What is DHYANA

 

Dhyana is the commonly used Sanskrit word that means meditation. Meditation is increasingly seen as an important practice, both by the religious and non-religious. Therefore, it is necessary to know the detailed meaning of this word. This is a Sanskrit word. Sanskrit is a classical language like Greek, Latin, and Persian. And in Sanskrit, as in most classical languages, most words are derived from a stem or root.   

 

The word ‘dhyana’ can be derived from the root words dhi and yana. Dhi means to perceive, think, reflect, wish, or desire. Yana means path, course, journey, travel, going, moving, riding, marching, vehicle, carriage, wagon, vessel, or ship. Formed by the words dhi and yana, dhyana would mean a process, path, or vehicle to properly think or reflect. The word ‘dhyana’ can also be derived from the root dhyai, which means to think, imagine, contemplate, meditate, recollect, call to mind, and brood. Then the word ‘dhyana’ would mean to meditate or contemplate.

 

Dhyana is the seventh stage of the ashtanga, eight-limbed yoga system of Patanjali. This stage is the penultimate stage and is just before samadhi. Dhyana is a much deeper term and has a very profound meaning than the word ‘meditation’. Before practising dhyana, one has to have established oneself in the previous six steps of yama, ethics; niyama, self-restraint; asana, body posture; pranayama, control of the vital breath; pratyahara, control of the senses; and dharana, sustained concentration. Yama means to abstain from violence, untruth, stealing, sensuality, and hoarding. Niyama means to practise purity, contentment, austerity, study of scriptures, and surrendering to a higher principle. ‘Asana’ means proper body posture and ‘pranayama’ means the control of breath. Dharana refers to the fixing of concentration so that all similar mental modifications on an object are confined to a particular place in the mind. In other words, dharana is one-pointed concentration on an object.

 

Dharana is usually not continuous and has interruptions. When by the constant practice of dharana, the mind gets easily focussed on the object of concentration, and such a focus becomes continuous, in an unbroken flow, just as the flow of oil from one vessel to another, it turns into dhyana. In yoga philosophy, dhyana is not connected with the object of meditation, but is a state of calmness of the mind. Such a state can be achieved by following the six-limbed process mentioned above. Dhyana is a state of mind akin to a state when there is only a single idea in the mind.

 

The aim of practising dhyana is to become free of the samskaras, latent tendencies, in one’s mind. Dhyana removes one’s awareness from all other things and makes it one with the object of meditation. In deep dhyana, one is then aware of only one’s own self and merges with the object of meditation, that is, the self and the object of meditation become one. Dhyana could be also likened to stilling the mind, much like the stilling of a pool of water. What remains in dhyana is only a clear awareness of oneself. All other tendencies disappear in this state.

 

Author is Editor Prabuddha Bharata

To read all articles by author

Also read What is SAMADHI

This article was first published in the November 2017 issue of Prabuddha Bharata, monthly journal of The Ramakrishna Order started by Swami Vivekananda in 1896. This article is courtesy and copyright Prabuddha Bharata. I have been reading the Prabuddha Bharata for years and found it enlightening. Cost is Rs 180/ for one year, Rs 475/ for three years, Rs 2100/ for twenty years. To subscribe http://advaitaashrama.org/pbSubscription