Chapter 9: Pratyahara or Abstraction
We are still in the outer court of yoga. Asana and pranayama form the exterior of yoga proper. The internal limbs are further onwards, which form its inner court. Pratyahara or the withdrawal of the sense-powers is where this inner circle begins. As asana is a help in pranayama, so is pranayama a help in pratyahara. Asana is steady physical posture; pranayama is the harmony or regularization of the energy within by proper manipulation of the breath. Pratyahara is the withdrawal of the powers of the senses from their respective objects. Pratyahara means 'abstraction' or 'bringing back'. As the rider on a horse would control its movements by operating the reins which he holds in his hands, the Yogi controls the senses by the practice of pratyahara. To gain an understanding of the reason behind pratyahara, we have to go back to our first lesson in yoga. Why should we restrain the senses at all, would be the question. Yoga is the technique of the realization of the universal. The individual is to be attuned to the cosmic, and this is the aim of yoga in essence. The senses act as obstructions in this effort. While the individual tries to unite itself with the universal, the senses try to separate it therefrom by diversification of interest. The main activity of the senses is to provide a proof that there is a world outside, while the yoga analysis affirms that there is really nothing outside the universal. When we try to think as the universal would think the senses prevent us from thinking that way and make us feel and act in terms of manifoldness and variety. This is where most people find a difficulty in meditation. The senses do not keep quiet when there is an attempt at meditation. They rather distract the powers in the system within and retard focussing of consciousness. The senses release the energy along different channels of activity, the main courses being the functions of seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and tasting. As long as we see the particular, we cannot believe in the universal. No one would believe in the existence of universality, because no one has seen it. The senses seem to be bent on creating a difference between the seer and the seen. The fact, however, is that there is no difference between the individual and the universal. The apparent difference has been created by the senses. One is hypnotized by them into an erroneous recognition. While one is omnipotent, they hypnotize one into the feeling of being impotent and one is made to undergo the pains of individuality. A millionaire can undergo the pains of penury in a dream. After a sumptuous meal, one may feel hungry in the dream-world. We have experience in dream of an expansive space, while we are confined within the four walls of a room. While we are in our own locality, we dream that we have flown to a distant land. A circumstance psychologically created becomes the cause of the difference in experience. Place, time and circumstances can be changed when the mind enters a different realm of consciousness. The senses in the dreaming state produce the illusion of an external world which is not there 'outside'. This means that we can see things even if they are not. It is not necessary that there should be a real world outside for us to see it. Dream makes the one individual appear as many. So two truths come to relief here: the one can become the many; and we can see a world which is not there.
This is exactly what is happening to us even in the waking state-the same law, the same rule of perception, the same experiential structure. That we see a world does not mean that it should really exist, though it has the reality of 'being perceived'. Only when we wake up from dream we learn what happened to us in dream, and not when we are in dream. Just as the senses of the dream-condition entangle us in an experience of the dream-world, the senses of the waking state do the same thing to us. When the dream-senses are withdrawn, we awake from dream; when the waking senses are withdrawn, we enter the universal reality. This is the reason why pratyahara is to be achieved in yoga, which is the way to the realization of universality. If we do not restrain the senses, we would be in the dream of the world. When we bring the senses back to their source, the bubble of individuality bursts into the ocean of the Absolute. We do not partake of the nature of the world even as we are not anything that we see in dream. Pratyahara is essential to wake up man from the long dream of world-perception. These are subtle truths to be meditated upon, which are purifying even to hear. Even if one hears these truths, one's sins will be destroyed. This is the necessity for the practice of sense-control. As long as the senses cling to their objects, we are in a world. Yoga rises above mere world-perception to universal consciousness. There are many methods of pratyahara. The texts hold these means as great secrets. No one should seek to do meditation without purity of heart. One is not to enter the path unless the preconditions are fulfilled. One should not merely force the mind into meditation without purified feelings. Desires frustrated are great dangers. To approach yoga with lurking desires would be like touching a bursting dynamite. Let the heart be free, for it is the heart that has to meditate and not merely the brain. Thought can achieve nothing when the heart is elsewhere and the feelings are directed to a different goal.
Pratyahara may be said to constitute the frontiers of yoga. When one practices pratyahara one is almost on the borderland of the Infinite, and here one has superphysical sensations. Here it is that the need for a Guru is mostly felt. Here again does one experience tremor of body, flitting of mind, sleepiness and overactivity of the senses. When we attempt pratyahara, the senses become more acute. More hunger, more passion, more susceptibility to irritation, oversensitiveness, are some of the early consequences of this practice in yoga. To illustrate this condition we may give an example: if we touch our body with a stick or even an iron rod, we do not feel it. But our eyes cannot bear the touch of even a silken fibre, because of the subtlety of the structure of the eyeballs. So subtle does the mind become that it remains susceptible to the slightest provocation, impact or exposure. In the stage of pratyahara we remain in a condition where we directly come into grips with the senses, as the police would come into a face-to-face confrontation with dacoits who were hiding themselves in ambush before and now fight with the police not even minding death. In a fight to death the strength of the fighting powers increases and gets redoubled at a pitch. If a snake, about to die in a struggle, bites a person, there is said to be no remedy, because its venom then becomes intensified in rage. The flame shoots up before passing out. Even so the senses, when they are grappled in pratyahara, become overactive, sensitive and tremendously powerful. Here the unwary student may have a fall. What is one to do when the senses become thus active and fierce? One cannot bear the sight of sense-objects in this condition and here it is that one should not be in the vicinity of these objects. While one lives a normal social life, nothing might appear especially tempting. But now, at the pratyahara stage, one becomes so sensitive that the senses may yield any moment. It is like walking on a razor's edge, sharp and cutting, fine and difficult to perceive. A little carelessness here might mean dangerous consequences. Subtle is the path of yoga, invisible to the eyes and hard to tread. The yamas and niyamas practiced earlier will be a help in this state. The great discipline one has undergone in the yamas and niyamas will guard one against the onslaught of the senses. Because of the student's honesty, God will help him out of the situation. This is the Mahabharata-war of practice, where one has to fight the sense-powers inclining to objects and enjoyments.
Pratyahara should also go side by side with vichara or a careful investigation of every psychological condition in the process. The senses easily mistake one thing for another. Samsara or world-existence is nothing but a medley of misjudgment of values. The senses cannot see Truth. Not only this; they see untruth. They mistake, says Patanjali, the non-eternal for the eternal, the impure for the pure, pain for pleasure and the non-Self for the Self. This is the fourfold blunder committed by the mind and the senses. There is nothing permanent in this world. Everything is passing, a truth that we all know very well. Everyone knows that the next moment is uncertain and yet we can see how much faith people repose in the future and what preparations they make even for fifty years ahead. There can be nothing stable in the world because of the impermanence of the whole cosmos caught up in the process of evolution. Yet man takes things as permanent entities. The senses cannot exactly see what is happening in front of them. They are like blindfolded persons who do not know what is kept before them. It was the Buddha who made it his central doctrine of proclamation that everything is transient, and yet, to the senses, everything seems to be permanent, which means that they cannot see reality. There is not the same water in a flowing river at any given spot. There is no continuous existence of a burning flame of fire. It is all motion of parts, jump of particles. Every cell of the body changes. Every atom of matter vibrates. Everything tends to something else. There is change alone everywhere. But to the senses there is no change anywhere and all things are solid. Wedded to this theory of the senses, man is not prepared to accept even his own impending death. So much is the credit for the wisdom of the senses.
The senses also take the impure for the pure. We think that this body of ours is beautiful and dear and other bodies connected with it are also dear. We hug things as beautiful formations not knowing that there is an essential impurity underlying their apparent beauty. To maintain the so-called beauty and purity of the body we engage ourselves daily in many routines like bathing, applying soap, cosmetics, etc., and when these are not done, we would see what the body is, really. The true nature of the body gets revealed if one does not attend to it for some days. This is the case with everything else, also, in the world. All things manifest their natures when no attention is paid to them. When the body is sick and starved it shows its true form. In old age, its real nature is visible. Such is the beauty of the body-borrowed, artificial, deceptive. Why do we not see the same beauty in the body affected with a deadly disease, or when it is dead? Where does our affection for the loved body go then? There is a confusion in the mind which sees things where they are not, and constructs values out of its imagination. There is an underlying ugliness which puts on the contour of beauty by exploiting it from some other source, and passes for a beautiful substance, just as a mirror shines by borrowing lustre from a light-it is light that shines and not the mirror, though we usually say that the mirror shines. We mistake one thing for another thing. The beauty does not belong to the body. It really belongs to something else which the senses and mind cannot visualize or understand. The yoga scriptures thus describe how this body is impure. From where has the body come? Go to its origin and you will realize how pure that place is. What happens to it when it is unattended to, when it is seriously ill, and when it is robbed of its pranas? Where is the beauty in the body from which the pranas have departed? Why do we not see beauty in a corpse? What was it that attracted us in the living body? The reports of the senses cannot be trusted.
We also mistake pain for pleasure. When we are suffering, we are made to think that we are enjoying pleasures. In psychoanalytic terms, this is comparable to a condition of masochism, wherein one enjoys suffering. One is so much in sorrow that the sorrowful condition itself appears as a satisfaction. Man never has known what is true bliss, what happiness is, what joy is. He is born in sorrow, lives in sorrow and dies in sorrow. This grievous state he mistakes for a natural condition. "On account of the consequence that follows satisfaction of a desire, the anxiety attending upon the wish to perpetuate it, the impressions produced by enjoyment, and the perpetual flux of the gunas of prakriti, everything is painful", say Patanjali. It is only the discriminative mind that discovers the defects inherent in the structure of the world.
The consequence of enjoyment is the generation of further desire to repeat the enjoyment. Desire is a conflagration of fire which, when fed, wants more and more of fuel. The desire expands itself. 'Never is desire extinguished by the fulfilment of it', is a great truth reiterated in the yoga texts. The effect of the satisfaction of a desire is not pleasure, though one is made to think so; the effect is further desire. One cannot say how long one would continue enjoying; for it has no end. Man does not want to die, because to die to this world is equivalent to losing the centres of pleasure. The mind receives a shock when it hears news of death that is near. Desire is the cause of the fear of death. The consequence of the satisfaction of a desire should therefore teach a lesson to everyone.
Also, when we are possessed of the object of desire, we are not really happy at core. There is a worry to preserve it. One does not sleep well when there are plenty of satisfying things. Wealthy men are not happy. Their relatives may rob them of the wealth, dacoits may snatch it away, and the government may appropriate it. Just because we have our object of desire, it does not mean that we can be happy. One was unhappy when one did not have the object, and there is now again unhappiness because of its possession.
There is another cause of dissatisfaction. Unwittingly we create psychic impressions subtly in our subconscious mind through the satisfaction of a desire. Just as when one speaks or sings before a microphone, grooves are formed on the plate of a gramophone, and the sound can be replayed any number of times; so also when one has the experience of the enjoyment of an object, impressions are formed in the subconscious level and they can be replayed any number of times even if one might have forgotten them, though many births might have been passed through and even when one does not want them any more. The impressions created by an act of enjoyment are for one's sorrow in the future.
There is a fourth reason: the rotation of the wheel of the gunas of prakriti. Prakriti is the name that we give to the matrix of all substance, constituted of the properties called sattva, rajas and tamas. Sattva is transparency, purity and balance of force. Rajas is distraction, division and bifurcation of one thing from another. Tamas is inertia, neither light nor activity. These are the three modes of prakriti and our experiences are nothing but our union with these modes. We are dull when tamas operates in us, we are grieved when rajas functions, and we are happy when sattva preponderates. We can be happy only when sattva is ascendant, not otherwise. And we cannot always be happy, because sattva will not rise at all times. The wheel of prakriti revolves and is never at rest. Sattva occasionally comes up and then goes down. When it comes up we feel happy and when it goes down we are unhappy. In a moving wheel, no spoke can be fixed or be in the same position always. Happiness in this world, thus, is impermanent; it comes and goes. All this world, constituted physically and psychologically in this manner, is a source of pain to the discriminative mind. Even the transient joy of the world is found only to be the result of a release of biological tension, a titillation of nerves and a delusion of the uninformed mind.
We also mistake the not-Self for the Self, a very serious error we all commit daily. When we love anything, we transfer the Self to the not-Self and infuse the not-Self with the characters of the Self. The Self is that which knows, sees and experiences. It is the consciousness in us. That which is seen or experienced and that which we regard as an object, is the not-Self. The object is not-Self because it has no consciousness. That a being like man has consciousness is no argument against his being an object, for what is seen is the human form and not consciousness. The 'objectivity' in things is what makes them objects. It is not the objects that know the world; it is unbroken consciousness which knows it. It is not the world that feels a world, but the knowing subject. The consciousness becomes aware of the presence of an object by a mysterious activity that takes place psychologically. How does one become aware of a mountain, for example? It is a little difficult to understand this simple phenomenon, though it is one that occurs almost daily. The mountain which is in front does not enter the perceiver's eyes or mind. It is far and yet the mind seems to be aware of its existence. It is not that the eyes come in contact with the object; the object does not touch the subject physically. How, then, does it know the object? One may say that the light rays that emanate from the object impinge on the retina of the eyes of the subject and the latter knows, then, the object. But neither has the object any consciousness nor do the light rays have it, and an inert activity cannot produce a conscious effect. How is, then, an object known? The secret of the relation between the subject and the object seems to be hidden beneath its outer form. It is the senses that tell us of our having had the knowledge of an object by means of light rays. The eyes alone cannot see, and the light rays alone cannot reveal the object. The light rays may be there, and the object may be there, but if the mind is elsewhere, one cannot see it. Other than the instrumental factors, something seems to be necessary in perception. The mind plays an important role here. Now, is the mind a substance, an object? Or is it intelligent? The minimum that could be expected in perception is intelligence. We may suppose that the mind is intelligent, as we may say that a mirror shines. Even as the mirror is not what really shines, the mind is not intelligence. As it is the light that shines and not the mirror, it is some transcendent consciousness which illumines even the mind. It is not easy to understand the nature of this consciousness as it is itself the understander. Who can explain that which is behind all explanation? It is the knowledge behind all understanding. Who is to understand understanding? It is the mysterious reality which is in us, by which we know everything, but which cannot be known by anyone else. This intelligence, or consciousness, acts on the mind even as light on a mirror. The mind reflects itself on the object even as a wall can be illumined by the reflection in the mirror. The object is located by the activity of the mind and the intelligence in it perceives the object. Intelligence does not directly act; it is focused through the medium of the mind. A ray of intelligence passes through the lens of the mind and confronts the object. Intelligence beholds the object through the instrumentality of the mind.
How does intelligence come in contact with unconscious matter, which we know as the object? How can consciousness know an object unless there is a kinship between them? Granting that there has to be such a kinship, it cannot be said to be a material relation, as certain philosophies of materialism may hold, for matter has no understanding. It has no eyes, and no intelligence. Who, then, sees matter? Matter cannot see matter, as it is blind. Intelligence, without which everything becomes bereft of meaning, is different from matter. It is intelligence that knows even the existence of matter. How does it come in contact with matter unless the latter has a nature akin to it? Materiality cannot be the link between the two, for matter cannot be linked with consciousness. Unless consciousness is hidden in matter, consciousness cannot know matter. Matter, in the end, should be essentially conscious, if perception is to have any acceptable significance. There should be Self even in not-Self, consciousness should be universal, if perception is to be possible. But the senses cannot see the universal consciousness. They only see objectiveness, externality, localized thinghood. They falsely project a phantom of 'outsideness' and create an 'object' out of the universal reality. The object is artificially linked with the subject. When the senses visualize an object outside, which appears as a material something, there is a transference of values taking place between the subject and the object. The Self within, which is universal consciousness, affirms its kinship with the object, but, as it does this through the mind, there is love for the object. All love is the affinity which the universal feels with itself in creation. This universal love gets distorted when it is transmitted to objects through the senses. Instead of loving all things equally, we love only certain things, to the exclusion of others. This is the mistake of the mind, the error in affection when conveyed through the senses, without a knowledge of its universal background. While spiritual love is universal, sensory love is particular and breeds hatred and anger. Individual desire brings bondage in its train.
The Self is mistaken for the not-Self, and vice versa, in the sense that the universal is forgotten and gets localized in certain objects and the senses commit the blunder of taking the non-eternal for the eternal, the impure for the pure and pain for pleasure. Pratyahara is greatly helped by this analysis, for the senses, by this understanding, refrain from clinging to things. The entanglement of the senses in their respective objects and their organic connection with the objects is so deep and strong that it is not easy to extricate consciousness from matter. Just as one cannot remove one's skin from one's body, it is difficult to wean the senses from things. The organic contact artificially created between the senses and objects should be snapped by vichara or philosophic investigation. This is a stage in vairagya or dispassion for what is not real.
It is not necessary that in a state of pratyahara the senses should always be active. Many a time they appear to lie down quietly and yet cause great disturbance to the student. When they are positively active, the student becomes conscious of them, but, when they resort to subterfuges, it is difficult to perceive them. The activities of the senses have stages or forms of manifestation. A mischief-maker might be maintaining silence, but thereby it does not mean that he is inactive, because he might be scheming over a course of action in which he wishes to engage himself at a proper time. At times, his activities might get thinned out due to the work of the police and when he is harassed from many sides. When he is overworked, he might get fatigued and in this condition, again, he may not do anything. Yet, it does not follow that he is free from his subtle intentions or that he is really free from activity. Sometimes, it might also happen that he suspends his activity for other reasons like the marriage of his daughter or the sickness of his son. This suspension of action does not also mean a closure of his plans. When all circumstances become conducive, he will resume his work in full vigour.
This is also the way of working of the desires. They may be asleep, attenuated, interrupted or actively operative. When we sleep, the desires also sleep; they regain strength for further activity on the following day. They also get tired and then cease from work for a while. They lie dormant (prasupta) when there is frustration due to the operation of the laws of society, the absence of means for fulfilment, or the presence of something obstructing satisfaction. In frustration, the activity is temporarily stopped. When one is in an environment which is not conducive to the expression of desire, one suppresses it by will, and here it is in a condition of induced sleep. In cosmic pralaya or the final dissolution, when all individuals get wound up in a causal state of the universe, the senses with their desires lie latent; they remain in a seed form. The desires are not wholly blind, because they know how to create circumstances for their expansion and fulfilment. Even instinct has intelligence. Sometimes intelligence gets stifled by instinct. Intelligence often justifies instinct and accentuates its work.
Though this may be one of the conditions of desire in ordinary persons, it gets thinned out and becomes thread-like in the case of students of yoga. Sadhana attenuates desire, makes it feeble, though it is not easily destroyed. The desire loses some strength in the presence of the spiritual Guru, inside a temple or place of worship, because it is not the atmosphere for its exhibition. This is another condition of desire, where it remains feeble or thin (tanu).
There is a third state of desire, where it may be occasionally interrupted (vichhinna) in its activities. One may have love for one's son, but for a mistake committed or an unpleasant behaviour of his, one may get angry with him. Here the love for the son has not vanished but is temporarily suspended in a state brought about by passing circumstances. This frequently happens between husbands and wives. Love is suppressed by hate and hate by love due to situations that may arise now and then in society. For the time being, the object of affection may look like one of hatred. We see, among monkeys, the mother-monkey will not allow her baby to eat and she may even snatch away from its mouth the piece of bread it has. This does not mean that the monkey hates the baby and we can also observe the extent of attachment the mother-monkey has for her baby. Love and hate are mysterious psychological conditions and we cannot know where we stand at a given time until we are strongly opposed by contrary forces. Sometimes one feels depressed and at other times one is in a mood of joy. There is often dejection and melancholy. Small unhappy events easily put out people, though all the while they might have been happy. Suddenly, also, they may be elated due to some joyful news conveyed to them. These are waves which arise in the lake of the mind due to the movement of the wind of desire in different directions. The mind dances to the tune of the senses.
There have been instances where seekers, for a long time, appeared to be sense-controlled persons and then began to indulge in unwanted activity. Sometimes, when no progress is tangible, one may think that one's efforts have all gone waste; but then suddenly one may realize also a great joy. This happened in the case of the Buddha. He lost hopes even on the day previous to that of his illumination. He had decided that his end had come. But the bubble burst the next day, and light dawned. Seekers may go down or go up on the path winding like a hill-road, with many descents and ascents. The student of yoga should be vigilant and should not make decisions or pass judgments by looking at the moods of the mind day by day. Things may appear all-right for a time; but there may also be a cyclone of emotions subsequently, shattering one's hopes and expectations. This is the guerilla warfare that the desireful senses wage when one tries to control them or restrict their activity. When we constantly watch the senses, they show resentment and react and want to jump upon us. None tolerates restriction on one's freedom.
Whatever be the condition of desire - sleep, attenuation or interruption - it is still there, and has not gone. It can gain strength at a convenient time. We may go on pouring water over fire with a view to extinguish it, but if a spark is left, though the large fire is put out, it may create a huge conflagration again. This happens often in forests, with a small log of wood smouldering in a corner. The spark that is left manifests itself in an opportune moment. Though the desire may be thin, it is not destroyed, and becomes powerful when suitable circumstances present themselves.
Desire, when it is placed wholly in favourable circumstances, becomes fully active (udara) and then one cannot do anything with it, as with the wild forest fire. The raging flames cannot be put out with a bucketful of water. The student's little discrimination will get extinguished due to the might of desire. The whole world is fire, said the Buddha. Experience is the fire of desire; the eyes are this fire burning, the ears and the other senses are burning with desire. The mind and the faculties have been caught up in this fire. The world is a burning pit of live coal, according to the Buddha. The four conditions mentioned are only a broad division of the working of desire. But it has many other forms in which it may lie concealed or act. The mind creates certain mechanisms within itself for its defence against attack from yoga. It runs away from the spot where it can be observed and the student might miss his aim. And it can follow any of the four techniques mentioned already. It can divert its activity along another channel altogether. This is one of the defence-mechanisms of the mind. If the student in a higher state of mind observes that the lower mind is attached to an object, there will naturally be vigilance kept over it. But it employs a shrewd device of giving up that object and deftly clinging to something else, thus creating an appearance that the attachment has gone. Loves are shifted from one centre to another. The student might find himself in a fool's paradise, if proper caution is not exercised here. He might think that the affection has been snapped, while it is as hard as before, only fixed in another centre. The river has taken a different course and is inundating another village. When a tiger is being pursued, one does not know on whom it will pounce.
The mind also can resort to another method, different from this common technique. If one is persistent in spotting out the desire wherever it goes, it might stop going to any outer object, but be internally contemplating on the desired end. There can be enjoyment of an object within, if all other avenues are obstructed. One can imagine the objects and acquire a psychological satisfaction when all other channels are blocked. If the best is not available, the mind gets satisfaction in the next best, and if nothing is given, it will enjoy its object in thinking. If the vigilance goes to the extent of observing even this, the mind will try to manipulate itself by projecting its negative characters on certain persons or objects. If a small monkey is pursued by a bigger one, the former will make a chirping noise and draw the attention and support of the other monkeys to someone nearby, and then the whole group will jointly offer an attack on the third party, so that the original skirmish is forgotten by displacement of attention. There are people who try to become virtuous by pointing out the defects of others. Small persons become great by casting aspersions on noble souls. Wonderful is the trickery of the mind. The desireful condition will find an evil spot in someone or something, to the dissatisfaction and disgust of the vigilant mind, and thus side-track the activity of the latter. One might here become more conscious of the defects of the outer environment than of what is happening inside. In the meantime the lower mind works its way. Dreams, phantasies, building of castles in the air, seeing defects outside, are some of the defence-mechanisms which elude the grasp of the vigilant intelligence. Whatever be one's efforts at subduing the mind, the same will never be too much before the impetuosity of the senses. The Bhagavadgita gives a warning when it says that the force of the senses may sweep over like a whirlwind and carry away one's understanding. The Manusmriti says that the senses have such power that they can drag away even a wise man's mind from the right course. The Devimahatmya says that maya can pull by force even the minds of those with much knowledge.
In pratyahara, reactions are often set up and the student may get frightened about what is happening. Patanjali, in his Sutra, details out the difficulties. Apart from the positive hazards mentioned above, there are certain other negative types of problems that come on the way. Illness (vyadhi) may come upon one due to indiscriminate eating, pressure exerted on the pranas in one's practice, undue exposure, over-exertion, etc. Sickness is a great obstacle in yoga. Sickness may be physical or psychological, engendered by one's disobedience to Nature or by reactions to one's practice. It can so happen that the student gets fed up with everything after years of practice and concludes that all things are useless. He gets into a mood of despondency (styana). He may start thinking that he is alone and there is no one to help him. This thought may become so intense that he may not be able to think of the ideal before him. Outwardly, there may be weakness, recurring head-ache and sleeplessness. He may not get sleep for days together. There may develop pain in the body and absence of appetite for food. The stomach may lose the strength to digest anything. These are temporary reactions from the prana and the mind under the process of control. These are passing phases of which one need not be alarmed. Due to concentration of mind on a particular line (not spiritual concentration but concentrated attention on a particular effort) one may have occasional irksome feelings. These are outer symptoms which may annoy the student for a considerable time. Pratyahara is, in a way, a tussle between the inner and the outer nature. This should explain the reason behind reactions. The inner war is as complicated as the outer and there are as many manoeuvres employed inside as in wars outside. The inner battles are more difficult to win than the outer ones, because in the outer several persons and tools can be employed, while in the inner no such things are available. The inner war is perpetual, without rest. A truce seems to be declared only in sleep, swoon and death. There may come about a languishing state of the body wherein one cannot sit even in an asana. The student feels tired even of meditation. Dullness that sets in may make all things slow and one starts taking things easy without the enthusiasm and vigour with which the practice commenced. This happens after a few years of effort. Styana is a condition of sluggishness of the body and mind. Also a kind of doubt (samsaya) may start harassing the mind because of there being no palpable progress in sadhana. One does not know how far the destination lies. The student trudges on but does not know the distance covered. There is no guide-map to indicate the distance yet remaining. The inability to know where one is standing creates uncertainty in the mind. Doubts may also creep in by study of too many books of a variegated nature written by different authors, each one saying something different from the other. It is with difficulty that one becomes a good judge of the multitude of ideas served through conflicting literature. Absence of a proper understanding of one's true position is a cause of doubt, on account of which one changes the place of residence, changes one's Guru, changes one's mantra, changes the mode of meditation, etc. These changes are done with the hope that some sizable result will follow from them. But in the changed condition one finds oneself where one was and feels a necessity to make a further change. It is not easy to realize where the real mistake lies. Such a dubitable character is an obstacle in yoga. The reactions that the mind and senses produce take many forms and the instability of the mind whereby one does not stick to any one thing or place is an instance. Stickability to one thing is also a great concentration of attention and hence the difficulty in its practice. The mind gets bored with seeing the same people, same place and the same things. There is desire for variety due to disgust for monotony. This is the outcome of doubting, due to which the student gets lost in the wilderness of life. The state of mind wherein it is unsettled and is confused by heedlessness (pramada) is another obstacle. Doubts arise on account of carelessness in thinking. The student has allowed the enemy an entry while in sleep and he wakes up when the enemy has already taken possession of him. Because of want of vigilance, the calamity has befallen him. Once we are convinced of the validity of the practice and the competency of the Guru, what need be there for a change? How did this happen? It occurred because one had no conviction even before. A faith that can be shaken up cannot be called a conviction; it is only a temporary acceptance without proper judgment. No success in any walk of life is possible without a correct assessment of values. It would be foolish to go headlong without considering a situation from all sides, with its pros and cons. It is not good to jump into a mood of emotion in yoga, for yoga is not a mood of the mind. Yoga is steadfast practice in which one's whole being is dedicated. The student should be firm in his views and substantial in the core of his personality. He should not reduce himself to a silly person who can be changed by the empty logic of people. The student's understanding has to be powerful enough to withstand and overcome the argumentation of the senses. Once he listens to the plea of the senses, he will believe in the reality of outer circumstances rather than the inner significance of yoga. Pramada, or carelessness, is verily death, says Sanatkumara, the sage, to Dhritarashtra. Heedlessness is death; vigilance is life. This is more true in the case of spiritual seekers. A kind of lethargy (alasya) in the whole system, bodily and mental, sets in as another obstacle. One will not be doing any meditation but only drooping heavy with idleness. This is the mohana-astra or the delusive weapon cast against the seeking mind in its war with desire. Lethargy paralyses the action of the mind to such an extent that the mind cannot even think in this state. The thinking power goes away, tamas creeps in, and one becomes torpid in nature. The Yogavasistha says: 'If it were not for idleness, the great catastrophe, who would not be successful in the earning of wealth or learning?' Lethargy puts a stop to onward progress. Again, this lethargic condition is not to be mistaken for a mere inactivity of the body and mind. It is rather a preparation for a contrary activity that is to take place after a time, and it is comparable to the cloudy sky, looking dull and silent, before the outbreak of thunder and lightning. Just as lack of appetite is only an indicator that the body is going to fall sick, lethargy is an indication that something adverse is going to happen. Keeping quiet, saying nothing, doing nothing, is dangerous to the student of yoga. One does not know when the bomb will burst. Torpidity is a breeding ground for the mischief of the senses and their coterie. They first paralyze the person by lethargy and then give him a blow by sensual excitement (avirati). It is easier to kill a person when he is unconscious. The student is put to sleep by tamas, and then there is a violent activity of the senses. The cyclonic wind has risen from the dusty weather. The mind jumps into indulgence of various sorts and this is what they call a 'fall' in yoga. Having fallen into this condition, to mistake it for an achievement in yoga is, indeed, worse. Such mistaking of delusion for success is the other obstacle, the illusion (bhrantidarsana) by which one thinks one is progressing higher while falling down. The senses whip one to dance to their tunes and one also gets induced to a hypnosis by the senses. Even if, by chance, one recovers consciousness from this unwanted condition into which one has been led, it is not easy to regain the ground that has been once lost. Losing the ground (alabdhabhumikatva) is a further obstacle in yoga. One cannot start one's practice again with ease, due to the samskaras created by the ravaging work of the senses during the state of gratification. The lack of ability to find out the point of concentration (anavasthitatva), even if the ground is to be gained with difficulty, is a serious obstacle, again.
The nine conditions mentioned above are some of the major obstacles in yoga, in addition to the psychological complexities to which reference has been made already. They cause the tossing of the mind and its drifting from the path. Here the student has to be cautious. But there are certain other minor obstacles, of which at least five may be named as the chief ones. One of them is pain (duhkha) which takes possession of the seeker. There is a sense of internal grief annoying him constantly. 'Where am I, and what am I doing', is his silent sorrow. It is all darkness and there is no light visible in the horizon. This brings in an emotional depression (daurmanasya) and one becomes melancholy. One sees no good in anything and no meaning or value in life. Life loses its purpose and it is all a wild-goose chase. This becomes the conclusion after so much of effort in the practice of yoga. This is the point at which the seeker reaches at times, a condition well described in the first chapter of the Bhagavadgita. 'It is all hopeless' seems to be the cry of Arjuna. This is also the cry of every Arjuna in the world, of every man, every woman and everyone who rotates through the wheel of life. While one attempts at regaining strength by picking up one's courage, there sets in nervousness (angamejayatva). The body trembles and one cannot sit for meditation. The student is nervous about someone saying something about him, and so on. There is also an incapacity to tolerate anything that happens in the world. One develops sensitiveness to such an extent that even a small event looks mountainous in importance. There is tremor and uneven flow of the prana. Irregular and unrhythmic inhalation and exhalation (svasa-prasvasa) disturbs the nervous system, and indirectly, the mind.