is central to the spiritual endeavor in many schools of Hinduism,
notably the Yoga tradition. The Bhagavad-Gita (12.12) ranks meditation
above intellectual knowledge, and the Garuda-Purana (222.10) states:
Meditation is the highest virtue. Meditation is the foremost
austerity. Meditation is the greatest purity. Therefore be fond
of meditation. This exhortation expresses a sentiment that
is widespread in the sacred literature of Hinduism.
meditation is by no means universally regarded as the principal
means of attaining Self-realization. For instance, the Bhagavad-Gita
(13.24) states that some behold the Self (atman) by means of meditation,
while others approach it through samkhya-yoga and karma-yoga. Here
samkhya-yoga stands for the spiritual practice of discernment (viveka)
between the real and the unreal, and karma-yoga is the practice
of dispassionate action. In the Trika school of Kashmir, the yogin
is given alternatives to meditation like mantric recitation (japa),
observing vows (vrata), and ritual sacrifice (homa).
Sanskrit word dhyana, derived from the verbal root dhyai (to
contemplate, meditate, think), is the most common designation
both for the meditative state of consciousness and the yogic techniques
by which it is induced. The Vedanta tradition also employs the terms
nididhyasana, which stems from the same verbal root, upasana (literally
dwelling upon), and bhavana (literally cultivating).
term dhyana is widely used to refer to the contemplative process
that prepares the ground for the ecstatic state (samadhi), though
occasionally the term is also employed to signify that superlative
state of consciousness.