Jain Concept of Meditation

Posted: 23.12.2012
Updated on: 30.07.2015


National Symposium on Jain Philosophy, Science And Scriptures



"I bow to Mahavira, the Arhat, the destroyer of the army of indefatigable enemies like attachment and others, the lord of Yogis and the protector of all beings"

I. Introduction:

Science and spirituality go together. Jainism accords top priority to spirituality. The focus is on the soul substance. Jain Religion emphasizes Right conduct. It is a system of ethics which includes the practice of yoga and meditation for good health in all its aspects.

The present paper highlights ancient traditional Jain concept of meditation with its modern implications. Four types of meditation discussed in scriptures are analyzed. Also views of various Acharyas like Haribhadra, Hemchandra are discussed.

Our ancient heritage is the repository of several techniques which come to our rescue in today's stressful world and Meditation is one of the them. It finds mention in Jain canonical and non-canonical literature. It is invaluable for one's mental, physical, psychological and spiritual well-being.

Philosophers have given us yoga, Dhyan the theories and tools for spiritual purification and awakening of the soul.

I today's fast moving world, we overstretch ourselves to achieve our goals. Stress is the side effect and it affects our body system. Meditation is an easy way to distress ourselves. Now, what does meditation mean?


II. Meaning and Kinds of Mediation

The concept mediation whether it is classical or modern is related to religion and spirituality. Dhyan and Yoga are somewhat synonymous terms Meditation finds the highest place in Jain code of conduct related to internal penance. The Basic concepts of yoga and meditation in all traditions include

  1. Introspection - inwardness
  2. Higher conduct
  3. Special way of life

Dhyana or meditation is an aspect of yoga. 'To concentrate one's mind upon one subject is meditation.[1]' It is steadfast contemplation of the object without any break or disturbance. It is the focusedness on the presented object and distinct representation of object. It is, indeed, a great step in spiritual growth. In Jaina texts dhyana has been discussed at great length and has much broader implications. It is important to note here that the concept of dhyana is not purely an ethical or spiritual term. In Jaina canonical texts it is discussed on a very realistic or psychological plane. According to Jain theory of mediation, there are four types of meditation[2]. (1) Concentration due to anguish, misery, pain etc. (Artra Dhyan) (2) Concentration due to cruelty (Raudra Dhyan) (3) Concentration on the nature of the real or on the merits like forgiveness. (Dharm Dhyan) (4) Pure concentration. (Sukla Dhyan)

These four kinds are also described in Avasyaka Niryukti. Again these four types are also mentioned in Thanam.[3]  The first and second types of mediation are focused on the causes of worldly attachment and the third and the fourth kinds are focus on the path to salvation.

A detailed description- on the four types of dhyana as discussed in Vyakhyaprajnapti[4] , where two of them are pointers to the mental state of an ordinary soul in bondage with his mundane weaknesses, these are 'raudra dhyana' and Art Dhyana Arta means suffering and that which originates from suffering is arta dhyana. It means the existence of an unpleasant object disturbing us or the non-existence of a pleasant object constantly bothering us.

Raudra dhyana means a mental state of violence or cruelty or any other similar mental state detrimental to social orderliness and spiritual growth of the individual. They are only weaknesses of the individual in bondage, which continue to entangle him to the world. Thus, truly speaking they are not dhyanas but are durdhyanas. Thus in one word they need to be abjured. The other two dhyanas are (1) dharma dhyana (2) sukla dhyana. The discussion of these two along with the former two dhyanas in the form of a classification of mental states shows that how the Jaina texts discuss psychology along with ethics or spirituality. The barriers that need to be crossed are clearly discussed as are the ideals to be achieved.

Coming to main dhyanas which are contextually relevant here are dharma dhyana and sukla dhyana. Dharma dhyana is actually the first step or true condition for the final or ultimate aim called sukla dhyana. Without dharma dhyana sukla dhyana cannot be reached. Thus, for a true seeker it becomes imperative to establish himself in dharma dhyana. This begins with his concentration on an object and leads on to the stage of concentration without an object or when the object is no longer relevant. At the stage of dharma dhyana the individual reflects on the true commands of the omniscient and thus tries to understand the truth-the metaphysical truth. On the other facet of his concentration he realizes that the reason of his sufferings is nothing but attachment and hatred. He also keeps in mind that his own karmas are the causes of his own suffering or he himself is responsible for his karmas and nothing else. Further, an equally important facet of dharma dhyana is to understand the nature of the universe, which is a combination of living and non-living substances and which has its own principles of its functioning i.e. the principles of origination, sustenance and decay and nothing else can interfere in its functions. This shows that the entire metaphysical truth opens itself to a spiritual aspirant who has reached such a high level of spiritual advancement in dharma dhyana. It is important to understand that the different aspects of dharma dhyana reveal that the metaphysical truth is so well integrated with the ethical or spiritual endeavour. Sukla Dhyan is  the purest concentration which  leads to release.

Subhacandra has said that out of four kinds of purusartha, viz. dharma, artha, kama and moksa, the last one that is moksa - The Ultimate Release is desirable. It is the opposite of transmigration (samsara) as it delivers the soul from all miseries and endows it with total bliss, which is its inherent attribute[5].  He then declares that mediation (dhyana) is the only way to attain this bliss because only meditation can lead to right trinity of faith, knowledge and conduct which are the avowed means of achieving moksa. He has said that meditation will destroy the karmas, dilute and destroy passions, relieve from the miseries of samsara purify the mind and ultimately lead to that conduct which will culminate in moksa[6].


III. Contribution of various Acharyas

1. Haribhadra on Yoga and meditation

'From Niscaya standpoint Yoga has been described by words as coming together of the three attributes, viz- right understanding, right faith and right conduct - that brings about soul's connection with Moksa. - (Yogashatak)[7]

  1. Right understanding stand for the apprehension of the true nature of things.
  2. Right Faith- belief in the same.
  3. Right Conduct-activity in relation to things as in relation to things as in conformity to scriptural injuctions and prohibitions.

From practical point of view a soul's relation with the causes of right understanding etc. is also to be understood as Yoga- Thus in fine - Haribhadra defines yoga as all religious performances, spiritual activities that connects one with Moksa. This is Haribhadra's concept of Jain Yoga which is significant for meditation.

There are five categories of Yoga and meditation is one of them. He further says by meditation wise man understand the states of mind whose sole objects are the things auspicious.  The stress is on conduct


2. Hemcandra on Yoga:

In Yogsutra it is said, mediation implies, the meditator, the object of meditation, and its result, these three must first be known.[8] He   can be called ideal meditator: Who adheres-to character; even at the cost of his life.

An ideal meditator is never sullied by anger, egoism, deceit, and greed. Who is not influenced, who is soul-based, who has abstained from the pleasures of the senses, who has no fascination for his own body even. Who is immersed in the lake non-attachment. Who is equanimous towards everything.

The object of meditation is categorized into four kinds such as the one which is confined to body, to mystic syllables, to divine form, and to tile formless; respectively called the Pindastha, Padastha, Roopastha and Roopatita.[9] He also discusses meditation of Namaskar Mahamantra.


IV. What is the Religion?

Mediation is the process of realizing religion in human life. Religion is the nature of all things including soul. Souls purified by following the path of religion finally achieve liberation. "Right conduct characterised by right faith and knowledge is also Religion."[10]

Meditation is nothing but method of purification and self realization. The true and pure self is realized by following the path of right conduct endowed with equanimity within the self obtained by freedom from all passions, attachment and hatred.

"Religion is the most auspicious thing and it is characterized by non-violence; self control and penance".[11] Meditation is a form of internal penance. It is followed by self-control.

Nonviolence has been an important principle in the history of human civilization. It appears that as a moral injunction, it was universally applicable in the religious sphere. It has been accepted as a moral principle in Indian thought and religion from the ancient time. In Jainism it has special significance as it purifies both thoughts and actions.

Man is essentially a Religious being. The question is what is religion? Religion is not merely performing rituals and reading scriptures but it is manifested in man's conduct in society - There is tendency of defining Religion in theological terms. But religion is not merely theism, it is way of life. Saints and mystics all over the world in all cultures have emphasized importance of religion. Which is true nature of a thing.

 'Religion is not so much theology and is as good as life. It is to be lived rather than reasoned about'.  Religion is linked also with morality - Moral principles, are not doubt parts of Religion- as there is a relationship between man and the universe and his goal in life. Religion cannot be separated from life and its values. Jainism is an ethical religion.  It has been rightly observed that Jainism may fairly be regarded as a system of ethics rather than Religion.

Jainism is not an abstract philosophy or temple religion but a complete, Life style - which offers physical, moral and spiritual rules of healthy life Jainism has a systematic philosophy of life, a set of principles and codes of conduct. Jaina doctrines, though ancient are yet modern; its religious spiritual Philosophy is unique. It can make its own distinct appeal with its special concept of mediation.

The practice of fourfold virtues of Maitri (friendship with all creatures) Pramoda (appreciation of merits of others), Karuna (compassion and sympathy) and Madhyastha (indifference to the untruly) has also been prescribed as the mental pre-requisite conditions of Dhyana. These quadruple virtues, practiced in an earnest spirit, cause to disappear the slumber of perversion, and so to set eternal tranquility.[12]

V. Preksha Meditation-A Holistic Technique of Meditation

Preksha meditation is a technique of meditation. For attitudinal change, behavioral modification and integrated development of personality. It makes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects healthier and more sufficient. There are references to Preksha in Jain Canons.   The term Preksa meditation  is significant. The word 'Preksha' means to perceive and Dhyana is deep concentration on one point. It is concentration of perfection."  Sampikkhae Appagamappaenam" is the basic principle of Preksa Meditation. It means " See you thyself" i.e see yourself through yourself". Here seeing does not mean external vision but concentrated impartial perception of subtle consciousness by soul. It takes us from the gross physical world to the subtle world of soul which brings about a unique transformation in the mediator.

Preksha meditation has a scientific basis. It is a practical process.

Essential Preconditions:- Five Disciplines of initation.

  1. Live in present (Bhavakriya):- Be alert and awakened not careless.
  2. Act but do not react (Pratikriya Virati):-If any one speaks bad words to you do not speak also to him.
  3. Friendliness (Maitri):- Which helps positive thinking. - Universal friendship.
  4. Limited food:-Food affects body, health and also soul. Unnecessary food creates abnormalities-indigestion which in turn affects thoughts. Meditation in diet- Mita ahar-what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat.
  5. Silence (Moun):- Speak less and do not speak when not necessary. Mita Bhasan- restrain from speaking.

In the Preksha Meditation when there is concentration of perception, objects of perception are internal phenomena-of consciousness physiological as well as psychological and not external objects.

Supporting components - yogic kriyas - Asanas sound of omniscient foundation: start from gross subtle.

It includes:

(1) Dirghsvas preksha


Deep Breathing

(2) Samvritisvas preksha


Regulation of breath

(3) Sarir Preksa


Perception of body

(4) Chaitnyakendra Preksa


Perception of centers of consciousness

(5) Lesya Dhyan


Aura Coloration

(6) Kayotsarga


Abandonment of body

(7) Anpreksa Dhyan


Contemplation on facts of life.

It is a technique propounded by Jain Acharyas, Acharya Tulsi and Acharya Mahapragya in which philosophical wisdom and meditative technique of ancient seers have been presented in the context of modern science. The outcome of it is elimination of evil tendencies. By Preksha meditation we learn the art of regulating our thoughts in the right direction. Preksha also means the development of sense of equanimity. By the use of Anupreksha contemplation and autosuggestion the practioner can modify his psychological distortions, change his attitude and behavioral patterns and generally develop his personality by acquisition of desirable virtues.


VI. Results of meditation

Lord Mahavira not only pointed out but demonstrated that real philosophy is practical because it is a way of life. He practiced auspicious meditation.

The object of the paper is to establish applicability of the Jaina values in practical life. Particularly, Jainism offers three significant rules on the basis of which one can attempt to live a healthy life. Right Knowledge, Right Faith and Right Conduct are prerequisites for meditation.

Today Human values are fastly receding - Man wants happiness but where is it? "it is here that Jaina values acquire tremendous relevance. By following Jain values one can have salvation here in this life.  For instance, one can set limits to greed following the principle of non-possession. Similarly, one can follow the principles of business ethics in whatever profession one is. Entrepreneurs can provide environment friendly products. It is in this way, that there can be progress towards better individual and social order.  Soul can enjoy peace and happiness. Let us discuss the key elements of the system of meditation which can be reinterpreted in the modern context.

  1. An individual can control the passions - the anger, pride, greed and deceit and develop healthy attitude, can avoid depression, anxiety and diseases of mind and body.
  2. Toleration can be developed by broadmindedness, realizing the relativity of truth and multiple facets of reality. It means liberalism in outlook.
  3. Attitudinal change, - one can change one's vision and there by developing the power of understanding - ''Not to kill' is the law of life. This means philosophy of interdependence and compassion. "May I have friendly relation to all" should be the guiding principle of life. Mediation works in transformation of Lesyas.
  4. Change towards nonviolent-lifestyle by adopting good habits, cultivating virtues and holistic world-view, practice of self-restraint in consumption - avoiding lust for power and possession. It means eco-friendly life style - understanding relation of microcosm with macrocosm.
  5. Conflicts can be avoided at all levels and objective attitude can be developed by respecting multi-dimensional aspects of truth. Non-possession can promote Social equality. Respect for religions can promote interfaith dialogue.
  6. There should be place for spirituality, mediation programme in life of an individual for strengthening inner harmony and peace of mind. Stress and tension can be relieved by practice of yoga. Thus mental equanimity surcharged with righteousness can be gained.
  7. Jain approach is holistic and rational. It provides rational therapy.

No doubt ultimate aim of yoga meditation is to attain bliss but practicing meditation one can get many benefits.

The meditation influences thyroid gland. It normalizes the oxidizing power of body and help balancing the excessive stimulation produced by secretion of thyroid hormones. During process of Dhyana the activity of alpha waves is enhanced and deep rest is attained. Meditation gives relaxation to the body and mind. During meditation mind becomes calm serene and steady. Meditation teaches person to love each and every person. By meditation capacities of sense organs increase and creative capacities also increases. By practice of meditation one can enjoy supernormal powers. Meditation dispels away the tension. Stress relief is an outcome of meditation.-One will see the fact in totality.  One who learns the art of meditation can never feel alone in hostile universe. During the meditation blood pressure drops down. Passion starts reducing. One can visualize himself and world correctly and clearly which is around him.


VII. Conclusion

Lord sri shiva tells parvti I have studied all scriptures and all darshasnas I have also contemplated again and, again on-all the various philosophies. However I have come to the conclusion that amongst all yoga shastra is superb. Ones that science is mastered, you can very well say that you know everything. Krishna says arjuna, yogi is much superior to those who are doing intense austerity, who are great learned, who have studied scriptures and who are doing different activities with the intention of getting specific results. Hence yogi is most superior amongst all. Therefore oh! arjuna,  you become a yogi. Yoga acts like sharp sword for destroying all sorts of worries and calamities. In lalitvistara Haribhadra speaks of Dhyanyoga.

All the observances find their culmination in meditation. Thus meditation is the indispensable constituent of right conduct i.e ethico spiritual conduct. It is also related to the actualization of divinity in man.

There is no sin greater than attachment to worldly pleasures. There is no power better than yoga and meditation.

The holistic approach implies that human life is multi-dimensional. We may consider the meditation for solving the problems of day to today life. Present environment needs struggle for existence. Struggle develops tension. Tension is unavoidable which can be avoided by means of meditation.

Psychiatrists give tranquilizers. Psychologists give suggestions. Doctors give medicines. Father gives consolation. Relatives give sympathy. Soul knows the truth by soul. And this "Autosuggestion" is meditation.

In the Niyamasara[13] it is said that one who meditates on one's own real nature with non-attached thought and activity, realizes self through righteousness and pure concentration. and attains supreme equanimity. The key word is 'detachment'. One who always practices the dharmadhyana (righteous meditation) can attain equanimity." Samayika is closely related to meditation; without meditation and self-awareness no one can attain the equanimity of mind. It is  maintained that one who has observed righteous and pure meditation is a real spiritual aspirant and with equanimity worldly discomforts are removed and there is other worldly gain laso.

The realization of self is only possible through equanimity and equanimity is only possible through the meditation of one's own real nature.[14] 

Change in consciousness through mediation brings about behavioral changes. Therefore Jainism lays the great stress on Bhavnas and Anuprekshas which may be regarded as aids to purify mind.

The following verse from the Samayikasutra by Acarya Amitagati explains the sentiment beautifully.

Oh Lord, I should be friendly to all the creatures of the world.[15]

He is one the opinion that, mediator must be pure in heart. Then the result obtained is either heaven or liberation.

Acarya Kundakunda maintains, "one who is free from all attachment etc, destroys karmas by mediation, the latter working like fire."[16] He also says, "if Sadhaka is full of right knowledge and right faith and if he meditates with the object of destroying karmas, he merges in his own pure self."[17]   

To conclude, "meditation is perfected when the thought process becomes pure and sublime[18]."

"A person whose mind is absorbed in meditation is not  perturbed by miseries born of passions nor those born of jealousy, dejection, grief and other mental anxieties."[19]

"The irresolute and fleeting mind which is difficult to be controlled and conquered becomes steadfast and tranquil by meditation."[20]

"Of the four kinds of meditation, mournful (Arta Dhyana) and  wrathful (Raudra Dhyana) cause birth and death in mundane existence and their abandonment results in happiness in this life and righteous or analytic (Dharma Dhyana) and purest (Sukla Dhyana) are instrumental in emancipation."[21]      

It is evident that, Meditation is useful for eradicating negative emotions and enhancing positive thinking. Now surprisingly it is the way to salvation here and hereafter, I will end the paper by saying, " An aspirant engaged in contemplation should give up mournful meditation and cruel meditation and practice righteous and pure meditation."[22]


Share this page on: