Who first used the term nididhysana? Shankaracharya or Ramana Maharshi?

Is nididhyasana meditation or mere contemplation?

If its meditation, then how is it different from Patanjali's meditation techniques?

If its contemplation, then how does constant deep thinking gives a person moksha from cycle of rebirth?

If its reminding oneself that he is Brahman, by repeating the mahavakyas, then can such reminders and repetition of mahavakyas bring moksha from cycle of rebirth?

  • Nidhidhyasana is a scriptural term not coined by Adi Shankara or any other ... I believe it is found in various scriptures with reference to Advaitic methods. For the moment you can see this from Shiva Gita (see under 13.4)-- wisdomlib.org/hinduism/essay/shiva-gita-study/d/doc425976.html
    – Rickross
    Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 6:45
  • Went through the passages from the link you provided. It says there Nididhyasana is contemplation of what is learned or heard. Any idea, how can mere contemplation give moksha or how can assuring oneself repeatedly he's not the body/mind, give moksha? Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 7:58
  • I am not trying to answer your whole Q .. it has many parts of which I just tried to clarify regarding one which asks "who coined the term?" It's a scriptural term.
    – Rickross
    Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 8:01

3 Answers 3


You have many questions few among which are answered as follows:

Nididhyasana is a scriptural term. So neither Adi Shankara nor Ramana Maharshi was the first person to use it. The term can be found in Puranas.

From Devi Bhagavtam 7.34:

...... then works become beneficial and helping to Jñânam. (Therefore the Jîvas should take up both of these.) Others say that this is impossible owing to their contradictory natures. The knots of heart are let loose by Jñânam and the knots are knit more by Karma. So how can they be reconciled? They are so very diametrically opposite. Darkness and light cannot be brought together, so Jñânam and Karma cannot be brought together. Therefore one ought to do all the Karmas as best as one can, as enjoined in the Vedas, until one gets Chittas'uddhi (the purification of one's heart and mind). Karmas are to be done until S'ama (the control of the inner organs of senses), Dama (the control of the outer organs of senses), Titiksâ (the power to endure heat and cold and other dualities), Vairâgyam (Dispassion), Sattva Sambhava (the birth of pure Sattva Guna in one's own heart) take place. After these, the Karmas cease for that man.

Then one ought to take Sannyâsa from a Guru (Spiritual Teacher) who has got his senses under control, who is versed in the S'rutis, attached to Brahma (practising the Yogic union with Brahma). He should approach to him with an unfeigned Bhakti. He should day and night, without any laziness, do S'ravanam, Mananam, and Nididhyâsanam (hearing, thinking and deeply realising) the Vedânta sayings. He should constantly ponder over the meanings of the Mahâvâkyam "Tat Tyam Asi." "Tat Tyam Asi" means Thou art That; it asserts the identity of the Supreme Self (Brahma) and Embodied Self (Jîvâtmâ). When this identity is realised, fearlessness comes and he then gets My nature.

Another instance where it is found in Puranas is in Shiva Gita:

13.4. Means for rise of Knowledge.

Rāma wanted to be enlightened on how does sacred knowledge about Śiva arise in a mortal and means in that matter. Lord, further, explains the way to acquire the purest knowledge, by his grace, to the great Rāma. Abandoning all attachment to entire creation, including ones own kith and kin, and having faith in the scriptures and longing for vedantic wisdom, with gifts in hand one should approach a learned and realized preceptor and please him with services and hear with intense concentration (śravaṇa) about the essence of Upaniṣads in the form of Mahāvākyas and reflect (manana) on them and do constant contemplation (nididhyāsana) on oneself Abhijñāna Śākuntala the Supreme Self and by grace of god, all past karmas gets burnt in the fire of knowledge and the devotee do not acquire any subsequent karmas and becomes a realized one; a Brahma-Jñāni becomes himself Brahman. After realization one happens to incur whatever sin, does whatever meritorious deeds, great or small, he is not affected by such sin or merit. Such a person is Jīvan-mukta. When all the desires in a person are controlled and conquered, then the mortal turns into immortal.[4] Release is known Abhijñāna Śākuntala the destruction of the knots of heart caused by ignorance.

According to Vedanta Sarah of Sri Sadanandayogindrasaraswati, the Sadhana of an Advaitin comprises of the following (he has given a flow chart at the end of the book):

    1. One must forsake Nishiddha Karmas (acts forbidden by scriptures) and Kamya Karmas (acts that are performed with certain goals in mind).
    1. With due performance of Nitya Karmas (obligatory acts like Sandhyavandanam etc) and Naimittik Karmas (occasional rites), Prayaschittas (penances), the aspirant needs to attain Chittasuddhi (purification of mind) and Mumukshtatva (a desire for Moksha).
    1. Guropodesha (Initiation of Guru's teaching)
    1. Shravana (Hearing the Mahavakyas and Guru's teachings). Understanding their meanings using a six fold method (Upakrama, Upasamhara, Abhyasa etc.).
    1. Manana (contemplating and realizing the meaning through arguments).
    1. Nididhyasana
  • 7.Samadhi

The definition of Nididhyasana that is given in the book is mentioned in verse 192 and is as follows:

vijAtiya-dehAdi-pratyaya-rahita-advitiyavastu-sajatiya pratyaya-pravAhah nididhyAsanam || 192

Depriving the mind from any external thoughts of Brahman (like body etc.), when mind and thoughts are focused on only the Adavitic nature of Brahman is called Nididhyasana.

Amrita commentary on this verse is as follows:

Nididhyasana is uninterrupted Dhyana (meditation). No other thought processes (Chitta Vritti) must arise in it. After Shravana (hearing) and Manana (contemplation of what has been heard), the mind gets fixated into one form (Swarupa) and when no other forms arise in the mind other than that Swarupa, that is called Nididhyasana. By continuous discrimination through "Neti Neti" (not that, not that method) what remains is the Consciousness (Chaitanya) and to fix the mind only on that Consciousness is called Nididhyasana.

According to Advaita, by performing Nididhyasana, the aspirant attains Samadhi (which can either be Nirvikalpa or Savikalpa) and which results in self realization.


I have found an English copy of the Vedanta Sarah book that I have used in this answer here.

The definition of Nididhyasana is found on page 83 of the PDF.

enter image description here

In my case the book is in Sanskrit-Bengali and here the book is in Sanskrit-English. Also the translators are different.

  • 1
    The form is that One Chaitanya that remains after using the Neti Neti method. Basically it is difficult to describe that Swarupa in words.@TheCrimsonUniverse That form is the only target of Nididhyasana
    – Rickross
    Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 13:06
  • 1
    It's a book published by Ramkrishna Mutt Calcutta. Translation and commentary by Swami Amritatvananda.@TheCrimsonUniverse
    – Rickross
    Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 14:43
  • 1
    Yes I have translated the translation part as well as the commentary part from Bengali ... Not sure if it is good or not ... someone else might have done better .. I actually find it difficult when I have to translate from Bengali to English because these translators use complicated words .. I might need to consult a dictionary .. so it's additional headache when I have to answer using hard copy of Bengali books @TheCrimsonUniverse
    – Rickross
    Commented Mar 26, 2022 at 6:38
  • 1
    I can read bengali, if only the bengali is simple and easy to understand. Same with English. The language needs to be simple so that any mind can grasp it. :) I really like Ramakrishna's teachings as well. They're all in simple language. Commented Mar 26, 2022 at 11:24
  • 1
    Oh so you can read Bengali .. Yes, Ramakrishna's teachings use very simple language unlike these translators who always prefer to use highly complicated terminologies :D@TheCrimsonUniverse
    – Rickross
    Commented Mar 26, 2022 at 11:50

Answering Q1

Nididhyasanam is an upanishadic term , (may occur in prakarana granthas(texts) but isn't coined in them.)

Saadhana Chatustaya(SC) sampathi advocated by HH Adi shankara is the precursor for Shravana Manana Nidhidhyasanam(SMN) .

It is futile to embark on SMN without self-introspecting on own SC sampathi,( If one can't achieve SC, Bhagavad Gita suggests Karma Yoga.)

Yamaha and Niyamaa are supposed to be the stepping stone for yoga path.

From what I know, shravana is getting to know of (listen) from vedantic scriptures , (so here the listener is never misinformed), Mananam is feasibility study that removes doubts , Nidhidhyasanam is turning it into experiential reality.

But Nidhidhyasanam on mahavakyas (not an object of any knowledge) is far-fetched and tougher than any upaasana .

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (2.4.5) आत्मा वा अरे द्रष्टव्यः श्रोतव्यो मन्तव्यो निदिध्यासितव्यो मैत्रेयि,आत्मनो व अरे दर्शनेन श्रवणेन मत्या विज्ञानेनेदं सर्वं विदितम् ||" Ãtmã vã are drashtavyaha shrotavyo mantavyo nididhyãsitavyaha...(sage yagnyavalkya) The Self, my dear Maitreyi, should be realized – should be heard of, reflected on and medtated upon;by the realization of the Self, my dear, through hearing, reflection and meditation, all this is known."

Panchadhashi (Praakarana grantha, Swami vidhyaranya) chapter 1 verse 54 ittha.n vaakyais tad arthaanusandhaana.n shravaNaM bhavet.h .yuktyaa sambhaavitatvaanusandhaanaM manana.n tu tat.h .. When the ideas that we have gathered through hearing and studying from a preceptor are made to enter our feelings by deep reflection on the same, and when these ideas that have become practically part of our nature by way of deep investigation—when concentration and reflection become inseparable from us—we become absorbed in them to such an extent that we think only these ideas. Our very outlook changes in terms of these ideas, and the whole world is envisioned by us in terms of these noble ideas only. Nididhyasana is this condition where knowledge acquired through study and hearing, and made one-pointed by reflection and investigation, becomes part of one's nature by delving into one's own heart and making the knowledge a part of one's being. This leads to deep meditation.(translation by Swami krishnananda)

vivekachudamani verse 364(Praakarana grantha/ Shankaracharya ) śruteḥ śataguṇaṃ vidyānmananaṃ mananādapi | nidiṃdhyāsaṃ lakṣaguṇamanantaṃ nirvikalpakam || 364 || Reflection should be considered a hundred times superior to hearing, and meditation a hundred thousand times superior even to reflection, but the Nirvikalpa Samadhi is infinite in its results.

  • So as per the quotes of krishnananda in your post, nididhyasana is the condition of making the aquired knowledge part of one's own nature ... Lets say, i spend 10 years under a genuine guru learning everything. Then after reflecting and investigating on those knowledge, i finally apply them in my daily life. I'll start considering all strangers and friends as none other than myself. I'll see no distinction between a rock, plant, or a murderer ... Is this vision of oneness, a symptom of a person who practices nididhyadana? or did i completely misunderstood what krishnananda said? Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 12:36
  • without introspecting one's own natural tendency of dispassion for all worldly things , akin to a adult^s dispassion for toddler toys(known as vairagyam in SC) , how may ever years one may study under a teacher , may not experience a natural inclination towards this process..Afaik traditional gurus in past did not simply accept anyone as disciple.A true jnani has unlimited compassion for all living being , be it scorpion or a murderer, and has risen above all the dualities, If you are interested Swami Vivekananda s works and life experience s may throw more light on this
    – Athrey
    Commented Mar 25, 2022 at 5:20
  • Yes its true, that knowledge from a guru alone isn't enough. Ond needs to reflect on those teachings and practice dispassion. But that's not what i wanted to know in my earlier comment. I wanted to know what krishnananda (in your post) meant. According to him Nididhyasana is absorption of the knowledge learnt from sravana, and making that knowledge part of one's life. I only wanted to know what are the symptoms of a person, who makes that knowledge part of one's life, or in other words, the symptoms of a man who practices nididhyasana? Does he percieve oneness? Is that his symptom? Commented Mar 25, 2022 at 17:41
  • Symptoms experienced by the realised person (Brahma-Jnana anubhavam ) is not verbalised in any scripture(as far as I know) but certainly it may explain it thru analogies like like wave-ocean etc. ..Nevertheless, Arjunas question in BG 14.21(kair lingais..) might relate to your q. whose ans. is in BG14.22,14.23(prakasham cha..) Still if this is obscure probably the recorded experiences of contemporary sages like vivekaananda, who ve attained that stage may be of help.
    – Athrey
    Commented Mar 26, 2022 at 13:51

Ramana Maharshi is very recent. So of course Adi Shankaracharya used it much before. But, noone coined the term. The term has scriptural basis.

In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (2.4.5)

आत्मा वा अरे द्रष्टव्यः श्रोतव्यो मन्तव्यो निदिध्यासितव्यो मैत्रेयि,
आत्मनो वा अरे दर्शनेन श्रवणेन मत्या विज्ञानेनेदं सर्वं विदितम् ॥ २.४.५ ॥

The Self, my dear Maitreyī, should be realised—should be heard of, reflected on and meditated upon. By the realisation of the Self, my dear, through hearing, reflection and meditation, all this is known.

Adi Sankara's commentary-

Therefore ‘the Self, my dear Maitreyī, should he realised, is worthy of realisation, or should be made the object of realisation. It should first be heard of from a teacher and from the scriptures, then reflected on through reasoning, and then steadfastly meditated upon.’ Thus only is It realised—when these means, viz. hearing, reflection and meditation, have been gone through. When these three are combined, then only true realisation of the unity of Brahman is accomplished, not otherwise—by hearing alone.

Regarding the apparent sameness & differences -

Quoting from this book - The Method Of The Vedanta A Critical Account Of The Advaita Tradition by Swami Satchidanandendra (Translated by A.J. Alston)

Chapter 3.


It has been explained how the monk who has attained through dispassion to genuine adoption of the life of wandering mendicancy must necessarily carry out the discipline of hearing the texts and pondering over them regularly and continually until he gains immediate vision of the Self, He who does not attain this immediate vision merely from hearing, must carry out further regular hearing, supported by pondering over the meaning. Weak and mediocre candidates,'however, must also perform sustained meditation (nididhyasana, cp. T.N. at M.V, 53, intro.).

Sustained meditation, like the unbroken meditation implied in the prescribed symbolic meditations, is a piece of action. Hence it is sometimes called meditation (upasana). Yet such symbolic meditations as 'Woman is the sacrificial fire' (Chand.V.viii.l) are differently defined.

Upasana (as contrasted with nididhyasana) means maintaining a stream of identical images of which the form is (not dictated by one's knowledge of any reality but) prescribed in the Veda. Nididhyāsana, on the other hand, means fixing the mental gaze on the principle of reality to determine its true nature, like one examining a Jewel.

A candidate practising meditation in the form of upasana must select one of the meditations laid down for attaining to the Lord as associated with attributes, and maintain the same image in his mind, according to the dictates of the Veda, until he has obtained immediate vision of the object of his meditation. For meditation realizes its true end when it is used as a means to direct vision. But its reward is attainment of the Absolute in its lower form at a later time (i.e. after death) in the World of Brahma. Here there is enjoyment of the same experience as the Lord. And at the end of the world-period the final metaphysical knowledge will arise, and there will be deferred release in company with Brahma. Such is the teaching of the Veda.

The aim of the one practising sustained meditation (nididhyasana) is different. He tries to attain direct vision of reality (here in this very world) by turning his mind away from all else. And there is the difference — as against upasana — that after the rise of knowledge nothing further remains to be done. It is this sustained meditation that is referred to at Katha Upanishad I.ii.l2 by the name 'Adhyatma Yoga’. In the Gita it is sometimes called ’Dhyana Yoga' (e.g. XVI11.52). In the Mandukya Karikas it is called ’restraint of the mind’ (G.K.III.41, etc.). Its nature is described there in that latter work. Everywhere its result is described in the same way as right metaphysical knowledge, and from this comes immediate liberation (sadyo-mukti).

So basically, it looks like that Nididhyāsana is the precursor practise to that of the Patanjali's Samādhi.


Chapter 7.

124. Point 6

Awakening to immediate knowledge of the supreme Self depending on no external factor is called Nididhyasana. It is mentioned after seeing and heairing to show that they culminate in that.... One's first knowledge of the Self is through hearing, and then one ponders over what one has heard. When heauring and pondering are complete, one comes to have immediate knowledge of the Self....

Because the use of the word 'Nididhyasana' (lit. 'sustained meditation') might lead the hearer to suppose that meditation was meant, the Upanishad deliberately uses the term 'immediate intuition' (vijnana) as a synonym for it at Brhadaranyaka (2.4.5) to show that meditation is not here meant. I already mentioned earlier how meditation amd other practices are a means to immediate experience. But immediate exprience does not exist for the sake of anything else. It is taught to be just liberation attainment of the final goal of all. (B.B.V. II.iv.217 9 220, 233-U).

Chapter 8

154. Point 6

Sustained meditation (nididhyasana) means fixing the mind on the content of the metaphysical texts of the Veda as supported and mediated by pondering. Nididhyasana cannot here mean dhyana in the sense of upasana, for the practice of enjoined meditations for karmic merit would be useless in the present context (cp. B.Sid. p.l5^j M.V,'98,1,; ad fin,). In the text 'The Self should be seen* (B^‘had.II.iv.5)» the 'seeing of the Self refers (not to an act performed in response to a command but) to immediate awareness of the unity and sole reality of massed Consciousness, bereft of all manifestations of plurality, arising as a result of having fixed the attention on the content of the metaphysical texts.

Chapter 12

259. Point 16

In Sri Sankara's Commentary on Gaudapada's Karikas the term 'nididhyasana' (sustained meditation) is interpreted as a synonym for restraint of the mind, practised by the middling class of students to achieve the dissolution of the mind into the Self.

Thus, the Shankaracharya's definition of Nididhyāsana is implied for the weak-minded practitioner, as an intermeditate to the Nirvikalpa-Samādhi.

As regards -

"If its contemplation, then how does constant deep thinking gives a person moksha from cycle of rebirth?"

The answer is in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, quoted in the begining -

To paraphrase -

The Self comes to be seen through the disciplines of hearing, pon¬ dering and sustained meditation resolutely pursued. Right knowledge of the Absolute as the sole reality only dawns when these three disciplines of hearing, pondering and sustained meditation are fused into one, and not otherwise, for example through hearing alone' (Brhad Up 2.4.5).

So, it's a step by step ladder, and doesn't happen suddenly, by just following one of step.

P.S. Your last part of the question, should be a standalone question in itself.

  • In your post, you have quoted from the book - The Method Of The Vedanta... by Swami Satchidanandendra (Translated by A.J. Alston) ... There under chapter 7 the author says, that nididhyasana or sustained meditation should not be understood as actual meditation just because the word 'meditation' has been used but rather it should be interpreted as immediate intuition (vijnana) as per Brhadaranyaka 2.4.5 ... Now i would like to know a few things. Commented Mar 25, 2022 at 19:47
  • ... I would like to know how does this immediate intuition takes place? Does it take place right after manana (pondering on the teachings)? ... Lets say, i ponder over the teachings for a month or more while taking a stroll in the park, while lying in my bed, while travelling in a crowded bus etc. ... After that will i get the sudden nididhyasana (immediate intuition) experience while i'm in the midst of an indoor/outdoor activity? ... or does nididhyasana (immediate intuition) involves sitting in a lotus posture, calming the mind, breathing techniques etc.? Commented Mar 25, 2022 at 20:10
  • All this stuff is to be performed under a Guru, not by oneself. Some people may be able to do it by themselves, and may have "sudden-intuition", but not all, those are exceptions of exceptions. There's no time limit to a spiritual sadhana, it may be sudden or take its own course as per the 'innate & inherent' spirituality of the 'sAdhaka'. @TheCrimsonUniverse
    – Vivikta
    Commented Mar 26, 2022 at 3:37
  • Right. One needs to practice it under a guru. I'm just enquiring online as much as i can to have a basic knowledge on what the advaitins believe in or what they usually practice. Its not that i want to start practicing them right away :) ... You said in your original post, under swami satchidanandendra's chapter 11 quotes, that as per Shankaracharya, nididhyasana is intermediate to nirvikalpa samadhi? From your understanding on these matters, how would you distinguish nididhyasana from nirvikalpa samadhi? I mean what is the difference between these two, as per your knowledge in these matters? Commented Mar 26, 2022 at 11:50

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