Paryushana begins tomorrow. This is a great time for reflection. A good time to think about the Bhavanas.
So what’s a Bhavna? Well…Jainism puts a significant emphasis on the thought process of a human being. A person’s behaviour and his actions are the reflection of his internal thoughts, day in and day out. Our thoughts and actions result in the accumulation of Karma. Thus we should be mindful in our thoughts. Jainism expresses a need to make room for pure thoughts, and to drive out the impure ones. A way to do this would be through reflecting or meditating on the twelve thoughts or Bhavnas.
This Bhavana reflects the fact that the body is full of filth. Day by day we fill our mouths with food and drink which turns into waste. This waste stays in the body until it’s ready to expel it. So quite literally, the body is full of filth.
We take the time to look after the body in so many different ways. Some of us think about what we eat. For example, we may eat super foods and/or use supplements to ensure that the body receives the nutrients it needs etc.
We also make sure the body looks good on the outside. We invest in anti wrinkle products, have facials, go to the gym and so much more. However, the body is prone to disease and will continue to age regardless.
Do any of these activities, foods, supplements, creams and so on; have an affect on the soul? The soul which resides in the body is not affected by any of these things. It does not need these extra activities. It survives with or without them.
The true nature of the body is to decay and age. We must cultivate the thought that the body is separate from the soul. The soul is pure and not contaminated by any of these things.
An example of the body being prone to disease can be understood through the example of Sigmund Freud. He was the father of modern psychiatry and he was diagnosed with mouth cancer in the late 1930’s. He underwent 30 operations to remove the tumours in his jaw. He then died in 1939.
All humans, despite their age, gender and status are susceptible to disease. The one thing humans have in common is the fact that they have a body. The body goes through the affects of disease, lack of nutrition and so on.
The other thing that humans have in common is they have a soul. The soul does not experience the pains that the human body does. Can you cultivate this and detach from what your body endures?
So what’s good about any of this? We don’t need to let our body get in our way whether it be to suffer through what it experiences or to spend time on it unnecessarily.
The soul doesn’t need much.
Once we realise what the body is and recognise the purpose of it, we will be able to detach from all the things the body needs, wants & experiences & focus on what the soul needs instead. Thus we’ll have more time to reflect on our soul, we’ll have more energy and we will progress further on the spiritual path. Remember the fruit of the path is freedom from all of this.
The twelve Bhavnas described here are the subject matters of one’s meditation, and how to occupy one’s mind with useful, religious, beneficial, peaceful, harmless, spiritually advancing, karma preventing thoughts. They cover a wide field of teachings of Jainism. They are designed to serve as aids to spiritual progress, produce detachment, and lead the aspirants from the realm of desire to the path of renunciation. They are reflections upon the fundamental facts of life, intended to develop purity of thought and sincerity in the practice of religion.
The purpose of the Bhavnas is to aid spiritual progress, produce detachment, and lead the aspirants from the realm of desire to the path of renunciation.