Health and Happiness in Jainism

Published: 05.11.2013
Updated: 30.07.2015


The question of health and happiness is not the question that concerns any particular community or sect. It is the question related to life, associated with existence. Health and happiness are the requirement of life. Each and every living being wants to be healthy and happy because without these two things life is meaningless. Does health depend on happiness or happiness is the source of health is the question before us. Though the maxims of health and happiness can be found in all the systems of philosophy, the Jain view regarding this can answer the above question lucidly. This paper is an attempt to present health and happiness from the perspective of Jainism.

Health and Happiness: Jain View

Jainism is a soul oriented philosophy. For Bhagavāna Mahāvīra, the supreme element was the soul. He spoke everything for the development of soul. He did not propound any theory particularly for health. In his teachings, the body has been viewed only as a factor that is helpful and useful for soul. He preached about keeping the soul healthy and his preaching became a scripture of spirituality. According to him the scripture of spirituality is the scripture of health. He said that if there is no purity of soul there is no health at all.

As far as the point of happiness is concerned, Jainism talks about ultimate happiness. It is that happiness, which cannot be replaced with any other happiness and which cannot ever be destroyed. And such happiness can only be achieved through being healthy at soul level. Here we are talking about happiness in day to day life. To experience, that happiness also one needs to be healthy. Health and happiness go hand in hand. Without happiness and peace of mind there is no health and without health there is no peace, bliss or happiness.

In Jain canonical text Ṭhāṇaṁ, we find the types of Sukha [1] (happiness). The first type of them is Ᾱrogya (Health). If health is one of the causes of happiness then it would not be wrong to say that Roga (disease) is the cause of misery. It is fact that we cannot separate health from happiness and happiness from health.

Now the question is that what does one need to be healthy and happy? Who is called happy and healthy person from all perspectives? Answer to this question from Jain perspective is that the person who is free from passions is happy and healthy. Passions like attachment, delusion, anger, deceit, fear, grief, hatred etc. are the factors which are obstacles for not only the spiritual health but also harm the body and the mind. In praise of Bhagavāna Mahāvīra, it is said

Vapureva tavācaṣṭe, bhagavan! vītarāgatā
Na hi kotarasaṁsathegnau, tarurbhavati śādvalah. [2]

It means “O lord! Your body itself indicates that you are dispassionate. No further proof is required.” This statement is supported by an illustration - can a tree with fire in its hollow ever be green? No, the tree which has fire in its hollow can never be green. If you had kaṣāyas (passions or negative emotions) within you, you would not have been so strong. But we are looking that your body is healthy and it implies that you are absolutely calm at heart. This verse reveals a reality that health is not related to only body, but it is also concerned with our citta, mind and the emotions. Question may be raised that what is citta and how it is connected with mind and emotions.

Interconnectivity of Citta, Emotions, Mind, and Health

Inner peace is the foremost requirement of health. Our caitanya (consciousness) is like the sun. Citta is the ray of that sun. In other words it can be said that the ray of the integral consciousness is citta[3]. The second factor which is important for health is mind. The mind functions with the association of citta. Our citta is conscious and mind is matter. Citta is governed by subtle body and the mind is governed by citta. The emotions and mind both are the products of citta. Bhagavāna Mahāvīra said, “aṇegacitte khalu ayaṁ purise[4] - Man‟s citta has many facets.

Citta can be categorised into four:

    1. Ᾱvaraṇa Citta
      This envelops the consciousness and does not allow it to be uncovered. It does not bring any disorder, merely acts as a cover.
    2. Antarāya Citta
      It creates obstacles. One cannot act and even think as he wishes.
    3. Mithyātva Citta
      It is the cause of delusory outlook. This outlook is responsible for the absence of positive feelings.
    4. Moha Citta
      This does not let one‟s character to be developed properly. It does not allow a person to have spiritual development. This citta causes attraction towards attachment and aversion based activities.

Amongst four types of citta, Ᾱvaraṇa Citta is not directly connected with health but antarāya, mithyātva and at most moha Citta affects our health. [5]

Above discussion proves that our physical health demands mental and emotional health and mental and emotional health is the outcome of pure citta. Purity of thoughts and emotions depends on the purity of citta (inner self). So we can say that Jainism talks about four types of health - Physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. If the person is spiritually healthy, the pure flow of consciousness will be emanated by subtle body. If there will be the flow of pure consciousness, emotions, thoughts and body will be accordingly.

The subtle world is linked with gross world. It would not be possible to maintain good health, if the mind, emotions and citta are impure. Lord Mahāvīra believed that the purity of citta, the emotions and the mind are important factors for good health and the impurity of citta, emotions and the mind are an open invitation to illness.

Lord Mahāvīra coined two words - Sāvadya and Nirvadya. According to Ᾱcārya Mahāprajña, these words are closely related to health. He says “if our citta, emotions and thinking are nirvadya i.e. flawless, then there is no danger to health. Our strength would not be depleted, resistance power against illness would be strengthened, we would be able to bear and face any problem. On the other hand if our citta, emotions and thoughts are not pure, body will gradually become hollow despite our best efforts, immunity system would become weaker so one must make persistent efforts to keep citta, emotions and thoughts pure.” [6] There may be the question, what causes purity and impurity of citta. According to Jainism subtle body i.e. karma śarīra is the root.

Role of Karma to get Health and Happiness

Jainism discusses about eight types of karma. They all have different effects. Here our concern is feeling of happiness and misery due to health and diseases respectively. This issue is concerned with vedaniya karma which is translated as feeling determining karma. There are two types of vedaniya karma - Asātā vedaniya (pleasure producing) and Sātā vedaniya (pain producing). According to Jainism any action whether it is done with good intension or bad intention causes the bondage of karma to the soul. After certain period that bound karma comes into rising state and gives the fruit to the doer. Feeling of pleasure and pain is the result of previously done karma. This karma is bound by producing pain and pleasure to any living being. If pain producing karmas come in to rising state, it gives pain and if pleasure producing karma comes into rising state it gives pleasure to a person. In the case of pain producing karmas‟ rising state if no effort is done by a person, it produces negative impact on citta, emotions, thoughts and body but if person keeps his thoughts and emotions pure through firm determination and spiritual practices like meditation, contemplation, the negative force can be transformed into positive. Jainism suggests that to be healthy and happy one need to have healthy emotions and healthy thoughts.

Vyādhi, dhi, Upādhi and Our Health as well as Happiness

Three types of diseases are mentioned in Jain literature. They are Vyādhi (physical), Ᾱdhi (mental) and Upādhi (emotional). In the same way it also mention three types of health called - Ᾱrogya, (physical) Bodhi (mental) and Samādhi (emotional and spiritual). Leaving aside upādhi, if we think only about vyādhi and ādhi, the problem would not be solved because even in the absence of vyādhi and ādhi if upādhi is there, person cannot be said healthy and happy. And this is also fact that if person is free from upādhi (negative emotions), even the presence of vyādhi and ādhi cannot make him unhealthy and miserable.[7]

Emotions, Aura and Health

Actually the illness neither affects the body nor the mind. It is neither somatic nor psychosomatic. It is neither physical nor mental. It is an illness caused by emotions. It first enters in to the world of emotions. Modern medical science also agrees with it. Researchers have shown that aura of the body gives indication about impending illness that may be coming within three or six months. Our emotions are reflected through aura. If the emotions are pure, so would be the aura of the body. If the emotions are impure, the aura would be distorted. If we wish to remain healthy, we need to be vigilant regarding our emotions and aura.

Mahatma Gandhi used to say, “I shall never fall ill, because I am following the path of detachment and also trying to keep myself away from attachment and hatred.” The source of major diseases is attachment and hatred or the emotional impulse resulting from the intent of attachment and aversion. If we think from the point of medical science, lord Mahāvīra could never have been healthy. He took no nourishing food at all during the twelve and half years of his sādhanā. He did not take any food or even water for six months. To a doctor it may seem impossible but it happened. Question is that how can one remain healthy without taking any nutritious food. The only reason for such a thing happening is that if the emotional system is strong and healthy, it causes no impetus and in that case body also cooperates and produces such secretions which provides nourishment to the body. There is a verse,

Antarviśuddhito janto, śuddhih saṁpādyate bahih
Bāhyaṁ hi kurute dośaṁ, sarvamantaradośatah.”

It means inner purity leads to the outer purity and the inner impurity leads to outer impurity or disorder. [8]

Emotions and Various Diseases

Our health has a very close connection with emotions. If an officer rebukes to his employee, it will disturb the functioning of the digestive system of the employee. It is not an illness at all. The person is healthy, but when someone who is close shows such contempt, the digestive system suddenly goes out of order. If there is a sudden outburst of anger, the result would be asthma. A person is eager to say something, but gets no chance to express himself. The feeling suppressed in the mind would result in migraine. If there is an anxious memory, unfulfilled desire in mind, the result would be the loss of appetite. These are the some examples but now researches have proved that emotions are the cause of most of the diseases. It is also proved that by transforming the emotions, one can get rid of diseases and become healthy as well as happy. The need is to hit at root. Without reaching to the root, if we only try to be free from diseases and misery, it will not give long lasting result.

There was once a person driving a car. On the way, his car broke down. He was passing through a remote area with no neighbouring towns and villages. Only forests surrounded the spot. He got down from the car and wondered what to do. He walked about half a kilometre and reached a hut. He saw a man sitting there and asked him, „Would you please do me a favour? My car has broken down. Could you repair it? ‟  The man agreed. He gathered all the necessary tools and walked along with that person. He examined the car and said, „I will set it right.‟ „What will you charge for it? ‟  „A hundred rupees.‟ Fine, I don‟t have any alternative to get out of this jungle. The man took out a hammer and struck the engine with it. The car started. The car owner shouted angrily, „You cheated me. All you did was to hammer it once and you charged me a hundred rupees for that! ‟ The mechanic replied, „Sir! You don’t understand. The strike costs just one rupee; the remaining ninety-nine rupees are for knowing exactly where to strike.‟

It is thus very important to know exactly where to strike. If we hammer the mind it will become even more rebellious. Similarly, if we hit at the speech or body, they will even become more undisciplined[9] so it is required to dive into the world of emotions. To treat and transform the emotions, one needs to practice meditation.

Prekṣā Meditation: Way to be Healthy and Happy by Purifying the Emotions

Prekṣā Meditation is a technique of meditation introduced by H.H. Acharya Mahāprajña in 1970. This technique of meditation is a combination of ancient wisdom, modern science and self-realization. It is a technique for attitudinal change, behavioural modification and integrated development of personality.

The word Prekṣā is derived from the root “ikṣa”, which means “to see” or “to perceive”. When the prefix “pra” is added, it becomes pra + ikṣa = Prekṣā, which means “to perceive carefully and profoundly” [10]. The purpose of Prekṣā Meditation is “to see the self through the self” [11]. Bhagavāna Mahāvīra gave an aphorism of perception. It is a whole chain. He says one who sees his anger, sees his pride. One, who sees his pride, also sees his deceitful nature. One, who sees his deceit, sees his greed. One, who sees his greed, also sees his attachment. One, who sees his attachment, sees his aversion. Thus there is a whole chain starts from anger to birth and death12. It is said that we should perceive. Perception makes the soul pure. Here seeing also means to see the body, subtle vibrations taking place in the body, bio- chemical changes happening in the body, function of each and every system of the body. When we start to perceive the body, it automatically starts to function properly. With perception if we start to suggest the self and body positively, that suggested change starts to occur. Through this practice of perception and technique of auto suggestion one can transform as well as purify the emotions.

The technique of Prekṣā Meditation consists of eight components[13]:

    1. Relaxation (Kāyotsarga)
    2. Internal Trip (Antar Yātrā)
    3. Perception of Deep Breathing/ Alternate Breathing (Dīrgha/Samavritti Śvāsa Prekṣā)
    4. Perception of Body (Śarīra Prekṣā)
    5. Perception of Psychic Centres (Caitanya Kendra Prekṣā)
    6. Perception of Psychic Colours (Leśyā Dhyāna)
    7. Contemplation (Anuprekśā)
    8. Therapeutic Thinking (Bhāvanā)

Each and every component of Prekṣā Meditation helps to have physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. At physical level it balances the vital flow of energy and helps a person to get rid of physical pain of the body. The cause of many physical diseases is imbalanced electric force or lack of that force. For example: - the clock is working fine. After some time, it does not show the correct time. Why? We say the battery has run out, and hence, the clock stops working properly. Similarly we, too have a battery within our body in the form of electricity. If this electric force is depleted, the systems of the body start malfunctioning and we become prone to disease. Practice of Prekṣā meditation helps to balance the vital force and consequently provides physical health. At mental level it helps to control over memories of past and imaginations of future. It activates alpha waves in the brain, reduces the mental stress and provides the peace of mind. At emotional level it transforms negative emotions into positive by balancing the secretions of the hormones of endocrine glands. At spiritual level, it stops the inflow of new karma and decontaminates the soul. The practice of Prekṣā Meditation is an effective and easy tool to purify the emotions so it is the way to be healthy.

The person who can enjoy the present moment can realise the real happiness. PrekṣāMeditation is a technique to live in present so it is the way to be happy. Along with meditation, health and happiness also demand right way of living a life. One, who knows everything but does not know how to live, cannot be happy. Jainism defines healthy and happy life as restrained life.

Restrained Lifestyle: Leading to Health and Happiness

Self-restraint is the most important principle laid down by Bhagavāna Mahāvīra. Our way of life should have qualities like subsidence, equanimity; balance etc. because by adopting such qualities, it is possible to protect the self against physical, mental and emotional diseases. But unless one attains the stage of self-restraint, there can be neither subsidence nor equanimity and balance. Usually, the term self-restraint is taken in a very limited sense. It is believed that undertaking a particular type of a vow means self-restraint. According to Pataṅjali, self-restraint means the combination of dhāraṇā, dhyāna and Samādhi[14]. Mere dhāraṇā or dhyāna or samādhi cannot be called restraint. They all together are called restraint. In the modern context, the principle of self-restraint propounded by lord Mahāvīra means the control over emotional brain. Limbic system is a place, where the emotions take birth. Unless there is control over limbic system, no kind of restraint is possible then why not even it is a control over food.

Bhagavāna Mahāvīra mentioned nine causes of diseases[15]:

1. Accāsanayāe - Over eating
2. Ahitāsanayāe - Harmful food
3. Atiniddāe - Over sleeping
4. Atijāgariteṇaṁ –Keeping awake till late night
5. Uccāraniroheṇaṁ - Obstructing the bowel movements
6. Pāsavaṇāniroheṇaṁ - Obstructing the urinary discharge
7. Addhānagamaṇeṇaṁ - Over walking
8. Bhoyaṇapaḍikūlatāe - Unsuitable food
9. Indiyatthavikovaṇayāe - Uncontrolled sensual desires


Like a modern physiologist or a nutrition scientist, Bhagavāna Mahāvīra did not go in to the details of the proportions of vitamins, salt, alkaline elements required as nutrients for the body but he gave two important terms regarding diet. They are hitāhāra (beneficial diet) and mitāhāra (moderate diet). He said

 Hiyāhārāmiyāhārā, appāhārāya je narāNa te vijjācigichchhaṅti, appāṇaṁ te tigichchhagā

It means the person who takes beneficial and moderate diet does not need to go to doctor for his treatment because he is his own doctor. [16]

Bhagavāna Mahāvīra talked more about fasting than eating. If food causes energy, fasting causes tremendous energy. In Jainism, there is description of twelve types of penance. Among them first four types of penances are formulas of good health. They are anaśana - abandoning all kinds of food for a day, two days, three days, unto death, unodarī - eat less than hunger, rasa parityāga - not to eat certain delicious items like milk, curd, ghee, oil, sweet etc, vṛtti saṁkṣepa - conditional acceptance of food. Control over diet or fasting means give rest to digestive system so that it can function smoothly. If digestive system is healthy, it will keep other parts of the body healthy. In Jain scripture, we find that the quantity of moderate diet for a person is thirty two morsels[17]. In Jainism, there is a mention of the abstinence from night eating too. Though the main cause behind it is refraining from violence, from practical point of  view it is very good for health too. Science says that the digestive system becomes inactive after sunset. Sun is the main source of energy. In the presence of sun all the systems of body remain active. After sunset they all become inactive so this time is not suitable to eat and it proves that eating at night makes a person unhealthy.


Sleep is also important factor to be healthy. If there is a lack of sleep, person becomes unhealthy mentally as well as physically. Excess of sleep is also not good for health. In Jain canonical text, there is a maxim – niddaṁ ca na bahu mannejjā[18].It means don‟t respect over sleeping. It is a kind of disease, when it comes try to send it back.


Non restraint of senses and mind makes a person miserable. If senses and mind are not under control, they will demand many things to be happened. Demands of senses and mind are endless and they all can never be fulfilled. Uncontrolled demands causes discontentment which in itself is the greatest diseases and gives birth to many physical and mental diseases. With the preaching of having control over senses and mind, Lord Mahāvīra also taught to perform each and every activity with restraint. In Dasavaikālika Sutra it is said

Jayaṁ care jayaṁ ciṭṭhe jayaṁ āse jayaṁ sae
Jayaṁ bhuṅjaṅto bhāsaṅto pāvaṁ kammaṁ na bandhai[19]

It means to get rid of bondage of inauspicious karma one should walk, stand, sit, sleep, eat and speak with restraint. Reality is that such kind of restraint does not make a person only spiritually healthy but emotionally, mentally and physically too.

Thus, to enjoy healthy and happy life Jainism advises to live a restrained life. When the gross body is formed, six types of bio-potential are also created. Though, Bhagavāna Mahāvīra talked about several ways of practising self-restraint but from the health point of view the six ways are very important. They are restraint in eating food, restraint in use of body, restraint in use of senses, restraint in breathing, restraint in use of language and restraint of mind. In other words it can be said that restraint of body, speech and mind keeps a person happy and healthy. The person who follows these restraints holds the key of health and happiness in his hands. Along with it, the avoidance of suffering is not possible without getting rid of passions or negative emotions. If the suffering is to be avoided, the anger should be avoided at the outset and so up to delusion[20]. The essence of whole theme is that the pacified passions or negative emotions and restrained life style result health as well as happiness.


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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. 24. Tirthankara Mahavira
  2. Acharya
  3. Adarsh Sahitya Sangh
  4. Anaśana
  5. Anger
  6. Antarāya
  7. Aura
  8. Bhagavāna Mahāvīra
  9. Bhāvanā
  10. Body
  11. Brain
  12. Caitanya
  13. Churu
  14. Citta
  15. Consciousness
  16. Contemplation
  17. Darśana
  18. Deceit
  19. Delhi
  20. Dhyāna
  21. Dhāraṇā
  22. Equanimity
  23. Fasting
  24. Fear
  25. Ghee
  26. Greed
  27. Internal Trip
  28. Jain Vishva Bharati
  29. Jain Vishva Bharati Institute
  30. Jain Vishva Bharati University
  31. Jainism
  32. Karma
  33. Karma śarīra
  34. Karmas
  35. Kendra
  36. Kāyotsarga
  37. Ladnun
  38. Leśyā
  39. Mahatma
  40. Mahatma Gandhi
  41. Mahāvīra
  42. Mana
  43. Meditation
  44. Mithyātva
  45. Moha
  46. Muni
  47. Muni Dhananjay Kumar
  48. Muni Dulahraj
  49. Muni Nathmal
  50. New Delhi
  51. Niryukti
  52. Perception Of Body
  53. Perception of Psychic Centres
  54. Perception of Psychic Colours
  55. Prekṣā
  56. Prekṣā Dhyāna
  57. Pride
  58. Psychic Centres
  59. Psychic Colours
  60. Rajasthan
  61. Rasa
  62. Rasa parityāga
  63. Sangh
  64. Sanskrit
  65. Science
  66. Soul
  67. Sukha
  68. Sutra
  69. Sādhanā
  70. The Mirror Of The Self
  71. Tulasī
  72. Vedaniya
  73. Vedaniya Karma
  74. Violence
  75. Vācanā
  76. Vṛtti
  77. kaṣāyas
  78. samādhi
  79. Śarīra
  80. Śāstra
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