What Is Preksa?
The word preksa is
derived from the root iksa, which means 'to see'. When the prefix ‘pra'
is added, it becomes pra+iksa=preksa, which means 'to perceive
carefully and profoundly'
Here, 'seeing' does not mean
external vision, but careful concentration on subtle consciousness by mental
insight. Preksa Dhydna is the system of meditation engaging one's mind
fully in the perception of subtle internal and innate phenomena of
This aphorism from the Jain canon Dasavealiyam forms the basic
principle for this system of meditation. It simply means : 'See you
thyself'-Perceive and realize the most subtle aspects of consciousness by your
conscious mind. Hence, "to see" is the fundamental principle of meditation.
The name Preksa Dhyana was therefore assigned to the present technique;
thus this technique is basically not concentration of 'thought' but
concentration of perception'.
To know and to see are the
characteristics of the consciousness. In its mundane state, being contaminated
by Karmic matter, the faculty is not fully manifested, but it can be
The term dhyana
(meditation) is usually defined as the concentration of thinking on a
particular subject for a length of time. Now the mind is the instrument of
'thinking' as well as 'perception'. And, therefore, when linked with Preksa
Dhyana becomes 'concentration of perception and not of thought. While it
is conceded that both thinking (conception) as well as seeing (perception)
assist in ascertaining and knowing the truth, the latter is more potent than
the former. In the tenets propounded by Bhagavan Mahavira 'perceive and know'
is given more prominence than 'think, contemplate and know'. This is because
perception is strictly concerned with the phenomena of the present; it is
neither a memory of the past nor an imagination of the future; whatever is
happening at the moment of perception must necessarily be a reality. The
process of perception, therefore, excludes a mere 'appearance'.
One commences the practice of
this technique with the perception of the body. Body contains the soul.
Therefore, one must pierce the wall of the container to reach the content (the
soul). Again, 'breathing' is a part of the body and essence of life. To
breathe is to live; and so breath is naturally qualified to be the first
object of our perception, while the body itself would become the next one. The
vibrations, sensations and other physiological events are worthy of our
attention. Our conscious mind becomes sharpened to perceive these internal
realities in due course, and then it will be able to focus itself on the
minutest and the most subtle occurences within the body. The direct perception
of emotions, urges and other psychological events will then be possible. And
ultimately the envelope of karmic matter, contaminating the
consciousness could be clearly recognised.
As stated above, our conscious
mind is capable of two categories of functions viz. thinking and perceiving
conception and perception. But it is incapable of being engaged in both the
categories simultaneously. One either thinks or perceives. Exclusive
perception of a single object can thus become an efficient tool for steadying
the ever wandering mind. If one concentrates in perceiving any external
object, he finds that his mind has steadied and his train of thoughts has
almost halted. Similarly when one concentrate on the perception of his own
internal phenomena such as sensations, vibrations or even thoughts, he will
realize that the mind has stopped its usual meandering and is fully engaged in
perception. Continued concentrated perception of intrinsic processes will
ultimately enable one to perceive the subtle bodies.
In 'preksa' perception
always means experience bereft of the duality of like and dislike. When the
experience is contaminated with pleasure or pain, like and dislike, perception
loses its primary position and becomes secondary.
Impartiality and equanimity are
synonymous with Preksa. Preksa is impartial perception, where there is
neither the emotion of attachment nor aversion, neither pleasure nor
displeasure. Both these states of emotion are closely and carefully perceived
but not experienced. And because both are perceived from close quarters, it is
not difficult to reject both of them and assume a neutral position. Thus
equanimity is essentially associated with preksa.
Our sense-organ of sight is
merely an instrument of perception of an object; it is neither responsible for
its existence nor does it derive pleasure (or pain) from it. The same applies
to the purely perceptive consciousness. He, whose 'perception' and 'knowledge'
are pure, does neither attract new karmic matter nor does he suffer the
effect of the old accumulated karmas.