Tratak Kriya, simply Trataka or Tratakam, is one of the six yogic cleansing practices (Shatkriya). It is used in Hatha Yoga and also in Tantra yoga practices. Blinking of the eyelids during the waking state is common to every animal. While gazing at an object, the blinking happens on its own. Tratak is the practice of gazing at an object without blinking until tears come. Ancient sages of India discovered the practice of gazing without blinking and incorporated it into the system of Yoga.
Blinking the eyelids is the act of Prana, the life force. The activity of Prana directly relates to the activity of the mind. When the Prana moves, the mind also moves. Similarly, when the Prana stops, the mind also stops. There are five types of Prana looking after the main functions of the body and also five types of Sub-Pranas looking after the ancillary functions. Kurma is one of the five ancillary Pranas or Sub-Pranas. The main function of Kurma Prana is the blinking of the eyelids. As such, the blinking of the eyelids happens automatically when Kurma is active. If we stop the action of blinking, the Kurma stops functioning. As a result, the mind also stops functioning. This is the concept behind the practice of Tratak Kriya.
This article describes the meaning, various types, steps, and benefits of trāṭak.
Tratak Kriya Meaning
The Sanskrit word trāṭak means to fix the gaze. It is the practice of constantly fixing the gaze at a specific point of an object till tears come. In other words, it is continuous gazing at a focus point. In simple words, we may call it Concentrated Gazing.
Verse 31 of Hatha Yoga Pradipika defines Trataka Kriya.
nirīkṣhenniśchala-dṝśā sūkṣhma-lakṣhyaṃ samāhitaḥ aśru-sampāta-paryantamāchāryaistrāṭakaṃ smṝtam
Accoding to Gurus, looking intently with a steady gaze at an infinitesimal point (sūkṣhma-lakṣhyaṃ) with a calm and concentrated mind untill tears are shed Is TratakamHatha Yoga Pradipika. Verse 31
Sukshma-Lakshyam not only means an infinitesimal object but also a subtle object. Hence, it also means gazing at the subtle afterimage that is manifested immediately after closing the eyes. However, in my view, the Author means an external small object rather than an internal subtle object. This is because he also says that the gazing should be until tears are shed. Obviously, it is possible only in external gazing.
Another Medieval Yoga text Gheranda Samhita also uses the same word, Sukshma-Lakshyam, while defining the Trataka Kriya.
Tratak Kriya Types
The type of Trataka may change according to the type of object chosen for gazing. Normally, gazing is performed on the flame of a candle or Dhiya, the traditional lamp for this purpose. Apart from this, Tratak is performed with other objects like the Sun, the empty sky, a star, etc.
Sun is a great source of Prana, the life energy. Gazing at the sun provides a lot of Pranic energy to the practitioner. One should learn this practice of gazing at the Sun from the Guru directly. However, I give the details just for the purpose of information only.
One should start the practice at the first rays of the rising sun or at the rays of the setting sun. Only two or three minutes at the first rays of the sun are recommended. More than that may hurt you with harmful radiation. While gazing at the sun, imagine that the Pranic energy is coming from the center of the sun to your eyes in a straight line and fills your body with full of Prana. Also, Imagine that your body glows like the sun full of Prana. Furthermore, imagine that your exhalation reaches the center of the sun and you inhale directly from the center of the sun. It heals every cell of your body.
Similar to gazing at the rising sun, gazing at the moon is Chandra Tratak. You can start with a period of fifteen minutes or more. Here the difficulty is that you could not do this regularly as the moon comes at different times on different days. You could not stick to a regular time for the practice. Hence, it is not the right choice for a beginner, Some Yogis prefer the Pole star instead of the moon. Mostly, these types of gazing at the stars or moon are performed lying on the back.
The other choices of objects are an Empty sky, a dot, a picture of Guru or deity, an image of Om, a crystal, a valley from a hilltop, etc. Or the Yogi may go with any concrete object of his choice. The moving objects like a river or sea often distract. However, advanced yogis choose subtle objects like mind, breath, etc.
Tratak Kriya Steps
The following are the steps of performing Tratak kriya on the lamp of ghee.
- Select a closed noise-free for practice. Also, ensure that all windows and doors are closed so that the movement of air is not there.
- Make arrangements in such a way that the flame of the ghee lamp is parallel to your eyes. Ensure that the distance between the eyes and the flame is four to five feet. The background of the flame should be a wall.
- Now, Switch off the lights.
- Gaze at the flame. If you feel a burning sensation, close your eyes.
- Resume your gaze if the sensation goes. If tears come during this period, just wipe out and continue the practice.
- Assume the practice at the same time on consequent days.
- Increase the period of gazing over time. First, start with five minutes and slowly increase the period up to 30 to 45 minutes. After achieving the target time, make this practice a regular one along with other practices.
- It helps to achieve one-pointedness of the mind, Ekagrata. If the sun’s rays are focused on a single point, they create fire. Such is the power of concentration. To reach higher levels of meditation, you need to focus your mind on a single object. As such, Tratak trains the yogi in meditation. Once you have the power of concentration, mental clarity comes as never before. The power of memory increases. Tratak is just the external help that you need to get your mind focused. If you succeed in Tratakam, further steps will unfold themselves on their own. If you meditate on a specific object consistently, the object reveals itself. Such is the power of meditation. Trataka kriya helps to achieve this.
- The regular practice of Tratak Kriya gives you healthy and lustrous eyes. For someone who practices trāṭak from his childhood, there is no necessity of wearing eyeglasses in his lifetime. Eyesight becomes comparatively sharper than those who do not practice. For a person wearing eyeglasses, the number of glasses won’t increase.
- By the practice of trāṭak, a practitioner can activate the Chakras and elevate Kundalini. But it requires guidance from a Guru.
- Similarly, a practitioner attains many Siddhies during the course of trāṭak sādhana. This may vary from practitioner to practitioner. However, he should not give importance to them. Also, he should not practice with the aim of attaining Siddhies. They will become the cause of distress rather than doing any good.
- Accomplished yogis can perform Śaktipāt and cure a disease by performing Tratak on the diseased part of a person.
In essence, Tratak is a preliminary practice included in Shatkriya in Hatha Yoga. However, the mastery of this practice will make advanced Raja Yoga techniques like Dharana, Samyama, and Samadhi easier. Hence, it is one of the important practices a Yogi should include in his daily practice to reach higher levels of meditation.