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This article is a chapter from the book "Bliss Divine".
Sri Swami Sivananda
What is Concentration?
Objects of Concentration
An Uphill Task for the Beginner
A Mental Process, Not a Muscular Exercise
How to Increase Your Power of Concentration
Concentration and Pranayama
Importance of an Ethical Basis
Concentration-The Master-key to Success
If you focus the rays of the sun through a lens, they can burn cotton or a piece of paper; but, the scattered rays cannot do this act. If you want to talk to a man at a distance, you make a funnel of your hand and speak. The sound-waves are collected at one point and then directed towards the man. He can hear your speech very clearly. The water is converted into steam and the steam is concentrated at a point. The railway engine moves. All these are instances of concentrated waves. Even so, if you collect the dissipated rays of the mind and focus them at a point, you will have wonderful concentration. The concentrated mind will serve as a potent searchlight to find out the treasures of the soul and attain the supreme wealth of Atman (the Self), eternal bliss, immortality and perennial joy.
Real Raja Yoga starts from concentration. Concentration merges in meditation. Concentration is a portion of meditation.
Meditation follows concentration. Samadhi (superconscious state) follows mediation. The Jivanmukti (liberated being) 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.
You are born to concentrate the mind on God after collecting the mental rays that are dissipated on various objects. That is your important duty. You forget the duty on account of Moha (infatuation) for family, children, money, power, position, respect, name and fame.
Concentration of the mind on God after purification can give you real happiness and knowledge. You are born for this purpose only. You are carried away to external objects through attachment and infatuated love.
WHAT IS CONCENTRATION?
Once a Sanskrit scholar approached Kabir and asked him, O Kabir, what are you doing now?". Kabir replied, "O Pundit, I am detaching the mind from worldly objects and attaching it to the lotus-feet of the Lord". This is concentration.
Concentration or Dharana is centering the mind on one single thought. Vedantins try to fix the mind on the Atman. This is their Dharana. Hatha Yogins and Raja Yogins concentrate their mind on the six Chakras (energy centres). Bhaktas concentrate on their Ishta Devata (tutelary diety). Concentration is a great necessity for all aspirants.
During concentration, the various rays of the mind are collected and focussed on the object of concentration. There will be no tossing of the mind. One idea occupies the mind. The whole energy of the mind is concentrated on that one idea. The senses become still. They do not function. When there is deep concentration, there is no consciousness of the body and surroundings.
When you study a book with profound interest, you do not hear if a man shouts and calls you by your name. You do not see a person when he stands in front of you. You do not smell the sweet fragrance of flowers that are placed on the table by your side. This is concentration or one-pointedness of mind. The mind is fixed firmly on one thing. You must have such a deep concentration when you think of God or the Atman.
Everybody possesses some ability to concentrate. Everybody does concentrate to a certain extent when he reads a book, when he writes a letter, when he plays tennis, and in fact, when he does any kind of work. But, for spiritual purposes, concentration should be developed to an infinite degree.
There is great concentration when you play cards or chess, but the mind is not filled with pure and divine thoughts. The mental contents are of an undesirable nature. You can hardly experience the divine thrill, ecstasy, and elevation when the mind is filled with impure thoughts. Every object has its own mental associations. You will have to fill up the mind with sublime, spiritual thoughts. Then only the mind will be expurgated of all worldly thoughts. The picture of Lord Jesus or Buddha or Lord Krishna is associated with sublime, soul-stirring ideas; chess and cards are associated with ideas of gambling, cheating and so forth.
OBJECTS OF CONCENTRATION
Sit on any comfortable pose. Place a picture of your Ishta Devata in front of you. Look at the picture with a steady gaze. Then close your eyes and visualise the picture in the centre of your heart or in the space between the eyebrows.
When the picture fades out in your mental vision, open the eyes and gaze at the picture again. Close your eyes after a few seconds and repeat the process.
It is easy to concentrate the mind on external objects. The mind has a natural tendency to go outwards. In the beginning stage of practice, you can concentrate on a black dot. on the wall, a candle flame, a bright star, the moon, or any other object that is pleasing to the mind.
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.
There is no concentration without something to rest the mind upon. Concentrate on anything that appeals to you as good or anything which the mind likes best. It is very difficult to fix the mind, in the beginning, on any object which the mind dislikes.
Practise various sorts of concentration. This will train or discipline your mind wonderfully. Now concentrate on the Himalayas, a very great object. Then concentrate on a mustard or a pin-point. Now concentrate on a distant object. Then concentrate on a near object. Now concentrate on a colour, sound, touch, smell, or taste. Then concentrate on the 'tik-tik' of a watch. Now concentrate on the virtue mercy. Then concentrate on the virtue 'patience'. Now concentrate on the Sloka, "Jyotishamai Tat Jyotih. Then concentrate on "Satyam Jnanam Anantam". Now concentrate on the image of Lord Siva. Then concentrate on the Aham Brahmasmi" Mahavakya.
AN UPHILL TASK FOR THE BEGINNER
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 great interest in concentration. He will enjoy a new kind of happiness, the concentration-Ananda (bliss). He will become restless if he fails to enjoy this new kind of happiness even for one day.
The vital point in concentration is to bring the mind to the same point or object again by limiting its movements in a small circle in the beginning. That is the main aim. A time will come when the mind will stick to one point alone. This is the fruit of your constant and protracted Sadhana. The joy is indescribable now.
Concentration will increase by lessening the number of thoughts. Certainly, it is an uphill work to reduce the number of thoughts. Just as you will have to take back with care your cloth that is fallen on a thorny plant by removing the thorns one by one slowly, so also, you will have to collect back with care and exertion the dissipated rays of the mind that are thrown over the sensual objects for very many years. In the beginning, it will tax you much. The task will be very unpleasant.
A MENTAL PROCESS, NOT A MUSCULAR EXERCISE
Concentration is purely a mental process. It needs an inward turning of the mind. It is not a muscular exercise. There should be no undue strain on the brain. You should not fight and wrestle with the mind violently.
When you concentrate on any object, avoid tension anywhere in the body or mind. Think gently of the object in a continuous manner. Do not allow the mind to wander away.
HOW TO INCREASE YOUR POWER OF CONCENTRATION
Concentration can be done only if you are free from all distractions. A man whose mind is filled with passion and all sorts of fantastic desires can hardly concentrate on any object even for a second. His mind will be jumping like an old monkey. Japa of any Mantra and Pranayama (breathing exercise) will steady the mind, remove tossing, and increase the power of concentration.
Too much physical exertion, too much talking, too much eating, too much mixing with the opposite sex and undesirable persons, too much walking, will cause distraction of mind. Those who practise concentration must abandon these things.
Whatever work you do, do with perfect concentration. Never leave the work without finishing it completely.
When you sit for prayers and meditation, never think of your office work. When you work in the office, never think of the child who is sick or of any other household work. When you take bath, do not think of games. When you sit for meals, do not think of the work that is pending in the office. You must train yourself to attend to the work on hand with perfect one- pointedness.
Celibacy, Pranayama, reduction of wants and activities, renunciation of objects, solitude, silence, discipline of the senses, annihilation of lust and greed, control of anger, non-mixing with undesirable persons, giving up of the newspaper habit and of visiting cinemas, all these pave a long way in increasing the power of concentration.
You must try to be always cheerful and peaceful. Then only you will have concentration of mind. The practice of friendship with equals, compassion towards inferiors or distressed persons, complacency towards superiors or virtuous persons, and indifference towards sinners or wicked persons will produce cheerfulness or serenity and destroy hatred, jealousy, and dislike.
You should have real and intense thirst for God-realisation. Then all obstacles will be obviated. Concentration will be quite easy for you then. Mere emotional bubbling for the time being out of sheer curiosity, or for attaining psychic powers, cannot bring any tangible result.
CONCENTRATION AND PRANAYAMA
The practice of concentration and the practice of Pranayama are interdependent. If you practise Pranayama, you will get concentration. Natural Pranayama follows the practice of concentration. A Hatha Yogi practises Pranayama and then controls the mind. He rises upwards from below. A Raja Yogi practises concentration and thus controls his Prana. He comes downwards from above. They both meet on a common platform in the end. There are different practices according to the different capacities, tastes, and temperaments. To some, the practice of Pranayama will be easy to start with; to others, the practice of concentration will be easier. The latter had already practised Pranayama in their previous births. Therefore they take up, in this birth, the higher limb of Yoga, i.e., concentration.
IMPORTANCE OF AN ETHICAL BASIS
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.
Some foolish, impatient students take to concentration at once without in any manner undergoing any preliminary training in ethics. This is a serious blunder.
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.
CONCENTRATION-THE MASTER-KEY TO SUCCESS
Those who practise concentration evolve quickly. They can do any work with scientific accuracy and great efficiency. What others do in six hours can be done, by one who has concentration, within half an hour. What others read in six hours can be read, by one who does concentration, within half an hour. Concentration purifies and calms the surging emotions, strengthens the current of thought, and clarifies the ideas.
Concentration helps a man in his material progress also. He will have a very good out-turn of work in his office or business house. He who practises concentration will possess very clear mental vision. What was cloudy and hazy before becomes clear and definite now. What was difficult before becomes easy now. And what was complex, bewildering, and confusing before comes easily within the mental grasp. You can achieve anything through concentration. Nothing is impossible to a man who practises regular concentration.
It helps the scientists and professors to do great research work. It helps the doctor and the lawyer to do much work and earn more money. It develops will-power and memory; it sharpens and brightens the intellect. Concentration bestows serenity or calmness of mind, inner spiritual strength, patience, great capacity to turn out tremendous work, alacrity, acumen, agility, beautiful complexion, sweet voice, brilliant eyes, powerful voice and speech, power to influence others and attract people, cheerfulness, joy, bliss of soul, supreme peace. It removes restlessness, agitation of mind, laziness. It makes you fearless and unattached. It helps you to attain God- realisation.
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 a source of spiritual strength.
Be slow and steady in concentration. By practice of concentration, you will become superhuman.
Those who practise concentration off and on will have a steady mind only occasionally. Sometimes the mind will begin to wander and will be quite unfit for application. You must have a mind that will obey you at all times sincerely and carry out all your commands in the best possible manner at any time. Steady and systematic practice of Raja Yoga will make the mind very obedient and faithful. You will be successful in every attempt. You will never meet with failure.
Last Updated: Sunday, 17-Oct-2004 09:50:52 EDT
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