Twelve Bhavnas (Reflections or Thoughts)

Jainism

Complied by Pravin K. Shah

Jain religion puts a significant emphasis on the thought process of a human being. A person's behavior and his actions are the reflection of his internal thoughts, day in and day out. It is not the action but intention behind the action results in the accumulation of Karma.

One should be very careful about his thoughts, how he thinks, and the subject matter of his thought.

To make room for pure thoughts, and to drive out the evil ones, Jainism recommends to meditate the following twelve thoughts or Bhavnas.

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 reflections are also called Anuprekshas, longings, thoughts, aspirations, or Bhavnas.

  • 1. Anitya Bhavna - Impermanence of the world
  • 2. Asarana Bhavna - No one provides protection
  • 3. Samsara Bhavna - No permanent relationship in universe
  • 4. Ekatva Bhavna - Solitude of the soul
  • 5. Anyatva Bhavna - Separateness
  • 6. Asuci Bhavna - Impureness of the body
  • 7. Asrava Bhavna - Influx of karma
  • 8. Samvara Bhavna - Stoppage of influx of karma
  • 9. Nirjara Bhavna - Shedding of karma
  • 10. Loka Bhavna - Transitory of universe
  • 11. Bodhi-durlabha - Unattainability of right faith, Bhavna knowledge, and conduct
  • 12. Dharma Bhavna - Unattainability of true preceptor, scriptures, and religion

1. Anitya Bhavna - Impermanence of the world Under this reflection, one thinks that in this world every thing such as life, youth, wealth, property, etc. are transient or subject to alteration. Nothing in the universe is permanent, even though the whole universe is constant. Spiritual values are therefore worth striving for as soul's ultimate freedom and stability. This will help to break all earthly attachments.

2. Asarana Bhavna - No one provides protection

Under this reflection, one thinks that he is helpless against death, old age, and disease. The only way he can conquer death and disease is by destroying all his karma. The soul is his own savior, and to achieve total freedom and enlightenment, one takes refuge to the true path and to the five best personalities. They are Arihanta, Siddha, Acharya, Upadhyay and Sadhus. The refuge to others are due to delusion, and must be avoided.

3. Samsara Bhavna - No permanent relationship in universe

Under this reflection, one thinks that the soul transmigrates from one life to the other in any of the four forms, human, animal, hellish, and heavenly.

The continual cycle of birth, life, and death is full of pain and miseries, and has not yet ended. There are no permanent worldly relations like father, mother, friend, foe, etc. It is we who establish these relations and live accordingly.

This kind of thought will help minimize or stop any attachments to anybody, other living beings, or objects. The soul must achieve ultimate freedom from it, which is liberation or Moksha.

4. Ekatva Bhavna - Solitude of the soul

Under this reflection, one thinks that the soul is solitaire, and lonely in existence. The soul assumes birth alone, and departs alone from the life form. The soul is responsible for its own actions and karmas. The soul will enjoy the fruits, and suffer bad consequences of its own action alone. Such thoughts will stimulate his efforts to get rid of karmas by his own initiative and will lead religious life.

5. Anyatva Bhavna - Separateness

Under this reflection, one thinks that soul is separate from any other objects or living beings of the world. Even his body is not his. At the time of death, soul leaves the body behind. The body is matter, while the soul is all consciousness.

The soul therefore should not develop attachment for worldly objects, and other living beings. He should not allow himself to be controlled by desires, greed, and urges of the body.

6. Asuci Bhavna - Impureness of the body

Under this reflection, one thinks about the constituent element of one's body. It is made of impure things like blood, bones, flesh, etc. It also generates impure things like perspiration, urine, stool, etc.

The soul, which resides within the body, is unattached to the body. It is alone and pure. The body ultimately becomes nonexistent, but the soul is eternal.

Therefore emotional attachments to the body is useless.

7. Asrava Bhavna - Influx of karma

Under this reflection, one thinks about karma streaming into the soul. Every time he enjoys or suffers through the senses (touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing) he makes his karma increase. This thought will make him more careful, and will try to stop the influx of karmas.

8. Samvara Bhavna - Stoppage of influx of karma

Under this reflection, one thinks about stopping evil thoughts, and becomes absorbed in achieving spiritual knowledge, meditation, etc. This prevents the influx of karma.

9. Nirjara Bhavna - Shedding of karma

Under this reflection, one thinks about the evil consequences of karma, and striving to destroy the previously acquired karma by austerity and meditation.

10. Loka Bhavna - Transitory of universe

Under this reflection, one thinks about the real nature of this universe. Judging from the standpoint of substance, it is eternal but from the standpoint of modification it is transitory.

Thus all objects of the world come into existence and perish. This thought makes him understand the true nature of reality, which is necessary for right knowledge.

11. Bodhi-durlabha Bhavna - Unattainability of right faith, knowledge, and conduct

Under this reflection, one thinks that it is very difficult for the transmigrating soul to acquire right faith, right knowledge, and right conduct in this world. Therefore, when one's has the opportunity to be a religious person, take the advantage of it to develop right religious talent. This thought will strengthen one's effort to attain them, and live accordingly.

12. Dharma Bhavna - Unattainability of true preceptor, scriptures, and religion

Under this reflection, one thinks that the true preceptor, scriptures, and religion are excellent shelters in this world full of agony. All other things lead to misery and suffering.

Four Bhavnas or Virtues

Besides the twelve Bhavnas described above Jainism has laid great importance on the following four Bhavnas or virtues. They are mentioned here for clarification.

  • Amity, love, and friendship - Maitri
  • Appreciation, respect and joy - Pramoda
  • Compassion - Karuna
  • Equanimity and tolerance - Madhyastha

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Suggestions for Further Reading

Source: Twelve Reflections or Bhavnas (G50) 01/19/93 12BHAVNA.A01 Complied by Pravin K. Shah, Jain Study Center of North Carolina