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Inquiry about Concentration in Yoga

I read once Swami Vivekananda said "there are stages of concentration. Firstly, building extraordinary concentration. Secondly, like changing water from one bucket to another bucket, one has to be able to change his concentration from one domain to another effortlessly"


I struggling with second stage. Once my dharana is strong enough with my work, it will take days to focus on spiritual. Once momentum in spiritual is built, it takes weeks to refocus on personal things.


How do I go to the second stage of concentration? It is very challenging to focus on Kriya when other things are going on.


Mi~Beloved’s Response about Yogic Focus

Patanjali gave us yogic focus as being samyama which is the three higher stages of yoga in one sequential development from dharana, to dhyana and then to samadhi as the final stage.

This also regresses in reverse just as if a person climbs a hill, his descent will be the reverse action of his ascend. We experience that climbing the hill is difficult and requires extra energy, while descending a hill, happens so easily and with contribution from gravity so much of it, that we brake on a descend.

From a samadhi state, a yogi emerges into a dhyana state. From that he emerges into a dharana state. And then he may find himself with his senses seeking objects which is the reverse of the pratyahar state.

Merriam Webster gave this as concentration:

the act or process of concentrating : the state of being concentrated especially: direction of attention to a single object


However, in defining dharana, I do not use the term concentration because the fifth stage of yoga which is termed pratyahar by Patanjali concerns the withdrawal of voluntary and involuntary concentration. Even though this begins with a withdrawal from objects which are external to the physical body, it concludes with withdrawal of the coreSelf from its adjuncts which is a de-focusing and not a focusing process.


The transfer from focus on objects outside the body to some other type of object or to no object would require a time gap where the person extracts his interest in the first object and then passes through a blank place and focuses his attention on some other internal or external object. But this is not what Patanjali explains. Hence, we must first put the inquiry in terms which match Patanjali’s before we could discuss the idea of Swami Vivekananda.


Regarding the switching of focus from social and/or professional concerns to spiritual concerns like kriya yoga practice, the best place to learn this is from the text book about karma yoga which is the Bhagavad Gita, where Krishna declares that he is the only one who can teach that properly. He rendered that teaching to Arjuna. It is the subject matter of the Bhagavad Gita.

I have found not explanation about that in the Yoga Sutras, nothing where it states that one should switch focus from cultural activities to spiritual pursuits and visa versa.

However in the Gita, Arjuna challenged Lord Krishna bout the contradiction of those two focuses where Arjuna requested one objective, claiming that it was confusing to deal with both simultaneously. Here are the verses:

अर्जुन उवाच

ज्यायसी चेत्कर्मणस्ते

मता बुद्धिर्जनार्दन ।

तत्किं कर्मणि घोरे मां

नियोजयसि केशव ॥३.१॥

arjuna uvāca

jyāyasī cetkarmaṇaste

matā buddhirjanārdana

tatkiṁ karmaṇi ghore māṁ

niyojayasi keśava (3.1)

arjuna — Arjuna; uvāca — contested; jyāyasī — is better; cet = ced — if; karmaṇaḥ — than physical action; te — your; matā — idea; buddhirjanārdana = buddhiḥ — mental action + janārdana — motivator of men; tatkiṁ = tat (tad) — them + kiṁ — why; karmaṇi — in action; ghore — in horrible; māṁ — me; niyojayasi — you urge; keśava — handsome-haired one

Arjuna contested: O motivator of men, if it is Your idea that the mental approach is better than the physically-active one, then why do You urge me to commit horrible action, O handsome-haired One? (3.1)

व्यामिश्रेणैव वाक्येन

बुद्धिं मोहयसीव मे ।

तदेकं वद निश्चित्य

येन श्रेयोऽहमाप्नुयाम् ॥३.२॥

vyāmiśreṇaiva vākyena

buddhiṁ mohayasīva me

tadekaṁ vada niścitya

yena śreyo'hamāpnuyām (3.2)

vyāmiśreṇaiva = vyāmiśreṇa — with this two-way + iva — like this; vākyena — with a proposal; buddhiṁ — intelligence; mohayasīva = mohayasi — you baffle + iva — like this; me — of me; tad — this; ekaṁ — one; vada — tell; niścitya — surely; yena — by which; śreyo = śreyaḥ — the best; 'ham = aham — I; āpnuyām — I should get

You baffle my intelligence with this two-way proposal. Mention one priority, by which I would surely get the best result. (3.2)


Arjuna wanted a clear-cut procedure which was one or the other, either full attention to karmanah physical actions or buddhih mental conquest with no interest in physical actions. For Arjuna this was a dilemma.

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  • Swami Vivekananda statements on the face of it are not giving a focused attention to the connection between the karma of the individual or position, their actual prescribed activities or responsibilities and moksha as accessed through the practice of inSelf Yoga and as confirmed both by Patanjali and Lord Krishna to Arjuna. Then how to complete karma yoga? Even before pratyahar.

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