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The Withdrawal of the Senses from External Objects (Pratyahara)

When the senses have withdrawn from their objects and transmuted themselves into the modes of consciousness, this is called 'the Withdrawal,' pratyahara." (Yoga Darshana 2, 54.)

Having withdrawn his senses, the seeker no longer maintains any sort of external perception.

The process of withdrawal consists in disentangling the senses, sight, hearing, etc., from the objects of their natural perception always linked with the opposing tendencies of attachment and aversion. This Withdrawal is attained by power of discernment which deprives the senses of their unworthy food and masters the movements of the mind's substance.

The best way of achieving this, according to the Yajnavalkya Samhita, is based on a thorough understanding of the "ascent" and "descent" (aroha-avaroha) of the life-breath, to be gained only while living near a qualified teacher, a guru.

Whenever the activity of the mind is interrupted, the withdrawal of the senses takes place automatically.

"The adept in yoga gives himself up to 'Withdrawal' and stops the traffic of the senses with their objects which are word, sight, etc., to which they are invariably attached. He then makes his senses work for his Conscious and the ever-agitated senses are controlled. No yogi can achieve the aim of yoga without controlling his senses." (Vishnu Purana 6, 7, 43-44.)

It is through "Withdrawal" that complete control over the senses is gained. It purifies the mind, increases austerity (tapas) gives self-confidence, freedom from illness and the mental qualification for final identification (samadhi).

"Let him hold all the senses under control and, concentrating the mind, surrender to me, for he who has his senses under his sway has knowledge abidingly set." (Bhagavad Gita 2, 61.)

The chief methods used for "Withdrawal" are:

(1) To take the Lotus posture and, stopping all motion of the breath, to remain in the "absolute" chalice (Kevala kumbhaka).

(2) To take the posture of Attainment, fix the sight, without blinking, on the forehead (trikuti) or on the tip of the nose.

(3) To practice the Rising (Murccha) breath control.

(4) To repeat (japa) twelve thousand times, with a quiet mind, the Syllable of Obeisance AUM.

(5) To do the "Inverted gesture".

(6) To concentrate the attention on that point where the in- and out-breaths arise and into which they dissolve.

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