by Swami Krishnananda
With concentration and meditation, the flower of yoga begins to blossom. Just as in running a race, in yoga the very first step that we take before we start involves a concentration of our whole being. When we take part in a race, the very first intent is to become a concentrated whole. It is not merely the feet that run, as we know how much concentration is involved in even the very first step. What an amount of collaboration of the different parts of our system takes place in this enterprise. Hence, when the mind collects itself in concentration, it withdraws into itself the source of all energy from every part of the body, just as butter is drawn from every part of milk when it is churned. In the same way, after the milk has been converted into butter and then is eaten, the concentrated energy from the food is drawn up into every part of the body. It is also like a general recruitment that is ordered when an enemy attacks, and everyone is ready to take part in doing as much service to the nation as possible. Every part of the system is ready to take up its work. There is no other work for the system than contributing its might to the concentration needed to defeat the enemy. In fact, concentration is not merely an act of the mind—it is an act of the whole body, the whole vital force and the entire set of psychological organs. Nothing remains outside us there. Everything that we are is focused in concentration.
Hence, it is the most difficult step that the yogin takes—a most hazardous step, as it is a final jump into the unknown. It is difficult to understand merely through theoretical language what exactly concentration of the mind means in yoga. It is not just a closing of the eyes and thinking of a particular object. It is a throbbing of every cell of our personality in tune with the form of the object that we have chosen to concentrate on. When we play a musical instrument, every string begins to vibrate in unison with every other string, so that every part joins together to bring about a melody rather than a jumble of many separate bits. The many parts which constitute the sound process of the musical instrument join, blend and commune with one another so harmoniously that we have a continuous flow of music.
So is meditation. It is music, as it were, that our whole system begins to participate in—a song that the whole personality sings, a celestial music that emanates from our whole body. The whole life of yoga becomes a song or a melody, and all the jarring noises of the life of an individual commingle to form a harmony of body, mind and soul. Glorious is yoga when it comes to concentration and meditation. Nature begins to smile on our life, and we begin to shake hands with every bit of creation, as it were, when we enter this step in yoga.
It is not merely the whole energy of the system that is drawn in concentration of mind—something more than this takes place. We are in empathy with the whole of creation, and the world begins to support us. In pratyahara and the other lower stages, nature might apparently be in opposition to us. There was a lot of struggle up to the stage of pratyahara, and the senses were rebelling against the attempt to withdraw them from the objects of the world. There were a lot of difficulties. We had to fall and get up many times, and we did not know exactly where to stand. It is in the stage of pratyahara that people either rise or fall. But when we take another further step, we are at the point of entering the edge of a great ocean.
It is as if we are in the delta of a powerful river where its force is concentrated. All the waters of the river render themselves forth at the delta, but while with most rivers the waters get dissipated into many channels in the delta, in yoga the waters are concentrated like the great Amazon River. The Amazon is a river in South America which is so forceful that it pushes the salt water of the ocean several miles away from the delta, and the seawater becomes sweet for some distance. In other rivers the water becomes immediately salty as the water moves into the ocean. Such is the force of a mighty river that rushes into the ocean concentratedly without getting channelised into variegated parts, as would occur with most rivers.
The concentrated energy of the mind is therefore not merely a thought functioning, as our mind might function in thinking of an object such as a mountain, a cow or some other created thing. The preparation in the concentration of the mind is such that we have summoned the forces of the whole body. Imagine that every member of the family is at one with us, every citizen of the government is at one with the government, and every man in the world is at one in his appreciation of human values. As it is done in the social field when a collective mustering of social forces is called forth for any purpose, so in yoga the forces of the body, the forces of the vital system and the forces of the psychological organs are set in tune with the forces of the world. The world no more stands in opposition to us. The world is not an enemy of the yogin. There might have been a state of tension in the earlier stages, but the tension was not caused by anything that was really wrong with the world. The tension came rather from an inability of the mind to set itself in tune with the world. It is difficult to make two clocks tick together. They always make two kinds of ticks, but in the practice of yoga the two clocks of the internal system and the outer world begin to tick very harmoniously. Then we will not hear two sounds, but one sound will be heard as if one clock were ticking, though there are two.
Here it is that we are in tune with the world. Here it is that our bodily and vital forces get enhanced by the powers of the world from outside. We become weak on account of our estrangement from things. The world seems to be incapable of contributing anything to us—rather it seems to be unprepared to help us in any manner whatsoever, on account of our not being in unison with it. In this scenario, if we turn our faces to the East, the world is turning its face to the West. This is what happens generally in our day-to-day lives, so that the world never helps us, and then we complain that the world is bad. Well, it is advantageous for us to turn our faces in the same direction as the world’s face, and then we see as the world sees, we think as the world thinks, and we move with the same speed that the world moves. When we are the world, then the forces of the world will be at one with our forces within.
In the state of concentration of the mind, we know where we stand and who thinks and who concentrates. It is not one human being, one man or one person sitting in a corner and thinking something. We know the difference between thinking and concentration in yoga. To think is to project our mind towards an external object and artificially associate the form of the object with the activity of the mind, although the object never really gets associated with the mind. To think an object does not mean that the object has been fully absorbed into the mind. In the same way, the light of the sun shines upon an object, but the light does not necessarily become one with the object.
Exactly as the sunlight illumines an object without entering into the object, but merely pervades it from outside, so do our minds merely pervade an object of cognition or perception but never enter into it. Inasmuch as our minds never enter into the being of an object, we have no control over any object in this world, and we are not masters of anything. We always stand outside things, and on account of the world being outside us, we are not friendly with things. But in yogic concentration it is not so. What we are trying to do is not merely to think an object as in ordinary sensation or perception, but to commingle our thought with the forces of the object. The way in which the constituents of the object rotate or revolve should be in unison, at least to an appreciable extent, with the way in which the mind thinks. There is no use in two persons thinking in two different directions without any relation with one another—then there would be no agreement of thought. If I think something and you think another thing and we are along two different lines altogether, we will never agree with each other. If this is the case with the constitution of an object and the way in which we think, there would be no relationship between ourselves and the object we are thinking. This is what usually happens in thoughts of objects, so that we may be contemplating things but we may have no sway over the things.
What is the use of thinking we can control objects, when we cannot achieve it? We cannot achieve it, because we have absolutely no power over the objects. This is again because we are not in tune with them. The saying goes, “Birds of a feather flock together.” Likewise, the object and the mind should be “birds of the same feather”, then they will flock together—otherwise they will fly in different directions. When this flying in different directions occurs, then it is that we lose things, and we seem to never have anything that we need or want. Our wants remain unfulfilled, we are frustrated, and we start weeping that we cannot get what we desire. We cannot get these things because our minds are not in tune with the objects. To set the mind in tune with the nature of the object is the attempt at yogic concentration. Thus, the concentration of the mind in yoga is a very difficult step. How this mind is to be attuned to the object was the purpose of the detailed psychological and philosophical analysis conducted in the earlier stages. One might wonder why we have been taken through these meandering paths of psychological and philosophical analysis for the sake of concentration of mind. It is because we cannot concentrate the mind on the object unless we know where we stand in relation to the object. Why do we concentrate? What do we mean by concentration? This will be a question which we cannot easily answer.
The answer can be given only if we know our constitution, the constitution of the object, and the relation that exists between us and the things. For this purpose we studied the psychology of perception and the philosophical foundation on which the yogic practice is based. All the time we have been busy with understanding rather than the actual doing of the thing, because the doing is a simple effort, while the understanding is a more difficult thing. When the relation between us and the object is very clear to our understanding, then it is easy to concentrate the mind on the object. As I said, when yoga reaches this stage of concentration, it blossoms. We know what it means when a flower blossoms. It is a movement of nature. The seed was the origin of the flower, and we know what time it has taken for the seed to reach the stage of blossoming. This blossoming has to yield a fruit—which is the spiritual experience or realisation. Much preparation is involved in bringing the seed to the stage where it blossoms into the flower. It has to be tended with great affection during the stages it will pass through, and it has to be tended for a protracted period in a proper atmosphere. Then it opens up its inner secret in the form of the flower.
The mind, when it concentrates on a chosen object in yoga, has opened itself up thoroughly and wholly. The inner resources of the mind come up for action in concentration. Up to this time, the mind was not in a state of action—it was merely imagining. In perceptional activity the mind is only imagining without actually coming into contact with things. Our thought of an object remains merely a dissociated activity of the mind, as it is not fully associated with the object. While in sensational perception the mind is dissociated from the object, in the concentration of yoga it is fully associated. It is like two people who walk together as friends at the same speed and reach the same destination at the same time. The world and the mind must go together. When the world and the mind think alike and work together in the same state and towards the same destination, the mind is ready for meditation. Here it is that the mind begins to overcome the barriers of personality-consciousness. The awareness of personality—the body-consciousness as we call it—is the movement of the mind within the location of the body and the inability of the mind to get out of the limitation imposed by the bodily encasement. It is not merely mind in this ordinary psychological sense that concentrates.
Yoga, especially the yoga of Patanjali, uses a word called chitta. It is the chitta that concentrates. It is the antahkarana (fourfold internal instrument of mind, intellect, ego and subconscious mind) that practises concentration. In Western psychological language mind generally means one function of the internal organ. Here, in the process of yogic concentration, it is not merely one function that is active, but all the functions set together. It is like all five fingers grabbing an object, two feet walking in unison, two people thinking alike, or any of many other examples that can be given of unitary action. We are in a state of concentration when the functions of the thought, of memory, of will, of understanding and of feeling all mingle together to form a concentrated focus. Our minds—as understanding—are then present in the perceived object, our powers of will are there in the object, our affection is there in the object, and our whole attention is there in the object. This manas-ahamkara-chitta-buddhi, as the functions of the internal organ are called, are all one in this practice. This unity of the psychological functions is called the chitta in the language of Patanjali. We also call it antahkarana or the internal organ. But having said all this, we have in fact only one psychological principle within us. There are no such things as manas-ahamkara-chitta-buddhi as separate capacities.
These are all various names that we give to the different functions that the mind performs—like a person who may be a judge, a collector, a minister and many other functions which may all be performed by the same person. The various forms of nomenclature do not separate the person. The person is identical with himself. Likewise, the functions alone are not independently the psychological organ—it is all these put together. It is a self-identical principle, and it is this total principle which we call the psychological organ that practises concentration. The feelings about the object are the same as the understanding of the object.
Here, philosophy and religion come together. There is no separation between metaphysical analysis and religious consciousness or devotion. The understanding and the feeling are one. We appreciate the object wholeheartedly, and at the same time we understand it thoroughly. Only when these two functions come together can we really concentrate. There is no concentration where the heart is absent or while the will alone is functioning. Remember therefore that concentration is not an action merely of the will. The heart and the will—together with the understanding—stand with one another focused on the form of the object. However, it is not merely this. The concentration becomes so very intense that the spatial distance between the mind and the object also gets obliterated.
When consciousness envelops the object completely, it floods not merely the location of the object or the form of the object, but it also becomes a continuous flow from the subject to the object. It becomes a flood of consciousness which inundates not only the subject and the object, but also the process that seems to connect the one with the other. There is a continuously flowing stream of consciousness from the thinker to the object that is thought. There are certain unavoidable factors involved in the process of concentration. There is a thinker of the object, there is an object that is thought, and there is the process of thinking. Along with this there is a simultaneous effort of the mind to prevent the entry of thoughts that are not conducive to the concentration of the mind on the chosen ideal.
This fourth aspect of the mind begins to function unconsciously and simultaneously with the positive act of concentration. When I want to see an object, I do not want to see anything nearby. This not wanting to see something extraneous is one action of the mind, simultaneous with the action of wanting to see something. The thought of a chosen object, while it involves concentration of the thought on the object, requires also a setting aside of extraneous thoughts. Therefore, the negative process is the avoiding of extraneous thoughts, and the positive process is the entertaining of the thought of the chosen object. These two functions take place simultaneously.
We have been accustomed to think in a dualistic manner, because we do not think all things at the same time. Whenever we think something, we think only one thing, two things or a few things—but not all things at once. The other things are excluded from the purview of the mental operation. In concentration then, four factors are involved: the thinker, the object thought, the process of thinking and the exclusion of sources whose entry are completely and deliberately avoided by the mind. In the beginning it may involve a little bit of exertion. We may feel ourselves to be in the same position as a student sitting in the hall when a final examination is handed to him. He doesn’t know what exactly is on the paper, and so he is a little bit anxious and nervous. In the same way, in this commencement of the process of concentration, a little bit of nervousness and anxiety may be present, but they will pass away. The nervousness and anxiety are due to not being aware of what is going to happen. The future is unknown and nothing is clear—that is why we are anxious. But if our preparation has been well thought out, we need not be anxious. The student who has read his homework very well need not be anxious about the examination, because he knows everything. Let every question be put to him—he is ready to answer because he knows that he knows.
In the same way, the yoga student is to be confident about the understanding of the nature of the object. We should not enter this process of concentration or dharana with a doubt in the mind. Everything should be clear. With a doubt in the mind, no concentration is possible. We must have a thorough logical understanding and conviction as to the efficacy of this step that we are taking. We should not be in a position to be shaken up by the world’s logic. We should not therefore have many Gurus or read books which will disturb our minds, nor stay in places which are not conducive, nor place ourselves in a position to be affected by the opposition of things. Our arguments should be stronger than anybody else’s. We must be like a very good lawyer who is confident about what he is saying. There may be many other lawyers opposed to him, but so what? He must be confident that he knows more law than anybody else. With such confidence we must enter the field of concentration of mind.