Pratyahar: Seeing the Giver
“Many, many, many thousands of years ago the sages sat down and divided the science of yoga into eight different aspects, eight parts. I would like to talk to you about one part called pratyahar. Pratyahar is a secret science to reach God. You won’t find it discussed fully in any books. They don’t explain it. In some places they say, “Pratyahar is pratyahar and whosoever does pratyahar reaches God.” How are you going to make any sense out of that?
“The most beautiful art of yoga and the most pure science of yoga is pratyahar. Pratyahar means, correctly, in English, to contract or synchronize. Pratyahar is a habit to synchronize. A gift is a source of happiness. But who provides the gift? And who is the ultimate provider? If the consciousness does not synchronize immediately and focus on that point, you are not a yogi. That is called pratyahar: under any time, space and circumstance, under any pressure, depression or oppression, you do not forget the Infinite One.
“Pratyahar is also called the science of dedicated devotion. It is not simple devotion. Simple devotion is, “Thank you, God.” That’s simple devotion. But pratyahar is also dedication: when anything comes, you say, “Thank You, God, for making me thank You.”
– Yogi Bhajan, July 25, 1978. Excerpt from: I Am A Woman
For many of us who have decided to explore spirituality, we feel an inner longing to know God. There are different practices to do, various workshops we can attend, even special “spiritual vacations” to go on. Any moment we spend in prayer or meditation helps expand our awareness to know the Divine. But often, those moments are very private, very internal. Even if we chant in a room full of people, or do yoga with hundreds of others, the experience is within. The yogic science of pratyahar, however, challenges us to maintain our awareness of the One, even, and especially, when we interact with others.
It is funny how the human personality sometimes likes to play games. In many relationships, it’s about leverage. Who has what. Who wants what. And how do we maneuver to our best advantage. This is true in the board rooms of the largest corporations. It is equally true of a five year old trying to figure out how to get his parents to give him a cookie. We want. We desire. We chase. And in the commotion of those feelings, we forget. We forget the One who Does everything and who Gives everything.
The way Yogi Bhajan described pratyahar, it is a state of consciousness where whatever comes into one’s life, the mind recognizes the Infinite as the source. If someone gives me a gift, Thou art the real Giver. If someone insults me, this, too, comes from You. Pratyahar makes every day life the most powerful laboratory for expanding one’s awareness and seeing God in everything. Because we train our minds to see that what comes to us – good, bad or indifferent – comes from the Infinite One.
Pratyahar can be cultivated anywhere, anytime. It doesn’t need a cushion and a quiet room. It doesn’t require a weekend away. It can begin right here, right now, with whatever is in front of you. The computer screen you are using to read this, the cup of coffee on your desk, the meeting you are about to attend. Take a moment. Breathe. And ask your mind to see the Source that brought all of this into your life. Be grateful for it – whatever “it” is. If you can practice this way in each moment, every day, you will be amazed at how powerfully the presence of the Divine will reveal itself in your life.
With Divine Light and Divine Love.
Ek Ong Kaar Kaur Khalsa