18. The Art of Concentration

A teacher was once teaching with great interest a tough topic. At the end of his lecture, he asked the students, ‘Did it enter ?’ one student promptly answered, ‘only the tail is left out,’ It took one long minute to understand what he said. The teacher meant, ‘Did my teaching enter your brains?’ The student who was watching a rat struggling to enter a small hole meant, ‘the body has entered, but the tail of the rat is left out.’

This episode shows us students do have concentration, but not on the essential! The irony of life is - they should learn a lesson 10 times and watch (if at all) a movie once, but they do the reverse. They learn a lesson once and leave it to its fate. They watch a movie 10 ten times till they can repeat every scene, every dialogue wonderfully well. Even if they are studying, their mind goes back to the interesting scenes in the movie. Do they think of a mathematical formula when they watch a movie? Of course not! Where lies the problem? In oneself!

Lord Krishna proclaims in the Bhagad Gita
Yato Yato nischarati manaschanchala mastiram
Tatastato niyamaita datmanyeva vasam nayet (6-26)

The mind which is restless and fleeting should be brought back from the objects it is interested in; it should be counseled and should make to concentrate on atma Jnana. This is meant for a Sadhaka practicing Dhyana to seek Moksha. God has already explained ‘Jnana Dhyanam Visistate’. Dhyana is thousand times better than theoretical knowledge. The ways and means of Dhyana prescribed can be extended to the ways and means of concentration to student to reach his goal.

1. Suchoudese - A student should select a clean environment. A congenial atmosphere plays an important role. If the student has Shah Rukh Khan’s photo or Aiswarya Roy’s poster in his room, even as he starts studying he looks at him/her and is lost in the movies he has seen of him/her. So the room should contain books and some good poster with motivating captions or quotations.

2. Rahasistala - A student should select a lonely place to study. ‘Ek Niranjan’, ‘Do Gadabid’ is the saying. Combined studies will not help. They are more interested in what the others are doing or they start talking. A student may not go for combined study but still he sits in the main hall, in the midst of the family and studies. That’s wrong again. He is not studying for publicity sake. He is studying to seek knowledge. So he should seek a lonely place where he can carry on his work undisturbed.

3. Stira sukha asanam - A student should sit in convenient, comfortable position when he seeks to study. The place of study should not be too high or low. His body, neck and head should be in one perpendicular line while he studies. The energy flows from the lower level to the higher part then. Krishna said, ‘Samam Kaya Siro Greevam’. If the body, neck and head are not in one straight line, the energy cannot flow. So he should not lie down and read or sit in a reclining pose.

4. Lalayeth Chitabalakam - A student may have every intention of studying, but he can’t concentrate. His mind fleets at the first opportunity. What should he do then? The mind is like a small boy. Just as we convince a small boy, he should convince his mind to cooperate. If he scolds, it reacts in an angry way. He should explain to the mind, ‘these pleasures derived out of watching movies, playing games, chatting with friends etc are but temporary pleasures. They bring about my downfall. These three years (especially 10th class and Inter) are crucial years for me. They bring about a turning point in me. They decide my career. So let me concentrate on my studies. Don’t deviate me from my path.’ He should repeatedly send suggestions like that.

5. Uttistata ! Prapya Varan nibhodata - Beware! Wake up and come out of your earthly comforts. The student should leave his temptations for food, comfort, pleasure and entertainment; he should continuously counsel his mind and tune it in new line of thought.

6. The stage of return - A student may convince his mind to be good and may try to study well but how long? He goes back to his old, wild ways at the earliest temptation. But he should not yield. He should hold it tight and should not fall a prey to his pleasures.

Once a devotee asked Ramakrishna Parama Hamsa, “I am not able to concentrate during meditation. Why don’t you find me a way out! “The saint answered, ‘Look! Suppose a dog comes to your house one day and being impressed by it, you offer it food. It keeps coming to your house. At a later date, you are vexed with it and you want to drive it away, but it won’t leave you easily. You should stop giving food and should start beating it till it runs away. The same way, your mind is lured to the pleasures of the sense organs. So it will not yield to you easily, but still you should not become its slave. You should not provide those comforts. Instead you should attack it with the stick of reasoning. Immediately it will not yield, but continuous practice will get the expected results.’

7. Pratyaahara - A deviation is the only method. When the cattle graze in the neighbouring fields unknowingly, how can we stop that habit? Provide better food for them in your own house or field. When good food is available at home, why will they graze outside? The same way, when the mind is after fleeting joys, show it the everlasting joy, the permanent bliss. It will never seek the temporary pleasure. If a stray student gets the pleasure of getting good marks and being appreciated, then he will not fall astray.

8. Strong will - There is no opening for cowards in the path of success.
Muscles of iron, nerves of steel and gigantic walls are expected of a Sadhaka and of a student. Only a bold person can face the challenges on the way. When Vivekananda was walking along once, monkeys were chasing him. Then a Sadhu addressed him, ‘Face the devil.’ Accordingly Vivekananda turned back and the monkeys ran away. So a student should have courage and boldness.

9. Sanai Sanai - Slowly If a student is bold enough, he can control his mind, slowly and slowly. The rope round the neck should be untied slowly. If we make haste, it will cut through the neck. So Vairagya should be developed in small doses. Some Sadhakas get existed, leave everything at once and take up Sanyasa. They cannot get adjusted there, nor can they come back home. They are great sufferers. So Krishna said, slowly, step by step do the Dhyana. A student, who never studied before, should start in small dozes, should study for an hour in the beginning and should slowly increase the timings.

10. Yuktahara Viharasya Yukta Chetasya Karmasu - food and rest should be taken in a limited way. Unlimited food and excessive rest bring ill health where as fasting and sleeplessness destroys the body and disables concentration (Refer to article Eat limited food). Sleep and food are essential factors but they should not be stressed too far. They should be in a moderate level. To reach the goal of success one requires two doctors. They are Doctor Diet and Doctor Quiet.

These are the preliminary arrangements for a Sadhaka on the path of Moksha. They can be, as illustrated throughout, extended to a student in the path of his success.

From the act of driving to act of learning
All that you require is the art of concentration.

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