What are the Different Definitions of Meditation?

The English word ‘Meditation’ has been derived from two Latin words: meditate, which means to think, ponder, dwell upon, exercise the mind, and focus attention, and modern, which means to heal. Meditation is called ‘Dhyäna’ in Sanskrit, which comes from the root word ‘dhyäti’, meaning to contemplate or meditate. Meditation is also being used in place of Sanskrit words such as Dhäradä, Dhyäna, Samädhi and Bhävanä, which are used to describe various stages of meditation.

What are the Different Definitions of Meditation?

The word ‘meditation’ means dhyäna or contemplation. It is not just ordinary concentration. It is a particular type of concentration. In the first place, meditation is a fully conscious process, an exercise of the will. Secondly, meditation means concentrating on a spiritual idea that presupposes the aspirant can rise above worldly thoughts. And finally, meditation is usually done at a particular centre of consciousness in the body.

Meditation aims to explore the mind’s different aspects and eventually transcend the mind completely. The meditator enters the dimensions of inspiration and illumination. In the higher stages of meditation, consciousness moves to the higher mind or the superconscious region. The culmination of reflection is self-realisation.


Classical Definitions of Meditation

The following are the definitions/terms used for mediation/ dhyäna in the classical texts.

Meditation, as per Pataïjali

The uninterrupted flow of the mind towards the object of focus is meditation. The continuous flow of the mind towards the object of obsession is meditation. Meditation keeps the mind focused uninterruptedly on a subject for a long time. It is a mental process by which the meditator becomes one with the object of meditation. Meditation is the seventh step of the Astanga Yoga of Pataïjali. He defines dhyäna as follows (Taimini, 1986):
Tatra pratyayaikatänatä dhyänam (Pataïjali Yoga Sütra III.2)
Tatra pratyayaikatänatä dhyänam (Pataïjali Yoga Sütra III.2)

Tatra pratyayaikatänatä dhyänam (Pataïjali Yoga Sütra III.2)

The uninterrupted flow of the mind towards the object of focus is meditation.


Meditation, as per sage Vyasa

The sage Vyäsa further explains about dhyäna in his commentary to Yoga Sütra.

Tasmindese dhyeyälambanasya pratyayasyaikatänatä sadrsah pravähah pratyayäntarenäparämrsto dhyänam. (Patanjali Yoga Darsana III.2)

Meditation is a continuous flow of knowledge with the object of meditation as its support, i.e., a constant flow of knowledge untouched by any other command.


Meditation, as per Bhagavad Gitä

In the Bhagavad Gitä, Lord Krsna explains meditation.

Çanaiaù çanairuparamed buddhayä dhåtigåhétayä

Ätmasamsthammanah krtvä na kinccidapi cintayet. (Bhagavad Gitä VI.25)

Little by little, let him attain quietude by his intellect, held firm; having made the mind established in the Self, let him not think of anything.


Meditation as per Svetäsvatara Upanisad

The Svetäsvatara Upanisad says, “The sages saw the Divine Self-power, hidden in its qualities by the practice Dhyäna Yoga.”

Dhyanayogänugatä apasan devätmasaktim svagunairnirgüdhäma,

Yah käranäni nikhiläni täni kälätma yuktänyadhitisthatyekah. (Svetäsvatara Upanisad 1|3)

Those who practised meditation realised or saw as the cause of creation the power of God (Devätma- Sakti) hidden in His qualities (Gunäs), which alone rules over all these causes beginning with time and ending with the individual soul. Meditation leads to realisation. Devätma Sakti: this is the power of God. It is Mäyä. Its qualities are Sattva (purity, goodness), Rajas (activity, passion), and Tamas (darkness, inertia).

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