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Pratipakshabhavana In Hindu Philosophy

In Hindu philosophy, Pratipakshabhavana is a technique to control the mind. Bhavana means mental attribute. Pratipaksha means the opposite side. Pratipaksha Bhavana us a technique recommended by Patanjali (Yoga Sutra II 33-34) for overcoming savage tendencies of the mind which come in the way of the practice of yama (abstinences like non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy, and non-accumulation, and niyama (observances) like purity or cleanliness, contentment, penance, self study and submission to God.

Patanjali calls these tendencies vitarkas – opposing thoughts. They often obstruct the discipline of spiritual life when a seeker starts observing yama and niyama (abstinences and observances).

Patanjali has recommended when opposing tendencies arise in the mind, the seeker should examine their nature, their cause, their grades, and their effects. Such a four-fold examination of the opposing tendencies is called Pratipaksha Bhavana.

When a thorough examination is thus made, the seeker becomes aware of the urgency and need to combat the vicious tendencies, because all the aspects of their dangerous influence are brought out.

The four-fold examination proceeds like this –

Their nature is three-fold – those tendencies which are in oneself, those which come through others, those which one tolerates in others. The vicious tendencies are to be shunned in all the three forms.

The vices are caused by greed, anger, and infatuation. These causes must be removed first, so that the vices will not arise.

There are three grades of the opposing tendencies – soft, medium and severe. The seeker should understand that all three grades are to be rejected.

The effect of the opposing tendencies is perpetual sorrow and ignorance in this and future lives. When the seeker thinks about these results, his resolve to overcome the opposing tendencies becomes stronger.