Vital Centers For Concentration
( Originally Published 1908 )
IT should be very clear to my readers, now, that subtle bonds of rhythmic influence connect every human being with the vast spaces of the universe, and open to him illimitable resources if he but uses them aright. But alas ! This is the crux of the problem. How many use them aright? Even the knowing how does not confer the power to do. Desire and will decide that ! IT IS ONLY THROUGH USE THAT KNOWLEDGE BECOMES A HABIT AND THEN A POWER!
What is the purpose of concentration? It is to develop power; to develop the best there is in the individual through gaining control of the lower Principles and using the higher ones latent in every human being. But let me say at the out-set of this study, lest some students have an entirely erroneous idea of our object: It is not to develop psychic powers. No; our object — a fore-cast of which was given in the last chapter — is far higher, vastly more important. It is, first, to complete the work which I trust is already well begun — the effort to obtain control of the mind; that wonderful instrument through which the dynamic power of thought manifests; by controlling which alone we can hope to exercise the power for good only.
Not till we quiet the mind's useless activities, and' can hold it in leash, an obedient servant as it was designed to be, can we. hope to attain the higher reward of concentration — the joy — the benediction — of a realization of soul-consciousness. This once achieved places a power for good under the control of a soul-directed Will that can never fail its possessor in any crisis.
A certain measure of development of the psychic senses comes as a natural attribute of growing spirituality, but this is not a real attainment in itself or for itself; and it varies greatly in degree in different constitutions and according to how it is employed. When made an end and aim by absorption in its phenomena, the activities of mere astral life which may be even more trivial than on this terrestrial plane, it leads to gross abuse of the powers; blocks irretrievably self-conquest and spiritual development, and invites untold misery in manifold forms.
You have learned that thought is the creator of force within these bodies; that is, the form of force active within is largely determined by the mind's habitual thoughts, and the ratio of the vibrations by the plane of its activity. Thus it is a demonstrable fact, a basic law of nature too long ignored, when not vehemently denied, that with every thought, since the mind reflects its vibrations upon the physical plane below, we are moulding these bodies of ours to ease or disease (see Chap-ter III). Then the greatest need of every human being is to gain control of the mind, and put a stop forever and aye to the discordant hash which the uncontrolled mind contrives to mix out of the ordinary events and duties of life from hour to hour.
Not until you can control your body through you mind being brought under control, will you be freed from that body's whimsies ! When you have conquered the vehicle (the body), it will be your willing, skillful servant, fulfilling its divinely planned purpose of furthering growth and development instead of hampering it, Therefore, before progress can be made upon the spiritual plane, it is absolutely necessary to obtain physical and mental control, to bring the lower Principles into working harmony. When we know ,what the ideal is, as Swâmi Vivekânanda said: " What remains is to practice the methods of reaching it."
The Swâmi's inspired aphorisms prefatory to Raja Yoga are of deep significance here :
" EACH SOUL IS POTENTIALLY DIVINE. THE GOAL IS TO MANIFEST THIS DIVINITY WITHIN BY CONTROLLING NATURE, EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL."
This mischievous mind, which uncontrolled turns many a paradise into purgatory, can be con-trolled for good only through a soul-directed and governed WILL, and nothing else so hastens the attainment of this mental control — the first stepping-stone towards the realization of soul-power — as the practice of Concentration. As you must well understand now, it is the only method of rousing the Kundalini; also called " The Tree of Know-ledge," being the latent Prâna, or stored-up residual sensations in the great root-receptacle, or basic plexus. When this force, sleeping in every human being, is awakened through concentration it ascends the spinal canal by slow stages from one center to another, gathering strength in every Padma, till it rouses the potencies in the brain-centers of real illumination. This effort brings us under the most beneficent influence of Mercury,— an influence that is ever striving to purify us and lift us to higher planes of living and thinking.
Moreover, Concentration is the only entrance to the blessed realm of Silence ; that wordless space vibrant with peace; the peace of exquisitely subtle spiritual force, where we come in touch with the soul of things and thereby find our own souls. In the unspeakable peace of this precious Silence, the world of the senses disappears in a conscious rap-port with the vaster universe of living thought which needs no words to clothe its meaning. It is the " Knowledge space " of the Yogi.
If you but think of it we are on the verge of Silence at every moment of existence. Its omnipresence laps us round about as the Universe of the invisible and inaudible, teeming with activities so infinitely finer, more subtle, that they escape cognizance by our grosser sense-perceptions. At any instant when we can shut out the consciousness of this physical environment we open the avenues of that consciousness to this inner silent world, and the importance of the experience is incalculable. Every time we attain it, the way is made easier to repeat the experience till it carries us to the full realization of the real subjective self.
Remember what I said in an early chapter : The life-current is more subtle than radio-activity, and it depends upon ourselves to how high power we shall raise it. The holding the attention — all our consciousness — to a given point, as when centering upon a special plexus or organ, accelerates the velocity of the Tattvic vibrations and, there-fore, the force of Prâna. This effect and benefit are the immediate reward for the regular practice of the Held-Breath exercise for Prânâyâma, in which, through the polarization of the vital cur-rents greatly increased power is generated and the whole nervous system is energized. The benefit derived from the exercise is in exact ratio to the success of the student in holding the current men-tally to the designated center. A good beginning is thus made in mental control, for the brain appropriates its full share of the energy, gains steadiness and flexibility, and the memory is quickened. All mental effort is made easier and more fruitful, and the voice — so intimately associated with our mentality — gains sweetness and fullness of tone, evidencing the increasing harmony of the life. All harsh, uneven, and strident tones can thus be overcome.
In concentration we develop still higher power — the power of higher forces on higher planes of activity. With regard to these varying planes, please remember that every one is positive to the next below and negative to the one above; and that the higher they are the finer, swifter, and more subtle are the vibrations. As you progress, gaining more and more control over the physical, and insight into the mental activities of your being, you will receive irrefutable proof that the spirit brings out power wherever it is focused.
When there is a state of physical discord and the need is to purify and harmonize the Tattvic vibrations on the physical plane as well as to obtain mental control, the most important centers upon which to concentrate are the sacral and the zoz The Law of the Rhythmic, Breath solar plexuses; the pituitary body (high up back of the throat), which is intimately connected with the ninth and tenth cranial nerves; and that core of the brain, the pineal gland.
The sacral plexus is so-called because situated in the sacrum ; a composite bone formed of the union of the vertebrae between the lumbar and the coccygeal regions of the spine, containing the dorsal part of the pelvis. In man the sacrum, or sacred bone, is triangular, and consists of five vertebrae. This shape conforms to the basic plexus which it shelters, and proclaims it a dominating center of Tejas activity, whence this Tattva's stimulating vibrations speed to all the organs in this part of the body. No other Tattva responds so instantly to a thought, or to, a glance from a speaking eye; for, remember, Tejas is regnant in the optic nerves. Therefore, as behind every thought is desire, the harmonious activity of Tejas in these vital organs depends upon the purity, saneness, and wholesomeness of our desires; and their control by a soul-governed Will affects the human life beyond all other influences. It is the difference between aspiring to be Godlike, and yielding to be the shuttlecock of the physical senses.
This is, of course, the turning point in life, for we all are and become what our desires mould. Desire prompts the Will to action. Shall it be a lawless ruler? Right here is the most prolific source of evil. It is easier far to drift with desire; but know, once for all, it is the path of discord, the sower of disturbance.
In the Zodiac we find the clue to these close relations of organic sympathy which affect human life and character so profoundly. The constellation Scorpio is the symbol of desire because it exercises a paramount influence upon the physical center where desires are generated. This activity is assigned to the coccygeal gland (also known as Luschka's gland), situated near the extremity of the spinal column. This gland is most intimately associated with the arteries and nerves; but its ex-act function, like that of the spleen, pituitary body, and pineal gland, still remains a mystery to the anatomist. Scorpio is one of the " houses " of Mars. Now thought, under the influence of Sagittarius (next East of Scorpio as seen in the Heavens) is either above or below desire exactly according to the direction of our thoughts. If these are of the earth, earthy, the direction of these stellar influences is downward from Aries, governing the head, to Pisces ruling the feet.
The familiar figure of man in the almanacs shows the commonly assigned influence of the zodiacal signs upon different parts of the body. Familiar as it is, though, how little the illustration signifies to the majority of mankind! Yet the connection is deeply significant; and to a certain degree it is natural, normal, and healthful. You have learned that the soles of the feet are centers of Prithivic activity, and that in the contact of the feet with Mother Earth the flow of pure Prithivi vibrations is greatly stimulated. This Tattvic emanation received from the earth is an extremely, subtle, ethereal magnetism which exhilarates the whole body. Whether the elemental forces which develop as this subtle Tattva ascends and stimulates and mingles with Tejas shall be purely physical or shall be transmuted into purer and higher principles depends upon its use or abuse.
The guide to both paths is in the Zodiac. For still within man is the Occult spiritual Zodiac which, corresponding exactly with that of the macrocosm, is circular. In this, notice particularly that Sagittarius is above Scorpio, and that Pisces --the abstract symbol of the will and influencing it reflects its power upon desire in a vertical ray from above as in the physical Zodiac it reflects it from below. Accepting the guidance of Mercury and governing the body by reason and understanding we develop the power to employ all its mysterious forces for good. By controlling his desires through the power of thought — much easier than he who has never tried to dreams — man enters the upward, spiritual path, thus overcoming the down-ward and outward flow of his activities and emotions to things purely physical through the stimulus of his sense perceptions.
Notice also with care that it is not the will but thought which must first be employed to control desire and give it an upward impulse. Until this is accomplished, will is at the mercy of desire and but strengthens its evil intents. The moment thought, which directs and controls desire, recognizes its own agency, refuses to be swayed by impulses, and gains the mastery, the Will ascends to its higher plane, and its reflection transmutes de-sire to loftier aims; for Will and desire are the higher and lower aspects of one and the same thing. It is by the proper exercise of our Will that we accomplish all things on the higher planes and free our souls from physical chains.
Thus in all this overcoming we are building character, shaping destiny. And the petty trials, the small frictions of life are just as important if allowed to do their work of discord as seemingly more important matters. They demand their cor-responding measures of resistance,— not the resistance of struggle, but the more effective resistance of poise, ensuring the calm spirit that commands reason and, therefore, can meet the annoyance with wise judgment.
Be not anxious if at first when trying to concentrate and enter the Silence a multitude of thoughts flit through the mind. It is the beginning of discipline to watch these vagaries. They will surprise you, but you will soon realize that you your-self are above and superior to the mind. You will separate yourself from it; and next will come the calm and confidence derived from consciousness of power to check and control the whole unruly tribe of trouble-makers and peace- and mind-destroyers. This, however, is not gained in a day, nor is it the reward of irregular, haphazard practice.
The influence of the Zodiac upon other vital centers, showing what is gained by concentration upon them, will be fully explained as we continue this study of the interrelations of man and the Universe.
In all practice, assume an easy, erect posture (not slumping" nor lounging; that is). This is especially important in the Held-Breath exercise; for as the object in view is to obtain control of Prâna, the region of the principle Nadis through which the currents flow must be free from all constraint or strain. These lessons ought to have convinced everyone already that at all times any pressure upon the spinal column is an iniquitous menace to the very reservoir of life. But especially during periods of practice should attention be given to the absolute freedom of the spine and chest which should form an erect support for the neck and head poised in line above them. To twist or crook the spine during meditation or when concentrating the Prâna in different plexuses will not merely defeat the purpose but may cause disturbance, just as electric wires, if crossed and tangled, raise the mischief !