Sāmāyika: Practicing Equanimity / Periodic Contemplation

Posted: 16.12.2008
Updated on: 03.01.2011

1.0 Background

Every religion has its own code of conduct and its meditation practice of self / soul purification to attain Bliss. Buddhists call their meditation practice as Viśśudhi Mārga; Sāṅkhya calls it Yoga Darśana (Maharṣi Patanajali called this path as Yoga). Jains call it Mokṣa Mārga or Mukti Mārga. Jain literature does not use the term Yoga in the sense as used by Patanjali. On the contrary Yoga in Jain literature implies the activities of mind, speech and body. However after Patanjali, the use of the term Yoga in its present context gained wider usage in all religions including Jains. The closest term in Jain literature for Yoga is saṅvara (stoppage of bondage of karmas to soul), which implies controlling or stopping the activities of mind, body and speech from wandering around. According to Jains, ’Right belief-knowledge-conduct together is the path to attain liberation’ 1. In this paper, we analyse the basic and a very important component of Mokṣa Mārga namely Sāmāyika-State of equanimity or periodic meditating / contemplating on the self for spiritual purification.

2.0 Sāmāyika- State of Equanimity of the Self / Periodic Contemplation

Sāmāyika is the essence of the Jain spiritual and ethical practice. Accordingly it is included as the 1st essential duty (1st out of six āvaśyakas), first Śikṣāvratas (ninth vow out of twelve consisting offive Aṇuvratas, three Gunavrats and four Śikṣāvratas), 2nd Pratimā / Pratijñā (of the 11 stages of the spiritual purification of householders) and the type of perfect conduct (sāmāyika cāritra) practiced by Jain monks and householders alike. It is said that the householder while performing sāmāyika is like a monk for the period of sāmāyika, as he has withdrawn himself from all worldly activities and focuses on just self. Monks are required to be in a state of sāmāyika all the time.

The root word in sāmāyika is samaya, which literally means to know and perform simultaneously2. This can be done only by the soul. Hence sāmāyika means soul or to be one with the soul or the process to be one with the soul. This implies withdrawing the activities of the mind, speech and body from their wandering nature and focusing on own self / soul is sāmāyika3. Gomattasara (Jīva Kānda) describes sāmāyika as, withdrawing from all other entities / things and manifesting / focusing on the soul only. Soul is the knower and the observer (Jñātā-dṛṣṭā), object of knowledge and knower and experiencing like this is sāmāyika. Thus sāmāyika literally means what Pataṅjali implied by Yoga.

Equanimity or sāmāyika is described as essential in all religions. ‘Na hi sāmyena vinā dhyānam’ or without equanimity, the practitioner cannot even start his meditation practice4. Jina Bhadra goes to the extent of saying, ‘Like space (ākāśa, one of the six substance types) is the basis of providing place to all substances to exist, so is sāmāyika the basis of all virtues. He further says sāmāyika is the essence of the 14 pūrvas. Equanimity means suppression or destruction of attachment and aversion, indifference to pain and pleasure and stable sate of mind leading the practitioner to enjoy the nature of his self / soul. Thus while the practicing monk or householder is performing sāmāyika, his mind becomes like a tranquil ocean free of any type of disturbance and hence no new karmas are bonded during that period. Attachment and aversion; pleasure or pain; birth and death; etc. do not disturb his mental state (state of saṅvara) as he does not regard all these as the nature of self.

2.1 Nature of Sāmāyika7

Sāmāyika is the positive way of submerging the activities of mind, body and speech in the Ātman. The seven requisites; namely: place, time, posture, meditation, and the threefold purities, namely, mental purity, bodily purity and vocal purity, are necessary for the successful performance of Sāmāyika5.

That place, which is free from disturbing noise, gathering of persons, and insects like mosquitoes, flies, etc, is the suitable place for Sāmāyika. In other words, the place of silence and solitude, whether it is a forest, a house, a temple or any other place, should be chosen to perform Sāmāyika.

Sāmāyika should be performed three times a day, i.e., in the morning, noon and evening. The great Amṛtacandra3 says that the householder should consider the act of Sāmāyika as obligatory and perform it at least twice a day, i.e., in the morning and evening. He further remarks that its performance at other times will conduce towards the enhancement of the spiritual and moral characteristics; hence it is not improper, but beneficial.

Sitting and standing postures are generally recommended for the performance of Sāmāyika.

The aspirant should purge the mind of sensual pleasures by concentrating on the sermons of the Jina, adopt submissive and surrendering gestures, and finally, either repeat the devotional hymns mentally or absorb himself in self-meditation.

Nature of Sāmāyika can be broadly classified as:

  1. Nāma i.e. nature of the name assigned to any entity, good or bad does not affect the practitioner as the soul is without any name. Name is assigned to the body only.
  2. Sthāpanā i.e. looks of an entity whether beautiful or ugly does not affect the practitioner as he assigns these attributes to matter and not to soul.
  3. Dravya i.e. costs, appearances or use of any entity does not affect him as he thinks these are the attributes of matter and not soul.
  4. Kṣetra i.e the place whether cool or hot, pleasant or unpleasant etc does not affect him.
  5. Kāla i.e. time or season like morning, afternoon, cold season or hot season or monsoon does not affect him.
  6. Bhāva i.e. the state of an entity old/young/attractive etc. do not bother him as he considers soul to be immortal.

From the practitioner’s view point Sāmāyika can be classified as

  • Sāmāyika of householder i.e. for example 48 minutes per day generally but can be extended or reduced according to his capacity.
  • Sāmāyika of monks is for the entire life and all the time.

Bhadrabāhu has classified Sāmāyika in three categories namely; Samyaktva to firm up the practitioner’s beliefs in the Mokṣa Mārga and provides him the knowledge of discrimination; Śruta provides clarity of thought and beliefs and Cāritra, which becomes pure with the above two. We shall now see how it is detailed in different categories like Āvaśyakas, Śikṣāvratas, Pratimās and type of conduct for monks.

3.0 Sāmāyika as Āvaśyaka

Āvaśyaka literally means essential duties to be performed by the practitioner of Mokṣa Mārga. A separate text considered as canonical was written immediately after Mahāvira’s nirvāṇa by some ācāryas at that time. Āvaśyakas are supposed to be practiced by monks and householders alike; however there is difference for each category. These are enumerated in a scientific manner as follows:

  1. Sāmāyika or State of equanimity of the self
  2. Caturviṅśatistva or reciting the virtues of the 24 tirthaṅkars.
  3. Vandānā or veneration of the holy teacher/s.
  4. Pratikramaṇa or visiting the mistakes committed during the day and seek forgiveness and punishment.
  5. Kāyostarga or relaxation i.e. developing a feeling of separateness of body and self.
  6. Pratyākhāna or determination not to commit the faults again.

Śvetambara tradition accepts these Āvaśyakas4 as common to both householders and monks, while Digambara tradition accepts these for monks and for householders they have different āvaśyakas, namely Devapūjā (worshipping theomniscient), Gurū-upāsati (veneration of the holy teachers), Svādhyāya (self study), Saṅyama (self restraint), Dāna (charity), Tapa (Austerities), Pratyākhāna or vowing not to make mistakes or practice Mokṣa Mārga in future. These āvaśyakas do have all the features of āvaśyakas for monks but emphasis is given on simple Dos on a daily basis e.g. Caturviṅśatistva is included in Devapūjā and Sāmāyika in Saṅyama and Tapa.Most of the Digambara householders do perform Sāmāyika also in the morning before going for Devapūjā.

3.1 Performing Sāmāyika

Sāmāyika has certain pre-requisites i.e. the person indulging in it should have right belief in Tattvāratha, practice equanimity and self control else it becomes just a show due to the practitioner’s inability to control his mind, body, speech. Only a person who is aware and conscious of self-restraint, vows, austerities and soul can perform Sāmāyika. Further the person should be able to win over the afflictions (pariṣahas) else he will get distracted during Sāmāyika. Various steps involved are enumerated below.6

  1. The practitioner should make himself free from all householder duties and nature’s call, clean his body by washing his hands, feet and face or taking a bath and put on light and comfortable cloths, tie his hair etc so that he is free from all bodily distractions.
  2. He should then select a place, which is clean, free from disturbances like noise, mosquitoes, family members or others coming and going or performing other activities and is the place is neither cold nor hot.
  3. While standing in kāyotsarga posture i.e. standing facing north and hands hanging down and seven centimeters away from the body, legs about 10 centimeters apart; he takes a vow to be in Sāmāyika for 48 minutes (ideal or the time he deems fit) and leaves all his mental, speech and bodily activities.
  4. He then recites Navkāra nine times silently and bows his head with his hands folded and moving them in clockwise direction three times. He performs this routine facing each of the four directions. Then he sits in kāyotsarga posture.
  5. He then recites Navakāra with auspicious (maṅgala) and dedication (śaraṇama) verse; pratikraman (ālocanā) sutra, Sāmāyika pātha, tirathaṅkara vanadāna and finally takes a vow to observe self-restraint during the day completes the Sāmāyika.

Normally Sāmāyika should be done individually but due to difficulty in concentrating the mind on various mantras etc in Sāmāyika, there are group Sāmāyika in special places where the practitioners recite all the verses in a very low pitch so as not to disturb each other.

As Sāmāyika has a special place in the religious activities of all Jains, tremendous literature abounds having description, holy poems, methods etc to be used. Some of them are: Bhadrabāhu-II has detailed Sāmāyika inĀvaśyaka Sutra; Jinabhadra Gaṇi wrote Viśeṣāvaśyaka especially on Sāmāyika, all literature concerning ethics and practice of Jains detail Sāmāyika, Sāmāyika Pātha7 by Amit Gati Suri and a book Sāmāyika kā Saundarya by Dr. Mukesh Śastri detailing various pāthas /poems and dedicated to Sāmāyika.

4.0 Sāmāyika as Śikṣāvrata, Pratimā for Householders

Śikṣāvratas are the third stage of vows for householders, which are observed to prepare the householder to live like a monk. So by definition, they require a definite regimen of practice several times during the day. Posture of the body, time period and its frequency i.e. morning, afternoon and evening and duration are adhered to. Also while performing, after the recitation of mantras and verses, the practitioner needs to contemplate on self and its uniqueness compared to other types of substances and its own nature. Also there are flaws identified, which the practitioner is required to remove while performing it. So as Śikṣāvrata, it is more disciplined and rigorous. Also the practitioner at this stage has already achieved a higher level of spiritual purification and is almost ready practicing equanimity all the time like a monk as away of life.

Sāmāyika as Pratimā is as the 2nd Pratimā (out of eleven stages of spiritual development for householders prior to becoming a monk). Thus the householder, who has accepted this pratimā, performs (asby monks) veneration of the omniscient and Sāmāyika simultaneously. Posture of the body, time period (minimum 48 minutes per practice) and its frequency i.e. morning, afternoon and evening and duration are strictly adhered to.

5.0 Sāmāyika for Monks        

Since the monks practice Mokṣa Mārga all the time and for their entire life; Sāmāyika for them becomes a way of life. Besides practicing three times as for householders; they observe equanimity in their thoughts, attitudes of carefulness (samitis) and attitudes of restraints (guptis) in all their activities while performing their daily activities of going for food, sitting, standing, interacting with householders etc. Kunda Kunda in his text ‘Niyamasāra chapter on Samādhi describes Sāmāyika for monks (verses 125-133) i.e. those who are permanently practicing sāmāyika as follows:

  1. He, who is always indifferent to all types of attachments, is practicing the three attitudes of restraint (mind, body and speech) and has conquered the sensual pleasures.
  2. He who always observes equanimity towards all moving and stationary living beings.
  3. He who is always busy in observing self-restraint, vows and penance.
  4. He in whom the ill feelings of attachment and aversion do not occur.
  5. He who gives up the two flawed meditation types (ārta and raudra) and is always observes the other two types of meditation namely dharma and śukla.
  6. He who gives up the feelings of merit and demerit.
  7. He who is free of the nine small passions (sex, hatred, fear, sorrow, making fun etc).

6.0 Analysis

Equanimity (samtā) is the foundation of all yogic traditions of India. Jainism emphasizes it more and makes it an essential pre-requisite of a religious and moral life of its practitioners. Sāmāyika is making it a part of one’s daily activities for contemplation on self, paying obeisance to the holy souls, auto suggestion (bhāvanā) for self improvement, critical review of the wrong doings during the day and begging forgiveness plus promising not to commit the same mistakes in future. Thus the practitioner first leaves all his daily worries / activities to free him for such an analysis and planning, then he performs prayers, veneration, and critical analysis to enjoy a state of happiness as if he has relieved himself of his past ills and is ready to move forward in his life. The first four lines of the Sāmāyika Pātha7 given below beautifully describe the state of mind of the practitioner:

Prem bhāva ho saba jivoṅ se, guṇi jano meiṅ harṣa prabho

Karuṇā stotra baheiṅ dukhiyoṅ para, durjana meiṅ madhyastha vibho

Yaha ananta bala śila ātmā, ho śarira se bhinna prabho

Jyo hoti talwāra myāna se, vaha ananat bala do mujhko.

In fact the entire poem of 32 verses when recited slowly and contemplated on is a good description of how to develop equanimity and to experience the self.

The practitioner is encouraged to start performing Sāmāyika as an essential duty in a casual way and enhance its practice as he moves higher on the path of spiritual purification in the form of 2nd Pratimā and finally as 2nd Śikṣāvrata when he takes a vow to perform Sāmāyika three times a day of a fixed period of 48 minutes each. The monks are expected to be in a state of Sāmāyika all the time.

If we analyze Sāmāyika closely, then we find

  1. It is a way of developing equanimity from beginning to its becoming the way of life.
  2. It encourages us to start the practice and enhance it by techniques such as self-study, autosuggestions, contemplation, reflections on self and taking corrective steps to improve our conduct.

Sāmāyika is like meditation on the self but without concentrating on a specific object or being one with the self (samādhi). Here the person is well aware of his existence but focuses all his attention on mantras, recitations and contemplating on the attributes of pure self, reviews and confessions and their resolutions. Thus it is an excellent way of contemplating and meditating to learn and then to imbibe the good ethical-spiritual values in our day-to-day life and make progress in our path o spiritual purification. In our day-to-day life also, it assists the practitioner in developing a balanced mind and decide action accordingly. 

7.0 Comparison with Other Religious Traditions of India

Sāmāyika can be partially compared with Pataṅjali’s eightfold yoga, Buddhists yoga and Vedic yoga. A brief comparison follows.

7.1  Pataṅjali Yoga

Pataṅjali has defined his Yoga Sādhnā to consist of eight steps or limbs namely Yama, Niyama, Āsana, Prānāyāma, Pratyāhāra, Dhāranā, Dhyāna and Samādhi. Yama and Niyama help the practitioner to control / eliminate feelings of attachments and aversions and enhances his social status. Āsana helps enhance physical strength and tolerance so that he can develop detachment towards his body. Prānāyāma and Pratyāhāra develop control over his breath and other sense organs. After these five stages, the next three stages are for meditating and enhancing its intensity so that the last stage i.e. Samādhi enables the practitioner to enjoy the soul and be one with it. From the discussions of Sāmāyika, we see that it compares with the first five limbs of Pataṅjali Yoga as the practitioner moves from Āvaśyaka to2nd Pratimā and finally as 2nd Śikṣāvrata. Of course the situation for monks is different as they are normally in the last three stages of Pataṅjali has defined his Yoga Sādhanā.

7.2  Buddhist Yoga

The limb Viśśuddhi Mārga of Buddhists emphasize the word sama with each limb and the last limb i.e. Samādhi is not possible unless the practitioner develops equanimity and eliminates the feelings of attachment and aversion. The word sama is used in the same sense as in Jain texts (equanimity). Various canonical texts of Buddhists like Saṅyyukta Nikāya, Majjhima Nikaāya etc. talk of equanimity and specify as the path of Buddhist monks. We thus find the use of Sama and equanimity at different places in Buddhist literature but no specific mention of Sāmāyika.

7.3 Vedic Tradition

Gitā, which is the representative canonical text had abundant mention of the word sama e.g. Verse 2/15 in Gitā says, ‘The one who maintains equanimity in pains and pleasures, sensual feelings is only capable of attaining Nirvana’. Similarly verse 18/54 says, ‘The one who stays in the state of equanimity is only capable of my (krishna’s) devotion’. Similarly there are number of mentions in the entire text of equanimity. Equanimity, being the base of Sāmāyika, therefore we see its similarity in Vedic tradition also.

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