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TRATAKA

A Meditation Practice for Everyone

Trataka is a wonderful practice for everyone and


especially for the aspirant of meditation. It is actually
classified as a cleansing practice in Yoga.
What it is?
To put it briefly, Trataka - also called Yogic gazing - is a
practice where the gaze is fixed on an object for some
time and then that object is visualized clearly with the
eyes closed, as an inner image at the eyebrow center.
Benefits
Trataka has several benefits which would be helpful to
every one and not only mediation aspirants:

Trataka is believed to have a helpful effect in


treating and even resolving several eye disorders
such as weak eyesight. It improves the internal
and external optic function.
It improves concentrative powers and mental
resolve.
It helps in disconnecting with the noise and
distractions of the external world. This is deeply
relaxing.

In yoga, it is said to also develop the "third" eye the seat of intuition or that associated with
"psychic" powers.

How it Works?
At the physical level it is said to strengthen the eye
muscles by exercising them to focus upon a point.
Practicing Trataka on an object such as the candle flame
is said to provide a unique 'balming' effect to the eyes
which help in eye health and in the alleviation of certain
eye disorders.
At the pre-meditative level, it is necessary to stall eyeball
movement for great benefits and experiences. As we are
aware, eyeballs are constantly in motion even while
sleeping in the form of REM (Rapid Eye Movement).
The aim is to minimize and eventually stall even this
minutest of movement. Trataka is a wonderful practice
in Yoga to achieve this, as it helps in overcoming this by
focusing on a point and then visualizing its after-image
with the eyes closed.
Many of the hurdles in our personal lives and even on
the path to meditation have to do with our inability to
disconnect with the external world at will. In yogic
terminology, this would mean the inability to withdraw
our senses from the sense objects. Trataka, through the
focus on one object, helps to make this disconnect more
easily and prepares us to do so at will. This is relevant to
almost everyone, but specifically vital for the meditation
aspirant.

How it is done?
Trataka can be practiced on several objects, but the most
popular and effective is trataka on a flame. This is
because a flame (such as a candle flame) produces the
best after-image that helps in easier visualization of the
flame even when eyes are closed. This is the desired
effect of Trataka - wherein you can visualize and
concentrate on the image even when the eyes are closed.
You should first be seated in a comfortable meditative
posture or a squatting position with spine erect. If you
have trouble squatting on the mat, you may raise the
seating by a few notches.
A candle is placed in a Trataka Stand and the height of
the stand is adjusted so that the wick of the flame is at
horizontal eye level. The stand is placed at an arm's
length. Trataka is to be practiced with spectacles
removed, so people with spectacles may have to adjust
the distance between the stand and themselves, so that
they observe a clear image of the candle wick without
blur.
The focus should on the top end of the wick, as the
candle burns. Keep your eyes relaxed while fixing the
gaze on the wick. Try not to blink as blinking will
interfere in the formation of a clear inner image.
This gaze is kept constant for some time and then eyes
closed. With the eyes closed, you should try to observe
the inner image of the flame at the eye brow center.

If you don't see it, don't be disappointed - you should


start seeing it with practice. Keep the eyes closed for as
long as you see the inner image. Then re-start.
Detailed instructions of Trataka should be had from your
teacher. The Health&Yoga Trataka stand is also
accompanied with instructions.
It can be safely said that the practice of Trataka is a
powerful practice especially relevant in today's stressful
times and a necessary one for the sincere yoga aspirant.

SECTION 2; Trataka (called trotaka in Hatharatnavali),


as described in the important hatha yogic texts, consists
of steady gazing in a well-composed manner, at a
particular point or minute object, without winking, until
tears begin to flow. (*1) Vacaspatyam quotes from
Hatha Samhita that trataka is better performed in
sukhasana, first at some object and thereafter at its after image projected in the sky. It tells that the trataka on the
nose tip (nasagra dristi) reduces mental tensions
(kleshas) and trataka on the eyebrow centre (bhrumadhya
dristi) facilitates attainment of khechari - a higher yoga
practice. (*2) Satkarmasangraha (*3) advises the
repetition of bija mantras - the Vam' and 'glau' (i.e. those
of Varuna, the water; and Prithivi, the earth) during the
process of trataka.
The principal hatha texts demand that the practice of
trataka should be greatly valued and secretly preserved,
like a casket of gold. It might be due to the hypnotic and
ecstatic effect of trataka. According to the texts, the
process of trataka cures eye diseases and improves eye
sight, prevents sloth and manifests 'inward light'. By its
constant practice, clairvoyance (divya dristi) is
developed and sambhavi mudra, a higher spiritual
gesture, is verily achieved. (*4) Bhakti Sagara, (*5)
claims that whatever idea is contemplated during trataka
practice, it will actually be fulfilled. However, this claim
may be true only in advanced tratakas.
It is a recorded fact in the Aryan history, that an
accomplished yogi can greatly mesmerise, hypnotise and
control the psyche of others, by constant gazing into

their eyes. For example, Yogi Vipula protected his


master's wife from the sexual designs of Indra by
constant fixation of his eyes into her eyes, thus
stupefying her from advances. Similarly, the great
ascetic, Vidura's act of inducing his psyche i.e. soul, into
Yudhisthira at the time of his final departure, by steadily
staring into his eyes, are proofs of trataka's hypnotic
powers that are old as the Mahabharata. (*6) Trataka, in
fact, is the most important technique for concentration
and is very old indeed, because the processes of gazing
at the nosetip, eyebrow centre and any internal or
external point etc., as described in the Gita and other
ancient treatises (*7), are but the variations of this
practice.
A somewhat similar practice to trataka is accomplished
by staring at one's own afterimage in the sky. This has
been greatly extolled in the Siva Samhita (*8) by the
name pratikopasana or chayasiddhi i.e. invocation of
shadow. Expanding this technique, it is told that at the
time of the rising sun or by the moon, let one steadily fix
his gaze on the neck of the shadow he projects. Then,
after sometime, let him look into the sky to see his full
grey shadow (i.e. afterimage). This practice should be
further developed for contemplation on the great Void
(Mahat Shoonya) and on or beyond the Cosmic Egg
(Brahmandabahya). Pratikopasana is praised as the
means for emancipation, immortality, great bliss,
absolute purity and victory in every field.
Trataka is possibly classified as a yogic cleansing
(shodhana kriya or shatkarma) because it purifies the

eyes by the constant flow of tears; or because it acts as a


psychological cleansing process by activating the area of
subconscious and unconscious mind. (*9)

The technique and principle of trataka


Traditionally many types of trataka are practised such as
constant gazing at the tip of a Wick of a lamp flame
produced from clarified butter (ghee) or upon simple
candle light; staring at the rising (or setting) sun, at the
moon, the green grass or tree leaves, the clear water of a
lake, some transparent glass, the sky, the space, a small
round object, a minute black spot on a white
background, or an illustration of Aum. A black or green
circle the size of a small coin, approximately one half to
one inch in diameter and marked with a dot at the centre,
painted on a squared paper can also serve as a good
object. The best form of trataka, in view of the personal
experience of this scholar, is to steadily gaze at the third
eye (the space between the eyebrows) of the originator of
yoga- Lord Siva's picture. At a later stage, this helps to
easily concentrate the mind at the midpoint of one's own
eyebrows, with eyes Open or closed and also activates
many mystical experiences.
Trataka should be done in a meditative sitting posture
such as siddhasana, padmasana, sukhasana or vajrasana.
The eyes should be kept focused at the tip of the flame or
at the painted dot far away but directly in line with the
normal visual axis, till tears start flowing. The area of
central fixation should be gradually reduced, because the
smaller the area, the better the fixation. The distance

between the object and the eyes should vary to suit one's
requirements, yet it should be kept between one and
three yards. As soon as the tears begin to flow, close the
wide-opened eyes (with or without cupped hands) for a
few moments and contemplate upon the afterimage
arising in the mental space. Then resume the practice
again. Ten to fifteen minutes trataka without the least
blinking of the eyes will start inducing some mystical
experiences. The special importance of trataka on the
luminous or light giving object is perhaps due to the
similarity of the 'mental afterimages' thus produced, and
the experience of the 'inner light' i.e. kundalini of the
yogic theory.

Benefits of trataka
The trataka exercises including the nosetip gaze,
eyebrow centre gaze and right and left shoulder gaze,
etc., especially train and strengthen the eye musclesparticularly the four pairs of muscles controlling the
upward, downward, right and left movements of the
eyeballs. Defects of vision and other eye troubles, which
force people to use glasses or contact lenses, are cured
by trataka. Gazing at various objects of nature accustoms
the eyes to the varied influences of light and
environments etc. The eye muscles generally act
asymmetrically in the ordinary use of the eyes, and thus
produce eye strain or weariness, which further
aggravates visionary troubles. The regular and
systematic practice of various eye exercises of trataka
can correct all these. Trataka can increase the vision so
much so that even the smallest particle in the dead

darkness (and also in the dazzling light) becomes visible.


Inflammation of the eyes, trachoma, styes, astigmatism,
myopia, hypermetropia and presbyopia etc., in short all
the eye problems can be corrected by trataka. Trataka
vitalises vision by accelerating blood circulation in and
around the area of the eyes, and also naturalises eye
infections by destroying the microbes through tears.
By directing the gaze at the eyebrow centre, the olfactory
nerves and the optic nerves are stimulated, and as a
result, the autonomic and the central nervous systems are
awakened. There is a close relationship between mind
and vision, thus trataka not only maintains the physical
health of eyes but also helps a great deal in controlling
the mind. It causes a soothing effect on the cranial
nerves, thus enabling the mind to become one-pointed. It
greatly improves memory and willpower, and helps to
attain perfection in samyama (i.e. dharana, dhyana,
samadhi) described in Patanjala Yoga. Laboratory tests
on trataka have proved that it brings back certain
repressed experiences to the level of consciousness. For
ocular health, in addition to the trataka practice, stroking,
moving, pressing, palming, light kneading and salakyam
(as described in Satkarma-sangrahah) of the eyes are also
quite beneficial. (*10)

Precautions
1. Trataka, like other intricate yogic exercises should be
learned under the direct guidance of some accomplished
yoga guru; otherwise there is every possiblity that eye
muscles as well as the nervous system may be damaged.

2. Eyes should be splashed and washed with cold water


immediately after the trataka practice. This will stimulate
the blood supply in the eye regions.
3. Avoid using external eye medicine or solution after
trataka. Also avoid rubbing the eyes, even if in the
beginning of trataka you feel some eye strain, which
would be due to adaptation to eye exercises.
4. Avoid doing trataka on the burning sun. For better eye
health, it is advised to sit with closed eyes, facing the
sun. Trataka on the sun with open eyes should be
performed in the early morning and late afternoon (i.e.
sunset). However, trataka on the full moon of pumamashi is the best.
5. Some bodily exercises before and after trataka are
necessary to revitalise the tissues and nerves.
6. The continuous repetition and reflection upon the
symbol of Isvara i.e. Aum, during trataka practice will be
very beneficial spiritually