Dharana is a Sanskrit word coming from the verb-root dhri — meaning to maintain, direct and resolve. Hence the term implies a purposive directing of the mind towards some one goal or state of consciousness. What a vast field of interesting thought this simple word opens up to us. Let us follow a few of these bypaths.
Man is constantly giving off energy as does all Life. There is heat from the body; a more subtil energy that goes forth in the breath and emotions. Then come the children of the mind, and so on up to the pinnacle of our sevenfold constitution. Every part of our constitution is giving off its particular type of life. Now what has Dharana to do with these obvious facts?
Every type of energy composed of lesser lives has its appropriate channel in our being. Direct your mind upon a certain line of thought for a while and a corresponding type of energy will flow through you. It is thus that geniuses produce their great monuments of art and literature. Their work is constantly before their mind's eye — even during sleep. Consequently the flow of inspiration is constant and all of the other types of energy in the constitution co-operate. The physical body, the emotions, the desires standing of course behind will, and the inspirations from the Buddhi-atman respond in a co-operative manner in accordance with the degree of one-pointedness of the mind. Thus, like attracts like. However there is also a reaction between opposites. For example, all of us have noticed that when we aspire deeply to break the fetters of illusion our faults are magnified and rise, as from the ashes, to challenge us. Thus the man who practises Dharana can expect obstacles at every turn, but if he is one who can laugh at himself, he need not be discouraged.
There is an occult rule which states the fact that one should never scatter his attention and energies if he wishes to achieve to the fullest extent of his ability. H. P. Blavatsky gave a good example of following this law especially while writing The Secret Doctrine. It is said that she could hardly be persuaded to take much needed drives in the open air. Even while in the process of moving her establishment she continued her writing, often asking for manuscripts that were already packed. This shows the intensity of her one-pointedness of mind. She declared at the time that if she stopped work for a while the current would stop and it would take months before she could re-establish it.
Dharana has its important place in the conquering and raising of the personal man. There are some who, because they lack one-pointedness of mind, find themselves torn between the different parts of their constitution. There is a lack of harmony and coordination between the different flows of energy. If such an individual is truly trying to aspire upon the Path he may, in desperation, blame the lower types of energy such as greed, selfishness, etc., as being the cause of his trouble, and hence he may try to kill and suppress his personality. By doing this he is conquering nothing, but is merely killing and blocking the very forces that would give him drive and will if he were practising Dharana. It is the one-pointedness of mind that gives co-operation among the various parts of our constitution. The fault does not lie with the innocent forces of our animal body but in our inability constantly to direct our minds towards that part of our nature which will respond by sending purifying and strengthening influences.
Forget the body and the personality and direct the mind along spiritual channels and keep it there. If this is done, all the rest will harmoniously fall in line and lend the best they have to offer. Thus by practising Dharana the lower is not killed but is uplifted and purified. It is our duty so to direct our mind that the personality becomes a friend and helper. One need not sit in a forest but can practise Dharana while eating, working, and even while at play.