Modes of Practice
Trataka consists of five different modes of practice:
1. Bahya drishti (outer trataka)
2. Bahya-anlar drishti (outer and inner trataka combined)
3. Antar drishti (inner trataka)
4. Shoonya drishtz (gazing into the void)
5. Nimntm drishti (continuous gazing)
In outer trataka, or external gazing, the eyes remain open and focused on any steady object. Techniques of outer trataka include agochari mudm (nose tip gazing) and shambhavi mudm (eyebrow center gazing). This form of trataka can also be practiced by focusing the gaze on objects such as the flame of a candle, a dot, the rising sun and so on. By steadying the eyes in this manner you are automatically concentrating the mind.
When outer and inner trataka are combined, first you gaze at an external point or object for some time, then you close your eyes and gaze at the after image or inner reflection of the same object. Any object can be used for concentration. A luminous object such as a candle flame is often used by beginners because the brightness attracts the eyes and holds the gaze.
It also imprints a clear image on the retina of the eyes which can be seen clearly when the eyes are closed. This inner image becomes the object of concentration during antar trataka. If it is bright and clear enough, it will hold your inner gaze so that you are aware of nothing else. This leads to concentration of the mental forces.
The method of outer and inner trataka combined is useful for people who are not able to develop an inner image at will, without an external counterpart. Those who can create a steady, distinct inner image without the assistance of an outer object can practice inner trataka alone. In inner trataka the awareness is focused only on an internal image. Therefore, this practice is more difficult than outer trataka alone or outer and inner trataka combined.
Inner trataka is most conducive to concentration because there is no external sensory contact, as there is with the other two forms. You should practice inner trataka when you are able to create a clear inner image and when your mind is reasonably tranquil and steady. If you have a vague inner image or no image and you attempt the practice of inner trataka, then you will either fall asleep or lose your awareness in the usual patterns of thought play.
Gazing into the void should be practiced after internal trataka has been mastered. This practice is also known as shoonya drishti. Shoonya means the ‘void’ or ‘formless state’. It is not chidakasha. In shoonya drishti there is no object of awareness. This form of trataka is to be done with the eyes open, gazing at nothingness. It takes a long time to get into this state. Your eyes are open, but you are unable to see anything because the mind has become introverted. After some time the eyes become dim. They are half open and you can see nothing. Continuous gazing is looking at any point without blinking the eyes for hours together. It is what Ramana Maharishi used to practice, sitting for ten, eleven or twelve hours a day, without blinking his eyes.
Objects of Awareness
The object should be something which naturally attracts your attention and holds your gaze. You must decide what is most suitable for yourself. Take Anything as your object, but once you decide, try not to change because this will decrease the effectiveness of your practice. If you develop the awareness of one particular object and then suddenly change, you must start from the beginning again to assimilate the new object. The mind has to mould itself around a particular object so that it is automatically drawn towards it. This takes time, so choose your object carefully and then stick to it.