Concentration and the Practice of Yoga
[This is taken from Swami Mukerji’s The Doctrine and Practice of Yoga.]
Concentration signifies the state of being at a centre (con and centrum). Applied to thought, it is the act of bringing the mind to a single point. Each human being must practice concentration subjectively and objectively. In other words, each human being aims with more or less precision at concentration on a point within and a point without his own world. Concentration “without” is illustrated when you devote all your attention upon Nature, such as learning a trade, a profession, a science, an art or some form of business. This is Evolution, outgoing or positive mental energy. I shall call this Objective Concentration. Concentration “within” implies the withdrawing of attention from the external world and the placing of mind on “God,” “Spirit,” “Heaven,” “Religion,” “Peace,” “Nirvana,” “Eternity,” etc. This is Involution, i.e., incoming or negative energy.
When Objective Concentration alone is practiced, you develop into a hard-headed, practical man of the world or a successful man of business. You are keen and shrewd. The world is a very matter-of-fact thing to you. You cannot think of anything else beyond money-making and pleasures and worldly affairs. You are a “worldling of the world,” very clever, rich, and a master along your own lines. But spiritually you are an imbecile, worse than a baby. This is the Objective Mind–the “deepest immersed in matter, literally made of the dust.” “It is the brain of worldly wisdom, common sense, prudence, methodical arrangement, order, discipline, classification, the skill and knowledge of the expert in any branch or department of art or science.” This side of the mind is well developed in Scientists, Mathematicians and Businessmen, etc. Where it is not guided by the Subjective Mind, it can only see diversity and difference and is the slave of Maya—the slayer of the Real.
Subjective Concentration is seeking the Kingdom of Heaven within you. “God is Spirit and they that worship Him must worship in Spirit and Truth.” LAPLACE, the great astronomer, asserted that he had swept the heavens with his telescope and found neither God nor Heaven. Yes, poor LAPLACE! He looked for God objectively instead of subjectively.
The Kingdom of God comes not with ‘observation’ but it is ‘within’ you. The be-all and the end-all of religion is the practice of Subjective Concentration. The performance of objective work by the human organism necessitates expenditure of energy and at last death, because all Objective Concentration means ‘going from’ the Absolute centre—God—and hence it expends Spiritual Energy. Subjective Concentration means ‘coming to’ the centre and hence it husbands and recuperates this energy. Now nature is motion to and from, and Spirit—the centre of Life. This two-fold motion constitutes what is known as polarity—Evolution and Involution—negative and positive. At the negative pole life becomes involved, i.e., ‘wrapped up’ in form. At the positive pole life ‘evolves’ or becomes expressed in nature.
In Subjective Concentration you return for fresh supplies to the inexhaustible storehouse of force—the Absolute Will. Jesus healed the sick, exhibited control over external nature by raising the dead, because his chaste soul could receive nothing negatively from God and could give it out positively to the objective world. All power comes from God. I would impress upon you the all-important necessity of placing yourself in a magnetically passive attitude towards the Universal Will and then of taking up a calm, positive attitude towards the phenomenal world—which is a projection of the lower nature and hence must be handled masterfully, fearlessly and confidently. Be positive to the external world. Be negative and receptive to the Lord’s Will-force. Remember this.
This brings me to the supremest and most solid truth contained in the Science of prayer. The praying mind, by its mere attitude of faith and earnest expectation, opens itself out to the tremendous inflow of Divine Energy. It draws close to the centre of all-power, wisdom and love, and drinks deep of the living waters of life so that even the very face or flesh begins to shine under the influence of this self-polarization—if I may be permitted to use this word—through prayer. Here is the causa nuxus between a prayer and its sure reply.
Do you remember what Lord Rosebery said of the great Puritan Mystic Oliver Cromwell? If not, please let me quote: “The secret of his extraordinary success—he was a practical mystic—the most formidable and terrible of all combinations. The man who combines inspiration, apparently derived—in my judgment, really derived—from close communion with the Supernatural and the Celestial, a man who has that inspiration and adds to it the energy of a mighty man of action, such a man as that lives in communion on a Sinai of his own; and when he pleases to come down to this world below, seems armed with no less than the terrors and decrees of the Almighty Himself.” Now both forms of concentration must be practiced so as to hold the two poles in the even balance of harmonious growth.
You will perform the daily work to which you are naturally adapted in the common weal (Objective Concentration) and after the daily task is finished, retire to the bosom of the Universal Spirit by the regular practice of Subjective Concentration.
Now will you realize the ideal of peace in the very midst of the toil and sweat of the day.
The foregoing diagram, if closely and thoughtfully studied, will show the stages the mind has to ‘grow into’ in objective and subjective concentration.
In order to acquire knowledge of the laws of external nature the mirror you require is accurate observation and you must focus your attention and push objective concentration to its final stage of perfect knowledge or illumination in order to master any special branch of science.
In Objective Concentration, Pratyahara and Dharana are the preparatory stages. Take a scientist, for instance. He knows that when the mind is engaged with several things, mind force is scattered. He cannot be a politician, a musician, etc., and at the same time an expert scientist. He gradually abstracts his attention from all other subjects and pauses it on one subject or one set of subjects.
Pratyahara is the continued effort of the mind to so abstract itself.
Dharana is reached when this effort is finally successful and the mind becomes steadfast and one-pointed. Dhyana is an extension of this steadfastness. When Dhyana is reached, the student is beyond the range of books. His mind is occupied with original researches and experiments and his knowledge becomes more and more definite. Going on and on always on the one line complete knowledge of that subject is attained. This is the objective view of Samadhi. All these stages when completed make one Samayana. The subjective view of Samadhi no books or writings can teach you. As you go deeper and deeper into Yoga, you will understand these things in the light of your Soul-Vision. It will come to you if you follow my subsequent instructions. Despair not.
WHAT IS MAYA?
Now, first of all, what is Maya (ignorance of the real)? Take the dial-plate of a watch. You know quite well that the hands of the watch are governed by the mechanism behind. Both are necessary. Ignorance exists in thinking that the hands of the watch move by themselves. This visible universe is the dial-plate of the Invisible. Maya (ignorance) blinds you to this fact, i.e., mere objective knowledge blinds you to the subjective side of life and you see nothing beyond a material universe. But you, who realize both, objective as well as subjective, need not be afraid of such a danger. For a danger it is to develop the objective mind die neglect of the subjective. In order to round yourself out, practice both. But first, last and always, let the subjective guide, govern and illumine the objective. Also remember this: If your mind is at all attached to the objective world, try your very best to disattach it and fix it on the subjective side of life, else will you bring untold suffering on yourself. The half-worldly and half-spiritual man who wants to lead a spiritual sensual life eventually brings about a conflict between the laws and forces of the two planes of being. He is overwhelmed with pain and at last with cries of suffering, disease and loss, he is made to open his eyes. Understand the world for what it is but do not lower your soul to the point of being attached to its small thoughts, things and ways.
HOW TO CONCENTRATE OBJECTIVELY.
(a) In all undertakings whether of small or great importance shut off all thoughts and ideas except such as have any immediate and direct bearing upon the thing in hand. Pay attention. Bend all the energies of your mind and will upon it till it is completed to your satisfaction. Divert your attention from one thing to another only when you sanction by a resolve and understand why you do so. Your daily work which you must choose according to the special bent of your mind, will present you opportunities.
(b) Control impulse. Suppose an idea enters your mind. Compose yourself quietly before carrying out its purport. Consider it. Turn it over in your mind. Contemplate it. Weave your mental energies around it, as it were, till at last the idea with your final decision stands out clear-cut and well-defined. Then proceed to act it out physically with your mental concentration cutting a way for you straight on to the execution of your designing. This is forethought.
(c) In perfect concentration time vanishes. In working out a design on which you have set your heart dispense altogether with the element of time and work at it concentratedly for days, months and years with confident expectation of success.
(d) Take a picture, representing a landscape, the interior of a building, an assembly of persons, a square, a triangle or a more complicated geometrical figure. Look at it well. Then lay it aside. Close your eyes. Reproduce the picture mentally in detail. Then repose your mind on the same image to the exclusion of all other thoughts. This is a more fixed and meditative method and will sharpen the mind wonderfully. It will also develop the power of conscious Mental Imagery. The key to Objective Concentration is Conscious Attention, remember.
ACTIVE AND PASSIVE MENTATION.
These terms imply two different distinct functions of the human mind. The active function performs the volitional, voluntary thinking. It is the conscious focusing of the mind on some mental problem. Banishing from the mind all thoughts and ideas not in harmony with your special subject of study implies Active Mentation. This function is used by the active, wide-awake man in his busy and energetic moments. It is the key to the development of Will-Power and a vigorous intellect. You are conscious of effort when you are exercising this function. The mind becomes exhausted after a great deal of such effort and cries out for rest, because conscious attention implies close concentration of thought and can be exercised only by the conscious use of Will-Power.
You ought to be able to concentrate upon one subject of thought, study and observation with undivided attention and then take your mind off that subject and put it on something else, at your will. Train your mind to ‘give’ perfect attention to any subject you like and also to ‘shut off’ or inhibit all attention on that subject. The mind is a restless thing darting from one thing to another, and, like a spoilt child, tiring of continued attention. But you must, by Will-Exercise, get control over this tendency. ‘Exercise develops power. Practice makes perfect.’ This you must bear in mind and, by patience and perseverance, train your mind to ‘pay attention’ where it ought to do so and not to pay attention where it ought not to. At first your mind will rebel like an unbroken horse at the imposition of such restraint. But really all greatness results from mind-control. Remember active mentation is conscious, deliberate concentration. Passive mentation represents automatic, involuntary thinking. This includes the subconscious or ‘habit’ mind.
When a certain thought-groove has been formed in your mind, energy flows into it involuntarily, i.e., by itself and without any conscious effort on your part. This is passive mentation. It is automatic mental activity. Take an example. Some school-boys find Mathematics, Science and Geography easy to master from the very start. They feel quite in sympathy with the teacher of Mathematics. But History and Language are their abomination. There are others who simply cannot ‘take an interest’ in any Mathematics but who shine brilliantly in Language, Recitation, Composition, History. As a matter of fact neither of these students is superior to the other, but each is great in his own line. In one set, you have an example of automatic mentation in Mathematics, Science and Geography; in the other in Literature and Art.
But suppose the first set tried to master Literature and Art and the second grappled with Mathematics and Science, each would then be practicing actual concentration. In each set the active function would be exercised and will-power would develop on both sides. Do you see? Occultists say that all power results from the continual exercise of active mentation and all weak-mindedness is the direct outcome of this wool-gathering, castle-building, inattentive habit which is an extension of passive mentation into useless channels of thought-force. Conscious attention concentrates and even specializes mental energy as the sun-glass concentrates and intensifies the heat of the rays of the sun. Focus your full attention upon the thing to be done, take a keen interest in its accomplishment to the exclusion of all else, and you will obtain wonderful results. The man of developed, concentrative power holds in his hand the key to success, with the results that all his actions, voluntary or involuntary, are pointed to the accomplishment of his object. Remember therefore in conclusion:
(1) Concentration is perfect attention consciously directed to a given point of achievement either objectively or subjectively.
(2) Concentration is consecration.
“What ever you do, do it with all your might. Do one thing at a time and do it well.” By concentration is meant the directing of all your energies along a special line of achievement. For instance, if you would be a perfect Yogi, you must concentrate, concentrate, morning, noon and night, at all times, along that line of endeavor. You must study all the vast literature on Yoga, Psychology, Metaphysics, Mentalism, etc., and form your own synthesis on same. You must think hard and work hard for Yoga. “Genius is the power to bear infinite pain.” Nothing ought to be too great a sacrifice, including your own life, for the right understanding and achievement of Yoga.
All half-heartedness, all insincerity, weakens your nature, and weakness has no place either in heaven or in hell. For the half-hearted man is a traitor unto the Divine within him and must pay dearly for his treachery.
SUBJECTIVE CONCENTRATION—HOW PRACTICED.
This is a vast subject. If you practice earnestly my instructions on Thought-Control, Will-Culture, and take the Meditation Exercise I am going to give you, you will realize greater strength than average humanity. But you must study and think hard for yourself before any considerable benefit can be derived from even these. Remember please, you alone can teach yourself through intuition. Intuition is tuition from within. Follow strictly the general rules I give you and you cannot but unfold your Inner Soul Vision which includes intuition in its fullest sense.
(a) What is Thought-Force?
“Thoughts are things.” Thought is a dynamic energy. Just as the food that you eat feeds your body, exactly similarly your thoughts and feelings nourish your soul. Matter is nothing but a concentration of Thought-Force or Mind-Substance. The entire universe is seen objectively. This is on the cosmic scale. On the individual scale—“As a man thinketh in his heart, so he is.” This is a literal truth. Your body is nothing but a Thought-Form. Control your modes of thinking and shape them to lofty ideals. So will you infallibly, positively and immediately control your destiny. Control your thoughts and you can control the thoughts of all other men. The tone of your thoughts must always be lofty. You must change your Thought-Habits and shift your plane of consciousness from the lower to the higher life. I am going to give you hints on same. Pay attention please.
Every one of us, as he thinks, feels and wills, sends forth Thought-Forms and Thought-Waves of greater or lesser intensity. This force once set into motion persists, for a greater or lesser period of time, in Ether. Thought-Force is the concentration of a high form of vibratory energy in the Akasa (universal ether) and the ether, as you know, permeates all space, interpenetrates and pervades all forms of matter, from atom to the sun and the stars. Just as the light-waves of a star exist and move on centuries after the star has ceased to be, just as the heat-vibrations remain in a room even after the producing cause has been removed, similarly mentative energy and its corresponding Thought-Forms persist in the ether even after the originating impulse has been withdrawn.
In this way places, houses, cities and temples have peculiar Thought-Atmospheres of their own, imparted by those living there, exerting an influence upon every one living or going there. These are positive, animating, purifying and exalting Thought-Atmospheres, and there are negative, weakening and unholy, morbid Thought-Atmospheres.
The higher and loftier your tone of general Thought-Activity, the finer and more powerful the vibrational nature of the energy emanating from you. The quality of the thought determines the rate of vibration. For instance, photographs have been taken through highly-sensitized plates, indicating the nature of the energy generated. Tongues of flame, brilliant and flashing with golden-yellow, were photographed from prayer and devotion. Rotary forms spreading out in ever widening circles of intense power appeared from lofty enthusiasm in a noble cause. Dark, murky, cloudy forms resulted from fear, morbidness and worry, and so on.
(d) The Human Aura.
Similarly each human organism has an ‘Aura’ of Thought-Force around it, having its own peculiar rate of vibration, its peculiar forms of color, etc. This ‘Aura’ is an extension of our physical, mental and spiritual energies.
(e) The Adductive Power of Thought.
Now as you think, the quality of your thoughts and feelings sets up a magnetic centre within your Aura, vortices are created, attracting to yourself similar forms of thought and mentative energy and combining with other similar forms of energy, reacting upon you and your circumstances and also wielding an influence upon all such as may come within its area, radius or field of Force. Thus you see thoughts of the ‘I can and I will’, ‘I do and I dare’ type draw similar ones to you, ever increasing your own stock and at the same time stimulating and energizing all others vibrating in the same key throughout the world. Hence you see we owe it to ourselves as well as to humanity in general to generate only positive, loving and lofty thoughts. Just brace up and send forth fearless, ‘I can and I will’ thoughts into the world’s great reservoir of thought forces, and you will be surprised at your power to attract influence, and energize others.
There are four special classes of thoughts that are poisoning the lives of almost all humanity. They are:–(1) Fear-thoughts, (2) Hate-thoughts, (3) Sensual-thoughts, (4) Selfish-thoughts. All worry, doubt, timidity, lack of self-respect, jealousy, spite, malice, envy, slander, dirty, vicious, will-weakening, health-destroying, poverty-breeding, soul-killing influences radiate from one or all of these four. You must cut at their roots and utterly destroy them. In your efforts follow assiduously the following four rules. They alone can give you absolute thought-control. They are infallible:
(1) You can break up old thought-habits and build up new ones by sheer force of Will.
(2) You can easily become great by associating with some strong-willed, holy, wisdom-steeped soul. This is absolutely necessary and means the finding of your Guru.
(3) By auto-suggestion, i.e., by impressing upon your passive mind the particular change you would have it work out.
(4) By thought-absorption, i.e., by constant meditation on that one line of thinking.
Now let me give you a few valuable hints on the above four in detail:
(1) & (3). Character Building.
You can accomplish this result by tensing the will and by strengthening the active function of your mind and thus enabling it to “step in” and simply ‘command’ the passive function to drop the old thought-habit and take up the new one. This is a magnificent feat and in it only the strongest succeed. You can obtain good results by combining this with auto-suggestion. Silently concentrate upon your passive mind and impress upon it your order. Say to it earnestly, confidently, and masterfully:
‘You, my mind, I want you to be fearless, pure, loving and unselfish!’ Picture to yourself in imagination as if you were already these, and again command and impress your will upon your mind. Do so silently and constantly and never neglect a chance of expressing these qualities in action because, at first your mind will rebel, but if ‘you’ keep up your efforts determinately and firmly and avail yourself of all opportunities to ‘act out’ your will, your mind will end up by accepting your suggestion and manifesting same naturally as a habit. Some of you will actually go out of your way to ‘act out’ a thought when you realize that the easiest and surest way to check and utterly ‘destroy’ a thought-habit is to refuse deliberately to let it manifest in action and to ‘create’ a new one all you have got to do is to equally deliberately ‘express’ it in action and thus clinch it into permanent strength. Also you must aim at ‘thoroughness’ and guard against all compromise with your lower nature. Chastity must be perfect chastity and nothing short of that, and so on in all development.
i. Go away by yourself to some place where you will not be disturbed.
Of course, not always and very rarely can you obtain this condition. Never mind. Do your best where you are and the great law will at least find for you all necessary conditions. Shut out all distracting conditions and impressions from the outer world. After a little effort you will be able to do so anywhere, at any time, and under any condition. All mental disturbance is within you.
ii. Now relax, go passive, and draw off all tension from your nerves.
Just you relax your mind and your body will follow suit. A few deep slow breaths will help the beginner.
iii. Concentrate upon your mind inward steadily, calmly and with undivided attention.
iv. Fix your thought firmly upon your passive mind and mentally say, ‘You, my mind, are quite pure.’ Think of this word (with all the ideas associated therewith) as sinking deeply into your mind and making a deep impress upon it as a die upon a wax. Let the outward form of the words ‘pure,’ ‘fearless,’ etc., sink into your mind.
v. Form a mental picture of yourself as if you already possessed all ‘purity’ and ‘courage’ and act them out in imagination. Make of it a pleasant ‘day dream.’
vi. Intensify your relaxed condition of mind. Grow as ‘limp’ as a rag. Then mentally open yourself out to the inrush of all the Thought-Forces existing in the ether and connected with positive thoughts. The effort of this imagination to see this tremendous force pouring into your brain and body will actually put you en rapport with same.
vii. Now change from negative to a positive condition and say vigorously I am ‘pure’ and ‘strong’ Say it distinctly several times. Actually speak them out.
viii. Then go out and live your thoughts out. This last is the most important condition.
ix. Practice this daily at the same hour and if possible at the same place, morning and evening. In fact hold the thought in your mind as often as possible till it becomes second Nature.
x. Use your power for good or you shall weep eternally. To misuse occult powers for mean, selfish, or low ends and to prostitute it into enslaving others weaker than yourselves mentally and physically is the greatest ‘sin’ man can commit against man.
(2) Guru Worship.
You grow by absorption and assimilation. In order to quicken your progress you need abstract as well as concrete ideals. The secret of all rapid and startling spiritual development is man-worship. By man-worship I mean devotion to, reverence, and intense and all-absorbing passion for the perfect individual man of realization—a Mahapurusha. Christ, Buddha and Vivekananda were all such-type men. You must constantly and thoughtfully meditate upon the lives and writings of saints and heroes. The formative influence and valuable powers of study and meditation upon lofty ideas and ideals are incalculable. Man grows by the deepening of consciousness and the acquirement of wisdom. All study, subjective and objective, is a Tapashya or Austerity directed to the acquirement of wisdom. It is the worship of Saraswati—the Goddess of Wisdom. This worship is definable as perfect emotional solitude, close study, absolute chastity and celibacy, and at last the merging of the personal into the impersonal.
This austere life is the secret of all greatness. You know how Archimedes when threatened with death by the vandalistic invaders of his country raised his head and said ‘Please do not disturb my circles’ and nothing more. This man was practicing Yoga unconsciously. You must be able to lose all consciousness of this relative personality, the sure victim of death and impermanence. You must give up the personal ego that in the words of Walt Whitman ‘is contained within your hat and boots’ and then alone will you realize an infinite individuality. Truly in losing himself man finds Himself. ‘Ye must be born anew’. Herein, apart from its formative and moulding influence lies the greatest value of study. Study and direct aural influence of a perfected soul are the two objective means of instilling powerful suggestions into the subjective self or the inner soul. All knowledge is within the deeps of the eternal subjective.
But the gate is locked. Your Guru gives you the master-key with which to unlock the door and enter the gate of wisdom and power. Once you are there all pain and death shall be conquered. You can then help yourself. Man can only worship such a God as is greater than himself in degree and not in kind. Such a God he can “grow into.” It is the impersonal God of the Hindu Philosophy that gives you the abstract ideas and the living Guru (God) in human form that gives you the concrete ideal. The one is necessary for the soaring intellect; the other for the rousing and enkindling of tremendous and indomitable motive-power. Seek both and when you find them worship and serve them with all your heart and soul. ‘My worship for my master is the worship of a dog. I do not seek to understand his nature. It ever startles with its newness and profound depth’. So spoke Vivekananda of Ram Krishna.
Need I tell you of the tremendous and world-conquering power that awoke in Vivekananda through mere Guru worship? In India the Guru asks for nothing short of absolute worship, obedience, and submission to his will although none values and appreciates individual freedom more than the master. So long as you are at the feet of your master be as submissive as a lamb. So will you open yourself to his great batteries of inner power. Serve him. Please him. Obey him. Be his slave. No matter what contradictions you may see. A great and profound nature is full of contrary ways and his character is a paradox impossible for you to read through reason and observation.
You can only understand him by having perfect faith in him, loving and serving him like a faithful dog. So will you tap on to his inner forces. And when he sends you away into the broad world to live out the great ideal he has set before you, you shall be astonished at your courage and power. You shall take fearless possession of this world and every minute you shall realize how only he can command who has learnt to obey. By commanding I do not mean dominating any one and forcing your views on others. This is the sign of fools. But you will find your influence radiating and circling out naturally and irresistibly, winning souls to the higher life, and you yourself shall thus stand as a tower of strength, a redeemer of the race, an inspiration and a living benediction unto humanity. Peace be with you! May you realize strength of soul!