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Dharana In Yoga – A Method For Concentration Of Mind

Dharana means the act of holding, preserving or retaining in the mind. In yoga it indicates a steady abstraction of the mind. It is the first among the three constituents of antaranga yoga or esoteric concentration and the sixth part of Patanjali’s eight fold Yoga, where it is defined as “the binding of chitta or the mind to a desha (a restricted sphere of attention).
Unlike dhyana (meditation), it is not ekagrata (a state of pin pointedness) but in it, the natural tendency of the mind to move from object to object is to be curbed and still it is focused on an object, which may be a picture, image, symbol, a part of the body, the tip of the nose, or chakra (a spiritual energy center) inside the body.

Definitions of dharana are found in many texts. In Goraksha Paddhati (II.52-58) and Yoga Yajnavalkya (VII 1-15), dharana is defined on the basis of the five basic elements in the body such as earth, water, fire, air, and akasha (ether) giving their location and the effects of concentration on them.

Patanjali has recommended training the mind by practicing the five parts called bahiranga yoga or the external yoga so that the mind gains the ability to be steadied on any desired object.

In dharana, various aspects of the object or concentration may come up in the mind, but the mind does not lose sight of that object as a whole. With continued practice for a long time, the mind starts getting attached to only one of the aspects, leaving other aspects aside. The one single experience pertaining to that aspect of that object starts appearing in the mind again and again. Here, dharana gets turned into a deeper state of absorption which is called dhyana or steady concentration.

The Mind and Its Control (1971) Swami Budhananda - Advaita Ashrama Kolkata
Rajayoga, Concentration and Meditation (1970) Swami Gitananda - Satya Press Puducherry
Encyclopedia of Hinduism Volume III page 422 - IHRF