The Mirror Of The Self: [11] Kayotsarg (Self-Awareness By Relaxation)

Published: 31.01.2009
Updated: 02.07.2015


A man may have faith in Jainism and look upon Lord Mahavir's discourse as Truth, but if he does not know what kayotsarg is, one wonders what kind of a Jain he is. And if it is a sadhak who does not know what kayotsarg is, it is astounding indeed. Kayotsarg is the starting point of the Jain technique of meditation; also its consummation. Excepting kayotsarg, there is nothing else to know. Not to be acquainted with it is a problem. There is not a single activity of a Jain monk, which is not preceded or followed by kayotsarg. This in itself is an absolute proof of the importance of kayotsarg.


The man who wants to live with zest must first of all find out something worth-doing; he must determine his aim. The thing most worth-doing is the creation of an auspicious atmosphere. Life should go on smoothly, filled with a sense of well-being, without any obstruction, without evil. For well-being, and for the removal of evil or obstruction, the most important exercise is that of kayotsarg. For him who practises kayotsarg, each day of his life is auspicious.

The Rule Of Good Omen

In ancient commentaries is to be found a very significant direction.   If you are departing for another place or going to embark upon a new enterprise, do it in an auspicious moment. If you feel that the omen is not good, that the kind of atmosphere you want is not forthcoming, if the heart is not irradiated by a feeling of joy and well-being, you must in that case take up the exercise of goodwill. In case of a lapse or disaster, meditate on five auspicious verses and recite two shlokas (verses).

Respiration And Kayotsarg

Practising the meditation of panch mangal and reciting two shlokas (verses), means the practice of kayotsarg comprising eight inspirations and expirations. Wherever there exists any possibility of obstruction, a kayotsarg of eight respirations is prescribed. One shloka has four feet, meditation on each foot lasting one respira­tion. Meditate on two shlokas means a kayotsarg of eight inspira­tions and expirations. Respiration has been the measure of kayotsarg. Some people say 'Where in Jain philosophy is to be found a mention of inspiration and expiration?' But the synchronisation of breath and kayotsarg has been a very sig­nificant provision.

If, even after the practice of a kayotsarg of eight respira­tions, the omen does not appear to be favourable, practise a kayotsarg of 16 respirations. If that also 'fails and the situation remains unfavourable, take up for the third time a kayotsarg of 32 respirations. If still the atmosphere continues inauspicious, better postpone the work.

Auspicious: Inauspicious

All these provisions exist to ensure well-being. At the beginning of every work there should be an invocation for universal welfare. The practice of paying obeisance to some universal spirit at the beginning of a book originated from man's aspiration for the good, for the completion of the task in hand without any interruption. This tradition was not prevalent in pre-historic times, but in the middle ages the practice of initiating a work with benedictory verses started. Even today, the undertaking of any important work is preceded by the recitation of benedictory verses. This is a good tradition. There are some individuals who in themselves are auspicious. Whatever they think comes to pass. Their life is in itself sacred. With their benign sentiment they turn what is evil into good. According to the science of astrology, the most auspicious time for accomplishing any work is that in which a man's mind is filled with gladness. To begin a work in a happy frame of mind is to begin it in a most auspicious moment.

Acharya Raichand ji assumed office of the Acharya on the ninth day of the month of Magh. During the celebration of the event, some people observed, "Sir! Today, it is 'nakhed tithi' (an inauspicious day)." The word, 'nakhed', was used in Marwar to mean 'nishedh', meaning 'taboo'. However, the word 'nakiied' also means 'no regrets!' Acharya Raichandji light-heartedly adopting the latter meaning, said, "Quite right! It is 'nakhed' today; so no evil can come to us!"

Aim of Auspiciousness

A great man changes every negative feeling into a positive one. Things happen as he wants them to happen. Evil turns into good. The inauspicious becomes auspicious. When the heart is filled with bliss and the spirit is pure, all goes well. Acharya Raichandji's life was always irradiated by auspiciousness. Of him it may be said that in himself he constituted auspiciousness. This cannot be said of all beings, however. For an average person, it is necessary to initiate whatever he undertakes to do with an invoca­tion for the good. Ancient texts prescribe three-time invocation-benediction at the beginning, benediction midway, and benediction at the end. Benediction is sought so that the composi­tion of the book goes on without any interruption from disciple to disciple. There should be no obstruction in composition, nor any difficulty faced by the reader, nor any obstacle in the preservation of the volume.  All this falls under the provision for auspicious­ness.

The question is often raised, 'Why kayotsarg?’ There are two chief objectives of kayotsarg - the creation of an auspi­cious atmosphere, and purity.

Auspiciousness is necessary to ensure that there is no obstruction in the path of sadhana, that the individual successfully traverses his path without any interruption. And the greatest good in the sphere of sadhana is kayotsarg. It was prescribed that every work should commence with the invocation for the good, with the kayotsarg of eight respirations.

Kayotsarg: Alternative Forms

There are many alternative forms of kayotsarg: kayot­sarg of eight respirations; kayotsarg of 100 respirations; kayot­sarg of 500 respirations and kayotsarg of 1000 respirations.

Another kind of kayotsarg {'abhibhav') is meant to be observed during a calamity. It is the longest kayotsarg. When there is some trouble, the duration of kayotsarg is lengthened. The 'abhibhav' ('calamity') kayotsarg is practised in times of great disturbance.

Kayotsarg: Duration

Bahubali, the son of Lord Rishabh stood in kayotsarg continuously for 12 months. Lord Mahavir, too, observed a very long kayotsarg. According to the Digambar tradition, Lord Mahavir spent some time begging aims, the rest of the time he spent in meditation and the practice of kayotsarg.

A question arose as to how long could one practise kayot­sarg. It was said that one could practise kayotsarg upto the last moment and most excellently one might continue in kayotsarg for 60000 years. Today, such a thing seems unimaginable. Can any statue remain standing for 60000 years? The man practising such a kayotsarg must have been stationary and immovable like a statue.

Kayotsarg: Purification

The second objective of kayotsarg is purification. A Jain monk or a householder does retrospection. Kayotsarg forms a part of retrospection. A sadhak accepts kayotsarg with the following resolution - "I practise kayotsarg in order to destroy the sinful karma through annulment of past negligence, through penance, purification and freedom from pain."

Extracting The Thorn

Acharya Hemchandra wrote in praise of Lord Mahavir:

"O Lord! You achieved freedom from the thorn of inner anguish through relaxation and kayotsarg only."

The technique of extracting the thorn is a very important technique. The outer wounds get filled up, but the inner wound is very difficult to fill; it is very deep and painful. The inner wound is the thorn, which causes ceaseless pain. Another thorn is illusion. A man keeps creating a web of worldly attachment. He develops inner wounds, which never get healed. Kayotsarg constitutes the method of extracting the thorn, of filling up inner wounds.

The Falling Off Of Sinful Karma

The greatest benefit of kayotsarg is the liquidation of sinful Karma. Kayotsarg is a powerful method of dissolving them. Freedom achieved from sinful actions through the act of will is not so complete as that obtained through kayotsarg or relaxation. In the state of kayotsarg, all past Karma are shaken off.

When To Practise Kayotsarg?

The question arose as to when one should practise kayot­sarg. For a monk, it is prescribed that if he is required to leave his place of sojourn for any purpose, he should practise kayotsarg immediately on return. Also before retiring for the night. If he dreams during sleep, he should do kayotsarg. If he is afflicted with an uncommon dream, he should practise kayotsarg of four loguses; also he should practise kayotsarg before crossing a river. While preparing to undertake self-study, he should practise kayotsarg of eight respirations. The practice of kayotsarg is intimately woven with each and every activity of a monk. In the event of a calamity, natural disturbance, or physical illness, there is a provision for undertaking prolonged kayotsarg.

How To Practise Kayotsarg?

In ancient times, the method of practising kayotsarg com­prised of bodily relaxation, the shedding of all attachment, supple­mented by the singing of hymns and the control of breath. Practising kayotsarg with an awareness of inbreathing and out-breathing results in greater concentration and relaxation. Con­centration is essential for practising kayotsarg, even though, kayotsarg in itself is an exercise for increasing concentration. Synchronised with respiration, kayotsarg becomes even more effective. Kayotsarg means 'rising above the body'. As one transcends the body, there is a falling off in the consciousness of outer phenomena. That is the right occasion for practising anupreksha (contemplation) or auto-suggestion. As long as the conscious mind is active and gross consciousness operates, the practice of contemplation or autosuggestion is not wholly effective. But when a man goes deep into himself, a new event transpires.

Royal Highway To The Inner World

Caliph Umar was a great saint. During the course of a battle, an arrow struck the Caliph's foot. It grew very painful. A young soldier said, "You are in great pain! I shall pull out the arrow." A veteran standing nearby said, "Stay awhile!" A little later, it was time for offering namaz. The Caliph was rapt in prayer. The old and experienced soldier chose that occasion to pull out the arrow The Caliph, absorbed in prayer, experienced no pain, whatsoever.

When a man enters the inner world, the pains and tribula­tions of the external world have little effect upon him. The inner world is altogether different from the world outside. An entrant to the inner world is freed of all grief and tension at once. A royal road to that inner world is kayotsarg.


3rd Edition 1995

Jain Vishva Bharati Institute
Ladnun -341 306 (Rajasthan)

Muni Dhananjay Kumar (Hindi)
Muni Mahendra Kumar (English)

Translated by:
Late Prof. R.K. Seth

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acharya
  2. Acharya Hemchandra
  3. Acharya Raichand
  4. Bahubali
  5. Body
  6. Concentration
  7. Consciousness
  8. Contemplation
  9. Digambar
  10. Jain Philosophy
  11. Jainism
  12. Karma
  13. Kayotsarg
  14. Mahavir
  15. Marwar
  16. Meditation
  17. Raichandji
  18. Rishabh
  19. Sadhak
  20. Sadhana
  21. Science
  22. Shloka
  23. Shlokas
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