The Bhagavad Gita on Concentration
Excerpts from God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita
by Paramahansa Yogananda
Their thoughts immersed in That (Spirit), their souls one with Spirit, their sole allegiance and devotion given to Spirit, their beings purified from poisonous delusion by the antidote of wisdom—such men reach the state of nonreturn.
—The Bhagavad Gita V:17
'The state of nonreturn’ is referred to in the Bible: "Him that over-cometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out (shall reincarnate no more)." [Revelation 3:12]
Devotees who use their power of discrimination to free themselves from identification with the drama of creation and behold in it only the play of the cosmic light and the shadows of delusion; who concentrate on the cosmic beam and not on the shadows; who perceive their souls as rays of the Cosmic Sun; who are continuously absorbed in It; who have destroyed delusion by wisdom—those sages attain liberation.
So long as a person has obsessive desires for the excitement of viewing motion pictures, so long he will seek no higher pastime. Similarly, so long as a man is interested in and attached to the drama of his present incarnation, at death he will depart with unfinished desires and be compelled to return to earth to experience other motion picture sequences, until all his fascinations have been fulfilled.
By nonattachment, by beholding the scenes of life as a divine panorama, and by meditation and ecstasy, man gradually realizes that God is the sole Director of the cosmic cinema. The wisdom so acquired brings about the reunion of the individualized soul with Spirit, thus ending—at last and forever—the long separation.
Inherent in this verse is another interpretation intended for guidance in the sadhana (spiritual practices) of the meditating devotee, according to the following rendering:
Thinking on That,
merged in That,
established in That,
solely devoted to That,
they go whence there is no return,
their sins dispelled by wisdom.
Thinking on That:
Holding the attention on the object of meditation; for example, keeping the mind concentrated on the inner sound of the great Aum (Amen), the universal cosmic vibration that is the manifested creative consciousness and power of God. The thinking state implies duality of experience: two poles, one upward toward Spirit and one downward toward matter.
Merged in That:
Filled with the universal Aum vibration, excluding the intrusion of all thoughts born of the sentient mind.
This second stage of concentration transcends the "thinking state"; it is oneness with the object of meditation experienced through the pure intuition of the soul.
The merged state of concentration brings the devotee in direct touch and friendship with the Spirit through Aum. It is a blissful state filling the devotee to overflowing with confidence and faith in God. But the merged state in the beginning is not stable and abiding. Unless it is oft repeated and the habit correspondingly formed, it is liable to disappear and be lost whenever the devotee is beset by the bad habit of mental restlessness in meditation, or when he resumes his material activities after his meditations. Hence, this state is transitory because bad habits reappear as soon as new good habits and experiences complete their debut and make their exit. Devotees whose bad habits are strong easily become discouraged when confronted with the apparent unstability of spiritual experiences. Doubts arise, and the faithless may relegate spiritual experiences to the realm of impractical mysticism. The fault lies in the practitioners' lack of perseverance to make permanent their spiritual gains, the attainment of the third or established state of divine communion.
Established in That:
Permanently and continuously abiding in the state of divine oneness, regardless of one's external activities (the nirvikalpa state).
Having mastered these three stages of concentration, thus changing the focus of the consciousness from matter to Spirit, the devotee no longer harbors any desire save devotion to God and to live for Him alone.
In such devotees, all sins (past and present karma) are dispelled by the wisdom-light of God-realization, even as the accumulated darkness of night vanishes with the coming of the dawn. These devotees are released thereby from the dizzying whirl of the wheel of birth-death-rebirth. They "go no more out" from the presence of God. (p.554)