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In Mahyna traditions[edit]

Bodhisattva seated in meditation.Afghanistan, 2nd century CE

Mahyna Buddhism includes numerous schools of practice. Each draw upon various Buddhist
stras, philosophical treatises, and commentaries, and each has its own emphasis, mode of
expression, and philosophical outlook. Accordingly, each school has its own meditation methods for
the purpose of developing samdhi and praj, with the goal of ultimately attaining enlightenment.

Description of the dhynas[edit]


Venerable Hsuan Hua, who taught Chn and Pure Land Buddhism, outlines the four preliminary
stages of dhyna:[58]
1. In the First Dhyna, there is the arising of bliss. The external breathing stops, while the
internal breathing comes alive, and it is said that the mind is as clear as water and as bright
as a mirror.[59] When the external breathing stops, the nose and mouth do not breathe.
[60]

While in this state, the mind and body have a feeling of existing within empty space. [61]

2. In the Second Dhyna, there is pure bliss born from samdhi. In this stage, there is said to
be happiness without compare. After reaching this stage, it is said that some practitioners
may go without food or water for many days and still be alright. When in this second stage,
not only does the external breathing stop, but the pulse comes to a stop as well. After
leaving this state, the pulse resumes its normal function. [62]

3. In the Third Dhyna, the joy of the previous stages is left, leaving only a subtle and blissful
peace.[63] At this stage it is said that not only do the breathing and pulse stop, but idle
thoughts stop as well.[64] Although idle thoughts have been cleared away, it is emphasized
that this stage is nothing special, and just part of the progression.[64] At this stage, the body
becomes as soft as the body of an infant.[65] Softness and suppleness of the body is
considered to be a physical indicator of the quality of an individual's samdhi. Nan HuaiChin states: "All the eminent monks of great virtue in the past were able to predict what day
they would die, and even on the brink of death their bodies were as soft and supple as a
baby's. Others who were even more lofty turned into a field of light, and their human forms
disappeared. At most all they left behind were a few pieces of fingernail, or a lock of hair as
a memento."[65]
4. In the Fourth Dhyna, the only manifestation is that of complete purity and perfection. [64] At
this stage one is still considered the stage of an ordinary mortal, and still far from
the Nirvna of the fully enlightened buddhas.[66] In the tradition of Chinese Buddhism, it is
said that those individuals who have reached this stage sometimes choose to walk with their
feet one inch above the earth, so they do not harm any living beings. [66]

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