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Signposts of Progress in Meditation
Part V: Stages of One-Pointedness & Stages of Concentration

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In this new feature of our website, we present every week a new selection of the teachings of Vedanta, taken from a variety of sources – lectures and writings of Swami Adiswarananda, Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Literature, and other spiritual texts.









Swami Adiswarananda

Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center

New York


Stages of One-Pointedness

Achievement of the state known as one-pointedness is another measure of progress in meditation. In describing the distinction between concentration, meditation, and samadhi, Swami Vivekananda says:

Fixing the mind on the lotus of the heart or on the centre in the head is what is called dharana [concentration]. Confined to one spot as the base, certain mental waves arise; these waves, not swallowed up by the other kinds of waves, by degrees become prominent while the latter recede and finally disappear. Next the multiplicity of the original waves gives place to unity and one wave only is left in the mind. This is dhyana, meditation. When no basis is necessary, when the whole of the mind has become one wave, has attained one-formedness, it is called samadhi.

Concentration, when it becomes spontaneous and uninterrupted, takes the form of meditation. In effortful concentration, the flow of the thought-waves (vrittis) of similar character is not smooth, because of the obstructions of contrary thoughts. Such flow is likened to the flow of water being poured from one vessel to another. While in the state of meditation, the flow of similar thought waves becomes like the flow of oil when it is poured from one container to another—a flow that is smooth and free from all interruptions and totally bereft of all self-consciousness. Patanjali mentions three stages of concentration: At first, the distracting impressions (samskaras) are merely held back but are not altogether obliterated by the impressions of the controlling thoughts, which are just gaining strength. At the next stage, the distracting impressions are completely suppressed by the controlling impressions, which stand out in prominence. At the third stage, there is only one continuous stream of controlling thoughts, succeeding each other in a spontaneous flow.


Stages of Concentration

The stage of concentration is another indicator of progress in meditation. Swami Vidyaranya, the author of Jivan Mukti Viveka, describes the stages of concentration:

Control of speech, i.e., silence, as is found in cows, horses, etc., is the first stage of that superconscious concentration; mindlessness, as is found in children, idiots, etc., is the second stage; absence of egoity, as is experienced in lassitude, is the third stage; and the absence of the great principle—mahat tattvam—as in sleep, is the fourth stage. With this quaternion of stages in view, it has been said thus:

"[One] should attain quietude by degrees [i.e., by stages]" (Bhagavad Gita 6.25). In this attainment of tranquillity intellect set in patience is the means. Infinite patience is required in controlling the great principle, egoity, mind, and senses like speech, etc., which are flowing outward with a tremendous speed, just like a torrent tearing away its banks.

Intellect—buddhi—[here] means discrimination. After examining whether control over the previous stage has been gained or not and if [it is] found gained, then the attempt at the next stage is made. If not gained, then the same should be attempted again—thus one should very carefully take note of the progress in the course....

The organ of speech has a twofold function: ordinary speech and vaidika (vedic) speech. The ordinary is in the form of usual conversation, etc., and the vedic is in the form of muttering passages, etc., from the scriptures. Of them, the ordinary speech causes distraction in various ways; therefore the yogi should eschew it even when he is risen from concentration. Hence the smrti has it thus:

"Silence, yogic posture, [concentration,] practice of meditation, fortitude, living in solitude, desirelessness and equableness—these seven are [prescribed] for the single staff carrying monk" (Narada Parivrajaka Upanisad 4.25).

In the concentration of restraint, muttering, etc., should be given up. So this is the first stage—the speech stage. This stage should be brought under firm control first by effort alone in a matter of days or months or years; afterwards [one] should attempt the second stage—the mental plane. Otherwise [if attempts are made at many stages at a time], failure to conquer the first stage will lead to the collapse of all yogic stages, even as the many storeyed house collapses at the breakdown of the first storey. Though the eye, etc., are also to be controlled, but they should be understood to have been included in the speech stage or mind stage.

To be continued

[Copyright Swami Adiswarananda]


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