Post canonical Works in Jaina Yoga

June, 2022 by Prof. Sagarmal Jain
Medieval Times (13th Century – 19th century)

Medieval period is very important for the development of Jaina Yoga for two reasons: 1) in this period many Yoga works were written in the Jaina tradition, 2) this is the period in which the impact of other Yoga systems on Jaina Yoga can be clearly seen. Despite scattered references, Jaina canonical works cannot solely be considered as works of Jaina Yoga literature. The first work on the Jaina system of meditation is Jinabhadragaṇi’s Dhyānaśataka (6th century A.D.). This work is fully devoted to the Jaina way of meditation and totally based on Jaina canonical works such as Sthānāṅga and some others. The Sthānāṅga deals with four kinds of dhyānas and their sub-classes along with (i) their objects (ii) their signs (lakṣaṇa), (iii) their conditions (ālambana), and (iv) their reflexions (bhāvana). But this description of dhyānas is fully at par with canonical works, except some details such as the sub-kinds of meditation, time of meditation, examples of meditation, qualities of a meditator, results of the meditation etc. In this work Jinabhadra deals with first two inauspicious dhyānas in short, and the last two auspicious ones in detail, because according to him the first two dhyānas are the causes of bondage, while the last two are the means of emancipation so that only they can be accepted as a limbs of Yoga Sādhanā.

After Jinabhadragaṇi, Haribhadra was the first Jaina ācārya who made a very valuable contribution for the reconstruction of Jaina Yoga system and the comparative study of Jaina Yoga system with that of other Yoga systems. He has composed four important works on the subject: Yogaviṃśikā, Yogaśataka, Yogabindu and Yogadṛṣṭisamuccaya. It is Haribhadrasūri who has for the first time changed the definition of the word Yoga in Jaina traditions: in the canonical period the word Yoga is considered as a cause of bondage. But Haribhadra changed this definition and said that that which joins to the emancipation is Yoga. According to him all spiritual and religious activities that lead to final emancipation are Yoga. Haribhadra in all his Yoga works commonly opines that all religious and spiritual activities that lead to emancipation are to be considered as Yoga. It is to be noted that in his Yoga works he explained the Yoga in different ways.

In Yogaviṃśikā, he explained the five kinds of Yoga: (i) practice of proper posture (sthāna-yoga), (ii) correct utterance of sound (ūrṇa-yoga), (iii) proper understanding of the meaning of canonical works (artha), (iv) concentration of mind on a particular object such as Jina image etc. (ālambana) and (v) concentration of thoughts on abstract qualities of Jina or Self (anālambana). This fifth stage may also be considered as the thoughtless state of the self (nirvikalpa-daśā). Among these five kinds of Yoga, the first two constitute the external aspect of Yoga Sādhanā and the last three constitute the internal aspect of Yoga Sādhanā. In other words, the first two are Karma-Yoga and the last three are Jñāna-Yoga.

In Yogabindu, Haribhadra describes another five kinds of Yoga: (i) spiritual-vision (adhyātma-yoga); (ii) contemplation (bhāvanā-yoga); (iii) meditation (dhyāna-yoga); (iv) mental equanimity (samatā-yoga) and (v) cessation of all activities of mind, speech and body (vṛtti-saṃkṣaya).

In Yogadṛṣṭisamuccaya, Haribhadra explains only three types of Yoga: (i) willingness for the self-realization or yogic Sādhanā (icchā-yoga), (ii) the follow up of scriptural orders (śāstra-yoga) and (iii) development of one’s spiritual powers and annihilation of spiritual inertia (sāmarthya-yoga). These three facets of Yoga propounded in the Yogadṛṣṭisamuccaya may be compared with the three jewels of Jainism, i.e., right vision, right knowledge and right conduct, because these three jewels are considered in Jainism as a mokṣamārga, “path of emancipation” and so they are Yoga. Here one thing is to be noted: though Haribhadra differs regarding the various kinds or stages of Yoga in his different works, he unanimously accepts that Yoga is that which unites to emancipation.

After Haribhadra there are two other Jaina ācāryas, namely Śubhacandra (11th century Digambara ācāryas who wrote the Jñānārṇava) and Hemacandra (12th century Śvetāmbara who wrote the Yogaśāstra) whose contribution in the field of Jaina Yoga is remarkable. For yogic Sādhanā, Śubhacandra prescribes the fourfold virtues of maitrī (friendship with all beings), pramoda (appreciation of the merits of others), karuṇā (sympathy towards the needy persons) and madhyastha (equanimity or indifference towards unruly), as the prerequisite of the auspicious meditation. Here, it is to be noted that these four reflexions are also accepted in Buddhism and in Patañjali’s Yogasūtra. Secondly while discussing dharmadhyāna he mentions four types of it: piṇḍastha, padastha, rūpastha, rūpātīta, along with five types of dhāraṇās i.e., pārthivī, āgneyī, vāyavī (śvasanā), vāruṇī and tattvarūpavatī.  Here it to be noted these four types of dhyānas and five types of dhāraṇās are only available in Buddhist and Hindu tantric literature and not in early Jaina literature.

Though Hemacandra in his Yogaśāstra generally deals with three jewels of Jainism i.e., right knowledge, right vision and right conduct, he has given more stress on right conduct. While dealing with meditational methods he also elaborately discusses the piṇḍastha, padastha, rūpastha, rūpātīta-dhyāna along with above mentioned dharmas. But in this regards scholar are of the opinion that he borrowed these ideas from Śubhacandra’s work which is earlier than the Yogaśāstra.

Age of Rituals and Tantra Impact (13th Century – 19th century)

The four centuries after Hemacandra and before Yaśovijaya, i.e., from 13th to 16th century, can be considered as a dark age of Jaina Yoga. In this period Jaina Yoga, which was originally spiritual in nature, was completely shoved into the background and Tantra along with its rituals became prime. The ultimate goal of yogic realization became the worldly achievements instead of being emancipation. Thus, the spiritual goal was completely forgotten and material welfare took its place. Though in these centuries some commentaries of Jaina canonical and other works have been written, the dominating feature of this age was the works on Tantra, mantra and rituals which were written in large numbers by the Jaina ācāryas.

The spiritual nature of Jaina Yoga was revived by Yaśovijaya (17th century). He wrote commentaries on the Yoga works of Haribhadra along with some original Yoga works such as Adhyātmasāra, Jñānasāra, Adhyātmopaniṣad, and also a commentary on Patañjali’s Yogasūtra. Another spiritual Jaina thinker of this age was Anandaghana, who also revived the Jaina spirituality and Yoga Sādhanā through his Padas and songs written in praise of the 24 Tīrthaṃkaras. The works of Yaśovijaya and Anandaghana are fully influenced by Haribhadra.

Modern age (20th century)

So far as modern age is concerned, we have tremendous changes and developments in the practice of Jaina Yoga. In this age the attraction of common men towards Yoga and meditation is much developed as a way for tension-relaxation. It was a chance that Shri S.N. Goyanka returned to India from Burma and revived the old Vipassana meditation of Buddhism in India, which was in early times also practiced in Jainism. Ācārya Mahāprajña for the first time learned it from Goyankaji and on the basis of his own knowledge of Jaina scriptures and Patañjali’s Yogasūtra rearranged this method of meditation in the name of Preksha-dhyana. Preksha meditation is the dominating feature of Jaina Yoga of our age. Though some other ācāryas of different Jaina sects tried to evolve their own method of meditation and Yoga, in them nothing is new, except a blend of Preksha and Vipassana. Here it is to be noted that Preksha meditation of our age is also a blend of Vipassana of Buddhism and Patañjali’s Aṣṭāṅga Yoga and HaṭhaYoga with some modern psychological concepts.

[The below excerpts are taken from the paper “The Historical Development of Jaina Yoga System and Impacts of Other Yoga-Systems on it -A Comparative and Critical Study” by Dr, Sagarmal Jaina.]

To read original article please visit following link.


About Author

Prof. Sagarmal Jain

Prof. Sagarmal Jain is M.A., Ph.D. in philosophy, and was secretary of Parshwanath Vidyapeeth, Varanasi, India. In 2020 he departed the material body under the observance of the vow of Santhara. He has held several academic positions; and over 25 Ph.D. degrees have been awarded under his supervision. He has authored more than 25 books and 150 research articles; edited 160 books. He is the General Editor of the Encyclopaedia of Jaina Studies.

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