Jain meditation

Jain meditation

Jain meditation has been the central practice of spirituality in Jainism along with the Three Jewels.[1] Meditation in Jainism aims at realizing the self, attain salvation, take the soul to complete freedom.[2] It aims to reach and to remain in the pure state of soul which is believed to be pure conscious, beyond any attachment or aversion. The practitioner strives to be just a knower-seer (Gyata-Drashta). Jain meditation can be broadly categorized to the auspicious Dharmya Dhyana and Shukla Dhyana and inauspicious Artta and Raudra Dhyana.

Jain meditation is also referred as Samayika. The word Samayika means being in the moment of continuous real-time. This act of being conscious of the continual renewal of the universe in general and one's own renewal of the individual living being (Jiva) in particular is the critical first step in the journey towards identification with one's true nature, called the Atman. It is also a method by which one can develop an attitude of harmony and respect towards other humans and Nature. By being fully aware, alert and conscious of the constantly moving present, one will experience their true nature, Atman.

The 24 Jain Tirthankaras are always seen in meditative posture and have practiced it deeply and attained enlightenment.


  • History 1
  • Samayika 2
  • Preksha meditation 3
  • Existing and Historical meditation techniques in Jainism 4
  • Lord Mahavira and meditation 5
  • Postures 6
  • Yoga 7
  • See also 8
  • Notes 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


Rishabha, the first Tirthankara in Jainism, dating back to the prehistoric era of end of the stone age and starting of the agriculture age practiced meditation and attained enlightenment at Mount Kailash.[3] Bahubali, son of Rishabha, practiced meditation for twelve months maintaining same standing posture.[4] King Bharata, elder son of Rishabha, entered a trance state by fixing his gaze on his image in the mirror and got deep into meditation and finally attained enlightenment.[5] Fixing the gaze on an object for meditation has been an important technique of Jainism.

Bahubali practicing meditation in standing Kayotsarga posture. Statue is carved from a single stone fifty-seven feet high in 981 A.D., is located in Karnataka, India

Jains believe all twenty-four Tirthankaras practiced deep meditation, some for years, some for months and attained enlightenment. All the statues and pictures of Tirthankaras primarily show them in meditative postures. Acharya Mahapragya's conclusion of Acharya Kundakunda's understanding on Mahavira's practices is that all other his penances, like fasting, were done to support meditation.[6]


  • Preksha meditation

External links

  1. ^ a b Acharya Mahapragya (2004). "Foreword". Jain Yog. Aadarsh Saahitya Sangh. 
  2. ^ Acharya Tulsi (2004). "blessings". Sambodhi. Aadarsh Saahitya Sangh. 
  3. ^ Roy Choudhury, Pranab Chandra (1956). Jainism in Bihar. Patna: I.R. Choudhury. p. 7. 
  4. ^ "The Story Of Gommateshwar Bahubali". Retrieved 2010-07-21. 
  5. ^ "Who were the Bharatas of Bharatavarsha?". Retrieved 2010-07-21. 
  6. ^ Shraman Mahaveer by Acharya Mahapragya 1974 ISBN 81-7195-009-4
  7. ^ Sadhvi Sanghmitra. "Acharya Bhadrabahu". Jain dharam ke prabhavak acharya. Aadarsh Saahitya Sangh. 
  8. ^ "Acharya Bhadrabahu-1". Digambaronline. Retrieved 2010-07-24. 
  9. ^ a b Acharya Mahapragya (2004). "Foreword". Jain Yog. Aadarsh Saahitya Sangh. 
  10. ^ "Preksha Meditation". Preksha International. Retrieved 2010-07-26. 
  11. ^ Mahapragya, Acharya Key (1994). "00.01 Introductione". Preksa Dhyana - Theory And Practice. Jain Vishva Bharati. 
  12. ^ Acharya MahapragyaAcharya Mahapragya Key (1995). "01.01 what is preksha". The Mirror Of The Self. JVB, Ladnun, India. 
  13. ^ Acharya MahapragyaAcharya Mahapragya Key (1995). "2 path and goal". The Mirror Of The Self. JVB, Ladnun, India. 
  14. ^ Acharya MahapragyaAcharya Mahapragya Key (1995). "10 Self-Perception". The Mirror Of The Self. JVB, Ladnun, India. 
  15. ^ name="HN4U"Dr. Rudi Jansma, Dr. Sneh Rani Jain Key (2006). "07 Yoga and Meditation (2)". Introduction To Jainism. Prakrit Bharti Academy, jaipur, India. 
  16. ^ a b c d e f name="HN4U"Dr. Rudi Jansma, Dr. Sneh Rani Jain Key (2006). "07 Yoga and Meditation (1)". Introduction To Jainism. Prakrit Bharti Academy, jaipur, India. 
  17. ^ * 
  18. ^ *  verse 986
  19. ^ * 
  20. ^ Preksha Meditation preksha.com. Retrieved on: August 25, 2007
  21. ^ J. Zaveri What is Preksha?. .jzaveri.com. Retrieved on: August 25, 2007.
  22. ^ Swami Dharmananda, http://www.experiencefestival.com/a/Lord_Mahavira_and_Meditation/id/9329
  23. ^ "South Asian and Himalayan Art | Jain shrine of Parshvanatha | F1993.11". Asia.si.edu. Retrieved 2012-02-25. 
  24. ^ a b Tattvarthasutra [6.2]
  25. ^ Niyamasara [134-40]
  26. ^ Zydenbos, Robert. "Jainism Today and Its Future." München: Manya Verlag, 2006. p.66
  27. ^ Zydenbos (2006) p.66
  28. ^ Worthington, p. 35.


  1. ^ Worthington writes, "Yoga fully acknowledges its debt to Jainism, and Jainism reciprocates by making the practice of yoga part and parcel of life."[28]


See also

According to Tattvarthasutra, 2nd century CE Jain text, yoga is the sum of all the activities of mind, speech and body. Umasvati calls yoga the cause of "asrava" or karmic influx[24] as well as one of the essentials—samyak caritra—in the path to liberation.[24] In his Niyamasara, Acarya Kundakunda, describes yoga bhakti—devotion to the path to liberation—as the highest form of devotion.[25] Acarya Haribhadra and Acarya Hemacandra mention the five major vows of ascetics and 12 minor vows of laity under yoga. This has led certain Indologists like Prof. Robert J. Zydenbos to call Jainism, essentially, a system of yogic thinking that grew into a full-fledged religion.[26] The five yamas or the constraints of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali bear a resemblance to the five major vows of Jainism, indicating a history of strong cross-fertilization between these traditions.[27][1]

Tirthankara Parsva in Yogic meditation in the Kayotsarga posture.


There are various common postures for meditation like Padmasana, Ardh-Padmasana, Vajrasana, Sukhasana, standing, lying down that can be adopted. The 24 Tirthankaras are always seen in one of these two postures in the Kayotsarga standing or Padmasana/Paryankasana.[23]


  • The Karmas moving upward, downward and in a transverse direction.
  • Bondage, the cause of bondage and its consequences.
  • Salvation, its cause and its bliss.
  • The head, the navel and the big toe.
  • Matter, its characteristic and modes (its changing conditions).
  • The origin, permanence and transitory nature of Matter.
  • The gross world and the cosmos.
  • Subtle objects like the molecular structure.
  • The soul, by intuition.
  • Practice of contemplations (Bhawanas) during practice of meditation. The main subjects were: Loneliness, transitoriness and absence of protection, etc.
  • Concentration on the body for a long stretch of time; he could change it on the mental and vocal level. He could change his meditations from matter to mode and from word to silence.

Objects on which he had meditated:

  • Meditation by fixing the gaze for hours on an oblique wall and also for acquiring high levels of magnetism in the eyes.
  • Adoption of various steady postures in meditation. He meditated on various spaces in the universe, the higher loka - upper, in the downward direction - lower loka and in the transverse direction - the transverse loka, making them objects for meditation.
  • Meditating mostly in standing posture.
  • Practiced Kayotsarga for full awareness and deep relaxation.
  • Meditating in the open without clothes and shelter.
  • Being 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.
  • Practicing meditation, both with the support of an object and without any support of any object.
  • Usage of different objects for his meditation sessions. He would change the targets of his attention.

Meditation was an integral part of Lord Mahavira's life. Lord Mahavira had meditated in different ways:[22]

Lord Mahavira's attainment of omniscience, Kewal Gyan

Lord Mahavira and meditation

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.

Rūpātita dhyāna is a meditation in which one 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.[16]

In rūpāstha dhyāna one reflects on the embodiments of arihants, the svayambhuva (the self-realized), the omniscients and other enlightened 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.[16]

In padāstha dhyāna one focuses on some mantras, words or themes. Couple of important mantra examples are, OM - it 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.[16]

In 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. 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 end 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.[16]

Picture depicting Pindastha Dhyana

Practitioner can apply a number of meditation techniques known as pindāstha-dhyāna, padāstha-dhyāna, rūpāstha-dhyāna, rūpātita-dhyāna, savīrya-dhyāna, etc.

Contemplation is an important wing in Jain meditation. The practitioner meditates or reflects deeply on subtle facts or philosophical aspects. The first type is Agnya vichāya, in which one meditates deeply on the seven 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. 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.[16] A few important contemplation themes in Preksha meditation are - Impermanence, Solitariness, Vulnerability.

The kayotsarg method is found to be very useful by many Jains. It means self-awareness by complete relaxation. The practitioner takes a comfortable posture either lying down or sitting or standing and breathes calmly. Then auto suggests each and every part and entity of the body to be relaxed and feel the same. Once the body is completely relaxed, the practitioner practices to realize separate existence of soul from body and then forgets about the body and practices to identify the Self. Then one practices of complete awareness of the self without any hindrance.

preksha meditation in the 1970s. With this, he rediscovered the Jain Meditation techniques available in ancient Jain scriptures.[20] The system consists of the perception of the breath, body, the psychic centres, psychic colors, thought and of contemplation processes which can initiate the process of personal transformation. A few important contemplation themes are - Impermanence, Solitariness, Vulnerability. It aims at reaching and purifying the deeper levels of existence. Regular practice is believed to strengthen the immune system and build up stamina to resist against aging, pollution, viruses, diseases. Meditation practice is an important part of the daily lives of the religion's monks.[21]

Disciple: Sir, what does the soul obtain by ekagramanahsannivesana (concentration of thoughts). Mahavira: By ekagramanahsannivesana or concentration of his thoughts he obtains stability of the mind.
— Uttarādhyayana Sūtra 29.25
Disciple: Sir, what does the soul obtain by anupreksha (contemplation on truths of universe). Mahavira: By anupreksha or pondering (on what he has learned) he loosens the firm hold which the seven kinds of Karman, except the ayushka (have upon the soul); he shortens their duration when it was to be a long one; he mitigates their power when it was intense; (he reduces their sphere of action when it was a wide one); he may either acquire ayushka-karman or not, but he no more accumulates Karman which produces unpleasant feelings, and he quickly crosses the very large forest of the fourfold Samsara, which is without beginning and end.
— Uttarādhyayana Sūtra 29.22
Disciple: Sir, what does the soul obtain by Kayotsarga (complete steadiness of mind and body). Mahavira: By Kayotsarga he gets rid of past and present transgressions; thereby his mind is set at ease like a porter who is eased of his burden; and engaging in praiseworthy contemplation he enjoys happiness.
— Uttarādhyayana Sūtra 29.12
Disciple: Sir, what does the soul obtain by Samayika. Mahavira: By Samayika or moral and intellectual purity (literally, equilibrium) the soul ceases from sinful occupations
— Uttarādhyayana Sūtra 29.8

In Uttarādhyayana Sūtra, Mahavira explains the various benefits of meditation:[19]

The Venerable Ascetic Mahavira passed twelve years in this way of life; during the thirteenth year in the second month of summer, in the fourth fortnight, the light (fortnight) of Vaisakha, on its tenth day called Suvrata, in the Muhurta called Vigaya, while the moon was in conjunction with the asterism Uttaraphalguni, when the shadow had turned towards the east, and the first wake was over, outside of the town Grimbhikagrama, on the northern bank of the river Rigupalika, in the field of the householder Samaga, in a north-eastern direction from an old temple, not far from a Sal tree, in a squatting position with joined heels exposing himself to the heat of the sun, with the knees high and the head low, in deep meditation, in the midst of abstract meditation, he reached Nirvana, the complete and full, the unobstructed, unimpeded, infinite and supreme best knowledge and intuition, called Kevala.

After more than twelve years of austerities and meditation, Mahavira entered the state of Kevala Jnana while doing shukla dhayana, the highest form of meditation:[18]

Giving up the company of all householders whomsoever, he meditated. Asked, he gave no answer; he went, and did not transgress the right path. (AS 312) In these places was the wise Sramana for thirteen long years; he meditated day and night, exerting himself, undisturbed, strenuously. (AS 333) And Mahavira meditated (persevering) in some posture, without the smallest motion; he meditated in mental concentration on (the things) above, below, beside, free from desires. He meditated free from sin and desire, not attached to sounds or colours; though still an erring mortal (khadmastha), he wandered about, and never acted carelessly.(AS 374-375)

The Oldest Jain Canon (4th century BCE) describes meditation of Mahavira before attaining Kevala Jnana:[17]

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. 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.[16]

Prānayāma – breathing exercises – are performed to strengthen the 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.[15]

According to the some commonly practiced yoga systems, high concentration is reached by meditating in an easy (preferably lotus) posture in seclusion and staring without blinking at the rising sun, a point on the wall, or the tip of the nose, and as long as one can keep the mind away from the outer world, this strengthens concentration. Garuda is the name Jainism gives to the yoga of self-discipline and discipline of mind, body and speech, so that even earth, water, fire and air can come under one’s control. Śiva is in Jainism control over the passions and the acquisition of such self-discipline that under all circumstances equanimity is maintained.

Existing and Historical meditation techniques in Jainism

The meditation training camps are organized on a regular basis. Major training centers in India are in Ladnun, Rajasthan, Delhi, Ahemedabad. Centers are also present in many countries like the US, UK, Russia, Germany, Ukraine, Australia, Singapore, Netherland, etc.

One commences the practice of this technique with the perception of the body. Body contains the soul. Therefore, one must pierce the wall of the container to reach the content (the soul). Again, breathing is a part of the body and essence of life. To breathe is to live; and so breath is naturally qualified to be the first object of perception, while the body itself would become the next one. The vibrations, sensations and other physiological events are worthy of attention. Conscious mind becomes sharpened to perceive these internal realities in due course, and then it will be able to focus itself on the minutest and the most subtle occurrences within the body. The direct perception of emotions, urges and other psychological events will then be possible. And ultimately the envelope of karmic matter, contaminating the consciousness could be clearly recognized.[14]

Important disciplines in the system are - Synchrony of mental and physical actions or simply present mindedness or complete awareness of one's actions, disciplining the reacting attitude, friendliness, diet, silence, spiritual vigilance.[13]

Important elements in the system are Kayotsarg - Full awareness with complete relaxation, Perception of the breath, body, the psychic centres, psychic colors (lesya meditation), present moment, thought, Animesha preksha (fixing gaze at an object ), contemplation processes, Yoga and Pranayaam, Mantra, Therapy.

It aims at reaching and purify the deeper levels of existence. Regular practice strengthens the immune system, builds up stamina to resist against aging, pollution, chemical toxins, viruses, diseases.

The word "preksha" means "to perceive carefully and profoundly". In preksha, perception always means experience bereft of the duality of like and dislike, pleasure and pain. Impartiality and equanimity are synonymous with preksha. Preksha is impartial perception, where there is neither the emotion of attachment nor aversion, neither pleasure or displeasure. Both these states of emotion are closely and carefully perceived but not experienced. And because both are perceived from close quarters, it is not difficult to reject both of them and assume a neutral position.[12] Thus equanimity is essentially associated with preksha.

Preksha meditation is the practice of purifying the emotions and conscious (chitta) and realizing the own self. It helps in leading a peaceful life and is a system of mediation for attitudinal change, behavioral modification and integrated development of personality.[11]

Agam - Jain holy scriptures, ancient scriptures, medical science, Yoga science, Naturopathy, Ayurveda and modern physics to develop this meditation system.

Acharya Mahapragya, formulator of Preksha meditation

Preksha meditation

The name Samayika, the term for Jain meditation, is derived from the term samaya "time" in Prakrit. Jains also use samayika to denote the practice of meditation. The aim of Samayika is to transcend our daily experiences as the "constantly changing" human beings, called Jiva, and allow identification with the "changeless" reality in practitioner, called the atman. One of the main goals of Samayika is to inculcate equanimity, to see all the events equanimously. It encourages to be consistently spiritually vigilant. Samayaika is practiced in all the Jain sects and communities. Samayika is an important practice during Paryushana, a special eight- or ten-day period.


Numerous Preksha meditation centers came into existence around the world and numerous meditations camps are being organised to impart training in it. [10]

Acharya Bhadrabahu II, Jinbhadra, and Pujyapada Devanandi were great spiritual experts during the period of the 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries CE. They made remarkable contributions through their literature. Haribhadra in the 8th century and Acharya Hemachandra in the 12th century, presented meditation through different approaches and viewpoints. During the 18th century, Acharya Vinay Vijay wrote Shantsudharasa on contemplation practices. Upadhyaaya Yashovijay in the same century wrote extensively on meditation.[9]

Acharya Bhadrabahu of 400 BCE, practiced Mahaprana meditation for twelve years.[7] Description of practice of samadhi meditation by many other acharya is also found. Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of Maurya Empire, was Acharya Bhadrabahu's disciple and became a monk. He later migrated to South India and it helped Jainism to spread there. Bhadrabahu also took Chandragupta Maurya to South India along with him.[8] Acharya Kundakunda of 1st century BCE Tamil Nadu, opened new dimensions of meditation through books like Samayasāra and Pravachansara. A holistic approach to the path of salvation was written and compiled in a single book, the Tattvartha Sutra by Acharya Umaswati.[9]