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Year : 2022  |  Volume : 54  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-3

Exploring cardinal principles of Dhyana: Constructivist reflections

Department of Scientific Research, Kaivalyadhama, Lonavla, Maharashtra, India

Date of Submission30-May-2022
Date of Decision05-Jun-2022
Date of Acceptance06-Jun-2022
Date of Web Publication30-Jun-2022

Correspondence Address:
Ranjeet Singh Bhogal
Department of Scientific Research, Kaivalyadhama, Lonavla, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ym.ym_63_22

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How to cite this article:
Bhogal RS. Exploring cardinal principles of Dhyana: Constructivist reflections. Yoga Mimamsa 2022;54:1-3

How to cite this URL:
Bhogal RS. Exploring cardinal principles of Dhyana: Constructivist reflections. Yoga Mimamsa [serial online] 2022 [cited 2023 Jun 9];54:1-3. Available from:

The recent difficult times have taught the humanity many things including the paramount significance of Dhyana, often popularly termed as meditation; although etymologically the terms Dhyana and meditation are almost poles apart. Derived from the Latin verb meditari the term meditation means to cogitate, to reflect, to brood and to contemplate unlike the term Dhyana which is constituted of the Sanskrit root dhyai and suffix un, meaning the phenomenon of devotional longing, capable of culminating into states of transcendence and Samadhi, the perfect psycho-physiologically balanced state. As per Patanjala Yoga Sutra (II: 2) Dhyana, one of the eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga) is defined as “an unidirectional flow of the comprehension of the object of meditation,” once the state of Dharana (i.e. yogic fixing/binding of Citta in an inside or outside the body) is mastered, preceded by Nirvicara Samapatti (i.e. a complete merger of the attendee with the subtler and unrecognizably 'abstract object' of meditation (P.Y.S. I: 44, 45). These eight limbs may be used as steps for beginners in meditation, although etymologically these are independent limbs of yoga; each and every limb being complete in it and still interdependent on each of the rest seven limbs.[1]

Popularly, yet not-so correctly, Dhyana is considered as Concentration or Focused Awareness. While the term Concentration and Focused Awareness are indicative of phenomenal endeavors leading, invariably, to psycho-physiological activation, Dhyana is reported to endow its practitioners with a deeper psycho-physiological relaxation, perceptual clarity and cognitive integration. This is possible only when one feels unburdened from steadfast and deep rooted 'neuronal and mental' impressions known as samskaras that, as per yoga metaphysics, emanate from inborn afflictions i.e., Klesha (P.Y.S. II: 1, 2). At best, one may refer Dhyana as Transcendental Concentration - as the sense impressions and emotional projections are essentially transcended in Dhyana (P.Y.S. I: 2, 3), unlike Phenomenal Concentration. Transcendence is the phenomenon, just as when one appreciates sublimity of the Nature, feels reverence for virtuous acts and persons, has a felt sense of perennial security, a continued knowing stance, evidencing the emergence of unconditional Absolute Joy, enduring feeling of comprehensive freedom and being virtuous and at the same time having an inclination to leading others to the path of virtues. Thus, transcendence means to free oneself from the slavery of emotions, going beyond the usual stand point of attachment and antipathy and feeling integrity and oneness with the entire cosmos.

Ishavasyopanishad (9–14) makes explicit further the concept of transcendence when it says both manifest (form) and un-manifest (formless) objects of meditation spell Avidya (ignorance) unless the deeper understanding of subtler and transcendental nature of Dhyana is understood. Both the Aakara (form) and Nirakara (Formless) Sadhana paths are merely the means and not an end in one's Dhyana Sadhana. Only after intellectualization is transcended fully the abstractions may be evidenced leading us to Dhyana. Of course, it is practical to make use of Form (the manifest) first and after transcending the same one may go for Formless (un-manifest) Sadhana and finally also may go for transcending the un-manifest itself, before evidencing entry into Dhyana.[2]

  Is the State Of Dhyana a Total Oblivion? Top

Swami Kuvalayananda has addressed the question whether Samadhi is akin to hypnotic state, in 1956, at Kaivalyadhama, Lonavla; when a respondent, under the hypnotic state, could show changes in EEG patterns as responses to pin prick, a pistol shot and an ice slab suddenly kept on his knees.[3] Even during an interview he expressed no memory of the said stimuli. On the other hand a yogi, after coming out of the Laya Samadhi, described all the events of the experiments during his interview. The EEG patterns were found unchanged during the said events, though. This experiment conveyed a conscious separation of mind from the psychophysiological stimuli, during the Samadhi State. The fact that the yogi could recall the said events fully proves amply that the Samadhi State is not a state of oblivion, contrary to the popular belief. Thus, the concept of transcendence is not a state of oblivion but a conscious state of perfect psychophysiological balance.

  Does the Occurrence of Dhyana Need a Love for Supreme Being or the Mother Nature? Top

In Vedanta, one feels the presence of the almighty initially, before we transcend it towards gaining para-sensual (atindriya), Absolute Joy (Prasada) as per Bhagwat Gita (II: 65; VI: 21). The Great saint Mirabai had transcended the love for statue of God Krishna (Saguna Bhakti) and spoke Upanishads at her later years of life with Bhakti for the form-less God Krishna (Nirguna Bhakti) that led her to Absolute and Transcendentally Blissful State. In Patanjala Yoga Sutra there is no love for Purusha recommended. Realizing one's own Purusha as separate from Prakriti, and getting established in the essential nature one's own Purusha/Drashta, through Viveka Khyati, spells the state of yoga as per Patanjali (P.Y.S. I: 2, II: 26). In sum, Vedanta starts from love of God (Brahman) but ultimately transcends the love itself to be one with God or be God-like oneself, implicitly attaining the Self-Realization. Thus, the Vedanta concept of God and the Yogic concept of Purusha cannot be equated etymologically, even though both the approaches lead us to the liberation, Self-Realization or moksha through meditative processes. Though love for God or for the Mother Nature, is not considered a prerequisite for Dhyana, it helps enhance Comprehensive Awareness, facilitating thus the process of Dhyana.

  Essential Features of Dhyana Top

Bhagwat Gita (VI: 21, 23,) says Yoga is the discipline by which one achieves para-sensually ecstatic bliss leading to the removal of our association with misery. Usually, we encounter disturbances at neuromuscular levels in the initial stages of Dhyana, which often demotivates its practitioner to continue the Dhyana further. One has to overcome this stage through various ways.[4]

Trigant Burrow (1915), a Freudian psychiatrist who observed that the deviate and disorganized reactions of human being could be traced to human species. He studied a subject who was asked to look at an invisible point, in line with the normal visual axis, on a curtain of uniform blackness. Neuromuscular tensions, in the form of mental and emotional reactions, were dissipated suddenly giving way to a sensation of a steadier tone of balance within the body musculature. He termed the “socially conditioned first state” as Ditention, and the second, being relating to the deeper organismic harmony, as Cotention. Average respiratory rate, metabolic rate was dropped significantly in Cotention as compared to that of Ditention. However, the average intake of air per respiration was also comparatively higher in Cotention. Eye movement, lid movement, Alpha time and amplitude of Alpha wave were observed to be reduced, indicating a general diminution in cortical potential. Experiments by Swami Kuvalayananda, as above, have also shown that pin pricks or other painful stimuli did not affect the EEG pattern in a person in deep meditative states. Gharote (1971) and other researchers have shown the similar results from their experiments. General observations of meditators have invariably shown that they handle stressful situations far better way than others, as the sense of equality and oneness with all creations are usually seen emerging in them.[5]

”Neutral state of attention moving towards transcendence” is the prerequisite to Dharana and Dhyana as reflected in various definitions as follows:

Amrita Nada Upanishad (15–16) enumerates the characteristics of Dharana: The meditator as the blind, hearing sounds as if by the deaf, and seeing the body as if it is wood; conveying the “neutral and nonreactive sensuality.” Samkhya Karika says, Dhyana is transcending the mind-object contact. Samkhya Karika also says, Dhyana is the state when mind gets separated from the five senses. Vasishtha Samhita says, “Dhyanatmaswarupasya vedanam manasah bhavet: Contemplation of the nature of the Self is Dhyana.” Kaivalya Upanishad also says, “Seeing the Self in all beings and all beings in one's Self is Dhyana.”[6]

Prerequisites for Dhyana Abhyasa

Purification of mind, through neutralizing samskaras, is the prime prerequisite to Dhyana. Shankaracharya (Viveka Chudamani: 367) speaks of (i) Shunning unnecessary speech (ii) Refraining from collecting unnecessary riches, material objects (iii) Nurturing no expectations from others (iv) Not being dependent on others, situations (v) engaging oneself in observance of silence most often, for embarking on the journey of Dhyana. Almost all schools of spiritual pursuits such as Sanatana, Taoism and Buddhism have almost the same message to convey.[7]

Principles: How to go about Dhyana?

Trance like states emanating from visualization practices, half sleep states, inclusion of resolves during Shavasana used by yoga experts do not qualify to be Dhyana, as per the classical approach of Dhyana. Auto suggestions, imagining light of stars entering the body, imagining watching one's own body lying on the mat, forcing a smile on the face, instructing self to relax, forcing oneself to remain awake, any instructions involving too much of efforts like forceful Ujjayi Pranayama, combining yoga practices with physical exercises and so on often found to be counterproductive in one's journey towards Dhyana, as these may result into bodily discomforts due to a wayward Pranic flow within the body. Often overenthusiastic Sadhakas, even sometimes from Yoga Ashrams complain such things. This was the reason why Osho has simplified many tantra techniques and made them practicable for the common man and foreign nationals who otherwise often do not have proper exposure to tantra oriented techniques. Kriya Yoga practices, about 79 types available, have been found to be immensely helpful as forerunner to the states of Dhyana for beginners, as these offer easy passage to the transcendental stage of Dhyana, which, otherwise, is often found to be quite cumbersome, due to through and through abstract nature of Dhyana.

Most articles in the current issue speak of varied aspects of Dhyana underlying its need for helping the humanity today.

The article, “Integrated Effect of Yoga and Mindfulness Meditation on Pain, Functional Disability and Spinal Flexibility in Computer Users with Chronic Low Back Pain: A Prospective Randomized Active Control Trial” by Drs. Chametcha Singphow, Satya Prakash Purohit, Padmini Tekur, Suman Bista, Surya Narayan Panigrahy and Nagarathna Raghuram, has found Yoga and mindfulness meditation proving to be more effective to reduce pain, and functional disability, and in improving spinal flexibility in computer users with CLBP better than physical exercise. The study obviously underlies the role of psycho-physiological relaxation in pain dissipation.

In their article, “Efficacy of yoga practices on emotion regulation and mindfulness in T2DM patients” Drs. Amit Kanthi, Deepeshwar Singh and Chidananda Kaligal asserts that Yoga therapy though might have positively affected the psychological well-being of T2DM patients the increased mindfulness seems to have a clear role in improved ER skills and in glycemic control.

The article “Effect of Yoga Nidra on the brain activity in individuals with migraine” authored by Drs. Shashikiran HC, Swapna S, Prashanth Shetty, Akshay R, Avani Venugopal, Shivaprasad Shetty, exhibits the promise that Yoga Nidra could be used as an effective tool in combating stress and neuropsychiatric symptoms in migraine patients as the practice induces relaxation through enhanced alpha waves and helps in parasympathetic dominance.

The article, “A cross-sectional study on impulsiveness, mindfulness, and WHO quality of life in heartfulness meditators” by Drs. Krishna Dwivedi, Deepeshwar Singh and Prasanna Krishna showed both Long Term and Short Term Meditation groups registering a significantly higher mindfulness along with the significantly greater depth of meditation, enhanced quality of life, and lowered anxiety and impulsivity, in comparison with that of the Control group. The findings suggest that the HM practice enhances mindfulness, reduces anxiety, and regulates impulsivity exhibiting preventive and therapeutic potentials of HM in regulating anxiety and impulsiveness in behavioral disorders.

”Essential but Seldom Taught Yogāṅgas,” authored by Drs. Radha Soneji, Alex Hankey, Sridhar Melukote K, Nagendra HR points out an overemphasis, on the part of yoga enthusiasts, world-wide, being given to psycho-physiological health implications of yoga, often overlooking its essential nature that primarily caters to the character building and value inculcation. Authors emphasize to lay due importance to Yama, Niyama and Pratyahara to this end.

Dr. Dayananda Swamy HR and Govindasamy Agoramoorthy in their article entitled, “Evolution of Yoga: From Spiritual Uplift to Business Outburst” analyze how the ancient practice of Yoga intended for spiritual advancement has evolved to become an exploding business enterprise in contemporary society. This article however, laments how the current movement often ignores the essential aspect of yoga that advocates spirituality and ethics, reflected in the classical Yoga scriptures, in pursuing the one's spiritual journey and attaining the ultimate freedom, through perennial enlightenment within.

In their article, “Meditation and its practice in Vedic scriptures and early Taoism scriptures,” Drs. Zanyi Wang, Vikas Rawat, Xinli Yu and Ramesh Chandra Panda have revisited the original concepts of meditation in Vedic and early Taoism scriptures so as to analyze the origin of thoughts, purposes, practice methods, characteristics, results, as well as, the underlying similarities and differences of both meditation practices. Significantly enough both the though systems lay emphasis on practical means towards transcendence. Indeed, tracing the roots to understand the inheritance of meditation from ancient scriptures will help better study the ancient Eastern philosophy and culture.

  References Top

Karambelkar PV. Patanjala Yoga Sutra. Lonavla: Kaivalyadhama; 2011.  Back to cited text no. 1
Shankaracharya. Ishavasyopanishad. Gorakhpur: Gita Press; 2016.  Back to cited text no. 2
Swami K, Vinekar SL. Yogic Therapy. Lonavla: Kaivalyadhama; 1966.  Back to cited text no. 3
Satavalekar SD. Shrimat Bhagwat Gita. Pardi: Swadhyaya Mandal; 1988.  Back to cited text no. 4
Gharote ML, Shastri K. Hathapradipika. Lonavla: Kaivalyadhama; 1976.  Back to cited text no. 5
Krishna I. Samkhya Karika. New Delhi: Kindle Publications; 2018.  Back to cited text no. 6
Shankaracharya. Viveka Chudamani. Tiruchengode: Chinmaya Mission; 2010.  Back to cited text no. 7


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