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Guide to Concentration

by Swami Sivananda

Guide to Concentration

"Tatpratishedhartham-ekatattvabhyasah - To remove this (tossing and various other obstacles which stand in the way of one-pointedness of mind), the practice of concentration on one thing alone (should be made)."

(Patanjali Yoga Sutras, I-32)

CONCENTRATION, THE KEY TO PEACE

Worldly pleasures intensify the desire for enjoying greater pleasures. Hence, the mind of worldlings is very restless. There is no satisfaction and mental peace. Mind can never be satisfied, whatever amount of pleasure you may store up for it. The more it enjoys the pleasures, the more it wants them. So, people are exceedingly troubled and bothered by their own minds. They are tired of their minds. Hence, in order to remove these botherations and troubles, the Rishis thought it best to deprive the mind of all sensual pleasures. When the mind has been concentrated or made extinct, it cannot pinch one to seek for further pleasure and all botherations and troubles are removed for ever and the person attains real peace.

There is an externalising or objectifying power in the mind. This leads to Bahirmukha Vritti. The mind is drawn towards various objects. There is dissipation of mental energy, the powers of the mind, in various directions. The rays of the mind are like the rays of light, scattered in the case of worldly-minded persons. When the rays of the mind are scattered over diverse objects, you get pain. When the rays are gathered and concentrated by practice, the mind becomes concentrated and you get Ananda (happiness) from within.

When you see your dear friend after six years, the Ananda that you get is not from the person, but from within yourself. The mind becomes concentrated for the time being and you get happiness from within your own self.

When you are in Kashmir, when you are enjoying the picturesque scenery of Muttan, Gulmarg, Sonamarg, Chashmashahi and Anantanag, your mind will be suddenly upset by shock, if you receive a telegram which brings the unhappy tidings of the untimely demise of your only son. The scenery will no longer interest you. They have lost their charm for you. There is ejection of attention. There is depression. It is concentration and attention that gives you pleasure in sightseeing.

For purposes of concentration, you will have to gather the scattered rays of the mind patiently through Vairagya and Abhyasa, through Tyaga (renunciation) and Tapas and then march boldly with indefatigable energy towards God or Brahman. Through constant Sadhana (spiritual practice), the mind must be checked from externalising. It must be made to move towards Brahman, its original home. When the mental rays are concentrated, illumination begins.

ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE NATURE OF MIND

Mind is compared to quicksilver, because its rays are scattered over various objects. It is compared to a monkey, because it jumps from one object to another object. It is compared to moving air, because it is Chanchala. It is compared to a furious, rutting elephant, because of its passionate impetuosity. Mind is known by the name 'Great Bird,' because it jumps from one object to another object just as a bird jumps from one twig to another, from one tree to another. Raja Yoga teaches us how to concentrate the mind and then how to ransack the innermost recesses of our own mind.

DIFFERENT DEGREES OF CONCENTRATION

Kshipta, Mudha, Vikshipta, Ekagra and Niruddha are the five Yogic Bhumikas. The Chitta or mind manifests itself in five different forms. In the Kshipta state, the rays of the mind are scattered on various objects. It is restless and jumps from one object to another. In the Mudha state, the mind is dull and forgetful. Vikshipta is the gathering mind. It is occasionally steady and, at other times, distracted. By practice of concentration, the mind struggles to gather itself. In the Ekagra state, it is one-pointed. There is only one idea present in the mind. The mind is under perfect control in the Niruddha state. Dharana is practised for stopping the modifications of the mind.

THE POWER OF CONCENTRATION

By manipulating the mind, you will be able to bring it under your control, make it work as you like and compel it to concentrate its powers as you desire. He who has learnt to manipulate the mind will get the whole of Nature under his control. There is no limit to the power of the human mind. The more concentrated it is, the more power is brought to bear on one point.

A scientist concentrates his mind and invents many things. Through concentration, he opens the layers of the gross mind and penetrates deeply into higher regions of the mind and gets deeper knowledge. He concentrates all the energies of his mind into one focus and throws them out upon the materials he is analysing and so finds out their secrets.

CONCENTRATION, MAN'S FOREMOST DUTY

Sri Sankara writes in the commentary on Chhandogya Upanishad (VII-xx-1) that a man's duty consists in the control of the senses and concentration of mind. So long as the thoughts of one are not thoroughly destroyed through persistent practice, he should ever be concentrating his mind on one truth at a time. Through such unremitting practice, one-pointedness will accrue to the mind and instantly, all the hosts of thoughts will vanish. Concentration is opposed to sensuous desires, bliss to flurry and worry, sustained thinking to perplexity, applied thinking to sloth to torpor, rapture to ill-will.

You are born to concentrate the mind on God after collecting the mental rays that are dissipated on various objects. That is your important duty. You forget the duty on account of Moha for family, children, money, power, position, respect, name and fame.

Concentration of the mind on God after purification can give you real happiness and knowledge. You are born for this purpose only. You are carried away to external objects through Raga and Moha (attachment and infatuated love).

Fix the mind on Atman. Fix the mind on the all-pervading, pure Intelligence and self-luminous effulgence (Svayamjyotis). Stand firm in Brahman. Then will you become 'Brahma-samstha,' established in Brahman.

HOW TO CONCENTRATE

Practise concentration of mind. In trying to concentrate your mind or even project a thought, you will find that you require naturally to form images in your mind. You cannot help it. Fix the mind on one object, on one idea. Withdraw the mind, again and again, when it runs away from the Lakshya and fix it there. Do not allow the mind to create hundreds of thought-forms. Introspect and watch the mind carefully. Live alone. Avoid company. Do not mix. This is important. Do not allow the mind to dissipate its energy in vain on vain thoughts, vain worry, vain imagination and vain fear and forebodings. Make it hold on to one thought-form for half an hour by incessant practice. Make the mind to shape itself into one shape and try to keep the shape for hours together through constant and incessant practice.

WHAT IS CONCENTRATION?

"Desabandhas-chittasya dharana-Concentration is holding the mind to one form or object steadily for a long time" (Yoga Sutras, III-1). "Dharana is fixing the mind on an external object or an internal Chakra or one abstract idea as Aham brahmasmi" (Yoga Sutras, III-1).

CONCENTRATION ON THE INTERNAL CHAKRAS

A Raja Yogi concentrates on the Trikuti (Ajna Chakra, the space between the two eyebrows) which is the seat of the mind in the waking state. You can easily control the mind if you can concentrate on this region. Meditation and concentration on the Ajna Chakra lead to control of mind very easily. Light is seen during concentration in this region very quickly, even in a day's practice, by some persons. He who wants to meditate on Virat and he who wants to help the world should select this region for his concentration.

A Bhakta or devotee should concentrate on the heart, the seat of emotion and feeling. He who concentrates on the heart gets great Ananda. He who wants to get Ananda should concentrate on the heart.

A Hatha Yogi fixes his mind on the Sushumna Nadi, the middle path in the spinal canal and on a specified centre, viz., the Muladhara or the Manipura or the Ajna Chakra. Some Yogis ignore the lower Chakras and fix their mind on the Ajna Chakra only. Their theory is that by controlling the Ajna Chakra, all the lower Chakras can be automatically controlled. When you concentrate on a Chakra, a thread-like connection is formed in the beginning between the mind and the Chakra (centre of spiritual energy). Then the Yogi ascends along the Sushumna from Chakra to Chakra. The ascent is made gradually by patient efforts. Even a mere shaking of the opening of Sushumna causes a great deal of Ananda (bliss). You become intoxicated. You will entirely forget the world. When the opening of Sushumna is shaken a bit, the Kula-Kundalini Sakti tries to enter Sushumna. Great Vairagya comes in. You will become fearless. You will behold various visions. You will witness the splendid "Antarjyotis." This is termed "Unmani Avastha." You will get different Siddhis, different types of Ananda and you will get different kinds of knowledge by controlling and operating on different Chakras. If you have conquered the Muladhara Chakra, you have conquered the earth-plane already. If you have conquered the Manipura Chakra, you have already conquered fire. Fire will not burn you. Panchadharana (five kinds of Dharana) will help you to conquer the five elements. Learn them under a Guru who is a developed Yogi.

A NOTE OF CAUTION

If you get headache or pain by concentrating on the Trikuti (the space between the two eyebrows) by turning the eyes upward, give up the practice at once. Concentrate on the heart. If you find it difficult to concentrate on your heart or the space between the two eyebrows (Trikuti) or top of the head, if you experience headache or pain in the skull, shift your centre of concentration to any object outside the body.

CONCENTRATION ON EXTERNAL OBJECTS

It is easy to concentrate the mind on external objects. The mind has a natural tendency to go outwards. You can concentrate on the blue sky, light of the sun, the all-pervading air or ether or sun, moon or stars.

TRAINING IN CONCENTRATION

Train the mind in a variety of ways in concentration in the beginning. Concentrate on the Anahata sounds of the heart by closing the ears. Concentrate on the breath with Soham repetition. Concentrate on any concrete image. Concentrate on the blue sky. Concentrate on the all-pervading light of the sun. Concentrate on the various Chakras of the body. Concentrate on the abstract ideas of Satyam (Truth), Jnanam (Wisdom), Anantam (Infinity), Ekam (One), Nityam (Eternal Essence), etc. Lastly, stick to one thing only.

AIDS TO CONCENTRATION

FAITH

Though any subject has been established by means of arguments and valid authorities, still people's minds being entirely taken up with gross external objects, any clear conception of subtle ultimate truths is almost impossible without proper faith. When there is faith, the mind can be easily concentrated on the subject to be understood; and then the understanding quickly follows.

CONTROL OF BREATH

Remove the Rajas and Tamas that envelop the Sattva of the mind by Pranayama, Japa, Vichara and Bhakti. Then the mind becomes fit for concentration. Pranayama or control of breath removes the veil of Rajas and Tamas that envelops Sattva. It purifies the nerves (Nadis). It makes the mind firm and steady and thereby renders it fit for concentration. The dross of the mind is cleansed by Pranayama, just as the dross of gold is got rid of by melting. A Hatha Yogi tries to concentrate his mind by having his breath controlled through Pranayama.

A Raja Yogi tries to concentrate his mind by "Chitta-Vritti-Nirodha" (restraining the various modifications of the Chitta), by not allowing the mind to assume various shapes of objects. He does not care for control of breath. But, his breath becomes necessarily controlled when his mind is concentrated. Hatha Yoga is a branch of Raja Yoga.

AVADHANA OR ATTENTION

Attention (Avadhana) plays a very great part in concentration. It is the basis of will. When it is properly guided and directed towards the internal world for purposes of introspection (Antarmukha Vritti), it will analyse the mind and illumine very many astounding facts for you.

The force wherewith anything strikes the mind is generally in proportion to the degree of attention bestowed upon it. Moreover, the great art of memory is attention and inattentive people have bad memories. Power of attention becomes weakened in old age.

Attention is focussing of consciousness. It is one of the signs of trained will. It is found in men of strong mentality. It is a rare faculty. Brahmacharya wonderfully develops this power. A Yogi who possesses this faculty can even fix the mind on an unpleasant object for a very long time. Attention can be cultivated and developed by persistent practice. All the great men of the world who have achieved greatness have risen up through this faculty.

It is through the power of attention that mind carries out all its activities. Attention is the basis of will-force. Therefore cultivate the power of attention.

Attention may be either subjective or internal on an idea or objective or external on any object. Throw your entire attention into whatever you happen to be doing at the moment. It is easy to fasten the mind on an object which the mind likes best. Practise attention on unpleasant tasks, from which you have been shrinking before on account of their unpleasantness. Throw interest upon uninteresting objects and ideas. Hold them on before your mind. Interest will slowly manifest. Many mental weaknesses will vanish. The mind will become stronger and stronger.

AN ILLUSTRATION OF SINGLE-MINDED CONCENTRATION

There was a workman who used to manufacture arrows. Once he was very busy at his work. He was so much absorbed in his work that he did not notice even a big party of a Raja with his retinue passing in front of his shop. Such must be the nature of your concentration when you fix your mind on God. You must have the one idea of God and God alone. No doubt, it takes some time to have a complete Ekagrata of mind. You will have to struggle very hard to have a single-minded concentration. Sri Dattatreya made the above arrow-maker as one of his Gurus.

A COMMON BLUNDER

Some medical students leave the medical college soon after joining it as they find it disgusting to wash the pus in ulcers and dissect the dead bodies. They make a serious blunder. In the beginning, it is loathing. After studying Pathology, Medicine, Operative Surgery, Morbid Anatomy, Bacteriology, the course will be very interesting in the final year. Many spiritual aspirants leave off the practice of concentration of mind after some time as they find it difficult to practise. They also make a grave mistake like the medical students. In the beginning of practice, when you struggle to get over the body-consciousness, it will be disgusting and troublesome. It will be a physical wrestling. The emotions and Sankalpas will be abundant. In the third year of practice, the mind will be cool, pure and strong. You will derive immense joy. The sum total of pleasures of the whole world is nothing when compared to the Ananda derived from the meditation. Do not give up the practice at any cost. Plod on. Persevere. Have patience (Dhriti), Utsaha (cheerfulness) and Sahasa (tenacity, application). You will succeed eventually. Never despair. Find out by serious introspection the various impediments that act as stumbling blocks in your concentration and remove them with patience and efforts one by one. Do not allow new Sankalpas and new Vasanas to crop up. Nip them in the bud through Viveka, Vichara and Dhyana.

Know that you are progressing in Yoga and that the Sattva is increasing, when you are always cheerful, when the mind is even and concentrated.


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