Dhyana is an ancient practice in both Hindu and Buddhist scripture. From Sanskrit, it can be roughly translated as “deeper awareness of oneness”.
Dhyana is often described as meditation and while this is true, it’s a specific type of meditation where the meditator should perceive themselves and the rest of the word (including the object of meditation) as one.
With true Dhyana there should be no distinction between yourself and the object you are focusing on. There is not even acknowledgement for the possibility of distinction. It is pure awareness which means that even words cannot describe the state, since that would be an act of distinction. In Buddhism, Dhyana (or Jhana in Pali) translates to “no-mind” which sums up the concept of oneness – there is not even any possibility to distinguish between your “self” an the rest of the word.
How do we achieve Dhyana?
Observe the object of meditation (Dharana) but without judgement – just observing and contemplating everything about the object.
Dhyana is somewhat unique compared to other meditation techniques which usually involve one of the senses. Dhyana should involve none of the senses, complete withdrawal (which is why Pratyahara and Dhrana are the preceding stages and should be practiced before Dhyana). It is advised that you calm the body and mind as much as possible before practicing Dhyana meditation – use Asana to relax the muscles, Pranayama to use the breath to calm the mind.
As you practice Dharana concentration, at first you will be regularly distracted by thoughts, feelings and external influences. Over time, the space between the distractions will slowly start to increase. Eventually, when the mind is quiet enough, you may experience 1-2 seconds of Dhyana. True Dhyana is often described as effortless – you stop trying to meditate and instead experience an effortless state of oneness. If you continue to practice, you may be able to extend the periods of Dhyana.
Eventually this leads to the 8th and final limb of Yoga – Samadhi.