Origin Perspective and Development of Dhyana

Author: Ven. Ethkandure Sumanasara Thero (Department of Sanskrit, Buddhist & Pali University, Sri Lanka)
Speaker: Ven. Ethkandure Sumanasara Thero
Topic: Language Documentation
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2020 General Session


The Sanskrit word Dhyana suggests contemplation, reflection, profoundness or meditation, and a journey of the mind. The lexeme ‘Dhi’ itself suggest receptacle or the mind, where the lexeme ‘yana’ symbolizes moving, activity, or going. Dhyana thus represents a mental activity of the mind (dhi). In Hindu philosophy, the manas (mind) is viewed as a receptacle (dhi) into which thoughts pour back and forth from the universal pool of thought forms. More so, according to Hindu tradition, the human mind has the creative potency of God, where meditation involves observing the inward and outward movement of thoughts that enter and leave the mind, with silence (maunam), stability (dhiram) and detachment (vairagyam). The term Dhyana appears in Aranyaka and Brahmana layers of the Vedas but with unclear meaning, while in the early Upanishads it appears in the sense of “contemplation, meditation” and an important part of self-knowledge process. It is described in numerous Upanishads of Hinduism, and in Patanjali’s Yogasutras – a key text of the Yoga school of Hindu philosophy.

The object of this paper is to discuss the practice of dhyana in Hinduism, from a historical perspective, based on the Hindu scriptures and Buddhism. The study draws on literature to describe the Hindu etymologies and psychological roots of the philosophy, and to develop conceptions of its semantics in modern society.

The study suggests that the various concepts of dhyana and its practice originated in the Vedic era of Hinduism, where the practice has been influential within diverse traditions of Hinduism. The study extends to suggest that in Hinduism, self-directed awareness and unifying Yoga processes by which to develop self-awareness require a relationship with other living beings, and which is describable through certain characteristic terms.

Keywords: Hinduism, Dhyana, tradition, Upanishads, yoga, mind power