The practices of kriya yoga follow a specific plan and can be divided into three distinct groups. These groups combined together systematically induce:
1 Pratyahara (sense withdrawal)
2 Dharana (concentration)
3 Dhyana (meditation)
The first techniques are designed to induce pratvahara, the second group induce dharana; this leads to dhyana, which is actually beyond all techniques. This whole process is progressive and natural, without any strain and frustration. It is essential to induce a spontaneous outflow of dhyana. For this reason we will describe the process in more detail.
Pratyahara: From the day we are born we are conditioned to remain concerned only with the outside world and to believe that it is the only reality. Our whole motivation is directed to external experience. As a result it becomes difficult to internalize one’s awareness. This is the first block in advanced yoga and it is a difficult block to overcome. Habits are easy to pick up but difficult to eradicate.
The mind is conditioned to continually receive and react to data coming from the outer world. The mind is tuned to external stimuli and, since these external stimuli are continuously impinging on our senses, the mind is always busy. It is ever in a state of turmoil. The process of pratyahara is intended to stop this process by disconnecting one’s awareness from the sense organs. This brings about an internalization of awareness.
The mind is like a naughty child: it does the opposite of what you want. Therefore, it has been found by the experience of many people that excessive effort to forget the outside surroundings leads to the opposite result. That is, applied effort to forget the outside world leads to an increase in external perception. This often leads to frustration and many people give up their attempt to introspect.
Kriya yoga is designed to overcome this problem in a unique yet obvious manner: it enters the house of the mind by the back door. In the first group of kriyas no attempt is made to curb or cut off external sense stimuli. In fact the eyes, which receive the largest amount of external stimuli, are purposely kept open for some time in the earlier kriyas. This seems to contradict logic, but it brings results. It induces internalization of awareness. One does each kriya, allows internal stimulation to arise – and lo and behold, the unexpected happens: after some time one’s awareness becomes introverted spontaneously. Kriya yoga achieves a state of pratyahara by cunning means.
Cutting off external sense stimuli, however, brings its own problems; it easily leads to the opposite extreme – total absorption in inner thought processes and psychic realms. People are conditioned in such a way that their awareness must always be absorbed or entangled in something. Therefore, disconnection of one’s awareness from the outside world leads to absorption and identification with the inner processes of the mind. One starts to brood over personal problems, fear, conflicts, or becomes attached to beautiful psychic scenery. This is like a bee that pulls itself free from sticky honey on the inside of a jar only to fly into the honey on the opposite surface of the jar. Freedom from one extreme leads to entanglement in the opposite extreme. Each is as bad as the other. Thus disentanglement from external stimulation of the mind can easily lead to internal involvement. Both have to be avoided if one wants success in yoga practice.