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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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Words of Indian Saints Part #23

paramahansa-yogananda“The cow to me means the entire sub-human world, extending man’s sympathies beyond his own species,” the Mahatma has explained. “Man through the cow is enjoined to realize his identity with all that lives. Why the ancient rishis selected the cow for apotheosis is obvious to me. The cow in India was the best comparison; she was the giver of plenty. Not only did she give milk, but she also made agriculture possible. The cow is a poem of pity; one reads pity in the gentle animal. She is the second mother to millions of mankind. Protection of the cow means protection of the whole dumb creation of God. The appeal of the lower order of creation is all the more forceful because it is speechless.”

Three daily rituals are enjoined on the orthodox Hindu. One is Bhuta Yajna, an offering of food to the animal kingdom. This ceremony symbolizes man’s realization of his obligations to less evolved forms of creation, instinctively tied to bodily identifications which also corrode human life, but lacking in that quality of liberating reason which is peculiar to humanity. Bhuta Yajna thus reinforces man’s readiness to succor the weak, as he in turn is comforted by countless solicitudes of higher unseen beings. Man is also under bond for rejuvenating gifts of nature, prodigal in earth, sea, and sky. The evolutionary barrier of incommunicability among nature, animals, man, and astral angels is thus overcome by offices of silent love.

The other two daily yajnas are Pitri and Nri. Pitri Yajna is an offering of oblations to ancestors, as a symbol of man’s acknowledgment of his debt to the past, essence of whose wisdom illumines humanity today. Nri Yajna is an offering of food to strangers or the poor, symbol of the present responsibilities of man, his duties to contemporaries.

“A beggar cannot renounce wealth,” Master would say. “If a man laments: ‘My business has failed; my wife has left me; I will renounce all and enter a monastery,’ to what worldly sacrifice is he referring? He did not renounce wealth and love; they renounced him!”

“Yes, diet is important in the Satyagraha movement-as everywhere else,” he said with a chuckle. “Because I advocate complete continence for satyagrahis, I am always trying to find out the best diet for the celibate. One must conquer the palate before he can control the procreative instinct. Semi-starvation or unbalanced diets are not the answer. After overcoming the inward greed for food, a satyagrahi must continue to follow a rational vegetarian diet with all necessary vitamins, minerals, calories, and so forth. By inward and outward wisdom in regard to eating, the SATYAGRAHI’S sexual fluid is easily turned into vital energy for the whole body.”

Hinduism is not an exclusive religion. In it there is room for the worship of all the prophets of the world. It is not a missionary religion in the ordinary sense of the term. It has no doubt absorbed many tribes in its fold, but this absorption has been of an evolutionary, imperceptible character.

The unique feature of Hinduism among the world religions is that it derives not from a single great founder but from the impersonal Vedic scriptures. Hinduism thus gives scope for worshipful incorporation into its fold of prophets of all ages and all lands. The Vedic scriptures regulate not only devotional practices but all important social customs, in an effort to bring man’s every action into harmony with divine law.

Hinduism tells each man to worship God according to his own faith or dharma, and so lives at peace with all religions. The scriptures define dharma as “the natural universal laws whose observance enables man to save himself from degradation and suffering.”

Of Christ, Gandhi has written: “I am sure that if He were living here now among men, He would bless the lives of many who perhaps have never even heard His name . . . just as it is written: ‘Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord . . . but he that doeth the will of my Father.’ In the lesson of His own life, Jesus gave humanity the magnificent purpose and the single objective toward which we all ought to aspire. I believe that He belongs not solely to Christianity, but to the entire world, to all lands and races.”

Alone among great leaders, Gandhi has offered a practical nonviolent alternative to armed might. To redress grievances and remove injustices, the Mahatma has employed nonviolent means which again and again have proved their effectiveness. He states his doctrine in these words:

I have found that life persists in the midst of destruction. Therefore there must be a higher law than that of destruction. Only under that law would well-ordered society be intelligible and life worth living.
If that is the law of life we must work it out in daily existence. Wherever there are wars, wherever we are confronted with an opponent, conquer by love. I have found that the certain law of love has answered in my own life as the law of destruction has never done.
In India we have had an ocular demonstration of the operation of this law on the widest scale possible. I don’t claim that nonviolence has penetrated the 360,000,000 people in India, but I do claim it has penetrated deeper than any other doctrine in an incredibly short time.
It takes a fairly strenuous course of training to attain a mental state of nonviolence. It is a disciplined life, like the life of a soldier. The perfect state is reached only when the mind, body, and speech are in proper coordination. Every problem would lend itself to solution if we determined to make the law of truth and nonviolence the law of life.

War and crime never pay. The billions of dollars that went up in the smoke of explosive nothingness would have been sufficient to have made a new world, one almost free from disease and completely free from poverty. Not an earth of fear, chaos, famine, pestilence, the danse macabre, but one broad land of peace, of prosperity, and of widening knowledge.

“One should forgive, under any injury,” says the Mahabharata. “It hath been said that the continuation of species is due to man’s being forgiving. Forgiveness is holiness; by forgiveness the universe is held together. Forgiveness is the might of the mighty; forgiveness is sacrifice; forgiveness is quiet of mind. Forgiveness and gentleness are the qualities of the self-possessed. They represent eternal virtue.”
Nonviolence is the natural outgrowth of the law of forgiveness and love. “If loss of life becomes necessary in a righteous battle,” Gandhi proclaims, “one should be prepared, like Jesus, to shed his own, not others’, blood. Eventually there will be less blood spilt in the world.”

“I would wait, if need be for ages,” Gandhi says, “rather than seek the freedom of my country through bloody means.” Never does the Mahatma forget the majestic warning: “All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” Matthew 26:52.

Gandhi has written:
I call myself a nationalist, but my nationalism is as broad as the universe. It includes in its sweep all the nations of the earth. My nationalism includes the well-being of the whole world. I do not want my India to rise on the ashes of other nations. I do not want India to exploit a single human being. I want India to be strong in order that she can infect the other nations also with her strength.

The Mahatma wholeheartedly believes in the inherent nobility of man. The inevitable failures have never disillusioned him. “Even if the opponent plays him false twenty times,” he writes, “the satyagrahi is ready to trust him the twenty- first time, for an implicit trust in human nature is the very essence of the creed.”

If we are to make progress, we must not repeat history but make new history. We must add to the inheritance left by our ancestors. If we may make new discoveries and inventions in the phenomenal world, must we declare our bankruptcy in the spiritual domain? Is it impossible to multiply the exceptions so as to make them the rule? Must man always be brute first and man after, if at all?”

“Resort to force in the Great War I failed to bring tranquillity,” Franklin D. Roosevelt has pointed out. “Victory and defeat were alike sterile. That lesson the world should have learned.”

“The more weapons of violence, the more misery to mankind,” Lao-tzu taught. “The triumph of violence ends in a festival of mourning.”

“I am fighting for nothing less than world peace,” Gandhi has declared. “If the Indian movement is carried to success on a nonviolent Satyagraha basis, it will give a new meaning to patriotism and, if I may say so in all humility, to life itself.”

Before the West dismisses Gandhi’s program as one of an impractical dreamer, let it first reflect on a definition of Satyagraha by the Master of Galilee:
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:38-39)

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

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Words of Indian Saints Part #20

paramahansa-yoganandaIntensely interesting stories have been minutely recorded by Greek historians and others who accompanied or followed after Alexander in his expedition to India. The most admirable feature of Alexander’s unsuccessful invasion was the deep interest he displayed in Hindu philosophy and in the yogis and holy men whom he encountered from time to time and whose society he eagerly sought. Shortly after the Greek warrior had arrived in Taxila in northern India, he sent a messenger, Onesikritos, a disciple of the Hellenic school of Diogenes, to fetch an Indian teacher, Dandamis, a great sannyasi of Taxila.

“Hail to thee, O teacher of Brahmins!” Onesikritos said after seeking out Dandamis in his forest retreat. “The son of the mighty God Zeus, being Alexander who is the Sovereign Lord of all men, asks you to go to him, and if you comply, he will reward you with great gifts, but if you refuse, he will cut off your head!”
The yogi received this fairly compulsive invitation calmly, and “did not so much as lift up his head from his couch of leaves.”
“I also am a son of Zeus, if Alexander be such,” he commented. “I want nothing that is Alexander’s, for I am content with what I have, while I see that he wanders with his men over sea and land for no advantage, and is never coming to an end of his wanderings.
“Go and tell Alexander that God the Supreme King is never the Author of insolent wrong, but is the Creator of light, of peace, of life, of water, of the body of man and of souls; He receives all men when death sets them free, being in no way subject to evil disease. He alone is the God of my homage, who abhors slaughter and instigates no wars.
“Alexander is no god, since he must taste of death,” continued the sage in quiet scorn. “How can such as he be the world’s master, when he has not yet seated himself on a throne of inner universal dominion? Neither as yet has he entered living into Hades, nor does he know the course of the sun through the central regions of the earth, while the nations on its boundaries have not so much as heard his name!”
“Know this, however, that what Alexander offers and the gifts he promises are things to me utterly useless; the things I prize and find of real use and worth are these leaves which are my house, these blooming plants which supply me with daily food, and the water which is my drink; while all other possessions which are amassed with anxious care are wont to prove ruinous to those who gather them, and cause only sorrow and vexation, with which every poor mortal is fully fraught. As for me, I lie upon the forest leaves, and having nothing which requires guarding, close my eyes in tranquil slumber; whereas had I anything to guard, that would banish sleep. The earth supplies me with everything, even as a mother her child with milk. I go wherever I please, and there are no cares with which I am forced to cumber myself.
“Should Alexander cut off my head, he cannot also destroy my soul. My head alone, then silent, will remain, leaving the body like a torn garment upon the earth, whence also it was taken. I then, becoming Spirit, shall ascend to my God, who enclosed us all in flesh and left us upon earth to prove whether, when here below, we shall live obedient to His ordinances and who also will require of us all, when we depart hence to His presence, an account of our life, since He is Judge of all proud wrongdoing; for the groans of the oppressed become the punishment of the oppressor.
“Let Alexander then terrify with these threats those who wish for wealth and who dread death, for against us these weapons are both alike powerless; the Brahmins neither love gold nor fear death. Go then and tell Alexander this: Dandamis has no need of aught that is yours, and therefore will not go to you, and if you want anything from Dandamis, come you to him.”
With close attention Alexander received through Onesikritos the message from the yogi, and “felt a stronger desire than ever to see Dandamis who, though old and naked, was the only antagonist in whom he, the conqueror of many nations, had met more than his match.”
Alexander invited to Taxila a number of Brahmin ascetics noted for their skill in answering philosophical questions with pithy wisdom. An account of the verbal skirmish is given by Plutarch; Alexander himself framed all the questions.

“Which be the more numerous, the living or the dead?”
“The living, for the dead are not.”
“Which breeds the larger animals, the sea or the land?”
“The land, for the sea is only a part of land.”
“Which is the cleverest of beasts?”
“That one with which man is not yet acquainted.” (Man fears the unknown.)
“Which existed first, the day or the night?”
“The day was first by one day.” This reply caused Alexander to betray surprise; the Brahmin added: “Impossible questions require impossible answers.”
“How best may a man make himself beloved?”
“A man will be beloved if, possessed with great power, he still does not make himself feared.”
“How may a man become a god?”
“By doing that which it is impossible for a man to do.”
“Which is stronger, life or death?”
“Life, because it bears so many evils.”

The Greek historians have left us many vivid and inspiring pictures of Indian society. Hindu law, Arrian tells us, protects the people and “ordains that no one among them shall, under any circumstances, be a slave but that, enjoying freedom themselves, they shall respect the equal right to it which all possess. For those, they thought, who have learned neither to domineer over nor cringe to others will attain the life best adapted for all vicissitudes of lot.” All Greek observers comment on the lack of slavery in India, a feature at complete variance with the structure of Hellenic society.
“The Indians,” runs another text, “neither put out money at usury, nor know how to borrow. It is contrary to established usage for an Indian either to do or suffer a wrong, and therefore they neither make contracts nor require securities.” Healing, we are told, was by simple and natural means. “Cures are effected rather by regulating diet than by the use of medicines. The remedies most esteemed are ointments and plasters. All others are considered to be in great measure pernicious.” Engagement in war was restricted to the Kshatriyas or warrior caste. “Nor would an enemy coming upon a husbandman at his work on his land, do him any harm, for men of this class being regarded as public benefactors, are protected from all injury. The land thus remaining unravaged and producing heavy crops, supplies the inhabitants with the requisites to make life enjoyable.”

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