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Concentration

Swami Sivananda

Forget the body. Forget the surroundings. Forgetting is the highest Sadhana. It helps meditation a great deal. It makes the approach to God easier. By remembering God, you can forget all these things.

Purify the mind first through the practice of right conduct and then take to the practice of concentration. Concentration without purity of mind is of no avail. There are some occultists who have concentration. But they have no good character. That is the reason why they do not make any progress in the spiritual line.

Practise meditation in the early morning from 4 to 6 (Brahma-Muhurta). This is the best time for the practice of meditation. Meditation kills all pains, sufferings and three kinds of Taapas (fevers) and five Kleshas or sorrows.

Concentration can be done only if you are free from all distractions. Concentrate on anything that appeals to you as good or anything which the mind likes best. The mind should be trained to concentrate on gross objects in the beginning, and later on you can successfully concentrate on subtle objects and abstract ideas. Regularity in the practice is of paramount importance.
Gross forms: Concentrate on a black dot on the wall, a candle-flame, a bright star, the moon, the picture of OM (AUM), Lord Siva, Rama, Krishna, Devi or your Ishta Devata in front of you with open eyes.
Subtle forms: Sit before the picture of your Ishta Devata and close your eyes. Keep a mental picture of your Ishta Devata at the space between the two eyebrows or in the heart. Concentrate on Muladhara, Anahata, Ajna or any other internal Chakra. Concentrate on the Divine qualities such as love, mercy, or any other abstract idea.

If you concentrate your mind on a point for 12 seconds, it is Dharana (concentration). Twelve such Dharanas will be a Dhyana (meditation) 12×12=144 seconds. Twelve such Dhyanas will be Samadhi-25 minutes and 28 seconds. This is according to Kurma Purana.

The practice of concentration and the practice of Pranayama are interdependent. If you practise Pranayama you will get concentration.

When there is deep concentration you will experience great joy and spiritual intoxication. You will forget the body and the surroundings. All the Prana will be taken up to your head. The more is the mind fixed on God the more is the strength you will acquire. More concentration means more energy. Concentration opens the inner chambers of love or the realm of eternity. Concentration is the sole key for opening the chamber of knowledge. Many obscure points will be rendered quite clear. You will get answers and solutions from within. The mind will gradually leave its old vicious habits and get itself fixed on the Lotus-Feet of the Lord. When it is freed from Rajas and Tamas, it will guide you. It will be your Guru.

You must try to be always cheerful and peaceful. Then only you will have concentration of mind. The practice of Maitri (friendship) with equals, Karuna (compassion) towards inferiors or distressed persons, Mudita (complacency) towards superiors or virtuous persons and Upeksha (indifference) towards sinners or wicked persons will produce Chitta-Prasada (cheerfulness or serenity) and destroy hatred, jealousy and dislike (Ghrina).

Attention

Attention is steady application of the mind. It is focussing of consciousness on some chosen object. Through attention you can develop your mental faculties and capacities. Where there is attention, there is also concentration.

Perception always involves attention. To perceive is to attend. Through attention you get a clear and distinct knowledge of objects. The entire energy is focussed on the object towards which attention is directed. Full and complete information is gained. During attention all the dissipated rays of the mind are collected. There is effort or struggle in attention. Through attention a deeper impression of anything is made in the mind. 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. It is easy to fasten the mind on an object which the mind likes best. 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.

Throw your entire attention into whatever you happen to be doing at the moment. 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 weakness will vanish. The mind will become stronger and stronger. There is great attention, if the object is very pleasing. You will have to create interest. Then there will be attention. If the attention gets diminished, change your attention to another pleasant object. By patient training you can direct the mind to attend to an unpleasant object also by creating interest. Then your will will grow strong.

The human mind has the power of attending to only one object at a time. No one process can be singled out and called attention. It is not possible to separate attention as a distinct function. No one can get success either in temporal or spiritual pursuits without attention.

Failure in anything is mainly due to lack of attention. If you attend to one thing at a time, you will get profound knowledge of that subject in its various aspects. The ordinary untrained man of the world generally attends to several things at a time. He allows many things to enter the gates of his mental factory. That is the reason why he has a clouded or turbid mind. There is no clarity of thought. He cannot do the process of analysis and synthesis. He is bewildered. He cannot express his ideas clearly, whereas the disciplined man can attend to a subject exclusively as long as he likes. He extracts full and detailed information about one subject or object and then takes up another. Attention is an important faculty of a Yogi. You cannot attend to two different objects at a time. Mind can do only one thing at a time. Because it moves with such a tremendous velocity backwards and forwards, you think that the mind can attend to several objects or things at a time. You can only see or hear at a time. You cannot see and hear at the same time. But this law is not applicable to a developed Yogi. A developed Yogi can do several things at a time because his will is not separate from the Cosmic Will which is all-powerful.

Meditation follows concentration. Samadhi follows meditation. Jivanmukti state follows the attainment of Nirvikalpa Samadhi which is free from all thoughts of duality. Jivanmukti leads to emancipation from the wheel of birth and death. Therefore concentration is the first and foremost thing a Sadhaka or aspirant should acquire in the spiritual path.

Gist of Yoga of Concentration

Purify the mind first through the practice of Yama and Niyama. Then take to the practice of Dharana. Concentration is steadfastness of mind. If you remove all causes of distraction, your power of concentration will increase. A true Brahmachari who has preserved his Virya will have powerful concentration. Attention plays a prominent part in concentration. He who has developed his power of attention will have good concentration. You should be able to visualise very clearly the object of concentration even in its absence. You must call up the mental picture in a moment’s notice. You will have to march in the spiritual path step by step, stage by stage. Lay the foundation of Yama (right conduct), Niyama, Asana (posture), Pranayama and Pratyahara to start with. The superstructure of Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi will be successful then only.

Asana is Bahiranga Sadhana (external); Dhyana is Antaranga Sadhana (internal). When compared with Dhyana and Samadhi, even Dharana is Bahiranga Sadhana. He who has steady Asana and has purified Yoga-Nadis and the Pranamaya Kosha (vital sheath) through Pranayama will be able to concentrate easily. You can concentrate internally on any of the seven plexus or Chakras or centres of spiritual energy viz., Muladhara, Svadhishthana, Manipura, Anahata, Vishuddha, Ajna and Sahasrara, or on the tip of the nose, or on the tip of the tongue or externally on the picture of any Devata. There can be no concentration without something upon which the mind may rest.

Dharana is the Sixth stage or limb of Ashtanga Yoga or Raja Yoga of Patanjali Maharshi. In Dharana you will have only one Vritti or wave in the mind-lake. The mind assumes the form of only one object. All other operations of the mind are suspended or stopped. He who can practise real concentration for half or one hour will have tremendous psychic powers. His will also will be very powerful.

When Hatha Yogis concentrate their minds on Shadadhara or the six supports (the Shat Chakras), they concentrate their minds on the respective presiding Devatas also, viz., Ganesha, Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, Isvara and Sadasiva. Control the breath through Pranayama. Subdue the Indriyas through Pratyahara. According to the Hatha Yogic School, a Yogi who can suspend his breath by Kumbhaka for 20 minutes can have very good Dharana. He will have a very tranquil mind. Pranayama steadies the mind, removes Vikshepa (distraction) and increases the power of concentration. Those who practise Khechari Mudra by cutting the frenum lingua and lengthening the tongue and fixing it in the hole beyond the palate by taking upwards, will have good Dharana.

For a neophyte, the practice of concentration is disgusting and tiring in the beginning. He has to cut new grooves in the mind and brain. After some months, he will get interest in concentration. He will enjoy a new kind of happiness, the Concentration-Ananda. He will become restless if he fails to enjoy this new kind of happiness even for one day. Concentration is the only way to get rid of the worldly miseries and tribulations. Your only duty is to practise concentration. You have taken this physical body to practise concentration and through concentration to realise the Self. Charity, Rajasuya Yajna are nothing when compared to concentration. They are playthings only.

Excerpts from “Concentration and Meditation” by Sri Swami Sivananda

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Perfections of Our Soul

Siva’s Three Perfections

Lord SivaWe know Siva in His three perfections, two of form and one formless. First, we worship His manifest form as Pure Love and Consciousness, called Sat chid ânanda in Sanskrit. Second, we worship Him as our Personal Lord, Mahesvara, the Primal Soul who tenderly loves and cares for His devotees—a Being whose resplendent body may be seen in mystic vision. In our daily lives we love, honor, worship and serve God in these manifest perfections. Ultimately, in perfectly simple, yet awesomely austere nirvikalpa samâdhi, we realize Him as the formless Parasiva, sought for and known only by yogîs and jñânîs. We cannot speak of His Absolute Reality which is beyond qualities and description, yet knowable to the fully matured soul who seeks God within through yoga under the guidance of a satguru.

For the sake of understanding the mysteries of the soul, we distinguish between the soul body and its essence. As a soul body, we are individual and unique, different from all others. Our soul is a self-effulgent body of light which evolves and matures through an evolutionary process. This soul body is of the nature of God Siva, but is different from Him in that it is less resplendent than the Primal Soul and still evolving, while He is unevolutionary Perfection. We may liken the soul body to an acorn, which contains the mighty oak but is a small seed yet to develop. Even when God Realization is attained, the soul body continues to evolve in this and other worlds until it merges with the Primal Soul, as a drop of water merges with its source, the ocean. This is the destiny of all souls without exception.

At the core of the subtle soul body is Sat chid ânanda, or immanent Love, and at the core of that is Parasiva, or transcendent Reality. At this depth of our being there exists no separate identity or difference—all are one. Thus, deep within our soul we are identical with God this very moment, for within us are the unmanifest Parasiva and the manifest Satchidananda. These are not aspects of the evolving soul, but the nucleus of the soul, which does not change or evolve. They are eternally perfect and one with God Siva. From an absolute perspective, our soul is already in nondual union with God in His two perfections of Sat chid ânanda and Parasiva, but to be realized to be known. Sat chid ânanda is the superconscious mind of the soul—the mind of God Siva. Parasiva is the inmost core of the soul.
We are That. We do not become That. There exists no relation between Satchid
ânanda, which is pure form and consciousness, and Parasiva, which is without form. Paramaguru Siva Yoga swami taught us, “You are Siva. I am Siva. All are Siva. Even as Siva is immortal, so too are we.”

If sâdhana is pursued, will finally grow and stabilize, opening the mind to the constant state of Sat chid ânanda, where the holy inner mind of God Siva and our soul are one. Sat chidânanda is pure form, pure consciousness, pure blessedness or bliss, our soul’s perfection in form. Parasiva is formless, timeless, causeless, spaceless, as the perfection of our soul beyond form. Though it is supreme consciousness, Sat chid ânanda is not the ultimate realization, which lies beyond consciousness or mind.

Thus, we understand Parasiva as the perfection known in nirvikalpa samâdhi, and Sat chid ânanda as the perfection experienced in savikalpa samâdhi.

Being and Becoming

Out of the microcosm ever comes the macrocosm. Out of Parasiva—which is timeless, causeless and formless—ever comes all form. This is the great mystery without a reason why. Out of pure consciousness ever comes the light which binds all form together.

The man is both being and becoming. He is already perfect, for the essence of his soul, Parasiva and Sat chid ânanda, exists eternally within him as him, having never been created. Yet, man is evolving, becoming, for his individual soul body, created by God Siva, is not yet perfect, is still evolving through time, eventually to mature into the image and likeness of the Primal Soul and Creator, Mahesvara.

Creation is merely recognizing what is already there—that there is nothing new; everything is within you and it is portrayed on the outside as you become aware that it is already created, finished, within you.

As you become aware of one thing at a time, you are really creating it into the lower realms of your mind. You are translating it into the lower realms of your mind. Your recognition of what is is the way you create it to yourself. This is deep. This is in the realm of contemplation. And only in the realm of contemplation will you begin to conceive of it.

Contemplation is man’s power over his mind as he begins to go within himself. Concentration is man’s power over his mind as he goes through life working out life’s problems. And meditation is man’s wisdom.

“Know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” Freedom does not come through what you have remembered, how well you can rationalize, how well you can talk yourself into and out of situations, how well you can excuse negative happenings. The knowing state of
consciousness in which you can know the truth only comes when you can control the lower state of mind and live a godlike life each day, and then your consciousness does expand automatically. Your daily life becomes a life of inspiration, and in your expanded consciousness you begin to know the truth, and that knowing of the truth sets you free from the lower state of mind which you then realize is the lie, the eternal lie. The point of conception is the apex of creation.

Excerpts from “Merging with Siva” by Sivaya Subramuniyaswami

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Words of Indian Saints Part #10

paramahansa-yoganandaIntuition is soul guidance, appearing naturally in man during those instants when his mind is calm. Nearly everyone has had the experience of an inexplicably correct “hunch,” or has transferred his thoughts effectively to another person.

The human mind, free from the static of restlessness, can perform through its antenna of intuition all the functions of complicated radio mechanisms – sending and receiving thoughts, and tuning out undesirable ones. As the power of a radio depends on the amount of electrical current it can utilize, so the human radio is energized according to the power of will possessed by each individual.

All thoughts vibrate eternally in the cosmos. By deep concentration, a master is able to detect the thoughts of any mind, living or dead. Thoughts are universally and not individually rooted; a truth cannot be created, but only perceived. The erroneous thoughts of man result from imperfections in his discernment. The goal of yoga science is to calm the mind, that without distortion it may mirror the divine vision in the universe.

Radio and television have brought the instantaneous sound and sight of remote persons to the firesides of millions: the first faint scientific intimations that man is an all-pervading spirit. Not a body confined to a point in space, but the vast soul, which the ego in most barbaric modes conspires in vain to cramp.

“Very strange, very wonderful, seemingly very improbable phenomena may yet appear which, when once established, will not astonish us more than we are now astonished at all that science has taught us during the last century,” Charles Robert Richet, Nobel Prizeman in physiology, has declared. “It is assumed that the phenomena which we now accept without surprise, do not excite our astonishment because they are understood. But this is not the case. If they do not surprise us it is not because they are understood, it is because they are familiar; for if that which is not understood ought to surprise us, we should be surprised at everything – the fall of a stone thrown into the air, the acorn which becomes an oak, mercury which expands when it is heated, iron attracted by a magnet, phosphorus which burns when it is rubbed. . . . The science of today is a light matter; the revolutions and evolutions which it will experience in a hundred thousand years will far exceed the most daring anticipations. The truths – those surprising, amazing, unforeseen truths – which our descendants will discover, are even now all around us, staring us in the eyes, so to speak, and yet we do not see them. But it is not enough to say that we do not see them; we do not wish to see them; for as soon as an unexpected and unfamiliar fact appears, we try to fit it into the framework of the commonplaces of acquired knowledge, and we are indignant that anyone should dare to experiment further.”

Excerpts from the book by Paramhansa Yogananda “Autobiography of a Yogi”

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Five steps to Enlightenment

http://canangsari.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Satguru-Sivaya-SubramuniyaswamiThere are five steps that awareness has to flow through, gaining strength each time, on the path to enlightenment. When we first start, awareness is flowing through many areas of the mind. Then finally it will have enough experiences flowing through the mind to turn in on itself. When this happens, certain faculties come into being. One of them is  willpower. And we learn to hold attention. We learn to hold awareness at attention. Awareness: attention!

1st: What is attention? Attention is the first of the five steps on the path, that is, holding awareness steady, centralized in only one area of the mind, and the area that we choose it to be in, not the area that someone else has chosen it to be in.

When other people move awareness through one area or another, we call that distraction, or worldly distractions. The mission is to move awareness yourself. How do you learn to do that? By holding it at attention. How does attention work? Attention is awareness poised like a hummingbird over a flower. flower. It doesn’t move. The flower doesn’t move, and awareness becomes aware of the flower—poised. The entire nerve system of the physical body and the functions of breath have to be at a certain rhythm in order for awareness to remain poised like a hummingbird over a flower.

Give up the idea that thoughts come in and out of your mind like visitors come in and
out of your house. Hold to the idea that it is awareness that moves, rather than the thoughts that move. Awareness held at attention can then come into the next vibratory rate and concentrate.

2nd: Take a flower and place it in front of you. Breathe deeply as you sit before it. Simply look at it. Don’t stare at it and strain your eyes. But simply become aware of it. Each time awareness moves to some other area of the mind, with your willpower move awareness back and become aware of the flower again. Keep doing this until you are simply aware of the flower and not aware of your body or your breath. Then begin to concentrate on the flower. That is the second step.

This is what concentration is—remaining in the thought area of the particular item that you are aware of and flowing through the different color and sound vibrations of the thoughts. How does it work? The powers of concentration—it is only a name. Actually, what is happening is you are flowing awareness through the area of the mind which contains the elements which actually made that particular flower, and you are perceiving how all those elements came together.

3rd: After we are able to hold awareness hovering over that which we are concentrating upon, we come into great powers of observation. We are able to look into and almost through that which we are concentrating upon and observe its various parts and particles, its action and its reaction, because we are not distracted. Even observation in daily life, as a result of regular participation in the practice of concentration, comes naturally. We are able to see more, hear more, feel more. Our senses are more keen and alive. Observation is so necessary to cultivate, to bring awareness fully into the fullness of meditation. This leads us then into our very next step, meditation. Meditation and concentration are practically the same thing, though meditation is simply a more intense state of concentration.

You are scrutinizing the inner layers of the mind, of how a flower grows, how the seed is formed. You are observing it so keenly that you have forgotten that you are a physical body, that you are an emotional unit, that you are breathing. You are in the area of mind where that flower exists.

4th: We go deeper, deeper, deeper within, into the energy and the life within the cells of the flower, and we find that the energy and the life within the cells of the flower is the same as the energy within us, and we are in contemplation upon energy itself. We see the energy as light. In a state of contemplation, we might not even be conscious of light itself, for you are only conscious of light if you have a slight consciousness of darkness. Otherwise, it is just your natural state, and you are in a deep reverie. When you are in the mind of energy, in that rarefied consciousness, you are not conscious of the Earth or any planets. You are just conscious of the stratum of energy that runs through Earth, space and planets. It’s not even really energy.

5thThis, then, leads to samâdhi, the very deepest samâdhi, where we almost, in a sense, go within one atom of that energy and move into the primal source of all. There’s really nothing that you can say about it, because you cannot cast that concept of the Self, or that depth of samâdhi, you cannot cast it out in words. You cannot throw it out in a concept, because there are no areas of the mind in which the Self exists. You have to realize It to know It.

You have to be so simple to realize the Self, not simple-minded, but so unattached. Before you went in, you knew all sorts of things about it. You could quote a thousand different things about the Self; you knew so much. And when you come out, you don’t know anything about it at all. And everything is different. You look at the world from the inside out. You look at people from the inside out. You look at a person, and immediately you see how he came along through life. You see the whole sequence, all now. Then you really know, after that deep samâdhi, that the mind, in all phases of manifestation, was all finished long ago. It’s already complete. Before that, you try to believe in that concept. And it’s a vast concept to believe in, because at certain times, when awareness is flowing in the external areas of the mind, it certainly doesn’t look that way at all. Our perspective is limited.

After the deep samâdhi of Self Realization, our perspective couldn’t really be called vast; we simply see things the way they are. But for Self Realization, you have to really want it more than your life; for that deep samâdhi, that’s what it is: more than your life.

By Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami in “Merging with Siva”