Yoga Concentration
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The ethical discipline




The obstacles to concentration were classified under different heads: (1)



  1. Sickness How, for instance, is a yogin to assume a fixed seat or posture when he is restless with fever, or fix his mind when he is in a delirious condition?

  2. Listlessness; Idleness; languor When the mind is unwilling to stir, it is a case of idleness: when it is unable to stir, it is a case of languor. So it is not enough to possess the capacity of concentration one must actually will to exercise that capacity. A yogin may fail for lack of drive just as he may fail for lack of energy.

  3. Doubt; heedlessness It is not enough to possess the will and the energy to achieve concentration: one must also hold fast to a single object and persevere in the attempt to grasp it completely. The lack of definiteness gives us doubt; where the mind is assailed with alternative thoughts and the necessary faith in the sole efficacy of the ideate is absent. Heedlessness is a lack of reflection upon the means of attaining concentration: here there is no doubt about the object of knowledge, but steps are not taken to bring about the concentration by the adoption of appropriate means.

  4. Failure and instability in attention It was found, however, that in spite of their willingness and application some could not attain a particular level of concentration. ..possibly it is due to congenital impediments or subconscious opposition. In its comprehensive scheme the Yoga system repeatedly draws attention to the necessity of taking the residues of our past thoughts and actions into consideration, and we may very well suppose that the past takes its vengeance on the present by obstructing progress.

  5. Worldliness One of the gravest impediments is moral defect in the shape of greed or addiction to objects of sense. If the purpose of yoga is to draw the mind away in the interest of the spirit from thoughts and impulses leading to the recognition of the material world, it is obvious that excessive fondness for the world of sensibility would obstruct the effort to detach oneself from empirical thinking. The yogin must therefore cultivate not only a habit of thought but also a habit of action conductive to the attainment of the maximum spiritual height. He must control his feelings as well as his thoughts and actions.


The other obstacles are unsteadiness of the body, breathing, etc.


The YOGA SUTRA itself initiated the enquiry into the bodily conditions, which attained some amount of scientific precision in later Yoga literature. We have here the rudiments of physiological psychology of which traces are to be found in the Upanisads also.







Now each kind of distraction is to be met by an antidote of its own, though it is not unlikely that the distractions and their remedies are mutually related among themselves. The yogangas (helps to yoga) represent the method of getting rid of the distempers of the soul in a progressive fashion.


Thus, if bodily infirmity, unsteadiness of the limbs, and breathing upset the mind and render concentration difficult or impossible, these must be controlled and eradicated. Cleanliness of the body, as of the mind, is therefore necessary for concentration. Then again, the yogin must learn to control his limbs he must try to sit straight like the trunk of a tree, with the spine, the neck, and the head in one line and assume certain postures (asana) that are favourable to concentration.


That the autonomic system could be controlled through the slender connection with the nervous system was a great discovery of the Yoga system and it still retains its title to the sole possession of the technique to bring that about.


It is acknowledged that the condition of the body has some hand in determining the state of the mind, and hence prescriptions cover not only the discipline of the mind, but also the control of the body.


What really makes yoga different is the mental focus and attention that we bring to bear on the body - the stream of attention we focus as we do the postures.






















1. The cultural Heritage of India (Vol. III) - published by The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Kolkata, India

2. Yoga and Your Heart - by Dr. K. K. Datey et al

3. The Dhammapada - by S. Radhakrishnan