Dharana: Unwavering concentration


“The firm control of the senses and the mind is the yoga of concentration. One must be ever watchful for this yoga is difficult to acquire and easy to lose.”


Dharana translates to “unwavering concentration” and is the sixth limb of Patanjali’s Raja yoga. The objective of the practice is to maintain a one-pointed mind, free from all mental, emotional and physical distractions.

It is said the real state of meditation or Dhyana can only begin when the mind has become one-pointed by the practice of Dharana.


“To remove this (tossing and various other obstacles which stand in the way of one-pointedness of mind), the practice of concentration on one thing alone (should be made).”

– Sutra 1.32, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras


The Power of the Mind 

The mind has great latent power; however, this power is dissipated by the many different thought patterns which run continuously. When in a state of concentration, the mind disengages from the external and all that which surrounds the object of concentration.  

The difference between a concentrated mind and a dissipated mind can be compared to the difference between a regular household lightbulb and a laser beam. A concentrated mind resembles a laser, which heightens the levels of perception and efficiency.

A concentrated mind is essentially a relaxed mind, on account of the fewer thought patterns. As the mind becomes intensely immersed in an activity, it enters into a state of relaxation.

Work undertaken in a state of concentration is produced with higher efficacy, as no time is lost procrastinating or mind-wandering.

The practice of Dharana will focus the thoughts, ultimately making the mind more potent by conferring an abundant quantum of willpower. Most of our personal problems – habits, health problems, mental disorders, etc. – can be removed by the force of our willpower.


The 5 States of mind


Kshipta state:

In this state, the mind remains dissipated as the thoughts are scattered across many different objects. It remains restless.  

Mudha state:

In this state, the mind is dull and forgetful.

Vikshipta state:

This state is known as the gathering state. The mind is at times focused and at times distracted.

Ekagra state:

This is the one-pointed mind. There remains only one thought present in the mind.

Niruddha state:

In this state, the mind is in perfect control.


Patience and Perseverance are indispensable in Dharana

Many aspirants decide to quit the practices of Dharana because they find them challenging. In the beginning stages, myriads of thoughts, ideas and worries are faced. They reduce with time, eventually bringing the mind to a state of blissful one-pointedness.

It is important to remember; our basic nature does not allow for a vacuum to be created within the mind. When one thought ends, another immediately arises. In fact, the void mind, where all internal activity ceases is called shoonya in yoga. Buddha called it Nirvana.

 Consequently, we must strive through and continue the practices of dharana with patience and perseverance until they become pleasant.

“The firm control of the senses and the mind is the yoga of concentration. One must be ever watchful for this yoga is difficult to acquire and easy to lose.”

– Katha Upanishad (2:3:11)



The importance of Thought Reduction

If we watch the mind attentively, we find our thought patterns are erratic. The mind wanders from one thought to another, with no consistency between them. Thought consistency is only achieved by a concentrated mind, which does not entertain a single thought external to the object of focus. In the same way, thought reduction is vital to Dharana.

Reducing the number of thoughts, is in itself highly unpleasant at first, however the peace felt in later stages is highly satisfying and worth the effort. 

Thought reduction requires cutting away useless thoughts with determination and awareness. A thought that is absolutely useless to us – such as imagining an event which is highly unlikely – must be destroyed at that precise moment. The thought will continue to appear, but it will lose power over time.

Even if the above fails, daily Dharana practices will inevitably destroy such thought patterns spontaneously. 


Reducing Desires 

Thoughts are a product of desire. We have thoughts because we want or do not want certain objects and experiences. Attraction and repulsion are the basis of desire, and the very foundation of all of our thought patterns. To reduce the number of thoughts, it is essential to reduce our desires.

This is best done by mindfully identifying our desires and our needs. The SWAN meditation, is an excellent practice for this. Once we identify our real desires, we set all remaining desires free. Making our list of goals concise, will also ensure our number of thoughts per minute reduces.

Every thought reduced adds to our power of concentration and peace of mind.


Awareness and Concentration 

Awareness is the state of being conscious of oneself and one’s surroundings. It is the key to evolution. It is said that constant awareness of breath is the highest yoga, and a sure path to illumination. Awareness is vital to both concentration as well as memory. We remember what we were aware of, but what we do unaware is stored in subconscious layers of the mind.

Cultivating awareness reinforces dharana. We can train ourselves to be aware of anything, from the breath, to an external object or even a location in the body such as a particular chakra. However, it is always easier to remain aware of something we are naturally attracted to. 

Fixing the mind on uninteresting objects, will eventually result in interests developing. This process destroys many of the minds weaknesses.


Objects of concentration  

There are many objects we can use to practice concentration. It is generally best for the object of concentration to appear spontaneously in our minds, however for some this will be challenging. The following list are objects which can be used to practice concentration on:


  • The Breath

  • The body: the eyebrow centre, the navel, the tip of the nose, the chakras, etc.

  • Physical process of the body such as: Stillness, relaxation, tension.

  • Nature: Mountains, hills, forests, jungles, lakes, rivers, etc. Rain, clouds, fog, hail, snow, etc.

  • Living beings: People, animals, fish, insects, plants and trees.

  • Elements: Earth, water, fire, air, either

  • The Sun or the Moon.

  • Colours

  • Deities, saints or angels (for those who are religious).