The Eightfold Path Of Yoga-Part 3: Limbs Five And Six | Pratyahara And Dharana

The Context of Your Reality Within Your Primary Locus Of Control

Freedom from the external pulls of the world is the only way to truly obtain liberation from suffering.

This is what limbs five and six of the Eightfold Path remind us of.

Liberation from your subconscious and unconscious impulses and attractions, and mastery over the power and function of your mind will allow you to gain greater mastery over your primary locus of control so that you can use it’s power for the specific aim of gaining greater connection to/with your higher Self/expression.

For some, this mastery may mean complete freedom from desire through complete elimination (like in most branches of Yoga), while for others, this freedom may mean complete control over desires as with the Tantric Path, for example. Regardless of the way one walks the path, however, it is the pull of desires, or rather being pulled/led/guided by them that we must gain control over in order to obtain the freedom that is required to create space within ourselves to fully embody our true nature. When we are not driven by lust, gluttony, greed, jealously, the need for attention, and so forth we are free to run our minds and senses as opposed to being run by the needs and illusions of the external world.

When we have control over our minds and senses, we make better decisions that are not based on unconscious biases, desires, drives, and so forth and are able to act upon conscious choices that steer our lives in more deliberate (because we make choices based on awareness) ways. When we have control over our minds and our senses, we gain the mastery that is necessary to choose and experience higher states of consciousness and higher forms of being.


In order to get to this point of control and freedom, we must lose our appetite for worldly illusions and gain freedom from our conditioned and self-created delusions. After we accomplish this we then become more readily available for true understanding and choice and for the next steps on our journey toward enlightenment.

This is what Pratyahara, or mastery of our senses (which is commonly considered to be the bridge between the first four externally-focused limbs and the last three internally focused limbs of the Eightfold Path), and Dharana/the development of a pure, well-cultivated mind, represent. Together, these two limbs allow our full Self to take up more space in our mind, so that we become present for meditation/Dhyana, and then become ready for our ultimate connection with/expression of our lighted Self in Samdhi.

When this (mind mastery and concentration) occurs, we develop a dispassion for the world and are not as concerned with the trappings of society or as interested in the dramas of human relations and so forth. We become more fully focused on our Path toward the most important and beautiful connection and expression that we can experience in our lifetime, and everything else becomes a dull and colorless, pale, projection that only has our neutral interest for the purposes of observation and learning.

When we are not distracted by fanfare and maya (illusion) as we navigate through the world with a sense of clear focus and purpose, and possess an uncontaminated mind that has very little pull toward the external projections of our individual and collective chitta vrittis (delusions), we develop a rich and beautiful, peaceful, inner landscape and this becomes all that we desire to reside within. At this point, we begin our process of truly “being in the world, but not of it,” and start liberating ourselves from deeper levels of suffering.

This liberation is required in order to connect to our higher spirit.


If you have ever lost your appetite for food for an extended period of time, for a clearer illustration, you will know that while you still have the drive to eat in order to stay alive, and can still taste and smell delicious things and discern that they are so, you no longer have the compelling pull of desire that causes many to impulsively act in a way that makes them driven by external factors as opposed to being inspired toward a conscious internal choice. When you lose your appetite, you don’t go for a 1:00AM drive to any fast-food restaurant in the middle of a snow storm to spend overpriced amounts of money on something that is not nutritious or healthy at the whim of a thought, you are not pulled by any waft of smell or sight that crosses your path, but instead simply take note of what is required to move you forward with optimal functioning in the form of nutritious and required foods each day as opposed to being driven (like Pavlov’s dogs) by a conditioned impulse.

When you lose your appetite for maya (or illusion), a similar thing occurs. You lose your desire to perform your “worldly, performing, circus-self” (which is what I often call it, and sometimes even hear the circus music in my head to accompany this description) and you gain control of your physical self as opposed to being controlled by the different collective fads, news stories, and fleeting neuroses of your family, community, culture, society, and the world.

And when you are not simply driven by desires that have been conditioned, like the desire for the attention or approval of others’ illusory opinions, you move closer toward expressing your true nature. Recognition, fame, fortune and other externally depend desires to obtain a hollow sense of value and worth from things that cannot add value to your worth disappear in the same way that you do not have a need for the excitement of sugar, for the sensual explosion of umami, the enlivening tingle of something spicy or sour, the comfort of something creamy, and so forth when you lose your appetite for certain foods; and you are then free to choose to experience these things, or generate the effects of them internally, if you elect to do so for experience or for greater connection with your spirit (like in Tantra).

When you are free and in control of yourself, your desires, and your mind, you live life for Living, experiencing, and for honoring your existence, and you are driven by the natural inspiration to move closer to your spirt in the same way that you would, free from external addictions, eat for the maintenance, experience, and honoring of your body based on the essential drive of physical hunger to consume the nutrients that are needed to keep you alive and healthy. You live for the survival of your body and spirit as opposed to the conditioned appetites that come from the context of your past experiences in ignorance, your culture, illusory identities, or from being controlled by things outside of you and your true expression.

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