Dhyana is the 7th limb of the 8 limbs of ashtanga yoga, and is the “continuous flow of cognition” toward an object, point or feeling from the last limb (dharana).
Dhyana is integrally related to Dharana, one leads to other. Dharana is a state `of mind, Dhyana the process of mind. Dhyana is distinct from Dharana in that the meditator becomes actively engaged with its focus.
What is the Meaning of Dhyana?
According to Sage Patanjali, dhyana is defined as contemplation, or the mind process in which the mind is fixed on something, and then there is “a course of uniform modification of knowledge”. It is defined as the “continuous flow of the same thought or image of the object of meditation, without being distracted by any other thought” (verse 3.2). It is, essentially, the practice of deep concentration and calmness of the mind in order to attain complete control over the mind’s processes.
Purpose of Dhyana
The purpose of dhyana is for the mind to perceive the world and the self as one connected being. During the dhyana state of deep concentration, the purpose is to gain full control over the mind in order to allow the conscious to enter into the sub-conscious, unconscious and super-conscious state. With practice, the process of Dhyana awakens self-awareness inside one’s soul, the fundamental level of existence and Ultimate Reality – the non-afflicted, conflictless and moksha, or the blissful state of freedom and liberation.
Difference Between Dharana and Dhyana
In Dharana, one’s awareness is held to an object, point or feeling. In Dhyana, one contemplates the object of meditation without any memory of ego or anything else. In Dhyana, one is not conscious of the fact that he/she is meditating, rather is only aware that his/her consciousness of being exists, along with his mind and the object/point/feeling of meditation.
3 Types of Dhyana
There are 3 types of dhyana:
Sthula Dhyana, or gross meditation, is the practice of meditation on an external physical object or on its image in one’s by being aware of one’s body. The object can be a divine form, more specifically, an image of one’s personal God (ishtadeva), or that of one’s religious preceptor (guru), entrenched in one’s being.
This is ‘light’ meditation, or meditation on the inward light using spirituality to guide oneself from darkness to the light – allowing consciousness to absorb all physical aspects. One achieves this by focusing on luminous objects, like the flame of a candle or an earthen lamp (diya), or on the sun, moon or a star, as advised by the guru.
Sukshma Dhyana, or subtle meditation, is the process in which when the subtle state of unity appears during the absorption of consciousness by light. In this type of meditation, often considered the highest form of meditating, one meditates on something abstract, like a sacred syllable (mantra), geometrical form (yantra), inner music (nada), the vital being (prana), or the serpent power (kundalini shakti) that lies coiled up at the base of the spinal column. It is best performed in shambhavi mudra, with eyes half-open and focused within.
How to Practice Dhyana
To practice dhyana and experience the feeling of being one with the external world and oneself, here are 3 steps to practicing dhyana:
1. Start by practicing dharana, or focusing your thoughts and feelings on an object, point or feeling (such as a mantra, one’s breath, or an external object, like a candle)
2. Allow yourself to not be distracted by setting aside your thoughts and feelings to better concentrate on the art of meditation.
3. Practice silencing your thoughts and feelings for longer periods of time.
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