Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi
The progress in meditation is marked by three stages. These three stages are
progressions of the same process. These stages are Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.
These stages are closely related to each other. Dharana means concentration.
Dhyana means meditation and Samadhi means super conscious state of mind. You
begin with Dharana and it evolves into Dhyana. You continue Dhyana further and
it evolves into Samadhi. The Samadhi is the final destination of a Yogi wherein
he attains the self-realization.
The word Dharana refers to binding your mind onto some object. This object
can be external or internal. Often Dharana is translated as concentration.
Though in general sense we can call it as concentration there is a difference.
Concentration is a process by which your mind becomes one pointed. It remains
focused on the object of concentration. Concentration need not be a pleasurable
experience. Let me give you an example. Suppose that you have gone for rock
climbing. You are enjoying the thrill in the new experience. Suddenly you slip
down while climbing up. A cold wave of fear rushes through your body and
spontaneously you cling to a steep edge of a rock. Your fingers are paining. To
survive you must hold the steep edge with full focus and concentration. Even a
slight mistake can cost you your life. Till some help arrives you stick to your
position with utmost concentration. Now, this is no doubt an example of great
concentration. But is this concentration giving you any joy or pleasure?
Certainly not. So to summarize concentration need not be always joyous. On the
other hand Yogic Dharana will give you joy and happiness. You will never feel
tensed or stressed (as in the above example) after the act of Dharana.
Dharana is a process in which you focus your awareness on some external and
internal object. You continuously try to glue your mind to the object of Dharana.
Mind moves with a speed of light. You need to bring it to the object of
concentration time and again. Thus Dharana is a stage wherein you are sincerely
"trying" to unite with the object of concentration. You might be wondering as to
how this process of focusing brings joy and happiness. You need to understand
here that happiness and sorrow are nothing but states of mind. When you are
unhappy your mind is filled with bitter feelings. How would you remove this
unhappiness? By cleansing the debris of bitter feelings. How to remove this
debris? By replacing them with something else. That's what exactly happens in
Dharana. When we come in contact with an object, our sense organs sense it and convey its
impressions to the mind. Mind then takes those signals to the brain and we
perceive the object. In other words our mind "creates" a subtle replica of the
object and sends it to the brain. Thus mind is occupied with the impressions of
the newly sensed object. In Dharana the same thing happens. Your mind keeps
generating impressions of the object being focused again and again. In the
process mind flushes other impressions. Thus your mind is cleansed and bitter
(and also happy) feelings are washed temporarily. That is why when you come out
of Dharana you feel very fresh. Your mind is recharged to face the world again.
During initial stages this time span of joy might be very small and you may find
that worries start accumulating again. But after a continuous and sincere
practice this time window can be expanded to a great length.
When you sit for dharana you are essentially concentrating on some internal
or external object. During dharana your overall awareness is divided into three
- You are aware about the object of concentration
- You are aware about your own body, breathing etc.
- You are aware about the process of concentration
Each of this awareness may or may not be continuous. For example while
performing dharana you can easily get distracted by surrounding sounds. You then
again bring your mind back onto the object of concentration. That means dharana
is not absolutely continuous. You concentrate on the object on and off. You need
to spend some efforts to glue the mind again and again on the object.
A stage is reached when your dharana becomes so mature that the three types
of awareness merge together. That means you no longer possess bodily awareness.
Naturally the sense organs cannot get distracted by any means. This process is
dhyana. Thus dhyana is like a continuous flow of oil.
Since dhyana is a progression of dharana the same techniques of dharana can
lead you to dhyana. However, you may find internal and subtle techniques more
suitable. Dhyana is often classified as Saguna Dhyana and Nirguna Dhyana. The
former refers to dhyana on an object with name, form and qualities whereas the
later refers to dhyana on formless, nameless and qualityless aspect of the
supreme reality. It is very difficult to attain the stage of Nirguna Dhyana
unless you practice Saguna Dhyana for a long time.
In the state of Dhyana though there is merging of the three fields of
consciousness each type of consciousness still has independent existence. For
example, when you put a spoonful of sugar in a glass of water, both of them
unite but for some amount of time the sugar still has an independent existence.
Only when you stir the water with a spoon the sugar completely dissolves in it
and can no longer hold an independent existence. The same thing can be said
about Dhyana also. When your Dhyana becomes so deep that your consciousness
(i.e. the last two fields of awareness) vanishes completely and what remains is
the consciousness of the object alone. This state is called as Samadhi. Remember
that in Samadhi there is no role for the "physical" object what remains is the "Bhava"
or meaning of the object expressed by its consciousness.
Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi are, thus, progressive stages of the same
process. You may choose different techniques for Dharana and Dhyana as explained
in the previous lessons or you may choose just one object for all these three
stages. If you practice Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi on the same object this trio
is referred as Samyama. Samyama is said to give the practitioner various Siddhis
or supernatural powers. However, a real Yogi ignores such Siddhis and continues
his practice further.
Samadhi itself is a progressive step. It further undergoes a series of
progressions before a Yogi reach its final destination. These stages or type of
Samadhi are explained below:
- Samprajnata Samadhi
- Savitarka Samadhi
- Nirvitarka Samadhi
- Savichara Samadhi
- Nirvichara Samadhi
- Asamprajnata Samadhi
The word Samprajnata is combination of Sam + Prajnata. Sam means "with" and
Prajnata means "knowledge with awareness". Thus Samprajnata Samadhi is a state
where there exists knowledge with awareness. This awareness is in the form of
reasoning, reflection, bliss and individuality.
Asamprajnata Samadhi is the next stage in which there is no mental activity
such as reasoning etc. However, some traces of Samskara or impressions still
Savitarka Samadhi means "Samadhi with reasoning". In this stage word, its
meaning and knowledge of that meaning exists.
Nirvitarka Samadhi is the next stage where mind becomes pure and expresses
the object of meditation alone. Thus there is no process of reasoning in
Savichara Samadhi means "Samadhi with mental reflection" (Sa + Vichara).
Vichara is more accurate and subtle than Vitarka. In this stage the object
expresses itself as a reflection.
Nirvichara Samadhi means "Samadhi without any reflection".
All the above type of Samadhi are called as "Sabija" or "with seed" because
they involve a seed in the form ones ego or individuality. The final stage is
called Nirbija Samadhi which does not involve even a seed. It is total
absorption of mind.
In is important to remember that knowing this classification is fine
but what is more important is to experience the state of Samadhi. Don't
bother too much about various types of Samadhi and their meaning. Keep
practicing with full efforts and you yourself will experience them.