Sanmai (三昧)

Sanmai (三昧, transcription of Samādhi) means the ultimate state of mental concentration attained through zen, in the case of Buddhism, or through meditation, in the case of Hinduism. Samādhi is also transcribed in Chinese characters as 三摩提 or 三摩地.


The term "Samādhi" is rooted in the tradition of meditation in India and is used not only in Buddhism but also in Hinduism and Yoga, which share a common background.

In the process of attaining Sanmai, according to Agama Sutra, there are four stages from shozen (the first Dhyana) to daishizen (the fourth Dhyana). After that, according to the sutra, there are another four stages called Kumuhensho (the lowest heaven of Mushikikai (the realm of non-form)), Shikimuhensho (the second lowest heaven of Mushikikai (the realm of non-form)), Musho-usho (the third lowest heaven of Mushikikai (the realm of non-form)) and Hisohihisosho (the highest heaven of Mushikikai (the realm of non-form)). The former four stages are collectively called 'Shijoryo' (Shizen), and the latter four stages are collectively called 'Shimushikijo' (four concentrations of the formless realm).
Further, there is the ultimate stage in which 'the movement of mind stops completely (metsujinjo),' and these nine stages are collectively called 'Kushidaijo.'

The above process is related to the hierarchical structure of sangai (three realms): Yokkai, the realm of desire; Shikikai, the realm of form; and Mushikikai, the realm of non-form. Yokkai (consciousness based on desire) becomes 'sanchi' through the above process. Similarly, Shikikai split into four classes, Shozenten (first dhyana heaven), Dainizenten (second dhyana heaven), Daisanzenten (third dhyana heaven) and Daishizenten (fourth dhyana heaven). Mushikikai was also divided into four classes (Shimushikijoten): Kumuhenshoten (heaven of Kumuhensho), Shikimuhenshoten (heaven of Shikimuhensho), Musho-ushoten (heaven of Musho-usho) and Hisohihisoshoten (heaven of Hisohihisosho). These comprise Sangaikuji (three realms and nine levels).

The long-standing belief is that the enlightenment attained by Shakyamuni should have been the stage that transcends Shimushikijoten. According to Buddhist literature, Shakyamuni arrived at the stage of Musho-usho and Hisohihisosho soon after he entered the Buddhist priesthood. However, because he was unsatisfied with the above stage he practiced kugyo (asceticism), and then, after abandoning kugyo, he pursued a new way of practice.

The initial Mahayana Buddhism emphasized Sanmai and the importance of 'Hyakuhachi zanmai' (one hundred eight kinds of samadhi) etc., were preached in the Prajnaparamita-sutra.

Tendai Chigi in the Sui Dynasty period, asserted that stopping mental function through Sanmai alone was meaningless for Buddhism. He preached that Shikan (Tendai meditation) should work not only for stopping mental function but also for 'viewing;' in other words, there must be shoken (the right view) of Hasshodo (the Noble Eightfold Path).

Shishuzanmai (the four kinds of Sanmai) based on Makashikan (the Mahayana practice of shikan) are categorized into four, as shown below.

Joza Zanmai (Ichigyo Zanmai) (a meditation of Tendai sect to sit in meditation for a period of ninety days without engaging in any other practices)
Continue to sit for 90 days.

Jogyo Zanmai (Butsuryu Zanmai) (Constantly Walking Samadhi in Tendai sect)
Repeat the name of Buddha for 90 days while going round Amitabha.

Hangyo Hanza Zanmai (both seated and ambulatory meditation)
Conduct the practice of going around the principal image, alternated with that of sitting.

Hodo Zanmai (Vaipulya meditation)
To be practiced for seven days based on the "Daihodo-darani-Kyo" (Sutra Dharani).

Hokke Sanmai (Dharma-Lotus Samadhi)
To be practiced either for 37 days or 21 days based on "the Hokekyo Sutra" (Lotus Sutra).

Higyo hiza Zanmai (Zuijii Zanmai) (meditation on reality in an unspecified posture for an unspecified period of times)

Free translations

The following terms are the free translations of Samādhi.

It means fixing the mind at one point and making it immovable.

It means receiving the teachings (Buddhism) correctly.

It means calming the mind, correcting the devious mind and fixing the distracted mind.

It means fitting the movement of the mind to Buddhism.

It means stopping to think and collect the mind.

Daily use

In daily life, the above Buddhist term is sometimes used in its broad interpretation, which means continuing to do something or 'devoting oneself to something.'
(reading-zanmai; study-zanmai; and extravagance-zanmai, etc. In these cases, Sanmai is pronounced '-zanmai,' a voiced syllable of Sanmai).

A crematory is sometimes called 'Sanmai.'

[Original Japanese]