Focussing The Mind In Antaranga Yoga
The sixth Anga, the sixth stage of Raja Yoga, is called Dharana and it is loosely stated or expressed by the English term Concentration. Dharana means holding the mind fixed at one point, at one place, and keeping it held for a sufficient length of time. So, a certain length of time and a specific focal pointthese two are included or implied in the term Dharana. Before we go into the consideration of the specific exercise, process or technique of Dharana, it is very important to know something about the mind, because it is this factor that you have to deal with in Dharana. In concentration, you have to deal with your mind, and you have to know therefore the nature of the mind, the innate inherent tendency of the mind, and its habitual behaviour pattern, and also the laws that govern the activity of the mind.
Nature of the Mind-stuff or Mano-Tattva
We saw that the mind has an innate outgoing tendency or Bahirmukhatva. Secondly, it has an innate objectifying tendency; in other words, it is Vishayakara. Thirdly, the mind has an innate tendency to keep changing its centre constantly. It never stays put on one thing or one object, but goes on jumping, always fickle, always moving, always restless. So, this is the third tendency of the mind, characterised by Nanatva or the many. The mind is not content to rest on any single point; it is not content to repose on the one. But, it is always scattered in the many. So, the three qualities, namely, externalisation, objectification and diversificationthese constitute the inveterate, innate nature of the mind-stuff or the Mano Tattva. In Sanskrit, these three characteristics are known as Bahirmukhatva, Vishayakara and Nanatva. These constitute the innate tendency or the Svabhavika Dharma of the Manas-Tattva. So, this is the mind as Brahma created it, way back when the universe became manifest during the course of the evolution of different principles according to Hindu cosmology. And Pratyahara, we have seen, deals with only one of the three characteristics of Manas, namely, the externalising tendency. Pratyahara reverses this tendency of the mind and internalises it. But, what about the minds objectification? What about the minds Chanchalatva, the restless hopping from one to another? How are you to deal with these two factors of the mind-nature?
We have already seen how these two problems are created from deep within the mind. How are you to deal with the Samskaras and the Vasanas? How are you to deal with the suppressed unfulfilled desires? They will constantly come up on the mental surface when you try to close the mind from all the outer world, when you try to close all the sense avenues and sit in one place and close your eyes, maybe, plug your ears also. You go completely inward. Then the mind is unoccupied, and in the empty mind, all sorts of thoughts start bubbling up from the Chitta through the activation of the Vasanas and the Samskaras, and through the operation of the process of memory or recollection. We have seen how association of ideas operates in the mind. One little idea can take you a hundred miles, a thousand miles, a million miles away through association of ideas. One leads to another, another to another, and before you know what is happening, you are already far off. Though the body is in the meditation seat, you are far off. There is yet another thing we have to understand about the mind. This is something very, very subtle; this is a metaphysical factor. Therefore, the Western psychologists do not know about it at all. They do not know about it. They have understood very little about the mind. Though they have understood a great deal, yet in truth, it is very little.
Our ancients discovered one important metaphysical fact about the mind. And they have given it to us. It is very difficult to understand; you cannot grasp it. They say that there is really no such thing as the mind apart from thought-activity. The mind is nothing but a vast bundle of thoughts, a vast bundle of impressions. The mind is present only when thought is present. When thought is present, the mind is present. When thought-activity is not there, there is no mind. So, the ancients say that thought itself is the mind. Thought-activity is itself the mind. Mind and thought are inseparable. Mind is coexistent with thought. The mind is a bundle of Vrittis and Vasanas. This is very difficult to understand. We always think that mind is something from which thoughts emanate. But, the Vedantins and the Yogis say that there is no such thing as mind separate from thoughts, separate from the thought-process. Mind itself is thought; thought itself is mind. Mind is nothing but thought-activity. When thought-activity is not there, there is no mind. So, the ancients talk about a state of no-mind, Amanaskata. They say that there is an Avastha called Amanas-ka-Avastha. It is impossible to understand this very subtle distinction that they make between a mind independent by itself and a mind coexistent with the thought-process. They say that there is no mind independent by itself. Mind and the thought-process are identical. What we know as mind is nothing but the thought-process, because through the thought-process only we come to the conclusion that inside us there is something other than the body. Through our thought-process only we recognise the existence of the mind. If there is no thought-process, we will not even know that there is a mind. The ancient Rishis discovered this and they have stated that this is the actual situation inside. When thought ceases, mind ceases. If you can completely eliminate thought, you have succeeded in eradicating the mind. Mind does not persist apart from thought.
Now, this is very difficult to understand. It is a very subtle metaphysical experience, a very subtle metaphysical fact. And even though we are not able to grasp it, we are able to experience it in a rather unpleasant and bitter way when we try to practise concentration. By some peculiar misconception if you think that concentration or meditation is trying to keep the mind blank, keep the mind empty, and that is the real way to meditate, it is totally wrong. This idea that meditation means to keep the mind empty is a generally prevalent idea, a very popular notion, and this notion has brought many people to grief. Yoga does not say anywhere that emptiness of mind is meditation. Most certainly, classical or traditional Yoga does not say that blankness is a state to be desired. On the contrary, it says that blankness is an undesirable state and that it should not be encouraged. It says that you must try to overcome the state of blankness and eradicate it. And Yoga definitely says that concentration or meditation is actual focussing upon a specific point, upon a specific objective. And yoga says this for a very, very valid reason. What is this reason? This reason you will know if you try to practise thoughtlessness. Because, what happens then? After a great deal of effort and a great deal of waste of time and energy, you ultimately come to the conclusion, come to the experience, that only two tasks are possible for the mind. Either it must think or it must sleep. Either it must think of something, of many things or one thing, but it must think, or it will promptly go to sleep. The mind is either active or it is sleepy. If you try to keep the mind blank, the next thing you know is that you feel drowsy. The mind is about to sleep. There cannot be a third state for the mind. It must either think or it must go to sleep. This is at the level of the mind.
It is a different matter altogether for the Yogi who goes beyond the mind into a state of Turiya consciousness. In that state, mind has come to a standstill, and therefore, it is a state of sleep so far as the mind is concerned, because in sleep, the mind is at a standstill. So far as the mind is concerned, it is in a state of sleep; so far as the individual is concerned, he is aware of this state. The Jivatma is aware of this state. The Jivatma in Turiya consciousness knows: I am in a state of absolute thoughtlessness. Shanti...Shanti...Shanti.... That is Prashant Avastha. And that is the difference between superconsciousness and deep sleep, between Turiya and Sushupti. Therefore it is that the state of superconsciousness is called the sleepless sleep. They do not deny that it is sleep. They do accept that it is sleep. At the same time, it is not sleep also, because in sleep there is no awareness, whereas in that state, there is full awareness, because, transcending the mind, the Jiva has gone into a level of pure consciousness, of pure awareness. So, this does not contradict the experience that at the level of the mind, so far as the mind is concerned, the mind has to be either active or asleep. Therefore, in order to prevent this undesirable and unfortunate state, a state of negativity and waste of time, we are asked to hold on to some focal point and continuously hold on to that point for some time; we are told to practise this again and again, again and again. This is concentration. This is Dharana.
What is Samadhi? Meditation? Concentration?
Now, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhiconcentration, meditation and tranceconstitute the last three Angas of Patanjali Maharshis Ashtanga Yoga. Trance is not super-consciousness; it is wrong to translate Samadhi as super-consciousness. Samadhi is only trance, and if you go on practising that trance again and again, daily, many times a day, over a long period of time, then this constant diligent practice of Samadhi or practice of trance may ultimately take you into a state completely transcending the individual consciousness, transcending the body, mind and intellectual consciousness, going completely beyond, where you completely cross beyond this circle of the threefold recurring states of Jagrat, Svapna and Sushuptiwakefulness, dream and deep sleep. So, you go beyond the three states of wakefulness, dream and deep sleep and hit the substratum, that which is the basis for all these three states, upon which these three states keep on, just as upon a screen a movie reel unrolls and goes on. On the movie screen, some scenes come out in black and white, some are coloured, and yet others are technicoloured. A moonlight scene may be only blue, while some other scene may be in technicoloureach flower and each dress having its own colour. But upon what substratum do these changing pictures appear? Upon the substratum of the unchanging permanent screen which is behind. If the permanent screen were not there, neither the ordinary black and white scene could be projected, nor the coloured scene, nor the multicoloured or technicoloured scene. All three would be impossible. Because the screen is there, these things are made possible. Even so, because the pure consciousness or awareness is there, these three ever-changing states of wakefulness, dream and deep sleep find it possible to manifest. So, the support and substratum of the ever-recurring and ever-changeful threefold state or Avastha-Traya is the Turiya Avastha, the fourth state, the permanent, existence-consciousness principle which is the Purusha. Existence-consciousness or Sat-Chit which is unchanging, which is permanent, supports all the three states. Existence-consciousness is super-consciousness.
So, Samadhi is trance. Samadhi is still one process or one Anga of Yogabhyasa, of Yogic practice. Samadhi is not the ultimate goal. Various types of Samadhi have to be practised until your Samadhi becomes longer and longer in duration, deeper and deeper in intensity, until you become well established in the practice of Samadhi. This is Raja Yoga. So, the meaning in which different terms are used should be clear to your mind. By continuous, diligent practice of Samadhi, it becomes longer in duration, deeper in intensity, and then you become well established in that state. Gradually you pass through different states of Samadhi and you ultimately reach a state of Samadhi where there is absolutely no movement of the mind at all. The mind comes to a total standstill and there is not even metaphysical movement. There is not even the consideration of the Absolute, that it is Sat, that it is Chit, that it is Ananda, that it is beyond time, space and causation, that it is beginningless and endless. Even these considerations are not present any longer. In that process of holding on to the awareness of the Supreme, there is only Absolute Awareness. That is called Nirvikalpa Samadhi and it is when the Yogi is able to practise Nirvikalpa Samadhi for a long time that he goes beyond even Samadhi and attains to the state of Turiyatita Avastha where he obtains Kaivalya, supreme liberation, supreme independence. This, therefore, is the process. The last three Angas ultimately lead to the supreme state of superconsciousness. Dharana is concentration; Dhyana is meditation; and Samadhi is trance.
Now, Patanjali is quite matter-of-fact and specific when he gives us an idea of what these last three practices constitute. If you are able to sit, withdraw the mind and fix it upon a focal point withinit may be gross, subtle or anythingand if you are able to keep the mind fixed like that for a period of twelve Matrasa Matra is approximately a moment, a secondit is counted as one concentration. The Yogic time-calculation is usually stated in Matras and a Matra may be taken roughly as a second. If you can keep the mind steady without moving, without any contrary thoughts coming in, and without moving away from the object of concentration, for a period of twelve Matras, it is regarded as one Dharana or one concentration. Thus, Dharana is actually calculated upon the basis of a steady fixation of the mind or a steady focussing of the mind upon one point. And it should be your endeavour to keep the mind steady like that for twelve seconds at least. Then it is one Dharana. Go on practising this Dharana for days and weeks and months so that it becomes longer and longer. How long? By continuous practice, if you are able to keep the mind focussed upon one single point without moving here or there, for 144 seconds or a period of twelve Dharanas, then this continuous unbroken concentration of the mind for 144 seconds is termed a Dhyana. So, if you have concentrated for 144 seconds without break, you are already a Dhyani or a Dhyana Yogi. You have reached the stage of Dhyana. And in this way, if you are able to sit, concentrate and enter into Dhyana and keep on meditating, without disturbance, without distraction, keep on meditating, for a minimum of almost half an hour, but not quite, if you are able to sit for that duration absolutely absorbed in your meditation, then that is Samadhi. Actually, in Patanjalis system, 12 continuous, unbroken concentrations make one meditation, and 12 continuous, unbroken meditations make one Samadhi. Now, meditation means continuous concentration of the mind upon one idea to the exclusion of all other ideas. There should be only one idea. There should be only one thought. There should be only one VrittiEkakara Vritti. No second Vritti should be there. And if you are able to be in that state of one Vritti continuously for nearly half an hour, then it is Samadhi. It is one Samadhi. Now, you can understand whether Yoga is easy or not so easy. You can try to understand. This is Yoga. Samadhi is 27 minutes of absolutely unbroken, undisturbed concentration. That is to say, it constitutes a continuous process of 12 meditations, each meditation being of 144 seconds duration. And when the Yogi has been able to attain to a state of successful practice of Samadhi, then he has no other Yoga, no other Abhyasa, except to go on practising Samadhi. That is why the Yogis seclude themselves. They keep alone, they do not court disturbance, they do not see anyone but go on practising Samadhi. They go on practising Samadhi so that the Samadhi becomes longer and longer. The Samadhi becomes more in number. One Samadhi, two Samadhis, three Samadhisthey go on practising until the Samadhi itself becomes deeper and deeper, and more and more intense, and the body is not felt. That is Yogabhyasa.
Such a state of concentration is possible only for a mind that has become very refined, a mind that has been rendered subtle, rendered fine. If there are gross sensual thoughts, then the mind is not refined; it is still gross. If there are thoughts of love and hate and anger and jealousy and envy and vengefulness, the mind is gross. If there is always concentration upon eating and drinking and enjoying and cinema and radio, then the mind is gross. If the mind always thinks of objects, always thinks about worldly thingsgossip, scandal and newspaperthen the mind is gross; the mind is not subtle. Two things are necessary for successful concentration, and it goes without saying, for meditation and Samadhi. The mind must be subtle and the mind must be pure. In Yogic terminology, when we say that the mind must be pure, we mean that the mind must be Sattvic. Sattva and purity are synonymous. The mind must not be Rajasic and Tamasic; it should be Sattvic. Only the Sattvic Bhava should come. Sattvic thoughts, Sattvic feelings, Sattvic ideas must be there in the mind. It should not have any Tamasic and Rajasic ideas and feelings. All should be Sattvic. And therefore, at this stage, it is wise for the Yogi to see that everything in his life is Sattvic. His company, his food, his environment, whatever he moves with, should be Sattvic. He should carefully avoid anything that is Rajasic and Tamasic. Because, it will affect the mind, and such a mind which is Rajasic or Tamasic, or is influenced by Rajas and Tamas, ceases to be a fit instrument for meditation. Purity, self-control, Sattvic food, Sattvic environment, Sattvic thoughts, Sattvic reading, Sattvic companythese are very important for the practice of inner Yoga, for the practice of Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.
Coaxing the Mind into Concentration
Now we know that one inveterate tendency of the mind is objectification. So, very wisely, Patanjali Maharshi says that if you try straightaway to think of the formless, attributeless, abstract, Nirakara, Nirguna Brahman, you will get nowhere. In the Twelfth Chapter of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna, the Yogesvara, very clearly says, For an embodied being, to think about the Unmanifest, to try to meditate upon the Unmanifest, and to try to worship and attain the Unmanifest, and to try to worship and attain the Unmanifest, is very grievous. The Lord says that it is not possible, because you cannot think about the abstract. Why? Because of the tendency of the mind for objectification. Objectification is the minds inveterate tendency. You manage to overcome the minds tendency of externalisation with great difficulty through the practice of Pratyahara, but the minds tendency of objectification is now proving to be your great stumbling block, your great hurdle. What are you going to do? Patanjali very wisely says, All right, give the mind some object. Give it some internal object. So, he prescribes and advocates the commencement of meditation with a gross object as the focal point. For, in the beginning, too subtle an object will not be possible for the mind to grasp. So, give the mind a gross object to meditate upon. Let it meditate upon a flower, let it meditate upon a beautiful scene, let it meditate upon the moon, the cooling moon, let it meditate upon the feet of your Guru and the face of your Guru, let it meditate upon the symbol OM, let it meditate upon some gross thing, something which is very like the objects which you are always accustomed to place the mind upon. The only difference here is that your meditation is now upon an internal object. Patanjali Maharshi makes a further concession. He says that in the beginning you can try to practise concentration even upon some external object, keeping something outside, keeping your eyes open to concentrate upon the object. Discipline the mind to be completely steady. Focus it upon the object. Do not keep any other thought. Push away all other thoughts. Think only about the object you have placed before yourself. This is also a valuable exercise to start with. Side by side, you can try to practise meditation upon a gross inner object. So, Patanjali says that you cannot simply dismiss this very, very real factor, this tendency of the mind to objectify. So, give it objects. Let this tendency of the mind manifest. No harm. But only, try to take advantage of it. Let the mind grasp one object and stay put upon that one object; let it not move from that object. Thus, the very objectifying tendency of the mind is made use of, is utilised, in order to enter into a state of Dharana.
Lastly, we come to the minds tendency for Nanatva or the many, the minds characteristic of fickleness. The mind always changes. What to do about it? All right says Patanjali, Does not matter. Let it change, but carefully discipline the mind. Carefully draw up a system by which even when it is changing, let all the different changeful ideas be only ideas connected or related to the central object of concentration. Keep on to it. For example, when you think of Lord Vishnu, you may also think of His Shanka, His Chakra, His Kirita, His Kundala, His Srivatsa mark and Kaustubha, His Mala, His Pitambara, His Gadha, His Padma, His lotus feet. In this, the mind is changing. True, Nanatva is there. But, in spite of Nanatva, there is also Ekatva, because all these different ideas pertain to the one central object of meditation, namely, Lord Vishnu. In the same way, when you think of the Atman, think of the various Upanishadic ideas connected with the Atman, namely, infinity, eternity, limitlessness, boundlessness, imperishability and so on. Similarly, suppose you want to meditate on the Ganga. Let the mind first of all think of the Himalayas, the Himalayan glaciers, the great snows, and the origin of the Ganga in Gomukh. Then think of Gangotri, then think of Ganges flowing, flowing, flowing down. Then she comes and flows near Devaprayag, where she joins the Alakananda, then comes down to Rishikesh, then on to Hardwar; she goes to Hari-ki-Paudi, Brahma-Kund, and goes on, flowing onwards to Varanasi and Calcutta, and ultimately, to Ganga Sagar where she merges in the Bay of Bengal. Think of the various cities on the bank of the Ganges. You may even think of Bhagirath whose efforts brought the Ganges to earth and then proceed to think of the Himalayas, Gomukh, Gangotri, Uttarkashi, Tehri, Devaprayag, Rishikesh, Hardwar, Varanasi and so on. This way, the mind is allowed to change its thought without losing its focus on the object of meditation. You may thus allow the mind to indulge in the habit of Nanatva, but it should be always centred on the object of meditation. In the same way, think of your Ishta, Sri Ramachandra or Lord Krishna, and think of the various Lilas, the various episodes connected with your Ishta, how He did Uddhara of this Bhakta, how He did Samhara of that Rakshasa, how He did such and such a miracle here, and such and such a miracle there. Like that, you go on thinking. Bhaktas think in this way. They go over the Adbhut Lilas of the Avatar Purusha and thus their mind is kept moving, but yet not moving. In this way, the mind is allowed to move among the many, but yet is kept upon the one only. Because, all the different ideas are centred upon one object only. All the different ideas inhere in one object of meditation only. The Nanatva of Manas is overcome in this way. You give the mind an object, until by this exercise the area of the minds wandering is confined to one object.
First of all, the mind is made unitary; it is unified. It wanders in an area all of which is concerned with only one subject, and then gradually, the area is narrowed down, and maybe, ultimately it is unified in such a way that all the different ideas go away. Maybe you give the mind a support, maybe you start doing Japa, you start repeating the Name of your Ishta, and the mind inheres in the Nam, in the Mantra, and gradually becomes completely quiescent. So, in this way, both these other obstacles, objectification and multifariousness, are dealt with by making use of them in the beginning stages for the very purpose of concentration and meditation, until your concentration and meditation acquire such depth and intensity that the help of these factors becomes unnecessary and dispensable. Thus the mind gradually gets free through continuous discipline and manages to give up its inveterate tendency of objectification and multifariousnessVishayakara and Nanatva. And when the mind reaches this stage, it becomes a perfect instrument and you practise Dharana with that mind, practise Dhyana, and also practise Samadhi and guard against falling into sleep by making it engaged in thought-process of a unified nature, in thought-process of a completely unitary nature. And because the thought-process goes on, sleep is warded off. All the same, if sometimes a little bit of Tandra comes, hold your breath and do Kumbhak; sleep will be overcome. These are the diverse ways in which the problems of Manorajya, building castles in the air, and falling into a drowsy state, have to be counteracted by taking keen interest in the concentration that you are doing and taking the help of the innate tendencies of the mind. These tendencies of the mind are actually obstacles in concentration, but by utilising these very tendencies, you make the mind gradually go into a state of deeper concentration and ultimate meditation. Then the mind overcomes these tendencies. In this way, the mind becomes totally unified. The mind becomes freed from its threefold innate tendency of externalisation, objectification and multifariousness and acquires a state of complete interiorisation, inwardness, Antarmukhatva; and gradually the mind also overcomes all external objectifications of an undesirable type by practising internal objectification of a unitary type and a desirable type, voluntarily self-chosen by the Yogi so that it becomes the means of overcoming the minds objectification in other directions, in other forms, that are inimical to Yoga, that are unfavourable to Yoga. Ultimately the mind is made to hold on to variegated ideas, all centred upon one subject. The tendency for multifariousness also is made use of in the beginning to attain to a state of concentration, and once having reached this stage of concentration and meditation, the Yogi has nothing more to do but to practise it again and again, again and again, day after day, with keen interest, paying great attention to it and keeping the practice unbroken over a very long period of time. These are the instructions of Patanjali Maharshi through his Sutras with regard to the inner, processes of Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhiconcentration, meditation and trance.
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