S?dhan? (Sanskrit ; Tibetan: ?, THL: druptap; Chinese: ), literally "a means of accomplishing something", is a generic term coming from the yogic tradition and it refers to any spiritual exercise that is aimed at progressing the s?dhaka towards the very ultimate expression of his or her life in this reality. It includes a variety of disciplines in Hindu,Buddhist,Jain and Sikh traditions that are followed in order to achieve various spiritual or ritual objectives.
S?dhan? can also refer to a tantric liturgy or liturgical manual, that is, the instructions to carry out a certain practice.
Everything can be s?dhan?. The way you eat, the way you sit, the way you stand, the way you breathe, the way you conduct your body, mind and your energies and emotions - this is s?dhan?. S?dhan? does not mean any specific kind of activity, s?dhan? means you are using everything as a tool for your wellbeing.
The historian N. Bhattacharyya provides a working definition of the benefits of s?dhan? as follows:
[R]eligious s?dhan?, which both prevents an excess of worldliness and molds the mind and disposition (bh?va) into a form which develops the knowledge of dispassion and non-attachment. S?dhan? is a means whereby bondage becomes liberation.
S?dhan? is a discipline undertaken in the pursuit of a goal. Abhy?sa is repeated practice performed with observation and reflection. Kriy?, or action, also implies perfect execution with study and investigation. Therefore, s?dhan?, abhy?sa, and kriy? all mean one and the same thing. A s?dhaka, or practitioner, is one who skillfully applies...mind and intelligence in practice towards a spiritual goal.
The term s?dhan? means spiritual exertion towards an intended goal. A person undertaking such a practice is known in Sanskrit as a s?dhu (female s?dhvi), s?dhaka (female s?dhak?) or yogi (Tibetan pawo; feminine yogini or dakini, Tibetan khandroma). The goal of s?dhan? is to attain some level of spiritual realization, which can be either enlightenment, pure love of God (prema), liberation (moksha) from the cycle of birth and death (sa?s?ra), or a particular goal such as the blessings of a deity as in the Bhakti traditions.
S?dhan? can involve meditation, chanting of mantra sometimes with the help of prayer beads, puja to a deity, yajña, and in very rare cases mortification of the flesh or tantric practices such as performing one's particular s?dhan? within a cremation ground.
Traditionally in some Hindu and Buddhist traditions in order to embark on a specific path of s?dhan?, a guru may be required to give the necessary instructions. This approach is typified by some Tantric traditions, in which initiation by a guru is sometimes identified as a specific stage of s?dhan?. On the other hand, individual renunciates may develop their own spiritual practice without participating in organized groups.
The tantric rituals are called "s?dhan?". Some of the well known s?dhan?-s are:
All of these are available in Tibetan form, many are available in Chinese and some are still extant in ancient Sanskrit manuscripts.
[E]xternal ritual and internal s?dhan? form an indistinguishable whole, and this unity finds its most pregnant expression in the form of the mandala, the sacred enclosure consisting of concentric squares and circles drawn on the ground and representing that adamantine plane of being on which the aspirant to Buddhahood wishes to establish himself. The unfolding of the tantric ritual depends on the mandala; and where a material mandala is not employed, the adept proceeds to construct one mentally in the course of his meditation.