Ekagrata

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Ekagrata (Sanskrit: एकाग्रता) - means intentness in the pursuit of one object, close and undisturbed attention. [1] Tapas and Brahmacharya are part of the Vedic exercises meant for attaining self-control. The Upanishads emphasise on the practice of austere virtues; tapas destroys sins, weakens indriyas, purifies citta and leads to ekagrata. The Yoga school also lays equal emphasis on self-control and gain of Abhyasa through regular practice of meditation, through self-imposed discipline to prevent detraction of thought and to acquire Ekagrata. [2]

Overview[edit]

The state of determined and continuous concentration is called Ekāgratā (one-pointed); this is obtained by integrating the psycho-mental flux (sarvārthatā i.e. variously directed, discontinuous, diffused attention) which is yogah cittavritti-nirodhayah which means – Yoga is suppression of psycho-mental states (Yoga Sutras 1-2). In this yogic state of ekagrata one gains genuine will.[3] Ekagrata is a sattvic state of mind, in which state one-pointedness of mind is reached and in which state of concentration one experiences profound happiness different from the experience of pleasure one obtains through contact of the senses with the objects.[4] One cannot obtain proper concentration or ekagrata if the body is in a tiring or uncomfortable posture or if the breathing is improper. Comfortable posture or asana relaxes the body and the mind.[5]

Vedic injunction[edit]

Meditation purifies the mind as a step leading to spiritual upliftment. Rishi Pavitra Angirasa (Rig Veda IX.83.1-2) states that the person who has not subjected his body to the intense heat of the Tapas is not ready to experience the highest Bliss (Paramananda); through Tapas one attains the purest state of the divine – तपोष्पवीत्रं विततं दिविस्पदे.[6] And, Rishi Kutsa Angirasa prays thus (Rig Veda IX.97.48):

नू नस्त्वं रथिरो देव सोम परिं स्रव चम्वोः पूयमान |
अप्सु स्वादिष्ठो मधुमां ऋतावा देवो न यः सविता सत्यमन्मा ||

“O the self-effulgent creator of all things! You are the strength, who while purifying all places and objects make all watery (subtle) things sweet and pleasant to taste; because of your divine powers do quickly find your abode within us. Reside in our mind as Truth.”

The word, सत्यमन्मा, indicates the presence of the inspired (the praying person) and the one who inspires (the Paramatman), the link between the inspired and the inspirer is too subtle to be described, it can only be felt. The inspired person is ever filled with faith and devotion which increase through meditation. The two conditioning factors viz. identity with the mind (the Inner Atman)and identity with the vital-force of the body (the Outer Atman), have a direct impact on the act of meditation and its outcome.[7]

Badarayana’s interpretation[edit]

In the Sutra – यत्रैकाग्रता तत्राविशेषात् (IV.i.11), Badarayana uses the term, Ekagrata, to mean concentration when in the Fourth chapter of his Brahma Sutras, he deals with the results (phala) of the earlier discussions narrated in the Third chapter of the practices connected with the conceptions (Vidyā|Vidyas) of the qualified (Saguna Brahman) Brahman and absolute (Nirguna Brahman) Brahman. Badarayana insists that - a) the mental acts referred to in the instructions such as – “The Self should be realized – should be heard of, reflected on, and meditated upon” of Brihadaranyaka Upanishad IV.v.6, or “He is to be searched after, He is to be desired to be known” of Chandogya Upanishad VIII.vii.1, are meant to be repeated since the Upanishads say – “You meditate repeatedly on the Udgita (separately) as the (sun and its) rays” (Chandogya Upanishad I.v.11) because after hearing about Brahman only once realization of the Self as Brahman is not possible for all, - b) Brahman is to be realized as one’s own Self – Tat Tvam Asi (Chandogya Upanishad VI.vii.7), identity with symbols is to be avoided, the idea of the sun etc., by way of meditation in a sitting posture with mind concentrated, are to be superimposed on Brahman, and the subsidiaries – “meditate on this sevenfold sama as the sun” (Chandogya Upanishad II.ix.1), and - c) meditation is to be undertaken wherever the mind gets concentrated because there is no specification in this regard. [8]

Bhagavad Gita’s elucidation[edit]

The seeker after Truth should mediate with his mind fixed on the Lord (Machchittāh) and absorbed in Him (Matparāh), he should meditate on the form of God on which he can easily fix his mind only then can he abide in the (formless) Lord consisting of supreme Bliss (Nirvānaparamām) and everlasting Peace (Shāntima) (Bhagavad Gita VI.14-15). The fixing of the mind on God alone is not possible without ekagrata which as the means to knowing Him includes surrender to God. After explaining that the one, who is free from desires and void of possessions, with his mind disciplined through Abhyasayoga (constituted by Yama, Niyama, asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana and Dhyana) in the form of practice of meditation, and thinking of nothing else, constantly engages in contemplation of God, he attains the supremely effulgent divine Purusha (God), (Bhagavad Gita VIII.viii) Krishna tells Arjuna (Bhagavad Gita IX.13-14):-

महात्मानस्तु मां पार्थ दैवीं प्रकृतिमाश्रिताः |
भजन्त्यनन्यमनसो ज्ञात्वा भूतादिमव्ययम् ||
“On the other hand, Arjuna, great souls who have embraced the divine nature, knowing Me as the prime source of all lives and the imperishable eternal, worship Me constantly with none else in mind.”
सततं कीर्तयन्तो मां यतन्तश्च दृढवर्ताः |
नमस्यन्तश्च मां भक्त्या नित्ययुक्ता उपासते ||
“Constantly chanting My names and glories and striving for My realization, and bowing again and again to Me, those devotees of firm resolve, ever united with Me through meditation, worship Me with single-minded devotion.”

In which context, Jayadayal Goyandaka explains that the terms Mahātmānāh and Ananyamanasah, both, stand for devotees who have by embracing the divine nature of God adopted and cultivated Sattvic virtues and whose mind possessed of exclusive love for God does not feel attracted towards anything else than God. The term, Drdhavratāh, applies to those who are steadfast in their vow and firm in their resolve, and the adverb, Satatam, denotes continuity of practice which qualifies the verb, Upāsate. The term, Nityayuktāh, refers to those devotees who constantly keep their mind ever fixed on God uninterruptedly.[9]


Patanjali’s instructions[edit]

Patanjali highlights the importance of continuous practice of prescribed methods to gain ekagrata, the state of the meditative mind free of diverted attention etc.; and thereafter explains that:-

ततः पुनःशान्तोदितौ तुल्यप्रत्ययौ चित्तस्यैकाग्रतापरिणामः | - Yoga Sutra III.12

intentness on a single point (ekagrata) of the thinking principle (Citta) gives rise to equilibrium between placid states (previously accumulated impressions) and risen states (present eagerness to gain more knowledge) of modifications (of the mind) i.e. when these two states of mind remain unchanged and are brought to the state of stillness.[10] Ekagrata and Dharana do not differ from each other; one- pointedness of the mind is a characteristic feature of Dharana which feature assists in achieving and maintaining the linear continuity of ekagrata.[11] Dharana is a state of ekagrata when the mind, instead of ramifying outwardly, converges towards a particular concept or object, the state of becoming involved with the Ishvara concept in a continuous sense in the direction of inquiry is Dhyana, to either understand the complexity of the concept or to communicate with the object of one-pointed attention. In the state of ekagrata there is clarity and there is the right direction for one to follow; yoga begins with ekagrata and culminates in the state of nirodha. [12] One cannot obtain proper concentration or ekagrata if the body is in a tiring or uncomfortable posture or if the breathing is improper. Comfortable posture or asana relaxes the body and the mind, and one breathes regularly and freely.[13]

Benefits of Ekagrata[edit]

The ability to guide prana into the desired parts of the body is achieved through practice of pranayama and ekagrata. Patanjali states that pranayama weakens the obstruction of light (Yoga sutra II.52). Obstruction to light (true knowledge) is caused by avidya. Ekagrata gives the joy of experiencing calmness and stillness, the experience of this inner-joy cannot be explained. The practice of Dharana gives the ability to see one’s own mind, one starts looking inwards deeply.[14] If ekagrata is lost the full power of intention to create goals to be achieved is lost. Intentions afflicted by doubts, fears and reactive thoughts break and diffuse the energy of intentions.[15] The mind which is the cause of Sankalpa ('notion')-Vikalpa ('alternative') must be controlled, it must be bound. Ekagrata assists in keeping one’s own mind bound and still.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Sanskrit Dictionary". Spokensanskrit.de. 
  2. ^ The Problem of the Indian Polity. Gyan Publishing House. p. 69. 
  3. ^ Mercia Eliade. From Medicine Men to Muhammad. Harper and Row. p. 73. 
  4. ^ The Sivananda companion to Meditation. Sivananda Yoga Center. p. 58. 
  5. ^ W.Jane Boncroft. Suggestopedia and Language. Routledge. p. 136. 
  6. ^ Ravinder Kumar Soni. The Illumination of Knowledge. GBD Books. p. 146. 
  7. ^ Ravinder Kumar Soni. The Illumination of Knowledge. GBD Books. p. 151. 
  8. ^ Sankaracarya. Brahma Sutra Bhasya. Advaita Ashrama. pp. 812–833. 
  9. ^ Jayadayal Goyandaka. Srimadbhagavadagita Tattvavivecani. Gita Press, Gorakhpur. p. 400. 
  10. ^ Vinod Verma. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: A Scientific Exposition. Clarion Books. p. 116. 
  11. ^ Georg Feuerstein. The Philosophy of Classical Yoga. Inner Traditions. p. 84. 
  12. ^ T.K.V.Desikachar. Religiousness in Yoga. University Press of America. p. 228,251. 
  13. ^ W.Jane Boncroft. Suggestopedia and Language. Routledge. p. 136. 
  14. ^ Vinod Verma. Yoga: ANatural Way of Being. Gayatri Books. p. 120,. 
  15. ^ Tobin Hart. The Secret Spiritual World of Children. New World Library. p. 195.