Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi


Excerpt from the chapter Fixed Consciousness ~ Dhāraṇā, Dhyāna and Samādhi (Basic Yoga Sūtras)

Reality Check

All of the foregoing is the description of classical yoga practice. Yet five thousand years ago Arjuna admitted that he had a problem with it — even though he was being personally instructed by Yogeśvara, the master of yoga Lord Śrī Krishna. Here is the exchange:

Arjuna said, "O Madhusūdana, the system of yoga which You have summarized appears impractical and unendurable to me, for the mind is restless and unsteady.For the mind is restless, turbulent, obstinate and very strong, O Krishna, and to subdue it, I think, is more difficult than controlling the wind.”

Lord Śrī Krishna said, "O mighty-armed son of Kuntī, it is undoubtedly very difficult to curb the restless mind, but it is possible by constant practice and by detachment. For one whose mind is unbridled, self-realization is difficult work. But he whose mind is controlled and who strives by right means is assured of success. That is My opinion.” —BG 6.33-36

Swami Śivānanda Sarasvatī (1887-1963) gave a description in his book Fourteen Lessons on Raja Yoga that concentrating the mind on one point for twelve seconds is dhāraṇā; concentration for twelve dhāraṇās (around two and a half minutes) is one dhyāna; meditation for twelve dhyānas (nearly twenty nine minutes) is samādhi. That sounds like a clear and practical description. But can anyone actually do that now?

Which leads to the question: What is the “right means” in this day and age?

“Chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, read Bhagavad-gītā. Then take prasādam. Then go to office or work. So in this way, if your mind is in Kṛṣṇa and if you act accordingly, then that is perfection…There is no question of changing your position. But from that position you become Kṛṣṇa conscious.”

—Śrīla Prabhupāda, lecture, Bhagavad-gītā 7.1 — October 9, 1975, Durban