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Concentration Tests

Tiruvalluvar, a Tamil Saint of South India, one day put on the head of his wife a shallow plate containing water, and asked her to move along a procession of dance, music and variety of plays, with instructions that her head would be cut off, if a single drop of water should fall to the ground. The procession started from the front door of the grand temple of Srirangam, Trichinopoly. Tiruvalluvar's wife accompanied the procession with the plate of water on the head. Her whole Prana, full mind, complete heart, her full being, were all perfectly centred on the plate of water. The procession marched through the 4 streets 3 times and at last terminated at the front gate wherefrom it had commenced. The woman managed to bring back the plate of water in entirely without allowing a single drop to fall on the ground. Tiruvalluvar asked his wife "O Sarasvati Devi, did you hear the band, the music and play of the flute that accompanied the procession?" She said, "No." "Did you see the fire-works?" She said, "No." "Where was the mind, then?" She said, "My Lord, it was all on the plate of water. I knew nothing, nothing. I heard nothing, nothing. I saw nothing, nothing. I thought nothing, nothing. I had one strong concentrated idea of the plate of water only."

"Now look here, Sarasvati, that must be the condition of your mind during meditation also. It is termed Ekagrata, one-pointedness. There must be undivided attention, undivided energy, everything being centred upon God. Then only you will see God. You will dwell in God."

Story of Arjuna


(Drona tested the power of concentration of the Pandavas. A basin of water was placed on the ground. A bird was being rotated above. The archer should shoot at the bird by looking at the reflection in the water.)

Drona: "O Yudhishthira, what do you see?"

Yudhishthira: "O Acharya, I see the bird to be aimed at, the tree on which the bird is sitting and I see yourself also."

Drona: "What do you see, Bhima?"

Bhima: "I see the bird, the tree, yourself, Nakula, Sahadeva, the tables and chairs, etc."

Drona: What do you see, Nakula?"

Nakula: "I see, the bird, the tree, yourself, Arjuna, Bhima, the garden, the streamlet, etc."

Drona: "What do you see, Sahadeva?"

Sahadeva: "I see the bird to be aimed at, yourself, Arjuna, Bhima, Yudhishthira, the horses, carriages, all the lookers on, several cows, etc."

Drona: "Now then, Arjuna, what do you see?"

Arjuna: "O Revered Guru! I see nothing but the bird to be aimed at."

You must have the one-pointed (Ekagrata) concentration of Arjuna for purposes of meditation by removing Vikshepa (tossing of the mind) through Upasana of Yoga. Trataka and Pranayama are other aids to develop concentration.

Suka Deva

Sri Suka Deva, son of Sri Vyasa, was not satisfied with the answers given by his father to his certain philosophical questions. Sri Vyasa sent his son to Raja Janaka of Mithila.

Suka Deva was waiting at the gate of the palace of Janaka for three days without taking any food. Janaka wanted to test Suka Deva whether he had balanced mind and equal vision. After three days Suka Deva was taken to the harem and given palatable dishes and dainties. Several ladies served him. He was neither depressed by his being kept at the gate without food and attendance nor elated by the royal treatment within the harem. He had the same balanced mind on the two different occasions.

Then Janaka wanted to test Suka Deva's power of concentration. He gave him a cup which contained oil to the very brim and asked him to take this cup round the Mithila city and bring it back without allowing a drop to fall on the ground. Janaka arranged for musical and dancing parties all round the city.

Suka Deva took the cup in his hand and brought it back without allowing even a drop of oil to fall on the ground, as he had intense concentration and abstraction of the senses. He was not a bit attracted by external sounds and objects, as he was well-established in Pratyahara. His mind was ever fixed on the cup of oil.

You must have the same power of concentration as that of Suka Deva.

The Arrow-Maker

An arrow-maker was very busy in making the arrows. He was wholly absorbed in his work. He had intense concentration. Once a king and his party passed in front of his workshop. As his mind was wholly absorbed in his work, he did not notice at all the party of the king and his retinue. You must be endowed with the same power of concentration at that of the arrow-maker.

Lord Dattatreya learnt concentration of mind from the arrow-maker. He took him as one of his Gurus.

Having controlled the breath and practised firmness in seat, you should, like the archer, take your aim, fix or centre the mind on the Supreme Self. The mind should be entirely absorbed in the object of contemplation. Having your mind entirely absorbed in the Atman, you will not see anything else at that time, inside or outside, just as the arrow-maker with his mind absorbed in making the arrow did not see the king passing by his side.

Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte was a man of great concentration. His success was all due to the power of concentration. He suffered from various diseases such as epileptic fits, brody cardia or slowness of heart's action, etc. But for these maladies, he would have proved still more wonderful and powerful. He could sleep at any time he liked. He would snore the very moment he retired to bed. He would get up to the very hour, nay to the very second. This is a kind of Siddhi. He had, as it were, different pigeon-holes in the brain, just as they have in post offices, pigeon holes for sorting letters. He had no Vikshepa, or shilly- shallying. He had highly developed Ekagra Chitta, one-pointed mind, of a Yogi. He could draw, as it were, any single thought, from the brain pigeon hole, dwell on it as long as he liked, and could shove it back when finished. He would sleep very soundly at night amidst busy war, would never worry a bit at night. This was all due to his power of concentration. He never acquired these powers either by Trataka practice or "target shooting." He was a born Siddha in one sense-Yoga Bhrashta, fallen from Yoga practices during the previous birth.

Law of Association

When you go for an evening walk to Lawrence Garden, you meet daily two college boys. Henry and Thomas. One day you see Henry only. Thomas does not turn up. As soon as you see Henry, the image of Thomas comes in your mind through the law of association.

When you think of river Ganga, you may think of Yamuna and Godavari. When you think of rose, you may think of Jasmine. When you think of apple you may think of mango. This is the law of association.

You can develop your memory through association of ideas and objects. "Pav" means quarter in Hindi language. Keep the letter image P-A-V in your mind. You can remember easily the three limbs of Navavidha Bhakti, viz., Padasevana, Archana and Vandana, which begin with the letters P-A-V. Similarly you can link various ideas in your mind through letter images and word images. Those who have cultivated this habit in this birth are endowed with very good, retentive memory.

If you can carefully watch the mind-wanderings, you will find that there is an intimate connection between one idea and another though the mind wildly wanders about like an unchained monkey. The law of association operates always though the links are broken. The mind may think of a book, then the bookstall wherefrom Mr. John purchased it, then the friend whom he met at the railway station when he was purchasing the book, then of the railways and of the directors of the railways who lived in London. The thought of London may bring in the idea of skating. From skating it may jump to Alps. It may think of pine trees, sanatorium and open air treatment. The thought of a pine tree will bring in the remembrance of Almora in India and its vicinity where pine trees grow. The thought of Almora will bring in the thought of Swami Vivekananda who founded the Advaita Ashram at Mayavati near Almora. It may entertain some Divine ideas of concentration and meditation, and of Advaita Brahman. Then suddenly it may drop into sensual grooves. It may think of the prostitutes in Almora. It will entertain lustful thoughts.

All these will take place within the twinkling of an eye. The mind works and moves in a tremendous speed that is impossible to imagine. It catches one object and fabricates one idea and through association, it leaves this object and this idea and jumps to another object and another idea. There is a sort of concentration all throughout its wanderings, though the concentration is not a continuous one.

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