Chapter 1

Dharana Icon

January 31, 2022

1 The binding of the perceiving consciousness to a certain region is attention (dharana).

Emerson quotes Sir Isaac Newton as saying that he made his great discoveries by intending his mind on them. That is what is meant here. I read the page of a book while inking of something else.

At the end of he page, I have no idea of what it is about, and read it again, still thinking of something else, with the same result.

Then I wake up, so to speak, make an effort of attention, fix my thought on what I am reading, and easily take in its meaning. The act of will, the effort of attention, the intending of the mind on each word and line of the page, just as the eyes are focussed on each word and line, is the power here contemplated. It is the power to focus the consciousness on a given spot, and hold it there Attention is the first and indispensable step in all knowledge. Attention to spiritual things is the first step to spiritual knowledge.

2 A prolonged holding of the perceiving consciousness in that region is meditation (dhyana).

This will apply equally to outer and inner things. I may for a moment fix my attention on some visible object, in a single penetrating glance, or I may hold the attention fixedly on it until it reveals far more of its nature than a single glance could perceive.

The first is the focussing of the searchlight of consciousness upon the object. The other is the holding of the white beam of light steadily and persistently on the object, until it yields up the secret of its details. So for things within; one may fix the inner glance for a moment on spiritual things, or one may hold the consciousness steadily upon them, until what was in the dark slowly comes forth into the light, and yields up its immortal secret. But this is possible only for the spiritual man, after the Commandments and the Rules have been kept; for until this is done, the thronging storms of psychical thoughts dissipate and distract the attention, so that it will not remain fixed on spiritual things. The cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word of the spiritual message.

3 When the perceiving consciousness in this meditative is wholly given to illuminating the essential meaning of the object contemplated, and is freed from the sense of separateness and personality, this is contemplation (samadhi).

Let us review the steps so far taken.

  1. The beam of perceiving consciousness is focused on a certain region or subject, through the effort of attention.
  2. Then this attending consciousness is held on its object
  3. There is the ardent will to know its meaning, to illumine it with comprehending thought.
  4. All personal bias—all desire merely to indorse a previous opinion and so prove oneself right, and all desire for personal profit or gratification must be quite put away. There must be a purely disinterested love of truth for its own sake. Thus is the perceiving consciousness made void, as it were, of all personality or sense of separateness.

The personal limitation stands aside and lets the All-consciousness come to bear upon the problem. The Oversoul bends its ray upon the object, and illumines it with pure light.

4 When these 3, Attention, Meditation Contemplation, are exercised at once, this is perfectly concentrated Meditation (sanyama).

When the personal limitation of the perceiving consciousness stands aside, and allows the All-conscious to come to bear upon the problem, then arises that real knowledge which is called a flash of genius; that real knowledge which makes discoveries, and without which no discovery can be made, however painstaking the effort.

For genius is the vision of the spiritual man, and that vision is a question of growth rather than present effort; though right effort, rightly continued, will in time infallibly lead to growth and vision. Through the power thus to set aside personal limitation, to push aside petty concerns and cares, and steady the whole nature and will in an ardent love of truth and desire to know it; through the power thus to make way for the All-consciousness, all great men make their discoveries.

Newton, watching the apple fall to the earth, was able to look beyond, to see the subtle waves of force pulsating through apples and worlds and suns and galaxies, and thus to perceive universal gravitation. The Oversoul, looking through his eyes, recognized the universal force, one of its own children.

Darwin, watching the forms and motions of plants and animals, let the same august consciousness come to bear on them, and saw infinite growth perfected through ceaseless struggle. He perceived the superb process of evolution, the Oversoul once more recognizing its own. Fraunhofer, noting the dark lines in the band of sunlight in his spectroscope, divined their identity with the bright lines in the spectra of incandescent iron, sodium and the rest, and so saw the oneness of substance in the worlds and suns, the unity of the materials of the universe.

Once again the Oversoul, looking with his eyes, recognized its own. So it is with all true knowledge. But the mind must transcend its limitations, its idiosyncrasies; there must be purity, for to the pure in heart is the promise, that they shall see God.