Pratyāhāra is successful stepping back

Post By: Published on: November 25, 2016 Reading time: 5 minutes

What is pratyāhāra (withdrawal) and how is it related to consciousness and sense control.

Importantly, our identity depends on the stimulus-response cycle to reinforce existence. Consequently, if our sense of identity is isolated suddenly, we could experience extreme fear and anxiety at the loss of consciousness of identity. Hence, complete and sudden isolation of the identity is neither advisable or possible without severe psychological damage. Therefore, according to classical yoga, practice of pratyāhāra and withdrawal of the senses will need to be in stages through reflection and practice.

Pratyāhāra and computer systems.

We can compare ourselves to a computer.

  • Firstly, we are born with a certain configuration – we can be a 8, 16, 32, 64, 132 or 256 bit machine, with varying RAM or hard disk capacity. This is our DNA.
  • Then, when we are started, our start up software can only cry – when we are hungry or uncomfortable.
  • Importantly, our operating system (OS) is loaded by our parents from age 0 to 4. This is dharma or conditioning or what will become our natural state.
  • Furthermore, on this OS is loaded various software’s which we will use to interact with the world. This is loaded primarily at school by our teachers, friends and family between the ages of 4 and 12.
Then we go out into the world…
  • As we begin interaction with other machines and evolve, we load and learn to use our software programmes. Subsequently, we develop our sense of Self or asmitā.
  • Slowly, as we age and increase our ability to transact with other machines, we are attached to a server. Thereafter, we begin to operate, first taking instructions and slowly progress to being a server ourselves. Obviously, our progress depends on our capability and awareness.
  • By now, we have changed, added and used a lot of programmes and applications, our contact list is huge. Also, we are networked to a wide web called society, following strict protocols of operation.
  • However, over time, we begin slowing down because, though we may have a very good configuration, we have loaded ourselves with a lot of outdated software and do not have the capability of processing the new information. Also, there is a drop in performance and though we try, we are often discarded for newer machines or relegated to less significant roles. Consequently, by this stage, many of us are also dissatisfied with the way the network is operating and are seeking new solution.

Self-improvement using kriya-yoga, reflection and computer maintenance.

Yama – we regulate our interaction with the network.

  • First, we stop trying to respond to all data coming in.
  • Also, if the situation does not require direct intervention, then we must learn to step back from involvement.
  • Importantly, where possible, choose your battles, we learn to say NO!
  • If possible, we disconnect from as many servers as possible and stay connected only with the important ones. Free time and space for more valuable work.
  • Additionally, we must update critical software regularly.
  • Lastly, while interacting with our environment, we must ensure that we don’t spread malware!

Niyama – here we speed up our system capabilities.

  • Firstly, we remove programmes, files and folders not in use, or have no value. Also, we free up RAM and disk space.
  • Initially, may back up and store our files in an external disc but ultimately, we get rid of it.
  • We load new programmes, more relevant to our current state and environment
  • Importantly, our drive needs to be optimised. So, we should curb our ambitions to more sustainable levels.
  • Additionally, we get out of smaller and non-value adding networks. Stop watching TV.
  • Lastly, we learn new and key skills regularly which ensures that we are fresh always.

Āsana – yoga for fitness and system health are related.

  • Importantly, perform defragmentation regularly.
  • Next, ensure segments are aligned and dead segments isolated for optimum performance.
  • Lastly, watch system temperature and other hardware parameters for good health.

Prāṇāyāma – keeping the system in a flow.

  • Clean virus regularly,

How does pratyāhāra impact awareness (prajñā)?

So, we can see that pratyāhāra is a classical yoga technique of isolating the Self from the surroundings and yama, niyamaāsana and prāṇāyāma are preparatory actions which ensure control of the senses.

As expertise in yama and niyama increases, our need for proving ourselves to society decreases, personal ambitions abate. Slowly, as consequences of our actions become irrelevant to our sense of self-worth (asmitā), anxiety and fear reduce in incidence and intensity. Practice of āsana and prāṇāyāma bring increased fitness and a awareness of the body and it’s functioning. Slowly, the practitioner becomes rooted in the Self, and this is pratyāhāra.

What are the changes brought about by pratyāhāra?

Situation Conditioning (svadharma) Behaviour (svabhāva)
Relationships Reduced dependence on others. Neither seeking nor rejecting
Confident in own self-worth (asmitā) Preferring own company
  • Unafraid of rejection.
  • No duality (like-dislike etc.)
  • Reduced need for praise.
  • Ability to handle praise with grace.
Increased discrimination (vivekam) and dispassion (vairāgyam) Non-judgemental
Stimulus Undisturbed by most inputs Balanced in outcome, harmonious reaction.
Food Measured food intake Not disturbed by hunger
Breathing Calm in all situations Deep equanimity
Body Capability of deep muscular relaxation Ability to reach deep homeostasis

School of yoga summarises reflection and pratyāhāra.

Importantly, we build capability on the configuration that we inherit. Over time, we layer these capabilities with applications, programmes and upgrades. Finally, our processing capability slows down, sometimes to a point where we become ineffective. Sometimes, we rediscover ourselves by adding capability, but often we find the need to transform ourselves. Patyāhāra is an exercise of eliminating these layers and learning to operate from first principles – our operating system.

Points to Ponder on pratyāhāra.

Internal Tags: Karma, Dharma (conditioning)Stress and Situational AwarenessStress and pranaAwareness measures, Bhakti Yoga fundamentals, Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga, Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga.

External Tags: Consciousness

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *