All meditational practices aim initially at establishing concentration of mind as a prelude to meditation. To attain this state, various different methods are adopted. One of the most direct, simple and yet at the same time effective, is the technique of trataka. The mechanics of the practice are easy to learn and understand. It can be practised by everyone and the benefits are enormous. Even beginners, with a little effort and persistence, can gain much from it in a short period of time with some kind of noticeable experience. And most importantly it can lead directly to meditation.
In this lesson and the following two lessons we will introduce the three main stages of trataka, progressing from the simpler form to the more advanced forms1. The word trataka means ‘steady gazing’. The practice of trataka involves gazing at a point or object without blinking the eyes. It is a method of focussing the eyes and in turn the mind on one point to the exclusion of all others. The object can be either external to the body, in which case the practice is called bahir trataka (outer gazing), or the object of awareness can be internal, in which case it is called antar trataka (inner gazing). Through this method, all the attention and power of the mind is channelled into one continuous stream. This allows the latent potential within the mind to spontaneously arise.
Trataka as a world wide method Trataka is described in numerous scriptures, although it is usually known by other names and varies according to traditions. In the classical hatha yoga text, Gherand Samhita, it is classified as one of the shatkarmas. Because the other five practices of the shatkarmas (neti, dhauti, etc.) are concerned only with cleansing the body, trataka seems to be completely out of place – an anomaly in fact. However, it is regarded as the last of the shatkarmas and is included in this group for a good reason, namely to act as the stepping stone between physically oriented practices and mental practices that lead to higher awareness. In a sense, trataka acts as the bridge between hatha yoga and raja yoga.