Dharana : Concentration
desa-bandhas cittasay dharana (Yoga sutras III.1)
Concentration consists in fixing mental matter on a particular topic
As previously indicated, the five first Angas (stages) of Yoga eradicate, one step at a time, the external causes of mental distraction. Yama (rules or self-prohibition) and Niyama (commands) get rid of the inconveniences caused by uncontrolled desires and emotions. Asana (poses) and Pranayama (breath or prana control) suppress the troubles caused by our physical bodies. Pratyahara (disconnection from the senses) by unplugging the senses from the mind, excludes the external world and the impressions it produces on the mind. The mind is thus completely isolated from the external world and the Sadhaka (the meditator) are thus in a state fit to wrestle with themselves; without any disturbances coming from outside. It is only in these conditions that success is possible in the practice of Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. We can now discuss mind control and its effects.
The first step to take to that end is concentration, or the ability to keep the mind firmly locked on the thought-seed chosen by the aspirant. This first step is one of the most difficult in the process of meditation and involves the unfailing capacity to constantly bring the mind back to the object of its concentration. The stages of concentration are well defined and can be designated as follows:
- The choice of the “object” on which to focus.
- The fact of withdrawing mental consciousness from the boundary of the body, so that the channels of perception and contact (the five senses) be reduced to calm and that conscience be not directed outward.
- The centralisation and stabilisation of conscience in the head, in a middle point between the eyebrows.
- The directing of the mind, or its extreme attention granted to the chosen object for concentration.
- The visualisation of this object, the imaginative perception of what it is and the logic reasoning belonging to it.
- The extension of the mental concepts which have been formed, translating them from the specific or particular plane to the general, universal or cosmic plane.
- An attempt to reach what lies beyond the considered form or to reach the idea that is the origin of the form.
This process gradually elevates consciousness and enables the aspirant to touch the life aspect of manifestation instead of the form or ‘object’ aspect.
There are four types of objects on which to focus:
- External objects such as the image of a deity, paintings or shapes belonging to nature (mandalas etc.)
- Internal objects, such as the centres of the etheric body (chakras etc.)
- Qualities, such as the many virtues, with the intent of awakening desire for these virtues, and thus, building them in one’s own personal life (bhavana).
- Mental concepts or ideas incorporating ideals lying in the background of all animated forms. They can appear in the shape of symbols or words.
The four types of objects mentioned above gradually lead the aspirant inwards and enable them to transfer their conscience, from the physical plane to the etheric plane, and from there to the plane of desire and emotions and then to the world of ideas and abstract concepts. This process which happens in the brains, brings the lower nature of man entirely to a state of coherent attention focused on a single spot, all the parts constituting their nature being directed on the steadiness of attention. In other words a concentration of all the mental faculties. From then on, the mind does not wander anymore, it isn’t unstable anymore and directed outwards, but it is wholly anchored in concentration. The yogi can then move towards Dhyana – meditation.
The self is the target, you are the arrow and yoga is the bow…
The Absolute is the target, yoga is the bow, and you are the arrow…
Meditation is thus the aim to which all the preliminary practices of yoga lead, through the poses, breathing, introspection and even concentration.
tatra pratyayaikatanata dhyanam (Yoga sutras III.2)
Concentration (dharana) sustained in time is meditation
Meditation is only the extension of concentration and is born from the ability with which man can anchor their mind at will on any particular object. It follows the same rules and conditions as concentration but the only difference is the ‘time’ element. The ability to firmly focus the mind on an object having been obtained, the next step consists in developing the power to keep the mental matter or chitta steadily occupied with this object or thought, during a prolonged period. The word contemplation here is synonymous with meditation. This meditation is still with seed, that is to say with an object.
Through meditation, the powers of consciousness are developed. Each of the vehicles through which it expresses itself (on the physical, emotional and mental planes) possesses in a dormant state, some abilities, but pure consciousness, which is the source of them all, possesses them in their purest sublimated form.
Samadhi is the culmination of this meditative experience.