Yoga and Meditation have been the fundamental practice of spirituality in Jainism. It has been a core spiritual practice for all Tirthankaras. All twenty-four Tirthankaras were human beings, they all practiced different physical yoga postures and deep meditation for several years to attain a state of perfect enlightenment and self-realization.
Mahavir swami, at age of 30 renounced the worldly life and spent twelve and half years in yoga and deep meditation. During this period, he progressed spiritually and conquered desires, feelings, attachments and destroyed four Ghati (deluding) karma and attained enlightenment or Keval-Jnan, while in Goduhikasana (milking posture).
Yoga and Meditation helps us realize the true nature of our soul. Jain religion is based Bhava (internal reflection) and our spiritual progress is towards reducing of our vices or Kashaya. Meditation can help us grow spiritually while finding inner peace, inner calmness, purpose of life and equanimity.
Archaeological evidence and the study of ancient scripture suggest that Yoga and Meditation were practiced in ancient India as early as 3000 BC. There are several Aacharyas who have contributed towards development of Yoga and Meditation in Jainism.
Approximately 2600 hundred years ago, a sage Patanjali also known as, “The Father of Yoga” had written a book called “Yoga Sutra”. In his book, he described a method of Yoga in eight progressive or systematic steps, popularly known as Ashtänga Yoga. Even though sage Patanjali may not belong to Jain tradition, Jain Ächärya Shri Haribhadrasuri (8th century) respectfully acknowledged his Ashtänga Yoga as a spiritual path to attain liberation, wrote four books on Yoga and contributed to the development of Jain yoga through his books.
What is Yoga and Meditation:
Yoga/Meditation is defined as a systematic effort to balance and direct various levels of one’s own energy for self-perfection.
The word, yoga, is defined in several different ways:
- Any activity which purifies the mind by freeing it from attachment and aversion is called yoga. Purification of the mind creates an awareness of the qualities of the soul and assists it in the destruction of karmas. It consists of practicing the three jewels of Right Perception, Right Knowledge, and Right Conduct.
- Yoga does not refer only to the physical body, but the entire being, including intellectual and emotional beings.
- Sage Patanjali has said योगःचित्तवृत्तिनिरोधः Yoga Chittavruttinirodh: Quieting of Chitta Vritti or thought process to attain the highest union.
- Ächärya Haribhadra said मोक्षेणयोजनात् योगः What connects the soul to liberation is yoga.
- Ächärya Umaswati in Tatvartha Sutra mentions ‘Ichha Nirodh iti Tapa’. And Tapasa Nirjarasch. And if there are no desires no new Karma will be attached there. Which is the definition of Liberation or Moksha. Hence Sage Patanjali’s definition of yoga and Jainism’s definition Tapa is same.
- In Bhagavad Geeta, Bhagwan Shri Krishna said – ‘Samatvam yoga uchyate’ – “Equanimity is yoga.”
- yoga-sthaḥ kuru karmani sangam tyaktva dhananjaya siddhy-asiddhyoḥ samo bhutva samatvam yoga uchyate
“Be steadfast in the performance of your duty, O Arjun, abandoning attachment to success and failure. Such equanimity is called Yoga.”
The word Yoga is also used in different sense by Ächärya Umäsvämi
- Ächärya Umäsvämi has said that the activity of the body, speech, and mind, which creates vibration in the soul, is called yoga. This article is not discussing the activity meaning of yoga.
Meditation or Dhyana:
- Meditation is journey or technique which takes us to meditative state of mind or equanimity state of mind. It is the process of concentration of the mind on a single topic, preventing it from wandering.
- Meditation is not a religion, but it is at the heart of all religion: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Judaism, Christianity, Taoism, all philosophies, and faith.
- Yoga and Meditation, both leads to purification of the mind that creates an awareness of the qualities of the soul and assists it in the destruction of karmas.
Essentially, Yoga in Jain philosophy is looked at from a holistic perspective and meditation is a facet of yoga which mostly relates to mental and emotional aspects.
Benefits of Yoga and Meditation:
In today’s complex and stressful world, many of us long for deeper meaning, purpose, peace of mind and success in all levels of our lives. Studies and experiences have also shown that practicing yoga and meditation have numerous benefits as outlined below in all aspects of our life: spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical.
Additionally, studies have also shown that yoga results in increased brain activity, which is associated with better cognitive performance and reduced stress by affecting our nervous system. Yoga therapy is also successful because of the balance created in the nervous and endocrine systems, which directly influence all the other systems and organs of the body. Meditation reduces the production of stress related hormones like cortisol and increases the production of good chemicals like serotonin.
Meditation means the process of concentration of the mind on a single topic. Meditation purifies the body, speech, and mind and most importantly the soul. It is of no benefit to inflict pain on the body without purifying thoughts. One who stabilizes the mind and concentrates on the self-achieves salvation.
Yoga is a science that helps one communicate with his/her own body, mind, and soul. Yoga is based on physical, mental, intellectual, moral, and spiritual disciplines. When one has complete control over his physical, mental, and intellectual energies, he/she can lead a positive life. Yoga lays the foundation for purity in actions, emotions, and intellect. By practicing yoga and meditation regularly, one can attains mastery over mind.
Some think yoga means sitting in exasperating postures for hours at a time and Meditation does not mean you go away and hide or withdraw from life to be a hermit and avoid responsibility. Yoga and Meditation is unity and harmony, is to be with life.
It is never too late to start Yoga and Meditation. Meditation has power to start new life from any moment.
Meditation is a means to experience the music of trinity of head, heart and hand. If these three are in unity, life becomes a symphony played by an orchestra and we enjoy living.