(Last Updated on : 17/02/2014)
It is difficult for man to establish a control over his mind. For gaining mastery over his own mind, he has to know what is mind and how it works. He has also to learn that how it deceives him at every turn and by which methods it can be subdued. As long as the mind restlessly invaders about amidst objects, ever fluctuating, excited, agitated and uncontrolled, the true joy of the Self cannot be realized and enjoyed. To control the restless mind and bring all thoughts and cravings to a stillness and sublimation is the greatest problem of man. Scientists estimate that the average person has conscious control of about ten per cent of his mental power, while the rest lies hidden. There are vast resources lying untapped below the surface of the conscious mind. The practice of concentration opens the gates of these latent resources and releases them for use. A proper foundation must be laid before the practice of concentration. This foundation is built of right conduct, a healthy body and steady posture, breath regulation and withdrawal of the senses. Only if it is firm will the superstructure of concentration and meditation be successful.
There are eight steps in concentrating properly. The blueprint for this base is found in the asthenia or eight steps of Raja Yoga. These eight progressive steps are yam or abstentions, miasma or observances, asana or postures, panorama or breath control, pratyahara or withdrawal of the senses, Dhahran or concentration, hyena or meditation, and Samadhi or super conscious state. The first five steps form the basis for concentration. Yam is a series of injunctions similar to the Ten Commandments. They are non-injury to any living thing, truthfulness in thought, word and deed, non-stealing, which includes non-covetousness, and sublimation of sexual energy. Miasma is the cultivation of such virtues as cleanliness of body and environment, contentment, austerity or control of senses, study of spiritual books, and surrendering to the Divine Will. Together, the yams and miasmas foster high moral character and ethical conduct. The mind is uplifted and purified for deep meditation.
A healthy and strong physical system is also essential. Steady mind presupposes steady posture. Concentration is impossible if one is plagued by aching knees, backache and other attendant woes of prolonged sitting. To attain one-pointed ness of mind, one must be able to forget the body altogether. The nerves must be strong enough to withstand various mental phenomena and disorientations that can occur during practice. On rare occasions they may even appear symbolically in the form of visions. A frail person may discontinue his practice of concentration rather than confront these aspects of his subconscious. Concentration is successful only when the body and mind are kept healthy. Asana keep the body and nervous system strong and flexible, and help to ensure that the flow of vital energy is unimpeded. Breath control is mandatory as steady posture. The mind and breath are inseparable as the two sides of a coin. When the mind is agitated, the breath becomes irregular. Similarly, when the breath is slow and regular, the mind responds by becoming calm. Panorama, the yogic system of breath control, is designed to steady and prepare the mind for concentration.
To reduce the outward flow and waste of mental energies, the senses must be subjugated. One-fourth of our energy is diverted to the digestion of food. That food is often eaten for the pleasure of the taste buds rather than for sustenance. Additional mental and physical energy is squandered in useless idle talking. A wholesome, natural, vegetarian diet should be followed to achieve the goal. Pratyahara, or withdrawal of the senses, is a kind of fasting for the mind. The thoughts are weaned from attachment to the many fleeting sensations that they feed upon. The senses do not convey experience without the cooperation of the mind. Pratyahara is not permitting the senses to come in contact with their objects. As for example if certain music or television programs are found to leave the mind in an agitated state, they should be eliminated. By withdrawing the mind, the senses are also withdrawn. Pratyahara in its most graphic form is symbolized by the yoni mudras, which itself is a concentration exercise. To execute it, the eyes, nose and mouth are closed with the fingers of both hands and the thumbs block the ears. Distractions are thus blocked out. The attention is freed to be fixed on the only thing that remains the internal or animate sounds.
When some degree of attainment has been reached in these five steps, one may proceed to the practice of concentration. This is the springboard for meditation and Samadhi. Practice need not merely be confined to an hour or two in a quiet room. It can and should pervade all aspects of life.