Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi— Background and Philosophy

By on March 18, 2016
chinmudra

The study and practice of yoga has different branches and each of them deals with different aspects of science. It has been said over and over again that regular practice of yoga can improve one’s health; however, apart from what most people know, yoga is not only limited to improving the physical aspect of humans—it is way beyond what the mind can actually fathom.

Yoga masters would definitely relate to yoga as the path to spirituality and self-discovery. If you want to take on the journey to finding yourself, the practice of Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi is all that you need.

Pratyahara. Also known as the 5th limb of yoga among the eight state of Ashtanga Yoga, Pratyahara is the practice of shutting down the mind and senses and focusing on the Self. Pratyahara is a Sanskrit term meaning ‘withdrawal of the senses’. It was mentioned by Patanjali in his classical work, Yoga Sutras of Pantajali during the 2nd   century BCE (Before Common Era). It is a connection between the external (bahiranga) aspects of yoga which are yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, and the internal (antaranga). In the practice of Pratyahara, the person will try to withdraw his senses so he can fully put himself in deep Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (mystical absorption or trance).

Dharana. Dharana is translated as the ‘immovable concentration of the mind’. It is the act of  developing  inner  perceptual  awareness.  It  is  the  6th   limb  of  yoga  elucidated  by Patanjali. Prior to the 5th   limb Pratyahara, Dharana also involves withdrawing of the senses  from  its  environment.  It  is  the  first  step  of  deep  concentration  in  the  goal offocusing oneself to the Self or God. The objective of Dharana is to offer all one’s senses and mind to the Lord. Practitioners of Dharana would often fix their mind on the picture of Krishna. Doing this, the feelings of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ are absolutely ceased out.

Dhyana. This is the 7th  limb of yoga under Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga compilations. It means ‘your attention to’. Our mind has been directed towards the world. This supererogatory attention leads to attachment, cravings, desire, and fear. All these things can cause unhappiness and suffering. In order for you to not feel these, you need to detach yourself from the external world and divert your attention inwards touching the Self.  The practice of Dhyana is a form of meditation on or devotion to the Universal Self—God. Once the mind is tamed and focused using Dharana, the practitioner can experience real happiness by uniting with the Divine.

Samadhi. Samadhi is the 8th limb of yoga which means ‘the complete absorption of one’s consciousness in the Self at the time of death’. This state of meditation is induced by practicing complete meditation using the process of Dhyana. Being the final step of the yogic path, it actually implies the complete union with the Supreme Spirit. During the stage of Samadhi, there is no difference between the act of meditation and the object of meditation.

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