HOW DID THE TRADITION OF MEDITATION VANISH?
Why in the Middle Ages did obstacles arise
That made the crop of meditation untimely wither?
How it blossomed anew in congenial atmosphere
When irrigated with devotionís water pure!
Dhyana-Yoga reassessed right and proper;
A technique evolved with labour; now the path's clear.
Q.In Jain philosophy an important tradition of meditation was in vogue. Lord
Mahavir was the living symbol of that tradition. In his time hundreds of munis
were its eminent practitioners. The successor acharyas and munis further
developed this tradition. How then, did this pure tradition get discontinued?
What obstructed it?
Ans. The even flow of the tradition of meditation was certainly obstructed. But
before going into the causes of obstruction, we must take note that even many
Jains today do not know that meditation had once an important place in their
tradition. Until that is clear, the question of going into the causes of
obstruction does not arise. Because if a tradition never existed before, how
could it be impeded? We must first of all clearly establish that a technique of
dhyana did flourish in the jain tradition. Then we could go on to discuss the
obstructions met with.
For a proper appreciation of these obstacles, we shall have to take a journey
into the past. Because, without understanding the context, no historical
tradition---its rise or decay could be justly evaluated.
The roots of the Jain tradition of meditation are found in the Agamas. In the
traditional system, dharmya-dhyana and shukla-dhyana have been considered to be
very beneficial from the religious point of view. For centuries, the importance
of these fundamental modes was highly estimated. "Dhyana Shatak", composed
during the 7-8th century is a representative document of this ancient tradition.
Later, Patanjali expounded the "Ashtanga-Yogal" which combined the elements of
pranayama, asanas, dharana and samadhi, etc. with dhyana. Also during this
period, spells and incantations spread extensively. All this could not but
affect the tradition of dhyana prevalent at that time. A study of the books
written by Acharyas Haribhadra, Somdev, Shubhchandra, Hemchandra, etc. and all
other volumes influenced by Yoga-Darshan and Hatha-Yoga, reveals that the Jain
acharyas tried to adopt the preponderant tradition of Hatha-Yoga. In the course
of these efforts, the ancient tradition of meditation, which was the tradition
of dharmaya-dhyana and shukla dhyana, was subordinated and its practice
abandoned. Their place was taken by pranayama, etc. Because of this people came
to believe that the jains had no independent meditation-system of their own.
At that time, the tradition of pure dhyana, though mixed with other elements,
was not altogether discontinued. Later, some community problems arose. The very
existence of the Dharma-Sangh was at stake. Public entertainment and the point
of view of the public assemblies dominated the scene. Spells and incantations
and miraculous tantrik experiments, held sway over the minds of the people.
Under these circumstances, enchantments and magical practices were avidly sought
and the Jain tradition of moral conduct languished. This created obstructions in
the way of meditation.
Q.Do we then hold that the tradition of meditation was altogether lost? Or have
there been some acharyas and munis who, having brought about a revolution in the
field of conduct, reappraised the practice of meditation?
Ans. Moral revolutions have been taking place in jain culture from time to time.
These laid sufficient stress on moral conduct, but the practice of meditation
still remained secondary. At that time, the tradition of japa had become
widespread, and the practice of dhyana was restricted only to a few. The
important names in the development of the tradition of meditation are:-- Acharya
Anandaghan, Acharya Chidanand, Acharya Bhikshu and Jayacharya. Although in their
time, too, the practice of meditation was not very comprehensive, but it did
exist, and the tradition of dhyana continued uninterrupted. During the last
century, the practice of meditation was somewhat neglected, but the last two or
three decades witnessed a revival. During this period, new techniques were
evolved and various exercises performed. Jain sadhus and sadhvis and shravaks,
convinced that no recognised system of meditation was available to them, began
to look around and were attracted by contemporary exercises. Also a new practice
of studying ancient scriptures gained ground; The study of the old books
revealed that although dhyana-sadhana was a perennial topic of discussion
therein, but no practical work was being done. It was however clear that a
definite tradition of meditation did exist among the Jains.
Time, place, situation and mood were all favourable. Conditions were ripe, and
time in league with them, and the idea was born of reuniting the threads of
tradition that had been cut off. The work of Agama-research was on. In this
connection, Uttaradhyayan Agama was in the process of being edited. We had
before us many volumes relating to the Swetambar and Digambar traditions. A
study of these revealed that diverse elements of dhyana lay scattered in the
Jain Agamas. This aroused our interest and a direction was given to Muni
Nathmalji (now Yuvacharya Mahaprajna) that the ancient tradition of meditation
in Jainism should be re-discovered and the disjointed elements organised into a
cohesive whole, and a technique evolved for the use of the present generation.
During the Udaipur chaturmas in 2019 (Vikram Era) work in this direction was
started. In the first place, the fundamental elements of dhyana were sought in
the Agamas. Later, a programme of practice and experimentation ensued. During
the course of these experiments, new curiosities were aroused and resolved and
through constant effort, the steadfast resolve matured. After 15 years
uninterrupted labour, we established a forgotten technique, which revivified for
us the ancient tradition. We did not have to start from scratch. Our task was to
appraise and assess. In the absence of right estimation, even a most useful
element lies buried into the folds of time, but after its proper evaluation, it
becomes the centre of people's attention. Out of assessment, a new vision
evolved, leading to greater understanding. Thereupon our resolve to uncover and
bring to light the system of meditation once prevalent in the Jain tradition was
all the more strengthened and at last our efforts were crowned with success.