All contact with pleasure, pain, etc., are through the sense organs. Therefore, one should detach oneself from the senses, turn within and abide in one’s own self.Verse 136, Vigyan Bhairava Tantra
This is a beautiful verse that summarizes some of the important teachings of this text. We experience pleasure, pain and other physical sensations through our sense organs. Our emotions are also influenced by whatever information we receive through the sense organs. We constantly “react” to our external environment. Certain events make us happy, and certain events make us sad. To reach God, or to realize our true nature, we have to stop external events from influencing us. In other words, we have to have control over our emotions. That is when we become a master – a master over ourselves. How does one achieve this? The answer is given in the second part of the verse. Therefore, one should detach oneself from the senses. We constantly react to our external environment because of information we receive through our sense organs·. To stop reacting, detach from the senses. In other words, completely ignore whatever information you are receiving through the senses. If you ignore this information, you will stop reacting to it. turn within and abide in one’s own self. This part of the verse is important.
It summarizes the essential teaching of yoga. Redirect your attention inward. Let most of your attention be directed back towards yourself. This is the master key, and one of the most important things to learn about yoga and meditation. It will also help you detach yourself from the senses. If all your attention is directed outward, you are likely to be influenced by the external world, or the information received by the sense organs. If most of your attention is directed inwards, then it becomes easier to detach from the senses. Since only some of your attention is directed outward, you are less likely to be influenced by external events.
Redirecting our attention within is also important for another reason. It is only within that we find abundant joy. All the joy, all the love, all the peace, all the happiness we ever desired, is within us. This is a point this text has repeated continuously Verse 15 onwards. We constantly seek happiness outside, and that is why we sometimes suffer. When external events are not to our liking, we become unhappy. But within, we have a constant source of joy or love. This internal source is not dependent on external events. It is there continuously. To experience it we have to redirect our attention there. One has to abide in one’s own self, as the verse says. To abide in one’s own self means that one should constantly be self-aware.
One can simply be aware of one’s self, or one can be aware of one’s breath. Ramana Maharshi used to emphasize being aware of the self. He used to say that if you direct your attention inwards to the self, you experience bliss. If you direct it outwards, you experience pain. He gave a beautiful example to explain how to practice this. He said, if you have a cow that strays outside her stall, you will tempt her to stay within, by giving her fine fodder and grass to eat. Initially, she may still resist, and keep straying outside her stall. Gradually, she will enjoy staying in her stall till finally, she is so happy there that even if you coax her to come out, she will refuse. The mind works in a similar way. Initially, when you focus your attention within, you will find your mind straying outwards. When this happens, you will have to keep redirecting your awareness within, to the self. Gradually, you will start enjoying the peace you experience within. Finally, a time will come when you will experience internal happiness, and then you will find that
the mind no longer strays outwards.
One can also abide in one’s self by living in the joy of one’s true self. The way to practice this is to continuously be happy or joyful. Then remain aware of the joy or happiness you are experiencing. In this way, you become centered in the Self. One’s self is happy and one is focussed on that. When you do this, external events no longer disturb you, and your mind falls silent. When you are continuously aware of your self, or your breath, or what you are being, your mind quietens down. You immediately feel peaceful. When the mind becomes completely silent, you feel an explosion of joy, and then your true nature is revealed. You will then fully understand that you never needed anything external to be happy or joyful. You are the source of all the joy that you were looking for outside. Detachment from the external world or from our senses is very important. It is something all spiritual traditions emphasize. Detachment does not mean renouncing everything or running away from a particular situation. Detachment is about changing one’s attitude. It is about remaining peaceful in the face of a calamity. It is about changing our inner reaction. We have no control over external events, but we certainly have control over our inner reaction to them. It becomes easier to detach from the external world, when you realize that the source of all the joy and happiness you desire is within you. That is what this verse is teaching us. Go within, reside within. That is where you will find abundant joy.