Dhyana in Hinduism
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According to the Hindu Yoga Sutra, written by Patanjali, dhyana (meditation) is one of the eight limbs of Yoga, (the other seven being Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, and Samādhi). According to Patanjali, the founder of yoga philosophy, 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.
The entire Eight Limbs of the Patanjali system are also sometimes referred to as Dhyana, or the meditative path, although strictly speaking, only the last four limbs constitute meditation Pratyahara, Dhyana, Dharana, and Samādhi. The preceding steps are only to prepare the body and mind for meditation.
In the Ashtanga ("eight limbs") Yoga of Patanjali, the stage of meditation preceding dhyāna is called dharana. In Dhyana, the meditator is not conscious of the act of meditation (i.e. is not aware that s/he is meditating) but is only aware that s/he 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. He/she is then able to maintain this oneness for 144 inhalations and expiration.
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. In fact, Lord Shankar described 108 different ways to do Dhyana to Mata Parvati.
In Hinduism, dhyāna is considered to be an instrument to gain self knowledge, separating māyā from reality to help attain the ultimate goal of mokṣa. Depictions of Hindu yogis performing dhyāna are found in ancient texts and in statues and frescoes of ancient Indian temples.
The Bhagavad Gītā, thought to have been written some time between 400 and 100 BC, 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
For example, 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.
See also 
- dhyāna. (2001). In Dictionary of World Philosophy. Retrieved from http://authenticate.library.duq.edu/login?qurl=http%3A%2F%2Fliterati.credoreference.com.authenticate.library.duq.edu%2Fcontent%2Fentry%2Froutwp%2Fdhy%25C4%2581na%2F0
- See Swami Vivekenanda on Dhyana and Samadhi in Raja Yoga.