1. Fix the mind on some object either within the body or outside. Keep it there steady for some time. This is Dharana. You will have to practise this daily. Laya-Yoga has its basis on Dharana.
2. Purify the mind first through the practice of Yama, Niyama and then take to the practice of Dharana. Concentration without purity is of no use. There are some occultists who have concentration. But they have no good character. That is the reason why they do not make any progress in the spiritual line.
3. He who has a steady Asana and has purified the Yoga Nadis will be able to concentrate easily. Concentration will be intense if you remove all distractions. A true Brahmachari, who has preserved his Veerya, will have wonderful concentration.
4. Some foolish, impatient students take to Dharana at once without undergoing the preliminary ethical training. This is a serious blunder. Ethical perfection is of paramount importance.
5. You can concentrate internally on any one of the seven Chakras and externally on any Devata, Hari, Krishna or Devi.
6. Attention plays a prominent part in concentration. He who has developed his power of attention will have good concentration. A man who is filled with passion and all sorts of fantastic desires, can hardly concentrate on any object even for a second. His mind will be jumping like a monkey.
7. He who has gained Pratyahara (withdrawing the senses from the objects) will have a good concentration. You will have to march in the spiritual path step by step, stage by stage. Lay the foundation of Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama and Pratyahara to start with. The super-structure of Dharana and Dhyana will be successful only then.
8. You should be able to visualise very clearly the object of concentration even in its absence. You must call up the mental picture at a moment’s notice. If you have good practice in concentration, you can do this without much difficulty.
9. In the beginning stage of practice, you can concentrate on the tick-tick sound of a watch or on the flame of the candle or on any other object that is pleasing to the mind. This is concrete concentration. There can be no concentration without something upon which the mind may rest. The mind can be fixed on a pleasant object. It is very difficult in the beginning to fix the mind on any object which it dislikes.
10. If you want to increase your power of concentration you will have to reduce your worldly activities. You will have to observe Mouna everyday for two hours or even more.
11. Practise concentration till the mind is well established on the object of concentration. When the mind runs away from the object, bring it back again.
12. When concentration is deep and intense, all other senses cannot operate. He who practises concentration for one hour daily has tremendous psychic powers. He will have a strong will-power.
13. Vedantins try to fix the mind on Atman. This is their Dharana. Hatha Yogins and Raja Yogins concentrate their mind on the six Chakras. Bhaktas concentrate on their Ishta Devata. Other objects of meditation are described under Trataka and Laya Yoga. Concentration is necessary for all the aspirants.
14. Those who practise concentration evolve quickly. They can do any work with greater efficiency in no time. What others can do in six hours can be done easily in half an hour by one who has a concentrated mind. Concentration purifies and calms the surging emotions, strengthens the current of thought and clarifies the ideas. Concentration keeps a man in his material progress also. He will turn out very good work in his office or business-house. What was cloudy and hazy before, becomes clearer and definite; What was very difficult before becomes easy now; and what was complex, bewildering and confusing before, comes easily within the mental grasp. You can achieve anything by concentration. Nothing is impossible for one who regularly practises concentration. Clairvoyance, clairaudience, mesmerism, hypnotism, thought-reading, music, mathematics and other sciences depend upon concentration.
15. Retire into a quiet room. Close your eyes. See what happens when you think of an apple. You may think of its colour, shape, size, different parts such as skin, pulp, seeds, etc. You may think of the places, Australia or Kashmir, wherefrom it is imported. You may think of its acidic or sweet taste and its effects on the digestive system and blood. Through the law of association, ideas of some other fruits also may try to enter. The mind may begin to entertain some other extraneous ideas. It may begin to wander. It may think of meeting a friend at the Railway Station at 4 p.m. It may think of purchasing a towel or a tin of tea or biscuits. You should try to have a definite line of thought. There should not be any break in the line of thinking. You must not entertain any other thought which is not connected with the subject on hand. The mind will try its level best to run in its old grooves. You will have to struggle hard in the beginning. The attempt is somewhat like going up a steep hill. You will rejoice and feel immense happiness when you get success in concentration.
16. Just as laws of gravitation, cohesion, etc., operate in the physical plane, so also definite laws of thought such as laws of association, relativity, contiguity, etc., operate in the mental plane or thought-world. Those who practise concentration should thoroughly understand these laws. When the mind thinks of an object, it may think of its qualities and its parts also. When it thinks of a cause it may think of its effect also.
17. If you read with concentration Bhagavad Gita or the Vicar of Wakefield several times, you can get new ideas each time. Through concentration you will get insight. Subtle esoteric meanings will flash out in the field of mental consciousness. You will understand the inner depth of philosophical significance.
18. When you concentrate on an object do not wrestle with the mind. Avoid tension anywhere in the body. Think gently of the object in a continuous manner. It is very difficult to practise concentration when one is very hungry and when one is suffering from an acute disease.
19. If emotions disturb you during concentration, do not mind them. They will pass away soon. If you try to drive them away you will have to tax your will-force. Have an indifferent attitude. To drive the emotions away, the Vedantin uses the formula: “I am a Sakshi of the mental modifications. I don’t care. Get out”. The Bhakta simply prays, and help comes from God.
20. Train the mind in concentrating on various objects, gross and subtle, of various sizes. In course of time a strong habit will be formed. The moment you sit for concentration, the mood will come at once, quite easily.
21. When you read a book you must read with concentration. There is no use of skipping over the pages in a hurried manner. Read one page. Close the book. Concentrate on what you have read. Find out parallel lines in Gita, Upanishads, etc.
22. For a neophyte the practice of concentration is disgusting and tiring in the beginning. He has to cut new grooves in the mind and brain. After some time, say two or three months, he gets great interest. He enjoys a new kind of happiness. Concentration is the only way to get rid of the miseries and tribulations. Your only duty is to achieve concentration and through concentration to attain the final beatitude, Self-realisation. Charity and Rajasuya Yajna are nothing when compared with concentration.
23. When desires arise in the mind, do not try to fulfil them. Reject them as soon as they arise. Thus by gradual practice the desires can be reduced. The modifications of the mind will also diminish a lot.
24. You must get rid of all sorts of mental weakness, superstitions, false and wrong Samskaras. Then only you will be able to concentrate your mind. SRI SWAMI SIVANANDA A DIVINE LIFE SOCIETY