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 consciousness.
Sampikkhae appagamappaenam 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 developed.
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.