Once Gajsukumal, the younger brother of Shri Krishna asked Lord Neminath (the 22nd Jain Tirthankara dating back to 3138 BCE), “Oh Lord! Is there any way to attain liberation in a short time?” Gajsukumal was initiated as a Jain monk under Lord Neminath’s order and was eager for liberation. The Lord replied, “Oh Gajsukumal, one can attain liberation by differentiating the body and the soul and by gaining stability and absorbent in the nature of the self-soul.”
Thus, to attain Omniscience and liberation one has to first learn the qualities of both the soul and the matter (the body) and then by differentiating them by thought and by remaining absorbed in the nature of the soul one first destroys the four destructive karma namely, Knowledge Obscuring, Perception Obscuring, Delusion and Obstructing and attains the state of Kewala or Omniscience and attains liberation in the end of life. This sounds easy at first but when we try to practice such kind of meditation then we feel that it is very difficult. We face the traffic of thoughts in our mind which is very difficult to stop. We can’t get even a second free of thoughts. The differentiation of the body and the soul in meditation is only possible after attaining stability of mind. In Jainism the Tirthankars have explained the Nine Fundamentals which are better known as “Nav Tattva”. The Nine fundamentals contain all the major principles and practice which are essential for one in order to attain liberation. Liberation means free from all the eight karma. The eight Karma are Knowledge Obscuring (Gnanavarniya), Perception Obscuring (Darshnavarniya), Delusion (Mohaniya), Obstructing (Antaraya), Life-span pertaining (Ayu), Status Determining (Gotra), Body Determining (
and Feeling Pertaining (Vedniya). The first four are known as the Destructive
Karma and the rest four are known as the Non-destructive Karma. The first
hinders the inherent nature of the soul and by eradicating these karma one
attains Omniscience or Kewala Gyaan. Nam
In the Nine Fundamental principle the ninth and the last fundamental explains the essential austerities for liberation and it is know as the Nirjara Tattva. There are 12 austerities to eradicate karma. The first six are known as External Austerities and the res six are known as the Internal Austerities. The internal austerities are the main weapon to destroy karma. But it is difficult to practice them without practicing the external austerities. The external austerities create a base for the internal austerities. It is important to learn them. So let’s understand them briefly.
- Fasting (Anshan): In fasting one renounces eating and drinking for a certain period. One can combine the physical fasting with total control over inner desires. One spends time of fasting period by reading religious materials.
- Partial Fasting (Unodari): To eat less than the normal diet is called Partial Fasting or Unodari. The deeper meaning of Unodari is to practice more self restraints by reducing non-virtuous activities.
- Limiting Food Items (Vriti Sankshep): This austerity is for developing willpower. The Jain monks take up “Abhigraha” (makes some resolution). The laymen and laywomen observe this austerity by limiting the number of food items.
- Limiting Tasty Food (Rasa Tyag): In this austerity one renounces his/her tasty foods and thus enabling to strengthen one’s spiritual capability. One takes food without oil, butter, spices, salt and also avoids sweets, milk, sugar etc. To suppress one’s passions, it is essential that he overcome his desire for tasty food. One, who has a desire for tasty food, cannot be free of sensual instinct.
- Physical Forbearance (Kaya Kalesh): Body is an instrument that is needed in good condition for undertaking spiritual pursuit and therefore, it is important to develop its endurance power. Thus one is enabled to tolerate the bodily inconveniencies with equanimity.
- Controlling the Senses (Salinta): We use our senses to satisfy our external needs and that is supposed to give happiness. In this austerity one does not develop a positive attitude to what he sees, hears, smells, tastes and touches.
Without practicing these austerities one cannot practice the internal austerities. And internal austerities are the main weapon to eradicate karmic dirt. Although it is monks who undertakes internal austerities and can perform very well because they have no possessions and have abandoned mundane life. But the householders can also undertake internal austerities according to their own strength. Let’s have a look at the types of internal austerities.
- Repentance or Confession (Prayashchit): One repents for the various errors, the faults and the sins committed. This can be performed in the presence of an ascetic or can be done alone. Prayashchit is a very vital type of Nirjara. Prayashchit is a process of improving mental, emotional and spiritual health. Nirjara is a spiritual cleaning process. Purity of body, mind, and emotions is the result of this process.
- Humility (Vinaya): Vinaya means humbleness, kindness and respect. The ultimate meaning of Vinaya is the absence of ego. Vinaya saves Jiva from getting bad destinies like hell. Vinaya is an internal quality of Jiva. Vinaya is considered the root of the religion per Jain canonical books. Vinaya is given the utmost importance in Jainism.
- Selfless Service (Vaiyavruta): To serve the monks, the practitioners (one who observes austerities) with devotion and without any selfish motive is called Vaiyavruta. If one offers the right food, clothes, medicines, and other necessities to Jain ascetics, it is called Vaiyavruta.
- Self Study (Swadhyay): The spiritual meaning of Swadhyay is to remain in equanimity. Swadhyay also keeps the right knowledge alive for the next generation and generations to come. As per Jain canonical books, Jain ascetics are required to do Swadhyay for about nine hours a day. To acquire knowledge, to render it free from doubt, to be lucid and ripe and to seek to propagate it - all these can be covered in Swadhyay.
- Meditation (Dhyana): In Jainism, Dhyana has been divided into four forms. Raudra Dhyana (Wrathful Meditation), Arta Dhyana (Sorrowful Meditation), Dharma Dhyana (Religion Oriented Meditation) and Shukla Dhyana (Pure Meditation). If we observe the living beings in the world then we see that all are in Meditation. Either virtuous or non-virtuous. The first two meditations are non-virtuous and worth rejected in order to attain liberation. The last two should be practiced daily. Dharma Dhyana is essential for the house-holder or the monks. It is not possible to achieve Shukla Dhyana without practicing Dharma Dhyana. Now let’s have a look at the sub-types of Dharma and Shukla Dhyana.
*Dharma Dhyana: In Dharma Dhyana one meditates and reflects on the teaching of Lord Tirthankar. That is called “Commandment Religious Meditation”. To contemplate on the misery of the worldly people and animals is called “Misery oriented Meditation”. To contemplate on the law of Karma and to think that one suffers because of his own Karma is called “Fruition of Karma oriented Meditation”. To contemplate on the structure of the Universe, like its substances and the three folded Universe is called “Cosmos oriented Meditation”. Dharma Dhyana is essential for stopping the binding of new karma and the observer eradicated his/her past karma as well. By practicing it regularly one’s inner passions become lighter and he/she reaches the 8th stage of spiritual development (Gunasthana). Here by climbing the ladder of annihilation (Kshapak Shreni) one enters the Shukla Dhyana (Pure Meditation).
*Shukla Dhyana: When climbing the ladder of Annihilation, the practitioner enters the Shukla Dhyana. According to Jainism, the aspirant who enters Pure Meditation never returns back in the cycle of rebirths. There are four types of Shukla Dhyana;
1. Multi Aspect Spiritual Meditation: In this, one meditates on the different modes of the self and matter. His/her mind cannot become steady on the permanence nature of the self. This meditation lasts for Antarmuhurta (within 48 minutes).
2. Single Aspect Spiritual Meditation: In this, one meditates only on one subject, the permanence nature of the self. The mind becomes steady and the practitioner-meditation-goal becomes unite. In this meditation one destroys the four destructive karma and attains the state of kaivalya (Omniscience), and becomes Arihanta. He/she also known as the Jina (The one who has destroyed the inner enemies). He/she now perceives the objects of the universe from infinite past and future at once, directly by the soul.
3. Subtle Activity Spiritual Meditation: This is observed only by an Omniscient Lord. When the meditation involves a subtle bodily Yoga while putting an end to all the remaining Yogas, this act of concentration is called Subtle Activity Spiritual Meditation. At this stage, there proceeds only the subtle bodily activities like inhalation and exhalation and there is no possibility of a fall.
4. Absorption in Self Meditation: When even the subtle bodily activities like inhalation and exhalation cease altogether and the constituent units of the soul become free from all wavering, then the state is called Absorption In Self Meditation. In this state, no activity takes place. In the fourth subtype of Dhyana, all Influx of Karma and all bondage of karma cease altogether, all Karma come to the end, and liberation (Moksha) is attained. The last two are also called Anälambana or devoid of any dependence.
- Abandonment (Vyutsarga): The last austerity is Vyutsarga. It is divided into two major types: Internal Aspects and External Aspects. There comes four subtypes in the External Aspects,
1. Abandonment of Body
2. Abandoning the company of other Mendicants
3. Abandoning material objects (such as clothes, pots, blanket, medicine etc)
4. Abandoning food and drink
There are three types of Internal Aspects
1. Abandoning or overcoming the passions (Anger, Ego, Pride and Deceit)
2. Abandoning Worldly Life
3. Eradicating Karma
From this we learn that the external austerities are very important to make the grip stronger in the internal austerities. One gets rid of karma by practicing internal austerities. By overcoming bodily needs and sensual activities one becomes able to practice meditation and kayotsarga and become equanimous in every good and bad condition.