- The term dhyana (meditation) is used by Jains (see JAINISM), Buddhists, and Hindus, with somewhat different technical meanings.The Jains may very well have been the first to practice meditation. Their tradition does not preserve a great deal of information about the early practice; there is no mention of PRANAYAMA or breath control, but dharana (focus), as known to the PATANJALI Yoga tradition, was apparently included.Jain tradition has four types of dhyana: artad-hyana (focus on things unpleasant or sorrow-ful), raudradhyana (focus on cruel and perverse things), dharmyadhyana (virtuous concentration), and shukladhyana (pure concentration). Most literature on the SIDDHA (perfected beings) and TIRTHANKARAS (most exalted personages) refers to the shukladhyana state, which involves intense concentration.In the Hindu tradition, the term dhyana first appears in the Upanishads, in a handful of places, used as a rather generic term. By the time of the epics (c. seventh century B.C.E. to third century C.E.), dhyana was a well-established practice. Most later Hindu YOGA traditions derive from raja yoga or Patanjali Yoga, where dhyana is a refined medi-tative practice that is taken up after one has mas-tered pranayama, or breath control, and dharana, “mental focus.” It is a deeper concentration of the mind, eventually leading to the SAMADHI state, which involves highly concentrated focus on the highest reality (or realities).In other yogic traditions, those practicing dhy-ana focus on a MANTRA (recited word or phrase); a YANTRA, or sacred diagram; or an ISHTA DEVATA, or chosen divinity.Further reading: Harold H. Bloomfield, Michael Peter Cain, Dennis T. Jaffe, and Robert B. Kory, TM*: Discov-ering Inner Energy and Overcoming Stress (New York: Delacorte Press, 1975); Georg Feurstein, The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali: A New Translation and Commentary (Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions International, 1989); P. S. Jaini, The Jaina Path of Purification (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1990).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.