Dhyana: One-pointedness in Raja Yoga


Dhyana, the flow of meditation, is the seventh limb of Raja, the Royal path of Yoga. Raja is  also known as Astanga, the Eightfold path of Yoga

A one-pointed mind is necessary for any one desiring success in any field. One-pointedness is also an essential prerequisite for anyone who wants greater spiritual awareness. But what is a one pointed mind?

It is difficult to understand one-pointedness since most of us have not really experienced it.  Sages say that we have divided and scattered minds. If we understand what they mean by that, we will be better able to understand one-pointedness. So what do the yogis mean by divided? And how are these divisions scattered?

Antahkarana: The 4 aspects of the Mind

The mind has three distinct parts or aspects and each of these has a distinct function to perform:

  • Buddhi is the higher mind, it knows, it judges and decides. It is your inner voice of Wisdom, the fountain of Intuition and your Teacher within.
  • Ahamkara, literally the I-maker, has a tendency to identify with particular thoughts  such as "I am ugly, I am clever, I am weak, I am old, I am a man" and create a self-identity you call Me. 
  • Manas has a dual role, it works as an interface between the internal and external worlds and coordinates the senses.
  • Chitta is the vast and powerful storehouse of our memories, emotions, fears, expectations and desires.

To understand how these 4 aspects of the mind function let us take an example:

There is a difference of opinion between a boss and his employee. The boss knows that his employee is right but cannot admit it. Let us try to analyse the situation. Does the boss really know that his employee is right? No! It is not the boss, but his Buddhi, his voice of inner Wisdom that knows that his employee is right.  Why can't the boss admit that he is wrong? Because he believes, "I am always right." Who is this I? It is Ahamkara, the I-maker, that takes on different identities. If Ahamkara has a strict and rigid set of self-identities, then Manas, the coordinator between the internal and external worlds acts upon the instructions from Ahamkara, and not upon those from Buddhi.

Conflicts between the 3 aspects of the Mind

Whenever there is a conflict between the parts then the mind is divided amongst itself; when these parts pull us in different directions our mind is said to be scattered. 

Such conflicts are easily visible in our daily life, particularly when we need to take a decision. "Should I do my meditation practice or not?" Buddhi says, "Of course!" But Ahamkara is identified to a thought that says, "I am lazy."  Such a mind is fighting itself. 

Ahamkara identifies with different thoughts and these thoughts may be in conflict. As you go to bed at night, a question comes to your mind, "Should I wake up early or not?" Now Ahamkara still identified with the thought, "I am lazy" would like you to sleep longer.  But since you started practising meditation, Ahamkara has acquired a new identity, "I am a yogi." So now you want to wake up at 4 a.m. These two identities come from Ahamkara and contradict each other and the mind is being pulled in opposite directions. When you explore the uncharted territory of your own mind you may discover that Ahamkara often pretends to be Buddhi.

There is still another kind of division. If you ask yourself, "Should I have another chocolate," Buddhi says,"You had one, that's enough." However, an untrained Manas led by a strong habit of the senses, continues to crave for more chocolate. 

In the Bhagavad-Gita, Arjuna is faced with the conflict: "Should I fight or not?" Sri Krishna, the voice of Wisdom, guides him out of his dilemma. It is important that you follow the guidance of your own Buddhi, to attain a pure, one-pointed mind. But do not force these "right" and "good" decisions on yourself. 

For instance, you love clothes, good food, cars and a luxurious life. One day in a burst of enthusiasm, you decide to give up all luxuries. Buddhi has finally recognized the futility of a materialistic way of life. But is it wise to suddenly give it all up?

Analyse the situation again. Perhaps you have merely added another identity, "I am a meditator" and thus should live a simple life. This new identity is in conflict with the older and deeper identity of the materialist. The result is once again a divided and scattered mind. This conflict between Buddhi and Manas is common in a world where external and internal values are not in harmony. 

Supreme Non-Violence and a healthy Internal Dialogue

So what to do? Mental chatter about the rising prices of petrol comes from the identity of a worried householder, worry about the future of your child from an anxious parent. So many identities co-exist. Desires for sweets comes from untrained senses and Manas and the gentle voice cautioning you against dishonesty is Buddhi talking. 

Observe and analyse the following divisions in the mind between:

  • Buddhi and an untrained Manas that is led stray by the senses 
  • The different identities of Ahamkara itself 
  • Buddhi and Ahamkara, where Ahamkara may try to disguise itself as Buddhi
  • Chitta and the other parts of the mind

Paying atttention to your own speech and actions increases awareness of your mental states and it helps trains Manas. A healthy Internal dialogue also known as Atma Vichara helps resolve conflicts and convinces Ahamkara and Manas to follow Buddhi. When these three aspects function harmoniously together and work towards the same goal then our mind is one-pointed and we can meditate effortlessly. When Ahamkara and Manas follow Buddhi spontaneously without force, then the mind is one-pointed. 

To gently resolve these internal conflicts is an act of supreme Non-violence. Now you are ready to work with Chitta and its limitless potential.