by Swami Karunananda
Lost in the never-ending and ever-increasing distractions and sensual excitement of modern living, man is abusing his senses far beyond their normal capacity and then complaining that they begin to lose their efficiency long before the normal fading out of old age.
To satisfy the jaded palate, hotter and hotter, sweeter and sweeter, saltier and saltier or sourer and sourer condiments are added to his food-long since have the original tastes of vegetables, fruits and cereals been lost and forgotten, never to be recaptured by his coarsened tongue.
The scent of the rose or the ripening corn, the perfumes wafted by a cool evening breeze-all are lost to the nose now adapted to petrol fumes. The stench of duco-spraying and the suffocating atmosphere of entertainment-halls.
But surely the most abused of man's senses is sight as, from the days when he first invented the printing of black letters on dazzling white paper and took to reading this print under artificial light, extending his open-eyed period by a third to half a day and, under the cruel stress of competitive examinations, even to two-thirds of a day, he enjoys normal vision for a mere fraction of his life-span and frequently becomes a `four-eyed' long before leaving school. The pleasure of walking after dark unaided by torch or street-light, using instead eyes, ears and nose, is unbelievable to this `civilised' man who would rather fill his pre-slumber hours staring at a rectangle of flickering pictures, for the last forty or fifty years in the cinema hall, but now more temptingly in the television of his own home.
Man cannot renew his organs of sense but, once convinced of the futility of their further abuse and inevitable weakening, he can reduce unnatural living habits and begin to recover a little of their intended power, flexibility and usefulness by exercising lazy muscles.
Most eye-fatigue is due to the eyes being held for long periods at the one focus, that of reading, relieved occasionally by glancing about the room or a few feet ahead while walking. Break this wearing habit by, at every excuse, getting outdoors and gazing into the distance. Try to revitalise those eye muscles, day by day, seeing the horizon more clearly. Look at the clouds but not directly at the sun.
Trataka or sun-gazing has developed a bad reputation due to its ignorant practice. If the sun's rays are allowed to penetrate the unprotected eye by Trataka, done with the sun in the high heavens, great damage is done and permanent blindness may result. A little Trataka when the sun has just risen above the flat horizon-not hours later when it rises above the high hills-will help to cleanse the eye and increase concentration but, if at all, do it with caution!
The following simple exercises have improved eyesight to the extent of allowing some people to again read a newspaper without glasses, depending of course on the nature of the eye-weakness.
EXERCISE I: Focus intently on a distant object-for a normal-sighted man on the horizon but for the weak-sighted on the farthest object you can see clearly, day by day coaxing the eyes to see further-then, without moving the eyes, straighten out an arm in front of you and lift the forefinger to cover the distant object. You will see the original object plus two fingers, because the finger is out of focus.
Now stare at the finger, then at the distant object. Repeat five or six times.
Focussing on the finger-tip slowly move the finger towards the eyes till it rests on the forehead between the eyebrows. Now the eyes are closed. Hold them thus until you feel a slight strain, then slowly straighten the arm, returning the finger to its original position before the distant object. As soon as the finger leaves the forehead concentrate again on the finger-tip. When the arm straightens focus on the distant object, then on the finger-tip and repeat several times.
EXERCISE II: Repeat the above exercise but bring the finger, eyes focussed on its tip, slowly to the end of the nose.
While doing these eye-movements try to remain unblinking, eyes open continuously, thus practising a form of Trataka and improving your concentration and one-pointedness of mind.
EXERCISE III: Without moving the head, turn the eyes to look as far as possible first to the left, then slowly the diagonals, starting with the top left corner, slowly down to the right, up to the sky, down to the ground; then along to the bottom right corner, to bottom left corner and finishing at top right corner.
EXERCISE IV: (This exercise will help concentration because you must think simultaneously of both your breathing and movement of the eyes.) Look down to the ground. Then slowly make a big circle to the left, above, to the right and down again with the eyes, breathing in deeply and trying to have capacity breath when the eye-circle is completed. Repeat the slow circling to the left, this time breathing out to empty the lungs as the circle is completed. Repeat both sequences to the right. The circles must be as large as possible.
EXERCISES V, VI: There are endless shapes-letters of the alphabet, the square, the diamond, the figure eight, firstly upright and then lying on its side-which can be drawn with the eyes.
Practise these exercises sincerely in the open air but not in direct sunlight. Each time as you finish cover the eyes with the palms of the hands, open them in the dark and breathe deeply, concentrating intently on the open eyes especially as you breathe out, thus sending plenty of Pranic energy along with fresh blood-supply to the eyes. Close the eyes again before removing the hands to avoid sudden glare. You can do the breathing three times.
Always do your reading in a good steady light, coming from over the left shoulder and neither too bright nor too dull; do not waste your eyesight on poor, low-class cinema-shows; try to do your eyework in the natural daylight, sleeping, discussing, meditating and doing your other spiritual practices at night; live as much as possible in nature, letting the eyes rest on its greens and blues. The green of trees and hills is your eyes' best tonic.
May you have speedy good-vision through leading a simple, healthy and inspiring life, seeing all as good and perfect.