While describing the eight aspects (angas) of Ashtang Yoga, Patanjali has stated Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi as the last three aspects. It is also stated by him that all the three aspects are collectively termed as ” Sanyam” (Control). This implies that all the three aspects should be considered together. We should also bear in mind while studying that Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi are progressively advanced stages of concentration. The highest stage of mental concentration described by the modern psychologists is more or less similar to the description of Dharana i.e. the primary stage of concentration as described by Patanjali. This indicates the thoughtfulness of Patanjali while describing the three stages.
Dharana means ‘focused concentration’. Dha means ‘holding or maintaining’, and Ana means ‘other’ or ‘something else’. Each limb of the Eight limbs of Yoga prepares us for the next. Whereas Pratyahara teaches us to withdraw our focus from the external to the internal, the practice of Dharana teaches us to ‘zoom in’ so we’re able to focus on one thing alone.
Yoga Sutra 3:1 says: “Dharana is the confining (or fixing) of the chitta in a single area [desha].” The practice of meditation right away puts the chitta into the stream of the subtle sound of Om. It is interesting that Patanjali does not say that dharana is fixing the mind in a single spot (bindu), but rather says desha, area. This is because though the Chidakasha is indeed a single thing, it extends through the entire range of existence as the inner thread or sutra on which all is strung or fixed like beads in a necklace or rosary. “It [dharana] is binding the chitta as a purely mental process,” says Vyasa. “The focussing [vritti] of the chitta, held in that place without being dispersed, is called dharana, as a purely mental process. It functions simply as the awareness of that area without any disturbance,” adds Shankara. This is meditation.
Tratak (candle gazing), visualization, focussing on the breath or the vibration of a sound or mantra can all be helpful practices of Dharana.
The study of Dharana is the study of concentration of mind. Hence, certain preliminary preparations are necessary. We get various perceptions, through the five sensory organs. The mind usually runs behind such sensory perceptions. To stabilise the mind, attention has to be paid as to how these perceptions can be reduced. The surroundings should be pleasurable to the mind and not troublesome. There should not be any external disturbances. The general chaos, other sounds, strong breeze, different smells, extremely bright light are various disturbances that should be avoided. When these are removed, the causes, which seek the attention of the mind, get reduced. Then one should sit on a comfortable seat in a pose conducive to Dhyana such as Padmasan, Swatikasan or Siddhasan. One should have the practice of sitting firmly, yet comfortably in a particular pose for a longer duration. Otherwise, the mind will get diverted towards the signals from various muscles. The pose should be “samkay shirogreevam” and the eyes should be fixed on the picture of Om in the front. The picture should be at the eye level and placed under sufficient light. Whenever the eyes try to avert itself beyond the picture, an effort should be made to lock it on the picture again. The mind generally follows the eyesight, so fixing of the gaze will result in locking the mind too. Start the Japa of Om with calm attitude. The way with which the sound of Om is emitted through the mouth should be gradual and effective. The vocal cords or the lungs should not feel strained while doing the japa. (the ideal method of the pronunciation should be learnt from the experts). As the tongue is engaged in the japa of Om, the mind will follow the tongue and will restrict its movement towards Om. The japa is automatically heard by the ears and as such again felt by the mind. Thus, the mind will be firmly kept onto the Om.
The main object of practicing “Pratyahara” is get established in “Dhâranâ”. Once we mastered in detaching mind from external world we need to practice concentrating it on something. It will be like feeling one organ at a time and ignoring other organs. This will result in getting extreme concentration. This concentration is called Dharana. Like this we get control of body and mind completely.
An effort is made over here to suggest the direction of the studies of dharana. The description does not cover the study of dharana in entirety. The study and progress depends on the individual strength of each sadhaka. A common education cannot be imparted of such advanced study. After one tries to study and practise, the guidance can be given individually depending upon the disturbances faced, the experiences observed and after judging the progress. This information cannot cover all these aspects.
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