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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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A Brief Outlook on Raja Yoga pt.#3

practical-raja-yoga-meditation
FIFTH STEP – PRATYAHARA

Pratyahara is withdrawal of the senses from their respective objects. It is the abstraction of the senses. Real, spiritual or inner life begins when the Yogic student is established in Pratyahara.
Pratyahara checks the outgoing tendencies of the senses. The practice demands considerable patience and perseverance. It is a trying discipline of the senses.  If you can disconnect the mind from the senses, there will be abstraction of the senses automatically. Control of the senses is absolute one-pointedness of the mind.

HOW TO PRACTISE PRATYAHARA

Just as a turbulent storm tosses a ship, so also the hidden desires toss the roving senses and the mind vehemently. Therefore, beware! Be on the alert. Be eternally vigilant. Annihilate all desires with the sword of dispassion and the axe of discrimination. This is the true secret of self-restraint. If you have intense dispassion, you can practise Pratyahara easily. Dispassion is the enemy of the senses and the friend of Pratyahara. Discrimination between the Real and the unreal helps a great deal in attaining success in Pratyahara.

No amount of human effort alone can give perfect success. Therefore, persevere and pray. Divine Grace is needed.

Pratyahara becomes easy after the practice of Pranayama. Pratyahara follows the practice of Pranayama automatically. Practice of Pranayama thins out the senses and prepares the Yogic student for the practice of Pratyahara.
Observance of silence, moderation in diet, steadiness in pose, dispassion, regularity in the practice of Pranayama, patience, contentment, perseverance, tenacity, celibacy, seclusion, are all aids to Pratyahara.

Withdraw the mind, the Prana and the senses. This is triple withdrawal. This is very powerful.
Success in Pratyahara depends upon the strength and force of past Yogic impressions. He who has practised Pranayama and Pratyahara in his previous birth to some extent will have success in Pratyahara within a short time in this birth.

He who is well-established in Pratyahara can meditate calmly even in a noisy place. Pratyahara develops will-power and inner spiritual strength. Nothing can distract the mind of one who is established in Pratyahara.

He who is eflicient in Pratyahara can enter into deep sleep the moment he lies down on his bed. Napoleon and Gandhiji could do this.

OBSTACLES TO PRATYAHARA

Unsteady Asana, too much talking, too much mixing with worldly people, too much activity, too much food, too much walking, too much curiosity in other people’s affairs, are all obstacles in the practice of Pratyahara.
If dispassion wanes and if there is slackness in the practice, the senses become turbulent.

A Bhakta or a devotee does not practise Pratyahara. He beholds his Lord in all objects.
A Jnana Yogi also does not practise Pratyahara. He tries to identify himself with the hidden Self in all objects by negating the names and forms.
A Raja Yogi alone practises Pratyahara deliberately.
That Yogic student who jumps at once to the practice of meditation without Pratyahara will not have success  in meditation.

It is diffrcult to say where Pratyahara ends and Dharana or concentration begins.

SIXTH STEP – DHARANA (CONCENTRATION)

Dharana is fixing the mind on an external object or an intemal point. Concentration is purely a mental process. It needs an inward turning of the mind.

Concentration is fixing the mind; meditation is allowing one idea to flow continuously. A serene mind is fit for concentration. Keep the mind serene.

Celibacy, Pranayama, reduction of wants and activities, dispassion, silence, seclusion, discipline of the senses, Japa, control of anger, giving up reading novels, newspapers and visiting cinemas, are all aids to concentration. Give up TV watching.
Japa (recitation of Lord’s Name) and Kirtan (singing of Lord’s Name and His Glory) will develop concentration.

HOW TO CONCENTRATE

Do not leave the practice even for a day. It is very difficult to rise up again. Devotees concentrate on the heart, Raja Yogins on Trikuti (the seat of mind), Vedantins on Sahasrara or top of the head. Trikuti is the space between the eyebrows. You can also concentrate on the tip ofthe nose, the navel, or the Muladhara (below the last vertebra of the spinal column.

Concentration on the moon is beneficial to those of emotional temperament. Concentration on candle flame will give vision of Rishis and Devatas.

Concentrate on divine qualities such as love, mercy, compassion, or any other abstract idea such as infinity, omnipotence and omnipresence of the Lord, etc.

You can concentrate on the breath in your nostrils (Soham sound). There is ‘Soldering inhalation and ‘Ham’ during exhalation.

Do not concentrate when the mind is tired. Do not wrestle with the mind when you concentrate. When irrelevant thoughts enter the mind, be indifferent. They will pass away. Do not drive them forcibly. They will persist and resist. It will tax your will. But substitute with divine thoughts. Evil thoughts will gradually fade out.
Be slow and steady in the practice of concentration. Apply some Brahmi-Amla oil to the head if there is much heat. Take butter and sugarcandy. This will cool the system.

If you want to succeed in any walk of life, you must develop concentration. It is a source of spiritual strength. It is the master-key for opening the chamber of knowledge.

SEVENTH STEP – DHYANA (MEDITATION)

Meditation is an unbroken flow of knowledge of the object on which one meditates.
Meditation follows concentration. Concentration merges in meditation.

Concentration, meditation and Sarah (superconsciousness) are internal Sadhanas. When you practise concentration, meditation and Samadhi at a time, it is called Samyama.
Meditation is freeing the mind from all thoughts of sense-objects. The mind dwells on God alone during meditation.

BENEFITS OF MEDITATION

If you meditate for half an hour daily, you will be able to face the battle of life with peace and spiritual strength. Meditation kills all pain, suffering and sorrow.
Meditation is the most powerful mental and nervine tonic. Meditation opens the door to intuitive knowledge and realms of eternal bliss. During meditation the mind becomes calm, serene and steady. One idea occupies the mind.

Deep meditation cannot come in a day or a week or a month. You will have to struggle hard for along time. Be patient. Be persevering. Be vigilant. Be diligent.
All doubts will be gradually cleared through meditation.

HOW TO MEDITATE?

Meditate regularly in the early morning between 4 and 6 a.m. Have a separate meditation room, or convert by means of screens a corner of a room into a meditation chamber.
Use your commonsense throughout your Sadhana. Do not go to extremes. Stick to the golden medium or the middle path.

Meditate in the beginning on a concrete Form such as the image of your Ishta Devata, Lord Jesus, or Lord Buddha. This is Saguna meditation, or meditation on the form of the Lord with attributes. Think of His attributes such as omnipotence, perfection, purity, freedom, when you meditate on His form. Rotate your mind on His form from head to foot or from foot to head.

You can also recite Om while meditating. The short-accented Om burns all sins, the long accented gives Moksha, and the elongated bestows all psychic powers (Siddhis). He who chants and meditates upon this monosyllable (Om), meditates upon and chants all the scriptures of the world.

Meditate on the effulgence in the sun, or the splendour in the moon, or the glory in the stars. Meditate on the magnificence of the ocean and its infinite nature. Then compare the ocean to the infinite Brahman, and the waves, foams and icebergs to the various names and forms of the world. Identify yourself with the ocean. Become silent. Expand.

Gaze steadily on the formless air. Concentrate on the air. Meditate on the all-pervading nature of the air. Watch the flow of breath. You will hear the sound ‘Soham,’ ‘So’ during inhalation and ‘Ham’ during exhalation. Soham means “I am He.” The breath is reminding you of your identity with the Supreme Soul.

EXPERIENCES IN MEDITATION

The feeling of rising up during meditation is a sign that you are going above body-consciousness.

When you practise concentration and meditation, you are bound to get various powers and Siddhis. Do not use these powers for gaining some material end. Do not misuse the powers. You will get a hopeless downfall.

There is really no such thing as a miracle. When you know the cause, the miracle becomes an ordinary event. During meditation you will get rapture, ecstasy, thrill.

A flash is a glimpse of truth. It is Ritambara Prajna. This is not the whole experience. This is not the highest experience. Reach the Bhuma or the Infinite. This is the acme or the final stage. You have reached the final destination. Meditation stops here.

You will hear various sorts of Anahata sounds. You will see brilliant lights in the space between the eyebrows. Sometimes you will behold coloured lights: green, blue, red, etc. They are due to the presence of different Tattvas at a particular time.

Sometimes you will have vision of Rishis, sages, tutelary deity, Nitya Siddhas, astral entities, landscape, mountains, blue sky, beautiful lardens. Sometimes you may float in the air. Your Astral body may get detached from the physical body. You will move about in the astral world. You may go to Brahma Loka, the realm of Brahma or Hiranyagarbha.

Those who have entered the first degree of meditation will have a light body, sweetness of voice, beautiful complexion, clarity of mind and scanty urine and defaecation.

OBSTACLES IN MEDITATION

The chief obstacles in meditation are:
– Laya (sleep),
– Vikshepa (tossing of mind),
– the rising up of latent desires,
– lack of Brahmacharya,
– spiritual pride,
– laziness,
– disease.

Other obstacles: company of worldly people, overwork, over-eating, self-assertive Rajasic nature.

Conquer sleep through Pranayama, Asanas and light diet. Remove Vikshepa through Pranayama, Japa, Upasana, Trataka, etc. Destroy desires through dispassion, discrimination, study of books which treat of dispassion, enquiry, etc.
Shun the company of worldly persons who always talk on sexual matters, money and worldly things. Observe moderation in diet. Obey the laws of health and hygiene.

Excerpts from “FOURTEEN LESSONS ON RAJA YOGA” by Sri Swami Sivananda