From the Yoga Sutras; Light of the Soul


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.

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:

  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 (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]

2. Sustained Concentration (dharana) is meditation (dhyana).

Meditation is but the extension of concentration and grows out of the facility a man achieves in "fixing the mind" at will on any particular object. It falls under the same rules and conditions as concentration and the only distinction between the two is in the time element.

Having achieved the capacity to focus the mind steadily upon an object, the next step is developing the power to hold the mind stuff or chitta unwaveringly occupied with that object or thought for a prolonged period. The Purana quoted above continues:
       "An uninterrupted succession of presented ideas single in intent upon His form, without desire for anything else, that, 0 King, is contemplation. It is brought about by the first six aids of yoga."

The word contemplation here is synonymous with meditation. This meditation is still with seed or with an object. Dvivedi says in his comment on this sutra:

"...Dhyana is the entire fixing of the mind on the object thought of (to the extent of making it one with it). In fact, the mind should, at the time, be conscious only of itself and the object." The man's attitude becomes pure fixed attention; his physical body, his emotions, surroundings, and all sounds and sights are lost sight of and the brain is conscious only of the object which is the topic or seed of meditation, and the thoughts which the mind is formulating in connection with that object. [248]

3. When the chitta becomes absorbed in that which is the reality (or idea embodied in the form), and is unaware of separateness or of the personal self, this is contemplation or samadhi.

The simplest way in which to comprehend this sutra is to realize that every form or object is a manifested life of some kind or another. In the early stages of the meditation process, the student becomes aware of the nature of the form and of his relation to it. The two states in which he is conscious of himself and of the object of his meditation are entirely mental conditions; they exist within his mind.

This condition is followed by one in which his realization travels inward on to the subjective plane and he becomes aware of the nature of the life which is expressing itself through the form. Quality and subjective relationships engross his attention and the form aspect is lost sight of, but still the sense of separateness or of duality persists. He is still aware of himself and of that which is the not-self. Similarity of quality and response to analogous vibration are his, however.

In the two stages of dharana and dhyana, of concentration and of meditation, the mind is the important factor and is the producer in the brain. A great Hindu teacher, Kecidhvaja, expresses this idea in the following words:
        "The soul has the means. Thinking is the means. It is inanimate. When thinking has completed its task of release, it has done what it had to do and ceases." (From the Vishnu Purana. VI. 7, 90.)

The truth of this makes any description or explanation of the high state of samadhi or contemplation exceedingly difficult, for words and phrases are but the effort of the mind to submit to the brain of the personal self that which will enable it to appreciate and comprehend the process.

In contemplation, the yogi loses sight of:

  1. His brain consciousness or the physical plane apprehensions as to time and space.
  2. His emotional reactions to the subject of his meditation process.
  3. His mental activities, so that all the "modifications" of the thinking process, all the emotional reactions of the desire-mind (kama-manas) vehicle are subdued and the yogi is unaware of them. He is, however, intensely alive and alert, positive and awake, for the brain and the mind are held by him in a steady grip, and are used by him without any interference on their part.

This literally means that the independent life of these forms through which the real self is functioning is still, quieted and subdued, and the real or spiritual man, awake on his own plane, is able to function with full use of the brain, sheaths and mind of the lower self, his vehicle or instrument. He is, therefore, centered in himself or in the soul aspect. All sense of separateness or of the lower personal self are lost sight of, and he becomes identified with the soul of that form which has been the object of his meditation.

Unhindered by the mind stuff, or by the desire [250] nature he "enters into" that condition which has four outstanding characteristics:

  1. Absorption in the soul consciousness and therefore awareness of the soul of all things. Form is no longer seen, and the vision of the reality, veiled by all forms, is revealed.
  2. Liberation from the three worlds of sense perception, so that only is known and contacted which is free from form, from desire and from lower concrete mental substance.
  3. Realization of oneness with all souls, subhuman, human, and superhuman. Group consciousness somewhat expresses the idea, just as separated consciousness, or realization of one's own individual identity, characterizes consciousness in the three worlds.
  4. Illumination or perception of the light aspect of manifestation. Through meditation the yogi knows himself to be light, a point of fiery essence. Through facility in the meditation process he can focus that light on any object he chooses and come "en rapport" with the light which that object is hiding. That light is then known to be one in essence with his own light-center, and comprehension, communication and identification then become possible.

4. When concentration, meditation and contemplation form one sequential act, then is sanyama achieved.

"Sanyama" is the synthesis of the three stages of the meditation process and is only possible to that student who has learnt and mastered the three states of mind control. Through that mastery he has produced certain results:

  1. He has freed himself from the three worlds of mind, emotion and physical plane existence. They no longer attract his attention. He is not concentrated upon, or engrossed by them.
  2. He can focus his attention at will and can hold his mind steady indefinitely, whilst working intensively in the mental world, should he so choose.
  3. He can polarize or center himself in the consciousness of the ego, soul or spiritual man, and knows himself as separate from the mind, the emotions, desires, feelings and form which constitute the lower man.
  4. He has learnt to recognize that lower man (the sum total of mental states, of emotions and physical atoms) as simply his instrument for communicating at will with the three lower planes.
  5. He has acquired the faculty of contemplation or the attitude of the real Identity towards the realm of the soul and can look out on the soul-realm in a sense corresponding to the way a man can use his eyes to see on the physical plane.
  6. He can transmit to the brain, via the controlled mind, that which he sees, and can thus impart knowledge of the self and of its kingdom to the man on the physical plane.

This is perfectly concentrated meditation and [252] the power so to meditate is called sanyama in this sutra. It is the attainment of the power of meditation which is the objective of the Raja Yoga system. Through this achievement, the yogi has learnt to differentiate between the object and that which the object veils or hides. He has learnt to pierce through all veils and contact the reality behind. He has achieved a working knowledge of duality.