‘Trataka’ is steady gazing at a particular point or object without winking. Though this is one of the six purificatory exercises, it is mainly intended for developing concentration and mental focusing.
It is very useful for the students of Hatha Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Raja Yoga. There is no other effective method for the control of the mind. Some of the students who claim that they belong to Jnana Yoga, neglect such important exercises since they are described under Hatha Yogic portions. Sri Ramana Maharshi the famous Jnani of Tiruvannamalai, was doing this exercise. You could have seen it clearly if you had been to his Ashram for his Darshan. While seated on his sofa in his room, he used to gaze on the walls. When he sat on the veranda in an easy-chair, he steadily looked at the distant hills or at the sky. This enabled him to keep up a balanced state of mind. Nothing could distract his mind. He was very calm and cool always. He was not at all distracted by any one even though his Bhaktas might be talking and singing by his side.
(1) Keep the picture of Lord Krishna, Rama, Narayana or Devi in front of you. Look at it steadily without winking. Gaze at the head; then at the body; then at the legs. Repeat the same process again and again. When your mind calms down look at a particular place only. Be steady till tears begin to flow. Then close the eyes and mentally visualise the picture. (2) Gaze on a black dot on a white wall or draw a black mark on a piece of white paper and hang it on the wall in front of you. (3) Draw the picture Om (!) on a piece of paper and have it before your seat. Do Trataka on it. (4) Lie down on an open terrace and gaze at a particular bright star or on the full moon. After some time, you will see different colours of lights. Again some time later, you will see only a particular colour throughout, and all other surrounding stars will disappear. When you gaze at the moon, you will see only a bright moon on a black background. At times you will see a huge mass of light all around you. When gazing becomes more intense, you can also see two or three moons of the same size and at times you cannot see any moon at all even though your eyes may be wide open. (5) Select at random any place in the open sky in the morning or evening hours and gaze at it steadily. You will get new inspirations. (6) Look at a mirror and gaze at the pupil of your eye. (7) Some people do Trataka at the space between the two eyebrows or at the tip of the nose. Even during walking, some persons do Trataka at the tip of the nose. (8) Advanced students can do Trataka at the inner Chakras, (Padmas). Muladhara, Anahata, Ajna and Sahasrara are the important centres for Trataka. (9) Keep a ghee-lamp before you and gaze at the flames. Some astral entities give Darshan through the flames. (10) Very few Yogins do Trataka on the sun. It requires the help of an experienced man by their side. They begin to gaze on the rising sun and after gradual practice they do Trataka on the sun even in the midday. They get some special Siddhis (psychic powers) by this practice. All are not fit for this Sadhana. All the first 9 exercises will suit everyone and they are harmless. The last one, sun-gazing should not be attempted until you get the help of an experienced man.
When you do the practice in your meditation room, sit in your favourite Asana (posture), Siddhasana or Padmasana. At other times you can do in a standing or sitting posture. Trataka can be profitably done even when you walk. As you walk along the streets, do not look hither and thither. Gaze at the tip of the nose or toes. There are many persons who do not look at the face when they talk to others. They have their own gaze at a particular place and talk. No particular Asana is required for this Sadhana. When you gaze at a picture, it is Trataka. When you close your eyes and mentally visualise the picture, it is Saguna Dhyana (meditation with form). When you associate the attributes of God such as omnipresence, omnipotence, omniscience, purity, perfection, etc., the name and the form of the object of Trataka will automatically disappear and you will enter into Nirguna Dhyana (abstract meditation). Do Trataka for two minutes to start with. Then cautiously increase the period. Do not be impatient. Gradual steady practice is required. Gazing at a spot even for three full hours continuously counts for nothing, if the mind is wandering. The mind also must be on the spot. Then only you will advance in this practice and attain many psychic powers. Those who cannot gaze steadily for a second in spite of several attempts, need not worry much. They can close their eyes and gaze at an imaginary spot at the space between the two eyebrows. Those who have very weak eye-capillaries should do Trataka after closing their eyes on any imaginary spot within or without. Do not tax your eyes by over-practice. When you feel tired, close your eyes and keep your mind on the object of Trataka. When you sit and do Trataka do not shake the body. Trataka improves eyesight. Many who had some eye-troubles have realised immense benefits by Trataka. Going beyond one’s own power and gazing at the sun without any help may produce serious troubles. For gazing on the sun you must have your guide by your side. The Guru will prescribe some oil to rub on your head to avoid such serious troubles and to cool the system. You should apply honey to your eyes at night when you practise sun-gazing. The same object of gazing will appear as something else during the practice. You will have many other visions. Different people have different experiences. You will not even believe certain things when others tell you of their experiences. Trataka alone cannot give you all Siddhis. After the control of the mind, when it becomes steady, you will have to manipulate the mind by prescribed methods for the attainment of powers. Therefore the powers that are obtained by this practice may vary in different persons. It depends upon the further training of the mind, in a particular way. Young aspirants, who pose as big Yogins, neglect such practices and ask whether this practice is Moksha. Certainly that practice itself is not Moksha. Different practices are for the attainment of Moksha. One can attain the goal by a particular method, others by different methods. Remember this point always. Otherwise you will be neglecting all the methods. You will be misguided and lose the goal if you neglect the Sadhana. By the practice of Trataka, diseases of the eyes are removed. Eye-sight improves. Many have thrown away their spectacles after taking to this practice. Will-power is developed. Vikshepa is destroyed. It steadies the mind. Clairvoyance, thought-reading, psychic cure and other Siddhis are obtained very easily. Once again I will tell you that Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Karma Yoga, etc., are not incompatibles like Cocaine and Soda Bicarbonate. They are not antagonistic to each other. Do not neglect this exercise for the mere reason that it comes under Hatha Yoga portions. Even though you may claim to be a student of Jnana Yoga or Bhakti Yoga, you can take to this practice. It is a very effective powerful remedy for a wandering mind. It prepares the mind undoubtedly for perfect Dhyana and Samadhi. This is assuredly a means for the end. You must ascend the Yogic ladder or stair-case step by step. Several persons have been benefited by this useful exercise. Why not you, also, dear friend, sincerely attempt to practise this from this moment? I have given you different exercises for Trataka. Select any one of the methods that suits you best and realise the spiritual benefits. Do this for one month regularly and let me know your experiences, benefits and also troubles, if any.