Samyama – part 1
What if someone told you there was a simple set of practices that could help you manage every aspect of your daily life, and at the same time take you to a level of human potential beyond your wildest imagination? Would you be interested? Most people would at least be curious. That is in fact an accurate explanation of the practices of Yoga, but most people don’t realize it. Yoga includes a holistic set of practices for overall self-development and the well-being of the body, mind and soul. A few thousand years back, the great sage Patanjali compiled the current yogic practices of that time into a simple framework consisting of eight parts or limbs, and that framework is still used today. It is known as Ashtanga Yoga.
But the practices of Yoga have evolved since Patanjali was alive, in response to the needs of the time and especially during the last 150 years. So in this series DAAJI explores each limb of Yoga in the light of the modern day yogic practices of Heartfulness. He shows us how to integrate inner spiritual practices with living in the world and refining our personality, so as to create that true state of Yoga – skill in action and integration of the spiritual and worldly aspects of life.
Dharana • Dhyana • Samadhi
Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi are the final three limbs of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga. There is no clear separation or definition among them, as they weave together to define the inner spiritual practices of meditation, known as Raja Yoga. These three limbs focus on the real purpose of Yoga and they are the practices of the inner journey known as the spiritual yatra. In the remaining articles of the series on Ashtanga Yoga, DAAJI helps us to understand the role of Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi, and how they take us to the culmination of Yoga – union or osmosis with the Ultimate Existence.
We have so far explored the first five limbs of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga – Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama and Pratyahara. Each has its purpose, and together they help us refine our thoughts, actions, posture and energy, including the breath, and direct our senses inwards to the field of consciousness. All this prepares us to go deeper into the heart and mind. Through Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi, we open up the potential of the subtle bodies and finally go beyond these, eventually to the Absolute state. If you can visualize a human being as made up of matter, energy and the absolute state of nothingness – body, mind and soul – then we are now moving away from the world of matter into the realm of subtler and subtler forms of energy until eventually we reach the center of our being, which is the Absolute nothingness at the base of everything.
There are many Sutras about Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi in Patanjali’s seminal research. Here are a few that are relevant to this article:
3.1: Deshah bandhah chittasya dharana
Dharana is the process whereby the mind holds
on to some object, either in the body, or outside
the body, and keeps itself in that state.
3.2: Tatra pratyaya ekatanata dhyanam
When there is an unbroken flow or uninterrupted
stream of knowledge in that object or part of the
body, it is called Dhyana.
3.3: Tad eva artha matra nirbhasam svarupa
shunyam iva samadhih
When only the essence of that object, place, or
point shines forth in the mind, without any form,
that state of deep absorption is called Samadhi.
It comes in meditation when the form or the
external part drops off on its own.
3.4: Trayam ekatra samyama
When the three processes of Dharana, Dhyana,
and Samadhi are taken together as one, on the
same object, place or point, it is called Samyama.
The form has vanished, and only the meaning remains.
3.5: Tad jayat prajna lokah
Through the mastery of the three-fold process of
Samyama, the light of knowledge, transcendental
insight and higher consciousness come.
3.6: Tasya bhumisu viniyogah
Samyama is gradually applied to the finer planes,
states or stages of practice.
3.7: Trayam antar angam purvebhyah
These three practices [of Dharana, Dhyana and
Samadhi] are more internal than the previous five practices.
3.8: Tad api bahir angam nirbijasya
They are, however, still more external than the
real Samadhi, which does not have an object or
even a seed object on which to concentrate.
3.9: Vyutthana nirodhah samskara
abhibhava pradurbhavau nirodhah ksana
chitta anvayah nirodhah-parinamah
That high level of mastery called nirodhah-parinamah
occurs in the transition stage
where the rising tendency of deep impressions
converges with the subsiding tendency, and the
attention of the mind field itself.
3.10: Tasya prashanta vahita samskarat
The steady flow of this state of nirodhahparinamah
continues by creating the habit of
doing the practice day after day.
3.11: Sarvarathata ekagrata ksaya udaya
The mastery called samadhi-parinamah is the
transition stage in which the tendency to
multi-pointedness subsides while the tendency
to one-pointedness arises.
3.12: Tatah punah shanta-uditau tulyapratyayau
The mastery called ekagrata-parinamah is the
transition stage in which one-pointedness of
consciousness arises and subsides sequentially.
The idea of time vanishes, the past and
present are as one, and the mind is said to be concentrated.
3.35: Hirdaye chitta samvit
By practicing Samyama on the heart,
knowledge of the mind is attained.
Patanjali describes Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi together, because he considers them progressive and interrelated aspects of concentration or inward settledness. Meditation generally starts with Dharana, a supposition. This supposition or sankalpa initiates the flow of intention with thought energy and direction. As that intention moves deeper, diving into the field of experience of the heart, we move into Dhyana or meditation. The outcome is Samadhi, or absorbency in the object of meditation. And the quality of the Samadhi we experience depends on the field we create through this process of meditation.
Dharana is often translated as ‘concentration’, and certainly that is one part of it. But its meaning is broader and far more interesting than simply the ability to concentrate with one-pointed attention. Dharana also covers the ability to contain, to hold, and, like a womb, to nurture in the same way that Mother Earth gives birth to trees from seeds that are planted in her soil. As our consciousness expands, that ability to contain eventually becomes so vast that we are able to contain God within us.
At the beginning of the Heartfulness meditation, we make the supposition that “the Source of Divine Light within my heart is drawing me inwards”, and we then gestate, envelop, hold and nurture that supposition. Dharana results in concentration because there is an unbroken flow towards one thing that is contained and nurtured in the heart. There is some effort involved, through the process of sankalpa directing the flow of thought, but the ideal is to cultivate a capacity for effortless effort. This supposition guides our consciousness into the current that is flowing inwards to the Source, so we are moving towards the goal of complete oneness with the Divine Principle. Holding and affirming that spiritual goal in Yoga is Dharana.
Ram Chandra of Shahjahanpur has explained it as follows1:
It is very essential for everyone to fix their thought, at the very outset, upon the goal that they have to attain so that their thought and will may pave the way up to it. It has been observed that those on the path of spirituality who did not fix that final state for their goal have definitely remained short of the mark because, before arriving at the final point, they mistook one or the other of the intermediate states to be the final point or Reality, and stopped there. Thus they suffered merely for not having fixed their goal. Even in worldly matters, so long as a person does not keep their object in view, their efforts are never so intensified as to ensure success
How does this practice of Dharana resonate in the field of universal consciousness? When we sincerely take up the goal of becoming one with the Ultimate state, the centripetal flow creates a stir in the Infinite. Divinity itself becomes convinced of our one-pointedness of purpose, of our earnest intent. Then it is no longer simply ‘me’ moving towards the goal; the dynamic changes to that of a lover and the Beloved, where attraction is from both sides and the distance between lover and Beloved becomes less and less. Closeness goes on increasing and this eventually leads to mergence in the Ultimate, assuming the form of the latent motion that existed at the time of creation. Our intention, our ideal, results in intense longing, craving and impatience, and this is much more than mere concentration. Dharana keeps our meditation fixed upon the final goal, and this is vital to bringing about the final state.
This same aspect of Dharana also allows us to hold and enliven the inner states we receive during every meditation, so that they become part of us. This way, the gifts we receive in each meditation can be absorbed and their qualities become second nature.
In fact, Dharana is integral to every aspect of Heartfulness practice, because it is the fuel underlying sankalpa or subtle suggestion. As Swami Vivekananda simply puts it, “What is thought? Thought is a force, as is gravitation or repulsion. From the infinite storehouse of force in nature, the instrument called Chit takes hold of some, absorbs it and sends it out as thought.” With sankalpa we can utilize the power of thought in a very effective way. When we master this art of Dharana, sankalpa becomes so potent because it is the subtlest suggestion resonating in a pure, open, loving heart connected to the Divine and thus supported by the Divine Will. This is also the secret behind the potency of prayer. When Dharana is prayerful, offered in a vacuumized pure heart, then the Divine flows in and automatically draw the attention towards the Ultimate. Any thought or intention offered in this state is bound to reach its target.
Heartfulness Meditation is aided by Transmission, which facilitates effortless inward focus, because it has come from the Source itself. It naturally turns our attention deep within to be in osmosis
with the most sublime Samadhi from the very beginning. As mentioned in the last article on Pratyahara, personal transformation is from the inside out, from the state of Samadhi outwards. We are given such support so that the journey is one of effortless effort.
When we master this art of Dharana, sankalpa
becomes so potent because
it is the subtlest suggestion resonating in a pure, open,
loving heart connected to the Divine
and thus supported by the Divine Will.
This is also the secret behind the potency of prayer.
When Dharana is prayerful,
offered in a vacuumized pure heart,
then the Divine flows in and automatically
draws the attention towards the Ultimate.
Any thought or intention offered in this state
is bound to reach its target.
The yogic science of inner revelation depends on Dharana. From an initial supposition, we meditate, diving deeper into the universal consciousness of Samadhi and then resurface at the end of the meditation to observe, record and infer what we experienced and what changed in our inner state. Without Dharana nurturing the initial idea, and allowing it to deepen and unfold during the process of meditation, such revelation would not be possible. In fact, the reason why many people cannot ‘read’ their inner states is because they do not cultivate Dharana during meditation. To do so requires exercising the cognitive functions of the manomaya kosha and vignanamaya kosha, observing with full consciousness, and integrating the knowledge received by the mind in new and creative ways. One way to develop this capacity is to write a journal after each meditation, noting down what happened. Another way is to actively use meditation as a tool for research, by offering a question or a supposition to be explored through expanded consciousness during meditation. The mind in a meditative state is able to gestate an idea or problem with a much higher and broader perspective than rational logic can achieve.
In fact, expanded consciousness generally leads to inspiration, which is also how most great discoveries have occurred in the realm of science, and how most artistic masterpieces have been created. For example, Kekulé’s dream led him to the discovery of the benzene ring, and the Archimedes Principle was discovered while Archimedes was relaxing in a bathtub.
Swami Vivekananda explains clearly in the introduction to his book, Raja Yoga, that Yoga is the science whereby we gain direct experience and perception of the inner states of a human being. He says, “The science of Raja Yoga, in the first place, proposes to give us such a means of observing the internal states. The instrument is the mind itself. The power of attention, when properly guided, and directed towards the internal world, will analyze the mind and illumine facts for us. The powers of the mind are like rays of light dissipated; when they are concentrated they illumine. This is our only means of knowledge.”
This is the potential and beauty of Dharana.
Ram Chandra of Shahjahanpur, 2016. Commentary on the Ten Maxims of Sahaj Marg, Shri Ram Chandra Mission, India
Article by KAMLESH PATEL (DAAJI)
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