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The Jain Tradition of Meditation

Published: 03.04.2007
Updated: 02.07.2015

The history of meditation is as old as the history of religion. The relation between religion and meditation is such that one cannot be without the other. Meditation is fundamental to religion. Still, a time came when meditation and religion got separated. I have mentioned about it in my tract Treapanth-Prabodh:

I do not know how it was forgotten that meditation was the fundamental seed of religion. The mirror in which the self is reflected got broken. Oh saints, preksha is the revival of that tradition.

Some people thought that there is no tradition of meditation in Jainism. I do not agree with that view. We find meditation interwoven in the life incidents of the Jain Tirthankaras and religious teachers. Innumerable ideas of the Tirthankaras in meditative poses can be found. However it is not without reason that despite so many evidences available with regard to meditation, such an impression had stuck deep roots. Jainism had to pass through a phase when under special circumstances, the monks and the nuns probably did not find time for meditation. It is a natural human tendency that once a particular practice ceases to be part of the daily routine, one does not feel inclined to reinstate it. I can be said that probably that was the case with regard to meditation.

The Meaning of Meditation

Meditation has all along been the essential part of the daily routine of a religious person. The Jain Agamas have ordained that the monks should do meditation during the second prahara of the day and night. They should spend four praharas in studying the sacred books, two praharas in meditation and the remaining two in prahas in eating and sleeping. Thus, their routine for the eight preharas were decided. The question can be raises if it is possible to meditate continuously for one prahara. It is an accepted belief that the mind of the person who is not free from karma cannot remain steady beyond anfarmultion. How is meditation possible unless the mind is steady? In this context it is necessary to discuss the meaning of the word mediation. One of the meanings of the word mediation is control of the activities of the mind, speech and body. Another meaning of meditation is steadying the mind on the subject of concentration. There can be regulation of time in this case as well.

The term meditation (dhyan) is derived etymologically from the dhyaim meaning reflect. The subject for reflection root can be the same and it can also change. From this view, meditation can also be linked with the continuous process of contemplation on the meaning. If we look at it from this point of view. Meditation for one prahara does not seem to be incongruous or impossible. The first prahara is devoted to the study of the Agamas (scriptures), the second prahara is meant for deep contemplation on the meaning of the Agamas.

Unsteadiness of Mind Obstructs Meditation

Some people say that they cannot meditate, because their mind is unsteady. Unsteadiness of the mind is an obstruction in meditation. Acharya Somaprabha has written thus to clarify this point:

"If any person wants to pursue religion by becoming cruel, wants to acquire fame by vicious means, wants to acquire wealth nor remaining indolent, wants to write poetry without having the genius for it, wants to become an ascetic without controlling the senses and showing compassion, wants to seriously study the scriptures without the requisite intelligence, wants to see things without the eyes and wants to meditate on them when his mind is unsteady cannot succeed. Similarly, the person who desires his beatitude by giving up the contact with the virtuous people can never succeed."

"I won’t Step into Water"

To think that the person whose mind is unsteady cannot meditate in spite of his ardent wish. And for the person whose mind is steady, meditation is not necessary, is a one-sided view. Only the person who takes on-sided view, would say that he would not meditate till his mind becomes steady…

Two friends went to the river to bathe. Both of them slipped in the mud. He drifted with the flow of the river. His companion held him and pulled him out. Coming on the bank, he said, "I would not step in water till I learn swimming". But can anyone learn to swim without stepping in water? What a contradiction!

When people say that they would meditate only when their mind becomes steady, they are also talking in similar contradictory terms. It is necessary to practice meditation exactly because the mind is unsteady. Without that practice, the mind would not become steady. From this point of view, everything should be considered in relative terms. Acharya Somaprabha’s statement too is relative. Only when this is realized it is possible to know the essential aspect of things.

Meditation is Essential in Order to Live

There are many methods of meditation in vogue. The Jains have their own independent tradition. Dhyanayoga is important too in the present age. We can hardly keep count of the meditation centres functioning in India and other countries. There are more people from the younger generation, who go in for training in meditation. The attainments of meditation are amazing too. However inspite of such attainments, there are very few people who practice meditation regularly. There can be found not only amoung the householders but among the ascetics too. Some ascetics may think that they need not meditate, since they are ascetics. It is for the householder to meditate, whose mind constantly wanders in many directions. The householder may be arrogant because of his power or wealth or his influence. He may say: ‘I am in such a high position. My business is so widespread. I have my say in everything that happens in society.’

In my view, meditation should be considered necessary for everyone, whether he is an ascetic, or householder. If concentration of mind can be considered unavoidable to make the military movements more efficient, why should it not be so for living a disciplined and organised life? I can proclaim in clear terms that the individual who does not take the training in meditation, who does not practice meditation would remain incomplete, inefficient and would not be able to attain any important goal in life.

Faith, Resolve and Endeavour

Some people are interested in learning to practice meditation, but they are not able to develop faith in meditation.

A child went on turning the egg of a peacock, wondering if the young one of the peacock would emerge from it. He could not get the young one of the peacock. But the child who waited without any doubt in his mind, got it.

If one develops deep faith in meditation and if it is combined with firm resolve then unsteadiness of the mind can be eliminated. The individual with firm resolve can turn what is impossible into possible. Achary Bhikshu accepted the challenge of desath and chose to follow the path of purity. But if there us no endeavour along with the resolve, the resolve loses value. The combination of faith, resolve and endeavour can turn even a dessert lsand into a blooming garden.

The method of meditation can be discoveres, it can be carried forward, but it cabnnot be made widespread. The method which is lofty is also less widespread to that extent. The ideal position is not where everyone would be able to reach. Only the lucky ones, who have faith, who have firmly resolved and who are keen to endeavour would be able to reach the ideal position. In spite of all these, unless one finds a true guru, the path of meditation cannot be followed.

I know some people who take keen interest in meditation. They spend time in meditation. They are eager to go to every meditation camp. But they are not able to concentrate only on one particular method. They do not know which method is appropriate and which is not appropriate. And the alternatives make them restless. Guidance from a guru is necessary to make the mind function uninterrupted.

Everything is Uninteresting compared to Meditation

The method of prekshadhyan is as scientific as it is simple. It is my wish that everyone should learn it. But the truth is that all our efforts, we should not make all the people take to meditation. For learning to meditate, one requires to have the steady mind Jit Muni.

It happened in the year 187 of the Vikram Era. Fourteen year old Jit Muni was seated in the market place writing something. A play was being staged right in front of him. The children and other people, young and old, were seeing that play. An old man in the audience was staring at Jit Muni ho was busy writing in the market place. When the play was over, that old man said, "The foundation of the terapanth has become older by a hundred years." The people standing near him were amazed. "How is that?"The old man said, "When a young ascetic belonging to that Sangh could sit so still and during the two hours of the staging of the play did not look in that direction even once, not the slightest harm can be brought to that Sangh."The pursuit of meditation is difficult for the people whose mind always wanders, who are interested in light hearted and curious things, who are eager to see the serials on Doordarshan or who give immense importance to sleep. If one wants to practice meditation, these outside interests will have to be abandoned. The day that is done, people would start taking interest in meditation. Once the ecstacy of meditation is experienced, all things in the world become uninteresting.


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            1. Acharya
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