While practising Dharana, the sixth limb of Ashtanga Yoga, careful and systematic effort is made to sustain focus. However, the focus becomes natural and spontaneous with practice, during Dhyana. When Dharana transmutes into Dhyana, the spiritual seeker visualises, before his mind’s eye, the object of focus, without looking at it. According to Patanjali, Yoga Sutra III.2, Dhyana is ‘an unbroken flow of thought toward the object of concentration.’ It can be Nishkala or Sakala. In the former, the seeker focuses on the all-pervasive reality internally; in the latter, he can focus on Saguna, with attributes or Nirguna, attributeless forms of God, alternately.
Dhyana is perfected when the Bhavana Shakti, power of feeling Chintana Shakti, power of thinking and Kriya Shakti, power of action work harmoniously to achieve one-pointed concentration.This is followed by Samadhi which gives one an experience of unitary consciousness, in which the knower, knowledge and the object of knowledge become one. In Gherand Samhita,sage Gheranda instructs his disciple Chandakapali that Dhyana is of three types: Sthula, Jyotirmaya and Sukshma. Sthula Dhyana,gross meditation, is contemplation on a divine form – more specifically, the image of Ishtadeva or personal god, or that of a Guru, religious preceptor – with a steady gaze. Jyotirmaya Dhyana, effulgent meditation, is made on the individual soul, Jivatma or on Tejomaya Brahmn, the Supreme Being radiating light in the cavity of the heart. With practice, the Sadhaka is able to perceive luminosity in the primal sound, reverberating within everyone. Sometimes, focus is made on the flame of a candle or an earthen lamp, or on natural objects, like the sun, moon or a star, as prescribed by the Guru.
Sukshma Dhyana, subtle meditation, is made on something abstract, like a sacred syllable, Mantra, Yantra, geometrical form, Nada or inner music, Prana or vital being, or the Kundalini Shakti or primordial power that lies coiled up like a serpent at the base of the spinal column. It is best performed in Shambhavi Mudra, with eyes focused within. As Dhyana reaches its summum bonum, the seeker discovers in his body, the entire universe. Yogis believe that the cosmos lies on the Maha Marga or royal road from the Jihva or the tongue, to the hollow place in the crown of the head, called Brahmarandhra, or Dashma Dvara – tenth door. The serpent power moves about unhindered in this area, when awakened.
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