Dharana. Dhyana. Samadhi.

At the end of spring, I was fortunate enough to attend a satsang (spiritual lecture) of GuruJi DevDas ji Maharaj. While the Teacher clarified the special aspects of practice at the highest levels of yoga, I pondered over the ins and outs of translation. Years of translating experience proved that even a leading professional in the field has to deal with controversies and discrepancies during  the information transfer. One may run into a word with several meanings, the exact sense of which can only be explained by a native speaker. If the adjustments are not make timely, then the resulting translation risks fleshing out inventions and conjectures.

Same is true about the Yoga Sūtras of Patanjali. What could possibly go wrong? The information is presented point by point briefed to sentences. However, you have to take into account not only the mutilations of text and numerous commentaries in English and other language interpretations, but also the tendency of each earnest yoga teacher to invest the element of personal interpretation in the process. For this reason, we currently have so many variations of traditional yoga.

Deep gratitude to Guruji for the exhaustive explanations to the true practice of Samyama.

Гуруджи заходит в зал для сатсанга
Radhe! Radhe! Guruji!

“Dharana is the central concept in Ashtanga yoga. Dharana (internal concentration) should be in all of your indriyas (senses of perception)”

Guruji traditionally starts his conversation with questions to us. He does not ask, “What is Dharana?” Indeed, his students are filled with years of wisdom from lectures, workshops, and books. They know that Dharana is a sixth step of the classical Yoga Patanjali, which stands for concentration, i.e., focusing mind on the observation of one object.

Guruji doesn’t ask whether we practice Dharana. On the contrary, he informs us that we practice Dharana from the moment of birth. Just in case we didn’t notice. Indeed, if we have pain, then Dharana naturally concentrates in its source. We do not perform any special pratice to direct it there. It’s an automatic process. This means that everyone has very strong Dharana inside. One just needs to face this fact.

When we begin to practice yoga, we strengthen Dharana. It is originally involved in all preliminary practices and present at every step of the way. Dharana is the central point of Ashtanga yoga, which consolidates the efforts of Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, and Pratyahara.

Guruji at Satsang (spiritual lecture)

Guruji puts a practical question, “How to merge in deep Dharana, i.e., reach the state of deep concentration?”

Needless to say, we came up with all kinds of answers. There were suggestions to empty the mind thoroughly, focus on inhale and exhale, read Gurumantra, plunge into chakras, look at the internal aspects of practice, listen to silence and emptiness, etc. Guruji smiles and agrees that all of our ideas are very good. No matter how good they are, we understand that none of them is the right answer.

“Dharana is a broad concept. Concentration on one external object is one of the aspects of this practice, just a small element”

Unlike the previous stages of yoga, which have lots of objects for concentration at their disposal, Dharana places emphasis on one object. However, it is important to understand that Dharana is a broad concept. Concentration on one external object is one of the aspects of this practice, just a small element.

If you don’t understand the practice of Dharana completely and narrow it to focusing attention on one external object then it will be a very short Dharana. In this case, as soon as the selected object leaves the field of your attention, your Dharana fades away.

Practice from Guruji

“Dharana is a book that you have to read from beginning to end”

There are two ways to handle a book: you can read it or you can write it. “What is this book about?” asks Guruji and laughs as he adds, “I know you will not answer.”

Dharana is reading yourself, everything that you are. In this book you will find not only internal light, but a lot of other things also. You will have to pass a tough exam opeing internal truth about yourself.

“Yogis, who read themselves all the time, have very strong Dharana”

To practice Dharana you create one internal object for concentration. You can “read” parts of your body, senses of perception (indriya), chakras, mind (chitta), intelligence (manas), consciousness (buddhi), ego (ahamkara), and soul (jiva). Concentration on any of these elements naturally improves your Dharana.

Concentrating on self gives insights into the existence of all physical and subtle aspects of a human being. No matter how deep you go on this way, your soul will become the final point of your exploration. When you come to this point, you just stop and look at yourself. It’s a very beautiful picture of energy.

“When your attention reaches deep enough to contemplate on your soul, you are ready for Dharana”

The essence of Dharana is presented in two parts of the following sloka. It’s first part reads, “I am mind, intelligence, consciousness, sat-chit-ananda, ego, sould and soul ananda (pleasure),” while the second part follows, “I am not mind, intelligence, consciousness, ego, or body. I am not a material object. I am not bound and I am not free, but nothing controls me. I am soul and soul ananda.”

Before you begin to practice Dharana, you have to know who you are, what you are going to do, and whether you are ready to do it. If you are, then you will be able to manage deep concentration on any object. It’s not that easy to lose this state of complete joy and pleasure.

“A small child has more Dharana Shakti than any of us”

Concentration on external objects is a temporary stage. It’s just a preparation before turning attention inside yourself. Inside there is only one object for Dharana — your soul. It only makes sense to start with external objects before turning attention inwards, if you are not ready for internal concentration.

The great problem of modern people is the fact that they pay attention to external things and don’t look inside themselves. Their attention can only cope with social interaction. In this process Dharana weakens. As you turn your attention inside and enhance one pointedness [zen] with concentration, you will notice that all external processes will balance.


In Ashtanga Yoga, there are Dharana (the process of concentration), Dhyata (the one, who practices Dharana), and Dheya (why and for whom one makes this practice). When the person becomes truly aware of the object of his deep meditation, he gains Gyana (knowledge). When Dhyata becomes connected to Dheya through attention and awareness, then both objects disappear leaving essential truth. That’s how Dhyana (true meditation) emerges.

Девушка в медитации

Samadi is the understanding of Truth. It’s an insight

Dhyana gives the understanding of the equivalence of all objects, their universal nature. Samadhi emerges from this state of sama (equal, universal) avastha (state).

It is not difficult to practice Dharana. However, you have to understand what it is. It is nothing but reading yourself. If you feel you have done something wrong, don’t understand something, or your actions do not lead to the intended result, then you have to look deeper and read it inside yourself. Then you should write in your correction and never make this mistake again. This is a dialogue with your inner Teacher, who helps you to move properly along the chosen path.

Are you ready to look inside yourself and start reading?



Notes from satsang of GuruJi DevDas ji Maharaj, May 2017. http://devraha.org/ru/

Photos by Kirill Ivanov