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1.35 The Real-Surreal-Connections

Updated: Feb 15, 2023


Vishayavati va pravritti-rutpanna manasah sthitini-bandhini

विषयवती वा प्रवृत्तिरुत्पन्ना मनसः स्थितिनिबन्धिनी ॥१.३५॥

Viṣayavati̅ va̅ pravr̥ttirutpanna̅ manasaḥ sthitinibandhini̅ ||1.35||

Or else, the mind can be stabilised by arresting it in a sensory experience/object.

“Nothing can satisfy the soul but the senses, and nothing can satisfy the senses but the soul.”

- Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Take a minute and mentally picture the first 15 minutes after you wake up every day.

What is it like? Waking up to an alarm(s), looking at your phone, rubbing your hands together (if it is cold), and brushing your teeth to get rid of the bad breath and foul taste. The rest of the day is spent observing, speaking, listening, tasting and touching. After crashing to sleep (for many of you, it happens after your phone crashes into your face), the senses do not let you be even in your sleep – you dream.

We are a generation with all forms of sensory objects at instant disposal. We can work from our homes, even on our phones, and entertain ourselves to all kinds of media anywhere, anytime. Where is the opportunity to be without a sensory object in our mental experience? It is not possible for most of us to simply give up all sensory object even for 20 minutes a day because a book or a teacher said so.

In this sutra, the beauty of Yoga as a path of acceptance and growth is revealed. Instead of prophesying certain doom for those who cannot do without their sensory objects, Maharishi Patanjali gives a way to use the sensory object itself for stabilising the mind from which it may start on the path of disassociating with the vrittis. There are many techniques that use the sensory object for steadying the mind. One of them is Trataka.

In Trataka, an object is chosen (usually a candle flame) for the eyes to gaze at without blinking for as long as possible. The practice can be performed for as short a time period as 30 seconds – it depends on how long can a person gaze unblinkingly without feeling strain in their eyes. With time and practice, a person may be able to hold the gaze for 30 minutes. This is Bahir Trataka (external Trataka). The goal of the practice is to be able to view the object on the mental screen with eyes closed – Antar Trataka (internal Trataka). It Is thus advised not to change the object once it is chosen, otherwise the mind is not able to grasp onto the object and visualise it. Even if a person is not aiming for spiritual progress, the practice of Trataka is supremely beneficial for relieving stress, and managing disorders like insomnia.

Bringing the mind under control using sound is a common practice in many religions. You must have heard meditation music which is usually flute music. Kirtans and Satsang are a common occurrence in temples and ashrams around the world. Usually in bhajans, only one word is repeated. It slowly gathers the mind and allows it to settle. The mind slowly dissolves into the word and moves into transcendental state of awareness.

There are other techniques also involving the sense of touch and taste, but they are advanced and must be learned from a Master. The sutra settles the minds of aspirants who are struggling to simply sit still without any sensory stimulation. Do not worry, the senses can be a medium towards achieving spiritual progress.

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