Stages of attention: It is attention itself, which is progressively moving inward through these few stages:
Related articles: See also the following articles on the objects of concentration, meditation, and samadhi:
Concentration (dharana) is the process of holding or fixing the
attention of mind onto one object or place, and is the sixth of the eight rungs.
Preparation for concentration: Concentration comes more easily with the effort (1.20) to stabilize the mind (1.33-1.39), the minimizing of the gross colorings through kriya yoga (2.1-2.2), and the first five of the eight rungs (2.29).
Without preparation: Without such preparation, the efforts to concentrate the mind often lead only to an inner battle. The noisy mind leads people to say they cannot meditate, and that they will meditate later in life, after all of their problems are gone. There is some truth in such intuition, but the key is not to merely delay meditation until some future time, which seems to never come. Rather, the truth of the intuition is that preparation is needed. With preparation, concentration comes much more naturally. Without the preparation, little or nothing happens of value.
Even brief concentration is success: It is also easy to think that a meditation session was "not good" because it did not bring some deep sense of bliss. Actually, when one understands the tremendous value of simple concentration training, then even the brief, shallower practices are seen in a proper context of having positive value. Even the few minutes, or few seconds where the mind is gently focused on its chosen object are fruitful in the path of meditation. Each moment of positive experience leaves its positive trace in the depth of the mind field. It may seem invisible at first, but those moments add up over time, as concentration eventually begins to become meditation which in turn sets the stage for glimpses of samadhi.
The repeated continuation, or uninterrupted stream of that one point of
focus is called absorption in meditation (dhyana), and is the seventh of
the eight steps.
Absorption in the object: The repeated concentration on the one object of concentration is meditation. Typically, there is a moment of concentration, when there are no distractions. Then, a moment later a distraction comes. Then, attention lets go of the distraction, and returns to the object of concentration. However, when that distraction does not happen, the continued concentration on the one object is called meditation.
When the same object repeatedly comes: Another way of describing the process of meditation is that there is an ongoing series of individual concentrations, rather than one continuous concentration. If each of those concentrations is on the same object, that is called meditation. Whether you prefer to think of it as one continuous flow of concentration, or a series of individual concentrations on the same object, it is the unbroken or undistracted characteristic of attention that allows concentration to evolve into meditation.
Observer, observing, and observed: With meditation, there is still an observer observing an observed. When the observer becomes extremely absorbed in the process of observing the object, the three collapse such that all there is only awareness of the object. This is when meditation becomes samadhi.
Meditation is a tool: Meditation (along with concentration and samadhi) is a tool for examining the inner world, so as to experience the center of consciousness (1.3). Gross objects (2.1-2.9) and subtle objects (2.10-2.11) are systematically experienced, examined and set aside with non-attachment (1.12-1.16), gradually moving past the layers of ignorance or avidya (2.5). (See also the article describing 50+ Objects of Meditation.)
When only the essence of that object, place, or point shines forth in the
mind, as if devoid even of its own form,
that state of deep absorption is called deep concentration or samadhi,
which is the eighth rung.
Observer, observing, and observed: With meditation, there is still an observer observing an observed. When the observer becomes so absorbed in the process of observing the object that there seems to be only the object, that is the beginning of samadhi. It is as if the observer, the process of observing, and the object being observed all three collapse in such a way that the only thing remaining is the object. When this deep absorption happens, meditation becomes samadhi.
You're in samadhi right now: This is a little hard to believe, but at the present moment you are in samadhi, and the object on which you are in samadhi is your perception of who you are (1.4), in the context of how you believe the world to be. In fact, you are pure consciousness, Self, Seer, etc. (1.3), but have difficulty experiencing this because of the clouding (1.5) of the mind field. The tool of meditation and samadhi is learned so as to be able to break these false identities.
Stages of samadhi: It is important to recall that there are stages of objects of samadhi (1.17-1.18, 1.42) and that samadhi is not the end in itself, but is a tool that is used along the way. (See also the article, Five Universal Stages of Meditation)
Samadhi becomes a tool: The ability to allow concentration to go into meditation, and to then allow meditation to go into samadhi is a process called samyama, which is discussed in the upcoming sutras (3.4-3.6). This is used as the finer tool for the subtler practices.
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