What is Drashta?

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Drashta is a term used in yoga to indicate a quality, a capacity of the mind which is imbued with awareness. The awareness in this quality of mind makes you aware of yourself. Right now you may think you are aware of yourself but you are not. Out of the two billion bits of information that are processed by the brain every minute, how aware are you of the information that is being received by the brain? A very minute part. Out of the millions of impressions being received by the mind every moment, how aware are you of the information being received by the mind? A very small part.

Two faces of the mind

You may be aware but you are not the observer. You may be awake, active and interactive, in the world but you are not observing. Yoga uses a specific word ‘drashta’ to indicate a condition of mind which is observing itself.

Sri Swami Satyananda said that the mind is dissipated, distracted, running in all directions. When you sit down for meditation you begin to think, ‘I need to control my mind, I need to become still, I need to become focused’, and you make the effort. What is happening there? It is the mind which is distracted, dissipated, disturbed and it is the same mind which thinks, ‘I want to become stable, quiet and peaceful’.

These are the two faces of the mind. The mind has two faces, the external and the internal face. Just imagine two faces back to back; one is looking this way and the other is looking that way. When you are awake, you are identifying with the face of the mind which is in the front looking ahead, but when you are sleeping, your awareness or the identification of the mind is with the mind which is looking inward, so you are not aware of the outside.

It is inaccurate to say that there are two faces of the mind, but for the sake of talk, discussion and understanding. In normal life we are in the front face but in meditation we block out the front through pratyahara, and we direct our gaze inwards into the other side. We start looking inwards and the moment we begin to look inwards, there is this awareness that ‘I’m looking in’. That is the state of drashta.

True and false nature

In the first three sutras of Sage Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras it is said:

Atha yogah anushasanam.
Yogah chitta vritti nirodha.
Tadha drashta swaroope awasthanam.

These three sutras convey the concept of the external mind and the internal mind. The first sutra says, ’Instructions on yoga’, or ‘the disciplines of yoga’. This leads to the second sutra, ’Quieting the dissipated mental behaviour’ which is the external face of the mind. Once this quieting of the external behavior, the dissipation and agitations have been brought to a minimum, then the peaceful state of mind makes one look inward. That is the third sutra, ’Then the observer realizes his true nature’.

According to these sutras, true nature is looking inwards and false nature is looking outwards. The false nature connects one with maya and the true nature connects one with atma.

When you are in maya, you are involved, you are the enjoyer and the doer, the bhokta and the karta. Karta is the performer or the doer and bhokta is the enjoyer. Coming out of the identification of karta and bhokta, which relates you with maya, makes you observe your essential, spiritual nature and that is drashta.

—15 March 2015, Ganga Darshan, Munger