Author Topic: Dhyana - Jonathan Bader:  (Read 878 times)

Subramanian.R

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Dhyana - Jonathan Bader:
« on: February 21, 2016, 02:31:25 PM »
(This article is from Mountain Path issue of April - June 2007.)

*

In the ten Upanishads singled out Sankara, the term Dhyana is virtually synonymous with Upasana,
or simply denotes 'thinking'. (see Chandogya Upanishad 1.3.12).  Sankara does not seem concerned
with distinguishing Dhyana from Upasana.  In Brahma Sutra Bhashya (BSBh) 4.1.7 and 4.1.8.,he
repeats precisely the same explanation for each of the two terms:  'maintaining a uniform train of thought'.

Yet despite their similarity there are obvious differences. Firstly, unlike Upasana, Dhyana does not necessarily
entail a devotional attitude.  Secondly, as Dhyana comes to be associated with yoga practice, the term
is specifically identified with techniques used in controlling the mind. Upasana does not connote a
particular set of mental exercises.  In Upasana, the emphasis is on the object of the meditation, the deity
with whom identity is sought, hence the sense of 'worship'. As the early Upanishads suggest, Dhyana       
is indeed a kind of thinking.  But it is a specialized mode of thought:  'a way of attaining identity', or
'a means of true knowledge'.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.

Subramanian.R

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Re: Dhyana - Jonathan Bader:
« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2016, 10:19:01 AM »
It is only in the Bhagavad Gita and the Svetasvatara Upanishad that dhyana begins to develop its
characteristic connotation.  It is also recognized as an essential component of a yoga practice which
will be more fully elaborated in the Yoga Sutra (YS).  When commenting on yoga, Sankara generally
cites the authority of these three works, but relies especially on the Yoga Sutra.  This is what we would,
of course, expect if the vivarana on Vyasa's Yogasutra Bhashya (YSBh) was indeed composed by Sankara.
Many of his remarks on yoga and meditation reflect the influence of Vyasa.

Sankara illustrates the specific usage of the term dhyana,  in a manner remiiscent of the Yoga Sutra:
'The word 'meditative' refers to those whose minds are concentrated upon a single object, whose gaze\
is fixed, and whose limbs scarcely move.' (Brahmasutra bhashya, 4.1.8)

The Yogasutra describes the practice of meditation as beginning with a firm and steady posture (asana).
The steadiness is reinforced by control of breath (pranayama).  Each moment of the breath,
comprising an inhalation, exhalation and cessation, is regulated and protracted.  As the breath becomes
over more subtle, external movement is brought to a virtual halt.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.             

Subramanian.R

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Re: Dhyana - Jonathan Bader:
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2016, 10:51:55 AM »
The fixity of his gaze suggests that the meditator has also put an end to the activity of the senses.
This is accomplished by a withdrawal (pratyahara) of the sensory organs so that there is no longer
any interaction with sensory stimuli. These three practices, asana, pranayama, and pratyahara (Yoga
Sutra) go together with the requisite moral conduct.  The YS provides details of necessary moral
principles, which comprise the first two steps of the eight-fold yoga practice (ashtanga yoga).  The first
step, Yama, designates a series of 'restraints': not causing injury to living beings, non covetousness,
non stealing, truthfulness and continence. (YS. 2.30) The second step, Niyama, involves a series of
'observances': purity, contentment, austerity, study and devotion to the Lord (YS. 2.32.).  They constitute
the foundation upon which meditation is based.

When the aspirant is thus prepared, he may then strive to achieve mastery of the mind.  The mind is first
fixed in concentration (dharana), focused exclusively on a single object.  It is only then that the 'uniform
train of thought', characteristic of dhyana, can be developed.  Sankara likens this current of unbroken
thought to the way oil pours.  A fine and continuous stream. (BG. bhasya 13.24).  Dhyana culminates
in Samadhi, absorption.  Samadhi occurs when all sense of separateness disappears.  The one who
meditates, the act of meditation and the object of meditation merge into one.  This identity manfests
itself by shining forth in the light of the object.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.           
         

Subramanian.R

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Re: Dhyana - Jonathan Bader:
« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2016, 02:23:52 PM »
In the Yoga Sutra, meditation involves the whole of a process comprising dharana, dhyana and samadhi.
This can be expressed in terms of the traditional imagery cited by Sankara: first a lamp is firmly grasped,
then filled with oil and lit, whereupon the light alone is seen to be shining forth.  Collectively, these three
aspects, known as samyama, are regarded as the direct means (antaranga) to the goal of yoga. (See Yoga
Sutra 3.4.ff).  The five preceding steps are only indirect aids (bahiranga), which prepare the ground for
Samyama.  (Samyama means self control).

The Yoga Sutra distinguishes between two types of meditation.  Strictly speaking these are Samadhi-s.
But 'meditation' is used here in the broader sense of the term which comprises dhyana and samadhi.
The two are inseparably linked as components of Samyama.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.       

Subramanian.R

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Re: Dhyana - Jonathan Bader:
« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2016, 09:50:17 AM »
The six types of Samadhi mentioned in YS. 1.17 and 1.42 may all be attained by means of Samyama.
Sankara, for his part, does not seem particularly concerned to distinguish Samadhi from other,
more general, terms denoting meditation.  In his comment on the Brahma Sutra (BS.2.3. 29),
he cites as examples of Samadhi passages which prescribe dhyana and nididhyasana:  those based
on object centered consciousness (Samprajanata) and those which reject all contact with the objects
(asamprajanata).   (Yoga Sutra  1.18).

Samyama exemplifies object based meditation, for it strives to establish an identity. Prasamkhyana
best represents the approach independent of object orientation.  This meditation is characterized
solely by Viveka Khyati. 'discriminative discernment'. The function of Prasamkhyna is to discriminate
between the pristine nature of the Self (Purusha), and that of Prakriti, the very source of all material
objects.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.       

Subramanian.R

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Re: Dhyana - Jonathan Bader:
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2016, 01:39:29 PM »
Samyama exemplifies object based meditation, for it strives to establish an identity. Prasamkhyana
best represents the approach independent of object orientation.  This meditation is characterized
solely by Viveka Khyati, 'discriminative discernment'.  The function of Prasamkhyana is to discriminate
between the pristine nature of the Self (Purusha), and that of Prakriti, the very source of all material
objects.  The aim of the meditation is to stop the fluctuations of the mind (Chitta Vrtti Nirodha), and
ultimately, to be free from the bonds of Prakriti. The YS clearly regards asamprajnata, as the superior
of the two ways of meditation which does not rely on objects. (Yoga Sutra 1.18).

Sankara too favors meditation which goes beyond the limits of object identification:

'Thus the sage identifies himself, by stages, with the vital force that comprises everything. Then,
withdrawing this all comprising vital force into the inner Self, he next attains the state of the witness,
the transcendent Self that is described as 'not this, not this.' (Br.Up.Bhashya 4.2.4)

Sankara accepts the striving to attain identity only as a preliminary stage of meditation.When this
stage is abandoned, the meditator becomes a mere witness (drastr) to all associations.  He exercises
discriminative insight by negating (neti, neti) all which is other than the higher Self.  Such meditation
is a true reflection of the nature of the Self. which, in the absolute sense, can only be identified as
'not this, not this'.  To assist his students on the path of Self Realization,  Sankara developed a process
he calls Parisamkhyana, a meditation closely resembling the Prasamkhyana of the Yoga Sutra.

Using this type of meditation as a model, Sankara establishes a new interpretation of Upasana.
An analysis of the sacred utterance, Tat Tvam asi, becomes the basis of a meditative process which
discriminates between  Self and non Self, while reaffirming the essential unity of Atman and Brahman.         

concluded.

Arunachala Siva.