Yoga-sutras (Ancient and Modern Interpretations)

by Makarand Gopal Newalkar | 2017 | 82,851 words | ISBN-13: 9780893890926

Yoga-sutras 2.54 [Pratyahara—withholding of senses], English translation with modern and ancient interpretation. The Patanjali Yogasutras describe an ancient Indian tradition spanning over 5000 years old dealing with Yoga:—Meditating the mind on the Atma leading to the realization of self. This study interprets the Yogasutras in light of both ancient and modern commentaries (e.g., Vyasa and Osho) while supporting both Sankhya and Vedanta philosophies.

Sūtra 2.54 [Pratyāhāra—withholding of senses]

Sanskrit text, Unicode transliteration and English translation of sūtra 2.54:

स्वविषयासंप्रयोगे चित्तस्वरूपानुकार इवेन्द्रियाणां प्रत्याहारः ॥ २.५४ ॥

svaviṣayāsaṃprayoge cittasvarūpānukāra ivendriyāṇāṃ pratyāhāraḥ || 2.54 ||

(54) When separated from their corresponding objects, the organs follow, as it were, the nature of the mind that is called pratyāhāra (restraining of the organs).

Ancient and Modern interpretation:

Sense withdrawal (pratyāhāra) is fifth aṅga of Pātañjalayoga.The first five are called bahiraṅgayoga and next three are called antaraṅgayoga.

Vyāsa gives examples:

“Just as bees follow the course of queen bee and rest where later rests,so when mind stops the senses also stop their activities. This is pratyāhāra.”

Hariharānanda gives two methods of practice as[1] -

  1. Indifference to external objects,
  2. Living in the world of thought

Taimni says,[2] when we perceive object, different kinds of vibrations emanate from it which strike our sense organs and the mind joined to these sense organs is activated.So innumerable vibrations from all kinds of objects are constantly impinging upon our sense organs, but most of them are unnoticed.

He has divided the contents of mind as—

  1. Everchanging impressions produced by outer world through vibrations impinging upon sense organs;
  2. Memories of past experiences floating in our mind;
  3. Mental images connected with anticipation of the future.

The object of pratyāhāra is to eliminate the part 1 of above thus leaving part 2 and 3 only,which are mastered later by dhāraṇā and dhyāna. It is like a shutter between sense organs and mind and isolates later completely from external world.

Footnotes and references:


Araṇya, op.cit.,p. 246


Taimni, op.cit,p.271

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