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Sādhana (Sanskrit: साधन; Tibetan: སྒྲུབ་ཐབས་, THL: druptap; Chinese: 修行; pinyin: xiūxíng) is an ego-transcending spiritual practice.[1] It includes a variety of disciplines from any culture like Hindu,[2] Buddhist,[3] Jain[4] and Sikh traditions that are followed in order to achieve various spiritual or ritual objectives.

Buddhist sādhana (Japan)
Shugendō sādhana (Japan)

Sadhana is done for attaining detachment from worldly things, which can be a goal of a Sadhu. Karma yoga, Bhakti yoga and Gnyan yoga can also be described as Sadhana, in that constant efforts to achieve maximum level of perfection in all streams in day-to-day life can be described as Sadhana.[5]

Sādhana can also refer to a tantric liturgy or liturgical manual, that is, the instructions to carry out a certain practice.


The historian N. Bhattacharyya provides a working definition of the benefits of sādhana as follows:

[R]eligious sādhana, which both prevents an excess of worldliness and molds the mind and disposition (bhāva) into a form which develops the knowledge of dispassion and non-attachment. Sādhana is a means whereby bondage becomes liberation.[6]

B. K. S. Iyengar (1993: p. 22), in his English translation of and commentary to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, defines sādhana in relation to abhyāsa and kriyā:

Sādhana is a discipline undertaken in the pursuit of a goal. Abhyāsa is repeated practice performed with observation and reflection. Kriyā, or action, also implies perfect execution with study and investigation. Therefore, sādhana, abhyāsa, and kriyā all mean one and the same thing. A sādhaka, or practitioner, is one who skillfully applies...mind and intelligence in practice towards a spiritual goal.[7]


The term sādhana means "methodical discipline to attain desired knowledge or goal". Sadhana is also done for attaining detachment from worldly things which can be a goal, a person undertaking such a practice is known in Sanskrit as a sādhu (female sādhvi), sādhaka (female sādhakā) or yogi (Tibetan pawo; feminine yogini or dakini, Tibetan khandroma). The goal of sādhana is to attain some level of spiritual realization,[8] which can be either enlightenment, pure love of God (prema), liberation (moksha) from the cycle of birth and death (saṃsāra), or a particular goal such as the blessings of a deity as in the Bhakti traditions.

Sādhana can involve meditation, chanting of mantra sometimes with the help of prayer beads, puja to a deity, yajña, and in very rare cases mortification of the flesh or tantric practices such as performing one's particular sādhana within a cremation ground.

Traditionally in some Hindu and Buddhist traditions in order to embark on a specific path of sādhana, a guru may be required to give the necessary instructions. This approach is typified by some Tantric traditions, in which initiation by a guru is sometimes identified as a specific stage of sādhana.[9] On the other hand, individual renunciates may develop their own spiritual practice without participating in organized groups.[10]

Tantric sādhanaEdit

The tantric rituals are called "sādhana". Some of the well known sādhana-s are:

  1. śāva sādhana (sādhanā done while visualizing sitting on a corpse).
  2. śmaśāna sādhana (sādhana done while visualizing being in a crematorium or cremation ground).
  3. pañca-muṇḍa sādhana (sādhana done while visualizing sitting on a seat of five skulls).


In Vajrayāna Buddhism and the Nalanda tradition, there are fifteen major tantric sādhanas:

  1. Śūraṅgama/Sitātapatrā
  2. Nīlakaṇṭha
  3. Tārā
  4. Mahākāla
  5. Hayagrīva
  6. Amitābha
  7. Bhaiṣajyaguru/Akṣobhya
  8. Guhyasamāja
  9. Vajrayoginī/Vajravārāhī
  10. Heruka/Cakrasaṃvara
  11. Yamāntaka
  12. Kālacakra
  13. Hevajra
  14. Chöd
  15. Vajrapāṇi
  16. Avalokiteśvara

Not within this list but a central sādhana in Vajrayana is that of Vajrasattva.

All of these are available in Tibetan form, many are available in Chinese and some are still extant in ancient Sanskrit manuscripts.[11]

Kværne (1975: p. 164) in his extended discussion of sahajā, treats the relationship of sādhana to mandala thus:

[E]xternal ritual and internal sādhana form an indistinguishable whole, and this unity finds its most pregnant expression in the form of the mandala, the sacred enclosure consisting of concentric squares and circles drawn on the ground and representing that adamantine plane of being on which the aspirant to Buddhahood wishes to establish himself. The unfolding of the tantric ritual depends on the mandala; and where a material mandala is not employed, the adept proceeds to construct one mentally in the course of his meditation.[12]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Flood, Gavin. An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1996. pp. 92, 156, 160, 167. ISBN 0-521-43878-0.
  2. ^ NK Brahma, Philosophy of Hindu Sādhana, ISBN 978-8120333062, pages ix-x
  3. ^ http://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?title=Sādhana[dead link]
  4. ^ C.C. Shah, Cultural and Religious Heritage of India: Jainism, Mittal, ISBN 81-7099-9553, page 301
  5. ^ V. S. Apte. A Practical Sanskrit Dictionary. p. 979.
  6. ^ Bhattacharyya, N. N. History of the Tantric Religion. Second Revised Edition. (Manohar: New Delhi, 1999) p. 174. ISBN 81-7304-025-7
  7. ^ Iyengar, B.K.S. (1993, 2002). Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali. Hammersmith, London, UK: Thorsons. ISBN 978-0-00-714516-4 p.22
  8. ^ "What is spiritual level?". Spiritual Science Research Foundation. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  9. ^ Bhattacharyya, op. cit., p. 317.
  10. ^ Flood, Gavin. An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1996. p. 92. ISBN 0-521-43878-0.
  11. ^ Digital Sanskrit Buddhist Canon – University of the West Archives of Ancient Sanskrit Manuscripts Archived 2010-06-12 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Kvaerne, Per (1975). "On the Concept of Sahaja in Indian Buddhist Tantric Literature". (NB: article first published in Temenos XI (1975): pp.88-135). Cited in: Williams, Jane (2005). Buddhism: Critical Concepts in Religious Studies, Volume 6. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-33226-5, ISBN 978-0-415-33226-2. Source: [1] (accessed; Friday April 16, 2010)