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Mudrashram Institute of Spiritual Studies

 

 

 

Stages of Concentration in Meditation

 

By George A. Boyd ©2005

Raja Yoga is a form of meditation that trains the attention to focus one-pointedly. The stages of relative concentration and absorption of the mind are shown below:

Stage

Process

Wandering mind

Mind free-associates. Sensory input, others' speech or behavior stimulates memories and ideas.

Abstracted Mind

Mind concentrates in one area, due to study and habits, so that one can tune out the senses. Marked by getting completely absorbed in a lecture, book or task.

One-Pointed Mind

Through practice of fixation of attention (dharana) on external and internal foci, the mind-stuff can be focused on one point and the individual can contemplate this object of meditation. At an advanced stage, attention and the attentional principle become united. This is called purusha dhyan.

Absorbed Mind

Through regular practice of meditation and prayer techniques, the individual can remain fixed and identified with an inner center: a nucleus of identity, the spirit or ensouling entity. The attention is readily absorbed through laya and remains fixed within.

Empowered Mind

With more progress on the Path, the individual can begin to channel abilities of the Superconscious mind through the personality, the astral body and the attentional principle.

Universal Mind

With yet more progress on the Path, the individual becomes established in a universal nexus where she or he can use spiritual abilities with all lives. Here the individual assumes the forms of teacher, initiator and guide.

Origin Mind

With the liberation of the ensouling entity, its vehicles and the spirit, the attention returns to its origin and becomes completely still, absorbed into its origin.

Neurologically, the brain gates perception of sensory input in a structure of the midbrain called the reticular activating system (RAS). This effectively filters incoming sensory images of pain, pressure, touch, heat, cold, smell, taste, hearing and sight. The cortex appears to exert some control over midbrain structures so those selective gates can be closed. This forms the neurological substrate of Pratyahara, the withdrawal of attention and energy from the senses.

Closing down the senses permits concentration, where the range of attentional focus is narrowed. The object that is the focus of concentration becomes the figure, and the remainder of sensory input, memories, thoughts and feelings becomes the ground, delegated to the periphery.

The ability to focus the mind on one subject is the foundation of academic and vocational learning. This focusing of the attention likely produces a mandala-like web of neural pathways that forms a local associated network with several rings of ordered knowledge. The formation of this neural target makes learning of new facts easier, as new information can be readily associated with existing neural pathways within this zone. Different subjects may form their webs in discrete areas of the cortex, allowing the student to differentiate one "subject" from another. Interdisciplinary learning may be conceived as the inter-linking of these "subject" webs that create convergence of information.

While the ability of the individual to train neurological pathways to create associated webs likely forms the basis of the abstracted mind, to move to the next level of the one-pointed mind requires the individual to isolate the mind-stuff. This training of the attention uses directed gaze with intention (Tratakam) to concentrate the mind on specific environmental and intrapsychic focal points, and to hold it there for extended periods of time. The rudiments of this practice, called Raja Yoga, are taught in the Mudrashram® Master Course in Meditation.

Through sustained practice of meditation, the individual begins to experience effortless absorption of the mind in an inner center. Long-term association of the attention with this center leads to the state of identification. Many religious groups and spiritual sects use selected meditation techniques to bring about identification with a nucleus of identity, one of the octaves of the spirit or the ensouling entity, through this means.

As the potentials of the ensouling entity unfold through the agency of effective transformational methods, concentration progresses through the empowered, universal and liberated stages.

In the empowered stage, the mind is focused by directed inspiration of the ensouling entity. Here the attention simply listens, sees or feels this inner stream from the ensouling entity. This inspiration may be expressed as speech, song, writing, dancing, skilled movement (e.g., athletic performance) and other creative modalities. It may alternately be expressed in cognitive, affective or perceptual frameworks, giving rise to scientific or philosophical theorization, psychotherapeutic insights or so-called psychic (metavisional) sensitivity.

Universal mind, called Sabikalpa Samadhi, is the state of the Initiate. These individuals can work with many others to provide spiritual guidance and empowerment.

When the ensouling entity reaches Liberation, each of its vehicles is absorbed back into their origin. As attention has no place to adhere in this deep state of absorption, it is drawn like a dust particle into a powerful vacuum. It rides this vortex of energy and comes to rest in its origin. This state is called Nirbikalpa Samadhi. It is the very deepest state of meditative absorption.

 

 

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