I was out having coffee with a friend this morning before going to teach and we encountered a homeless guy who was asking for money. We gave him a few bucks and went on our way. My friend remarked, “he’s drunk and he’ll probably use that money to buy more booze.” To which I said, “Does it matter? If I were homeless right now, my priority would probably be figuring out how to stay warm.” This reminded me of another encounter with a homeless guy many years ago. I was walking into a fast food place and got stopped by a guy who said he was homeless and hungry and asked for some money. I said, I didn’t have any change on me but could buy him a meal and asked what he would want. He said, never mind… I’d rather have the money. I scratch my head and wonder why on earth a hungry homeless person would refuse a hot meal. I’m thinking that eating wasn’t his real priority…. he was probably concentrating on something else.. booze perhaps? Maybe. The point is, how does a broke homeless person find a way to buy booze rather than satisfy his other needs.
The mind is a powerful thing. What you concentrate on is what you get and you’ll do anything to get it if that’s what you’ve made your top priority. I believe this.
Sutra 3.1 Desa bandhas cittasya dharana: Dharana is holding the mind in one place.
Dharana, concentration is the binding of the mind’s attention to a single object, place or idea. While I am not quick to judge a homeless person’s choice of object to concentrate on, we can control the mind through this singleminded concentration method. There are a wide variety of objects you can choose to concentrate on.. whether that is being fixated on the flickering of a candle, an imagery, a mantra, booze or your breath, we can become masters of our own mind. The main point is to focus. The power of focus stops the constant wandering of our wacky minds.
This (dharana) shouldn’t be confused with meditation (sutra 3.2 dhyana). Maybe next week’s sutra will be on 3.2… for now, think of dharana as objects of concentration. There is a subject (you) and an object (candle, image, booze).
Being able to concentrate on a single point or object sets the stage for meditation and the journey inward… or in the homeless person’s case booze. I’m not quick to judge… who knows, perhaps his object of concentration also helps him stop the incessant chatter of his mind that might be saying self destructive comments of worthlessness, failure, scum of the earth type self criticism. I’m not endorsing that booze is the answer, but we’ve all experienced our wacky minds in this way. I’m sure many of you have also experienced the effects of a focused mind… and how powerful a focused mind can take you to wherever you want to go and achieve whatever you wanted to achieve.
Source: The Wisdom of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra by Ravi Ravindra and The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Gary Kissiah