Note from Guest Editor – Sejal Zaveri
‘Yoga’ has many meanings in Jaina thought. In canonical literature “yoga” meant activities of mind, body and speech, activities that lead to Asrava i.e., influx of karma, which in turn is cause of cycle of birth and death. Thus, the meaning had somewhat negative connotation to it.
Yoga sutra of sage Patanjali gave Astang Yoga as path to liberation around end of millennium 1ce. Over the period of time as Yoga philosophy became popular in India, general understanding of term yoga became the path leading to liberation. Keeping this popular understanding in mind, probably Jaina Acaryas also found the need to develop and reconstruct the meaning of “yoga” without compromising the basic tenets of Jainism. While doing this, they also included their own perceptions and experiences and contributed a vast and rich literature on Yoga in Jainism. Acaryas such as Haribhadra Suri, Hemchandracharya, Acarya Shuhchandra, Upadhyaya Yashovijayji etc are known for their insightful and secular literature on Jaina Yoga.
In modern times, when ‘yoga’ has crossed the boundaries of India and is practiced all over the world, one more shift in its meaning is observed. The meaning of “yoga” shifted from spiritual to physical and psychological. Today majorly, it is practiced for physical and mental wellbeing and not really for any soteriological outcomes. In modern times, even in Jainism, Acarya Mahapragnya of Terapanth, has developed the practice of Yoga (Preksha Dhyana) whose focus is physical and mental wellbeing in relation to lay person. For ascetic the aim of practice still remains spiritual upliftment or moksh.
Dhyana(meditation) is an important aspect of Jaina Yoga. The concept of Dhyana expounded in Jaina canonical literature is unique among all Indian philosophies. Dhyana is focused engagement of mind on a certain subject which can be of auspicious (Dharma and Sukla Dhyana) or inauspicious (Artra and Raudra Dhyana) form. Inauspicious kinds lead to of bandh (bondage of karma) whereas auspicious kinds lead to Samvar (stoppage of karma) and Nirjara (shedding of karma). So, the goal for the Sadhak (spiritual practitioner) is to be mindful and engrossed in activities that lead to Dharma Dhyana (sukla Dhyana being not possible in this era as per Jaina Agams). Prescribed activities leading to Dharma Dhyana include Samayik, Kayotsarg, Swadhyaya, Vachana, Pruchana, Anupreksha, Bhavna etc.
It is important to understand the various definition and nuances of term ‘Yoga’ as well as ‘Dhyana’ and their long history in order to appreciate the beauty of Jaina Yoga and practice it in its true sense. The current issue has been designed keeping this fact in mind. Hope it enriches and enlightens readers.