Essence and Substance of Yoga ► 08 Jain Stream Of Yoga

Posted: 20.12.2011

Jain Stream Of Yoga

Since the very beginning of Indian civilisation Vedic and Jain cultures have been concurrent, interacting, reinforcing and enriching each other. As in Vedic literature the term ‘Yoga’ with its varied implications, usage and practices in one form or other is found in Jain ancient canonical scriptures classified and grouped as twelve ‘Angas’ of which the twelfth ‘Anga’ comprises fourteen ‘Purvas’. Oldest scriptures ‘Acharang’, ‘Sutrakritang’, ‘Samvayang’ etc. all contain references regarding yoga. However, the contents of yoga in various contents were scattered. Like Patañjali initially and subsequently various scholars in Vedic stream, in Jain stream also scholars notably Acharya Haribhadra Suri, Acharya Hemchandra. Shubhchandrcharya, Upadhyaya Yashovijaya and others systematically compiled and wrote treatises exclusively on Yoga. Haribhadra Suri’s four works ‘Yoga Shatak’, ‘Yogavinshika’, ‘Yogabindu’ and ‘Yogadrishti’ are very elaborate and accommodating in assimilating other view points particularly the Vedic. Hemchandracharya’s ‘Yogashastra’ is very comprehensive. Shubhachamhacharya’s ‘Jnanarnava’ deals with almost every aspect of yoga. Upadhaya Yashovijaya wrote three texts ‘Adhyatmasara’, ‘Adhyatmopnished’ and ‘Dvibhanshit Dvavinshika’. Subsequently several saints explained yoga in their respective works. Presently Acharya Tulsi, Acharya Mahapragya, Acharya Shivmuni, Chandraprabhasagar Lalitprabhasagar have written extensively and contributed immensely in popularising and spreading Yoga concepts and practices. There is almost unique synergy and no substantial difference except in some nomenclature and modification in Jain and Vedic streams.

In Jainism ‘Yoga’ has two connotations. One is ‘Samadhi’ (the ultimate or salvation) and other ‘Samyoga’ (Union i.e. which connects or are means). The term ‘Yoga’ has been mentioned in both these aspects i.e.

Yuvaktiḥ yojanaṁ, yujyate iti va yogeḥ

In ancient Jain scriptures the word ‘Yoga’ has been used generally for activities of mind, speech and body and disciplining, regulating them.

Mind, speech and body are three modes of Yoga.

(Thananga Sutra 3)

One should carry out every activity with discipline, cautiously and carefully so that no harm is done to any living being including self

Sutrakritanga 2/1/11

One should abide by eight-fold discipline categorised as five ‘Samitis’ and three ‘Guptis’. Samitis are five ‘Irya’, ‘Bhasa’, ‘Yashna’, ‘Adan-nikshop’ and ‘Uchhar’. ‘Irya’ is discipline and caution in walking, sitting and all activities of body, ‘Bhasa’ is same in speech, ‘Yashna’ is in food, drinks, clothes etc., ‘Adan-nikshep’ is in picking and placing things properly and ‘Uchhar’ or ‘Utsarg’ is putting or disposing excreta, urine and other waste at places, in such a way that no harm is done to any. Three ‘Guptis’ imply restrain in all activities of mind, speech and body.

All activities should be undertaken according to proper time schedule and no activity be undertaken at improper time.

- Uttaradhyan Sutra 1/31

This will ensure proper time management, efficiency and undisturbed biological clock.

Purva śodhanaṁ tato norodhaḥ

- Manonushasnam 1/15 - Acharya Tulsi

The activities of all the three modes of yoga should first be cleansed of all wrong indulgences and then withdrawn from everything bad and harmful. The word ‘Nirodhaḥ’ should not imply cessation or stoppage which would mean death. Even Arhats in their purest and most enlightened state do no stop mental, speech and body activities, of course they are channelized into pious thoughts, words and actions.

Nirodha implies full concentration in any activity being undertaken whether of mind, speech or body without wavering into other activities.

The entire philosophy, concept and practice of yoga, its principles, instruments, modes, means, steps and contrivances have all been condensed and put in one stanza.

Rational belief, attitude, rational knowledge/understanding and rational conduct form the part to salvation

- Tattvartha Sutra by Umasvati 1/1

Rational belief, attitude, rational knowledge/understanding and rational conduct, the three combined and simultaneously imbibed and followed will put the aspirants on right path, making his life/journey happy, peaceful, harmonious and eventually lead to attain the state of highest purity and enlightenment, call it salvation or whatever name of almost tranquillity and equanimity, free from all sorrows, pains, worries, prejudices, attachments and full of, compassion, love and benediction for one and all. These three are adored as three precious jewels.

The whole edifice of Jain philosophy, metaphysics, interactions, interrelations and code of conduct is built on the solid foundation of rationality in the three aspects, the three jewels for peace, progress and attainment of the ultimate, the highest, the most pious state. The elaborate sets of principles and sub-principles, various rules and sub rules, steps and sub steps, vows and their transgressions, causes and effects, methods and methodologies, processes and sub processes, cautions and precautions, chronology and history are all expansions of these three fundamentals.

In Jain Yoga mode or process of journey or progress there are fourteen stages called ‘Gunsthanas’ (qualitative progressive stages) from rudimentary minimal stage of utmost darkness or ignorance to the stage of highest purity and enlightenment. The fourteen stages denote the gradual progress by adopting more and more good actions, vows and practices in all the three modes of yoga-the mind, speech and body. The fourteen stages are:

Mithyatva, Sasadhan, Misra, Avirat Samyaktva, Deshvirat, Pramatta virat, Apramatta virat, Apurva Karan, Anivritikaran, Sukshma Sampraya, Upshant Kashaya, Kshin Kashaya, Sayog Kevli, Ayog Kevli are fourteen gunsthanas, stages of sequential qualitative progress.

  1. Mithyatva or utmost irrationality: It is the stage of utmost ignorance and darkness and all actions and attitudes are in wrong directions.
  2. Sasadan: It indicates slight, improvement in attitude and action.
  3. Mishra: It is a mixed stage, wavering between rational and irrational.
  4. Avirat Samyaktva: In this stage realisation of rationality comes but vows are not adopted properly in letter and spirit. But this does not mean that the realisation or change is only in attitude and not at all in conduct. The person in this stage also follows, may be minimum code of conduct. He abstains from wine and non-vegetarian diet and proceeds on right path.
  5. Deshvrat: In this stage five vows of non-violence, truth, non-stealing, non-acquisition (disproportionate) and celibacy are adopted with reasonable relaxations. This is the stage of a good house holder, and as such carries on his responsibilities of his profession and in the process, if need arises has to resort to violence also in self defence.
  6. Pramatt Sanyat: It is an initial stage of an ascetic, a recluse. He adopts vows in letter and spirit but with occasional unawareness (Pramad).
  7. Apramatt Sanyat: When the ascetic is in full awareness or mindfulness in practising his vows.
  8. Apurvakarn: The aspirant proceeds further and attains more purity in his three modes of mind, speech and body.
  9. Anivritikarana: The aspirant proceeds and progresses further with higher purity, awareness or concentration. The previous stage may be equated with sixth stage ‘Dharana’ (Concentration) of Patañjali Yoga and this stage with seventh stage ‘Dhyan’ (Contemplation).
  10. Sukshmasampraya: The ascetic minimizes his emotions of anger, variety, hypocrisy and greed to almost nil.
  11. Upashantkashaya: The four emotions are completely subdued but not totally destroyed and may arise on wavering from the right path.
  12. Kshinakashaya: The bad emotions are totally annihilated.
  13. Sayogakevali: It is highest enlightened and purest stage of omniscience.
  14. Ayogakevali: It has four stages of highest from of contemplation (Dhyan) and corresponds to the eighth stage ‘Samadhi’ of Patañjali yoga.

These fourteen stages are described in detail in Jain canonical scriptures and contemporary literature. However, Jain Acharyas, Yoga scholars adopted more or less the eight stages mentioned by Patañjali with changed or unchanged nomenclature and relevant modifications in conformity with Jain tenets.

Yama and other seven steps are free from spiritual demerits and are the seats of spiritual merits like non-enmity | | 2/61 | |

- Yogadrishtisamucchhaya 2/16 by Haribhadrasari

Haribhadrasuri found it difficult to make traditional Jain scheme of fourteen Gunsthanas run parallel to Patañjali’s eight angas and adopted similar eight steps.
Acharya Haribhadra Suri the most prolific writer on Yoga coined the eight stages almost similar to those of Patañjali Yoga.

The eight stages of yoga are Mitra, Tara, Bala, Dipra, Sthira, Kanta, Prabha and Para

-Yogadrishtisamuchhaya 2/13 by Haribhadra Suri

The eight stages of yoga corresponding sequentially to Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratihara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi in Patañjali Yoga. All the eight steps have a very close similarities with the practices in Jainism.

1. Yama (Austerity):

Patañjali has adopted in verbatim the five essential vows prescribed in Jainism.

Not to commit five sins namely violence, falsehood, stealing, indulgence in sex and acquisition beyond bare needs.

- Tattvartha Sutra 7/1 by Umasvati


- Jnanarnava by Shubhchandracharya 8/6

Ahimsa (Non injury), truth, non-stealing, continence and non-possession are five major vows

- Yogashastra by Hemchandracharya 1/19

Five noble traits of character are from non-injury to non-greed (i.e. non-injury, truthfulness, non-stealing, sex-control and non-greed). The five traits of Yama are by intention, by activity, by firmness and by accomplishment.

- Yogadrishtisamuchhaya by Haribhadrasuri 7/214

2. Niyama (Rules):

This enjoins cleanliness and purity. In Jainism there is mandatory emphasis on purity of mind, speech and body of self (person) and also of ambient environment. The twelve austerities (Tapas) six external and six internal are practices to cleanse mind and body.

Discipline in taking meals, taking less than hunger, fasting, abstaining from taking certain heavy food such as butter, oil, not caring for comforts while sitting, sleeping, reading are external tapas. | | 9/19 | |


Repentance for one’s wrong deeds, humility, service to help others in disease, needs etc. to renounce material things, studying and meditations are internal tapas  | | 9/20 | |

- Tattvarthasutra by Umaswati

There is earnest concern for preservation and cleanliness of ambient environment. In Jainism all of the main constituents of environment are classified and regarded as living beings as humans and it is enjoined that they should not be harmed or destroyed.

All Earth forms (Soils, minerals), Water forms (rivers, lakes, springs etc.), Energy-forms, Air-forms, Plant-forms are living beings and feel pain, want to live. Therefore they should not be harmed or destroyed.

Sutrakritanga 11/1/7-8

One should consider all these life-forms like himself...

- Dashavaikalika Sutra 10/1/5

Like human beings and animals all these constituents of environment have their respective carrying capacities and rejuvenating time-cycles. If they are harnessed within these limits, no harm will be done, there will be no pollution, no degradation or extinction.

One should utilise, harness or take from these as the insect like Bhramar, Honeybee etc. take nectar from flowers in very small quantity from each flower and without giving any pain and simultaneously helping the plants in pollination.

- Dashavaikalika Sutra 1/1/4

All these should not be harmed by confinement (such as constructing dam on river, stopping flow of air, not providing required space for plants to grow), killing or destroying, pricking angling (like mining), putting pressure i.e. exploiting or utilising beyond their carrying capacities and not providing sufficient sustenance (such as water, nutrients to plants etc.). These are transgressions of the vow of non-violence which the aspirants should refrain.

- Tattvarthasutra by Umaswati 7/25

Non-violence (Ahinsa) is most important in Jainism and even slightest transgressions are not acceptable. It should be followed in all the three Yogas (modes) mind, speech and body. Not only that one should abide by it himself, but should not get violence committed by others and should not even acquiesce violence by others. Paradoxically Jain monks who are ordained to follow it vigorously absolve themselves by passing the responsibility on house-holders. They consider cooking of meals as violence, do take meals but pass the buck on house holders. They take water, considered a life-form after getting it made life-less by house holders. It is shear irresponsibility. They violate the very principle that they should not only commit violence themselves but also should not get it committed by others and should not even acquiesce violence by others.

3. Asana (Postures):

The posture should be such that is comfortable and can facilitate concentration of mind

- Jnanarnava by Shubhachandracharya 28/11

One should adopt comfortable sitting posture which is feasible every where, to proceed to have firm understanding of things and activities

- Yogadrishtishamuchhaya by Haribhadrasuri 3/49

Paryank, Ardha Paryank, Vajrasana, Virasana, Sukhasana, Kamlasan are suitable postures for meditation.

- Jnarnava by Shubhashandrachaya 28/10

Because strength or capacity is reduced in these times, Padmasan and Kayaklesh, the two postures are advised by Acharyas

Jnanarnava by Shubhehandracharya 28/12

Practitioner who masters posture does not feel pain or sorrow when troubled by heat, cold or storm and also by various creatures.

Jnanavnava by Shubhehandracharya 28/32

Hemchandracharya in Yogashastra describes various postures but concludes that only comfortable and steady posture is desirable:

Paryankasna, Virasana, Vajrasna, Padmasna, Bhadrasna, Dandasna, Utkatikasna, Godihikasna, Kayotsarga etc. are yoga postures | | 4/124 | |

Comfortable and steady posture is desirable | | 4/135 | |

There is mention of postures in various scriptures Sutrakritanga, Brihatkalpbhashya, Uttaradhyayana etc. ‘Kayaklesha’ prescribed in Jainism implies practices of sitting, standing, sleeping etc. to condition the body to tolerate hardship or discomfort while undertaking various activities. But Shubhchangracharya has warned against practising of odd and articulated Asanas (postures) in his work ‘Jnanarva:

Practice of odd postures create uneasiness and unstable state and causes sadness | | 28/31 | |


4. Pranayam (Breathing):

Breathing practices to regulate, control, extend and stop breathing have been mentioned in Jain scriptures in similar details as in Vedic scriptures.

The air coming from naval and passing through lotus shaped heart centre, reaching and staying at the centre of top of head should be considered God who is lord of this air

Jnanarnava by Shubhachandracharya 29/7

Here air is described as Kundalini power which is aroused by breathing practices. Such a concept of god as mentioned here is Vedic and not Jain.

Breathing exercise comprises inhaling, suspension and exhaling

- Jnanarnava by Shubhachandracharya 29/3

Pranayam (Breathing exercise) is in three ways inhalation, suspension and exhalation

Yogashastra by Hemchandracharya 5/4

In other Jain scriptures on Yoga also Pranayam has been described in the same way as in Vedic scriptures. There is similar mention of lotus shaped charkas, colours, length of exhaled air and superstitious beliefs of various good and bad effects of breathing, curing of diseases, even for telling future including death, through alternate nostrils in different periods. Surprisingly the same writers eulogising pranayam have decried it also as an impediment in the path of progress and achieving the ultimate salvation.

Pranayam is not worth doing for aspirants for ultimate salvation as it is an impediment. It is painful and instrumental to create mental tension, harmful mental state (Arta Dhyan). It does not have any beneficial effect.

Jananarva by Shubhachandracharya 30/9-10

Similar irrelevance and harmful effects have been mentioned in Yogashastra by Hemchandracharya:

Mind is troubled, does not get stability by Pranayam i.e. inhaling, suspending, exhaling involve hard labour, produce grief and aggrieved state of mind. | | 6/4-5 | |


Pranayam (Dipra) is not helpful in yoga progress.

Yogarishtisamuchhaya by Haribhadrasuri 3/57

5. Pratyahara:

It is a very important step and enjoins on the aspirant to control and withdraw the mind from indulgence in objects of five senses of touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing. In Jain scriptures it has been ordained as an essential ingredient both for the laity (house holder) as well as the ascetic (recluse).

By withdrawing mind and sense organs from sense objects, the aspirant makes his mind stable, gets tranquillity and proceeds to pious meditation (Dharmadhyana)

Yogashastra by Hemchandra Charya 6/6

Withdrawing and controlling mind and sense organs from sense objects and sensual pleasures and pains is Pratyahara.

Janarnva by Shubhcahandracharya 30/1

Sthira (fifth stage of yoga which corresponds to pratyahar of Patañjali) implies sense control i.e. the sense organs following the lead of mind rather than pursuing their respective objects.

Yogadrishtisamuchhaya by Haribhadra Suri 5/154+158

6. Dharana (Concentration)
7. Dhyana (Contemplation)
8. Samadhi (Identification)

These three steps are progressive stages intensifying gradually from concentration (Dharana) on an object, continuing it is contemplation (Dhyan) and intensification or complete absorption is identification (Samadhi).

Kanta (Haribhadra Suri’s synonym for Dharana) is concentration of mind on one thing

Yogadrishtisamuchhaya by Haribhadra Suri 5/162

Concentration of mind at one place, on one object is Dharana”. This is similar to Patañjali’s definition. Dhyan the seventh stage is continuation of such concentration established in sixth stage.

Vyakhyapragyapti Bhashya

When concentration continues, it is Dhyan (Contemplation).

Vyakhya Pragypti Bhashya

In Jain system of yoga there is great emphasis on meditation and it is not confined to just sitting and contemplating but also implies undertaking all activities of mind, speech and body with awareness and mindfulness. There are four forms of Dhyana (meditation) described extensively and comprehensively.


The next two Dharmadhyan and Shukladhyan are pious and instrumental in progress tell salvation

1.  Arta Dhyan: It is of four categories:

  1. Anishta Samyoga (Unfavourable situations): It is brooding over painfully in harmful situations such as attack by enemy, in case of being surrounded by fire or face to face with dangerous wild animals tigers etc. to get over this Dhyan in such situations one should not get panicky or become inactive but respond with equanimity.
  2. Ishta viyoga (Loss of pleasant situations, things). One feels pain and unhappy on loss of something pleasant such as money, job, dear and near ones. Equanimity can help to get out of it.
  3. Practical vedana (Mental and body problems) in case of disease the person broods over and over again on the pain, expresses it intensely, cries. To get over this tolerance is necessary.
  4. Nidana: The person continues to be anxious and aspires and tries hard to get the pleasures enjoyed in the past. The way out is to control and withdraw from indulgences in sensuous pleasures.

2.  Raudra Dhyan:

  1. Hinsanunandhi - To take pleasure in mental and body violent acts.
  2. Mrishanunandhi: To delight in speaking lies even mentally thinking to resort to lies.
  3. Stayanunandhi: To derive pleasure in stealing bodily and even contemplating mentally.
  4. Vishaysarankshanunandi: To be busy mentally and bodily about protection of hoarded wealth.

3.  Dharma Dhyan:

  1. Agya Vichaya: To contemplate and follow the teachings of Arhats mentally and bodily.
  2. Apay Vichaya: To contemplate about vows, austerities etc. as ordained by Arhats in order to get rid of sinful activities.
  3. Vipak Vichay: To contemplate and follow the teaching of Arhats about causation and effect of eight karmas (Jnanavarniya and others) and measures to ascend qualitatively (Gunsthanas).
  4. Sanasthan vichay: To visualize and ponder over the composition of the universe, its myriad constituents, animate and inanimate, their interactions, chronology and cosmology as told by omniscient Arhats and deliberate to follow the path to salvation which is freedom from mundane state, sorrows and pains of births and rebirths.

4.  Shukla Dhyan:

  1. Prithakatva-vitark-vichar: Yogi contemplates on objects both living and non living in all their diversities and diverse modes (Dravya Paryaya), shifting from one to another.
  2. Ektva vitark vichar: In this state contemplation is on unity of diverse modes in its entirety on one mode at a time.
  3. Sukshma Kriyapratipati: This is only in state of omniscience in thirteenth Sayog Kevli Gunsthana when life span is about to end i.e. in last phase of life. The omniscient stops all activities except subtle breathing.
  4. Samuchhinnha kriyanivritti: It is in fourteenth ‘Ayoga Kevali Gunsthana when omniscient stops even subtle activity of breathing and then attains salvation, the ultimate. This is similar stage as ‘Samadhi’ mentioned in Patañjali’s yoga sutra.

Acharya Haribhadra Suri has also described following five categories of yoga in his book Yoga Bindu:

  1. Adhyatma Yoga: It is for rational understanding about the essential nature of things by one who maintains propriety in entire conduct based on spiritual authority and marked by an overwhelming predominance of noble sentiments like friendliness, compassion, joy etc. Adhyatma yoga produces destruction of evil karmas (sins), high capacity of concentration of mind, permanent enlightenment and is like nectar open to the testimony of self-retrospection:
  2. Bhavanayoga: It is continuously and progressively repeating the first Adhyatma Yoga. This produces refrainment from inauspicious performances, inclination for auspicious ones and increment in noble mental states:
  3. Dhyan Yoga: In this state mind is unwavering like undisturbed flame of lamp, contemplating only auspicious and having subtle penetrative thinking. This endows capacity to win others, steadiness in one’s all interactions and detachment from mundane shackles:
  4. Samata Yoga: In this state one does not harbour feelings of intense like or dislike which are because of mechanizing of nescience (ignorance). One develops right comprehension, sense of equality in relation to likes and dislikes. Yogi does not utilize his supra-sensuous capacities, destroys his subtle karmic bondage and breaks the threads of expectations:
  5. Viritisamksaya Yoga: In this state there is cessation of wavering of mind which is because of interactions with others and yogi is absorbed in intense contemplation. This leads to acquisition of omniscience and śaileśez state which is the state characterized by cessation of all mental, vocal or bodily operations and attains the ultimate ‘Moksha’ (Salvation)

The great Jain yoga scholars have described yoga rationally in all realities and details both gross and subtle. However, surprisingly they also succumbed to the temptation of attracting gullible people by prescribing concentration and contemplation on non-existing noumena the imaginary chakras, colours and objects and the implicit weird and occult fantasies and hallucinations. Acharya Mahapragya who is leading yoga scholar and yoga teacher presently has equated imagined chakras (centres) to various endocrine glands to scientifically justify the practice of concentration on these centres though keeping the same nomenclature for these centres as in Vedic stream. The fact however is that such practices sitting idle is waste of time. The best practice of Dhyan is to concentrate and remain absorbed in the work in hand and if one masters it then it is easier to stop wavering of mind. Acharya Mahapragya has also emphasised meditation on imagining various colours, not actual colours face to face on the pretence of ‘Laisyas’. Of course colours if actual and face-to-face on walls of house or clothes will have effect because there are chemicals in them, but not in just imagining. ‘Laisyas” are not colours but modes (emotions and thoughts) good and bad and have only been compared with colours only to explain their intensity and nature. The modern Jain yoga scholars and teachers are also following both trends rational based on real phenomena as well as irrational noumena, of course each yoga teacher introducing modifications and articulations to establish his own distinct identity.

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