Trataka consists of three different modes of practice:
1. Outer (bahir) trataka only
2. Outer and inner (antar) trataka combined.
3. Inner trataka only
Outer trataka can be practised alone, though in fact it is generally combined with inner trataka for the best results. The technique that we will discuss in this lesson and the next will be a combination of both outer and inner trataka. The most effective, though more difficult technique, is inner trataka practised by itself – the third stage of trataka practice’.
1. Outer trataka alone-. This can be practised on almost any object, a few suggestions for which are given subsequently. Agochari mudra is an excellent form of outer trataka3. Because most people are habituated to being continuously extroverted during their lives, they find it almost impossible to close the eyes for more than a few seconds, unless they are intending to sleep. Outer trataka can be utilized under these circumstances. The most useful purpose of outer trataka, however, is to train the eyes so that they can gaze at an object for a long time without fickering the eyelids, so that one can gain a clear inner after-image for the purpose of inner trataka.
2. Outer and inner trataka combined: This is the form of trataka that we will describe in this topic and the following lesson. One first of all gazes at an external point or object for some time, then closes the eyes and gazes at the after-image of the same object. Again any form can be used, though a bright object is most suitable, for this imprints a clear picture on the retina of the eyes, which can be clearly seen when the eyes are closed. While the stage of outer trataka does help to concentrate the mind, the main function is to produce a clear inner-image. This after-image acts as an almost overwhelming object of attention during inner trataka. If it is bright and clear enough it will, in a sense, fascinate your awareness so that you can be aware of nothing else. This is exactly what is required for it leads to concentration of mental forces and in turn meditation.
The method of outer and inner trataka combined is especially useful for those people who have great difficulty in creating an inner-image at will, without an external counterpart. Those people who can easily create a steady and distinct inner-image without the assistance of an outer material object can practise inner trataka alone.
3. Inner trataka alone: This form of trataka is most conducive to introspection and exploration of the mind, for there is no contact with the outside world as there is with the other two modes. However, the other two forms, are most suitable for general practice and especially for beginners. The reason for this is that most people have a disturbed mind that is in continual conflict and turmoil. Under these circumstances it is generally difficult to create an inner image that is sufficiently overwhelming to capture the attention of the mind. If the mind is disturbed and you practise inner trataka, you will generally find that the ever wandering mind quickly forgets the inner image and becomes sidetracked onto other thoughts. As a result you will fail to gain the most benefits from the practice. Under these conditions it is far better to practise outer trataka or outer trataka combined with inner trataka, for the clarity and more tangible nature of the outer object will be more likely to hold the attention of the mind to the exclusion of other thoughts.
You should definitely do inner trataka when you can create a clear inner image and when you feel that your mind has attained a reasonable degree of equanimity and steadiness. This state will come if you practise yoga with sincerity and enthusiasm. Inner trataka is a powerful method of developing awareness of the deeper aspects of the mind and awakening its incredible potential.