Buddhism A–Z
What is Jhana in Buddhism?

Jhana (Pali) or dhyana (Sanskrit) is a term in Buddhism that refers to states of deep concentration and meditative absorption. Jhana is a core aspect of Buddhist meditation practice in the Theravada and early Buddhist traditions.

Jhanas are a sequence of progressively deeper states of concentration, each characterized by specific qualities and experiences. These states are achieved through sustained and focused meditation on a chosen object, such as the breath, a mantra, or a visualized image. The practitioner gradually moves through these stages, refining their concentration and insight.

The specific number and characteristics of jhanas can vary across different Buddhist traditions, but a common description often includes four main jhanas, plus four formless jhanas, resulting in a total of eight.

First Jhana

This stage is marked by initial detachment from sensory distractions and the arising of a joyful, blissful state. The mind becomes unified and one-pointed on the chosen object of meditation.

Second Jhana

In this stage, the initial joy transforms into a more refined, serene contentment. The meditator experiences a deep sense of tranquility and inner peace.

Third Jhana

The experience of happiness further refines into equanimity. The practitioner becomes less attached to both pleasure and pain, entering a state of balanced mindfulness.

Fourth Jhana

Equanimity becomes even more profound, resulting in a state of pure equanimity and mindfulness. The practitioner experiences a deep sense of mental clarity, balance, and focused awareness.

Beyond the fourth jhana, some traditions describe four additional formless jhanas that involve meditative absorption into progressively subtler levels of reality.

While jhana practice is a significant part of some Buddhist traditions, Zen and Vajrayana emphasize different methods and aspects of meditation practice.

Related Reading

How Jhana Quells the Five Hindrances

If you think you’re seeing things as they really are, think again. Unless you’ve had the deep experience of letting go, there is only a myriad of illusions.

Jhanas, Leigh Brasington, Concentration, Buddhadharma, Lion's Roar, Buddhism, Theravada

Entering the Jhanas

Entering the jhanas is not easy—the harder you try, the more difficult it becomes. But you can make yourself ready for them to open up to you.

jhanas, meditation, how to meditate, Lion's Roar, Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, Mindfulness in Plain English, Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English, liberation, Buddhadharma

The Taste of Liberation: The Jhanas

Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, author of the classic meditation manual Mindfulness in Plain English, explains the jhanas and how they can be reached.

Buddhism A–Z

Explore essential Buddhist terms, concepts, and traditions.