Dhyana in Hinduism

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
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".[2] 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.


The term dhyana is used in Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism, with somewhat different meanings.[1] The Jains, who formed part of the shramana movement, may have been the first to practice dhyana.[1] In the Hindu tradition the term dhyana first appears in the Upanishads.[1] In most of the later Hindu traditions, which derive form Patanjali's Raja Yoga, dhyana is "a refined meditative practice",[1] a "deeper concentration of the mind",[1] which is taken up after preceding exercises.[1] 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.

Bhagavad Gita[edit]

The Bhagavad Gītā, thought to have been written some time between 400 and 100 BC, is a 700-verse scripture that is part of the Hindu epic Mahabharata. In the form of a dialogue between Pandava prince Arjuna and his guide Lord Krishna[note 2] it presents a synthesis[4][5] of the Brahmanical concept of Dharma[4][5][6] with bhakti,[7][6] the yogic ideals[5] of liberation[5] through jnana,[7] and Samkhya philosophy.[web 1][note 3] It is the "locus classicus"[8] of the "Hindu synthesis"[8] which emerged around the beginning of the Common Era,[8] integrating Brahmanic and shramanic ideas with theistic devotion.[8][5][6][web 1]

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[edit]

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali outline Ashtanga Yoga[9] (eightfold, eight-limbed) or Raja Yoga. Dhyana is the seventh limb of this path.[10]

Compilation and dating[edit]

Radhakrishnan and Moore attribute the Yoga Sutras to Patañjali, dating it as 2nd century BCE, during the Maurya Empire (322–185 BCE).[11] Scholars such as S.N. Dasgupta,[12] claim this is the same Patañjali who authored the Mahabhasya, a treatise on Sanskrit grammar.[13] Indologist Axel Michaels disagrees that the work was written by Patañjali, characterizing it instead as a collection of fragments and traditions of texts stemming from the 2nd or 3rd century.[14] Gavin Flood cites an even wider period of composition, between 100 BCE and 500 CE.[15]

The Eight Limbs[edit]

The eight limbs are:


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.[18]


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. Much like meditation focused on 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 2]


Ultimately Dhyana leads to the final stage of Yoga, Samādhi.[16][17] He/she is then able to maintain this oneness for 144 inhalations and expiration.


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.[19]


Main articles: Neo-Vedanta and Swami Vivekananda

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.[20] Western orientalists searched for the "essence" of the Indian religions, discerning this in the Vedas,[21] and meanwhile creating the notion of "Hinduism" as a unified body of religious praxis[22] and the popular picture of 'mystical India'.[22][20] 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.[23]

A major proponent in the popularisation of this Universalist and Perennialist interpretation of Advaita Vedanta was Vivekananda,[24] who played a major role in the revival of Hinduism,[25] and the spread of Advaita Vedanta to the west via the Ramakrishna Mission. His interpretation of Advaita Vedanta has been called "Neo-Vedanta".[26] Vivekananda emphasised samadhi as a means to attain liberation.[27] Yet this emphasis is not to be found in the Upanishads nor with Shankara.[28] For Shankara, meditation and Nirvikalpa Samadhi are means to gain knowledge of the already existing unity of Brahman and Atman,[27] 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.[27]

See also[edit]


  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.[3]
  3. ^ The Bhagavad Gita also integrates theism and transcendentalism[web 1] or spiritual monism,[6] and identifies a God of personal characteristics with the Brahman of the Vedic tradition.[web 1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Jones 2006, p. 283.
  2. ^ "Osho on Dhyana – A non-thinking awareness is what dhyana is, a contentless consciousness". 
  3. ^ Deutsch & Dalvi 2004, pp. 59–61.
  4. ^ a b Deutsch 2004, p. 61.
  5. ^ a b c d e Scheepers 2000.
  6. ^ a b c d Raju 1992, p. 211.
  7. ^ a b Deutsch 2004, p. 61-62.
  8. ^ a b c d Hiltebeitel 2002.
  9. ^ Jones 2006, p. 514.
  10. ^ Lochtefeld 2002, p. 196.
  11. ^ For attribution to Patañjali and a dating of 2nd century BCE see: Radhakrishnan and Moore, p. 453.
  12. ^ Dasgupta, Surendranath. Yoga-As Philosophy and Religion Port Washington: Kennikat Press, 1924
  13. ^ For the philosophical nature of Sanskrit grammarian thought see: Lata, Bidyut (editor); Panini to Patañjali: A Grammatical March. New Delhi, 2004.
  14. ^ For the Yoga Sutras as a collection dating to the 2nd or 3rd century, see: Michaels, p. 267.
  15. ^ For dating between 100 BCE and 500 CE see: Flood (1996), page 96.
  16. ^ a b c Underwood 2005.
  17. ^ a b c Smith 2005.
  18. ^ See Swami Vivekenanda on Dhyana and Samadhi in Raja Yoga.
  19. ^ Underwood, Frederic B. "Meditation." Encyclopedia of Religion. Ed. Lindsay Jones. 2nd ed. Vol. 9. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005. 5816-822. Gale Virtual Reference Library. 23 Sept. 2013.
  20. ^ a b King 2002.
  21. ^ King & 2002 118.
  22. ^ a b King 1999.
  23. ^ King 2002, p. =119-120.
  24. ^ King 2002, p. 135-142.
  25. ^ Dense 1999, p. 191.
  26. ^ Mukerji 1983.
  27. ^ a b c Comans 1993.
  28. ^ Comans 2000, p. 307.


Published sources[edit]