The Buddhist Path to Enlightenment (study)

by Dr Kala Acharya | 2016 | 118,883 words

This page relates ‘twelve Bhavanas (reflection or thinking)’ of the study on the Buddhist path to enlightenment. The Buddha was born in the Lumbini grove near the present-day border of India and Nepal in the 6th century B.C. He had achieved enlightenment at the age of thirty–five under the ‘Bodhi-tree’ at Buddha-Gaya. This study investigates the teachings after his Enlightenment which the Buddha decided to teach ‘out of compassion for beings’.

The twelve Bhāvanās (reflection or thinking)

[Full title: Three Stages (1): Saṃvara (Self-restraint)—(D): The Twelve Bhāvanās]

Next comes the bhāvanā or reflection or thinking within one's own self as to the real nature and character origin, use and utility of something else. Constant thinking of this nature, wakes up in the mind of the thinker, a knowledge of the intrinsic value of the object thought upon and helps him to avoid such things as would stand in his way to the realization of the object or end he has in view or remove obstacles from his pathways to perfection—the be all and end all of our life and thought.

Such being the nature bhāvanā or self-reflection, the Jain sages has classified it in twelve kinds for a mumukshin soul as stepping stones to higher things and they are as in the following:

(1) Anitya bhāvanā-Anitya means non-permanent. Anitya bhāvanā—therefore means the thinking of the non-permanent character of things. Things transitory can not have any absolute value to a mumukshin soul whose permanent interest lies in the realization of the self. For all the relative conditions of existence which appear to be imperative in our empirical life and thought, are but so many fleeting clouds that come and go to dazzle or darken our vision. Beginning with such reflection on the temporary and perishable character of things, a mumukshin soul comes to feel within the inmost recesses of his heart, that the real permanent good is the freedom of the soul which must be raised from the mires of this transitory world; for health, wealth, beauty, strength and the like are but gilded shams which only hypnotize the mind and tie the soul down to saṃsāra.

(2) Aśaraṇ bhāvanā—means the reflection on the helpless condition of a jīva in this world of phenomena. Really a jīva is without any one here to push him on to mokṣa. All his friends, relations and dear ones may wish him well, may pray for a long lease of his life on earth; but no body can save him from sinking deep into the bottomless ocean of saṃsāra which he as a mumukshin desires to get rid of. In this vein a jīva must think on and on to realize within himself the absolutely helpless condition of his own in this saṃsāra and therefore must strain his own nerves and thus strive to get rid of it by his own power and resolute will.

(3) Saṃsāra bhāvanāSaṃsārā is full of sorrows and sufferings. What we ordinarily call pleasure is only pain in another form. Miseries and afflictions permeate as it were every strata of saṃsāra. In this theater of the world, we are but so many actors and actresses playing our parts only for the time being after which we shall have to bid goodbye to all we hold dear to us: so no use forming an attachment for these transitory trivial and knowing them as such one should turn his face against them and seek for the immutable state of being and bliss.

(4) Ekatva bhāvanā—Alone I came into the world and alone I will have to depart from hence. Alone do I work and alone shall I have to reap the consequences thereof. None of my dear ones will take off or unload me of my karma and set me free or give me a short relief; nor can they save me from the consequences of my own deeds. They are but adept in having their own desires accomplished through me and what a stupid am I to yield to their apparently wise persuasions. This would not do. I alone am the maker and molder of my own destiny and so I must forsake all what is not-me and thus carve out a path of my own for the fulfillment of my own Good.

(5) Anyatva bhāvanā—The Self, the ‘I’ is not this body which I hold to be nine. It is but a different and distinct entity unadulterated by anything else in reality. The ordinary mode of speech finding expression in such statements 'as I am lean', or 'my limb is broken' or 'my child is suffering' has for its basis wrong knowledge as to the real nature of our inward self which by subjection appears to be identical with out physical constitution: but the wise and the omniscient have definitely determined it to be otherwise. The Self, the ‘I’ is absolutely different from the non-self in every respect. So what care I if the body which is neither me nor nine goes away? What do I care if the child ceases to be here and now. Such reflections within one's own self along this particular vein and strain is called Anyatva bhāvanā.

(6) Asaucha bhāvanā—This mortal coil is of composite substance and is born of the admixture of various elements in and through the processes which are really repugnant to the right thinking. All sorts of dirt and filth are within this physical constitution. So why should I be encased in it like a bird in the cage, knowing to be a composite of dirt and filth, and originating, as it does, in moments of weakness and sin? This line of self-reflection is what is called asuchi bhāvanā.

(7) Āśrava bhāvanāĀśrava or influx-means, as we have seen, flowing of karma-matter into the constitution of the self through the channels and loopholes in our body, speech and mind. It is taught by the wise that looking upon the sentient being in terms of equality with ourselves; revering the really qualified; dealing politely with the rude and the rough; feeling pity for the impoverished; all these four make one acquire the forty-two kinds of Punnya, where as roudra dhyan, arta

dhyan, the five kinds of mithyatva (subjection), sixteen kashayas, five kinds of desires, all lead a jīva to acquire eighty two kinds of Papa. The wise and the aspirant to freedom must know all these and reflect on the degrading tendencies they are inherent with, to work havoc on the jīva through the influx; and so a jīva should guard himself and conduct himself accordingly.

(8) Saṃvara Bhāvanā-Saṃvara is the stopping of the influx. This saṃvara is of two kinds-relative and absolute. Relative saṃvara means the partial stoppage of the influx, while Absolute saṃvara means the complete stoppage of the influx. This latter kind of saṃvara is only possible with the ayogi kevalins. The relative saṃvara which is possible with the mumukshin on the path-ways to bliss and be attitude is again resolvable in dravya and bhava. Dravya saṃvara means the actual shutting out of the senses and other channels against the inflow of karma-matter where as Bhava saṃvara means the particular mental disposition which precedes Dravya saṃvara. Now constant thinking as to the ways and means of shutting up the various channels of asrava, destroying mithyatva, giving up of the arta and roudra dhyanas, practicing only of shukla dhyana and dharma dhyana, replacing anger by its opposite, pride by humility, hypocrisy by veracity and the like which turn our minds away from perusing after things temporary is known by the name of saṃvara bhāvanā.

(9) Nirjarā bhāvanā—Reflection on the ways and means of purging the soul of all impurities. Nirjarā or purging is of the two kinds— sakama and akama. When a jīva intentionally conducts himself in such way as would purge his soul out of all impurities, it is called sakam nirjarā, it is called sakam nirjarā; but when karma bargains are left to themselves for their own falling off from the constitution of the soul in their natural course, it is called akama nirjarā, Nirjarā bhāvanā implies, therefore, the thinking of the ways and means of voluntarily getting rid of the karma-matter infesting the soul with the express intention of attaining to beatitude.

(10) Lokaswabhava bhāvanā—means the thinking on the symbollic conception of the universe as given in the Jain scriptures. The sun, the moon, the earth, the planets and stars; the physical sky, the hell, the heaven and the like constitute one composite universe according to the Jain system of thought. Its form and configuration is just like a man standing erect with arms resting against his waist. Being composed of the six substantive categories of the Jain philosophy from time without beginning, it is the permanent theater of perpetual changes. All the jīvas and the pudgala particles which fill up all the three regions known as urdha, adha, tiryak are not outside this Person but they are all contained in it: for outside this Universe-man is the vacuous space only going by the name of alokakash or hyperphysical regions which is infinite in extensiveness. In the infernal regions (adholoka) there are seven world one upon the other wherein are imprisoned the jīvas of the hell. Somewhere there also dwells the Bhāvanāpati. In the third world from downwards dwell the human beings and other animal lower to them. In the celestial regions live the gods. Such, roughly speaking, is the figurative conception of the universe, a conception which is also traceable in the Virati Purush or the Cosmic Person of the Hindus. Now meditation on this figurative conception of the universe as given in the Jain scripture is known as Lokaswabhava bhāvanā.

(11) Bodhivīja bhāvanā—This means reflecting on the difficult path one has to travel through to attain to a state of pure intuition: for every thing in this world, can be had with comparative ease save and except the three jewels, viz. the Right-vision, the Right-knowledge and the Right-conduct constituting the alpha and omega of our being.

The Hindus also say,

"Khurasya dhara nishita duratvyo durgamamayam pantha kabayo badanti."

The way to the goal is so very difficult to travel through; it is just like the walking on the sharp edge of a razor. Therefore, now that we have got the human birth which rarely happens to a jīva, we must give up all to reach the goal, however difficult the path may the to travel through.

(12) Dharma bhāvanā—This means constantly reflecting on the essential nature of a true religion. Religion not saturated with piety, with the spirit of innocent service to humanity and other sentient (sachit) beings is but a sham. For, it is mercy that lends color to the soul of religion. Real mercy proceeds from right-vision, veracity and philanthropy. He who never tells a lie, sticks to truth even unto death, is indifferent to the worldly loss or gain, helps the needy and has an unwavering faith in the words of a jīva, the victor, is really a righteous man from the Jain point of view. These are the twelve kinds of reflections which help a jīva in his efforts towards the actualization of Saṃvara which if not cultivated with propriety and judiciousness cannot put a stop to the incessant influx of karma-matter into the constitution of the jīva.

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