|The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali - Book 2 - The Steps to Union|
|54. Abstraction (or Pratyahara) is the subjugation
of the senses by the thinking principle and their withdrawal from that which has hitherto
been their object.
This sutra summarizes for us the work done in the control of the psychic nature, and gives us the result achieved when the thinker, through the medium of the mind, the thinking principle, so dominates the senses that they have no independent expression of their own.
Before attention, meditation and contemplation, (the last three means of yoga) can be properly undertaken, not only must the outer conduct be corrected, not only must inner purity be arrived at, not only must the right attitude towards all things be cultivated and the life currents consequently controlled, but the capacity to subjugate the outgoing tendencies of the five senses must be worked at. So the aspirant is taught the right withdrawal or abstraction of the consciousness which is outgoing towards the world of  phenomena, and must learn to center his consciousness in the great central station in the head from whence energy can be consciously distributed as he participates in the great work, from whence he can make a contact with the realm of the soul and in which he can receive the messages and impressions which emanate from that realm. This is a definite stage of achievement and is not simply a symbolic way of expressing one-pointed interest.
The various avenues of sense perception are brought into a quiescent condition. The consciousness of the real man no longer surges outwards along its five avenues of contact. The five senses are dominated by the sixth sense, the mind and all the consciousness and the perceptive faculty of the aspirant is synthesized in the head, and turns inward and upward. The psychic nature is thereby subjugated and the mental plane becomes the field of man's activity. This withdrawal or abstracting process proceeds in stages:
When this can be done, true meditation and contemplation becomes possible.
Dvivedi says in his commentary on this sutra:
The result, therefore, of correct abstraction or withdrawal is briefly:
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