Understanding Dhyānam: The Essence of Meditation

Meditation, often shrouded in misunderstanding, is demystified in this exploration of Dhyana from Adi Shankara’s perspective. Here, we delve into the true essence of Dhyana, examining various misconceptions and exploring its transformative potential.

Dhyana: A State of Being, Not Just Doing (123)

Verse 123 from an unknown source offers a profound definition of Dhyana:

  • ब्रह्मैवास्मीति सद्वृत्त्या निरालम्बतया स्थितिः। ध्यानशब्देन विख्याता परमानन्ददायिनी ॥ (brahmaivāsmiti sadvṛttyä nirälambataya sthitih, dhyana-sabdena vikhyātā paramānanda-dayinī.)

This translates to:

“Remaining independent of everything as a result of the unassailable thought, ‘I am verily the Truth,’ is well known by the word dhyana (meditation), and is the giver of supreme Bliss.”

Dhyana is not just a specific action or mental activity confined to a particular time. It’s a state of being characterized by full awareness and unwavering focus. It’s an integral part of life, encompassing actions like mindful walking, attentive listening, and complete engagement in the present moment. Without this state of conscious awareness, our lives can become mechanical and devoid of true meaning.

The Many Facets of Dhyānam

Is meditation a mental repetition of a chant or thought? Is it a mental worship of God? Perhaps it is a state of concentration or absorption? Or could it be a state of thoughtlessness? These questions often arise when discussing dhyānam. Let us explore each facet to gain a deeper understanding.

Mental Repetition

One aspect of dhyānam involves the mental repetition of a chant or thought. By focusing the mind on a specific mantra or idea, we can cultivate a sense of calm and tranquility. This repetitive practice allows us to detach from the external world and turn our attention inward.

Mental Worship

Dhyānam can also be seen as a form of mental worship. By directing our thoughts towards the divine, we establish a connection with the sacred. Through this act of devotion, we can experience a profound sense of reverence and spiritual upliftment.

State of Concentration

Concentration is another integral aspect of dhyānam. By focusing our attention on a single point or object, we enhance our ability to stay present and fully engaged in the present moment. This heightened state of concentration allows us to delve deeper into our inner selves and explore the depths of our consciousness.

State of Absorption

Dhyānam can also lead us to a state of absorption, where we become completely engrossed in the present moment. In this state, the boundaries between the observer and the observed dissolve, and we experience a sense of unity with our surroundings. This state of absorption can bring about profound insights and a deep sense of connection.

State of Thoughtlessness

Contrary to popular belief, dhyānam is not about emptying the mind of all thoughts. Rather, it is about transcending the incessant chatter of the mind and accessing a state of thoughtlessness. In this state, the mind becomes calm and still, allowing us to experience a profound sense of peace and inner clarity.

The Essence of Dhyānam

Now that we have explored the various facets of dhyānam, let us delve into its essence. At its core, dhyānam is a practice that enables us to go beyond the limitations of the mind and connect with our true nature. It is a means of quieting the mind, expanding our awareness, and experiencing a deeper sense of self.

Through dhyānam, we can cultivate qualities such as mindfulness, compassion, and equanimity. It allows us to develop a greater understanding of ourselves and the world around us. By regularly engaging in this practice, we can enhance our overall well-being and lead a more fulfilling life.

Incorporating Dhyānam into Your Life

Now that you have a better understanding of dhyānam, you may be wondering how to incorporate it into your daily life. Here are a few simple steps to get started:

  1. Find a quiet and comfortable space where you can sit undisturbed.
  2. Choose a meditation technique that resonates with you, such as focusing on your breath, repeating a mantra, or visualizing a peaceful scene.
  3. Set aside a specific time each day for your meditation practice. Start with a few minutes and gradually increase the duration as you become more comfortable.
  4. Be patient with yourself. Meditation is a skill that takes time to develop. Approach it with an open mind and a gentle attitude.
  5. Stay consistent. Regular practice is key to reaping the benefits of dhyānam.

Beyond Concentration: The Flow of the Mind

Having established mindfulness, the next step involves directing the mind towards the Truth (Self or God). This isn’t about forcing the mind into a fixed position, but rather allowing it to flow towards the object of focus in a continuous stream of thought. This state of absorption constitutes Dhyana.

Two Paths of Dhyana:

  • Saguna Dhyana: Focusing on the form and qualities of a chosen deity.
  • Nirguna Dhyana: Contemplating on the formless Truth.

Different States of the Mind:

The mind can exist in five primary states:

  1. Kṣipta: Focused on directly perceived objects.
  2. Vikṣipta: Wandering towards memories, daydreams, or other indirect objects.
  3. Laya: In a dormant state like sleep.
  4. Ekāgra: One-pointed and focused.
  5. Niruddha: In a thoughtless state.

From Dhyana to Thoughtlessness:

Deep concentration or absorption in Dhyana can naturally lead to a state of thoughtlessness. This article further explores two Dhyana meditation techniques from Vedanta:

  1. Witness Consciousness: Cultivating the awareness of being the unchanging witness to all thoughts, observing them arise, dissolve, and without being affected by them. This practice can lead to the realization of one’s true nature as infinite Consciousness.
  2. Mantra Repetition: Repeating and contemplating on powerful affirmations like “I am the infinite Truth” or “I am the Self” with full focus and sincerity. This practice can lead to a state where the mind transcends the need for words and rests in its inherent stillness.

Dhyana is not about mental gymnastics or forcefully controlling the mind. It’s about cultivating a state of full awareness, allowing the mind to flow naturally towards the Truth, and eventually experiencing the profound state of thoughtlessness and pure being. By understanding and practicing Dhyana, we embark on a transformative journey towards self-discovery and lasting peace.