54-2.55
      PRATYAHARA OR SENSE WITHDRAWAL, RUNG #5 OF 8
      http://www.swamij.com/yoga-sutras-25455.htm
      (Useful graphics are at this link)

      ************************
      YOGA SUTRAS 2.54-2.55:
      ************************

      When the mental organs of senses and actions (indriyas) cease to be
      engaged with the corresponding objects in their mental realm, and
      assimilate or turn back into the mind-field from which they arose,
      this is called pratyahara, and is the fifth step. Through that
      turning inward of the organs of senses and actions (indriyas) also
      comes a supreme ability, controllability, or mastery over those
      senses inclining to go outward towards their objects.

      WITHDRAWING THE SENSES:

      Pratyahara is the withdrawal of the senses (indriyas) of cognition
      and action from both the external world and the images or impressions
      in the mind field (2.54). The senses are said to follow the mind in
      the same way the hive of bees follows the queen bee. Wherever she
      goes, they will follow. Similarly, if the mind truly goes inward, the
      senses will come racing behind. Pratyahara is rung 5 of the 8 rungs.

      GAINING MASTERY OVER THE SENSES:

      Our senses seem to drag us around in the external world, whether
      pursuing material objects, food, or circumstances related to
      professional, social, or economic life. Through the routine practice
      of pratyahara at daily meditation time, we gradually gain positive
      control (2.55) over the mind being obsessively drawn towards all of
      those objects. This is a further refinement of minimizing the
      coloring of the mind field (2.1-2.9), and the third Niyama, which is
      Tapas, or training the senses (2.43).

      FIRST COMES POSTURE AND PREATH:

      Sense withdrawal, pratyahara, rests on the solid foundation of a
      steady, comfortable meditation posture (2.46-2.48), and smooth, deep,
      quiet breath that has no pauses (2.49-2.53). Without these two steps,
      sense withdrawal becomes a battle. With posture and breath regulated,
      pratyahara comes much more naturally.

      PREPARING FOR SAMYAMA:

      Meditation posture, regulation of prana, and withdrawal of the senses
      collectively set the stage for the higher practices of concentration
      (3.1), meditation (3.2), and samadhi (3.3), which are together called
      samyama (3.4). Samyama is the finer tool of the inner journey, and is
      the reason for doing the first five rungs.


      *******************
      YOGA SUTRA 2.54:
      *******************

      When the mental organs of senses and actions (indriyas) cease to be
      engaged with the corresponding objects in their mental realm, and
      assimilate or turn back into the mind-field from which they arose,
      this is called pratyahara, and is the fifth step.
      (sva vishaya asamprayoge chittasya svarupe anukarah iva indriyanam
      pratyaharah)

      sva = their own
      vishaya = objects, region, spheres, realms, fields
      asamprayoge = not coming into contact with, non-conjunction,
      cessation of engagement
      chittasya = of the mind field
      svarupe = own form, own nature (sva = own; rupe = form, nature)
      anukarah = imitate, resemble, follow, be engaged with
      iva = like, as though, as it were
      indriyanam = mental organs of actions and senses (indriyas)
      pratyaharah = withdrawal of the indriyas (the senses), bringing inward

      See also the extensive article:
      Training the Ten Senses or Indriyas
      http://www.swamij.com/indriyas.htm

      SENSE WITHDRAWAL IS A MENTAL FUNCTION:

      Withdrawing the senses does not mean just regulating the physical
      sense organs, such as closing the eyelids or sitting physically
      still. The senses are a mental function, and whenever that mental
      function is drawn to the objects of the mind field, there is active
      engagement of the senses. It doesn't really matter whether that
      mental object is coming from the outside (such as through the eyes),
      or arising from the memory. It is this internal withdrawal of sensory
      attention to the mental objects that is the process of pratyahara.

      INDRIYAS ARE SENSES AND ACTIONS:

      The senses that are withdrawn in pratyahara are called indriyas, and
      involve both cognition and expression. There are five means of
      cognition and five means of expression, and these are each aligned
      with the lower five chakras. It is extremely important point to
      understand that senses or indriyas means cognition and expression.
      There is an indwelling witness and an external world, and we are
      wanting to temporarily suspend all interaction (sensory and
      expression) with the external, so as to experience the depths of
      meditation. In addition to temporarily suspend external contact, we
      also want to temporarily suspend sensory contact with the images and
      impressions that arise in the mental field or on the mental screen.
      This pratyahara allows the depth of the last three rungs of Yoga to
      come (3.1-3.3).

      CESSATION OF ENGAGEMENT, NOT SUPPRESSION:

      Sense withdrawal means that the senses cease to be engaged or
      connected to the objects traveling in the train of the mind. It does
      not mean the suppression, repression, or stopping of those thoughts.
      They may naturally slow down or decrease to some degree, but the
      method itself is to break the contact, to cease connecting with the
      thought patterns. This means allowing thoughts to flow without
      interruption, while the senses are simply not diverted into those
      thoughts.

      See the article on Intentionally Inviting Thoughts
      http://www.swamij.com/inviting.htm

      FOLLOWING THE QUEEN BEE:

      The senses are said to follow the mind in the same way the hive of
      bees follows the queen bee. Wherever she goes, they will follow.
      Similarly, if the mind truly goes inward, the senses will come racing
      behind.

      UNWILLINGNESS TO WITHDRAW THE SENSES:

      It is very common for people to be completely unwilling to withdraw
      the senses, even to the point of intense anger at any suggestion to
      do so. We can so cling to our sensory experience and the senses
      themselves that we might insist that being in nature is called
      meditation, that listening to music is called meditation, or that
      having internal visions is called meditation.

      CLINGING TO SENSING ITSELF:

      Clinging to the senses does not just mean that we are engaged with
      the objects of the external world. Withdrawal of the senses for
      meditation does not just meaning closing the eyes and sitting in a
      quiet room. Rather, the clinging has to do with attachment to the
      process of sensing itself, and withdrawal of the senses literally
      means the cessation of seeking the sensing experiences through those
      senses, in relation to both external physical objects and internal
      mental objects. It means suspending all use of the inner instruments
      of smelling, tasting, seeing, touching and hearing, whether directed
      to the outer or the inner.

      DIVIDING LINE BETWEEN TRUE MEDITATION AND MERE RELAXATION:

      The willingness or unwillingness to be open to this withdrawal is a
      significant dividing line between those who experience the depths of
      meditation and those who merely achieve some degree of mental
      relaxation. Very few will opt for the depths of meditation, which
      comes with sense withdrawal or pratyahara. Others will pretend they
      are meditating, even writing books about meditation, while actually
      experiencing only the surface levels of physical relaxation.


      *******************
      YOGA SUTRA 2.55:
      *******************

      Through that turning inward of the organs of senses and actions
      (indriyas) also comes a supreme ability, controllability, or mastery
      over those senses inclining to go outward towards their objects.
      (tatah parama vashyata indriyanam)

      tatah = then, thereby, thence, from that
      parama = highest, supreme, ultimate, perfected
      vashyata = mastery, control, being willed
      indriyanam = of the mental organs of actions and senses (indriyas)

      PRACTICE REDUCES SENSORY INCLINATIONS:

      The repeated practice of pratyahara at meditation time brings a
      generalized lessening of the inclination of the senses being drawn
      towards and into the objects of the mind field. As the tendency
      towards the mental objects decreases with practice, the degree of
      mastery (vashyata) increases to its highest (parama) level.

      MASTERY OVER INCLINATION TOWARDS OBJECTS:

      As the inclination of the senses towards the mental objects is
      mastered, there also comes regulation in relation to the physical
      objects of the world as well.

      LIKE BREAKING A BAD HABIT:

      Think of some bad habit you want to break. If you just stop the
      external action, the continued inner desire might lead to
      frustration. It is better that the mental habit is broken and then
      the physical action part of the habit comes naturally as a result of
      the mental control. In other words, if the mental sensory engagement
      does not happen, neither will the physical. For meditation,
      temporarily breaking the connection between the senses and their
      objects allows the attention to be able to focus and go inward.

      Useful graphics are at this link:
      http://www.swamij.com/yoga-sutras-25455.htm

      http://swamij.com
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