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Concentration

These are Frank Rhodehamel's notes of Swami Vivekananda's lecture given in Alameda
(California, USA) on April 16, 1900, and are reproduced here from his Complete
Works, 6: 123-25. Being "notes"-and not a verbatim report, like his other lectures in
the Complete Works-these are sketchy and may not represent the exact words spoken
by Vivekananda. But they give a fairly good indication of his ideas on the subject.
Concentration is the essence of all knowledge. Nothing can be done without concentration.
Ordinary people waste ninety per cent of thought force and therefore they are constantly committing
blunders. The trained mind never makes a mistake. When the mind is concentrated and turned
backward on itself, everything within us will be our servant, not our master. The Greeks applied their
concentration to the external world, and the result was perfection in art, literature, etc. The Hindu
concentrated on the internal world, upon the unseen realm in the Self, and developed the science of
Yoga.
Yoga means controlling the senses, will and mind. The benefit of its study is that we learn to
control instead of being controlled. Mind seems to be layer on layer. Our real goal is to cross all these
intervening strata of our being and find God. The end and aim of Yoga is to realize God. To do this we
must go beyond relative knowledge, go beyond the sense-world. The world is awake to the senses,
the children of the Lord are asleep on that plane. The world is asleep to the Eternal, the children of the
Lord are awake in that realm(1). There is but one way to control the senses-to see Him who is the
Reality in the universe. Then and only then can we really conquer our senses.
Concentration means restraining the mind into smaller and smaller limits. There are eight
processes for restraining the mind. The first is Yama, controlling the mind by avoiding externals. All
morality is included in this. Beget no evil. Injure no living creature. If you injure nothing for twelve
years, then even lions and tigers will go down before you. Practice truthfulness. Twelve years of
absolute truthfulness in thought, word, and deed gives us whatever we wish. Be chaste in thought,
word, and action. Chastity is the basis of all religions. Personal purity is imperative. Next is Niyama,
not allowing the mind to wander in any direction. Then comes Asana, posture. There are eighty-four
postures: but the best is the most natural to each person; that is, which can be kept longest with the
greatest ease. After this comes Pranayama, restraint of breath. Next is Pratyahara, drawing in of the
organs from their objects. Then comes Dharana, concentration, followed by Dhyana, contemplation or
meditation. (This is the kernel of the Yoga system.) And finally there is, Samadhi, superconsciousness.
The purer the body and mind, the quicker the desired result will be obtained. You must be
perfectly pure. Do not think of evil things, such thoughts will surely drag you down. If you are
perfectly pure and practice faithfully, your mind can finally be made a searchlight of infinite power.
There is no limit to its scope. But there must be constant practice and non-attachment to the world.
When we reach the superconscious state, body-consciousness melts away. Then alone does
we become free and immortal. To all external appearances, unconsciousness and superconsciousness
are the same; but they differ as a lump of clay from a lump of gold. The one whose whole soul is
given up to God has reached the superconscious plane.