There are six ways of controlling the Indriyas: (i) through Vichara, (ii) by will-force, (iii) by Kumbhaka (retention of breath in Pranayama), (iv) by Dama (restraint), (v) by Pratyahara (abstention) and (vi) by Vairagya and Tyaga. Perfect control can be made only through Vichara.
Dama is restraint of the Indriyas. Dama blunts the Indriyas. Perfect control of the senses is not possible through Dama alone. If the senses are very sharp and acute, they carry away the minds of even good Sadhakas impetuously, just as the gale carries away the ship in stormy weather (Gita, II-67). They can be controlled perfectly through the help of the mind, through Vichara.
When you walk along Mount Road, Madras, each Indriya tries its level best to get hold of its objects of enjoyment and revelry. The Indriyas revolt vehemently if you do not procure them these objects. Tongue drags you to the coffee hotel or Hotel de Angelis. Tvak (skin) says, "Let me go to the Bombay Sait's shop and have a piece of fine China silk." Ear says, "Let me have a gramophone or harmonium." Nose says, "Let me have a bottle of Otto de Rose." The mind is at the bottom of these Indriyas to instigate. A tumultuous internal fight goes on between the five organs of knowledge, each trying to have a lion's share of enjoyment. Use Viveka, power of discrimination, always. Indriyas tempt and deceive you. Indriyas are the jugglers. Maya spreads her Moha-Jala through mind and Indriyas. Be on the alert. Practise Dama through Vairagya and Vasana-Tyaga. Happiness comes through calmness of Indriyas, through calmness of mind (Uparati). Go to the sweets' bazaar with plenty of money in hand. Walk hither and thither for fifteen minutes. Look with a greedy eye at the various sweets. Do not purchase anything. Return home. Even if dainties are served that day at home, reject them. Have a plain diet. By so doing, you will control the tongue which is at the root of all troubles. You will eventually control the mind also. You will develop will-power.
Give up all luxurious food and all articles of sensuous enjoyment. Practise rigid penance. Tapas thins out the Indriyas and eventually leads to control of mind. If you give up tea, you have really controlled a small portion of the mind; control of tongue really means control of mind.
When the Indriyas give up the objects, they take up the form of the mind-stuff. They are drawn into the mind. This is termed Pratyahara or abstraction. When the Indriyas are withdrawn from their respective objects, it is Indriya-Pratyahara. Mental abstraction takes place when the mind is disconnected with the Indriyas. Pratyahara is a general, broad term which includes Dama also. The effect of Dama (restraint of Indriyas) is Pratyahara.
If you can do consciously Pratyahara at will, consciously attaching and detaching the mind to and from the senses, you have gained really a great control over the mind. You can check at any time the outgoing tendencies or outgoing forces of the mind. Pratyahara is the stepping-stone to inner spiritual life. He who has succeeded in Pratyahara can concentrate his mind quite readily for a very long time. Dharana and Dhyana come automatically if Pratyahara is perfect. An aspirant has to struggle hard to have mastery over Pratyahara. Perfect Vairagya is indispensable for success in Pratyahara. You can succeed after strenuous and incessant struggle for some years. "Tatahparama vasyatendriyanam—Thence arises the supreme control of the organs" (Patanjali Yoga Sutras, II-55). If Pratyahara is perfect, all the organs are under perfect control.
During the period of Sadhana, do not mix much; do not talk much; do not walk much; do not eat much; do not sleep much. Observe carefully the five 'do-nots'. Mixing will cause disturbances in the mind. Talking much will cause distraction of the mind. Walking much causes exhaustion and weakness. Eating much induces Alasya and Tandri (laziness and sleepiness).
Control of Thought—A Great Desideratum
If you have the reins of the horses under your control, you can have a safe journey. The Indriyas are the horses. If you have the senses under your efficient control, you can have a safe journey in the path of Moksha. Indriyas cannot do anything without the help of the mind, their master and commander. Control of the Indriyas means control of the mind only. Control of thoughts leads to the control of mind and Indriyas also. It leads to the attainment of infinite bliss and eternal life. Control of thought is indispensable—a great desideratum for all.
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