Pratyahara From Material World To Spiritual Accomplishment
Pratyahara is the fifth pillar of “Ashtaang Yog”, propounded by ancient Indian sage—Patanjali. Its literary meaning is to withdraw or going-back. We know that all the body openings are towards outside, so all the sense organs are for outside perceptions and connect the inner existence to the outer world. It is essential in a very limited sense of existence and safety of the life. We also have two inner faculties, essential for the human life, “mann” (Mind) and “chitta”. Former is for the outer/worldly perceptions, coordination, and interpretations, on account of the messages/learning, received from the five sense organs and later one is for the inward (spiritual) contact of this human configuration with the “Soul” or Atma-Tatva. Out of the two, outer (mental) approach is easy but inner (chitta) approach is difficult. Therefore human life has a tendency to be more inside-out (extrovert) then outside-in (introvert).
It is on account of this natural tendency that mankind has more knowledge-bank of outside-world and very less (or negligible) of the inside-world. It is as per the basic principles of human growth and evolution that “more you become the way you use yourself”. Therefore, pratyahara is using the sense organs against the common/natural flow so that they become largely de-conditioned of their worldly perceptions (pleasures) and become available for inward use of “Self-Realisation”. Scientifically, it is to use them more for “chitta” then for the “Mind”. This reverse use of sense-organs is “pratyahara”.
For self-realisation it is essential that there are no external distractions. It is possible only when the general sense of sensory perceptions, for different physical pleasures and worldly attainments is mellowed down. It is possible only after a very strict and sustained practice to control our longing for different pleasures, which are being felt on account of the sensory perceptions. It kicks off a vicious circle, in which we try to have more and more physical (sense organ generated) pleasure. It gives birth to a conditioned thought process, to lead a life for sustained pleasures and therefore never permits the instruments of perception to be used for inner-realisation and attachment. Therefore there is a need to control/interrupt this process. Here is the need and importance of pratyahara.
In day-to-day life, it simply means to curtail the requirements of life. A simple life, using very minimum and basic resources, but committed for a spiritual value system and social service, is the practical form of pratyahara. Probably, it is in this reference that king Janak was called “Videh”, even having all worldly comforts of the earth. An eminent philosopher has rightly said that “those are not great who have maximum of all resources but those who use minimum of them, for self”. Therefore, pratyahara is a time tested tool for a successful, purposeful and rewarding life. Each one of us may take a fresh look of this wonderful practice, for making a difference in our life.
By Dr Dipak Shukla