Trataka – Foundation of Focus (32)

Focusing, also called concentration, focusing attention or narrowing the field of consciousness, has its own special dimension of practical work in yoga. Mahavatar Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras calls the focusing of consciousness the term satkara. It refers to a state in which our whole mind is merged, absorbed in an issue, a particular topic or object. Traditionally, yoga, and especially hatha yoga, emphasizes this process of focusing the entire psyche on a specific object, calling the technique of practical work (exercise) the technical term trataka.

Trataka literally means focused gaze. The exercise is traditionally considered an essential part of Hatha Yoga, and being similar in nature to mudra (posture), it is known and used in Laya or Raja Yoga. If practiced regularly, it develops the power of concentration to a degree that seems beyond the reach of a human being, to a level beyond all limitations of personal power. It is from this strong power of concentration that the awakening of hidden and unused abilities, which are found in each of us, comes. Trataka is a powerful tool leading to the yogic achievement of siddhas (miracle making yogis). And it all starts with staring or looking something it intensely – as one can easily define what trataka is.

TRATAKA ON A CANDLE FLAME

Of course, we have many ways to realize the fruits of trataka, but we will start with one of the simplest ones. Sit in a comfortable, meditative yogic posture in a room with dim lights. Place the candle at eye level, about half a meter to a meter in front of you. Straighten your back and keep your torso straight throughout the exercise. Relax your entire body, keeping your eyes closed in this initial phase. Maintain awareness of your entire body. Only feel the entire form of your physical body. This is an effective method that removes all tension and tightness.

Let the body become silent and still, like a statue. Once you have established a comfortable posture, try not to move your body in any way or for any reason throughout your trataka practice. When you are ready, open your eyes and look intensely into the glowing flame of the candle, as if at a point. The top of the flame is best suited for this practice of intense gazing and in-depth observation.

Through practice, we will be able to stare at the flame without blinking or moving the eyeball, even for several minutes. Continue to gaze into the flame with total concentration. Your entire awareness (chitta, sense of self) should be centred in your eyes so that all sense of awareness of the rest of your body is lost. We “lose” body awareness, as it were, while remaining focused on our eyes. The gaze should be completely fixed on the gazing point/area.

As soon as your eyes get tired (usually after a few minutes, sometimes faster) or when they start to water, close them and relax deeply. Do not move your body, remain aware of the images/sensations that may appear with your eyes closed. It is usually a sensation of an image of a flame before the eyes. One should continue trataka (gazing) on this flame image. Once the image disappears, open your eyes and again continue to concentrate on the candle flame that is outside of you.

The duration of the practice can be around 15 – 20 minutes, which is quite sufficient for general purposes such as improving the ability to focus. For spiritual purposes, as well as for the treatment of eye or vision defects, the duration should be extended as much as possible. Also, to treat mental tension and similar mental disorders, this exercise should be performed immediately before going to sleep for at least 15 minutes. This exercise is particularly helpful and effective in removing tension and anxiety. Light removes anxiety, phobia and fear.

The best time to perform this trataka practice is between 4 and 6 a.m. in the morning. Especially for spiritual development, this is the most effective time for exercise. Hatha yoga practitioners perform this practice after asana (body postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises). The exercise, however, is beneficial whenever it is performed. You should not strain your eyes while looking at the flame. On the contrary, feel your head and eye muscles relax and release all tensions completely. The gazing time will increase spontaneously with regular practice.

Through trataka on the candle flame, a clear mind and pure thought develops. Intentions become clear and problems are spontaneously solved. Trataka is particularly useful for removing so-called myopia. Mental equanimity and mental stability are easily achieved under the influence of trataka. Focusing on the vision of the flame and the glow of light after closing the eyes, when the brightness touches the inside of the head at the point between the eyes, begins to activate the reservoirs of self-healing power.

The eyes are the gateway to the mind, the door to the power of the mental plane of consciousness. When eyes remain fixed in a focused gaze, the mind becomes quiet and waves of thoughts calm down spontaneously. The depth of thinking increases when the power of focused gaze increases. Gazing into a flame of fire almost immediately removes impurities in aura and cuts off foreign influences on the human psyche. It can be said that this exercise is also a powerful self-exorcism that cuts off all undesirable influences that we may be subjected to in the world.

OTHER VARIETIES OF TRATAKA

Focused gazing with loss of body awareness (relaxation) can be practiced using concentration objects such as a small shiny point, a bead, a pebble, the full moon, a crystal ball, a tip of one’s nose, a Shiva Lingam, water, space, shadow or darkness etc. . If you are a person associated with a guru or angel, you can perform trataka on a photo or picture of that person or entity. You will then feel the spiritual presence and depth of Grace of such a holy, heavenly personality. The trataka on guru’s photo is recommended especially when you practice initiatory guruyoga and when it is a person who gave you initiations (dikshan) into the spiritual path.

Trataka is also cultivated with the rising sun. This is a powerful healing practice. Many diseases exist only because people rarely stare at the rising sun. There is much more blessing in contemplating the sunrise than the boldest poets predicted. You can also perform trataka on your own reflection in the mirror. This serves deeper self-knowledge and contact with one’s true nature. Trataka is also performed by looking into the eyes of another person. This serves the purpose of mutual opening of minds and deep integration on the mental plane.

However, forms of trataka other than gazing at a candle flame always placed at the level of the line of sight are advised to be practiced only under the personal guidance of a Sadguru (spiritual guide) from whom we receive the yoga transmission.

Trataka has two forms. Concentrating on objects placed outside of us is called bahiranga. There is also trataka on objects of consciousness placed within the mind. This is an exercise called antranga, and is commonly referred to as visualization. In Laya Yoga, we especially include images of energy centres (chakras, pithams) and symbols associated with them. The internal form of trataka is practiced mainly with closed eyes. It is like looking inside, towards the depth of the soul and, what’s more, immersing yourself in this look so that the visualization is lasting and deep.

In regular trataka, we also use an oil lamp instead of a candle, which is the most traditional flame-generating equipment. Later, we can fix attention on the flame of the inner fire in the heart center, which is a practice that quickly liberates one from karmic conditioning. The heart flame is visualized as a constant flame, one that neither moves nor wavers. In laya yoga we call this flame alaya, which literally means „insoluble”, „impossible to annihilate”. It is a symbol of eternal life lived by a pure soul, a true inhabitant of the heart. Trataka actually develops the degrees of heart wisdom.

In the classification of yoga techniques, trataka belongs to the so-called mudras. Concentrated gaze is the ability of the angelic, divine soul. Devas (angels) are said to contemplate us with a fixed gaze. Such gazing gives penetrating insight and serves to grasp and penetrate the object or person that is the object of the focus of consciousness. Jnana arises as a result of this practice. Jnana is the understanding or permeation of an object or person. Trataka is therefore a practice that directs the yoga adept to paths of wisdom and focused knowledge, which Rishi Patanjali calls the state of samapatti, which has four degrees of advancement. In Laya Yoga we say that trataka is the fundamental practice of the kriya abhyasin, the aspirant who desires to reveal the self of the inner, cosmic wisdom. Hum!

Many Blessings on your Path to Awakening and Realization!

Om Namasshivaya! Hum!

Acharyacharya Swami Lalita-Mohan G.K.

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