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Dhyana in Hinduism

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Dhyana in Hinduism

Dhyana in Hinduism
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Tibetan name
Tibetan samten
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese alphabet Thiền
Korean name
Japanese name
Sanskrit name
Sanskrit ध्यान (in Devanagari)
Dhyāna (Romanised)
Pāli name
Pāli झान (in Devanagari)
ඣාන (in Sinhala)
Jhāna (Romanised)
ဈာန် (in Burmese)
ဇျာန် (in Mon)
Swami Vivekananda in Dhyana (meditation)

Dhyāna (Sanskrit; Devanagari: ध्यान) or Jhāna (झान) (Pāli) in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism [note 1] means meditation which is "a deeper awareness of oneness which is inclusive of perception of body, mind, senses and surroundings, yet remaining unidentified with it".[web 1] Dhyana is taken up after preceding exercises,[1] and leads to samadhi and self-knowledge, separating māyā from reality to help attain the ultimate goal of mokṣa.


  • History 1
  • Bhagavad Gita 2
  • The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 3
    • Dating 3.1
    • Origins 3.2
    • The Eight Limbs 3.3
    • Samyama 3.4
      • Dharana 3.4.1
      • Dhyana 3.4.2
      • Samadhi 3.4.3
  • Neo-Vedanta 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • Sources 8
    • Published sources 8.1
    • Web-sources 8.2
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10


The term 'dhyana' is used in Jainism, Dhyāna in Buddhism and Hinduism, with somewhat different meanings.

The origins of the practice of dhyana, which culminates into samadhi, are a matter of dispute. Bronkhorst believes dhyana was a Buddhist invention, although Buddha was born a Hindu, and familiar with the Hindu meditative traditions like dhyana; whereas Alexander Wynne argues that dhyana was incorporated from Brahmanical practices, in the Nikayas ascribed to Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta. These practices were paired to mindfulness and insight, and given a new interpretation. Kalupahana argues that the Buddha "reverted to the meditational practices" he had learned from Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta.

In the Hindu tradition, the term is considered to have first appeared in the Upanishads. In most of the later Hindu traditions, which derive form Patanjali's Raja Yoga, dhyana is "a refined meditative practice", a "deeper concentration of the mind", which is taken up after preceding exercises. In Hinduism, dhyāna is considered to be an instrument to gain self-knowledge, separating Maya illusion from reality to help attain the ultimate goal of moksha.

Bhagavad Gita

In the form of a dialogue between Pandava prince Arjuna and his guide Lord Krishna[note 2] it presents a synthesis[3][4] of the Brahmanical concept of Dharma[3][4][5] with bhakti,[6][5] the yogic ideals[4] of liberation[4] through jnana,[6] and Samkhya philosophy.[web 2][note 3] It is the "locus classicus"[7] of the "Hindu synthesis"[7] which emerged around the beginning of the Common Era,[7] integrating Brahmanic and shramanic ideas with theistic devotion.[7][4][5][web 2]

The Bhagavad Gita talks of four branches of yoga:

  • Karma Yoga: The yoga of action in the world
  • Jnāna yoga: The yoga of Wisdom and intellectual endeavor
  • Bhakti Yoga: The yoga of devotion to God
  • Dhyāna Yoga: The yoga of meditation

The Dhyana Yoga system is specifically described by Sri Krishna in chapter 6 of the Bhagavad Gita, wherein He explains the many different Yoga systems to His friend and disciple, Arjuna.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali outline Ashtanga Yoga[8] (eightfold, eight-limbed) or Raja Yoga. Dhyana is the seventh limb of this path.[9]


The most recent assessment of Patañjali's date, developed in the context of the first critical edition ever made of the Yoga Sūtras and bhāṣya based on a study of the surviving original Sanskrit manuscripts of the work, is that of Philipp A. Maas.[10] Maas's detailed evaluation of the historical evidence and past scholarship on the subject, including the opinions of the majority of Sanskrit authors who wrote in the first millennium CE, is that Patañjali's work was composed in 400 CE plus or minus 25 years.[10]


Vyasa's Yogabhashya, the commentary to the Yogasutras, and Vacaspati Misra's subcommentary state directly that the samadhi techniques are directly borrowed from the Buddhists' Jhana, with the addition of the mystical and divine interpretations of mental absorption.[11]> According to David Gordon White, the language of the Yoga Sutras is often closer to "Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit, the Sanskrit of the early Mahayana Buddhist scriptures, than to the classical Sanskrit of other Hindu scriptures."[12]

According to Karel Werner:

Patanjali's system is unthinkable without Buddhism. As far as its terminology goes there is much in the Yoga Sutras that reminds us of Buddhist formulations from the Pāli Canon and even more so from the Sarvāstivāda Abhidharma and from Sautrāntika."[13]

Robert Thurman writes that Patañjali was influenced by the success of the Buddhist monastic system to formulate his own matrix for the version of thought he considered orthodox.[14] However, it is also to be noted that the Yoga Sutra, especially the fourth segment of Kaivalya Pada, contains several polemical verses critical of Buddhism, particularly the Vijñānavāda school of Vasubandhu.[15]

The Eight Limbs

The eight limbs are:


Dhyana, practiced together with Dharana and Samādhi constitutes the Samyama. Samyama's goal is to fully detach the mind from its physical world bindings. This aids the Yogis in reaching an enlightenment where a self or spirit is truly acknowledged, and made aware of. Samyama also can lead to one's accomplishment of repelling the human need for objects putting the Yogis in a state of self-satisfaction.[16]


The stage of meditation preceding dhyāna is called dharana.[16][17] In the Jangama Dhyāna technique, the meditator concentrates the mind and sight between the eyebrows. According to Patañjali, this is one method of achieving the initial concentration (dhāraṇā: Yoga Sutras, III: 1) necessary for the mind to become introverted in meditation (dhyāna: Yoga Sutras, III: 2). In deeper practice of the technique, the mind concentrated between the eyebrows begins to automatically lose all location and focus on the watching itself. Eventually, the meditator experiences only the consciousness of existence and achieves self realization. Swami Vivekananda describes the process in the following way:

When the mind has been trained to remain fixed on a certain internal or external location, there comes to it the power of flowing in an unbroken current, as it were, towards that point. This state is called dhyana. When one has so intensified the power of dhyana as to be able to reject the external part of perception and remain meditating only on the internal part, the meaning, that state is called Samadhi.[note 4]


In Dhyana, the meditator is not conscious of the act of meditation (i.e. is not aware that he/she is meditating) but is only aware that he/she exists (consciousness of being), and aware of the object of meditation. Dhyana is distinct from Dharana in that the meditator becomes one with the object of meditation. This means that the meditator although aware of the object through meditation detaches him/herself from its existence in the physical world. Just as meditation emphasizes the breath, Dhyana is rooted in the concentration of not being concentrated.[16][17]

The final stage of meditation in dhyāna is considered to be jhāna. At this stage of meditation, one does not see it as a meditational practice, but instead merges with the idea and thought. One cannot reach a higher stage of consciousness without jhāna.[web 3]


Samadhi is oneness with the object of meditation. There is no distinction between act of meditation and the object of meditation. Samadhi is of two kinds,[18][web 4] with and without support of an object of meditation:[web 5]

  • Samprajnata Samadhi, also called savikalpa samadhi and Sabija Samadhi,[web 6][note 5] meditation with support of an object.[web 5][note 6]
    Samprajata samadhi is associated with deliberation, reflection, bliss, and I-am-ness.[22][note 7] The first two, deliberation and reflection, form the basis of the various types of samapatti:[22][24]
    • Savitarka, "deliberative":[22][note 8] The citta is concentrated upon a gross object of meditation,[web 5] an object with a manifest appearance that is perceptible to our senses,[25] such as a flame of a lamp, the tip of the nose, or the image of a deity. Conceptualization (vikalpa) still takes place, in the form of perception, the word and the knowledge of the object of meditation.[22] When the deliberation is ended this is called nirvitaka samadhi.[26][note 9]
    • Savichara, "reflective":[25] the citta is concentrated upon a subtle object of meditation,[web 5][25] which is not percpetible to the senses, but arrived at through interference,[25] such as the senses, the process of cognition, the mind, the I-am-ness,[note 10] the chakras, the inner-breath (prana), the nadis, the intellect (buddhi).[25] The stilling of reflection is called nirvichara samapatti.[25][note 11]
      • Sananda Samadhi, ananda,[note 12] "bliss": this state emphasizes the still subtler state of bliss in meditation;[web 5]
      • Sasmita: the citta is concentrated upon the sense or feeling of "I-am-ness".[web 5]
  • Asamprajnata Samadhi, also called Nirvikalpa Samadhi[web 4] and Nirbija Samadhi:[web 4][note 13] meditation without an object,[web 5] which leads to knowledge of purusha or consciousness, the subtlest element.[25][note 14]


With the onset of the British Raj, the colonialisation of India by the British, there also started a Hindu renaissance in the 19th century, which profoundly changed the understanding of Hinduism in both India and the west.[28] Western orientalists searched for the "essence" of the Indian religions, discerning this in the Vedas,[29] and meanwhile creating the notion of "Hinduism" as a unified body of religious praxis[30] and the popular picture of 'mystical India'.[30][28] This idea of a Vedic essence was taken over by the Hindu reformers, together with the ideas of Universalism and Perennialism, the idea that all religions share a common mystic ground.[31]

A major proponent in the popularisation of this Universalist and Perennialist interpretation of Advaita Vedanta was Vivekananda,[32] who played a major role in the revival of Hinduism,[33] and the spread of Advaita Vedanta to the west via the Ramakrishna Mission. His interpretation of Advaita Vedanta has been called "Neo-Vedanta".[34] Vivekananda emphasised samadhi as a means to attain liberation.[35] Yet this emphasis is not to be found in the Upanishads nor with Shankara.[36] For Shankara, meditation and Nirvikalpa Samadhi are means to gain knowledge of the already existing unity of Brahman and Atman,[35] not the highest goal itself. Comans:

[Y]oga is a meditative exercise of withdrawal from the particular and identification with the universal, leading to contemplation of oneself as the most universal, namely, Consciousness. This approach is different from the classical Yoga of complete thought suppression.[35]

See also


  1. ^ Which derive form Patanjali's Raja Yoga.[1]
  2. ^ Faced with a fratricidal war, a despondent Arjuna turns to his charioteer Krishna for counsel on the battlefield. Krishna, through the course of the Gita, imparts to Arjuna wisdom, the path to devotion, and the doctrine of selfless action.[2]
  3. ^ The Bhagavad Gita also integrates theism and transcendentalism[web 2] or spiritual monism,[5] and identifies a God of personal characteristics with the Brahman of the Vedic tradition.[web 2]
  4. ^ See Swami Vivekenanda on in Raja Yoga Samadhi andDhyana .
  5. ^ The seeds or samskaras are not destroyed.[web 6]
  6. ^ According to Jianxin Li Samprajnata Samadhi may be compared to the rupa jhanas of Buddhism.[19] This interpretation may conflict with Gombrich and Wynne, according to whom the first and second jhana represent concentration, whereas the third and fourth jhana combine concentration with mindfulness.[20] According to Eddie Crangle, the first jhana resembles Patnajali's Samprajnata Samadhi, which both share the application of vitarka and vicara.[21]
  7. ^ Yoga Sutra 1.17: "Objective samadhi (samprajnata) is associated with deliberation, reflection, bliss, and I-am-ness (asmita).[23]
  8. ^ Yoga Sutra 1.42: "Deliberative (savitarka) samapatti is that samadhi in which words, objects, and knowledge are commingled through conceptualization."[22]
  9. ^ Yoga Sutra 1.43: "When memory is purified, the mind appears to be emptied of its own nature and only the object shines forth. This is superdeliberative (nirvitaka) samapatti."[26]
  10. ^ Following Yoga Sutra 1.17, meditation on the sense of "I-am-ness" is also grouped, in other descriptions, as "sasmita samapatti"
  11. ^ Yoga Sutra 1.44: "In this way, reflective (savichara) and super-reflective (nirvichara) samapatti, which are based on subtle objects, are also explained."[25]
  12. ^ See also Pīti
  13. ^ Without seeds or Samskaras[web 4] According to Swami Sivananda, "All the seeds or impressions are burnt by the fire of knowledge [...] all the Samskaras and Vasanas which bring on rebirths are totally fried up. All Vrittis or mental modifications that arise form the mind-lake come under restraint. The five afflictions, viz., Avidya (ignorance), Asmita (egoism), Raga-dvesha (love and hatred) and Abhinivesha (clinging to life) are destroyed and the bonds of Karma are annihilated [...] It gives Moksha (deliverance form the wheel of births and deaths). With the advent of the knowledge of the Self, ignorance vanishes. With the disappearance of the root-cause, viz., ignorance, egoism, etc., also disappear."[web 4]
  14. ^ According to Jianxin Li, Asamprajnata Samadhi may be compared to the arupa jhanas of Buddhism, and to Nirodha-Samapatti.[19] Crangle also notes that sabija-asamprajnata samadhi resembles the four formless jhanas.[21] According to Crangle, the fourth arupa jhana is the stage of transition to Patanjali's "consciousness without seed".[27]


  1. ^ a b Jones 2006, p. 283.
  2. ^ Deutsch & Dalvi 2004, pp. 59–61.
  3. ^ a b Deutsch 2004, p. 61.
  4. ^ a b c d e Scheepers 2000.
  5. ^ a b c d Raju 1992, p. 211.
  6. ^ a b Deutsch 2004, p. 61-62.
  7. ^ a b c d Hiltebeitel 2002.
  8. ^ Jones 2006, p. 514.
  9. ^ Lochtefeld 2002, p. 196.
  10. ^ a b Maas 2006.
  11. ^ David 1914.
  12. ^ White 2014, p. 10.
  13. ^ Werner 1994, p. 27.
  14. ^ Thurman 1984, p. 34.
  15. ^ Farquhar 1920, p. 132.
  16. ^ a b c Underwood 2005.
  17. ^ a b Smith 2005.
  18. ^ Jones & Ryan 2006, p. 377.
  19. ^ a b Jianxin Li year unknown.
  20. ^ Wynne 2007, p. 106; 140, note 58.
  21. ^ a b Crangle 1984, p. 191.
  22. ^ a b c d e Maehle 2007, p. 177.
  23. ^ Maehle 2007, p. 156.
  24. ^ Whicher 1998, p. 254.
  25. ^ a b c d e f g h Maehle 2007, p. 179.
  26. ^ a b Maehle 2007, p. 178.
  27. ^ Crangle 1984, p. 194.
  28. ^ a b King 2002.
  29. ^ King & 2002 118.
  30. ^ a b King 1999.
  31. ^ King 2002, p. =119-120.
  32. ^ King 2002, p. 135-142.
  33. ^ Dense 1999, p. 191.
  34. ^ Mukerji 1983.
  35. ^ a b c Comans 1993.
  36. ^ Comans 2000, p. 307.


Published sources

  • Bronkhorst, Johannes (1993), The Two Traditions Of Meditation In Ancient India, Motilal Banarsidass Publ. 
  • Comans, Michael (1993), The Question of the Importance of Samadhi in Modern and Classical Advaita Vedanta. In: Philosophy East and West Vol. 43, No. 1 (Jan. 1993), pp. 19–38. 
  • Comans, Michael (2000), The Method of Early Advaita Vedānta: A Study of Gauḍapāda, Śaṅkara, Sureśvara, and Padmapāda, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass 
  • Crangle, Eddie (1984), "A Comparison of Hindu and Buddhist Techniques of Attaining Samādhi", in Hutch, R.A.; Fenner, P.G., Under The Shade of the Coolibah Tree: Australian Studies in Consciousness (PDF), University Press of America 
  • David, John (1914), The Yoga System of Patanjali with commentary Yogabhashya attributed to Veda Vyasa and Tattva Vaicharadi by Vacaspati Misra, Harvard University Press 
  • Dense, Christian D. Von (1999), Philosophers and Religious Leaders, Greenwood Publishing Group 
  • Deutsch, Eliot; Dalvi, Rohit (2004), The Essential Vedānta: A New Source Book of Advaita Vedānta, World Wisdom, Inc,  
  • Farquhar, John Nicol (1920), An outline of the religious literature of India, Oxford University Press 
  • Jones, Constance; Ryan, James D. (2006), Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Infobase Publishing 
  • Kalupahana, David J. (1994), A history of Buddhist philosophy, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited 
  • King, Richard (1999), "Orientalism and the Modern Myth of "Hinduism"", NUMEN, Vol. 46, pp 146-185 (BRILL) 
  • King, Richard (2002), Orientalism and Religion: Post-Colonial Theory, India and "The Mystic East", Taylor & Francis e-Library 
  • Lochtefeld, James G. (2002), The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: A-M, The Rosen Publishing Group 
  • Maas, Philipp A. (2006), Samādhipāda: das erste Kapitel des Pātañjalayogaśāstra zum ersten Mal kritisch ediert, Aachen: Shaker,  
  • Maehle, Gregor (2007), Ashtanga Yoga: Practice and Philosophy, New World Library 
  • Mukerji, Mādhava Bithika (1983), Neo-Vedanta and Modernity, Ashutosh Prakashan Sansthan 
  • Raju, P.T. (1992), The Philosophical Traditions of India, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited 
  • Scheepers, Alfred (2000), De Wortels van het Indiase Denken, Olive Press 
  • Smith, Brian (2005), Yoga. In: "New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. Ed. Maryanne Cline Horowitz. Vol. 6.", Charles Scribner's Sons, 2005 
  • Thurman, Robert (1984), The Central Philosophy of Tibet, Princeton University Press 
  • Underwood, Frederic B. (2005), Meditation. In: "Encyclopedia of Religion. Ed. Lindsay Jones. 2nd ed. Vol. 9., Macmillan Reference USA. 5816-822. Gale Virtual Reference Library 
  • Werner, Karel (1994), The Yogi and the Mystic, Routledge 
  • Whicher, Ian (1998), The Integrity of the Yoga Darsana: A Reconsideration of Classical Yoga, SUNY Press 
  • White, David Gordon (2014), The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali: A Biography, Princeton University Press 
  • Wynne, Alexander (2007), The Origin of Buddhist Meditation, Routledge 


  1. ^ "Osho on Dhyana – A non-thinking awareness is what dhyana is, a contentless consciousness". 
  2. ^ a b c d , Encyclopædia BritannicaHinduism - The Bhagavad GitaArthur Llewellyn Basham,
  3. ^ DhyānaDictionary of World Philosophy (2001),
  4. ^ a b c d e Raja Yoga SamadhiSri Swami Sivananda,
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Integrating 50+ Varieties of Yoga MeditationSwami Jnaneshvara Bharati,
  6. ^ a b Samprajnata SamadhiSwami Sivananda,

Further reading

  • Whicher, Ian (1998), The Integrity of the Yoga Darsana: A Reconsideration of Classical Yoga, SUNY Press 

External links

  • Yoga and Meditation (Dhyana)George Feuerstein,
  • Integrating 50+ Varieties of Yoga MeditationSwami Jnaneshvara Bharati,
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