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Bhāvanā (Pali[1]; Sanskrit, also bhāvana[2]) literally means "development"[3] or "producing"[2][1] in the sense of 'calling into existence'[4]. It is an important concept in Buddhist praxis (Patipatti). The word bhavana normally appears in conjunction with another word forming a compound phrase such as citta-bhavana (the development or cultivation of the heart/mind) or metta-bhavana (the development/cultivation of lovingkindness). When used on its own bhavana signifies 'spiritual cultivation' generally.


Bhavana derives from the word Bhava meaning becoming.


In the Pali Canon bhāvanā is often found in a compound phrase indicating personal, intentional effort over time with respect to the development of that particular faculty. For instance, in the Pali Canon and post-canonical literature one can find the following compounds:

  • 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 loving-kindness."[8]
  • paññā-bhāvanā, translated as "development of wisdom"[9] or "development of understanding."
  • samādhi-bhāvanā, translated as "development of tranquil-wisdom."[10]

In addition, in the Canon, the development (bhāvanā) of samatha-vipassana is lauded.[11] Subsequently, Theravada teachers have made use of the following compounds:

  • samatha-bhāvanā, meaning the development of tranquility.[12].
  • vipassanā-bhāvanā, meaning the development of insight.[13]

The word bhavana is sometimes translated into English as 'meditation' so that, for example, metta-bhavana may be translated as 'the meditation on loving-kindness'. Meditation as a state of absorbed concentration on the reality of the present moment is properly called dhyana (Sanskrit; Pali: jhana) or samadhi.

In Jainism

In Jain texts, bhāvana refers to "right conception or notion" or "the moral of a fable."[2]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), p. 503, entry for "Bhāvanā," retrieved 9 Dec 2008 from "U. Chicago" at
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Monier-Williams (1899), p. 755, see "Bhāvana" and "Bhāvanā," retrieved 9 Dec 2008 from "U. Cologne" at
  3. See various translations cited in the notes below.
  4. Nyanatiloka, Buddhist Dictionary: Manual of Terms and Doctrines, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka, Fourth Edition, 1980
  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 [[samadhi|]].</span> </li>

  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. </li>
  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. </li>
  8. See, e.g., Iti. 1.27, trans. by Ireland (1997), pp. 169-70. </li>
  9. See DN 33.1.10(48), trans. by Walshe (1995), p. 486, referenced in note above regarding citta-bhāvanā. </li>
  10. See, e.g., AN 4.41, trans. Thanissaro (1997) (cf. Template:SamadhiBhavana). In addition, see MN 44, Cūḷavedalla Sutta, trans. by Thanissaro (1998a):
    [Layperson Visākha:] "Now what is concentration, lady, what qualities are its themes, what qualities are its requisites, and what is its development [samādhibhāvanāti] ?"
    [Bhikkhuni Dhammadinnā:] "Singleness of mind is concentration, friend Visakha; the four frames of reference are its themes; the four right exertions are its requisites; and any cultivation, development, & pursuit of these qualities is its development."
  11. See, e.g., in MN 151, the Buddha states that a bhikkhu who has developed samatha-vipassana (or any of the seven sets of Enlightenment-conducive qualities) "can abide happy and glad, training day and night in wholesome states" (trans., Ñāṇamoli & Bodhi, 2001, p. 1145). Additionally, AN 4.170 identifies three ways in which an arahant develops samatha-vipassana: samatha first; vipassana first; or both in tandem (Nyanaponika & Bodhi, 1999, p. 114; and, Thanissaro, 1998b). See also the paracanonical Nett 91 (Rhys Davids & Stede, 1921-25, p. 503, entry for "Bhāvanā," retrieved 9 Dec 2008 from "U. Chicago" at </li>
  12. Page 67, Nyanatiloka,Buddhist Dictionary: Manual of Terms and Doctrines, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka, Fourth Edition, 1980 </li>
  13. Ibid. Op.Cit </li></ol>


  • Ñāamoli, Bhikkhu (trans.) & Bodhi, Bhikkhu (ed.) (2001). The Middle-Length Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Majjhima Nikāya. Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-072-X.
  • Nyanaponika Thera (trans.) & Bhikkhu Bodhi (trans., ed.) (1999). Numerical Discourses of the Buddha: An Anthology of Suttas from the Aguttara Nikāya. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press. ISBN 0-7425-0405-0.
  • Walshe, Maurice (1995). The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Dīgha Nikāya. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-103-3.

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