Dharana And Dhyana

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Having made you familiar with the Yogis' teachings concerning chitta and the vrittis, I shall now lead you along the path of Dharana (mental control) and

Dhyana (concentrated meditation). Also, I will include features of a third Hindu classification of mental phenomena, that of Pratyahara, or the control of the senses. From a practical point of view, the control of the senses, control of the mind, and concentrated meditation are so closely interrelated that I will group them together in one study.

Before proceeding further in this chapter dealing with the mastery of the mind, please understand that I am not teaching you these Hindu theories simply to present a lot of Yogi technicalities; I am teaching you these principles of oriental wisdom as they are the foundations upon which the actual structure, practices, and methods of the real magic of India are based.

Let us now study the Yoga teachings regarding the mental control known as Pratyahara (controlling of the senses) which is regarded as a preparatory stage of Dharma, or the control of the mind in general. Our senses furnish "the raw materials of thought," and it follows that control of sensations is the first step of complete mental control. In Pratyahara, the senses are mastered by the will, and the mind is thus made free for concentrated meditation (Dhyana) upon some chosen subject or object. Before the mind can obtain the "quiet power" enabling it to perform properly the processes of concentration and visualization, its senses must be so controlled that outside influences are shut out temporarily by the methods of Pratyahara.

The control of the senses in Pratyahara is accomplished by the exercise of attention; attention being distinctly an action of the will. The process is not one of the will holding a sensation in mind, but rather of holding a sensation out of mind. In other words, of keeping the sensation from entering consciousness. Western people are not strangers to this principle, as any person knows that they must give attention and cut out disturbing stimuli if they are going to concentrate. Psychologists explain that the more attention we give to a sensation the more we are aware of it. Conversely, the intensity of a sensation the more we are aware of it. Conversely, the intensity of a sensation may be decreased to its lowest point; even to the point of completely abolishing it. In this statement we have the essence of the Yoga teaching of Pratyahara. The Yogis have mastered this ability of blocking out sensations to an amazing degree, and are thus able to devote absolute thought to the object of their meditation. By the same process, they are able to "shut out" the most intense pain, simply by turning the attention away from it.

Swami Vivekananda in speaking of Pratyahara says, "All actions, internal and external, occur when the mind joins itself to certain centers. Willingly or unwillingly the mind is drawn to join itself to the centers, and they feel disturbance and sometimes even misery as a result. If the mind were under control such would not occur.

"What would be the result of controlling the mind? It then would not join itself to the centers of sensations and perceptions, and feeling and willing would be under control. It is perfectly possible to do this. The Yogis do this in their practice of Pratyahara, which means 'gathering together,' checking the outgoing powers of the mind, and free it from the thraldom of the senses. It is a positive process which is mastered through practice."

The Yogis' method of achieving Pratyahara is twofold, viz., (1) concentrating upon some object of importance and interest, while throwing intense and

Vivekananda Magical Images

Animals hold an esteemed place in Hindu philosophy. They are treated with great kindness all over India.

continuous attention into the task; and (2) refusing to allow the attention to "take hold of' or to "go out toward" any outside sight, sound, smell, taste, or touch. As you now learn of Dharana and Dhyana and study their mastery, you will, at one and the same time, be learning Pratyahara.

The Monument to Swami Vivekananda, whose teachings are so closely allied to the real magic of India. It is located on the southernmost tip of India where three oceans meet, and is regarded as a highly sacred spot.


In this important phase of Yoga teaching, in mastering the mind, there is sought (1) the positive control of the attention and its direction toward any selected subject or object; and (2) the control of the attention in the direction of preventing its "going out" towards outside sensations which seek to interfere with concentration.

In Dharana, the attention is intensely active in the work of "holding in consciousness" the desired subject or idea, and also in the work of "holding out of consciousness" all nonessentials not related to the matter being concentrated upon. In this we have the essence of complete concentration.

As Sadhu Parimal Bandu explained it, "Dharana is holding the mind to certain points; this means forcing the mind to be conscious of certain things to the exclusion of others. When the chitta, or 'mind stuff is limited and confined to a certain point, this is called Dharana.

"How difficult it is to control the mind. Well has the mind been compared, in this Hindu story, to a maddened monkey:

'Once there was a monkey, restless by its own nature, as all monkeys are. As if that were not enough, someone made the monkey drink freely of wine, so that he became still more restless. Then a scorpion stung him; it made him jump about for a whole day. The poor monkey's condition became worse than ever. To complete his misery, a demon entered into him. What language can describe the uncontrollable restlessness of that monkey?'

"The human mind is like that monkey; incessantly active by its own nature. Then it becomes drunk by the wine of desire, thus increasing its turbulence. After desire takes possession, there comes the sting of the scorpion of jealousy of others whose desires meet with greater fulfillment. Last of all, the demon of pride takes possession of the mind, making it think itself of all importance. How hard it is to control such a mind. Yet, it is the task of Dharana to control that restless, drunk, scorpion bitten, demon possessed mind, and to make it do certain things, attend to certain things, while refraining from doing other things and attending to distracting things. It is hard, but it can be done. The Yogis do it. The successful magicians do it, and you, too, must learn the mastery of your mind, if you would practice the real magic."

In achieving Dharana, you must achieve the ability of expelling unwanted thoughts at will. It is well worth the practice required, for then instead of being ruled by unwanted ideas, we eliminate them and concentrate only upon those we desire. If you can expel and inhibit a thought—practically killing it dead for the time being, as it were—you can do anything else with it that you please. This is an ability of great value as it not only frees a man from mental torment, but it gives him a concentrated power of handling mental work absolutely unknown to him before. It is thus the object of Yoga, through the practice of Dharana, to enable the mind to do away with all the thoughts which you do not want, to pick out and choose those you do want, and ultimately to pinpoint the one thought which is to become the entire center of your concentration.


Dhyana, or concentrated meditation, is closely allied to both Dharana, or control of the thoughts, and Pratyahara, or control of the senses. In the next chapter of this book, I will instruct you in the practical methods of oriental concentration that embraces all three of these related phases of mind. First, though, I will give you some of the more mystical aspects of Dhyana, as taught by the Yogis, as it will deepen your understanding of oriental wisdom.

There are two phases of Yogi Dhyana, viz., (1) concentrated meditation upon some definite, concrete subject or object—this is called "Concrete Dhyana;" and (2) concentrated meditation upon some indefinite, abstract subject or object, perhaps ev6n upon some transcendental matter—this is called "Abstract Dhyana."

Concrete Dhyana is closely linked to Dharana, or control of the thoughts. Abstract Dhyana, on the other hand, is closely linked to Samadhi, or mystic contemplation. Concrete Dhyana is practical and usable in connection with controlling and mastering the mind. Abstract Dhyana is metaphysical and semireligious.

In Abstract Dhyana, a person enters into a state of concentration. It is not concentration upon concrete physical or mental things, rather it is concentration upon the transcendental and the abstract; things in themselves being considered apart from their forms and manifestations. There is a search for the inner knowledge, the inner nature of things, as apart from sense knowledge— the nature of things which would persists if there were no mental faculties to perceive them, and no mind to know them. In this we have meditation.

Swami Vivekananda speaks of meditation this way, "The meditative state is the highest state of existence. So long as there is desire, no real happiness can come. It is only the contemplative study of things that brings us real enjoyment and happiness. The animal has happiness in the senses; the man has happiness in the intellect; the gods have happiness in spiritual contemplation. It is only to the soul that has attained to this contemplative state that the world really becomes beautiful. To him who desires nothing, and does not mix himself up with them, the manifold changes of nature are one panorama of beauty and sublimity. These ideas have to be understood in the Dhyana of meditation. When the power of Dhyana has become so much intensified as to be able to reject the external part of perception, and remain meditating only on the internal part and the meaning thereof, that state is called Samadhi."

Abstract Dhyana belongs to the mystics, Concrete Dhyana belongs to the magician. We shall direct our attention towards the latter as we learn now of the power of concentration.

Within the first Cave of Ajanta is seen this gigantic figure of Lord Buddha depicted in meditation. The door panels to the sacred room are designed with floral patterns and in front are seen the two "Dwawapalas" or doorkeepers. The Ajanta Caves are thirty-four in number and were carved from solid rocks between the fourth and ninth centuries A.D.

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  • amy
    How to make dharana for dhyana?
    3 years ago

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