You 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