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.


Krish from Germany:
Very nice article. Especially the observation on Ahamkara impersonating the Buddhi. But, how do we know for sure if a decision is coming from "Buddhi" or Ahamkara that disguises as Buddhi?

Radhika from THATfirst:
How can you tell that a person you know is your friend or means you harm? Through experience. As you go through life, you learn to differentiate between the two. The same is true in meditation. Distinguishing between ahamkara and buddhi comes with practice and experience. Ahamkara often impersonates as buddhi. In fact this is the crux of the matter. When you can unveil this mystery, you are an advanced meditator.

Shibu K from Dubai:
Mind blowing article about one pointedness. Specially about the inner voice. Very simply said what is innervoice with a nice example. I feel so happy when i read about that example. Thank you ma.

Balaji from Germany:
A good explanation of how all the different functions of the mind operate. Few points that stuck me were:
1. Manas - An interface between external and internal worlds' and coordinates the senses. Most of our spontaneous actions and reactions are linked to this. Also actions based on deep rooted habits.
2. When Ahamkara and Manas follow Buddhi spontaneously without force, then the mind is one-pointed' - The chatterbox in the mind is due to non adherence to Buddhi. It gives me an immense joy and peace when I just think of an one pointed mind ( A mind in which Manas and Ahamkara follows Buddhi without force).
Pranam to the Guru Parampara that continues to enlighten the seekers and guide them in their path.

Choi Yan yau from Australia:
Thank you Radhika ji.
Very insightful and practical article.
I have a query about ahamkara which you describe here as the sort of personalities that we identify with. I'm just wondering where the pure 'i' feeling fits in here? Is this what we would call hridaya? And is it this that becomes confused with and mixed with the personalities? Also, does buddhi not come with an 'i' feeling?

Many thanks
Yan x

Krishna from Darmstadt:
Very nice article. And such constructive advice about being aware of conflicts and self-violence inside ourselves, instead of having rigid ideas of right and wrong. Definitely, something I need to observe in myself, in order to resolve conflicts and let Buddhi shine through.

Suravi from Nepal:
A very good and practical article to attain one pointedness in our sadhana.A good way to calm down our scattered mind from internal dialogue and then slowly bringing that calmness in daily practice.Very insightful indeed..

Sreeram from Bangalore:
Thank you for this very insightful article, Radhikaji. Acquiring a one pointed mind is a goal into itself. There are many levels of challenges to be overcome. The 1st problem is to develop the intuition to recognize the voice of buddhi over those of Manas and ahamkara. Once this is done, we have to work on resolved the conflicts between different aspects of the mind. There may be conflicts between
1. Buddhi and Manas (force of habit) - in my opinion the challenge is to have enough awareness at the point Manas is set to carry you away to step back, recognize that you are being carried away by desires against your better judgement. I haven't experienced fear while having to resolve conflicts of this kind. I have to have enough will power to let the craving pass
2. Buddhi and ahamkara - this much tougher conflict to resolve as going against ahamkara generally brings forth fears. For eg, once I realised that my ahamakara of not looking silly in front of others is holding me back, I decided to consciously put myself in situations where I have to be visible. And this brought for intense fears of public embarrassment
3. Buddhi and chitta - I find it difficult to tell the influence of chitta in daily life. The only indication I notice of its influence is when I have strong desires, fears, feelings for which I can't tell the source. For eg sometimes I feel an instant connection with some people and and instant repulsion towards other people even though I know nothing about them.i don't know why I feel that way when it happens. Influence of chitta is a little more apparent in meditation when thoughts and images surface of things that you generally don't think about. I haven't learnt how to resolve conflicts of this kind, but my understanding of the process tells me it can only be done in meditation.

Antoine Howard from Atlanta Ga:
Great article. It reminds me that who we really are is not these identities that we often carry. The real challenge is for us to unlearn and relearn how to identify with our buddhi in every moment of the day. When we learn to live a life in constant alignment with our buddhi, that's when we will begin to experience a real life size flying carpet Ride as in the story of Aladdin.

Meeta jagtap from Bangluru:
Thanks, Radhika Ji for this clear explanation. I really love the way you have given examples. I also realized how when a situation comes, my mind starts going into the past grooves and how it starts identifying with 'I' whether it was being weak, good or right it's all about 'I' and when one thinks more about that 'I', it keeps on becoming stronger. Thanks for guiding us and letting us know how Atma Vichara can help us to resolve all these conflicts. I like this line - But do not force these "right" and "good" decisions on yourself.

Linda Burns from Oslo, Norway:
I realize that behind the clouds of ignorance(thoughts, feelings, desires) Buddhi shines a light that I see clearer and clearer as the layers of my ignorant mind become thinner.
Living in the periphery of my life, amongst the objects and things take me away from who I am. The gross senses are a strong force that I gently practice to weaken with the means of indifference.
Some days it's easier than others....when the kids fight over silly things, only want their ipads or dont listen, I do raise my voice and get angry. I react on the level of mind. In these situations the light of Buddhi is blocked by my (grosser) thoughts, feelings and desires.
As I practice meditation through the day I see how simple it is.
To soften and not take things too seriously- be gentle with myself and be at ease. To take deep breaths. To be less rigid. To learn from every situation. Every night before bed I ask myself what have I learned today?
Thankyou for this article and for sharing your knowledge on the path that leads to the truth.

Manisha S from USA:
When I finished reading this article some days back, the book recommendation at the end led me back to your beautiful reading of Tripura Rahasya on the THATFirst YouTube Channel where I was able to find where I last left off. Sure enough where I picked up again pointed me to exactly what I needed to hear in that moment -- or at least that's how it seemed to me. So in that case it seems that manas had rightly followed buddhi. (Or was that ahamkara justifying the hour spent listening on the channel instead of sleeping? Was there something that needed soothing in me?)

Now, using the information from the article above, let me evaluate what happened even before that: My senses allowed me to find and read the article above, because both ahamkara and buddhi were in harmony. There was not a conflict of which I am aware. However, I did not write a comment at that time. My plan had been to read, reflect, and return to write a comment. This course of action might appear to follow guidance from buddhi on the surface. But chitta was likely also at play, and probably so was ahamkara ... both of which ultimately led me to write the comment later than planned. On the two days during which I would have written the comment, there was an urgent set of circumstances that unexpectedly called for my attention. And, of course, I had the option to read the article sooner and give more time for reflection and response. With what thoughts is ahamkara identifying? What impressions contained in chitta are at play?

As I evaluate the situation with a framework based on the article above, I can look at any given situation with more detachment and clarity. Even the term 'internal conflict' is helpful when used in conjunction with an understanding of the different aspects of mind. A state of confusion is bound to follow naturally where two sets of directions are being offered to the driver. All the passengers need to be on the same page, or we'll just be going in circles! Who is really driving?

Having greater conviction that it is indeed possible to have everyone (all aspects of mind) come to an agreement gives me the courage to work towards resolving all internal conflicts! Rather than judging my thoughts and actions harshly, looking at situations with this framework also helps me to be more gentle with myself.

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