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).
The two main types of meditation practiced in exoteric Buddhism are shamatha (calming) and vipashyana (insight) meditation, while in esoteric Buddhism various forms of visualization are used along with the methods practiced in exoteric Buddhism.
- To explain the cultural context of the historical Buddha's employment of the term, Glenn Wallis emphasizes bhavana's sense of cultivation.
He writes that a farmer performs bhavana when he or she prepares soil and plants a seed. Wallis infers the Buddha's intention with this term by emphasizing the terrain and focus on farming in northern India at the time in the following passage.
"I imagine that when Gotama, the Buddha, chose this word to talk about meditatione 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.
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."
- Citta-bhāvanā, translated as "development of mind" or "development of consciousness."
- kāya-bhāvanā, translated as "development of body."
- mettā-bhāvanā, translated as the "cultivation" or "development of Loving-kindness."
- paññā-bhāvanā, translated as "development of Wisdom" or "development of understanding."
- Samādhi-bhāvanā, translated as "development of tranquil-Wisdom."
- Samatha-bhāvanā, meaning the development of tranquility.
- vipassanā-bhāvanā, meaning the development of insight.