sam, "perfect," "complete." dhi, "consciousness": a state of being where "all distinctions between the person who is the subjective meditator, the act of meditation and the object of meditation merge into oneness."
sama, "equanimous" dhi,"buddhi or the intellect"
Common Chinese terms for sam?dhi include the transliterations sanmei () and sanmodi ( or ), as well as the translation of the term literally as ding (? "fixity"). Kumarajiva's translations typically use sanmei (), while the translations of Xuanzang tend to use ding (? "fixity"). The Chinese Buddhist canon includes these as well as other translations and transliterations of the term.
The origins of the practice of dhyana, which culminates into samadhi, are a matter of dispute. According to Bronkhorst, dhyana was a Buddhist invention, whereas Alexander Wynne argues that dhyana was incorporated from Brahmanical practices, in the Nikayas ascribed to Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta. These practices were paired to mindfulness and insight, and given a new interpretation. Kalupahana also argues that the Buddha "reverted to the meditational practices" he had learned from Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta.
The term 'Samadhi' derives from the root sam-a-dha, which means 'to collect' or 'bring together', and thus it is often translated as 'concentration' or 'unification of mind'. In the early Buddhist texts, samadhi is also associated with the term samatha (calm abiding). In the commentarial tradition, samadhi is defined as ekaggata, one-pointedness of mind (Cittass'ekaggat?).
Buddhagosa defines samadhi as "the centering of consciousness and consciousness concomitants evenly and rightly on a single object [...] the state in virtue of which consciousness and its concomitants remain evenly and rightly on a single object, undistracted and unscattered." According to Buddhaghosa, the Theravada Pali texts mention four kinds of samadhi:
Momentary concentration (khanikasamadhi): A mental stabilization which arises during vipassana.
Preliminary concentration (parikammasamadhi): Arises out of the meditator's initial attempts to focus on a meditation object.
Access concentration (upacarasamadhi): Arises when the five hindrances are dispelled, when jhana is present, and with the appearance the 'counterpart sign' (patibhaganimitta).
Absorption concentration (appanasamadhi): The total immersion of the mind on its meditation of object and stabilization of all four jhanas.
Samadhi and dhyana
Samadhi is the last of the eight elements of the Noble Eightfold Path.[web 1] It is often interpreted as referring to dhyana, but in the suttas samadhi and dhyana are not the same. While samadhi is one-pointed concentration, in dhyana this samadhi is used in the initial stages, to give way to a state of equanimity and mindfulness. The practice of dhyana makes it possible to keep access to the senses in a mindful way, avoiding primary responses to the sense-impressions.
The Suttapitaka and the Agamas describe four stages of rupa jh?na. Rupa refers to the material realm, in a neutral stance, as different form the kama realm (lust, desire) and the arupa-realm (non-material realm). Each jh?na is characterised by a set of qualities which are present in that jhana.[note 2]
First dhy?na: the first dhyana can be entered when one is secluded from sensuality and unskillful qualities. There is p?ti ("rapture") and non-sensual sukha ("pleasure") as the result of seclusion, while vitarka-vicara ("discursive thought") continues;[note 3]
Second dhyana: there is p?ti ("rapture") and non-sensual sukha ("pleasure") as the result of concentration (samadhi-ji, "born of samadhi"); ekaggata (unification of awareness) free from vitarka-vicara ("discursive thought"); inner tranquility;[note 4]
Third dhyana: upekkh?[note 5] (equanimous; "affective detachment"), mindful, and alert, and senses pleasure with the body;
Fourth dhyana: upekkh?satip?risuddhi[note 5] (purity of equanimity and mindfulness); neither-pleasure-nor-pain. Traditionally, the fourth jh?na is seen as the beginning of attaining psychic powers (abhijñ?).[note 6]
Interpretation of the four dhyanas
According to Richard Gombrich, the sequence of the four rupa-jhanas describes two different cognitive states:
I know this is controversial, but it seems to me that the third and fourth jhanas are thus quite unlike the second.[note 7]
Alexander Wynne further explains that the dhyana-scheme is poorly understood. According to Wynne, words expressing the inculcation of awareness, such as sati, sampaj?no, and upekkh?, are mistranslated or understood as particular factors of meditative states, whereas they refer to a particular way of perceiving the sense objects:
Thus the expression sato sampaj?no in the third jh?na must denote a state of awareness different from the meditative absorption of the second jh?na (cetaso ekodibh?va). It suggests that the subject is doing something different from remaining in a meditative state, i.e. that he has come out of his absorption and is now once again aware of objects. The same is true of the word upek(k)h?: it does not denote an abstract 'equanimity', [but] it means to be aware of something and indifferent to it [...] The third and fourth jh?na-s, as it seems to me, describe the process of directing states of meditative absorption towards the mindful awareness of objects.[note 8]
The Noble Eightfold Path is a condensation of more elaborate descriptions of this path, which starts with a householder who hears the dhamma and leaves home (either literally or figuratively), and after preparatory practices starts with the practice of dhyana.[note 9] The P?li canon describes eight progressive states of jh?na: four meditations of form (r?pa jh?na), and four formless meditations (ar?pajh?nas), though the early texts do not use the term dhyana for the four formless meditations, calling them instead ?yatana (dimension, sphere, base). A ninth form is Nirodha-Sam?patti.
According to Bronkhorst, the four r?pa jh?na may be an original contribution of the Buddha to the religious landscape of India. They formed an alternative to the painful ascetic practices of the Jains. The ar?pa jh?na were incorporated from non-Buddhist ascetic traditions. According to Crangle, the development of meditative practices in ancient India was a complex interplay between Vedic and non-Vedic traditions.
Dhyana and insight
A core problem in the study of early Buddhism is the relation between dhyana and insight. The Buddhist tradition has incorporated two traditions regarding the use of jhana. There is a tradition that stresses attaining insight (bodhi, prajna, kensho) as the means to awakening and liberation. But it has also incorporated the yogic tradition, as reflected in the use of jhana, which is rejected in other sutras as not resulting in the final result of liberation. The problem was famously voiced in 1936 by Louis de La Vallee Poussin, in his text Musila et Narada: Le Chemin de Nirvana.[note 10]
Schmithausen discerns three possible roads to liberation as described in the suttas, to which Vetter adds the sole practice of dhyana itself, which he sees as the original "liberating practice":
The four Rupa Jhanas themselves constituted the core liberating practice of early buddhism, c.q. the Buddha;
Mastering the four Rupa Jhanas, where-after "liberating insight" is attained;
Mastering the four Rupa Jhanas and the four Arupa Jhanas, where-after "liberating insight" is attained;
Liberating insight itself suffices.
This problem has been elaborated by several well-known scholars, including Tilman Vetter, Johannes Bronkhorst, and Richard Gombrich. Schmithausen[note 11] notes that the mention of the four noble truths as constituting "liberating insight", which is attained after mastering the Rupa Jhanas, is a later addition to texts such as Majjhima Nikaya 36. Both Schmithausen and Bronkhorst note that the attainment of insight, which is a cognitive activity, cannot be possible in state wherein all cognitive activity has ceased. According to Vetter and Bronkhorst, dhyana itself constituted the original "liberating practice". According to Alexander Wynne, the ultimate aim of dhyana was the attainment of insight, and the application of the meditative state to the practice of mindfulness. According to Frauwallner, mindfulness was a means to prevent the arising of craving, which resulted simply from contact between the senses and their objects. According to Frauwallner, this may have been the Buddha's original idea. According to Wynne, this stress on mindfulness may have led to the intellectualism which favoured insight over the practice of dhyana.
Grouped into the jhana-scheme are four meditative states, referred to in the early texts as aruppas. These are also referred to in commentarial literature as immaterial/formless jh?nas (ar?pajh?nas), also translated as The Formless Dimensions, in distinction from the first four jh?nas (r?pa jh?nas). In the Buddhist canonical texts, the word "jh?na" is never explicitly used to denote them, they are instead referred to as ?yatana. However, they are sometimes mentioned in sequence after the first four jh?nas (other texts. e.g. MN 121 treat them as a distinct set of attainments) and thus came to be treated by later exegetes as jh?nas. The immaterial are related to, or derived from, yogic meditation, and aim more specific at concentration, while the jhanas proper are related to the cultivation of the mind. The state of complete dwelling in emptiness is reached when the eighth jh?na is transcended.
The four arupas are:
fifth jh?na: infinite space (Pali ?k?s?nañc?yatana, Skt. ?knanty?yatana),
eighth jh?na: neither perception nor non-perception (Pali nevasaññ?n?saññ?yatana, Skt. naivasa?jñ?n?sa?jñ?yatana).
Although the "Dimension of Nothingness" and the "Dimension of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception" are included in the list of nine Jhanas taught by the Buddha, they are not included in the Noble Eightfold Path. Noble Path number eight is "Samma Samadhi" (Right Concentration), and only the first four Jhanas are considered "Right Concentration". If he takes a disciple through all the Jhanas, the emphasis is on the "Cessation of Feelings and Perceptions" rather than stopping short at the "Dimension of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception".
Several western teachers (Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Leigh Brazington, Richard Shankman) make a distinction between 'sutta-oriented' jhana and Visuddhimagga-oriented' jhana.[full ] Thanissaro Bhikkhu has repeatedly argued that the Pali Canon and the Visuddhimagga give different descriptions of the jhanas, regarding the Visuddhimagga-description to be incorrect. Keren Arbel has conducted extensive research on the jhanas and the contemporary criticisms of the commentarial interpretation. Based on this research, and her own experience as a senior meditation-teacher, she gives a reconstructed account of the original meaning of the dhyanas. She argues that jhana is an integrated practice, describing the fourth jhana as "lucid awareness," not as a state of deep concentration.
The earliest extant Indian Mahayana texts emphasize ascetic practices and forest dwelling, and absorption in states of meditative oneness. These practices seem to have occupied a central place in early Mahayana, also because they "may have given access to fresh revelations and inspiration."
In the Indian Mahayana traditions the term is also to refer to forms of "samadhi" other than dhyana. Section 21 of the Mahavyutpatti records even 118 samadhi. The Samadhiraja Sutra for example has as its main theme a sam?dhi called 'the samadhi that is manifested as the sameness of the essential nature of all dharmas' (sarva-dharma-svabhav?-samat?-vipañcita-sam?dhi).[note 12]
A traditional Chinese Chán Buddhist master in Taiwan, sitting in meditation
Indian dhyana was translated as chán in Chinese, and zen in Japanese. Ideologically the Zen-tradition emphasizes prajna and sudden insight, but in the actual practice prajna and sam?dhi, or sudden insight and gradual cultivation, are paired to each other. Especially some lineages in the Rinzai school of Zen stress sudden insight, while the S?t? school of Zen lays more emphasis on shikantaza, training awareness of the stream of thoughts, allowing them to arise and pass away without interference.
Patanjali's Yoga sutras
Samadhi is the main subject of the eighth limb of the Yoga Sutras called Samadhi-pada. They resemble the Buddhist jhanas.[note 13] According to David Gordon White, the language of the Yoga Sutras is often closer to "Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit, the Sanskrit of the early Mahayana Buddhist scriptures, than to the classical Sanskrit of other Hindu scriptures." According to Karel Werner,
Patanjali's system is unthinkable without Buddhism. As far as its terminology goes there is much in the Yoga Sutras that reminds us of Buddhist formulations from the P?li Canon and even more so from the SarvastivadaAbhidharma and from Sautr?ntika."
Robert Thurman writes that Patañjali was influenced by the success of the Buddhist monastic system to formulate his own matrix for the version of thought he considered orthodox. However, the Yoga Sutra, especially the fourth segment of Kaivalya Pada, contains several polemical verses critical of Buddhism, particularly the Vijñ?nav?da school of Vasubandhu.
Samadhi is oneness with the object of meditation. There is no distinction between act of meditation and the object of meditation. Samadhi is of two kinds,[web 5] with and without support of an object of meditation:[web 6]
The first two, deliberation and reflection, form the basis of the various types of samapatti:
Savitarka, "deliberative":[note 17] The citta is concentrated upon a gross object of meditation,[web 6] an object with a manifest appearance that is perceptible to our senses, such as a flame of a lamp, the tip of the nose, or the image of a deity. Conceptualization (vikalpa) still takes place, in the form of perception, the word and the knowledge of the object of meditation. When the deliberation is ended this is called nirvitaka samadhi.[note 18]
Savichara, "reflective": the citta is concentrated upon a subtle object of meditation,[web 6] which is not perceptible to the senses, but arrived at through inference, such as the senses, the process of cognition, the mind, the I-am-ness,[note 19] the chakras, the inner-breath (prana), the nadis, the intellect (buddhi). The stilling of reflection is called nirvichara samapatti.[note 20]
The last two associations, sananda samadhi and sasmita, are respectively a state of meditation, and an object of savichara samadhi:
According to Ian Whicher, the status of sananda and sasmita in Patanjali's system is a matter of dispute. According to Maehle, the first two constituents, deliberation and reflection, form the basis of the various types of samapatti. According to Feuerstein,
"Joy" and "I-am-ness" [...] must be regarded as accompanying phenomena of every cognitive [ecstasy]. The explanations of the classical commentators on this point appear to be foreign to Patanjali's hierarchy of [ecstatic] states, and it seems unlikely that ananda and asmita should constitute independent levels of samadhi.
Ian Whicher disagrees with Feuerstein, seeing ananda and asmita as later stages of nirvicara-samapatti. Whicher refers to V?caspati Mi?ra (900-980 CE), the founder of the Bh?mat?Advaita Vedanta who proposes eight types of samapatti:
Savitarka-sam?patti and Nirvitarka-sam?patti, both with gross objects as objects of support;
Savic?ra-sam?patti and Nirvic?ra-sam?patti, both with subtle objects as objects of support;
S?nanda-sam?patti and Nir?nanda-sam?patti, both with the sense organs as objects of support
S?smit?-sam?patti and Nirasmit?-sam?patti, both with the sense of "I-am-ness" as support.
Vijnana Bikshu (ca. 1550-1600) proposes a six-stage model, explicitly rejecting Vacaspati Misra's model. Vijnana Bikshu regards joy (ananda) as a state that arises when the mind passes beyond the vicara stage. Whicher agrees that ananda is not a separate stage of samadhi. According to Whicher, Patanjali's own view seems to be that nirvicara-samadhi is the highest form of cognitive ecstasy.
According to Taimni, dharana, dhyana and samadhi form a graded series:
Dharana. In dharana, the mind learns to focus on a single object of thought. The object of focus is called a pratyaya. In dharana, the yogi learns to prevent other thoughts from intruding on focusing awareness on the pratyaya.
Dhyana. Over time and with practice, the yogin learns to sustain awareness of only the pratyaya, thereby dharana transforms into dhyana. In dhyana, the yogin comes to realize the triplicity of perceiver (the yogin), perceived (the pratyaya) and the act of perceiving. The new element added to the practice of dhyana, that distinguish it from dharana is the yogi learns to minimize the perceiver element of this triplicity. In this fashion, dhyana is the gradual minimization of the perceiver, or the fusion of the observer with the observed (the pratyaya).
Samadhi. When the yogin can: (1) sustain focus on the pratyaya for an extended period of time, and (2) minimize his or her self-consciousness during the practice, then dhyana transforms into samadhi. In this fashion then, the yogin becomes fused with the pratyaya. Patanjali compares this to placing a transparent jewel on a colored surface: the jewel takes on the color of the surface. Similarly, in samadhi, the consciousness of the yogin fuses with the object of thought, the pratyaya. The pratyaya is like the colored surface, and the yogin's consciousness is like the transparent jewel.
Sahaja samadhi is a state in which a silent level within the subject is maintained along with (simultaneously with) the full use of the human faculties.
Kevala nirvikalpa samadhi is temporary, [web 8][web 9] whereas sahaja nirvikalpa samadhi is a continuous state throughout daily activity. This state seems inherently more complex than s?madhi, since it involves several aspects of life, namely external activity, internal quietude, and the relation between them. It also seems to be a more advanced state, since it comes after the mastering of samadhi.[note 24][note 25]
^According to Bucknell, while the commentarial tradition explains vitarka and vicara as the concentration on an object of meditation, the terms may simply refer to "the normal process of discursive thought." Bucknell refers to: * Martin Stuart-Fox, "Jhana and Buddhist Scholasticism," Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 12.2 (1989): 79-110 * Paul Griffiths, "Buddhist Jhana: A form-critical study," Religion 13 (1983): 55-68
According to Stuart-Fox, referring to Rhys Davids and Stede, when vitarka-vicara are mentioned in tandem, they are one expression, "to cover all varieties of thinking, including sustained and focused thought. It is thinking in this inclusive sense that the meditator suppresses through concentration when he attains one-ness of mind and thus moves from first to second jhana."
^The common translation, based on the commentarial interpretation of dhyana as expanding states of absorption, translates sampasadana as "internal assurance." Yet, as Bucknell explains, it also means "tranquilizing," which is more apt in this context.
^For instance in AN 5.28, the Buddha states (Thanissaro, 1997.): "When a monk has developed and pursued the five-factored noble right concentration in this way, then whichever of the six higher knowledges he turns his mind to know and realize, he can witness them for himself whenever there is an opening...." "If he wants, he wields manifold supranormal powers. Having been one he becomes many; having been many he becomes one. He appears. He vanishes. He goes unimpeded through walls, ramparts, and mountains as if through space. He dives in and out of the earth as if it were water. He walks on water without sinking as if it were dry land. Sitting crosslegged he flies through the air like a winged bird. With his hand he touches and strokes even the sun and moon, so mighty and powerful. He exercises influence with his body even as far as the Brahma worlds. He can witness this for himself whenever there is an opening ..."
^theravadin.wordpress.com: "In this order, therefore, what we should understand as vipassan? is not at all a synonym for sati but rather something which grows out of the combination of all these factors especially of course the last two, samma sati and samma sam?dhi applied to the ruthless observation of what comes into being (yath?bh?ta). One could say, vipassan? is a name for the practice of sati+sam?dhi as applied to anicca/dukkha/anatta (i.e. generating wisdom) directed at the six-sense-process, including any mental activity." According to Gombrich, "the later tradition has falsified the jhana by classifying them as the quintessence of the concentrated, calming kind of meditation, ignoring the other - and indeed higher - element.
^In his often-cited article On some Aspects of Descriptions or Theories of 'Liberating Insight' and 'Enlightenment' in Early Buddhism
^Gomez & Silk: "This samadhi is at the same time the cognitive experience of emptiness, the attainment of the attributes of buddhahood, and the performance of a variety of practices or daily activities of a bodhisattva--including service and adoration at the feet of all buddhas. The word samadhi is also used to mean the s?tra itself. Consequently, we can speak of an equation, s?tra = sam?dhi = nyat?, underlying the text. In this sense the title Samadhiraja expresses accurately the content of the s?tra."
^According to Jianxin Li Samprajnata Samadhi may be compared to the rupa jhanas of Buddhism. This interpretation may conflict with Gombrich and Wynne, according to whom the first and second jhana represent concentration, whereas the third and fourth jhana combine concentration with mindfulness. According to Eddie Crangle, the first jhana resembles Patnajali's Samprajnata Samadhi, which both share the application of vitarka and vicara.
^Yoga Sutra 1.17: "Objective sam?dhi (samprajnata) is associated with deliberation, reflection, bliss, and I-am-ness (asmita).
^Yoga Sutra 1.42: "Deliberative (savitarka) samapatti is that sam?dhi in which words, objects, and knowledge are commingled through conceptualization."
^Yoga Sutra 1.43: "When memory is purified, the mind appears to be emptied of its own nature and only the object shines forth. This is superdeliberative (nirvitaka) samapatti."
^Following Yoga Sutra 1.17, meditation on the sense of "I-am-ness" is also grouped, in other descriptions, as "sasmita samapatti"
^Yoga Sutra 1.44: "In this way, reflective (savichara) and super-reflective (nirvichara) samapatti, which are based on subtle objects, are also explained."
^Without seeds or Samskaras[web 5] According to Swami Sivananda, "All the seeds or impressions are burnt by the fire of knowledge [...] all the Samskaras and Vasanas which bring on rebirths are totally fried up. All Vrittis or mental modifications that arise form the mind-lake come under restraint. The five afflictions, viz., Avidya (ignorance), Asmita (egoism), Raga-dvesha (love and hatred) and Abhinivesha (clinging to life) are destroyed and the bonds of Karma are annihilated [...] It gives Moksha (deliverance form the wheel of births and deaths). With the advent of the knowledge of the Self, ignorance vanishes. With the disappearance of the root-cause, viz., ignorance, egoism, etc., also disappear."[web 5]
^According to Jianxin Li, Asamprajnata Sam?dhi may be compared to the arupa jhanas of Buddhism, and to Nirodha-Samapatti. Crangle also notes that sabija-asamprajnata sam?dhi resembles the four formless jhanas. According to Crangle, the fourth arupa jhana is the stage of transition to Patanjali's "consciousness without seed".
Schmithausen, Lambert (1981), On some Aspects of Descriptions or Theories of 'Liberating Insight' and 'Enlightenment' in Early Buddhism". In: Studien zum Jainismus und Buddhismus (Gedenkschrift für Ludwig Alsdorf), hrsg. von Klaus Bruhn und Albrecht Wezler, Wiesbaden 1981, 199-250
Shankman, Richard (2008), The Experience of Samadhi - an in depth Exploration of Buddhist Meditation, Shambala publications