Rishi Patanjali says in the Yoga Sutras (1:32):
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).
It took me many years to understand thoroughly the secret, subtle workings of the mind. Prakriti will never allow a vacuum to be created in the mind. If one thought or preoccupation is over, another anxiety immediately manifests. The mind can never become totally vacant, it will always be preoccupied with something. Carefully mark the ways of the mind. The chitta or mind manifests itself in five different forms. Kshipta, mudha, vikshipta, ekagra and niruddha are the five yogic bhumikas.
In the mudha state, the mind is dull and forgetful, and this is the lowest quality of mind. In the kshipta state, the rays of the mind are scattered on various objects. It is restless and jumps from one object to another. Vikshipta is the gathering or oscillating mind. It is occasionally steady and, at other times, distracted. By practice of concentration, the mind struggles to gather itself. In the ekagra state, it is one-pointed. There is only one idea present in the mind. The mind is under perfect control in the niruddha state.
A scientist concentrates his mind and invents many things. Through concentration, he opens the layers of the gross mind and penetrates deeply into higher regions of the mind and gets deeper knowledge. He concentrates all the energies of his mind into one focus and throws them out upon the materials he is analyzing and so finds out their secrets. You will have to train the mind, step by step, stage by stage, and lead it from the fickle state of restless confusion, until it becomes ekagra, a perfect steady laser beam of concentration. This can only be done through the practice of raja yoga.
In the kshipta stage the mind is tossed about among objects of love and hatred like a light feather in a stormy wind. It ever whirls far and wide in vain among sensual objects away from the association with the wise, like a strolling city dog. It will flit in a moment from Howrah to Paris and from Colombo to Berlin. Not resting on any object firmly, it is characterized by an excessive fluctuating power. It will fluctuate and be confused, it will flit away from an object and then return to it, it will rejoice in vain and be intoxicated with ahamkara, egoism.
A householders mind wanders to cinema, theatre, shopping, social events, etc. A sadhus mind wanders to Benares, Vrindavan and Nasik. The wandering habit of the mind must be controlled by making it stick to one place, one method of sadhana, one guru and one form of yoga. A rolling stone gathers no moss. You will have to be on the alert always to check this wandering habit of the mind.
If you watch the mind carefully, you will find that many thoughts are inconsistent. The mind wanders at random aimlessly. Generally, in untrained persons, four or five kinds of thoughts occupy the mind at a time. Household thoughts, business thoughts, thoughts of office, of body, food and drink, hope and anticipation, planning to get money, some thoughts of revenge, habitual thoughts of answering calls of nature, bathing, etc. occupy the mind at a time. When you are studying a book with interest at 3.30 pm, the idea of pleasure of witnessing a cricket match at 4 pm disturbs your study every now and then.
It is only a yogi with ekagra mind, who can have only one thought at a time and can keep it as long as he likes. If you can study the mind and have consistent thoughts of one subject or one kind only to the exclusion of all other thoughts, this in itself is a very great achievement.
To prepare for the practice of concentration, you will need to lessen the number of thoughts. Certainly it is an uphill task to reduce the number of thoughts and in the beginning it will be very unpleasant. But later on you will rejoice as you will get immense strength of mind and internal peace by reduction of thoughts. Armed with patience, perseverance, vigilance, fiery determination and an iron will, you can crush the thoughts easily just as you crush a lemon or an orange. After crushing, it will be easy for you to root them out.
In a rubber plantation, planters take recourse to the method of thinning out the rubber trees by cutting the small surplus trees which stand in the vicinity of big trees. By so doing they can tap more milk or rubber juice from the big trees. Even so you must thin out the thoughts by destroying them one by one.
When the tail of a lizard is cut, the cut end will flutter about for some time, as there is still a little residual prana in it. After one or two minutes all motion will cease. Even so, even after thinning and reduction of thoughts, some thoughts will move about like the tail of the lizard. But they are powerless. They cannot bring any serious havoc. There is no vitality in them. Just as the drowning man tries to catch anything to save himself, so also these lifeless thoughts try their level best to come back to their previous state of life and vigour. If you go on with your daily practice of concentration and meditation regularly, they will die by themselves like a gheeless lamp.
The fewer the desires, the lesser the thoughts. Therefore, you should try to reduce your desires if you want to concentrate the mind. If you reduce your wants, if you do not try to fulfil your desires, if you try to eradicate your desires one by one, your thoughts will diminish in frequency and length. The number of thoughts per minute will also decrease.
Worldly pleasures intensify the desire for enjoying greater pleasures. Hence, the mind of worldly people is very restless. There is no satisfaction and mental peace. The mind can never be satisfied, whatever amount of pleasure you may store up for it. The more it enjoys the pleasures, the more it wants them. So, people are exceedingly troubled and bothered by their own minds. Hence, in order to remove these troubles, the sages thought it best to deprive the mind of all sensual pleasures. When the mind has been concentrated or made extinct, it cannot pinch one to seek for further pleasure. All mental disturbance is removed forever and the person attains real peace.
The fewer the thoughts, the greater the mental strength and concentration will be. Suppose the average number of thoughts that pass through your brain within one hour is one hundred. If you succeed in reducing them by constant practice of concentration and meditation to ninety, you have gained ten per cent of the power of concentration. Every thought that is reduced adds strength and peace to the mind. Reduction of even one thought will give you mental strength and peace of mind.
You may not be able to feel this in the beginning, but there is a spiritual thermometer inside to register the reduction of even a single thought. If you reduce one thought the mental strength that you have gained by this reduction will help you to reduce the second thought easily. The fewer the thoughts, the greater is the peace. Always remember this. A wealthy man who speculates in a big city and has many thoughts has a restless mind in spite of his comforts, whereas a sadhu who lives in a cave of the Himalayas and is practising thought control is very happy in spite of his poverty.
Attention or avadhana plays a very great part in concentration. It is the basis of will. When it is properly guided and directed towards the internal world for purposes of introspection, it will analyze the mind and illumine many astounding facts. The force with which anything strikes the mind is generally in proportion to the degree of attention bestowed upon it. Moreover, the great art of memory is attention; inattentive people have bad memories. The power of attention becomes weakened in old age. Attention is focusing of consciousness. It is one of the signs of a trained will. It is found in individuals of strong mentality. It is a rare faculty. Brahmacharya wonderfully develops this power. A yogi who possesses this faculty can fix the mind even on an unpleasant object for a very long time. Attention can be cultivated and developed by persistent practice. All the great men of the world who have achieved greatness have risen through this faculty.
There is an externalizing or objectifying power in the mind. This leads to bahirmukha vritti, tendency to externalize. The mind is drawn towards various objects. There is dissipation of mental energy and powers of the mind in various directions. The rays of the mind are like the scattered rays of light over diverse objects, giving pain. When the rays are gathered and concentrated by practice, the mind becomes concentrated and you get ananda, bliss, from within. Raja yoga teaches us how to concentrate the mind and then how to ransack the innermost recesses of our own mind.
It is through the power of attention that mind carries out all its activities. Attention is the basis of will force. Therefore, cultivate the power of attention. Attention may be either subjective or internal on an idea, or objective or external on any object. Throw your entire attention into whatever you happen to be doing at a given moment. It is easy to fasten the mind on an object which the mind likes best. Practise attention on unpleasant tasks, from which you have been shrinking before on account of their unpleasantness. Throw interest upon uninteresting objects and ideas. Hold them before your mind. The interest will slowly manifest. Many mental weaknesses will vanish. The mind will become stronger and stronger.
A raja yogi concentrates on the trikuti, the space between the two eyebrows, which is the seat of the mind in the waking state, and the trigger point of ajna chakra. You can easily control the mind if you can concentrate on this region. Meditation and concentration on the ajna chakra lead to control of mind very easily. He who wants to meditate on Virat, the Lord in the form of the manifest universe, and he who wants to help the world should select this region for concentration.
By controlling ajna chakra, all the lower chakras, psychic centres, can be automatically controlled. When you concentrate on a chakra, a thread-like connection is formed in the beginning between the mind and the chakra. Then the yogi ascends gradually by patient efforts along the sushumna from chakra to chakra.
Train the mind in a variety of ways in concentration in the beginning. Concentrate on the anahata sounds of the heart by closing the ears. Concentrate on the breath with repetition of the mantra, Soham. Concentrate on any concrete image. Concentrate on the blue sky, on the all-pervading light of the sun, on the various chakras of the body, on the abstract ideas of satyam (truth), jnanam (wisdom), anantam (infinity), ekam (one), nityam (eternal essence), etc. Lastly, stick to one thing only.
It is very difficult to fix the mind on one thought in the beginning. Instead, try to have thoughts on only one subject. If you think of a rose you can have all sorts of thoughts connected with the rose. You can think of different kinds of roses that are grown in different parts of the world. You can think of the various preparations that are made out of roses and their uses. You can even allow thoughts of other kinds of flowers to enter; but do not entertain thoughts of fruits and vegetables. Check the aimless wandering of the mind. Do not have thoughts at random when you think of a rose. Gradually you can fix the mind on one thought. You will have to discipline the mind daily. Eternal vigilance is needed in thought control.
In trying to concentrate your mind or even project a thought, you will find that you need to form images in your mind. It is natural. Fix the mind on one object, on one idea. Withdraw the mind, again and again, when it runs away from the aim and fix it there. Do not allow the mind to create hundreds of thought forms. Introspect and watch the mind carefully. Do not allow the mind to dissipate its energy on vain thoughts, worries, imaginations, fears and forebodings. Make it hold on to one thought form for half an hour by incessant practice. Make the mind to shape itself into one shape and try to keep the shape for hours together through constant and incessant practice.
When your mind is deeply concentrated, a period of two hours passes like five minutes. If the mind is distracted and wandering, half an hour hangs on as two hours. This is everybodys experience. In dream also, many events that represent a period of fifty years take place within ten minutes. Through the play of the mind, a kalpa is considered by it as a moment and vice versa.
The mind assumes the shape of any object it intently thinks upon. If it thinks of an orange it assumes the shape of an orange. If it thinks of Lord Krishna with flute in hand, it assumes the shape of Lord Krishna. You must train the mind properly and give it proper sattwic food for assimilation. Have a sattwic background of thought or mental image.
By manipulating the mind, you will be able to bring it under your control, make it work as you like and compel it to concentrate its powers as you desire. He who has learnt to manipulate the mind will get the whole of Nature under his control. There is no limit to the power of the human mind. The more concentrated it is, the more power is brought to bear on one point.
When you reach the spiritual summit of thoughtlessness, you will reach the abode of immortality and eternal peace and supreme bliss. Start your homeward journey. March boldly in the spiritual path. Be not afraid of difficulties. Be bold. Ascend peak after peak.