Pratyahara – Withraw the senses from the sense objects

When we observe the practice of Silence or Mauna, we are restraining the mind from going out through the senses to chase after the objects of the senses, of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations and thoughts, and thus reducing comparisons, judgments, expectations, imaginations, anticipations, projections, scheming, plotting, arguments, justification, and etc.

This is part of the yoga practice of Pratyahara – Withdrawal of the senses from the objects of the senses.

When one limits or reduces the activities of the sense organs and the senses, the mind has less objects to perceive, to compare, to judge, to comment, to argue, to generate likes and dislikes, to generate agreements and disagreements, to generate desires of wants and don’t wants, to expect, to be disturbed, to be restless, and thus it helps to allow the mind to quiet down to the maximum.

It is being care ‘less’ about the world and the surrounding beings and things. Most important it is being care ‘less’ towards what the mind thinks and feels. Some might think and judge that this is a ‘selfish’ behavior or practice for being ‘uncaring’ for what is going on in our surrounding environment, about other beings and happenings. But it is not so at all.

This is a great noble action to take care the well-being of oneself, so that when one is liberated from ignorance and realize unconditional love and peace, one can contribute to the society by being at peace, without generating disharmony and violence in oneself or into the surrounding atmosphere. And hence, one is able to care for the world efficiently.

The untrained mind is always chasing after the objects of names and forms to be stimulated, to enjoy, to be existing, to express, to be acknowledged, to take pleasure in the sense objects of names and forms.

Whether intentionally or unintentionally, the mind wants to see, hear, smell, taste, touch and think, unceasingly chasing one after another one. It is always busy with seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and thinking. And thus the mind is ever restless. Restless state of mind doesn’t allow the mind to see the truth as it is.

And hence, in the beginning, we need to limit and reduce the inputs of names and forms to quiet the mind, by withdrawing or retreating the senses from the sense objects, to allow the mind to have a break from seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and thinking, to have moments of stillness to see the truth. When the mind starts to see the truth as it is, then there is no need to limit any kinds of inputs, as the mind won’t be chasing after the objects of names and forms anymore.

The mind is aware of all the sense objects of names and forms perceived through the senses, but without generate attachment, identification, clinging, craving or aversion. It doesn’t take pleasure in the sense objects anymore, it doesn’t need to be acknowledged, to be stimulated, to be existing, but it is resting in peace, in silence.

Om shanti.

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Why do we practice yoga?

Yoga practice is for all types of people or beings with different characteristics, personalities, believes, motives and expectations or desires…

Whatever we think yoga is, whatever we want yoga to be, or however we want to be benefited from yoga practice, whether for selfish intention or for selfless intention, it is fine. Yoga is there for us for anything that we desire (what we want) or do not desire (what we don’t want)…

Some people do the yoga asana exercises as a fitness exercise to look good and feel good; for sustaining and improving physical and mental health and fitness; for slimming or to put on weight; for countering illnesses; for easier breathing; for detoxification remove toxic substances from our system; for countering stress; for better quality of sleep; for rehabilitation from physical and emotional injuries; for having better body alignments and posture; for over-all beauty and sense of well-being; for personal satisfaction and achievements; for passing time; for removing boredom or loneliness; for building self-esteem or confidence; for coming out from certain addictions; for healing purposes; for exploring and unfolding “things” beyond what our mind can perceive; for playing with the energy fields in our body; for attaining calmness and peacefulness; for relaxation; for creativity; for self-image; for socializing; for finding the better half; for pleasing somebody; for humanity; for ourselves; for the world; for being able to stand on our hands and our head, or to be able to bring our feet towards our head from behind; or mainly out of curiosity to try it out, since it is quite a popular “thing to do” and “topic to gossip about”; for fun; or just to do “something”, and etc…

Some people do yoga asana for the purpose of balancing, purifying and calming the energy fields; stimulating and energizing the energy centres; unblocked any energy blockage; channeling the energy for higher spiritual realization; generate and conserving energy; changing the habits of the mind; changing how the mind feels and thinks; developing concentration, awareness and mindfulness; developing non-identification with the body and mind, letting go of the ego; letting go of judgment, comparison and expectation; letting go of pride and arrogance; letting go of discontentment and greed; letting go of craving and aversion; letting go of frustration, anger and hatred; developing patience, forbearance, non-attachment, adjustment, adaptation, accommodation, cheerfulness, vitality, acceptance, and etc; being in the present moment now, accepting the present moment now as it is, accepting ourselves as we are in the present moment now as it is; letting go of physical, mental and emotional tensions; letting go of jealousy, dissatisfaction, disappointment, anxiety, agitation, depression, negative thinking, low self-esteem, fear and worry; removing restlessness; purifying the mind remove impurities, and etc…, as part of the yoga practice, to prepare the body and mind for meditation to contemplate on the Truth of who we really are, to realize selflessness or compassion, and be free from ignorance and suffering that derived from ignorance, and realize eternal and unconditional peace, transcending birth and death, worldly existence, names and forms, qualities and dualities…

Beside the yoga asana as part of yoga practice, yoga practice consists of but not limiting to – observing ethical moral conducts (Yama & Niyama); restraining wants and desires; renunciation from worldly activities; renounce from the fruit of actions; restricting senses inputs; controlling the thoughts, actions and speech; performing Japas, Bhajans, Kirtans, chantings and prayers; performing Kriyas; study and contemplating on the Yoga Scriptures or the teachings of yoga; practice loving kindness, forgiveness, tolerance, honesty, truthfulness, simplicity, compassion, wisdom, dispassion, detachment, solitude, silence, austerity, celibacy, selfless service, faith and devotion towards the Truth and the universal consciousness, breath control – Pranayama, withdrawal of the senses from the objects of the senses – Pratyahara, concentration – Dharana, meditation – Dhyana, and annihilation of the mind – Samadhi…

There are also many other unlimited intentions, motives and expectations in people who practice yoga or just the yoga asana exercises, such as :-

To teach yoga exercises as livelihood, or to start yoga school(s) or yoga centre(s) as a money making business, to attain wealth, name and fame, or mainly to share the greatness of yoga with many other beings…

To train the body and mind to be able to do some artistic or acrobatic moves for show performances, or as personal achievement and satisfaction, or for entertainment, or for competition, or for taking photos or making videos to share with others or to make some profits, or for any other reasons…

To enhance memories, brains activities, mind’s clarity, productivity and creativity…

To improve relationship, quality of life and quality of work…

To be able to sleep better, to balance up imbalanced hormones, to deal with everyday stress and frustration…

To tap the power of thoughts to make our wishes come true…

To let go of physical, mental or emotional pain, hurts and suffering…

To be a better person or human being…

To be able to say “no” without feeling guilty…

To be open-minded…

To be able to receive and give…

To be able to love and receive love…

To accept ourselves…

To be ourselves…

To love ourselves…

To be kind and compassionate towards ourselves and other beings…

To be what we want to be even if we think we are not “good” at it…

To be happy…

To be truly confident…

To know the truth of suffering…

To know the truth of existence…

To know who we really are…

To connect with the source in us…

To be pure…

To be free, to be liberated…

For humanity and world peace…

Or just be…

Om shanti.

The practice of mind control (Raja Yoga) – renunciation and silence

There are many different types of personalities or temperaments in those who are interested in learning and practicing the ancient techniques of how to control the mind and how to be really peaceful and happy through the path of yoga and meditation.

It doesn’t matter what type of personality that we have, some of us (the mind and the ego) might prefer a passionate outgoing life and like to be active and sociable, some of us might prefer to live a quiet inner life and have less social activities for conserving energy and focus on yoga and meditation practice for Self-realization, and some of us find a balance point between the active sociable outgoing life and the quiet inner life (this exists in those who have self-discipline and self-control).

There is nothing wrong with all these different types of temperaments in different people.

That’s why there are many different paths in yoga to suit all types of temperaments people.

People who are outgoing and like to be active and sociable are suitable for Karma Yoga (the path of selfless action or renounce from the fruit of action) and Bhakti Yoga (the path of devotion).

People who are not outgoing are suitable for Raja Yoga (the path of mind control) and Jnana Yoga (the path of wisdom).

All paths are not separated from each other and will lead to mental peace, contentment and annihilation of the ego (selflessness and compassion) if the practice is being performed with correct attitude and effort. You’ll see Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Raja Yoga in connection with each other. You’ll be practicing all these paths at the same time when you come to the state of purity and selflessness.

But, no matter which type of yoga or what type of path, the practice of non-attachment, dispassion and right discrimination, having intense yearning for liberation and the cultivation of the sixfold paths – tranquility of mind, control of the senses, satiety (renounce from worldly objects, enjoyments and activities), the power of endurance and forbearance, immovable faith (in God for those who believe in God or in Self for those who disbelieve in God, in the teacher, in the teachings), and indifference (balance of mind or equanimity), are the essential basic qualities or cultivation in a Sadhaka or Yogi.

The path of mind control is to turn the outgoing mind inward and make the mind introspective.

In order to achieve this inward state of mind, the observation of Self-restraint (control of our own thoughts, action and speech), morality, silence (Mauna) and celibacy (control of sexual desire), the practice of Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses from the objects of the senses) and one-pointedness of mind (concentration), lessening the number of thoughts, the cultivation of mental non-attachment and reduction of wants and desires, avoid too much talking or walking, avoid too much eating or fasting, avoid too much physical activities, avoid too much mixing with worldly minded people, avoid novel and newspaper-reading, avoid visiting cinemas or movies watching, develop Antarmukha-Vritti (making the outgoing tendency of the mind turn inward upon itself), and etc, all these are the very important practice in the path of yoga and meditation.

These practice are not just to purify and calming the mind, but also to conserve energy and channel the externalizing energy turn inward for spiritual Sadhana to realize the Truth.

All these practice can be performed and should be performed while living in the midst of the distracting world of names and forms. If we only can observe these practice while in an Ashram or in a retreat centre for a short period of time, but once we go back into the worldly life, we cannot or do not follow and continue all these practice, and are constantly being distracted and disturbed by all the names and forms, then whatever practice we perform will not bring us to the real peace (free from doubts, ignorance, fear and worry).

At one moment we might feel peaceful and at some other times, we might feel unpeaceful and restless due to the fluctuation of the mind activities or mental thought-waves (come from all the inputs – perception of names and forms through the senses; and outputs – expression of ideas, thoughts, feelings, emotions and egoism through action and speech, physically and mentally).

Yoga and meditation is to starve the mind or deprive the mind from activities (ideas and thoughts) by Vairagya and Tyaga (renunciation of desires, objects and egoism).

But this type of inner life is being criticized by the passionate worldly people as “anti-social”. But a true Yogi or Sadhaka is not a bit disturbed nor moved by this type of criticism that comes from the worldly minded people, it’s because they cannot understand the importance of the practice of renunciation and silence, and they have not yet experience the eternal and real inner peace that comes from renunciation and silence. Worldly minded passionate people seek after the momentary and conditional satisfaction and happy feelings that come from doing the things and getting the objects that we want and like. There is nothing wrong with this. But when things don’t turn out the way that we want them to be, we’ll get disappointed, frustrated and unhappy, forever restless being influenced and over-powered by all the attachments, and the craving and aversion in our own mind.

When the mind is rendered pure, calm and at peace, undisturbed nor distracted by all the names and forms, then this Yogi or Sadhaka can mix freely in the world to perform selfless service but will not be influenced nor affected by the world and the fruit of action, as he is firmly established in non-attachment and renunciation. He can be truly compassionate when he knows non-attachment and renunciation. He won’t be disturbed nor affected by the result of his compassionate actions. There is no difference between respectful and disrespectful, success and failure, good and bad beings, censure and praise, happiness and suffering. He is unconditioned by all the names and forms of good and bad.

Be free. Be really peaceful and happy.

Om shanti.

When the outgoing tendencies of the mind are arrested, when the mind is restrained within the heart, when all its attention is turned on itself alone, that condition is Antarmukha-Vritti. The Sadhaka can do a lot of Sadhana when he has this inward Vritti. Vairagya and introspection help a lot in the attainment of this mental state.

He who has controlled his mind is really happy and free.

Concentration and Meditation – Swami Sivananda