From On the Wings of the Swan, Volume VII, Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

What is the meaning of concentration? What is the meaning of being one-pointed? You have to define that first. If you are asked to look at something, and then you are asked, “What are you seeing?” what answer is expected? The answer that is expected is: “I’m seeing what you told me to see.” However, if you do not give this answer and you give something else, what does this mean? It means that you are not focused. That happened to the disciples of Guru Dronacharya. He placed a clay bird on top of a branch and told his archery students to shoot at the eye of the bird. That was the instruction, ‘You have to shoot at the eye of the bird’. Then he called one of them, gave him the bow and arrow and asked, “What do you see?” The student said, “I see the tree, I see the branch, I see the leaves, I see the flowers, I see the fruits, I see the birds, I see . . .” That was not the answer that Dronacharya was expecting. He said, “You have failed. Get out.” Very clearly, that student had not listened to what he was saying, but was making up his own collection of images around the image that Dronacharya had specified. Only Arjuna said, “I see nothing but the eye.” He could see everything, but his mind was only looking at the eye. He gave the right answer and Dronacharya said, “You are the winner.” There is no need even to shoot the arrow; when the answer is right. Also, if the answer is wrong, there is no need to shoot the arrow.

The point is that concentration means an unwavering mind. Imagine that you are sitting on one side of the road, and in a shop on the opposite side there is some item that you are looking at. You are totally focused on that item. People cross by, cars and rickshaws go by, animals go by and you see them, but do you acknowledge them? No, because your attention is on the object that you desire. You see all these things passing, but there is no conscious acknowledgment of them. Later on, if somebody asks you, “Did you see that thing crossing there?” you will answer, “No. I wasn’t looking there, I was focusing on something.” That is one level of concentration. If you are aware of everything that is happening, that is not concentration, because then you are not aware of the actual thing on which you need to concentrate; you are not focused or one-pointed. Concentration means holding the area of attention fixed in your mind despite all the distractions or movements around it. That is what you are told to do in each and every type of meditation as well. Even in mantra meditation, when the mind fluctuates, you bring it back and you hold it on the mantra. It will go again, so you bring it back and hold it there. The instructions do not say that you should look at this thing and look at that thing, one after the other. No. You bring the focus back again and again until only that awareness remains and all else dissolves. You focus yourself on the object of desire, and the same state is reflected inside in meditation.

9 April 2007, Ganga Darshan, Munger