|Dhy?na in Buddhism|
|Sanskrit|| (in Devanagari)
|P?li|| (in Devanagari)
? (in Burmese)
In Buddhism, Dhy?na (Sanskrit) or Jh?na (Pali) is a series of cultivated states of mind, which lead to a "state of perfect equanimity and awareness (upekkhii-sati-piirisuddhl)." It is commonly translated as meditation, and is also used in Hinduism and Jainism. Dhyana may have been the core practice of pre-sectarian Buddhism, but became appended with other forms of meditation throughout its development.
According to Henepola Gunaratana, the term "jhana" is closely connected with "samadhi", which is generally rendered as "concentration". The word "samadhi" is almost interchangeable with the word "samatha", serenity.
... the centering of consciousness and consciousness concomitants evenly and rightly on a single object... the state in virtue of which consciousness and its concomitants remain evenly and rightly on a single object, undistracted and unscattered (Vism.84-85; PP.85).
In the widest sense the word samadhi is being used for the practices which lead to the development of serenity. In this sense, samadhi and jhana are close in meaning. Nevertheless, they are not exactly identical. Samadhi signifies only one mental factor, namely one-pointedness, while the word "jhana" encompasses the whole state of consciousness.
Samadhi also covers another type of concentration, namely "momentary concentration" (khanikasamadhi), "the mobile mental stabilization produced in the course of insight contemplation of the passing flow of phenomena."
The P?li canon describes eight progressive states of jh?na. Four are called meditations of form (r?pa jh?na), and four are formless meditations (ar?pa jh?na).
|First jh?na||Second jhana||Third jhana||Fourth jhana|
|K?ma / Akusala dhamma
(sensuality / unskillful qualities)
|Does not occur||Does not occur||Does not occur|
|stilled||Does not occur||Does not occur|
(along with distress)
|Does not occur|
(along with pain)
(pure, mindful equanimity)
|Does not occur||internal confidence;
no pleasure or pain
There are four stages of deep collectedness which are called the Rupa Jh?na (Fine-material Jh?na). For each Jh?na are given a set of qualities which are present in that jhana:
Beyond the four jh?nas lie four attainments, referred to in the early texts as aruppas. These are also referred to in commentarial literature as immaterial/the formless jh?nas (ar?pajh?nas), also translated as The Formless Dimensions, in distinction from the first four jh?nas (r?pa jh?nas). In the Buddhist canonical texts, the word "jh?na" is never explicitly used to denote them, they are instead referred to as ?yatana. However, they are sometimes mentioned in sequence after the first four jh?nas (other texts. e.g. MN 121 treat them as a distinct set of attainments) and thus came to be treated by later exegetes as jh?nas. The immaterial attainments have more to do with expanding, while the Jhanas (1-4) focus on concentration. The enlightenment of complete dwelling in emptiness is reached when the eighth jh?na is transcended.
The four formless jhanas are:
Although the "Dimension of Nothingness" and the "Dimension of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception" are included in the list of nine Jhanas taught by the Buddha, they are not included in the Noble Eightfold Path. Noble Path number eight is "Samma Samadhi" (Right Concentration), and only the first four Jhanas are considered "Right Concentration". If he takes a disciple through all the Jhanas, the emphasis is on the "Cessation of Feelings and Perceptions" rather than stopping short at the "Dimension of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception".
Beyond the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception lies a state called Nirodha Samapatti, the "cessation of perception, feelings and consciousness". Only in commentarial and scholarly literature this sometimes is called the "ninth jh?na".
The time of the Buddha saw the rise of the ?rama?a movement, ascetic practitioners with a body of shared teachings and practices.[full ] The strict delineation of this movement into Jainism, Buddhism and brahmanical/Upanishadic traditions is a later development.[full ]
According to Bronkhorst, the practice of the four dhyanas may have been an original contribution by Gautama Buddha to the religious practices of ancient India in response to the ascetic practices of the Jains. According to Wynne, the attainment of the formless meditative absorption was incorporated from Brahmanical practices,[page needed] These practices were paired to mindfulness and insight, and given a new interpretation.[page needed] The stratification of particular sam?dhi experiences into the four jh?nas seems to be a Buddhist innovation.[page needed] It was then borrowed and presented in an incomplete form in the Mok?adharma, a part of the Mah?bh?rata. Kalupahana argues that the Buddha "reverted to the meditational practices" he had learned from ?ra K?l?ma and Uddaka R?maputta.
Thomas William Rhys Davids and Maurice Walshe agreed that the term samadhi is not found in any pre-Buddhist text. Samadhi was first found in the Tipi?aka and not in any pre-Buddhist text. It was later incorporated into later texts such as the Maitrayaniya Upanishad. But according to Matsumoto, "the terms dhyana and samahita (entering samadhi) appear already in Upanishadic texts that predate the origins of Buddhism".[note 2]
The Mahasaccaka Sutta, Majjhima Nikaya 36, narrates the story of the Buddha's awakening. According to this story, he learned two kinds of meditation, which did not lead to enlightenment. He then underwent harsh ascetic practices with which he eventually also became disillusioned. The Buddha then recalled a meditative state he entered by chance as a child:[page needed]
I thought: 'I recall once, when my father the Sakyan was working, and I was sitting in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree, then -- quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful mental qualities -- I entered & remained in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. Could that be the path to Awakening?' Then following on that memory came the realization: 'That is the path to Awakening.'
In the Mahasaccaka Sutta, dhyana is followed by insight into the four noble truths. The mention of the four noble truths as constituting "liberating insight" is probably a later addition.[page needed] Originally the practice of dhyana itself may have constituted the core liberating practice of early Buddhism, since in this state all "pleasure and pain" had waned.[page needed] According to Vetter,
[P]robably the word "immortality" (a-mata) was used by the Buddha for the first interpretation of this experience and not the term cessation of suffering that belongs to the four noble truths [...] the Buddha did not achieve the experience of salvation by discerning the four noble truths and/or other data. But his experience must have been of such a nature that it could bear the interpretation "achieving immortality".
Discriminating insight into transiency as a separate path to liberation was a later development, under pressure of developments in Indian religious thinking, which saw "liberating insight" as essential to liberation.[page needed] This may also have been due to an over-literal interpretation by later scholastics of the terminology used by the Buddha, and to the problems involved with the practice of dhyana, and the need to develop an easier method.
Alexander Wynne attempted to find parallels in Brahmanical texts to the meditative goals the two teachers claimed to have taught, drawing especially on some of the Upanishads and the Mokshadharma chapter of the Mahabharata.
The suttas describe how the Buddha learned meditative practices from two teachers, Uddaka Ramaputta and Alara Kalama. Alex Wynne argues that Uddaka Ramaputta belonged to the pre-Buddhist tradition portrayed by the Buddhist and Brahmanic sources, in which the philosophical formulations of the early Upanishads were accepted, and the meditative state of "neither perception nor non-perception" was equated with the self. Wynne further argues that the goal of Alara Kalama was a Brahminical concept. Evidence in the Chandogya Upanishad and the Taittiriya Upanishad suggests that a different early Brahminic philosophical tradition held the view that the unmanifest state of Brahman was a form of non-existence. According to Wynne it thus seems likely that both element and formless meditation was learned by the Buddha from his two teachers, and adapted by him to his own system.[note 3]
It appears that in early Brahminic yoga, the formless spheres were attained following element meditation. This is also taught as an option in the early Buddhist texts. The primary method taught to achieve the formless attainment in early Buddhist scriptures, on the other hand, is to proceed to the sphere of infinite space following the fourth jh?na.
Wynne claimed that Brahminic passages on meditation suggest that the most basic presupposition of early Brahmanical yoga is that the creation of the world must be reversed, through a series of meditative states, by the yogin who seeks the realization of the self. These states were given doctrinal background in early Brahminic cosmologies, which classified the world into successively coarser strata. One such stratification is found at TU II.1 and Mbh XII.195, and proceeds as follows: self, space, wind, fire, water, earth. Mbh XII.224 gives alternatively: Brahman, mind, space, wind, fire, water, earth.
In Brahmanical thought, the meditative states of consciousness were thought to be identical to the subtle strata of the cosmos. There is no similar theoretical background to element meditation in the early Buddhist texts, where the elements appear simply as suitable objects of meditation. It is likely that the Brahmanic practices of element-meditation were borrowed and adapted by early Buddhists, with the original Brahmanic ideology of the practices being discarded in the process.
On this point, it is thought that the uses of the elements in early Buddhist literature have in general very little connection to Brahmanical thought; in most places they occur in teachings where they form the objects of a detailed contemplation of the human being. The aim of these contemplations seems to have been to bring about the correct understanding that the various perceived aspects of a human being, when taken together, nevertheless do not comprise a 'self'. Moreover, the self is conceptualized in terms similar to both "nothingness" and "neither perception nor non-perception" at different places in early Upanishadic literature.
The latter corresponds to Yajnavalkya's definition of the self in his famous dialogue with Maitreyi in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and the definition given in the post-Buddhist Mandukya Upanishad. This is mentioned as a claim of non-Buddhist ascetics and Brahmins in the Pañcattaya Sutta (Majjhima Nikaya 102.2). In the same dialogue in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Yajnavalkya draws the conclusions that the self that is neither perceptive nor non-perceptive is a state of consciousness without object. The early Buddhist evidence suggests much the same thing for the state of "neither perception nor non-perception". It is a state without an object of awareness, that is not devoid of awareness. The state following it in the Buddhist scheme, the "cessation of perception and sensation", is devoid not only of objectivity, but of subjectivity as well.
The Brahmanical texts cited by Wynne assumed their final form long after the Buddha's lifetime. The Mokshadharma postdates him.
The Buddhist tradition has incorporated two traditions regarding the use of jhana.[page needed] There is a tradition that stresses attaining insight (bodhi, prajna, kensho) as the means to awakening and liberation. According to the Theravada tradition dhyana must be combined with vipassana, which gives insight into the three marks of existence and leads to detachment and "the manifestation of the path".
But the Buddhist tradition has also incorporated the yogic tradition, as reflected in the use of jhana, which is rejected in other sutras as not resulting in the final result of liberation. One solution to this contradiction is the conjunctive use of vipassana and samatha. In Zen Buddhism, this problem has appeared over the centuries in the disputes over sudden versus gradual enlightenment.[page needed]
Schmithausen notes that the mention of the four noble truths as constituting "liberating insight", which is attained after mastering the Rupa Jhanas, is a later addition to texts such as Majjhima Nikaya 36.[page needed][page needed] Schmithausen discerns three possible roads to liberation as described in the suttas, to which Vetter adds a fourth possibility:
According to the Theravada-tradition, the meditator uses the jh?na state to bring the mind to rest, and to strengthen and sharpen the mind, in order to investigate the true nature of phenomena (dhamma) and to gain insight into impermanence, suffering and not-self. According to Nathan Katz, the arahant is aware that the jhanas are ultimately unsatisfactory, realizing that the meditative attainments are also anicca, impermanent.
Contemporary scholars have discerned a broader application of jhana in historical Buddhist practice. According to Alexander Wynne, the ultimate aim of dhyana was the attainment of insight, and the application of the meditative state to the practice of mindfulness. According to Frauwallner, mindfulness was a means to prevent the arising of craving, which resulted simply from contact between the senses and their objects. According to Frauwallner, this may have been the Buddha's original idea. According to Wynne, this stress on mindfulness may have led to the intellectualism which favoured insight over the practice of dhyana.
According to Richard Gombrich, the sequence of the four rupa-jhanas describes two different cognitive states: "I know this is controversial, but it seems to me that the third and fourth jhanas are thus quite unlike the second."[note 4] Alexander Wynne further explains that the dhyana-scheme is poorly understood. According to Wynne, words expressing the inculcation of awareness, such as sati, sampaj?no, and upekkh?, are mistranslated or understood as particular factors of meditative states, whereas they refer to a particular way of perceiving the sense objects:
Thus the expression sato sampaj?no in the third jh?na must denote a state of awareness different from the meditative absorption of the second jh?na (cetaso ekodibh?va). It suggests that the subject is doing something different from remaining in a meditative state, i.e. that he has come out of his absorption and is now once again aware of objects. The same is true of the word upek(k)h?: it does not denote an abstract 'equanimity', [but] it means to be aware of something and indifferent to it [...] The third and fourth jh?na-s, as it seems to me, describe the process of directing states of meditative absorption towards the mindful awareness of objects.[note 5]
According to some texts, after progressing through the eight jhanas and the stage of Nirodha-Samapatti, a person is liberated. According to some traditions someone attaining the state of Nirodha-Samapatti is an anagami or an arahant. In the Anupadda sutra, the Buddha narrates that Sariputta became an arahant upon reaching it.
The emphasis on "liberating insight" alone seems to be a later development, in response to developments in Indian religious thought. Vetter notes that such insight is not possible in a state of dhyana, since discursive thinking is eliminated in such a state. He also notes that the emphasis on "liberating insight" developed only after the four noble truths were introduced as an expression of what this "liberating insight" constituted. In time, other expressions took over this function, such as prat?tyasamutp?da and the emptiness of the self.
Both Schmithausen and Bronkhorst note that the attainment of insight, which is a cognitive activity, can't be possible in a state wherein all cognitive acitivy has ceased. According to Vetter, the practice of Rupa Jhana itself may have constituted the core practice of early Buddhism, with practices such as sila and mindfulness aiding to its development. It is the "middle way" between self-mortification, ascribed by Bronkhorst to Jainism, and indulgence in sensual pleasure. Vetter emphasizes that dhyana is a form of non-sensual happiness. The eightfold path can be seen as a path of preparation which leads to the practice of samadhi.
According to the contemporary Vipassana-movement, the jh?na state cannot by itself lead to enlightenment as it only suppresses the defilements. Meditators must use the jh?na state as an instrument for developing wisdom by cultivating insight, and use it to penetrate the true nature of phenomena through direct cognition, which will lead to cutting off the defilements and nibbana.
According to the later Therav?da commentorial tradition as outlined by Buddhago?a in his Visuddhimagga, after coming out of the state of jh?na the meditator will be in the state of post-jh?na access concentration. In this state the investigation and analysis of the true nature of phenomena begins, which leads to insight into the characteristics of impermanence, suffering and not-self arises. According to Richard Shankman, the sutta descriptions of jh?na practice explain that the meditator does not emerge from jh?na to practice vipassana but rather the work of insight is done whilst in jh?na itself. In particular the meditator is instructed to "enter and remain in the fourth jh?na" before commencing the work of insight in order to uproot the mental defilements.[note 6]
A meditator should first master the lower jh?nas, before they can go into the higher jh?nas. According to Nathan Katz, the early suttas state that "the most exquisite of recluses" is able to attain any of the jh?nas and abide in them without difficulty. According to Sujiva, there are five aspects of jh?na mastery:
According to the P?li canon commentary, access/neighbourhood concentration (upac?ra-sam?dhi) is a stage of meditation that the meditator reaches before entering into jh?na. The overcoming of the five hindrances[note 7] mark the entry into access concentration. Access concentration is not mentioned in the discourses of the Buddha, but there are several suttas where a person gains insight into the Dhamma on hearing a teaching from the Buddha.[note 8][note 9]
According to Tse-fu Kuan, at the state of access concentration, some meditators may experience vivid mental imagery,[note 10] which is similar to a vivid dream. They are as vivid as if seen by the eye, but in this case the meditator is fully aware and conscious that they are seeing mental images. According to Tse-fu Kuan, this is discussed in the early texts, and expanded upon in Therav?da commentaries.
According to Venerable Sujivo, as the concentration becomes stronger, the feelings of breathing and of having a physical body will completely disappear, leaving only pure awareness. At this stage inexperienced meditators may become afraid, thinking that they are going to die if they continue the concentration, because the feeling of breathing and the feeling of having a physical body has completely disappeared. They should not be so afraid and should continue their concentration in order to reach "full concentration" (jh?na).
Mah?y?na Buddhism includes numerous schools of practice. Each draw upon various Buddhist s?tras, philosophical treatises, and commentaries, and each has its own emphasis, mode of expression, and philosophical outlook. Accordingly, each school has its own meditation methods for the purpose of developing sam?dhi and prajñ?, with the goal of ultimately attaining enlightenment.
In China, the word dhy?na was originally transliterated with Chinese: ; pinyin: and shortened to just pinyin: in common usage. In Chinese Buddhism dhy?na may refer to all kinds of meditation techniques and their preparatory practices which can be used to attain samadhi. The word chán became the designation for Chan Buddhism (Korean Seon, Zen). The word and the practice of meditation entered into Chinese through the translations of An Shigao (fl. c. 148-180 CE), mainly the Dhy?na sutras, which were influential early meditation texts.
Dhy?na is a central aspect of Buddhist practice in Chan. Nan Huai-Chin:
B. Alan Wallace holds that modern Tibetan Buddhism lacks emphasis on achieving levels of concentration higher than access concentration. According to Wallace, one possible explanation for this situation is that virtually all Tibetan Buddhist meditators seek to become enlightened through the use of tantric practices. These require the presence of sense desire and passion in one's consciousness, but jh?na effectively inhibits these phenomena.
While few Tibetan Buddhists, either inside or outside Tibet, devote themselves to the practice of concentration, Tibetan Buddhist literature does provide extensive instructions on it, and great Tibetan meditators of earlier times stressed its importance.
its subsequent use in Hindu texts to denote the state of enlightenment is not in conformity with Buddhist usage, where the basic meaning of concentration is expanded to cover 'meditation' in general.[page needed]
There are parallels with the fourth to eighth stages of Patanjali's Ashtanga Yoga, as mentioned in his classical work, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which were compiled around 400 CE by, taking materials about yoga from older traditions.
Patanjali discerns bahiranga (external) aspects of yoga namely, yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, and the antaranga (internal) yoga. Having actualized the pratyahara stage, a practitioner is able to effectively engage into the practice of Samyama. At the stage of pratyahara, the consciousness of the individual is internalized in order that the sensations from the senses of taste, touch, sight, hearing and smell don't reach their respective centers in the brain and takes the sadhaka (practitioner) to next stages of Yoga, namely Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (mystical absorption), being the aim of all Yogic practices.
The Eight Limbs of the yoga sutras show Samadhi as one of its limbs. The Eight limbs of the Yoga Sutra was influenced by Buddhism. Vyasa's Yogabhashya, the commentary to the Yogasutras, and Vacaspati Misra's subcommentary state directly that the samadhi techniques are directly borrowed from the Buddhists' Jhana, with the addition of the mystical and divine interpretations of mental absorption.[not in citation given] However, it is also to be noted that the Yoga Sutra, especially the fourth segment of Kaivalya Pada, contains several polemical verses critical of Buddhism, particularly the Vijñ?nav?da school of Vasubandhu.
The suttas show that during the time of the Buddha, Nigantha Nataputta, the Jain leader, did not even believe that it is possible to enter a state where the thoughts and examination stop.
There has been little scientific study of these mental states. In 2008, an EEG study found "strong, significant, and consistent differences in specific brain regions when the meditator is in a jhana state compared to normal resting consciousness". Tentative hypotheses on the neurological correlates have been proposed, but lack supporting evidence.