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Season 1 - Episode 8

Trataka Meditation Tutorial

15 min - Tutorial
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Dr. Robert Svoboda offers a tutorial on Trataka meditation, a purification experience and simple means of meditation in devotion to the fire element. Learn how to perform this meditation so that you can begin to transform and burn through your limitations.
What You'll Need: No props needed

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Tratika is simultaneously a purification experience for your organism and also a simple means of meditation. Tratika is usually performed with a flame. Traditionally in India this would have been a small clay lamp filled with oil or ghee and with a wick that would have been lit. Nowadays we can use a candle. When you are going to perform Tratika you should approach it with the same degree of attention and reverence that you would approach any other ritual that you might perform. It is often useful to do it after you have done something else, whether this might be the offering of the five items to the elements for example or it might be that you have sat down and done some chanting or it might be that you have sat down and done some other kind of meditation or you could do Tratika first to focus your attention because wherever your attention goes your prana will go and if your prana is better aligned and is moving more subtly then automatically your attention will be better aligned and moving more subtly.

So really you should try things out on your own and attempt to find out what is the most efficient and useful way for you to employ this particular practice in your daily life. It is a useful thing for us also to provide thankfulness and gratitude to the fire element, that element that we have been working with as humans for so long. I like to observe that the other elements we see all the time in our environment. We see water and water is relatively stable whether it is in the ocean or a pond or whatever. Yes it is moving up and down but it is still, we know that we don't wonder whether the, if we are living on a lake whether the lake is going to be there tomorrow or not.

We are fairly confident that is the case. Even more confident in the case of the mountains. Very confident in the case of the atmosphere. Extremely confident that there will be space that everything will not fold in on itself during the night. But fire is something that is always changing and except for the sun which is a giant ball that happily is 93 million miles away from us so we do not get completely scorched.

The fire that occurs on the earth always must be brought to life, only stays alive as long as it is being fed. It has a birth, it has a life span and it has a death and so in this way it is like anything else that is alive. So we can definitely think of fire being a living thing and therefore it is something, because it is something that is so fundamental to us humans, it is something that we humans have had a relationship with for this past million, million and a half years and it is something, it is a relationship that each one of us as individuals today will do well to reawaken and to cultivate because the fire has been providing benefit to us over all these past many, many, many, many years. So by doing Tratika we are also respecting being thankful to the fire for what it has done for us and committing to continuing to work with the fire. What we offer the fire is an opportunity to come to life again.

We offer it fuel, we offer it air, we offer it a location where it can live and we also have to be careful with fire. That is why we have a fire department. We do not have an air department because we are not so worried that the air could get loose and air everything down. We do worry that the fire could get loose and burn everything down, however. And that is why we also have to make sure that the fire is carefully contained.

So in the context of human beings, fire is very valuable but it is also a very potentially dangerous thing. And so we want to have a healthy relationship with the fire so that it is beneficial to both of us and not detrimental to either one of us. So when you are going to perform Tratika you align yourself with your own piranha, maybe do a little first calm abdominal breathing, then maybe do a few rounds of alternate nostril breathing so you are nice and calm and then take your candle or lamp or dia or thing of choice and ignite it. And what you want to do is you want to put the tip of the flame at approximately arm length at approximately eye level. So you put this on a table or something where that, where you are going to be able to focus on that point where the luminescence of the flame ends and you go back to the colorlessness and formlessness of the atmosphere around it.

So you are trying to focus on the tip of the flame but not so much really on the tip of the flame as the point where the tip of the flame disappears. When I was a teenager I was very fond of a Dadaist writer named Alfred Jari and Jari wrote a number of interesting things, one that has stayed with me all this time is that God is the tangential point between infinity and zero. So this is what we are trying to find here, that tangential point, that point, it's a very subtle point where on one side of which there is a flame, on the other side of which there is not. So we are trying to train our eyes to rest at that point. Don't be surprised if your eyes in the beginning tend to wander because if your prawn is wandering your gaze will wander also.

So this is an opportunity for you to test how the prawn is circulating in your organism. If it is very difficult to keep your attention at the tip of that flame then you very likely will need to do some things to encourage the prawn to circulate better in yourself so that you'll be able to align yourself better not only with the flame but with everything else that's going to be happening outside. So in that way doing trataka is also kind of like a method of digestion of your imbalances and a method of diagnosis for the degree to which your prawn is either circulating well or not. It's also an opportunity for you to perform ahada, to take in, to feed and what you're feeding on is the pure form of that flame and you're feeding on the color and the reality of the flame itself so you're feeding your own internal subtle fire which is what you're trying to develop in order to facilitate your spiritual development. So the practice of trataka offers many benefits to you.

So you have the, you have your flame at eye level, at about arm's length, traditionally they say that you should hold your attention there until your eyes start to water. And this is a good, this is a good amount of time at least in the beginning. After a while if you persist with this practice and make it a habit and usually it takes somewhere between four and six weeks for something to become part of your routine so that your organism whenever you sit down, when something becomes routine in the negative way you fall into a rut and you keep doing it even if you don't want to do it. When it becomes the routine in the positive way what happens is as soon for example if you're doing trataka as soon as you sit down to do it automatically your alignment will move in the direction of you putting your attention at that tangential point between the flame and the non-flame, automatically it will encourage you to become a little bit more meditative, automatically you'll get into that groove and this happens to be a positive groove for you. So once you get into a positive groove with this practice or with any other practice, but this is the one we're talking about right now, once you get into a positive groove with this practice then what will happen is that it will become more obvious what is the right amount of time for you to be sitting with it and then things will start to become a little more and I hesitate to use the word but it's still a good word, automatic, that is as soon as you get the lamp set up your organism will go through the process and that is a good thing because that shows your alignment with the process.

What you don't want to do is have it become so automatic that then you start not paying attention, that part of you is aligned with it and then your mind is going in all kinds of other directions. So you will have to work with it as with any other kind of practice that you decide to take up, you'll have to work with it to make sure that it is still new each day, that your awareness is still sufficiently unlimited that you're able to get the benefit from it as if it was something you were doing new every day but at the same time to get the benefit of being in that positive groove. So we don't want the groove to be too deep, we want it to be deep enough that you get into the groove and you can kind of move along in that groove, we don't want it to be so deep that you are stuck in the groove and you can never get out of it again. The benefit of using the flame is that fire always burns everything and if you request the fire politely it will burn your limitations, in fact if you request the fire politely it can even burn the limitations that could potentially occur in the context of you having this as an ongoing practice. Now if you become very very interested in the fire by doing trataka then you might consider going a little further and starting to actually build a fire on a regular basis and sit with you that there are many different methods by which this is done.

One method in Sanskrit is called havana or homa in which you make offerings to the fire, you request ethereal beings to visit, you feed them, you create a kind of a satsang using the fire as that center point. So there are many possibilities as to how you might proceed ahead from here but trataka is a very good way to begin.


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