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Dhyāna: Wikis


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Chinese name
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Japanese name
Korean name
Tibetan name
Tibetan samten
Vietnamese name
Quốc ngữ Thiền
Sanskrit name
Sanskrit ध्यान (in Devanagari)
Dhyāna (Romanised)
Pāli name
Pāli झान (in Devanagari)
ඣාන (in Sinhala)
Jhāna (Romanised)

Dhyāna in Sanskrit (Devanagari: ध्यान)) or jhāna in Pāli generally refers to either meditation or meditative states. Equivalent terms are "Chán" in modern Chinese, "Zen" in Japanese, "Seon" in Korean, "Thien" in Vietnamese, and "Samten" in Tibetan.


Dhyāna in Hinduism

In Hinduism, dhyana is considered to be an instrument to gain self knowledge, separating maya from reality to help attain the ultimate goal of moksha. Depictions of Hindu yogis performing dhyāna are found in ancient texts and in statues and frescoes of ancient India temples.

The Bhagavad Gita, thought to have been written some time between 400 and 100 BC, talks of four branches of yoga:

Dhyana in Raja Yoga is also found in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. Practiced together with Dharana and Samādhi it constitutes the Samyama.

For example, in the Jangama dhyana technique, the meditator concentrates the mind and sight between the eyebrows. According to Patanjali, this is one method of achieving the initial concentration (dharana: Yoga Sutras, III: 1) necessary for the mind to go introverted in meditation (dhyana: 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.[1]

Dhyāna in Buddhism


In the Theravada tradition

In the Pali Canon the Buddha describes eight progressive states of absorption meditation or jhāna. Four are considered to be meditations of form (rupa jhana) and four are formless meditations (arupa jhana). The first four jhānas are said by the Buddha to be conducive to a pleasant abiding and freedom from suffering (DN 22). The jhānas are states of meditation where the mind is free from the five hindrances (craving, aversion, sloth, agitation, doubt) and (from the second jhāna onwards) incapable of discursive thinking. The deeper jhānas can last for many hours. When a meditator emerges from jhāna, his or her mind is empowered and able to penetrate into the deepest truths of existence.

There are four deeper states of meditative absorption called the immaterial attainments. Sometimes these are also referred to as the "formless" jhānas, or arupajhana (distinguished from the first four jhānas, rupajhana). In the Buddhist canonical texts, the word jhāna is never explicitly used to denote them, but they are always mentioned in sequence after the first four jhānas. The enlightenment of complete dwelling in emptiness is reached when the eighth jhana is transcended.

Jhānas are normally described according to the nature of the mental factors which are present in these states

  1. Movement of the mind onto the object, Vitakka (Sanskrit: Vitarka)
  2. Retention of the mind on the object, Vicāra
  3. Joy, Pīti (Sanskrit: Prīti)
  4. Happiness, Sukha
  5. Equanimity, Upekkhā (Sanskrit: Upekṣā)
  6. One-pointedness, Ekaggatā (Sanskrit: Ekāgratā)[2]

Four progressive states of Jhāna:

  1. First Jhāna (Vitakka, Vicāra, Pīti, Sukha, Ekaggatā): The five hindrances have completely disappeared and intense unified bliss remains. Only the subtlest of mental movement remains, perceivable in its absence by those who have entered the second jhāna. The ability to form unwholesome intentions ceases.
  2. Second Jhāna (Pīti, Sukha, Ekaggatā): All mental movement utterly ceases. There is only bliss. The ability to form wholesome intentions ceases as well.
  3. Third Jhāna (Sukha, Ekaggatā): One-half of bliss (joy) disappears.
  4. Fourth Jhāna (Upekkhā, Ekaggatā): The other half of bliss (happiness) disappears, leading to a state with neither pleasure nor pain, which the Buddha said is actually a subtle form of happiness (more sublime than pīti and sukha). The Buddha described the jhānas as "the footsteps of the tathāgata". The breath is said to cease temporarily in this state.

Traditionally, this fourth jhāna is seen as the beginning of attaining psychic powers (abhigna).[3]

The scriptures state that one should not seek to attain ever higher jhanas but master one first, then move on to the next. "Mastery of jhana" involves being able to enter a jhana at will, stay as long as one likes, leave at will and experience each of the jhana factors as required. They also seem to suggest that lower jhana factors may manifest themselves in higher jhanas, if the jhanas have not been properly developed. The Buddha is seen to advise his disciples to concentrate and steady the jhana further.

In Mahayana traditions

10 pāramī
 6 pāramitā 
Colored items are in both lists.

The importance of dhyana in the Mahayana tradition can't be over emphasized. Dhyāna is the fifth of six pāramitās (perfections). It is usually translated as "concentration," "meditation," or "meditative stability." In China, the word dhyana was originally transliterated as chan-na (禅那; Mandarin: chánnà), and was eventually shortened to just chan (禅) by common usage.

Dhyana, usually under the related term of samadhi[4], together with the second and sixth paramitas are also known as the three essential studies, or threefold training, of Buddhism: moral precepts (sila), meditation (dhyana or samadhi), and wisdom (prajna). In Mahayana Buddhism no one can be said to be accomplished in Buddhism who has not successfully trained in all three studies.

When Buddhism was brought to China, the Buddhist masters tended to become more focused or primarily adept in one of the three studies. Vinaya masters were those who specialized in the monastic rules of discipline and the moral precepts (sila). Dharma masters were those who specialized in the wisdom teachings of the Sutras and Buddhist treatises (shastras). Dhyana or Chan masters were those who specialized in meditation practice and states of samadhi. Monks would often begin their training under one kind of master, such as a Vinaya master, and then transfer to another master, such as a Dharma master or a Dhyana master, to further their training and studies. At that time there was no separate school known as Chan.

Chan: The Dhyana School of China

According to tradition, Bodhidharma brought his lineage school of a line of dhyāna masters from India to China. After a somewhat disappointing interview with an Emperor in the south of China, Bodhidharma went into the north and resided in relative obscurity at the Shaolin Temple until several disciples found him. As it became more and more independent, popular and politically influential, the lineage school that was attributed to Bodhidharma became known as the Chan school in China and was transplanted to Korea as Seon, to Japan as Zen, and to Vietnam as Thiền.

Arguably the most influential figure in Chinese Chan is Huineng who, beginning with Bodhidharma, is considered the sixth in line of the founders of the school of Chan Buddhism. Huineng is credited with firmly establishing Chan Buddhism as an independent Buddhist school in China. In the Platform Sutra Huineng says:

Learned Audience, what is sitting for meditation? In our School, to sit means to gain absolute freedom and to be mentally unperturbed in all outward circumstances, be they good or otherwise. To meditate means to realize inwardly the imperturbability of the Essence of Mind. Learned Audience, what are Dhyana and Samadhi? Dhyana means to be free from attachment to all outer objects, and Samadhi means to attain inner peace. If we are attached to outer objects, our inner mind will be perturbed. When we are free from attachment to all outer objects, the mind will be in peace. Our Essence of Mind is intrinsically pure, and the reason why we are perturbed is because we allow ourselves to be carried away by the circumstances we are in. He who is able to keep his mind unperturbed, irrespective of circumstances, has attained Samadhi. To be free from attachment to all outer objects is Dhyana, and to attain inner peace is Samadhi. When we are in a position to deal with Dhyana and to keep our inner mind in Samadhi, then we are said to have attained Dhyana and Samadhi. The Bodhisattva Sila Sutra says, "Our Essence of Mind is intrinsically pure." Learned Audience, let us realize this for ourselves at all times. Let us train ourselves, practice it by ourselves, and attain Buddhahood by our own effort.[5]

Dhyāna in Jainism

is called Samayika.

See also


  1. ^ See Swami Vivekenanda on Dhyana and Samadhi in Raja Yoga [1].
  2. ^ In the Suttapitaka, right concentration is often referred to as having five factors, with one-pointedness (ekaggata) not being explicitly identified as a factor of jhana attainment (see, for instance, SN 28.1-4, AN 4.41, AN 5.28).
  3. ^ For instance in AN 5.28, the Buddha states (Thanissaro, 1997.):
    When a monk has developed and pursued the five-factored noble right concentration in this way, then whichever of the six higher knowledges he turns his mind to know and realize, he can witness them for himself whenever there is an opening....
    If he wants, he wields manifold supranormal powers. Having been one he becomes many; having been many he becomes one. He appears. He vanishes. He goes unimpeded through walls, ramparts, and mountains as if through space. He dives in and out of the earth as if it were water. He walks on water without sinking as if it were dry land. Sitting crosslegged he flies through the air like a winged bird. With his hand he touches and strokes even the sun and moon, so mighty and powerful. He exercises influence with his body even as far as the Brahma worlds. He can witness this for himself whenever there is an opening ...
  4. ^ Dhyana and samadhi may be said to be two sides of the same coin. Dhyana is the practice and samadhi is the realization.
  5. ^ Translation by A.F. Price and Wong Mou-Lam at [2] and [3]


External links




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