Yoga In Jainism and Patanjali System

March, 2023 by Kamal Jain
The word ‘yoga’ has a long history of usage within all religions of India. It comes from Sanskrit root ‘yuj’ which means to unite, attach, or connect. Patanjali yoga delineates the “path of liberation” step-by-step in an organised and scientific way. It bears similarities to some aspects of Jainism also.

The actual usage of the term ‘yoga’ in the ancient Jain text, Umaswami’s ‘Tattvartha Sutra’, carries a different sense than that indicated in Patanjali’ s definition of yoga as chitta vritti nirodha, a state of mental control. Umaswami refers yoga to the process, whereby karmas, by way of thought, speech, and action, become attached to the soul, bringing about results in the soul. It is known as aasrava and bandh — the influx of karmas and union with soul in Jainism. Good or bad karmas influx to soul by way of thought, word or action produce corresponding reactions in our soul.

Yama, vows; niyama, observances; asana, postures; pranayama, control of respiration; pratyahara, control of sense organs; dharana, fixation of mind at one specific point; dhyana, concentration of mind and samadhi, cessation of mind are eight limbs of Patanjali’s yoga. We find these limbs in Jain texts also, though in different terminology and context.

What Patanjali calls five yamas, are known as five mahavratas in Jainism. These are ahimsa, non-violence; satya, truth; asteya, non-stealing; brahmacharya, celibacy and aparigraha, non accumulation. Tattvartha Sutra (chapter 7) calls these as mahavratas. The five niyamas are sauch, self-purification; santosh, contentment; tapas, penance; swadhyaya, study of scriptures and ishvara pranidhana, surrender to and meditation on the Divine.

Jain scriptures mention six observances which Mahavira followed during his lifetime, and these are — tapas, niyama, samyama, swadhyaya, dhyana, and avasyaka (to observe essential duties with self-awareness). In Jainism too, sauch is one of ten aspects of dharma and not only about bodily purity but includes purification of mind and soul. Santosh in yoga sutra may be understood as samyama in Jainism. Jain concept of dhyana encompasses all connotations of Ishvar pranidhana of yoga sutra.

Jainism, like other religions of Indian origin, attaches great importance to yoga and dhyana as a means to both spiritual advancement and liberation. As per Jainism, penance, tapa, has two wings – shukla dhyana, a state of pure Self-awareness and kayotsarga in different postures, which is nonattachment to one’s own body as well as worldly belongings. Dhyana is the seventh limb in Patanjali yoga system.

Asana, body posture, as third limb is part of kayotsarga. Description of fourth limb pranayama (control of respiration) of Patanjali system is not found much in Jain scriptures.  Pratyahara, control over one’s sensory organs as fifth limb of Patanjali system, can be considered as Indriya Samyama which is among six external tapas in Jainism. There are two kinds of tapas in Jain system- internal and external- each having six types of tapa.

The Jain concept of dharana – retention of experience, is different than that of Patanjali which means fixation of mind on an object. Samadhi as per Patanjali is the motionless state of mind, body, and speech – a state of trance in which connection of the Self is established with Supreme leading to kevaljnana state which we find in Jainism also with the same connotation as it is the state of being knower and seer only, though in Jainism it is Self-realisation, not union with Supreme.


Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments