Mind Beyond Mind: [09] The Practice of Preksha

Published: 15.05.2007
Updated: 06.08.2008

Perceiving and waking is actually one and the same thing. Both are ingredients of Preksha Dhyana. Waking means freedom from errors of judgment. To remain awaken in the midst of those who are sleeping is a very important thing. Waking also means to become conscious of the subconscious mind, of subconscious drives and predilections. It also means the unfolding of the erstwhile hidden parts of consciousness. Sadhana means the activation of inherent consciousness and self-enlightenment, which cannot be disturbed by anything outside ourselves, howsoever strong it may be. Once consciousness has begun to unfold itself, nothing can obstruct it. It is the culmination of sadhana. Preksha Dhyana is a sadhana. It consists in the act to perceive. Sadhana does not mean knowing alone. It brings about an active state of the soul. Spiritual activity is as important as knowledge. There are, however, certain conditions, which we have to fulfil before we can enter into an active spiritual life.

There is a Yogic practice in which the soul perceives itself to be different from the body. One can see death also with the help of Yogic practices involving tremendous exertion. The practice consists in the arousing of consciousness and in keeping it free from all kinds of infatuations.

We eat because we feel hungry and we feel hungry because we have a body and vital How in it. Sadhana consists in making consciousness a witness of the body and its activities. It means perceiving that it is the body, which feels hungry and that the soul always remains self-satisfied. This is also spoken of as Papa. It is through Papa that the soul is raised to the plane where it can become a mere witness of things including itself. Acarya Kundakitnda has made a very fruitful observation in this connection, 'if you have failed to conquer hunger, sleep, and the body, you have failed to understand the Jain doctrine. It is a very important observation. Conquest of hunger is a very important step in sadhana. It is, however, very difficult to understand this fact because hunger is an organic instinct. To say that one who has not conquered hunger has not understood the wisdom of Mahavira and the Jain doctrine appears to be confusing. Really speaking there is no confusion in this observation. What is implied is the distinction between consciousness and hunger. It is impossible to conquer hunger without understanding this distinction. It is not the self but the body, which feels hungry. Sadhana consists in not allowing the feeling of hunger to influence consciousness. The great emphasis which Mahavira laid on fasting was probably due to the fact that he had himself experimented on watching hunger and other bodily feelings without allowing them to influence his self and consciousness. He wanted to know how much consciousness he could retain by remaining hungry. Tapa was an experiment for him. It docs not consist merely in remaining hungry. Constant meditation undisturbed by the feeling of hunger is an indispensable part of Tapa. It also implies the knowledge or consciousness as to who feels hunger and its pangs. Conquest of hunger as a cardinal principle of the Jain doctrine is not possible without this understanding.

The next is the conquest of sleep. This too is a central point in the Jain doctrine. One, who does not understand the value of the conquest of sleep, does not understand the Jain doctrine. Sleeping is an instinctive activity of the body. Even the great practitioners of Tapa did sleep. It is, therefore, very difficult for the average man to conquer sleep. Even the shortening of the duration of normal sleep is a very difficult task. Conquest of sleep is an exceptional feat. The Acaranga Sutra speaks of such persons who keep waking while all others are sleeping. There are three types of men: those who are always asleep, those who are always awake, and those who awake even while the body is sleeping. The Muni (ascetic) belongs to the third kind. He keeps waking even during sleep and will never be negligent in this respect. He does not feel even for a single moment that he is sleeping. On the other hand, he always feels that he is waking. The body and the grosser parts of consciousness do sleep. But the pure self always feels that it is waking.

Conquest of sleep means living a life of enlightenment. This enlightenment continues even during sleep. That is the secret of the Jain doctrine. It needs to be experimented upon and the practitioner, before he goes to sleep, should resolve that he will keep waking during sleep and will not be negligent in this respect. It is a practice of long duration. If you talked of it, people might feel that you are mad. A prolonged practice is bound to lead you to a state in which, even while you are asleep, you will feel that you are waking. This feeling may last for a few moments only during sleep, but it is bound to be there.

Let us understand another thing. There is a borderland between the conscious and unconscious parts of the mind. What is this borderland? How can it be described? Let us take the example of hunger to explain it. The self does not feel hungry. Nor does it eat anything. Hunger and eating are concerned with Prana or the vital energy. Hunger and eating are the functions of Prana Sakti. Prana exists between the physical body and consciousness.

It is the function of the eye to see and all the other sense organs perform their natural functions. Knowledge, however, is not produced by the functioning of the sense organs. The self or consciousness does not possess eyes. As a matter of fact, it needs no eyes. Nor does it need any sense organ to perform its functions. If it needed the sense organs, it would not be able to perform any of its natural functions without them. Without them it will be blind and inactive. The current of Prana flows in the borderland between the body and consciousness. It becomes the connecting link between the two. Let us consider this point. Similarly let us consider the border between inhaling and exhaling. Consciousness does not breathe. It is not like the flame, which burns only when it consumes oil. It is an inextinguishable flame, which burns by itself. Let us observe the point where the current of Prana flowing from breathing meets the current of consciousness. All these meeting points have got to be located and experimented upon. It is through such experiments that we perceive the conscious self to be different from the body.

The following are the meeting points referred to above:


Food and hunger




Sense organs







Consciousness does not speak. That which speaks is something other than the self. But there is a point where speech and consciousness meet. Language derives its force from consciousness. Consciousness does not think and reflect. It does not desire anything. It does not discriminate. These are the functions of the mind. But the mind will not work unless it is associated with consciousness. It is only when the mind meets consciousness that it begins to desire, imagine, choose, and will. Thus food, breath, the sense organs, language, mind and sleep as well as the waking state arc the operational fields of Preksha Dhyana. It is through them that we can realize that the body and consciousness are distinct entities. The purpose of sadhana is to keep ourselves awake and to keep awake means to become free from all kinds of attachments and infatuation. This is possible only when the light of consciousness is kept pure and burning. Infatuation sets in only when consciousness has become veiled.

A Sufi saint named Rabid used to weep and laugh at the same time. People wondered why it was so. When asked, she replied: ‘I see God or Truth everywhere, and therefore, I laugh. I also see people unable to see this truth, and therefore, I weep on their ignorance.’ The body and the self are quite distinct entities, and yet we do not realize this fact. That is why I have said that we should perceive the meeting points of the two. That alone will enable us to distinguish between the conscious and unconscious principles.

We are afraid of death because we have not seen it. The very idea that we are shortly going to die is paralysing. The best way to meet death is to welcome it by completely immobilizing the body so that when the self becomes separated from the body, we may feel as if nothing has happened. Attempts to reduce tensions by immobilizing the body will develop in us the mood to meet death with welcoming smile. The Jain Acaryas have written a lot on this subject. There is a book entitled The Festival of Death. The occasion of death is taken as a great festival and is celebrated by singing songs and other merriments. The Jains have drawn a complete plan for meeting death. This is not found elsewhere. In Jain sadhana preparation for death begins twelve years before it comes. It is just like preparing a patient for a dangerous surgical operation. Death is a huge operation on the whole of the body. It means the separation of consciousness from the body once for all. That is why it needs such a long preparation. This preparation is called Samlekhana. It is a complete sadhana in itself. At the completion of this sadhana begins the fast unto death, which culminates in Samadhi Marana or death occurring to the body when the self is in a state of ecstasy. The Jain doctrine has given so much emphasis on this for the simple reason that death is a state of the biggest trance and it is very necessary to keep the self-waking just when the trance begins. One who remains awake at the time of and during death attains freedom from all kinds of attachments and aversions and gains the purity of the heart. The entire process of preparation is aimed at this moment of awakening.

A patient who has to be operated upon is etherised so that he may not feel pain during the operation to follow. Probably nature has also devised death as a state of total etherisation so that the person who dies may not feel the great shock of the separation of the self from the body. One who has successfully accomplished sadhana will remain awake without being lost into unconsciousness resulting from death.

There are several instances of practitioners of Yoga who entered into deep meditation on the eve of major surgical operations and did not take any anaesthesia. The operations were done and completed while they remained sunk into meditation. There are instances of sadhakas who did not take any anesthesia but began to read the Gita while surgeons performed big operations on their bodies. The patients became so much absorbed in the Gita that they became totally unaware of what was happening to their bodies. There is an instance of a Terapantha monk associated with the elder brother of Srimajjayacarya who performed long penances for twenty-six years. When the latter expired and had been cremated, the former said, ‘I too now go’ and gave up his body. Such people die waking.


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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acaranga
  2. Acaranga Sutra
  3. Acarya
  4. Acaryas
  5. Body
  6. Consciousness
  7. Dhyana
  8. Fasting
  9. Gita
  10. Mahavira
  11. Meditation
  12. Muni
  13. Papa
  14. Prana
  15. Preksha
  16. Preksha Dhyana
  17. Sadhana
  18. Samadhi
  19. Samlekhana
  20. Soul
  21. Sutra
  22. Tapa
  23. Terapantha
  24. Yoga
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