Trataka is the practice of concentrating the mind, during which a person continuously looks at an object that is right in front of him and then, closing his eyes, reproduces the image of that object in his mind.

Budda, Trataka

There are two stages:

  1. Bahiranga — is focusing on a material object with open eyes.
  2. Antaranga — is visualization of this object with closed eyes on the internal screen of consciousness.

Objects of concentration:

  • candle flame,
  • rounded crystal,
  • sacred symbol,
  • deity image,
  • shiva lingam,
  • yantra,
  • mandala,
  • natural form,
  • moon,
  • star,
  • sun.

By concentrating on the image of a deity, you can establish a connection in the inner world with the enlightened energy manifested in the form of that deity. This is extremely beneficial, since such a connection is a great support on the path. Concentration on the image of a deity is an ancient and very effective practice of transformation.

When we talk about contemplating the sun, we mean focusing not directly on the solar disk, but on its reflection in the water surface. This practice is less known in the West, but common in India.

There are different objects of concentration, but in order to develop stable concentration, it is important to choose one method and practice it. Next we will talk about the traditional type — meditation on a candle.

Girl looking at a candle

Trataka Meditation Preparation

If you are looking at a candle fire, it is important that the flame burns evenly and does not flicker. So you need to practice in a draft-free room.

It is beneficial to do trataka:

  • After the hatha yoga complex.
  • In the evening as a mind cleansing practice at the end of the day.
  • In the morning as a practice to prepare for meditation.

The best time for trataka is early morning. Please try not to overheat your body before this practice. For example, if you are performing a dynamic Hatha Yoga Sun Salutation routine, your body may be too hot. Concentration on fire increases heat; it is beneficial to do it after washing the body.

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Candle Meditation Technique

  1. The candle is placed at eye level. The recommended distance is about a meter or closer, at arm's length.
  2. Please sit in a cross-legged meditation position. Hands on the knees, hands folded in jnyana-mudra: the pad of the thumb rests on the nail of the index finger, forming a ring. Next, maintain a still body posture for a while, which promotes quietness of mind, and tune in to the practice of concentration by closing your eyes. If you have enough time, keep your eyes closed for ten minutes, then open them up.
  3. The practitioner directs the gaze to an external object - a candle flame. The area of fixation of the gaze is the middle part of the flame, just above the wick. If possible, try not to blink. It is important to close the eyes before tears or any tension appears.
  4. When attention has become sufficiently sustained, the practitioner covers the eyes and presents an image of the object of concentration.
    Focusing on the image on the other side of closed eyes is called drishti sadhana: 'drishti' is 'vision', 'sadhana' is 'spiritual discipline'.
    When you try to stare at a candle flame for a while and then close your eyes, you will certainly see a light spot-an imprint that is visible on the inner screen of consciousness. This spot is the initial object for concentration. At first it may move and wander, but gradually it will become more and more stable. With practice you will be able to visualize the whole flame more clearly. The ability to visualize is a gradual process that takes time.
  5. The eyes are then opened again to focus on the external object. The alternation of concentration with eyes open and closed helps the object of concentration to become clearer and clearer during visualization.
    This practice can be done fr om a few minutes to an hour.
    Recommended time: twenty minutes. Trataka can be either an independent personal practice or a part of a set of yogic and meditative practices.
    For concentration, it is important that the object of concentration causes a person's trust. If one concentrates on an object that does not resonate, there is a greater likelihood of distractions of the mind. Fire itself does not belong to any philosophy or worldview and is an element, so fire trataka is a universal tool suitable for all people, if there are no contraindications.
Buddha statue in Mahakala cave

Contraindications to practicing trataka

  • glaucoma,
  • acute inflammatory diseases of the visual organs,
  • retinal pathology.

Benefits of trataka exercise

Candle meditation is beneficial on all levels.

At the body level, trataka helps to heal:

  • headaches,
  • myopia,
  • astigmatism,
  • early cataracts.

On the level of the mind, trataka helps to develop concentration and clear vision. On the energy level, it is one of the ways of purification, as fire is the purifying element, the material embodiment of the idea of light.

It is the term “clear light” in the Buddha's Teaching that is commonly used to refer to the primordial nature of mind and world.

A light-bearing mind is a mind free from ignorance, a mind that realizes clearly.

A concentrated thought is a tremendous power. Such a thought has the quality of keen perception, the ability to see the underlying truth of observed phenomena.

Swami Niranjananda Saraswati's “Dharana darshan.”

Trataka or candle meditation is a step towards this state, a concentration that allows you to make attention steady and awaken inner vision.

David Frawley: “Concentrating on an external source of light helps to awaken our inner light.”

The presence of the element of fire has been considered sacred since ancient times.
Fire is a traditional element of the altar of most religious movements. If we accept the concept of multi-layered reality, then the altar is the place wh ere the qualities of a higher layer are manifested in the material. Fire is a mediator in this process. By lighting a living fire with a certain mood, a person “invites” divine energy into the space.

It is very right to treat fire with a certain respect as a living power that in every sense, literal and metaphorical, lights the way.

Luminous practices to you!