A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 1

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1922 | 212,082 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

This page describes the philosophy of jaina yoga: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the twenty-first part in the series called the “the jaina philosophy”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Part 21 - Jaina Yoga

Yoga according to Jainism is the cause of mokṣa (salvation). This yoga consists of jñāna (knowledge of reality as it is), śraddhā (faith in the teachings of the Jinas), and cāritra (cessation from doing all that is evil). This cāritra consists of ahiṃsā (not taking any life even by mistake or unmindfulness), sūnrta (speaking in such a way as is true, good and pleasing), asteya (not taking anything which has not been given), bralimacaryya (abandoning lust for all kinds of objects, in mind, speech and body), and aparigraha (abandoning attachment for all things)[1]. These strict rules of conduct only apply to ascetics who are bent on attaining perfection. The standard proposed for the ordinary householders is fairly workable. Thus it is said by Hemacandra, that ordinary householders should earn money honestly, should follow the customs of good people, should marry a good girl from a good family, should follow the customs of the country and so forth. These are just what we should expect from any good and honest householder of the present day.

Great stress is laid upon the virtues of ahimsā, sūnrta, asteya and brahmacaryya, but the root of all these is ahimsā. The virtues of sūnrta, asteya and brahmacaryya are made to follow directly as secondary corrol-laries of ahimsā. Ahimsā may thus be generalized as the fundamental ethical virtue of Jainism; judgment on all actions may be passed in accordance with the standard of ahimsā ; sūnrta, asteya and brahmacaryya are regarded as virtues as their transgression leads to himsā (injury to beings).

A milder form of the practice of these virtues is expected from ordinary householders and this is called anubrata (small vows). But those who are struggling for the attainment of emancipation must practise these virtues according to the highest and strictest standard, and this is called mahābrata (great vows). Thus for example brahmacaryya for a householder according to the anubrata standard would be mere cessation from adultery, whereas according to mahābrata it would be absolute abstention from sex-thoughts, sex-words and sex-acts. Ahimsā according to a householder, according to anubrata, would require abstinence from killing any animals, but according to mahāvrata it would entail all the rigour and carefulness to prevent oneself from being the cause of any kind of injury to any living being in any way.

Many other minor duties are imposed upon householders, all of which are based upon the cardinal virtue of ahimsā. These are

  1. digvirciti (to carry out activities within a restricted area and thereby desist from injuring living beings in different places),
  2. bhogopabhogamāna (to desist from drinking liquors, taking flesh, butter, honey, figs, certain other kinds of plants, fruits, and vegetables, to observe certain other kinds of restrictions regarding time and place of taking meals),
  3. anarthadanda consisting of
      (a) apadhyāna (cessation from inflicting any bodily injuries, killing of one’s enemies, etc.),
      (b) pāpopadeśa (desisting from advising people to take to agriculture which leads to the killing of so many insects),
      (c) himsopakāridāna (desisting from giving implements of agriculture to people which will lead to the injury of insects),
      (d) pramādācaraṇa (to desist from attending musical parties, theatres, or reading sex-literature,gambling,etc.),
  4. śikṣā-padabrata consisting of
      (a) sāmayikabrata (to try to treat all beings equally),
      (b) deśāvakāśikabrata (gradually to practise the digviratibrata more and more extensively),
      (c) poṣadhabrata (certain other kinds of restriction),
      (d) atithisamvibhāgabrata (to make gifts to guests). All transgressions of these virtues, called aticāra, should be carefully avoided.

All perception, wisdom, and morals belong to the soul, and to know the soul as possessing these is the right knowledge of the soul. All sorrows proceeding out of want of self-knowledge can be removed only by true self-knowledge. The soul in itself is pure intelligence, and it becomes endowed with the body only on account of its karma. When by meditation, all the karmas are burnt (dhyānāgnidagdhakarma) the self becomes purified. The soul is itself the saṃsāra (the cycle of rebirths) when it is overpowered by the four kaṣāyas (passions) and the senses. The four kaṣāyas are krodha (anger), māiia (vanity and pride), māyā (insincerity and the tendency to dupe others), and lobha (greed). These kaṣāyas cannot be removed except by a control of the senses ; and self-control alone leads to the purity of the mind (manahśuddhi). Without the control of the mind no one can proceed in the path of yoga.

All our acts become controlled when the mind is controlled, so those who seek emancipation should make every effort to control the mind. No kind of asceticism (tapas) can be of any good until the mind is purified. All attachment and antipathy (rāgadveṣa) can be removed only by the purification of the mind. It is by attachment and antipathy that man loses his independence. It is thus necessary for the yogin (sage) that he should be free from them and become independent in the real sense of the term. When a man learns to look upon all beings with equality (samalva) he can effect such a conquest over rāga and dveṣa as one could never do even by the strictest asceticism through millions of years. In order to effect this samatva towards all, we should take to the following kinds of meditation (bhāvanā) :

We should think of the transitoriness (anityatā) of all things, that what a thing was in the morning, it is not at mid-day, what it was at mid-day it is not at night; for all things are transitory and changing. Our body, all our objects of pleasure, wealth and youth all are fleeting like dreams, or cotton particles in a whirlwind.

All, even the gods, are subject to death. All our relatives will by their works fall a prey to death. This world is thus full of misery and there is nothing which can support us in it. Thus in whatever way we look for anything, on which we can depend, we find that it fails us. This is called aśaraṇabhāvanā (the meditation of helplessness).

Some are born in this world, some suffer, some reap the fruits of the karma done in another life. We are all different from one another by our surroundings, karma, by our separate bodies and by all other gifts which each of us severally enjoy. To meditate on these aspects is called ekatvabhāvanā and anyatvabhāvanā.

To think that the body is made up of defiled things, the flesh, blood, and bones, and is therefore impure is called aśucibhāvanā (meditation of the impurity of the body).

To think that if the mind is purified by the thoughts of universal friendship and compassion and the passions are removed, then only will good (śubha) accrue to me, but if on the contrary I commit sinful deeds and transgress the virtues, then all evil will befall me, is called āsravabhāvanā (meditation of the befalling of evil). By the control of the āsrava (inrush of karma) comes the saṃvara (cessation of the influx of karma) and the destruction of the karmas already accumulated leads to nirjarā (decay and destruction of karma matter).

Again one should think that the practice of the ten dharmas (virtues) of self control (samyama), truthfulness (sūnrta), purity (śauca), chastity (brahma), absolute want of greed (akiñcanatā), asceticism (tapas), forbearance, patience (kṣānti), mildness (mārdava), sincerity (rjutā), and freedom or emancipation from all sins (mukti) can alone help us in the achievement of the highest goal. These are the only supports to which we can look. It is these which uphold the world-order. This is called dharmasvākhyātatābhāvanā.

Again one should think of the Jaina cosmology and also of the nature of the influence of karma in producing all the diverse conditions of men. These two are called lokabhāvanā and bodhibhāvanā.

When by the continual practice of the above thoughts man becomes unattached to all things and adopts equality to all beings, and becomes disinclined to all worldly enjoyments, then with a mind full of peace he gets rid of all passions, and then he should take to the performance of dhyāna or meditation by deep concentration. The samatva or perfect equality of the mind and dhyāna are interdependent, so that without dhyanā there is no samatva and without samatva there is no dhyāna. In order to make the mind steady by dhyāna one should think of maitrī (universal friendship), pramoda (the habit of emphasizing the good sides of men), karuṇā (universal compassion) and mādhyastha (indifference to the wickedness of people, i.e. the habit of not taking any note of sinners).

The Jaina dhyāna consists in concentrating the mind on the syllables of the Jaina prayer phrases. The dhyāna however as we have seen is only practised as an aid to making the mind steady and perfectly equal and undisturbed towards all things. Emancipation comes only as the result of the final extinction of the karma materials. Jaina yoga is thus a complete course of moral discipline which leads to the purification of the mind and is hence different from the traditional Hindu yoga of Patafijali or even of the Buddhists[2].

Footnotes and references:


Certain external rules of conduct are also called cāritra. These are:

  • Iryyā (to go by the path already trodden by others and illuminated by the sun’s rays, so that proper precaution may be taken while walking to prevent oneself from treading on insects, etc., which may be lying on the way),
  • bhāṣā (to speak well and pleasantly to all beings),
  • iṣaṇa (to beg alms in the proper monastic manner),
  • dānasamiti (to inspect carefully the seats avoiding all transgressions when taking or giving anything),
  • utsargasamiti (to take care that bodily refuse may not be thrown in such a way as to injure any being),
  • manogupti (to remove all false thoughts, to remain satisfied within oneself, and hold all people to be the same in mind),
  • vāggupti (absolute silence),
  • and kāyagupti (absolute steadiness and fixity of the body).

Five other kinds of cāritra are counted in Dravyasaṃgrahavṛtti 35.


Yogaśāstra , by Hemacandra, edited by Windisch, in Zeitschrift der Deutscken Morg. Gesellschaft, Leipsig, 1874, and Dravyasaṃgraha , edited by Ghoṣal, 1917.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: