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Buddha in meditation posture ( dhyanamudra ), Gandhara art, (1st - 4th century)
Vishnu in meditation (10th - 12th centuries)
Jain - Tirthankara in meditation posture, India (18th century)

Dhyana ( Sanskrit , n., ध्यान, dhyāna, meditation; cf. Pali : Jhāna, often translated as glow, burning ) describes the higher states of consciousness of meditation or immersion in the Indian yoga philosophy . Dhyana can be described as an act of experience of pure observation in which the human ego and its thoughts no longer play a role; the state of timelessness and cosmic connectedness can be experienced.

Use of the term in Hinduism

The term can be found in all works dealing with meditation, including the Upanishads , the Bhagavad Gita and the Yogasutras of Patanjali .

Dhyana is the 7th level of Raja Yoga and follows Pratyahara and Dharana . The eighth and final stage is called samadhi . Patanjali explains the difference in his Yoga Sutra (3.1–2), the guide to yoga: “Fixing the mind in one place is Dharana (concentration). The constant flow of a single idea there is Dhyana. "

Use of the term in Buddhism

The term in Buddhism is Jhana, where it denotes various states that can be attained by collecting mindfulness (Pali: Sati ; Sanskrit: smṛti स्मृति). In this regard, the eight jhanas listed below are widely considered to be levels of concentration during which certain mental faculties (such as the activity of the six senses ) are no longer present. After Buddhism spread in China , it became the Chinese “ Chan ”, which later became “ Zen ” in Japanese , “Seon” in Korea and “Thien” in Vietnam. In Tibetan called Dhyana "bsam gtan".

The eight jhānas

In the Pali canon , such as in the Anupada Sutta , the elements of the eight jhanas are listed.

The four subtle jhanas (rūpajjhāna) are so named because they can be localized in the body and have correspondences in everyday life:

  • Pathamajjhāna - turning of the mind
  • Dutiyajjhāna - inner calming
  • Tatiyajjhāna - equanimity
  • Catutthajjhāna - purity of mindfulness

These four jhānas are described in the Mahā-Assapura Sutta ( Majjhima-Nikaya 39) in verses 15 to 18 as follows:

15. "After having overcome these five obstacles, the imperfections of the heart that weaken wisdom, he enters the first indentation, completely separated from sensual pleasure, separated from unwholesome states of mind, which is accompanied by initial and persistent devotion of the mind, and dwell in it with the rapture and bliss that have arisen from solitude. "

16. “Again, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu with the stilling of initial and sustained devotion of the mind (to the object of meditation) enters and dwells in the second indentation which contains inner calming and unity of heart without initial and sustained devotion of mind , with rapture and bliss that arose from concentration. "

17. “Again, bhikkhus, a rapturous bhikkhu, dwelling in equanimity, mindful and clear in knowledge, full of physical bliss, enters the third indentation of which the noble say: 'Blessed abides he who is full of equanimity and mindfulness is', and dwells in it. "

18. “Again, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu with the overcoming of happiness and pain and the earlier disappearance of joy and sadness enters the fourth indentation which, due to equanimity, enters neither pain nor pleasure and purity of mindfulness and lingers in it. "


The four formless or incorporeal jhanas are as follows:

  • ākāsanañcayatana - infinity of space: The meditator discovers that no object exists, only empty, unlimited space
  • Viññānañcâyatana - infinity of consciousness: space has no existence. What remains is the perception of unlimited awareness.
  • ākiñcaññâyatana - Nothingness: There is no consciousness, only nothingness.
  • Nevasaññā-nasaññayatana - Neither-perception-nor-non-perception remains

Nirodha Samāpatti

After overcoming the eighth jhāna one arrives at the state of extinction of perception and sensation (pi. Saññāvedayitanirodham ). In the Majjhima Nikaya it says:

“Again, bhikkhus, in completely transcending the area of ​​neither-perception-nor-non-perception, Sariputta entered and dwelt in the cessation of perception and sensation. And his urges were lifted by seeing with wisdom. He stepped mindfully out of that state of attainment. After doing that, he looked at the past states that had ceased and changed as follows: 'So these states actually appear after they weren't there before; after their presence they disintegrate '. In relation to those states, he dwelt without being attracted, without being repulsed, independent, unbound, free, detached, with an unlimited heart. He understood: 'There is nothing more beyond it', and by cultivating that state of attainment, he affirmed that there is nothing more. "


The hand postures ( mudras ) of the Buddha in the earliest representations of his person in the Gandhara art (1st - 4th centuries) also include the meditation posture (dhyanamudra), in which the open and upward-facing palms are placed in one another in the lap - the right hand always on top. This mode of representation became the central form of expression for the mostly seated Tirthankaras in Jainist art .

See also


  • Henepola Gunaratana: The Jhānas in Theravāda Buddhist Meditation. Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka 1988. ISBN 955-24-0035-X ( online )
  • Henepola Gunaratana: A Critical Analysis of the Jhanas in Theravada Buddhist Meditation. (Dissertation) The American University Library, Washington DC 1980. ( Online ; PDF; 1.4 MB)
  • Richard Shankman: The Experience of Samadhi: An In-depth Exploration of Buddhist Meditation. Shambhala Publications 2008. ISBN 978-1-59030-521-8 .
  • Ayya ​​Khema : The Art of Letting Go. The path of meditative deepening, Jhana-Verlag; Edition: 2nd (December 22, 2011). ISBN 978-3931274337
  • The buddha on higher states of consiousness , Wheel Publication 189/190
  • The Jhanas , Ajahn Brahmavamso, Buddhist Fellowship

Web links

Single receipts

  1. a b Anupada Sutta (Majjhima Nikaya 111). Translations: Bhikkhu Mettiko (Eng.); Thanissaro Bhikkhu (English)