An excerpt from Babaji Bob Kindler’s Raja Yoga Email Class. The topic is the fifth limb of Yoga, Pratyahara, which requires the withdrawal of the senses and mind from objects. The final three limbs of Yoga (concentration, meditation, and Samadhi) are impossible without Pratyahara. Thus, this is the pivotal limb of Yoga, attaining which, the practioner begins to qualify him or herself for true Yoga.
Raja Yoga Sutra II:55
tatah parama vashyatendriyanam
in this way; parama,
control of the senses). “This is how pratyahara allows for the attainment of ultimate sense-control.”
As was mentioned in one of the answers to questions included at the beginning of this lesson, what pratyahara is to the eight-limbed system of Yoga, viveka/vairagya is to Vedanta. The final aim and end is to possess a mind which is so calm, so naturally inclined towards naturalness, so flexible, that more than just detaching from objects around it, it can verily attach and detach at will. Thus, the beginner is concerned with pulling the senses back from their objects using the growing will-power of the mind, while the intermediate practitioner is already enjoying some of the benefits of detachment such as periods of peace and calm, the will to concentrate in spurts and starts, and insight into the changing nature of all phenomena, though fear of falling out of Yoga and away from the path is still threatening. But it is at the apex of this limb of practice that the adept finds an innate ability to leave the objects as they are, and find a deeper satisfaction in merely abiding with them. As Sri Krishna states in the Gita, “The yogi who abides calmly, knowing that the gunas of prakriti simply abide naturally with the sense objects, is a free and happy man.”
Thus, knowledge wins the day again, granting its equanimity-conferring vibration upon the sedulous seeker.
And above the three platforms of beginner, intermediate, and adept, stands the pinnacle occupied by the illumined soul. What does pratyahara look like here? Like samadhi; what else? Every piece of the practice that this soul underwent in previous lifetimes is now brought to bear on life and mind in a realization that is full to overbrimming. To describe this in the language of Sri Ramakrishna, “This world is described by the ignorant as a place of fun and games, by the reformers as a whirlpool of delusion and destruction, and is explained away by the jnanis as a mere illusory appearance. But this same world is pointed out by the paramahamsas as a mansion of mirth! Why should I renounce the world, then, and give up things. Here I can sing, dance, and be merry.”
The Great Master’s incomparable bliss is the result of His natural renunciation, wherein seeing everything as Brahman has effortlessly taken away any thought of control or rejection. May such boundless joy and uninhibited acceptance dawn upon the minds of all who, after learning the steps and lessons which Raja Yoga has to teach, will meditate deeply within upon the Reality called Brahman which is at once the source and transcendence of all manifestation. To join this class, send us your email or address.