Updated: Nov 30, 2020
As per Eight fold path of yoga the state of Dhyana ( Meditation) is reached by treading the path of concentration of the mind. The energies of the mind, composed of thoughts, are focused on a single abstract or a positive symbol in order to realize the ultimate reality, or the universal consciousness. As per advaita, or monistic vedanta all the creations are a part of God, focusing the mind on any of them can lead to God realization, counter part to super consciousness of yoga.
Another definition of concentration is holding one thought in the mind for a period of time. The aim of concentration in yoga is to bring the wandering mind to the same thought again and again by first limiting its area of movement to a small circle. Keeping the mind focused is essential to achieving anything, not only for attaining your spiritual or mental goals. The best of art, literature and other things in life had been created during the peak of concentration.
Concentration is the focal point of mental energies which remain scattered otherwise, one of the main reasons which necessitates meditation. Physically concentration is translated to physical poise and rhythmic coordination of physical activities, which is a result of nervous and muscular harmony. Any work done in such harmony has higher accuracy and intensity than otherwise. Thus a focused mind is even the goal of a layman who may or may not be interested in spiritual progress.
Modern medical science has began admitting to the fact that lack of concentration is the reason behind a number of diseases. Majority of the diseases are the result of separation of the body from the mind due to unwanted distractions in daily life, concentration again links the mind with the body for their healthy functioning. A number of neuro-muscular exercises which improve the concentration power by controlling the central nervous system and the muscular system are being developed.
The person begins with summoning all thoughts related to the object of concentration, and stick to those thoughts only. Use the power of will to restrict any other thoughts seeping into the mind, after some practice a time will come when the mind will automatically stay at a single point itself. Concentration brings supreme joy, infinite eternal bliss, and spiritual strength. Concentration is like tying a cow ( mind ) to a pole ( object) with a rope. The expanse of the movement of the cow will get restricted around the pole to the circle drawn by the maximum length of the rope.
What is Concentration (One-Pointedness) in Yoga
Hatha Yoga says, nothing can be accomplished with a distracted mind, the mind has to be one-pointed for any gains to materialize. But, how many of you understand what is one-pointedness and how is it achieved? " Gather the mind on the thoughts of a single object or symbol" for achieving concentration sounds too easy to attain, in fact, if the mental energies are not structured in a particular format (one-pointedness) before an attempt is made to focus them on a single object it would tantamount to struggling to swim against the flow of water.
So what is one-pointedness? As per Samkhya the mind has three distinct parts: manas; ahamkara; and buddhi. Each of these perform a different function. Buddhi is the higher mind and it evaluates, judges and then make a decision. Ahamkara is the ego, or the identification with certain thoughts which give the individual its personality or the unique self. Manas is the interface between the internal and external worlds.
Whenever their is no synchronization within these three parts, or they do not agree with each other the mind remains scattered. One-pointedness is the unanimity in the functions of these three parts of the mind. In a situation when a boss knows that an employee is right but cannot admit it is the lack of unanimity between the components of the mind; Its the buddhi ( intellect or inner voice of wisdom) that decides that the employee is actually right, ahamkar ( Identifies himself with the role of the boss and the boss is always right), If ahamkara is strong than the manas follows it not the buddhi. There is conflict between ther buddhi and ahamkara.
That is the reason that often a individual with a sharp intellect ( buddhi) suffers because a strong ahamkara doesn't allow the manas ( which will actually execute the decision) to follow the intellect. The mind remains pulled in the opposite directions or scattered. Sometimes buddhi says you should get up early in the morning, ahamkara identifies with the thoughts that say, " I am later sleeper thus cant". Sometimes ahamkara pretends to be buddhi itself when it identifies with thoughts like, " I am a yogi, and yogis wake up early". Here conflict occurs between ahamakara itself which is not sure whether to wake up early or not.
Some times buddhi says you should not eat another piece of cake, but manas being being addicted to taste more goes for it, conflict between the buddhi and the manas. Thus sometimes their is conflict between buddhi and the ahamkara, within ahamkara itself, and between buddhi and manas. Resolving this conflict takes a lot of practice and understanding of the working of the mind. A one-pointed mind can only be attained if you follow the guidance of the buddhi and synchronise the workings of ahamkara and manas with it. Only then can a concentrated state of mind be achieved.
You must never force the evaluations of buddhi over the ahamkara and the manas in an effort to establish a unanimity among the three, Forcing the buddhi's decision will only change the identity ahamkara will identify with. In case some it identifies with the thoughts of being a lover of good cloths, but the buddhi vouches for a simpler life. Now if ahamkara is forced to agree with buddhi it will end up taking another identity, " I am a simple person". Similarly emergence of a number of identities will cause further confusion in the mind. You must do Swadhyaya ( self study) by paying attention to your speech and action which will increase the awareness of your mental states. This will help train the manas and the senses towards being more in tune with the buddhi.
The sixth stage of the Classical yoga of Patanjali, dharana, is also concentration, limiting the number of thoughts in the mind to a small area. But in dharana the thoughts are not continuous as in dhyana ( meditation) rather are intermittent in nature. Real concentration is dhayana where their is a continuous flow of similar thoughts over a period of time. The concentration practice of a layman is short lived while a yogi can maintain this state for long, intensity remaining the same.
Benefits of Concentration in Yoga
Concentration in yoga is a experience of contentment and peace. Its is like a tired bird finds a restful place on a branch to perch on, the mind feels happy on being given an object of concentration to rest on to. The Capacity of the mind to think is enhanced as in concentration it is only one thought at a time to think about. This gives more power ( of the mind) to that one thought which it can utilize to easily manifest itself.
The process of increase of power to the thought concentrated upon is similar to the increase in the energy of the rays of the sun upon being focused, or concentrated over a limited are after passing through a lens. Sun's rays gain power by addition on being concentrated together and can start a fire, the rays of the Sun can be healing to the body if it receives them unhindered over a duration of time. As the water of the river gains power after being directed through a dam, your thoughts gain power, and can be lifted upwards for achieving anything after being concentrated.
As the voice gathered through a conduit gains amplification, so does the rays of mind gain power when concentrated. A dedicated set of yoga techniques to increase concentration power are very effective in improving your focus. Lesser thoughts bring peace to the mind, more thoughts bring chaos. A businessman who plays golf in the evening is actually trying to concentrate on an external object 9 golf ball) in order to get rid of the chaotic jumble of thoughts from the day's work. Yogis concentrate on the internal object in order to experience peace.
A lot of people find peace in dedicating themselves to their hobby or profession, this dedication is nothing but concentration. Same applies to passionate artists, car racers, scientists, or researchers in various fields. in yoga concentration is achieved by keeping oneself motivated to achieve mental steadiness in concentration. Different levels of concentrated states give rise to different qualities of mind:
Mudha mind - dull mind - no degree of concentration - Not happy
kshipta mind - scattered mind - Jumping from focusing on one object to other - finding happiness in the next object
Vikshipta mind - Gathering mind - focused to certain degree - thus a happy and peaceful mind
Ekagra mind - One-pointed mind -stable, efficient, and happy mind
Nirudha mind - Completely arrested and absorbed mind - most efficient and blissful mind
The happiness gained through acquiring the objects of desire is short lived, a concentrated mind remains blissful for longer. A concentrated mind attains equanimity; it is freed from the grip of likes, dislikes, habits, and samskaras. The practice of concentration must initially begin with the object which the mind likes, slowly it gets trained to achieve the same even with objects it doesn't like. You must have noticed how you automatically slip into a trance, absorption, as soon as you come in contact with the object of your desire.
Training the mind on concentration is like working out a muscle in the gymnasium, it requires repetition and perseverance to enhance the strength and concentration of the mind. Practicing yoga of concentration regularly frees the practitioner from the constant fluctuation of attachment and repulsion attributed to objects and reaches the abode of true everlasting contentment and happiness within.
Such a state of mind ( content and happy) helps nurture fruitful relationships around it along with being more efficient and productive in whatever it undertakes. The mind is like music record containing grooves of thoughts and habits. The more a single positive thought ( in concentration) is repeated the deeper will form its grove, and calmer,happier the mind will be. With time and practice the deeper positive grooves being formed on the mind occupy its entire space erasing the negative grooves of destructive thoughts and habits in the process. Thus the mind overflows with positive thinking.
Taking into account the habit, groove, forming nature of the mind the object of concentration must be chosen accordingly, yogis choose positive sound ( mantra). pure form ( sacred image) or highest meaning ( concept of oneness) as objects of concentration in order to inculcate the associated positivity within themselves.
Tips on developing the power of Concentration
Practice by developing the power of visualization and attention in every day situations, later on practice on internal and abstract objects
Always finish the task at hands before starting the new one
Focus on whatever you are doing in the present, and do not worry about the future consequences
Maintain equal focus even on tasks you generally do not like
Give full attention to even repetitive tasks
Be attentive to details
Take intermittent breaks to relax the mind but complete the task
Be on time
Honor your commitments
Avoid procrastination, do it now
Find enjoyment in whatever you do so that even the emotional prana gets concentrated and stops being a hindrance to your focus
De clutter your life, lead a simple life
Mantras being the pure sound vibrations are the most effective way of concentrating the mind
Conclusion: Concentration of the mind in yoga stands for picking up thought waves of mind from all directions and guiding them on to a limited space. This is known as focus which has immense benefits to it. A focused mind can achieve anything as it has the concentrated power of the scattered energies prior to being concentrated as one thought. A concentrated mind is more peaceful and happy. A focused mind reflects itself as muscular and nervous calmness at the physical level.
A concentrated mind begets a healthy body.