Christianity and Yoga:  A Series of Studies – Pratyahara

With Pratyahara – control or mastery of one’s senses, Yoga turns inwards yet again.

Yoga Sutra 2.54 When the mind maintains awareness, yet does not mingle with the senses, nor the senses with sense impressions, then self-awareness blossoms.
2.55 In this way comes mastery over the senses.

The intent is to still oneself and observe one’s own reactions without actually becoming entangled in them.  This detachment from our senses creates a powerful reserve of stillness or quiet within oneself.  This reserve allows the yogi to ask an all important question:  Is this really the right way to react to this or is this merely a gut reaction?  It is the quiet calmness that pratyahara produces that is a hallmark of many eastern religions.  Obviously, this is something that is entirely foreign to Christianity and it is something that is definitely foreign to our modern rushing society.  But is pratyahara really that foreign to Christianity?

26 It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.
Lamentations 3:26

This single passage is quite clear that the best way to wait for the salvation of the Lord is quietly.  It does not, however, require nor command that we be quiet.

11 And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;
1Thessalonians 4:11

In this letter to the Thessalonian church Paul instructs them to study to be quiet.  This implies that there is more to being quiet than just not making noise.

2 Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.
Psalms 131:2

This verse indicates that learning to quiet oneself is part of the path of growing up.  Rather than speaking of adulthood, I believe this actually refers to one’s progress in the ways of God and that quietness is a trait of one who is weaned and ready to learn.

10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
Psalms 46:10

Here we discover what can be learned through being still or quiet.

15 For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.
Isaiah 30:15

17 And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.
18 And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places;
Isaiah 32:17,18

Isaiah writes that in quietness we will find strength and that the effect of righteousness is quietness and assurance for ever.

Finally, Elijah was instructed by a still small voice while in the cave:

9 ΒΆ And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?
10 And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake:
12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?
1 Kings 19:9-13

How can any of us hope to hear something described as still and small if we ourselves are not quiet?  Let us then, as Paul instructed, study to be quiet.