Drishti 1

Lesson 8 Module 2

A fundamental aspect of yoga is the gaze or focus. The physical side of vision is an entry into the subtle aspects of mind. True vision is an inner experience.

The ancient texts explain that the senses deliver the fuel for the in the form of sense objects. The mind then develops desires, which are the source of suffering. The mind's basic assumption is that it needs a constant supply of sense stimulation.

The concept of yoga, on the other hand, holds that we are always in the original and pristine state of bliss that is consciousness. The original state is formless, however, and since the mind has a tendency to attach itself to whatever comes along next, we forget our true nature.

Yoga practices include various kinds of sense-withdrawal, under the umbrella term pratyahara, to counter this insatiable thirst for stimulation. It is said that just as a fire dies down when the fuel is removed, so too does the mind return to its source when the fuel of the senses is withheld. This is also the deeper meaning of the term 'self-love', to redirect energy back into ones self.

This diagram shows the origin point of consciousness in the centre, and our inward and outward focused attention. 

In the breath lesson we noted that to withdraw the audio sense we listen to our own breath rather than external sounds. With vision the same applies, we look at our selves instead of external objects. During yoga we focus our eyes upon a specific point so that our mental attention begins to co-ordinate and concentrate. We can be easily distracted by our surroundings, many things in the room can pull us away from practice, so we use the gaze point as a tool to balance ourselves.

In the Bhagavad Gita VI.13, Krishna instructs the hero Arjuna to "hold one's body and head erect in a straight line and stare steadily at the tip of the nose".

Generally speaking, we wish to look in the direction of the reach or stretch aspect of any pose. If our arm is pointing at the sky, we will also let our gaze move in this direction. Our eyes represent our aspiration and optimism, so in many poses you will see that we are encouraged to look up rather than down. Further focal points include, depending on the pose: the nose, navel, hand, toes, and third eye in between the eyebrows.

Drishti is a tool that we use to train the mind to be steady, strong, and calm. By controlling the movement of the eyeballs we allow the mind to collect and draw itself inwards. Having a clear mind is more important than succeeding in any pose. Yoga is the ability to maintain a one-pointed focus without wavering. There is a technique called trataka where you stare without blinking at a candle flame or other object, to develop this intensely directed focus.

The ultimate goal of all yoga practices is to uncover the wisdom contained within each of us. The steady cultivation of the inner light allows you to shine your awareness on any situation and see with clarity and see the truth behind appearances.

The awakening referred to in the ancient texts explains that we can discern the real from the illusory and the temporary from the eternal. The great Shankaracarya reminds us of this deeper meaning: "In converting ordinary vision into one of knowledge, one should view the world as arising from consciousness. That is the noblest vision, and not which which is directed at the nose."