Just as the gopis on hearing the flute of Sri Krishna left their husbands (the gopas) and went for the dance (rasa), likewise the senses will have to leave their objects and become introvert. Sound, touch, sight, taste and smell are the five sense objects. The experiences they provide are termed extroversion. When our mind detaches itself from these objects and becomes quiet, then the ishta descends into us. Therefore, to bring in the ishta deva, the veil will have to be removed. The practice of doing so is called pratyahara (abstraction). Concentration and meditation develop when this practice is successful. The form of the ishta is visible sometimes and sometimes not. Why does this happen? The reason is that if and when the veil is lifted, the form is visible, not otherwise. Therefore, instead of going straight into meditation, you should practice all the sadhanas of pratyahara. In other words, if after fifty-five minutes of the pratyahara sadhana the vision of the ishta is seen even for five minutes, it is better than fruitless meditation for sixty minutes. Therefore, through both yoga nidra and padmasana, perfect pratyahara.
The overall methods of pratyahara fall into two categories. One category includes the practice of viveka (discrimination) to prevent impressions registering in the mind as a result of attachment. Thus no samskaras are gathered in the mind, and even if they are, their effect will not be lasting. Nothing is to be done. Nothing is to be thought of, believed, or suggested. You have only to regard every influence as an aspect of the attitude of the mind and to maintain a detachment towards it. You may not be able to do this immediately, but it can be developed in time.
Those impressions which cast an influence on the mind are called samskaras. You will have to develop an attitude whereby you do not accept anything, though you hear and understand everything in this world. This will purify your subtle plane. The sadhaka who is influenced by the pairs of opposites, or whose mind reacts to the impact of happenings in the world, will only see the vision of his samskaras in meditation. If it is not possible to free the mind from all influences, then let a single influence remain predominant. Then the mind will not accept any other influence.
The second category consists of the practice of withdrawing the senses from their fields of experience and making them enter the subtle plane, or withdrawing them from external objects, and making them subtle and introvert before finally merging them. This being achieved, the mind immediately absorbs itself into the dhyeya (object of meditation). Remember that meditation depends on the suspension of sense consciousness. The second category of pratyahara relates to that aspect and enables you to become introvert. It should be practiced as follows:
One round of this practice takes a full three hours. If you practice all of these a little, I will make you do all these kriyas for hours together. Even if you are unable to practice them all at one time, at least make yourself familiar with them by doing them often, so that during personal training the practice can be conducted satisfactorily by giving hints only. Practice fully all the methods of yoga nidra, all stages of japa yoga, the technique of nadanusandhana, gazing at the eyebrow centre, nasikagra, etc. Side by side, practice a little moola bandha, jalandhara bandha, uddiyana bandha, ashwini mudra, maha mudra, and most certainly, shakti chalini. If you make yourself familiar with all these practices my work will begin. Understand them all thoroughly, remember them and absorb all the practices indicated by me, given by me or communicated to you in writing by me.
Be fearless – cowards never acquire the power of life. You have a fear complex. What will you gain thereby? The impressions of fear are obstructions in the awakening of kundalini. I pray that the fear of this world or of the other worlds, the fear of the seen and the unseen, the fear of the gross and the subtle, the fear of acquisition and loss, the fear of gods and demons, the fear of life and death, the fear of attachment and aversion go from you. For fear is always an imaginary belief, a hindrance to personality, and in this wonderful world no one is free from the influence of fear. And what can a sadhaka who is ready to awaken the kundalini afford to gain from being afraid? Proceed on this path only if you can fully shed fear. Otherwise, even now there is time, return and return quickly, return at once! One who is afraid of a fly will never be able to pass by the lion’s den. If at all you want to go on this path, where except for the self you will find no shelter, tell your samskaras ‘hands off’.
Kundalini is the dormant power of yoga within a person. In other words, it is the yogic potential. The brain is the seat of the intellect, the heart is the seat of sentiments and mooladhara is the seat of yogic power. Just as the way for the development of the intellect and the expansion of sentiments lies in the world, so also the road to the development of the power of yoga lies in yoga sadhana. The senses are influenced by the development of the intellect, and the antahkarana by the development of the sentiments.
Similarly, the awakening of the serpent power activates the eye of Shiva in sahasrara. This is established in the form of light in the centre of the thousand-petalled lotus. As soon as it is awakened this centre becomes active. Therefore, remember mooladhara as the first centre and sahasrara as the last. The Devi is in mooladhara and the yoga drishti is in sahasrara. Swadhisthana, manipura, anahata, vishuddhi and ajna, which are situated in the spinal column in the regions of the coccyx, navel, heart, throat and the back of the head respectively – these are the halting stations of the kundalini shakti in motion. According to yogis, these centres are in the shape of the lotus. Each centre has a bija mantra, a deity and a letter of the alphabet. They are the regions of nada (sound), and all letters are derived from them.
A group of nerves emanates from these centres. As the awakened kundalini courses upwards and pierces each centre, the nerves go on extending and projecting its influence everywhere. The path by which the power ascends is called sushumna nadi. It rises from the brahmachakra and goes up to the brahmarandhra, wherein the centre with its support is established. This forms only the basis. Practice is the real thing.
—Letter to a disciple, first published in Taming the Kundalini