Introduction To Jainism: Yoga and Meditation (2)

Published: 16.10.2008
Updated: 30.07.2015

Our food determines our psychology, and our psychology influences our meditations and mental activities. Jains feel that non-vegetarians are selfish by nature, greedy, impatient, cruel, and without compassion - that is what the Jains think, but not say. Such people pay attention to their own satisfaction and to their own sufferings only, and are not interested in those of others. This mentality can induce someone can become inclined to kill other living beings for the sake of his own palate and food.

It can be argued that plants are living beings as well, and that one can not eat them without killing them. But the Jains teach that the jīva - the soul - leaves a corn grain when it has ripened and dried (after an incubation period, when germinating, a new soul has entered the grain; hence, Jains do not consume germinated seeds). Fruits fall off by nature or can easily be taken when ripe. If one picks parts of a plant, such as a number of leaves, this does not kill the plant. On the contrary it stimulates its growth and thus produces a higher yield and produces enough seeds. Jains who take their religion seriously do not take tubers or bulbs, because this kills the whole plant. Thus one develops the right mentality for meditation through compassion and caring for other lives.

One should constantly remember the twelve subjects of reflection. These are:

  1. The evanescence and shortness of existence and of all that exists;
  2. Your own complete un-protectedness against the fruits of one’s own karma;
  3. the unhappy condition of existence within the cycle of births and deaths;
  4. the loneliness in which one is born, dies and walks the path of life;
  5. the fact that as an individual one stands alone in fulfilling one’s task;
  6. the separation between all individuals;
  7. that all problems are caused by karma;
  8. that a true spiritual teacher is the only haven;
  9. that every wrong idea needs to be expelled;
  10. the five Great Vows (non-violence, not lying, not stealing, abstaining from sexual misconduct, and from worldly attachments) and keeping the senses under one’s control at all times;
  11. that the soul in its peregrinations is limited to the dimensions of loka, the knowable universe; and
  12. that the True Soul as refuge is the only consolation - compared to which every worldly connection is futile. In addition, particular yoga postures are advised which can influence meditation positively.

Prānayāma - breathing exercises - are performed to strengthen the ten prānas or flows of life energy. Through this the elements of the constitution - earth, water, fire and air - are also strengthened. At the same time the five chakras are controlled. Prānayāma also helps to stabilize one’s thinking and leads to unhampered direct experience of the events around us. By entering the four elements the soul gains experiences. Next one practices pratyāhāra. Pratyāhāra means that one directs the senses away from the enjoyment of sensual and mental objects. The senses are part of the nervous system, and their task is to send data to the brain through which the mind as well as the soul is provided with information. The mind tends to enjoy this at the cost of the soul as well as the body. The concentrated mind of somebody who practices yoga neglects such things completely. In certain circumstances a yogi behaves towards his senses as a turtle withdrawing its limbs in the face of danger. Pratyāhāra is obtained by focusing the mind on one point for the purpose of receiving impulses: on the eyes, ears, tip of the nose, the brow, the navel, the head, the heart or the palate. The next thing is to prepare for meditation.

People who live in the world - laymen and -women - take shelter in religion and focus their mind, reflecting on the following: the first type of is agnya vichāya, in which one meditates deeply on the seven tattvas or elementary facts (life and non-life, the inflow, bondage, stoppage and removal of karmas, and the final accomplishment of liberation). The second is apaya vichāya, in which incorrect insights and behavior in which “sleeping souls” indulge, are reflected upon. The third is vipaka vichāya dharma dhyāna, in which one reflects on the eight causes or basic types of karma (see chapter 4), The fourth is sansathan vichāya dharma dhyāna, when one thinks about the vastness of the universe and the loneliness of the soul, which has had to face the results of its own causes all alone since it first began to suffer as a result of ignorance and constant reembodiments in the 8,400,000 body forms or species which exist. The omniscience of the arhats has over and over again unveiled the universal knowledge about the universe to humankind. Mahāvīra, the last Tīrthamkara, did just that. That knowledge was written down in the form of stories. All these stories are meant to open the eyes of mundane souls and inspire them to destroy the poisons known as passion, anger, arrogance, meanness and obstinacy, and to be a normal being.

Those who have advanced a little further on the path of meditation (dhyāna) apply a number of techniques known as pindāstha-dhyāna, padāstha-dhyāna, rūpāstha-dhyāna, rūpātita-dhyāna, savīrya-dhyāna, etc. In the case of pindāstha-dhyāna one imagines oneself sitting all alone in the middle of a vast ocean of milk on a lotus flower, meditating on the soul. See figure 6 at the beginning of this chapter. There are no living beings around whatsoever. The lotus is identical to Jambūdvīpa, with Mount Meru as its stalk. Next the meditator imagines a 16-petalled lotus at the level of his navel, and on each petal are printed the (Sanskrit) letters “arham“ and also an inverted lotus of 8 petals at the location of his heart. Suddenly the lotus on which one is seated flares up at the navel and flames gradually rise up to the inverted lotus, burning its petals with a rising golden flame which not only burns his or her body, but also the inverted lotus at the heart. The flames rise further up to the throat whirling in the shape of a swastika and then reach the head, burning it entirely, while taking the form of a three-sided pyramid of golden flames above the head, piercing the skull sharp en straight up. The whole physical body is charred, and everything turns into glowing ashes. Thus the pinda or body is burnt off and the pure soul survives. Then suddenly a strong wind blows off all the ashes; and one imagines that a heavy rain shower washes all the ashes away, and the pure soul remains seated on the lotus. That pure Soul has infinite virtues, it is Myself. Why should I get polluted at all? One tries to remain in his purest nature. This is called pindāstha dhyāna, in which one ponders the reality of feeling and experiencing.

In padāstha dhyāna one focuses on some pada, i.e. mantras, words or themes. Since the soul has been purified by the fire, it now thinks of OM and Arham only. OM signifies remembrance of the five classes of spiritual beings (the embodied and non-embodied Jinas, the ascetics, the monks and the nuns); pronouncing the word “Arham” makes one feel “I myself am the omniscient soul” and one tries to improve one’s character accordingly. One may also pronounce the holy name of an arhat and concentrate on the universal richness of the soul.

In rūpāstha dhyāna one reflects on the embodiments of arhats, the svayambhuva (the self-begotten), the omniscients and other miraculous people and their attributes, such as three umbrellas and whiskers - as seen in many icons - unconcerned about one’s own body, but almighty and benevolent to all living beings, destroyer of attachment, enmity, etc. Thus the meditator as a human being concentrates his or her attention on the virtues of the omniscients to acquire the same virtues for himself. Rūpātita dhyāna is a meditation which is focuses on bodiless objects such as the liberated souls or siddhas, which stand individually and collectively for the infinite qualities that such souls have earned. That omniscient, potent, omnipresent, liberated and untainted soul is called a nirañjāna, and this stage can be achieved by right vision, right knowledge and right conduct only. Right vision, right knowledge and right conduct begin the fourth stage of the 14-fold path (see chapter 9).

The ultimate aim of such yoga and meditation is to pave the way for the spiritual elevation and salvation of the soul. Some yogis develop their own methods for meditation. But every one of them has to learn how to silence his or her mind, body and speech.

The kayotsargi method is found to be very useful by many Jains. The meditator sits in a comfortable position (preferably in a lotus position on the ground) and breathes easily and deep, with closed eyes for five minutes. Next one imagines oneself to be dead, and that the body has lost its consistency: visualizing upward from the toes to the heels, the knees, the thighs, waist, chest, shoulders, neck, face, cheeks and eyes and then the forehead, the body is a corpse, i.e. utterly relaxed. Then one starts all over again from the toes to the forehead, and so on, repeating until one feels fully relaxed.

With every cycle one feels a deeper relaxation and the breath becomes slow and deep. Because the meditator imagines that he is dead, he listens to no one and nothing, and feels no pain. All physical senses have been extinguished. The meditator is even unable to move. Simply as an observer he knows that his body breathes and his heart beats. Then he asks himself the following question: Who am I? When I am dead, is this body “I” or something else? I was once a child. Before that I lived in my mother’s womb - what I don’t remember. This “I” is completely alone. I came alone. I live alone and will go alone. For whom and for what purpose am I here? Who really belongs to me in this world? Who can liberate me from suffering and death? Has anyone ever been liberated and become immortal? What is the purpose of life? Is it just a pastime, or is it meant to do something of value for myself and others? Have I been gentle to all people and other living beings - as I would wish them to be towards me? Who in the world owes me anything for my kind gestures? Can I share the troubles of others? How?

If I receive a satisfactory answer to these questions from within, then my yoga and meditation have been successful. That will bring a great change in one’s attitude to life.

To end the meditation one sings again the prayers for the well-being of every soul in the universe. Naturally the needs of such persons in the world gradually diminish, and simultaneously they become more and more compassionate, milder, and quieter. Their worldly problems begin to dissolve naturally. Each day they feel better, and gradually they rise higher and higher in a spiritual sense.

Persons like these jump up the fourteen stepped ladder of the spiritual path - as described in detail by the Jains (see Chapter 9) - from the first to the fourth step, though they have not taken any particular religious vow, but their vegetarian, compassionate, caring and conscious ways of living lead them to the doorway of spirituality, at the same time relieving them from the burden of an evil mind which may before have weighed on their heart like a stone.

For quite some time they then practice trigupti, which means that up to that point they were guiding their minds intentionally towards thinking about meditation. Now they satisfy their mental activity by letting it free and by quieting their speech and their body, realizing that this body is not “me.”; hence they no longer identify with their name, their body and their speech, and no longer have to make an effort to control them. One simply observes the body with its automatic in- and outbreathing, but otherwise regards it as a corpse, a mere instrument. Such persons feel: “No worldly sensations arise in my mind any more. I am the same old individual residing in it, I can see, I can hear, smell, taste, feel, and think without moving. Yes, this body is a mere tool. I should not misuse it, I should use it for the good of the spiritual Self and for the benefit of others only ….!”


Prakrit Bharti Academy
Society for Scientific & Ethical Living
13-A, Main Malviya Nagar, Jaipur-302017
Phone: 0141 -2524827, 2520230
[email protected]

First Edition, 2006
ISBN No. 81-89698-09-5

Translated and revised edition of:
" Jainisme - Een introductie"

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anger
  2. Arham
  3. Arhat
  4. Arhats
  5. Body
  6. Brain
  7. Chakras
  8. Dharma
  9. Dharma Dhyāna
  10. Dhyāna
  11. Jambūdvīpa
  12. Jīva
  13. Karma
  14. Karmas
  15. Loka
  16. Mahāvīra
  17. Meditation
  18. Meru
  19. Mount Meru
  20. Non-violence
  21. OM
  22. Omniscient
  23. Omniscients
  24. Sanskrit
  25. Soul
  26. Swastika
  27. Tattvas
  28. Trigupti
  29. Yoga
  30. siddhas
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