Sunday, September 4, 2011

Yoga and the Concentration of the Mind

Yoga is the method of uniting, or "yoking," the innate Godhead within one's being with the ultimate Ground of Being that pervades and upholds the universe. In the second of his Yoga aphorisms (or sutras), the great sage, Patanjali, notes that, "Yoga is the control of the thought-waves of the mind." This, of course, implies that it is only the uncontrolled thought-waves of the mind that separate us from the realization of the Godhead within us. Indeed, Swami Satchidananda, in his commentary on Patanjali's yoga sutras, points out that "for the keen student this one sutra would be enough because the rest of them only explain this one."

In his writings, Swami Vivikenanda (one of the first persons to bring the teachings of India to the West), asks:
"How has all the knowledge of the world been gained but by the concentration of the powers of the mind? The world," he observes, "is ready to give up its secrets if we only know how to knock, how to give it the necessary blow. The strength and the force of the blow come through concentration. There is no limit to the power of the human mind," he points out, "(t)he more concentrated it is, the more power is brought to bear on one point." (I. 130-131.)
"The flow of this continuous control of the mind becomes steady," Vivikenanda notes, "when practiced day after day, and the mind obtains the faculty of constant concentration." (I. 273.)

"Concentration is the essence of all knowledge," he points out, "nothing can be done without it. Ninety per cent of thought force is wasted by the ordinary human being, and therefore he is constantly committing blunders; the trained man or mind never makes a mistake." (VI. 123-124.)

In relation to this Swami Satchitananda cites the Sanskrit saying: Mana eva manushyanam karanam bandha mokshayoho. "As the mind, so the man; bondage or liberation are in your mind."

"If you feel bound," notes Satchidananda, "you feel bound. If you are liberated, you feel liberated. Things outside neither bind nor liberate you," he points out, "only your attitude towards them does that." (Satchidananda, "The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali," p. 5.)

As an 'attitude' is only a conditioned, habitual way of thinking, the practice of yoga is unlearning such conditioned habits of thought, and thereby concentrating the mind into a focused instrument with which to probe the inner depths of one's being. For it is only in doing so that we can become capable of perceiving the All-in-All.

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