Tuesday, November 26, 2013


The practice of meditation has been the core of every religious tradition. In Jainism meditation has been the central practice since a long stretch of time. Meditation or Dhyana is regarded as the supreme penance out of the 12 types of penances. It requires higher purity and detachment from the external things to reach the highest form of meditation called Shukla Dhyana or Perfect Meditation. In the end of Shukla Dhyana the practitioner attains Absolute Knowledge, Absolute Perception, and experiences Absolute Bliss. In Jainism, such state of a soul is called Kevala Gyana and Kevala Darshana. But in order to achieve this state of perfect purity the seeker has to go through the 14 Stages of Spiritual Development.  In the entire practice, the practitioner strives to be just a Knower & Seer.

Before the seeker begins his practice he should have the Right Knowledge of reality. In other words, he should be familiar and should have faith on the principles like Anekantvada, Soul and Matter, Substance and its modes. Thus the seeker realizes his goal and the way to achieve it. 

Meditation begins with Right Knowledge, the knowledge of Soul, Matter (Atoms), and other four substances like Medium of Motion, Medium of Rest, Space and Time. All the six substances should be understood with their Permanence, Emergence and Cessation attributes.  After knowing this and having faith in these core principles of Jainism the seeker realizes his/her real self and distinguishes his /her real self from the non-self substances. The truth is, one’s own soul is completely independent from all other souls as well as from other substances like Matter, Motion, Rest, Space and Time. Every soul is independent and every atom is independent. All the six substances are independent from each other. The truth is multi-dimensional. It is impossible to express the truth in one view point.  

The basic attribute of a soul is Cognitive Function. Every substance has its own attributes and they have intrinsic relation. For example, the attributes of matter are Color, Sound, Touch, Form, Taste, Smell and Material Energy. The attributes of a soul are Knowledge, Perception, Bliss and Spiritual Energy. The soul is fully conscious, formless, all knowing and all perceiving substance. There are infinite souls in the cosmos and all are independent from each other. 

Together, the knowing and perceiving capability of each soul is called Cognitive Function or Upayoga. Knowing both the Special and General attributes of a substance is called the Cognitive Function of a soul. The Cognitive Function can also be termed as attention or Psyche. It is the basic attribute of a soul and the self realization can be gained by being in tune with it. 

In Jainism, constant vigilance means meditation. The seeker or the true sage strives to keep his/her cognition (Upayoga) on the true nature of the soul. In every moment the seeker tries not to give up the contemplation of, “I am an independent soul, I was never born and am never going to cease, I am formless, eternal, possessing the qualities of Infinite Knowledge and Perception. I am free from this body; I have no smell nor color, no weight nor form.” 

There is mention of three types of regulations in Jainism. The three regulations are also known as Three Guptis. These are, Regulation of Mind, Regulation of Speech, and Regulation of Bodily activity. The practice of three regulations is the first step for the seeker. To reach the higher stages of meditation the seeker must master the three regulations. The three regulations cannot be practiced fully without taking the Five Great Vows. Thus the monk who has taken five vows becomes potentially viable for righteous meditation. The mundane being who hasn’t taken the five vows can still practice Samayika. Samayika is a term used for a short period meditation. In Samayika one stops his/her daily activities for 48 minutes, sits motionless and concentrates upon the pure nature of a soul. 

To remain vigil, it is important to reduce the bodily activities as well as the activities of mind and speech. At this point when all these three kind of activities ceases the seeker can feel the consciousness (chetana). In the higher stages of meditation such feeling and bliss can be felt even while walking, taking meal, or doing some bodily activity. It is written in the scriptures that Lord Mahavir, the 24th Jain Tirthankara was always vigil even while walking or having meal. He was ceaselessly conscious at every moment of the day and night, total vigilance in the sixth step, and Samadhi, the seventh step of the meditative path. 

Changing the lifestyle is very important in order to reach the higher stages of meditation. Taking up the five vows helps in changing lifestyle. The monk who has taken the great five vows easily gets rid of the activity of mind, speech and body, but only when if he/she has the true knowledge and faith and has only goal of attaining liberation. On the other hand the one who lives mundane life and has all sensual pleasures finds difficult to practice meditation for a longer duration because the mundane thoughts keeps coming in the mind and the concentration on the soul becomes difficult. So, changing the lifestyle, with true knowledge, under the guidance of a true spiritual guru, plays an important role in spiritual progress. Though there are 12 types of minor vows for the mundane beings. Practicing these vows the mundane soul can progress towards purity and in the end becomes able to take up five great vows.

a picture depicts a Jain Layman practicing Samayik

According to Jainism, we all are always in meditation wherever our cognition is focused, whether it is virtuous or non-virtuous. To pay attention or to focus the cognition to particular object, or thoughts is meditation. There are four types of meditation, Wrathful, Sorrowful, Righteous and Spiritual Meditation. The first two are non-virtuous meditations because they cause karma bondage; the latter two are virtuous meditations as they prevent the influx of karma particles as well as destroy all karma. 

Dharma Dhyana or Virtuous Meditation is the root of Spiritual Meditation (Shukla Dhyana) and Omniscience. In Virtuous Meditation one strives to keep his/her cognition fixed on the pure form of the soul and also tries to minimize mental choices and volitions. When choices and volitions arise then the meditation shifts to Sorrowful or Wrathful, thus binds karma. To think about mundane world, bodily pleasure or hurting someone is Sorrowful and Wrathful meditation. 

Shukla Dhyana or Spiritual Meditation is the result of Dharma Dhyana. The aspirant starts practicing Dharma Dhyana when he/she renounces the world. The aim of Dharma Dhyana is to achieve the stage of Shukla Dhyana. Shukla Dhyana occurs in the end of the 12th stage when the soul destroys the Conduct Deluding Karma (Charitra Mohaniya Karma) and gains unprecedented stability and bliss. Now this stability of spiritual meditation never ceases and takes the soul to the second stage of Shukla Dhyana and here the soul destroys the remaining three karma namely Knowledge Obscuring, Perception Obscuring and Destructing Karma and enters the state of Kevala or Omniscience. Omniscience or Kevala, in other words can be defined as constant spiritual awareness. Shukla Dhyana, after it starts helps the practitioner destroy all the four destructive karma within 48 minutes. 

In Dharma Dhyana the aspirant strived to be constant aware about his/her true self. The aspirant was constant vigil and very careful on his activities of mind, speech and body. The more vigil he remained the more purity he gained and the karma became weak. As a result permanence awareness and bliss manifested within that is called Shukla Dhyana. In Dharma Dhyana the monk feels the soul and its pure bliss in broken parts but in Shukla Dhyana, the bliss, experience becomes intact, unbroken and whole and keeps feeling the infinite bliss, infinite knowledge and infinite perception forever.  


A Jain Tirthankara in Kayotsarga posture

Kayotsarga and Dhyana (Meditation) are the most important austerities. Kayotsarga means steadiness of the mind, speech and body. Once the activities of mind, body and speech ceases the soul can be experienced. Kayotsarga is the first step of meditation. It is important to have these three types of bodily activities to be ceased before the pure consciousness can be felt. Kayotsarga is very important for the beginners. Kayotsarga is related with body while meditation is related with soul. Kayotsarga is one kind of yogic posture and can be practiced in sitting, laying or standing posture. After practicing kayotsarga and stopping all kind of physical activities, meditation becomes easy to practice and there comes moments in which the true soul and pure bliss can be felt. 

Jainism acknowledges that the soul advances to its liberated stage in various steps, called Gunasthan or “The Stages of Spiritual Development”. Through these fourteen stages of development, the soul gradually frees itself, firstly from the worst, then from the less bad and finally from all kinds of karma, and manifests the innate qualities of knowledge, belief and conduct in a more and more perfect form.  Here we will take a glance at each stage of spiritual development. Dharma Dhyana or Righteous Meditation plays an important role in climbing each stage and the external austerities like fasting, giving up tasty food etc helps in supporting meditation. The goal is to reach the highest type of meditation (Shukla Dhyana) and liberation. 

1. The stage of wrong believer: the lowest stage with ignorance, delusion, and with intense attachments and aversions. This is the normal condition of all souls involved in the mundane world and is the starting point of spiritual evolution.

2. The stage of one who has a slight taste of right belief: Indifference to reality with occasional vague memory of spiritual insight.

3. The stage of mixed belief: Fleeting moments of curiosity towards understanding reality.

4. The stage of one who has true belief but has not yet self-discipline: Awareness of reality with trust developed in the right view, combined with willingness to practice self-discipline. The soul may be able to subdue the four passions namely anger, pride, deceit and greed.

5. The stage of partial self-control: At this stage the right view and discipline starts to develop. The soul now begins to observe some of the rules of right conduct with a view to perfect itself. With the discipline of introductory or minor vows, the soul starts on the process of climbing spiritual ladder.

6. The stage of complete self-discipline, although sometimes brought into wavering through negligence: Major vows taken up with firm resolve to control passions. There may be failures due to lack of full control over passions and carelessness.

7. The stage of self-control without negligence: At this stage the self discipline and knowledge develops more. Intense practice of vows assisted in better self-control and virtually replaced carelessness with spiritual vigilance and vigor.

8. The stage of one in whom the passions are still occurring in a gross form: The stage of one in whom the passions are still occurring in a gross form. Closer to perfect self-control over actions, higher control over mind, thought and passions with the soul ready for reduction of the effects of conduct-deluding karma.

9. The stage of higher control over removal of passions and elimination of conduct-deluding karma begins.

10. The stage of one in whom the passions occur in a subtle form but complete elimination of all passions except for subtle degree of attachment.

11. The stage of one who has suppressed every passion but still does not possess omniscience. Suppressed passions and lingering conduct-deluding karma may rise to drag the soul to lower stages; fleeting experiences of equanimity.

12. The stage of who has annihilated every passion. This is the point of no return. All passions as well as conduct-deluding karma are eliminated. Permanent internal peace achieved. No new bondage from this point onwards.

13. The stage of omniscience with physical body. The all Destructive karma eliminated and Arihant stage reached. The perfected soul is still trapped in the physical body due to presence of remaining Non-Destructive Karma. The Lord Arihant now preaches others the path of liberation and helps seekers showing the path to cross the ocean of rebirths and reach the safe shore.

14. The stage of omniscience without physical body. Siddha Stage reached and the purest soul after destroying the remaining non-destructive karmas attains Nirvana and reaches the abode of the liberated soul. Now the soul is free from the cycle of births and deaths and enjoys infinite bliss. 

Meditation simply means vigilance on the true nature of the soul. In the Uttradhyayana Sutra, Lord Mahavir tells his chief disciple, Indrabhuti Gautama to be vigil in every moment on the meditative path. Lord Mahavira tells Gautama not to show laxity even for a moment. The true seeker never show laxity and always remains absorbed in his/her true nature of the soul. There are 12 types of austerities described in the Jain texts. The first 6 are external austerities and the rest 6 are internal. It is true that the external austerities are very important in stabilizing the internal austerities. Meditation has been categorized within internal austerities. The most important thing before starting meditation is Right Knowledge of the self-soul and rest of the substance of this universe. The seeker should always strive to be vigil in every step. Vigilance prevents karma influx and also destroys previously bounded karma.

-Rahul Zota
 Bhuj, India