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The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali - Book 3 - Union achieved and its Results
1. Concentration is the fixing of the chitta (mind stuff) upon a particular object. This is dharana.

We have now reached the part of the Yoga Sutras which deals specifically with mind control and with the effect of that control. The first fifteen sutras are given to the control of the mind and how it is to be attained and the remaining forty sutras concern the results which take place after this control has been gained. Twenty-four results are enumerated, and these are all along the line of expansions of consciousness and the demonstration of psychic faculties, both lower and higher.

The first step towards this unfoldment is concentration, or the ability to hold the mind steadily and unwaveringly upon that which the aspirant chooses. This first step is one of the most difficult [244] stages in the meditation process and involves constant unremitting ability to keep bringing the mind back to that "object" upon which the aspirant has chosen to concentrate. The stages in concentration are themselves well marked and can be stated as follows:

  1. The choice of some "object" upon which to concentrate,
  2. The withdrawing of the mind-consciousness from the periphery of the body, so that the avenues of outer perception and contact (the five senses) are stilled, and the consciousness is no longer outgoing,
  3. The centering of the consciousness and its steadying within the head at a point midway between the eyebrows,
  4. The application of the mind, or the paying of close attention to the object chosen for concentration,
  5. The visualization of that object, imaginative perception of it and logical reasoning about it,
  6. The extension of the mental concepts which have been formed from the specific and particular to the general and the universal or cosmic,
  7. An attempt to arrive at that which lies back of the form considered, or to reach the idea which is responsible for the form.

This process gradually steps up the consciousness and enables the aspirant to arrive at the life side of manifestation instead of the form side. He begins however with the form or "object." Objects upon which to concentrate are of four kinds: [245]

  1. External objects, such as images of the deity, pictures or forms in nature,
  2. Internal objects, such as the centers in the etheric body,
  3. Qualities, such as the various virtues, with the intent to awaken desire for these virtues and thus to build them into the content of the personal life,
  4. Mental concepts or those ideas which embody the ideals lying back of all animated forms. These may take the form of symbols or of words.

In one of the Puranas the idea embodied in concentration is expressed most beautifully. The aspirant is told, after he has made use of the first five means of yoga (dealt with in Book II), that he "should make a localization of the mind stuff upon some auspicious support" and this localization is illustrated by a description of the fixing of the attention upon a form of God.

"The incarnated form of the Exalted One leaves one without desire for any other support. This should be understood to be fixed, attention, when the mind stuff is fixed upon this form. And what is this incarnate form of Hari on which one should ponder, let that be heard by thee, 0 Ruler of Men. Fixed attention is not possible without something on which to fix it." (Vishnu Purana V 1. 7. 75-85.)

Then follows a description of the incarnated form of the Exalted One, concluding with these words:

"...upon Him let the yogin ponder; and lost in Him, concentrate his own mind until, 0, King, the fixed attention becomes firmly fixed upon Him only. While [246] performing this or while doing, as he wills, some other action wherein his mind does not wander, he should then deem this fixed attention to be perfected." (Naradiya Purana LXVII. 54-62.)

It is the realization of the necessity for "objects" in concentration that originated the demand for images, sacred sculptures and pictures. All these objects entail the use of the lower concrete mind and this is the necessary preliminary stage. Their use brings the mind into a controlled condition so that the aspirant can make it adjust what he chooses. The four types of objects mentioned above carry the aspirant gradually inwards and enable him to transfer his consciousness from the physical plane into the etheric realm, from thence into the world of desire or of the emotions, and so into the world of mental ideas and concepts. This process, which is carried on within the brain, brings the entire lower man into a state of one-pointed coherent attention, all parts of his nature being directed to the attainment of fixed attention or a concentration of all the mental faculties. The mind then is no longer scattering, unsteady and outgoing, but is fully "fixed in attention." Vivekananda translates "dharana" as "holding the mind to one thought for twelve seconds." This clear, one-pointed, still perception of an object, without any other object or thought entering into one's consciousness is most difficult of achievement, and when it can be done for the space of twelve seconds, true concentration is being achieved. [247]

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