One-pointedness brings fitness for meditation: The specialized training of an olympic athlete rests on a solid foundation of generalized physical fitness. Similarly, generalized training in one-pointedness is necessary so that meditation practices can advance. The particular methods suggested in these Sutras relate to the removal of obstacles through one-pointedness, as suggested in the previous sutras (1.30-1.32). Here are suggestions of Sutras 1.33-1.39:
Don't skip the basics: Skipping such basic training of the mind is tempting, but is a serious mistake for a student of meditation, and might result in meditation becoming nothing but a fight with your mind.
Few will go beyond these: Many schools of meditation emphasize only one method, such as meditation on kindness (1.33), breath (1.34), or some other object (1.39), failing to note that, while extremely useful, these are only preparatory practices for the subtler meditations and samadhi, as described in later chapters (Ch 2, Ch 3, Ch 4). Most people will settle for the calming benefits of the preparation, and will not pursue the subtler meditations that lead to Self-realization.
Stabilizing versus discriminative knowledge: It is very important to note that these contemplations are used to stabilize and clear the mind. The later practices are used for discriminative knowledge (2.26-2.29. 3.4-3.6). For example, if you are contemplating on friendliness (1.33), this is not being done to discriminate that it is a part of avidya or ignorance (2.5), and thus, set aside. In the later practices, you are discriminating and setting aside (3.4-3.6) what is due to avidya or ignorance (2.5).
In relationships, the mind becomes purified by cultivating feelings of
friendliness towards those who are happy, compassion for those who are
suffering, goodwill towards those who are virtuous, and indifference or
neutrality towards those we perceive as wicked or evil.
Each attitude is a type of meditation: Each of these four attitudes (friendliness, compassion, goodwill, and neutrality) is, in a sense, a meditation unto itself. While it is actually a preparation practice, it has become popular to use the word meditation in a very broad way, rather than as the specific state of dhyana (3.2), as normally used by the yogis. Some schools of meditation base their entire approach on one or more of these four attitudes. However, to the seeker of the absolute reality (1.3), these are practiced as valuable steps along the journey, but not the end itself.
Getting free from negativity with other people: In sutra 2.33-2.34, the question is posed as to what to do when one does not act or think in accordance with yogic values such as non-violence, but rather, has negative emotions. What is one to do with such strong negative thought patterns? The suggestion is made in those sutras, that we cultivate an opposite attitude by reminding ourselves (through internal dialogue) that holding onto this negative attitude is going to do nothing but bring unending pain and misery (2.34). It also points out that, in terms of the inner reaction and effects, there is really no difference between three kinds of actions:
To work with these four attitudes of friendliness, compassion, goodwill, and neutrality specifically, we can make much easier progress with the practices of the yamas (2.30) and the instructions to cultivate the opposite when we become negative (2.34).
Four perceptions of other people to cultivate: Here, in this practice, four specific types of people are mentioned (happy, suffering, virtuous, non-virtuous), how we perceive them, and what attitudes we might cultivate to stabilize, purify, or calm our own mind (attitudes of friendliness, compassion, goodwill, and neutrality).
These four encompass most of our relationships: By memorizing these four, and actively observing them in daily life, and during daily quiet time, it is much easier to see the vagaries of the mind, and to regulate them. Having a short list of four makes the process pretty easy to do. Many, if not most or all, of our relationship challenges with people encompass one or more of these four.
Have a specific antidote for each: Having a specific attitude to cultivate for each of the four also makes cultivating change much easier to do. It does not mean that you replace all of your other fine ideas about how to have good people relationships, but these four sure do make a useful practice.
Intentional meditation on these four attitudes: During daily meditation time, it can be very useful to spend some time reflecting on these four attitudes. You might do them all, or you might practice with only one of them for an extended period of time. Simply choose one of the four attitudes and allow some person or persons to arise in the mind field. You will notice your reactions, the coloring mentioned earlier (1.5). As your attention rests on that inner impression of that person, allow yourself to cultivate the positive or useful attitude. Gradually, the negativity or coloring weakens or attenuates (2.4). This is part of the preparation for meditation.
Talk to yourself: When you notice any of the negative attitudes above, it is very useful to literally remind yourself that this is not useful (2.33). You might literally say to yourself, "Mind, this is not useful. This attitude is going to bring nothing but pain. You need to let go of this." It is also good to remind yourself, "I need to cultivate friendliness with this person" (compassion, goodwill, or neutrality).
What to do with really "bad" people: It is common for meditators to question these four attitude meditations in relation to really "bad" people such as certain political or religious leaders, present or historical. How can I feel friendliness, compassion, goodwill, or acceptance towards someone like "him?" I'll not mention any names here, but you can easily think of some of them yourself. It can sound like Yoga is suggesting that we agree with, or validate the behavior of such people, which is not the case. The questions of approving of behavior and dealing with our own internal states are very different issues.
Sometimes I find that shallow
understanding is a good tool for deeper understanding. Without using
examples of known historical or present public figures, instead ask yourself how
useful it would be to continue to hold animosity towards some childhood
friend who did something to hurt you. That person is far in your distant
past, yet here is the mind continuing to hold on to that coloring of aversion. We
each get to decide whether holding on to this kind of mind impression is
serving us, or whether we would prefer that the coloring drift away,
leaving the mere memory to be neutral. Choice rests with each of us. The
uncoloring approach is a part of yoga. (For more info on the uncoloring,
see sutras 1.5 and 2.1-2.9,
as well as the article on Uncoloring Your Thoughts.)
How these attitudes are mastered: While these four practices are used from the very beginning to stabilize and clear the clouded mind, the practice becomes far more subtle in later stages of meditation. Once there is an ability to perform samyama (3.4-3.6), then each of these four become objects themselves for examination with the razor-sharp focus and absorption of samadhi. This later practice, done with this subtler, finer intensity brings the perfection of that attitude. This process is described in sutra 3.24.
The mind is also calmed by regulating the breath, particularly attending
to exhalation and the natural stilling of breath that comes from such
Awareness of breath: One of the finest methods there is to stabilize and calm the mind is breath awareness. First, be aware of the transitions between the breaths, and allow them to be smooth, without an abrupt transition, and without pausing between breaths. Consciously practice seeing how delicately smooth you can make the transitions. Allow the breath to be quiet, and to have no jerkiness.
Elongation of exhalation: Second, after establishing sound and steady awareness of the breath, allow the exhalation to gradually elongate, such that the amount of time spent exhaling is longer than the amount of time inhaling. The air will move outward more slowly with exhalation than with inhalation. Gradually allow the ratio to be two to one, where the exhalation is approximately twice as long as the inhalation. Pranayama is often translated as breath control. The root ayama actually means lengthening. Thus, pranayama more specifically means lengthening the life force.
Not rechaka, puraka, and kumbhaka: There are other breathing practices that include rechaka (exhalation), puraka (inhalation) and kumbhaka (intentional holding of the breath). These practices are not the intent here in this sutra, particularly not the practice of breath retention. Though these may be useful practices at some stage of practice, they are not the subject of this sutra in relation to stabilizing the mind and making it tranquil.
The inner concentration on the process of sensory experiencing, done in a
way that leads towards higher, subtle sense perception; this also leads to
stability and tranquility of the mind.
Meditation on the means of sensing: This practice is on becoming aware of the inner process of sensation (not merely the objects), using the five cognitive senses (indriyas) of smelling, tasting, seeing, touching, and hearing. It does not mean pursuing the object that you are experiencing, such as the sound you are hearing or the image you are seeing. Rather, it means trying to become aware of sensing itself. Initially, the sensing is at a more surface or gross level. Ultimately, the intent of the practice is to witness the higher or subtler inner senses.
See also the paper on the senses:
Or concentration on a painless inner state of lucidness and luminosity
also brings stability and tranquility.
Concentration on painless inner luminosity: The easiest way to practice this is to place your attention in the space between the breasts, the heart center. Simply imagine that there is a glowing luminosity there, about the size of the palm of your hand. Whether or not you literally see with your inner eye is not important; the practice works either way. Maintain an inner attitude that it does not matter what other thoughts, images, impressions or memories might arise in the mind field; you will hold that stance that these will not disturb or distract you. Stay only with that glowing inner luminosity in the heart.
Or contemplating on having a mind that is free from desires, the mind gets
stabilized and tranquil.
Imagine a mind free from desire: One way to do this practice is to think of some great sage, yogi, or spiritual person you respect. Simply imagine what their mind would be like if they were sitting quietly for meditation. Then, pretend that your own mind is as quiet as you think his or hers would be. It is a trick of your own mind to imagine in this way, but it is an extremely useful practice for stabilizing your own mind.
Imagine your own mind free from desire: Another method is to imagine what your own mind would be like if it were temporarily free from any desires, wants, wishes, attractions, aversions, or expectations. It is like a game you are playing with yourself, wherein you see if you can pretend that your mind is in this tranquil state. With a little practice, this works amazingly well.
Or by focusing on the nature of the stream in the dream state or the
nature of the state of dreamless sleep, the mind becomes stabilized and
Meditation on the states of the unconscious: Focusing on the stream of the dream state or the nature of dreamless sleep will stabilize the mind and make it stable. It is extremely important to note that this is not meaning dreaming or dream analysis. To learn to allow these streams to flow, and to witness that stream is very calming. To witness the stream is a stabilizing influence, not a deep meditation or samadhi beyond the mind.
For more information about the dream state in relation to the waking state and the deep sleep state, see these articles:
Or by contemplating or concentrating on whatever object or principle one
may like, or towards which one has a predisposition, the mind becomes
stable and tranquil.
Meditate on the object of your predisposition: This sutra is making it very clear that the key principle in the stabilizing of the mind and the removal of obstacles is one-pointedness. Obviously, saying that one may focus on any object or principle that one feels predisposed towards is a broad statement. Wisdom should guide the choice of object for concentration.
We already know this: Virtually everybody already knows this principle of focusing on something enjoyable as a means of stabilizing the mind. However, the relative usefulness of the object chosen is a very different matter. Watching television, playing a game, listening to music, having a conversation, or many other activities may concentrate the mind enough to partially let go of the mental chatter from the activities of the day. While the principle of one-pointedness is in all of these, and may have some benefit, the meditator will learn to choose more refined objects to stabilize the mind for meditation. Remember, in this section and sutra we are talking about stabilizing and clearing the mind, not about deep meditation itself. This level of one-pointedness provides the stable foundation for the subtler meditation practices.
Mantra: One of the finest means of focusing, training and stabilizing the mind is through mantra. See the articles listed on the Index of Mantra Articles.
Online practices: There are several online practices that are beneficial for one-pointedness. Particularly useful from the standpoint of experimenting with online practices are the Soham Mantra and the Gazing practices. See the Index of Interactive/Online Practices.
------- This site is devoted to
presenting the ancient Self-Realization path of
the Tradition of the Himalayan masters in simple, understandable and
beneficial ways, while not compromising quality or depth. The goal of
our sadhana or practices is the highest
Joy that comes from the Realization in direct experience of the
center of consciousness, the Self, the Atman or Purusha, which is
one and the same with the Absolute Reality.
This Self-Realization comes through Yoga meditation of the Yoga
Sutras, the contemplative insight of Advaita Vedanta, and the
intense devotion of Samaya Sri Vidya Tantra, the three of which
complement one another like fingers on a hand.
We employ the classical approaches of Raja, Jnana, Karma, and Bhakti
Yoga, as well as Hatha, Kriya, Kundalini, Laya, Mantra, Nada, Siddha,
and Tantra Yoga. Meditation, contemplation, mantra and prayer
finally converge into a unified force directed towards the final
stage, piercing the pearl of wisdom called bindu, leading to the
This site is devoted to presenting the ancient Self-Realization path of the Tradition of the Himalayan masters in simple, understandable and beneficial ways, while not compromising quality or depth. The goal of our sadhana or practices is the highest Joy that comes from the Realization in direct experience of the center of consciousness, the Self, the Atman or Purusha, which is one and the same with the Absolute Reality. This Self-Realization comes through Yoga meditation of the Yoga Sutras, the contemplative insight of Advaita Vedanta, and the intense devotion of Samaya Sri Vidya Tantra, the three of which complement one another like fingers on a hand. We employ the classical approaches of Raja, Jnana, Karma, and Bhakti Yoga, as well as Hatha, Kriya, Kundalini, Laya, Mantra, Nada, Siddha, and Tantra Yoga. Meditation, contemplation, mantra and prayer finally converge into a unified force directed towards the final stage, piercing the pearl of wisdom called bindu, leading to the Absolute.