Sādhanā (Sanskrit: साधना; Tibetan: སྒྲུབ་ཐབས་, THL: druptap; Chinese: 修行; pinyin: xiūxíng) is an ego-transcending spiritual practice. It includes a variety of disciplines in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain traditions that are followed in order to achieve various spiritual or ritual objectives.
Sadhana is done for attaining detachment from worldly things, which can be a goal of a Sadhu. Karma yoga, Bhakti yoga and Gnyan yoga can also be described as Sadhana, in that constant efforts to achieve maximum level of perfection in all streams in day-to-day life can be described as Sadhana.
Sādhanā can also refer to a tantric liturgy or liturgical manual, that is, the instructions to carry out a certain practice.
The historian N. Bhattacharyya provides a working definition of the benefits of sādhanā as follows:
[R]eligious sādhanā, which both prevents an excess of worldliness and molds the mind and disposition (bhāva) into a form which develops the knowledge of dispassion and non-attachment. Sādhanā is a means whereby bondage becomes liberation.
Sādhanā is a discipline undertaken in the pursuit of a goal. Abhyāsa is repeated practice performed with observation and reflection. Kriyā, or action, also implies perfect execution with study and investigation. Therefore, sādhanā, abhyāsa, and kriyā all mean one and the same thing. A sādhaka, or practitioner, is one who skillfully applies...mind and intelligence in practice towards a spiritual goal.
The term sādhanā means "methodical discipline to attain desired knowledge or goal". Sadhana is also done for attaining detachment from worldly things which can be a goal, a person undertaking such a practice is known in Sanskrit as a sādhu (female sādhvi), sādhaka (female sādhakā) or yogi (Tibetan pawo; feminine yogini or dakini, Tibetan khandroma). The goal of sādhanā is to attain some level of spiritual realization, which can be either enlightenment, pure love of God (prema), liberation (moksha) from the cycle of birth and death (saṃsāra), or a particular goal such as the blessings of a deity as in the Bhakti traditions.
Sādhanā can involve meditation, chanting of mantra sometimes with the help of prayer beads, puja to a deity, yajña, and in very rare cases mortification of the flesh or tantric practices such as performing one's particular sādhanā within a cremation ground.
Traditionally in some Hindu and Buddhist traditions in order to embark on a specific path of sādhanā, a guru may be required to give the necessary instructions. This approach is typified by some Tantric traditions, in which initiation by a guru is sometimes identified as a specific stage of sādhanā. On the other hand, individual renunciates may develop their own spiritual practice without participating in organized groups.
Sādhanā in Yoga
Kriyāyoga gives us the practical disciplines needed to scale the spiritual heights.....the four padas of the Yoga Sūtras describe different disciplines of practice, the qualities or aspects of which vary according to the development of intelligence and refinement of consciousness of each sādhaka.
In the Yoga Sutras II.1, Patañjali and his commentators write that the Kriyāyoga (action-oriented type of yoga) is to be undertaken by those whose mind is not already fixed. The fixing or "stilling of the changing states of mind" (Yoga Sutras I.2) is the goal of yoga, for which Kriyāyoga is necessary as a first step for a sādhaka. There are three aspects of Kriyāyoga:
- Discipline - tapas, comprises the "sāttvicizing" of one's sensual engagements or controlling one's senses and making sure that what they consume is amenable to a sattvic mind.
- Study - svādhyāya, is taken by Vyāsa, the main commentator on the Yoga Sutras, to refer to the chanting of mantras (an act which is usually termed japa) and the study of scriptures (jñāna).
- Dedication to God - Īśvara-praṇidhāna, meaning dedicating all of ones actions to God (Īśvara), which the commentators implicitly refer to the bhakti-centered karma-yoga that is described in the second chapter of the Gita.
Vachaspati Mishra, an influential commentator on the Yoga Sutras, notes that these three aspects of Kriyāyoga are necessary in order to purify the mind, making it more sāttvic than rājasic or tāmasic. Such purity of the mind allows one to then cultivate practice (abhyāsa) and dispassion (vairāgya), which are prerequisites for achieving the stilling of the mind.
The tantric rituals are called "sādhanā". Some of the well known sādhanās are:
- śāva sādhanā (sādhanā done while visualizing sitting on a corpse).
- śmaśāna sādhanā (sādhanā done while visualizing being in a crematorium or cremation ground).
- pañca-muṇḍa sādhanā (sādhanā done while visualizing sitting on a seat of five skulls).
All of these are available in Tibetan form, many are available in Chinese and some are still extant in ancient Sanskrit manuscripts.
[E]xternal ritual and internal sādhanā form an indistinguishable whole, and this unity finds its most pregnant expression in the form of the mandala, the sacred enclosure consisting of concentric squares and circles drawn on the ground and representing that adamantine plane of being on which the aspirant to Buddhahood wishes to establish himself. The unfolding of the tantric ritual depends on the mandala; and where a material mandala is not employed, the adept proceeds to construct one mentally in the course of his meditation.
- Flood, Gavin. An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1996. pp. 92, 156, 160, 167. ISBN 0-521-43878-0.
- NK Brahma, Philosophy of Hindu Sādhanā, ISBN 978-8120333062, pages ix-x
- http://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?title=Sādhanā[dead link]
- C.C. Shah, Cultural and Religious Heritage of India: Jainism, Mittal, ISBN 81-7099-9553, page 301
- V. S. Apte. A Practical Sanskrit Dictionary. p. 979.
- Bhattacharyya, N. N. History of the Tantric Religion. Second Revised Edition. (Manohar: New Delhi, 1999) p. 174. ISBN 81-7304-025-7
- Iyengar, B.K.S. (1993, 2002). Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali. Hammersmith, London, UK: Thorsons. ISBN 978-0-00-714516-4 p.22
- "What is spiritual level?". Spiritual Science Research Foundation. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
- Bhattacharyya, op. cit., p. 317.
- Flood, Gavin. An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1996. p. 92. ISBN 0-521-43878-0.
- Patañjali (2009). The Yoga sūtras of Patañjali : a new edition, translation, and commentary with insights from the traditional commentators. Edwin F. Bryant (1st ed.). New York. pp. 169–172. ISBN 0-86547-736-1. OCLC 243544645.
- Digital Sanskrit Buddhist Canon – University of the West Archives of Ancient Sanskrit Manuscripts Archived 2010-06-12 at the Wayback Machine
- Kvaerne, Per (1975). "On the Concept of Sahaja in Indian Buddhist Tantric Literature". (NB: article first published in Temenos XI (1975): pp.88-135). Cited in: Williams, Jane (2005). Buddhism: Critical Concepts in Religious Studies, Volume 6. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-33226-5, ISBN 978-0-415-33226-2. Source:  (accessed; Friday April 16, 2010)