The second step in Raja Yoga is what is known as Dharana, or Concentration. This is a most wonderful idea in the direction of focusing the mental forces, and may be cultivated to an almost incredible degree, but all this requires work, time, and patience. But the student will be well repaid for it. Concentration consists in the mind focusing upon a certain subject, or object, and being held there for a time. This, at first thought seems very easy, but a little practice will show how difficult it is to firmly fix the attention and hold it there. It will have a tendency to waver, and move to some other object or subject, and much practice will be needed in order to hold it at the desired point. But practice will accomplish wonders, as one may see by observing people who have acquired this faculty, and who use it in their everyday life. But the following point should be remembered. Many persons have acquired the faculty of concentrating their attention, but have allowed it to become almost involuntary, and they become a slave to it, forgetting themselves and everything else, and often neglecting necessary affairs. This is the ignorant way of concentrating, and those addicted to it become slaves to their habits, instead of masters of their minds. They become day-dreamers, and absent-minded people, instead of Masters. They are to be pitied as much as those who cannot concentrate at all. The secret is in a mastery of the mind. The Yogis can concentrate at will, and completely bury themselves in the subject before them, and extract from it every item of interest, and can then pass the mind from the thing at will, the same control being used in both cases. They do not allow fits of abstraction, or “absent-mindedness” to come upon them, nor are they day-dreamers. On the contrary they are very wide awake individuals; close observers; clear thinkers; correct reasoners. They are masters of their minds, not slaves to their moods. The ignorant concentrator buries himself in the object or subject, and allows it to master and absorb himself, while the trained Yogi thinker asserts the “I,” and then directs his mind to concentrate upon the subject or object, keeping it well under control and in view all the time. Do you see the difference? Then heed the lesson.
The following exercises may be found useful in the first steps of Concentration:
(a) Concentrate the attention upon some familiar object—a pencil, for instance. Hold the mind there and consider the pencil to the exclusion of any other object. Consider its size; color; shape; kind of wood. Consider its uses, and purposes; its materials; the process of its manufacture, etc., etc., etc. In short think as many things about the pencil as possible allowing the mind to pursue any associated by-paths, such as a consideration of the graphite of which the “lead” is made; the forest from which came the wood used in making the pencil; the history of pencils, and other implements used for writing, etc. In short exhaust the subject of “Pencils.” In considering a subject under concentration, the following plan of synopsis will be found useful. Think of the thing in question from the following view-points: