Since Jainism firmly believes in the doctrine of karma and puts sole reliance on the development of the spiritual force by one’s own personal efforts, and further exhorts its followers to develop Asarana-bhavana (none other can refuge or save us), the question that naturally arises is, what is the place of prayers in Jainism? Since the Jains do not believe in God or in the existence of any outside Divinity controlling our fate, any idea of prayer would be irrelevant to them for two main reasons.
1) The soul which has been emancipated and became Siddha has no desires or motivations left. Its character is purely that of a knower and a seer. If, prayers could please Siddha then some prayers could also displease Siddha. In the same sense if Siddha could bestow favours or frowns then attributing such human frailties to a Siddha (liberated soul) is to deny soul’s liberation.
2) Once we accept the doctrine of karma, all results must be sought in that doctrine and therefore unless the prayers are adjusted in the karma doctrine, they remain totally non-productive.
However, it would be totally wrong to say that prayers have no place in Jain philosophy. Jains do not consider prayers as a means of seeking favours from Siddha or even Arihants. True Jain prayers are nothing but the appreciation and adoration of the virtues possessed by the liberated or Arihants and the expression of ardent desire to achieve these virtues in one’s own actual life. It is for this reason that Jain scriptures have actually enumerated the virtues of different categories of souls such as Arihanta, Siddha, Acarya, Upadhyaya and Sadhu.
It is basic to the Jain belief that the Tirthankaras (prophets) and their teachings are only to point out to us the way to achieve liberation. But how to acquire liberation and how to put these teachings into the practice, is entirely left to us. We achieve only to the extent to which we exert. However, the path shown by those who have achieved liberation must be studied with utmost respect and sincerity, because it is the proven path, which they have actually taken during their lives and have obtained the results. We feel very thankful to these great souls for providing us such useful guidance. Therefore, in prayer we express our gratitude, extol and enumerate their virtues and wish that such virtues might also develop in our life. Such prayers constantly reminds us what made them great and in turn help us to develope such virtues in us. In Jain philosophy, this is the process of prayers.
It is interesting to note that the most outstanding Jain prayer, known as Navakara Mantra, is not refered to any individual personal or sect and asks for nothing in return. It does nothing more than offering sincere veneration to those souls, which are already liberated or are on the path of liberation.
Namo Arihantanam — I bow down to all Arihantas.
Namo Siddhanam — I bow down to all Siddhas.
Namo Ayariyanam — I bow down to all Acharyas.
Namo Uvajjhayanam — I bow down to Upadhyayas.
Namo Loe Savvasahunam — I bow down to all the Sadhus and Sadhvis.
Arihantas are those blessed souls who have successfully shed off all the ghati karmas, which blur the potency of the soul. Siddhas are those souls who have achieved the final liberation and have attained a bodyless state of pure bliss. Acharyas are those merciful souls who teach us about the path to salvation and Upadhyayas and Sadhus and Sadhvis are those saints who are themselves on the path to salvation and are striving for the liberation.
These five are called Pancha-paramesthi, five types of great souls, those who have been liberated and those who are on the path of liberation. A Jain bows down to them all, not necessarily because they have followed or are following a particular type of religion but because they have already attained what was worth attaining or because they are striving to attain what is worth attaining.
As Acarya Hemcandra puts it :
“Bhava bijankura-janana ragadyah ksayamupagata yasya,
Brahma va Visnurva Haro Jino va namastasmai.”
meaning, “I bow down to him whose all passions like attachment and malice, which sow the seeds of birth and rebirth, have been destroyed. It doesn’t matter whether he is Brahma, Visnu, Sankara or Jina.”
The Jains have built big and beautiful temples and are adoring, elegant and serene marble idols of Tirthankaras. Idol-worship has its own rights and Jains seem to have adopted the same at a subsequent stage because Jain scriptures have not recorded that Lord Mahavira at any time worshipped an Idol. (Some sects of Jain do not believe in Idol-worship.) In fact the whole emphasis of Jain doctrines is on the Atman (soul) which has no form. It would, however, undoubtedly follow that adoring the idols by jewelry and other ornaments and taking out processions of idols etc. have no philosophical background or justification – except perhaps expressing devotion. Attribution of ornamental glitter to one who is a Vitaraga is a gross negation of all that for which Jainism stands, and amounts to crude perversion of basic doctrines of Jainism.
Thus, prayers or bhakti are differently perceived by the Jains but they do occupy a prominent place in Jain thinking.
Dhyana occupy very prominent place in Jain Philosophy. The Jain approach to Dhyana is purely psychological. It is understood by Jains in its very comprehensive sense, namely, the engagement of the mind in a particular thought. The human mind never remains thoughtless even for a moment. It remains constantly engaged, thinking of good or bad things whether necessary or not, and whether they are of our immediate concern or not. The Jain thinkers have taken account of this fact, and have analysed the condition of the human mind into four categories, namely:
The first two are inauspicious and the latter two are auspicious. These four categories cover all the conditions of mind. The first two, being the cause of the worldly transmigration, are evil-dhyana while Dharma and Sukla lead to liberation and are noble-dhyana.
1) Artta Dhyana – Artta means pain. When our painful experiences get hold of our mental condition we are undergoing the state of Artta Dhyana. There are four broad sub-classifications of this type of Dhyana as follows:
i) Anista-samyoga Artta Dhyana. This happens when we are put in unhappy circumstances or relationship and we keep thinking about it.
ii) Ista-viyoga Artta Dhyana. This happens when there is a loss of happy relationship or situation and we keep thinking about it.
iii) Roga-chinta Artta Dhyana. This happens when we keep thinking or worry about physical disease or pain.
iv) Nidana Artta Dhyana, This happens when we keep thinking or worry about the objectives which are difficult to obtain.
In all these four conditions we remain worried and feel unhappy and our mind remains sad, which in turn brings more bad karmas.
2) Raudra Dhyana – Raudra means cruel, harsh. When the mind is either full of anger, hatred, and malice and violent mind is thinking of evil actions, we are passing through Raudra Dhyana. Under such thoughts we enjoy the activities which are immoral. All mental activities to grab power and wealth, sexual enjoyment and anti-social acts fall within this classification. There are four sub-classifications of this as follows:
i) Himsanandi Raudra dhyana means thinking delightfully about killing, crushing or destroying the living beings either by self or through other.
ii) Mrsanandi Raudra dhyana means thinking delightfully about lying, composing deceptive literature, and collecting wealth by deceptive means.
iii) Chauryanandi Raudra dhyana means thinking delightfully about the act of theft and also preaching dexterity in theft.
iv) Visayanandi Raudra dhyana means thinking delightfully to satisfy desires including being possessive and thinking of fighting ferociously to attain the objects of enjoyment.
Both the above-referred dhyanas are spiritually degrading the self by attracting bad vibrations and karmas. Most of us remain permanently engaged in these two Dhyanas with the result that we are not able to make any progress spiritually.
Next two Dhyanas are of the superior variety and help us to progress further in our journey to freedom.
3) Dharma Dhyana – The word Dharma is used in Jain terminology in a sense wider than religion. What is Dharma? Answer is ‘Vatthu Sahavo Dhammo’, i.e., the intrinsic nature of a thing is its Dharma. So long as a thing remains within the limits of its intrinsic nature, and does not transgress these limits, it remains within its own Dharma. Life’s problems arise when we transgress these limits and encroach upon the foreign fields. Therefore, when the self forgets its own intrinsic nature, and tries to encroach upon the field of Ajiva, it invites trouble. But if it concentrates its attention on its own self, tries to analyze its nature and focuses its activities on its upliftment, it enters into the field of Dharma Dhyana. There are four sub-classifications of this, as follows:
Ajna (Agna)-vichaya Dharma dhyana: Meditating about the flowless and reliable nature of the views expressed by enlightened souls.
Apaya-vichaya Dharma dhyana: Meditating about the how the true character of the self is clouded by its contact with kasayas such as anger, pride etc.
Vipaka-vichaya Dharma dhyana: Meditating on the nature of results of various karmas.
Loka-samsthana-vicaya Dharma Dhyana: Meditating on the nature of universe (Loka).
Dharma Dhyana takes our mind away from Artta and Raudra Dhyana, which cause the accumulation of the karmas, which are the degrading forces to the self. Dharma-dhyana not only takes us to the field of metaphysics and logic, but also constitutes the best type of Satsanga, which leads us to right path to realize the Truth.
4) Sukla Dhyana – ‘Sukla’ means ‘white or pure’. In Dharma-Dyan, the mind concentrates upon the general features of worldly esistance while in Shukl-Dhyan; the mind gradually shortens the field of cocentration. The mind now concentrates on upon atom and becomes staedy and motionless. And on the attainment of omniscience, the functions of the mind are completely annihilated. The Shukla-dhyan has four types. The function of first two types is to collect and concentrate the mind on the minuest possible entity. When one has achieved perfection in this and has lost all attraction for the worldly things, one attains pure and perfect enlightenmemnt. The functions of mind are now no more there. There is now no more conceptual thinking. The function of dhyan at this time is not the concentration of thought because there is now no thought. The soul is now omniscient. The dhyan is now utilized for the purpose of stopping the activities of sense organ of speech and body. Last two types of shukls-dhyana do this. The last type of sukla-dhyana is iimediately followed by emancipation.
This is the highest type of meditation where the karmic bondages get destroyed and the soul remains totally engrossed in self-realization. The Seers say that it is not possible to give the complete picture of this type of meditation because the bliss which one experiences during this meditation is beyond the description. However they have classified this type of meditation into four progressive categories:
Prthakatva-vitarka-savichara sukla dhyana
Ekatva-vitarka-vichara sukla dhyana
Suksma-kriya-pratipatti sukla dhyana
Samucchinna-kriya-nivrtti or Vyuparata-kriya-nivrtti sukla dhyana
In Prthakatva-vitarka-savicara the mind contemplates the different modes of the self and the forces of Pudgala. Since the mind is moving from one idea to the other, it is called Prthakatva-vitarka. During this process, one finds out the true character of the self and therefore the whole process tends to make the mind steady. This stage of meditation is observed when the soul is in gunasthanak 8 to 11. After it becomes steady it concentrates only on one object namely the self. This is the second stage of Ekatva-vitarka. In this stage the mind becomes steady, and complete peace and bliss prevails because all the bondage of kasayas get destroyed. The soul, remaining peaceful and steady in this manner, reaches the stage of Kevala-jnana, pure knowledge. The soul in this stage reaches to 12th gunasthanak and by the end of it it reaches to 13th gunasthanak. In the third stage, the soul has only subtle connection with body. This stage is the beginning of the 14th Gunasthanak. In the final stage, even the soul’s subtle connection with the body is broken. By the end of this stage the soul gets liberated and becomes ‘Siddha’. The duration of the stages three and four is a verry short period just enough to say short a, e, I, ru, lu. The siddha is a bodyless existence of the soul possessing all knowledge and all bliss.
This is how the great masters have described the process of meditation leading to the liberation. An ordinary human being is roaming between first three categories of meditation. The last category of meditation is very difficult to achieve which involves the process of spiritual progress. But if successful the liberation is in the hand.