Concentration – Avoid mental confrontation

SwamiNiranjan_000You can concentrate on any great saints, any light, any sound, colour, form, thought, or anything you like, but one thing should be clearly understood. When you take up the practice of concentration it is not necessary to select a religious symbol. Sometimes a thought which makes a greater impression on your consciousness can be used instead. There is no use in fighting with the mind. During concentration practice you may be trying to think of a religious symbol, but your mind does not agree because that is how the mind is conditioned. When you try to concentrate on something which is alien to this conditioning, the mind pulls away. However, when you think about very ordinary things there is no distraction.

When you try to concentrate on the wrong symbol, distraction comes and the confrontation begins. It is very necessary to understand that when you are practicing concentration, there should be minimal confrontation in the mind. There is no use fighting with your own mind. Who is fighting with whom? There are not two minds. Consciousness is one, but for the sake of diversity there are various vrittis, patterns or modifications of the mind. When you confront yourself you are actually creating a quarrel between your own vrittis. When this confrontation between your own vrittis becomes intense, then you have a schizophrenic attack. Most mental patients are the victims of their own mind.

Therefore, if you are not able to concentrate by using any of the suggested methods, then choose your own. The important thing is that the symbol you choose should become so compelling that you mind is automatically drawn to it and completely integrates with it. When you practice in this way then you will enter into concentration easily. When you practice meditation you can also use distractions as objects of concentration, just like the wise yogi in story.

There was once a king who was very attached to his riches, but still he wanted to meditate for he was beginning to see the worthlessness of his vast wealth. A yogi gave this king instructions. The king sat down to meditate in earnest, but whenever he tried to fix his mind upon the eternal it went blank. Then, without knowing it, his imagination began to hover around his beautiful gold bracelet which he was particularly fond of. Before his admiring gaze, the bracelet began to sparkle in all the colours of the rainbow. As soon as he found himself in that fantasy, he fought his way back to God. But the harder he tried to fix his mind upon God, the greater was the frustration that he experienced. God invariably changed into the bracelet in his mind.

With much humility, the king now went to the yogi for further instructions. The yogi knew how to turn the weakness into a source of strength. He said to the king. “Since your mind is so attached to the bracelet, start you practice from there. Meditate upon the bracelet. Contemplate on its beauty and sparkling color. In essence, the bracelet is a configuration of energy vibration solidified into metal. It is the perceptive mind which lends it its beauty and colour. Therefore, try to understand the nature of mind which created the world as you see it.”

 

Extracted from “Dharna Darshan” by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Concentration – Ability to Concentrate

SwamiNiranjan_000Concentration is spoken of in the Katha Upanishad (2:3:11) where it is explained by Yama, the Lord of Death, to Nachiketa, a young seeker:

“The firm control of the senses and the mind is the Yoga of concentration. One must be ever watchful for this yoga is difficult to acquire and easy to lose.”

The word ‘concentration’ means one-pointedness. Just as we need a sharp pencil to write with or a sharp knife to cut with, the mind also must be sharpened through the practices of concentration. We cannot cut with a dull knife or write with an unsharpened pencil, because the pressure applied is spread over too large an area. It is not concentration. The importance of a concentrated mind in everyday life is widely recognized, but the ordinary mind is not functioning in a concentrated way. It is dissipated, also spread over too large an area and covering too many points. Therefore, we are not able to utilize even a fraction of our potential mental power.

We know many things in life, about our work, our families, our society, our environment, history, science and politic, but we do not know how to willfully control and direct the mind. The power of concentration has not been developed in most of us as part of our early teaching. As we grow older the mind becomes more and more dissipated as the tensions and worries mount. This results in increasing loss of mental acuity, wrong decisions, ineffective management, poor memory and finally senility.

We may be masters of technology and of the external word but we are not masters of the mind. Somehow that inner technology which gives us control over the mental functions is eluding us completely. Control over a machine means that are able to start it, speed it up, slow it down and stop it whenever needed. The same thing is also required of a disciplined mind. The disciplined mind is one which thinks only when you will it and about what you decide. If you want it to think fast or slow or stop thinking altogether, it immediately complies. The thoughts which enter a disciplined mind are immediately organized and directed. They have no power to sway the mind in one way or another.

If we examine the lives of yogis, sadhus, sannaysins, saints and mystics, we will see that they all have one thing in common. They lead intensely one-pointed and concentrated lives, dedicated totally to the ideal or purpose which they regard as the highest goal. They gain control over themselves and their minds by regular, steady practice. Through their power of concentration they gradually merge the mind into their prayer or meditations until they are able to achieve a state of perfect mind control. Usually on meeting such a person, our first impression is one of deep inner peace, steadiness and self-control.

The ability to concentrate is the root of all higher qualities in man and it requires strenuous effort. To develop a concentrated mind is harder than earning a degree. The average person is not born with the ability to concentrate, so it is necessary to change our nature in order to create something which was not there before. This is different to studying concepts of philosophy from books and lectures. Concentration is something which must be practiced and discovered personally to gain full benefit.

The essential thing for developing concentration is regularity in practice. However, before we start practicing concentration, we must develop an idea of the broad range which this stage of mental development covers. The practices of concentration and meditation are codified in the yogic and upanishadic texts. This is a subject which should be studied and researched to obtain the best results. Concentration is not a superficial practice. It involves diving deep into the inner dimensions of the mind and consciousness, in order to do this we need three things: (1) correct method, (2) correct guidance and (3) correct understanding.

Extracted from “Dharna Darshan” by Swami Niranjananda Saraswati

 

Makar Sankranti

Makar SankrantiSalutations to the Supreme Lord who divided the year into the four seasons. Salutations to Surya, the Sun god, who on the great day embarks on his northward journey. The day on which the Sun begins to move northward is called Makar Sankranti. To many people Makar Sankranti ushers in the new year. The six month period which the sun travels northwards is highly favourable to aspirants for their march towards the goal of life. It is as though the aspirant were flowing easily with the current towards Supreme.

The day prior to Makar Sankranti is called Bhogi festival. On this day old worn-out and dirty things are discarded and burnt. Houses are cleaned and white-washed. Roads are swept clean and designs are drawn with rice flour. But in the life of the spiritual aspirants, it will not do to attend these external things alone. Cleaning the mind of its dirty habits of thinking and feeling is more urgently needed. Burn them up with a wise and firm resolve to tread the path of truth, love, and purity from this holy day onwards.

If you do this then Makar Sankranti has a special significance for you. For the Sun, symbolizing knowledge, wisdom and spiritual light, now joyously turns on its northward course and rushes towards you, to shed its light and warmth in greater abundance upon you and to infuse into you more life and energy.

The Sun itself symbolizes all that this day stand for. The message of the Sun is the, message of light, the message on unity, impartiality, true selflessness. The Sun shines on all equally, it is the benefactor of all beings. Without the Sun life would perish on earth.

-Swami Sivananda Saraswati

Concentration – A Quality of Mind

SwamiNiranjan_000A concentrated mind is a powerful mind and a dissipated mind is a weak mind. In order to develop mental power you must first develop a concentrated mind. If the thoughts are scattered, they can be brought into concentrated focus by specific concentration practices. Then your mind will become so powerful that you can influence the minds of others. You can influence your character, your health, your whole life. If you have a stomach disorder, mental disorder, breathing disorder, you can remove it by willpower alone. How can you develop willpower? The secret is to concentrate the mind on one point.

What is meant by strong mind? A strong mind is one which can carry out its own decisions. In contrast, a weak mind is one which decides one thing but does another. From tomorrow I am going to do this or that but when tomorrow comes you forget everything. You are still the same because your mind is dissipated. All the great man about whom you have read in history, whether artists, writers, musicians, politicians, statesman, military leaders, scientists or saints, achieve greatness because of the quality of their mind. They did not become great by a freak of nature or a stroke of luck. They became great due to their mind. They each had a concentrated and hence a gifted mind.

If you want to do something or become something in your life, the quality of your mind has to be improved. If you have a low quality of mind then your performance in all spheres will be poor. If the quality of mind is high then your performance will be correspondingly great. To develop higher quality of mind, you will have to analyze yourself and your aims, and you will have to give some time to the practice of concentration in the morning and evening.

Extracted from “Dharna Darshan” by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Importance of Concentration

SwamiNiranjan_000Concentration is one-pointedness of mind. The ability to hold the awareness of the mind on one point, one place, without wavering. The perfection of concentration leads to meditation. In the state of concentration, the mind is not aware of the external environment or of other peripheral things that surround the object of concentration.

Why is concentration so important? This can be best answered by comparing the mind to a light bulb. The rays of light from the bulb go out in all directions; the energy spreads. If you stand five feet away from the bulb, you can see the light but cannot feel the heat, even though there is great heat at the centre of the bulb, at the filament. In the same way, the mind has great power in potential form, but it is dissipated in all directions. The mind thinks of different things one after another, without dwelling in depth on any particular subject. Therefore, the average mind does not utilize its power.

In recent times, science has produced the laser and many advances have been made in modern technology through its use. It is a method whereby all the rays of light from a source are lined up with each other so that they go in the same direction and in unison with each other. They vibrate in harmony with each other. The original source of light need not be any greater than the light bulb we have just discussed, yet if you were to stand five feet from a laser beam source, the beam would burn a hole straight through your body. This is the difference between ordinary light and concentrated light.

Similarly, concentrated thought also has great power. It has the power of heightened perception, the ability to see more of the underlying truth behind phenomena. It has the ability to achieve great things and to do unimaginable amounts of work. A concentrated mind is also a relaxed mind. Whenever you become deeply engrossed in anything you automatically come to a state of relaxation. Concentration is vital for everything that you do in life because it prevents the mind from wandering aimlessly in all directions. You only need a look around you to see the truth of this statement.

Work done with a concentrated mind becomes more enjoyable. A person with concentrated mind can do all kinds of work with great efficiency. A person who is unable to concentrate, who thinks of other things while doing the work at hand, makes mistakes and takes an unnecessary length of time to complete the task, if he ever completes it at all. He will continually think about how slowly the time is passing. He will worry about himself, his problem, his family, while he is working. Due to poor concentration there is poor application, so the work is not properly done. Therefore, concentration is essential in daily life as well as in spiritual practice.

Extracted from Dharna Darshan by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati