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A farmer plowing a field in India.

Bhāvanā (T. sgom pa སྒོམ་པ་; C. xiuxi 修習) literally means "bringing into being." In Buddhism, it refers to mental or spiritual exercises aimed at cultivating wholesome mental states that facilitate the realization of the Buddhist path.[1]

The term bhavana is often translated as "meditation," but it also has a broader meaning. B. Alan Wallace states: "in the Sanskrit it means to cultivate -- to cultivate your heart, cultivate your mind, cultivate your attention skills, cultivate virtues of patience, forbearance, equanimity, wisdom, compassion, loving kindness and so forth."[2]

This type of cultivation is compared to that of a farmer who cultivates a field -- the farmer is performing bhavana when he or she prepares the soil and plants seeds. Glenn Wallis states:

I imagine that when Gotama, the Buddha, chose this word to talk about meditation, he had in mind the ubiquitous farms and fields of his native India. Unlike our words 'meditation' or 'contemplation,' Gotama’s term is musty, rich, and verdant. It smells of the earth. The commonness of his chosen term suggests naturalness, everydayness, ordinariness. The term also suggests hope: no matter how fallow it has become, or damaged it may be, a field can always be cultivated — endlessly enhanced, enriched, developed — to produce a favorable and nourishing harvest.[3]

The term Bhavana is often used in compound form to indicate specific types of cultivation. The most commonly identified forms are:

  • samatha-bhāvanā, the cultivation of calm-abiding (aka calm-abiding meditation)[4]
  • vipassanā-bhāvanā, the cultivation of insight (aka insight meditation).[4]

Types of cultivation (bhavana)

There are a variety of types of bhavana (cultivation, meditation, etc.) described in Buddhist texts.

The most commonly identified forms are:

  • samatha-bhāvanā the cultivation of calm-abiding (aka calm-abiding meditation)[4]
  • vipassanā-bhāvanā, the cultivation of insight (aka insight meditation).[4]

Other forms of bhavana include:

  • citta-bhāvanā, translated as "development of mind"[5][6] or "development of consciousness."
  • kāya-bhāvanā, translated as "development of body."[5]
  • mettā-bhāvanā, translated as the "cultivation"[7] or "development of benevolence."[8]
  • paññā-bhāvanā, translated as "development of wisdom"[9] or "development of understanding."
  • samādhi-bhāvanā, translated as "development of concentration."[10]


In general, bhavana has a wide range of meanings, "including cultivating, producing, manifesting, imagining, suffusing, and reflecting."[11]

It is translated as "cultivation," "development," "bringing into being," "calling into existence,"[4] etc.

Bhavana derives from the word bhava meaning "becoming."

See also


  1. Gethin 1998, s.v. "The practice of calm meditation".
  2. Wallace, Alan (2017) Alan Wallace, Shamatha, Live Interview
  3. Glenn Wallis, Bhavana: A Guide to Classical Buddhist Meditation, 2009, draft copy, p. 7 "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-27. Retrieved 2011-04-20. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Nyanatiloka (1980), p. 67.
  5. 5.0 5.1 See, e.g., DN 33.1.10(48), trans. by Walshe (1995), p. 486; and, MN 36, trans. by Ñāamoli & Bodhi (2001), pp. 332-343.
    Both DN 33 and MN 36 juxtapose citta-bhāvanā with kāya-bhāvanā. In DN 33, it is said that there are three types of development: of body (kāya), of mind (citta), and of wisdom (paññā). In end notes to MN 36, Bodhi (pp. 1228-29, nn. 382, 384) states that the MN commentary explains that "development of the body" refers to insight and "development of mind" refers to samādhi.
  6. Also see AN 1.22 and 1.24 (a/k/a, AN I,iii,1 and 3), trans. by Thanissaro (2006); and, AN 1.51-52 (a/k/a, AN I,vi,1-2), trans. by Thanissaro (1995), as well as trans. by Nyanaponika & Bodhi (1999), p. 36.
  7. See, e.g., Sn 1.8, Metta Sutta, trans. by Thanissaro (2004). The compound metta-bhāvanā does not actually exist in this sutta, but the sutta famously mentions that one should "cultivate" (bhāvaye) a limitless heart of metta.
  8. See, e.g., Iti. 1.27, trans. by Ireland (1997), pp. 169-70.
  9. See DN 33.1.10(48), trans. by Walshe (1995), p. 486, referenced in note above regarding citta-bhāvanā.
  10. See, e.g., AN 4.41, trans. Thanissaro (1997) (cf. Template:SamadhiBhavana). In addition, see MN 44, Cūḷavedalla Sutta, trans. by Thanissaro (1998a)
  11. Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. bhāvāna.


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