Every major accomplishment in human life involves some form of concentration. We live in a modern world that systematically distracts and disperses the mind, thus making it more difficult to achieve a state of concentration. Cell phones, internet surfing, music, flashing lights, entertainment, fast moving vehicles, powerful storms, news media gathering sensational reports to place before us 24 hours a day. It is a wonder that we can concentrate at all in the modern world! Those who achieve even a small modicum of concentration are able to achieve success in their field of focus far beyond that of most others who remain distracted and whose consciousness is confused, diffused and fragmented by falling victim to the distracting forces of modern day life.
For spiritual practitioners the development of the power of concentration is an important milestone in achieving spiritual realisation. Those who have a spiritual calling are frequently asked to avoid involvement with all the distracting influences, so they can focus on the object of their aspiration.
Some paths of yoga set forth intricate and highly detailed methods to train the concentration, such as the use of visualisation and the precise coordination and ordering of beings, shapes, colors and relationships. Mandalas, yantras, thangkas all represent methods that show or symbolize some force, event or relationship in the world of matter or the world of spirit. Disciples are asked to visualize these forms internally and to re-create them with utmost precision. This leads to a state of one-pointed concentration.
Raja Yoga also describes the processes whereby one attains “one pointed” concentration, which this path considers to be an essential aspect of the development of the super-conscient state characterized by the experience of samadhi.
Each of the major forms of yoga in the triple paths of knowledge, devotion and works, involves concentration on the respective objects of each path, whether it is light or some specific concept, a deity, a dedicated form of action, or some state of awareness to be developed and held intact, such as aspiration, devotion, surrender, etc.
The Mother observes: “… whatever you may want to do in life, one thing is absolutely indispensable and at the basis of everything, the capacity of concentrating the attention. If you are able to gather together the rays of attention and consciousness on one point and can maintain this concentration with a persistent will, nothing can resist it — whatever it may be, from the most material physical development to the highest spiritual one. But this discipline must be followed in a constant and, it may be said, imperturbable way; not that you should always be concentrated on the same thing — that’s not what I mean, I mean learning to concentrate. And materially, for studies, sports, all physical or mental development, it is absolutely indispensable. And the value of an individual is proportionate to the value of his attention.”
“And from the spiritual point of view it is still more important. There is no spiritual obstacle which can resist a penetrating power of concentration. For instance, the discovery of the psychic being, union with the inner Divine, opening to the higher spheres, all can be attained by an intense and obstinate power of concentration — but one must learn how to do it.”
“There is nothing in the human or even in the superhuman field, to which the power of concentration is not the key. … You can be the best athlete, you can be the best student, you can be an artistic, literary or scientific genius, you can be the greatest saint with that faculty. And everyone has in himself a tiny little beginning of it — it is given to everybody, but people do not cultivate it.”
Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter IV Growth of Consciousness First Steps and Foundation, pp. 69-70
Dharana Darshan: Yogic, Tantric, Upanishadic Practices of Concentration and Visualization, by Swami Niranjanananda Sarawati