What Does Anitya Mean According To Jainism?

Posted: 01.04.2011
Updated on: 30.07.2015

The Jain concept of Anitya means that nothing is permanent. Rather, everything is transitory.

This was discussed at an event held by the Young Jains UK on Sunday 17th August 2008

Anitya bhavana means thinking about the transitory nature of things around us. All things of the worldly life are perishable; and nothing is permanent. It is fruitless to mourn over the loss of perishable, and we should not lose our mental peace and emotional poise over them. Therefore, when someone dear to us dies or when we lose something then we should think that in this world, the body, wealth, family, relatives, and status, etc., are transient, and we will not feel so bad.

Anitya Bhavana - ‘Bhavana’ means ‘conception’, ‘Anitya’ means ‘transitory’. All material things of the universe are transitory in nature. It is an ever changing world. Nothing is still and permanent here. What gives us pain is not the changing moods but our insistence to see that the things of our liking remain permanent. Unthinking man never reconciles himself to the fact of change and this is the root of human misery because no one who belongs to this universe, and is a part of it, can free himself from the laws by which he universe is governed. It is really tragic to stay behind. We experience every moment that all objects of pleasure, wealth, the power and everything around us undergoes changes. The moment we are born, we begin to die. Change is the rule. The only exception is our spirit (Cetana). But we tend to forget the spirit which is permanent and cling to the thing which is transitory, and if in the process we become unhappy we blame others. Obviously the pangs of our pain would be greatly relieved if we constantly remember, that change is the rule and clinging to changing modes is pure ignorance.

 

Anitya Bhavna - Impermanence of the world

Under this reflection, one thinks that in this world every thing such as life, youth, wealth, and property are transient or subject to alteration. Nothing in the universe is permanent, even though the whole universe is permanent or constant. Spiritual values are therefore worth striving for as soul’s ultimate freedom and stability. This will help to break all worldly attachments.

This concept is part of the 12 Bhavnas (Reflections or Thoughts). Some people believe that there are 16 Bhavnas. The following explains what the Bhavnas are.

(Taken from http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~pluralsm/affiliates/jainism/jainedu/12bhavna.htm)

Jain religion puts a significant emphasis on the thought process of a human being. A person’s behavior and his actions are the reflection of his internal thoughts, day in and day out. It is not the action but intention behind the action results in the accumulation of Karma. Hence, one should be very careful about his thoughts, how he thinks, and the subject matter of his thought.

To make room for pure thoughts, and to drive out the evil ones, Jainism recommends to reflect or meditate the following twelve thoughts or Bhavnas.

The twelve Bhavnas described here are the subject matters of one’s meditation, and how to occupy one’s mind with useful, religious, beneficial, peaceful, harmless, spiritually advancing, karma preventing thoughts. They cover a wide field of teachings of Jainism. They are designed to serve as aids to spiritual progress, produce detachment, and lead the aspirants from the realm of desire to the path of renunciation. They are reflections upon the fundamental facts of life, intended to develop purity of thought and sincerity in the practice of religion.

The reflections are also called Anuprekshas, longings, thoughts, aspirations, or Bhavnas.

Pravin K. Shah
Jain Study Center of North Carolina

 


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