PRATAYHARA – THE ART OF WITHDRAWING THE SENSES
Pratyahara, which is translated as withdrawal of senses is one of the eight limbs of Yoga. The five senses that humans have are of course a beautiful gift of nature, but yoga views them as a limitation. According to the yogic texts there is much more to experience in this creation and if we limit our experiences to what we can see or what we can hear, we just continue to live a very limited life. And therefore the concept of withdrawing the senses.
THE ROLE OF SENSES IN HUMAN LIFE
Human beings experience life through sense organs. Senses are the medium that help us to interact with the world. But also, human beings have learnt to use their senses in combination with their mind, so every sense perception, every situation that occurs forms an experience and leaves an impact, a memory or at least creates a thought in human mind. Every time we hear something or see something, just instantly we also create a thought about it. All our sense perceptions thus always come attached with thoughts, opinions or emotions. This is what puts a limitation to the use of senses.
When one functions through the senses, his focus or his range is very limited. After all, how far a human eye can see? How many sounds can a human ear hear? Atoms for instance are not visible to human eyes, but science has evidence of its existence. A lot of that what exists in the universe cannot be perceived by the human senses. This is one of the biggest limitations of human senses. Yoga proposes a way to overcome this limitation by way of Pratyahara.
The practice of Pratyahara is to separate the mind (thought) from the sense functioning. When one learns to use his senses in an unconditioned way, when seeing becomes pure seeing detached from any thought, when sounds are just heard as sounds, the mind becomes silent and is drawn inwards. This shift from outwards to inwards leads to expansion of perception and opens up doors of wisdom.
Just to put it in other words, sense perception using the mind can only give human beings a partial picture. In our experience as human beings, if we continue to believe that this partial truth is the ultimate truth then the possibility of experiencing everlasting happiness and peace will be much less.
To end this, I would just like to mention that withdrawal of senses does not imply making them dull or numb. One who practices Pratyahara will be in fact very much aware of the happenings around him. Pratyahara just implies to take away the limited and partial nature of the sense perception so that humans can experience the vastness that they have in themselves.View All Post