Sri Swami Sivananda
Message from the book Lectures on Yoga and Vedanta.
The Yogic student should practise Pratyahara after getting some success in the practice of Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama. Pratyahara is abstraction or withdrawal of the senses from their objects. The senses are held in check by this practice. Real inner life begins when the aspirant is established in this practice. That Yogic student who jumps at once to the practice of meditation without practising abstraction is a deluded soul. He will have no success in contemplation. Pratyahara checks the outgoing tendencies of the senses. It puts a break, as it were, on the senses. Pratyahara follows automatically the practice of Pranayama. When the life-force is controlled by the regulation or restraint of breath, the senses become thinned out. They are starved to death. They get emaciated. They cannot hiss now when they come in contact with the objects. Pratyahara is a trying discipline. It is disgusting in the beginning but later on it becomes very interesting. You will feel immense inner strength. It demands considerable patience and perseverance. It will give you tremendous power. You will develop immense will-power. During the course of practice, the senses will run again and again like a wild bull towards objects. You will have to withdraw them again and again and fix the mind on the Lakshaya or point. That Yogi who is well established in the practice of Pratyahara can meditate quite calmly even in the battlefield when countless machine-guns are fired.
In the practice of Pratyahara you will have to drag the outgoing senses again and again from the sensual objects and fix the mind on your Lakshya or point, just as the cart-driver drags the impetuous bulls and fixes them to the yoke. You must take particular care to drag the senses gently. Some aspirants draw them vehemently. That is the reason why they experience a little headache sometimes.
You should practise withdrawal of the senses one by one. dealing with the most turbulent senses in order. If you try to manipulate all the senses at one time, you will fail.
Mind is the commander-in-chief. The senses are the soldiers. The senses cannot do anything without the co-operation of the mind. If you can disconnect the mind from the senses, there will be abstraction of the senses automatically.
If one has intense Vairagya, practice of Pratyahara will be easy. Dispassion is the enemy of the senses. Some Yogic students practise Pratyahara for 2 or 3 years and yet do not attain success, the simple reason being that they have not yet fully annihilated the cravings and lurking desires. They get themselves attached to some sensual objects. Discrimination helps a great deal in attaining success in Pratyahara.
A Bhakta or a devotee does not practise Pratyahara. He tries to get himself drowned in the Prem of the Lord. He attempts to fix his mind either at His lotus feet or charming face. Consequently he gets established in Pratyahara. A Raja Yogi practises Pratyahara deliberately. A Jnana Yogi does not practise Pratyahara but tries to identify himself with the hidden Self in all objects by negating the names and forms.