Meditation (Dhyāna)

Posted: 14.12.2008
Updated on: 03.01.2011

As a means of self-realization, meditation holds the supreme position. In fact, all ethical discipline aims at perfect state of meditation. The conception of state of meditation differs from one system to another, but they all agree regarding the importance of meditation. Dhyāna is one of the forms of internal penance is defined in the Tattvārtha sutra as the ‘concentration of thought on a single object for up to one muhurata (48 minutes)’. It may be of four types, the first and the second being inauspicious and the third and fourth being auspicious.

Types of Dhyāna:

Tattvārtha sutra has classified Dhyāna into four categories:

    1. Ārta
    2. Raudra
    3. Dharma
    4. Śūkla

The first two are inauspicious and the last two are auspicious. The last two types of Dhyāna are said to lead to liberation.

1. Ārta Dhyāna

This Dhyāna has been further classified under four heads:

    1. Aniṣṭa samyogaja,
    2. Iṣṭa viyogaja,
    3. Vedanā janita
    4. Nidāna janita.

As it is clear from the names of these Ārta Dhyāna, all of them are connected with worries emanating from worldly objects. Aniṣṭa samogaja relates to anxiety to remove the undesirable objects like poison, thorn, enemy, weapon, etc. The opposite of it is Iṣṭa viyogaja where one thinks of means of attaining such desirable objects as son, wife or wealth in their absence. Vedanā janita ārta Dhyāna is connected with anxiety for finding devices to remove the physical disease. Nidāna janita means concentrating on the means of obtaining the worldly pleasures by a person who yearns for them.

2. Raudra Dhyāna

This type of dhyāna is worse than ārta dhyāna. It arises from relishing ideas about sinful violence, falsehood, theft, and preservation of objects of enjoyments; it is found only up to the 5th stage of spiritual development. The first type is called himsānandi means taking delight in killing, crushing, or destroying the living beings either by self or through others. It includes skill in violent actions, advising sins and association with cruel people. Desire of killing in the battle; taking delight in hearing, seeing or remembering the miseries of sentient beings; being envious of others prosperity are all included in this type of dhyāna.

Mrsānandi raudra dhyāna includes falsehood, composing deceptive literature for one’s own pleasure, collecting wealth by deceit and deceiving the simple-minded. Cauryananadi raudra dhyāna includes not only the act of theft but also preaching dexterity in theft. Visayanandi raudra dhyāna includes desire to take possession of all good things of the world and thinking of fighting ferociously for attainment of the objects of enjoyment.

It is obvious that only a man who is fully disciplined can avoid raudra dhyāna which persist up to the 5th stage of spiritual development. These two above-mentioned inauspicious types of Dhyāna require no effort and are spontaneous. They do not lead to liberation. Only the auspicious types of Dhyāna viz. Dharma and Śukla Dhyāna lead to liberation.

3. Dharma Dhyāna

The aspirant should be possessed of knowledge and detachment, self- control, firm desire for liberation, should be active, calm and steadfast.

Place for Dharma Dhyāna
Whether crowded or lonely, any place is fit for meditation, if the mind is firm. But the surroundings also influence the mind. Therefore, that place should be avoided which is inhabited by low people, ruled by a wicked king and surrounded by hypocrites, highly perverted persons, gamblers and drunkards. In short, all such places, where disturbances may be caused by people of reprehensible profession, bad character, women, or animals, should be avoided.

On the other hand, a place that is sanctified by the association of great persons, and is lonely like seashore, forest, mountain, island, etc. should be chosen. The place for meditation should not have disturbance by noise, rain or wind.

Postures for Dharma Dhyāna
Every place and every posture is suitable for meditation for him, who is detached, steadfast, firm and pure. Yet postures have importance of their own. They are

    • Paryankāsana,
    • Ardhaparyankāsana,
    • Vajrāsana,
    • Virāsana,
    • Sukhāsana,
    • Kamalāsana,
    • Kayotsarga.

The first and last of these seven, are especially suitable for the modern age, when people lack energy. The aspirant should face east or north, though there is no fixed rule. One who has controlled his posture becomes immune from the clemencies of nature. Sitting crosslegged; one should place his left hand on the lap, concentrating his sight on the tip of the nose, and making his face as motionless as the lake with fish asleep.

Other auxiliaries of Dhyāna
In Patanjali yoga, much importance has been attached to Prānāyāma. In Jainism also, Subhacandra considers control over breath of much importance for control over mind. At the same time he also says that controlling the breath may lead to ārta dhyāna. The main purpose of these prānāyāma is to control the mind, and they give to know the whole world also. Better than prānāyāma is pratyāhāra, which means concentrating on forehead by withdrawing the senses. Besides, one can concentrate on the eyes, the ears, the tip of nose, the mouth, the naval, the head, the heart, and the place between the two eyebrows.

Object of Dharma Dhyāna
Leaving attachment and infatuation, one should cut, as it were the enemy of karmas by the sword of Dhyāna. The chief object of Dhyāna is soul. Soul should strive for the attainment of self, that is, the soul. All these yonis / destinies are the result of karmas, the real self is siddha. Self is possessed of the four infinitive qualities of energy, knowledge, perception and bliss. Amongst the objects of Dhyāna are sentiments and the insentient, their triple nature of continuance, birth and destruction, arhantas and siddhas. What is necessary is to distinguish the self from the body. The self should think that he is simply a light which has no foe or friend. Thereby he should leave all desire for beauty, age, strength, wealth etc.

Types of Dharma Dhyāna
Tattvārtha sutra mentions four types of Dharma Dhyāna:

    1. Ajñāna vicaya – it means having firm faith in the nature of things as taught in the scriptures composed by the omniscient. It becomes necessary when there is no teacher, one’s own intellect is not so subtle, when there is rise of karmas and the objects are subtle and when one does not find proper causes and illustrations. Or, the person, who has himself grasped the nature of things, uses naya and pramāṇa for supporting the truth is also said to have performed ajñāna vicaya dharma dhyāna. All studies of scriptures constitute this type of dharma dhyāna.
    2. Apāyavicaya - to think that the perverted souls are opposed to the path of the omniscient, or to ponder over ways and means of realizing preachers from wrong belief, knowledge and conduct, constitutes apāyavicaya. To contemplate on seven tattvas is also apāyavicaya dharma dhyāna.
    3. Vipāka vicaya - it means thinking of the various effects of the karmas on the creatures. All pleasures and pains are results of one’s own actions that should be regulated and controlled. All reflections on this aspect are included in this type of dharma dhyāna.
    4. Samsthāna vicaya - it means reflecting over the nature and form of the universe with a view of attaining detachment. It includes reflection over the shape of the universe, the seven hells and their miseries, the middle region, the sixteen heavens and their pleasures, and the Siddha Śila or the place where liberated souls reside.

4. Śūkla Dhyāna

In dharma Dhyāna, the consciousness of the distinction between subject and object of knowledge persists; whereas in Śūkla Dhyāna all conceptual thinking ceases gradually. Śūkla Dhyāna is so called, because it emerges when the filth of passions has been destroyed or has subsided.

Śūkla Dhyāna is possible only for a person with a body of the best order (vajravṛṣabha nāracasamsthāna) and for one who has the knowledge of the eleven angas and fourteen purvas.

Stages of Śūkla Dhyāna
With gradual disappearance of conceptual thinking, the Śukla Dhyāna has following four stages, the first two which occur up to the 12th gunasthāna and the last two only to an omniscient:

    1. Pṛthakatva vitarkavicāra - In this stage, all the three types of activities of body, speech, and mind (yogas) continue and the aspirant shifts from one kind of activity to another, from one substance to another, and from one modification to another. All these stages of thinking depend on the scriptural knowledge. In spite of the fact that the object of thinking changes here, it is called Dhyāna, because many Dhyāna together also form Dhyāna.
    2. Ektva vitarkavicāra – Here only one of the three yogas persists and there is no shifting from one object of thinking to another. In this stage, also thinking depends on scriptural knowledge. After this stage, the aspirant becomes omniscient, and all the obscuring karmas are destroyed.
    3. Suksmakriyāpratipatti- Now only the subtle activities of body persist and all types of vocal and mental and gross type of physical activities cease. Only the four non-obscuring Karmans, viz. age-determining, feeling-determining, name-determining, and family-determining Karmans remain. Now, if the age-determining Karman has the same length as other karmas exceed age-determining karma, they are brought in line with the last mentioned Karman by means of samudgāta. While resorting to gross physical activities, he makes the gross vocal and mental activities subtle; and then resorting to the later, he makes the former also subtle. Resorting to the subtle physical activities, he stops other two activities completely.
    4. Samucchinnakriyā - Here all activities stop completely. The soul shines forth in its intrinsic lustre, all karmans exhaust, and he leaves his body in the time taken for pronouncing five small letters.

To conclude we say, that Jainism lays emphasis on penance, but it should be characterized by spiritual awakening, or else it just becomes torture of the body. The transcendental morality culminates in meditation, which should never be used as a means for attaining supernatural powers.

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