THE YOGAPRADĪPA : A Premodern Jain ‘Light on Yoga’

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Three Jain Monks Discuss Scripture
India, Rajasthan, Marwar or Jaisalmer, mid-18th century.
Opaque watercolor heightened with gold on paper. Image size: 20.3 x 17.7 cm.
Private English Collection, 2010 (Sotheby’s New York, March 2017)

We have recently spent much of our time searching methodically for yoga texts in the Endangered Archive at the British Library. The Endangered Archive Programme offers grants to institutions for the preservation of archival material that is in danger of destruction, neglect or physical deterioration. Several Indian institutions have been successful in receiving these grants. This has enabled the conservation of valuable material from private collections, libraries and temples, while also making this material available to researchers and scholars worldwide.

One such example is the preservation of ancient palm leaf and paper manuscripts archived at the Chinmaya International Foundation in Kerala, India. It is said to hold 3,600 rare paper manuscripts and 200 palm-leaf manuscripts in its collection on a wide range of topics, dating back to the late 16th century. So far, 1472 manuscripts in their collection have been catalogued and digitised.

A manuscript entitled the Yogapradīpa (British Library, EAP729/1/2/660) caught our attention. This short work written in Sanskrit (Devanāgarī script) on eleven paper folios has been catalogued and described simply as a “text on Yoga philosophy.” No date or authorship has been attributed.

Authorship and Dating

In an attempt to identify this text, we consulted the New Catalogus Catalogorum of Madras University (2011 Vol. 22: 80-81), which indicates that there are four different works by the name Yogapradīpa.2 One of these, which is identified as a Jain work and has eight manuscripts reported in various catalogues, corresponds with the Yogapradīpa in the Endangered Archive. It is described more fully in the Descriptive Catalogue of the Amer Shastra Bhandar (Ed. Kasturchand Kaslival, 1949), which is a large Jain repository of manuscripts in Jaipur, Rajasthan. Kasturchand (1949: 118) notes that the author is unknown, the language is Sanskrit, the number of folios is seven, the topic is 'yogaśāstra' and the text is complete with 141 verses. The number of verses is particularly telling here, because the Yogapradīpa manuscript available on the Endangered Archive has 142 verses.

Further research led to the discovery of a printed edition (1960) of the Yogapradīpa in question at the Jain e-library, which is an enormously valuable online resource that has digitised many Jain books and catalogues, some of which are very rare. This published work, by Amṛtlāl Kālidās Kośī, contains a critical edition of the Yogapradīpa, which is based on four manuscripts and two earlier printed editions (publ. 1922 and 1911), with a Gujarati translation and commentary. Its readings are mostly good and we have used it to correct many of the scribal errors in the manuscript of the Endangered Archive.

The introduction to the published edition of the Yogapradīpa rightly notes that this text is cited, with attribution, in the Pañcaparameṣṭhīmantrarājadhyānamālā composed by Nemidāsa.3 The editor dates the Pañcaparameṣṭhīmantrarājadhyānamālā to 1709 CE (VS 1766).4 If this is correct, then the Yogapradīpa predates the eighteenth century. The author of the Yogapradīpa remains unknown.

We will now consider some of the content of this premodern Jain work, the ‘Light on Yoga’ (Yogapradīpa).

The Holy Place in the Body

The Yogapradīpa begins by criticising pilgrimage, which is somewhat surprising given that pilgrimage has been popular with Jains for centuries as it allows laypersons to combine religious practice with recreation. On the one hand, a Jain pilgrim is supposed to live like an ascetic but, on the other hand, the pilgrimage is a social event that may be organised by a wealthy patron who pays for lodgings, travel expenses and community feasts (Dundas 2002: 218-19). The Yogapradīpa argues that god and the Self (ātman), which reside in the body, cannot be seen by visiting holy places:
People desire a holy place [but] what's the point of holy places that cause anguish? The holy place of religion is situated in the body and it is considered superior to all pilgrimage sites.5 
The opening section of the text sometimes adopts a disparaging tone. For example:
Ignoramuses wander from place to place in order to see god. They do not see the god located in the body.6 
People notice a thief, when even a small thing is missing. Those idiots (i.e., pilgrims) do not [even] slightly see the Self, which steals everything.7 

The salient theme of the Yogapradīpa is to see the Self (ātman) in the body by means of meditation. The goal of this meditation is liberation and the text does not mention the attainment of any supernatural powers (siddhi).
Those desirous of liberation should meditate on the untainted Self alone, which is free from all bodily constituents and actions, and has the form of gnosis.8 
Yogins see the Self located inside the body, just as it is, by means of practising this meditation thus.9 

A Trans-sectarian Truth

Despite the criticism of pilgrims, the Yogapradīpa advocates the ecumenical idea that the Self is a trans-sectarian truth. The author states that the supreme Self (paramātman) is the lord of gods (deveśa), and asserts that the supreme Self underlies all religions regardless of the different names they call it:
This untainted [Lord] alone is perceived as Brahmā by Brahmins, Viṣṇu by mendicants in yellow robes and it is seen as Rudra by ascetics. Having been made Buddha by the Buddhists, this eternal [Lord] is the Lord of the Jinas praised by the Jains and it is called Śiva by the Kaulas. Just as a crystal has many forms and is [yet] free from any characteristics, so is this one [Lord] named variously by these six religions. Just as water has many forms according to the different colours of the world [around it], so [the Lord] is called many things according to the differences in [people's] dispositions. Just as the five sense objects are located in one place, [namely,] the body, so the lord should be known as the one god, who is aspectless, free from worldly connections, peaceful, omniscient, powerful and untainted.10 

Eight Auxiliaries (aṣṭāṅga) of Jain Yoga

The Yogapradīpa goes on to teach a yoga with eight auxiliaries (aṣṭāṅga), which are sequenced differently to the usual Aṣṭāṅga format as seen, for example, in Pātañjalayoga:
In this system, the wise should know the eight auxiliaries of yoga are Samyama, Niyama, Karaṇa as the third, Prāṇāyāma, Pratyāhāra, Samādhi, Dhāraṇā and Dhyāna. When this yoga is being practised with all of its auxiliaries, it results in liberation for the wise.11 
Minimal explanation is given of the first seven auxiliaries. 
Samyama is fivefold in this system. These vows are: non-violence, truthfulness, not-stealing, celibacy and non-attachment. Niyama is [also] fivefold; cleanliness, asceticism, contentment, self-study and remembering the deity. Furthermore, Karaṇa is yogic posture (āsana). Prāṇāyāma is the steadiness (sthairya) of the in- and out-breaths. Pratyāhāra is the removal of sense objects and focusing the senses. Samādhi is the contemplation (cintana) of the meaning of statements which destroy worldly life. Dhāraṇā is harnessing the mind on a meditation object in order to bring about stability. If one meditates on a coarse, subtle, formed or formless [concept], the mind becomes steady when it is united with one of these concepts (pratyaya). Yoga is thus, along with its eight auxiliaries, beginning with Saṃyama.12 
The defining of Karaṇa as posture may have been inspired by the notion of Karaṇa in earlier Śaiva works, such as the Mataṅgapārameśvaratantra, in which it refers specifically to the position of the hands, head, eyes, jaw, etc., in a seated yogic posture. Although Prāṇāyāma, Dhāraṇā and Samādhi are included here, the Yogapradīpa does not describe them further nor does it mention any techniques. 

Samādhi as Contemplation versus No-Mind

The idea of Samādhi as contemplation in the Aṣṭāṅga system above is somewhat at odds with teachings on the no-mind state of meditative absorption elsewhere in the text. The Yogapradīpa uses no-mind terminology, such as unmanībhāva, sahaja and laya, which was introduced into the Jain tradition by Hemacandra in his Yogaśāstra (12th c.). Hemacandra borrowed it directly from a Śaiva text called the Amanaska (11th c.). It is possible that the Yogapradīpa’s teachings on the no-mind state were inspired by Hemacandra. However, the fact that Samādhi is not defined as the no-mind state in this Aṣṭāṅga system suggests that this system was borrowed from a different source.

The unusual order of the eight auxiliaries and the odd definition of Samādhi indicate that the Aṣṭāṅga format has been rather awkwardly inserted into this text, which only emphasises  Dhyāna. In particular, it teaches śukladhyāna (pure meditation) for seeing the Self (svātman). The term śukladhyāna is  associated with Jaina meditative practice in canonical texts, such as the Uttarajjhāyāṇa (chapter 29) and Tattvārthasūtra, and post-canonical ones, such as Śubhacandra's Jñānārṇava and Hemacandra's Yogaśāstra.

Apart from śukladhyāna, the Yogapradīpa contains other terms that clearly identify it as a Jain text, such as the mention of the three jewels (ratnatraya), which are given as knowledge (jñāna), faith (darśana) and conduct (caritra), the eight types of karma (aṣṭakarma) and the Jain saint Pārśvaprabhu (also known as Pārśvanātha). Nonetheless, the scarcity of Jain doctrine in the Yogapradīpa suggests that it was intended to appeal to yoga practitioners of various sectarian affiliations, which is somewhat further implied by its trans-sectarian view of the Self.

As far as we are aware, no English translation of the Yogapradīpa is currently available. It would make a welcome addition to scholarly literature on Jain Yoga as well as provide enriching material for Yoga practitioners. So, we do hope to produce a critical edition and translation of this text at some future date.

Yogapradīpa (British Library EAP729/1/2/660: f. 1)
CC 4.0. CC-BY-ND-NC. Sourced and preserved at Chinmaya International Foundation.


1 We would like to thank Giles Hooper, Vina Shah, Tim Lubin, Ulrich Timme Kragh, Dominik Wujastyk and Paul Dundas for answering our questions on specific matters to do with this blogpost.

2 The first is a work on Āyurveda and the second is a text otherwise called the Vivekamārtaṇḍa, a 12th-13th century work that teaches a yoga with six auxiliaries and some Haṭhayoga techniques. It is unlikely that the Vivekamārtaṇḍa was ever widely referred to as the Yogapradīpa, because only one of its manuscripts is reported in catalogues as having the name Yogapradīpa. The New Catalogus Catalogorum identifies the third and fourth Yogapradīpas as works on Jainism. The third is more commonly known as Śubhacandra's Jñānārṇava, which is a large work on yoga with forty-two chapters, composed probably in the 11th century. There are at least five manuscripts reported in catalogues with the name Yogapradīpa and the author Śubhacandra (Kaivalyadhama 2005: 244-45). The confusion over the names Jñānārṇava and Yogapradīpa appears to derive from the colophons of the Jñānārṇava. In the critical edition of the Jñānārṇava (1977: 85) the colophons have the format iti jñānārṇave yogapradīpādhikāre [...]prakaraṇam (i.e., 'here ends the chapter on [...] in the Jñānārṇava, which has the aim of illuminating yoga'). Perhaps, in the manuscripts reported as having the title Yogapradīpa and the author Śubhacandra, the word adhikāre was omitted in the colophons, which confused the cataloguers. It is also possible that jñānārṇave was omitted.

3 See the Introduction (p. 13) of the Pañcaparameṣṭhīmantrarājadhyānamālā, ed. Bhadraṅkaravijay and Amṛtalāl Kālidās Dośī. Mumbaī: Jaina Sāhitya Vikāsa Maṇḍala, 1971. We would like to thank Vina Shah for her invaluable help in reading the Gujarati introductions of the Yogapradīpa and the Pañcaparameṣṭhīmantrarājadhyānamālā.

4 Paul Dundas believes that this date of Nemidāsa is plausible; “I tracked down in [Desai and Kothari's Jain Gurjar Kavīo] Vol 5, 1988, pp. 231-32 an entry for Nemidās Śrāvak, the author of the Pañcaparameṣṭhīmantrarājadhyānamālā, where amongst other information, including the fact that he was a pupil of Jñanavimalasūri, the vs 1776 dating is given. Probably this simply derives from the first edition, but the date is perfectly plausible. There was a Tapā Gaccha monk called Jñānavimalasūri who lived in the middle of the vs 18th c. who seems to fit the bill for a relationship with Nemidās, and while it might at earlier times have been improbable for a monk to teach a layman and write a commentary on his work, by this late time I suspect we're dealing with a representative of the domesticated type of renunciant called yati, interested in mantra, tantra and vernacular composition rather than older-style Sanskrit- and Prakrit- based śāstra (this is a a broad generalisation, of course).” (p.c. 6.3.2017)

5 Yogapradīpa 3 (puruṣās tīrtham icchanti kiṃ tīrthaiḥ kleśakāraṇaiḥ | dharmatīrthaṃ śarīrasthaṃ sarvatīrthādhikaṃ matam ||3|| 3b tīrthaiḥ ] Ed. :  tirthaiḥ Codex).

6 Yogapradīpa 10 (sthāne sthāne bhramantīha devadarśanahetave | śarīrasthaṃ na paśyanti devam ajñānabuddhayaḥ).

7 Yogapradīpa 6 (lokair vilokyate cauro gate svalpe 'pi vastuni | sarvasvaharam ātmānaṃ manāk paśyanti no jaḍāḥ).

8 Yogapradīpa 11 (sarvadhātuvinirmukto jñānarūpo nirañjanaḥ | ātmaiva karmanirmukto dhyātavyo mokṣakāṅkṣibhiḥ).

9 Yogapradīpa 16 (evam abhyāsayogena dhyānenānena yogibhiḥ | śarīrāntaḥsthitaḥ svātmā yathāvastho [']valokyate).

10 Yogapradīpa 32 - 37 (brāhmaṇair lakṣyate brahmā viṣṇuḥ pītāmbarais tathā | rudras tapasvibhir dṛṣṭa eṣa eva nirañjanaḥ ||32||
jinendro jalpyate jainair buddhaḥ kṛtvā sa saugataiḥ | kaulikaiḥ kola ākhyātaḥ sa evāyaṃ sanātanaḥ ||33||
sphaṭiko bahurūpaḥ syād yathaivopādhivarjitaḥ | sa tathā darśanaiḥ ṣaḍbhiḥ khyāta eko 'py anekadhā ||34||
yathāpy anekarūpaṃ syāj jalaṃ bhūvarṇabhedataḥ | tathā bhāvavibhedena nānārūpaḥ sa gīyate ||35||
bhāvabhedān na gacchanti darśanāny ekavartmanā | ekatrāpi sthitāḥ kāye pañcaite viṣayā yathā ||36||
niṣkalo nirmamaḥ śāntaḥ sarvajñaḥ sukhadaḥ prabhuḥ | sa eva bhagavān eko devo jñeyo nirañjanaḥ ||37||
36a gacchanti ] Ed. : ma sthanti Codex. 36c kāye ] Ed. : kārye Codex).

11 Yogapradīpa 50 - 51 (saṃyamo niyamaś caiva karaṇaṃ ca tṛtīyakam | prāṇāyāmapratyāhārau samādhir dhāraṇā tathā ||50||
dhyānaṃ cetīha yogasya jñeyam aṣṭāṅgakaṃ budhaiḥ | pūrṇāṅgaṃ kriyamāṇas tu muktaye syād asau satām ||51||
50c pratyāhārau ] Ed. pratyahārā Codex. 51c pūrṇāṅgaṃ ] Ed. : pūrṇāṅga Codex).

12 Yogapradīpa 134 - 139 (ahiṃsā satyam asteyaṃ brahmacaryam asaṅgataḥ | ity etāni vratāny atra saṁyamaḥ pañcadhā smṛtaḥ ||134|| śaucaṃ tapaś ca santoṣaḥ svādhyāyo devatāsmṛtiḥ | niyamaḥ pañcadhā jñeyaḥ karaṇaṃ punar āsanam ||135||
svāsapraśvāsayoḥ sthairyaṃ prāṇāyāmo bhavet punaḥ | pratyāhāro viṣayadhvaṃsa indriyāṇāṃ samāhitam ||136||
samādhir bhavahantṛṇāṃ vākyānām arthacintanam | sthairyahetor bhaved dhyeye dhāraṇā cittayojanā ||137||
sthūle vā yadi vā sūkṣme sākāre ca nirākṛtau | dhyānaṃ dhyāyet sthiraṃ cittaṃ ekapratyayasaṅgate ||138||
evaṃ yogo bhaved aṅgair aṣṭadhā saṃyamādibhiḥ ||139ab||
137c dhyeye ] conj. : dhyeyo ] Codex, Ed. aṅgair ] conj. : yogair Ed.). It appears that all manuscripts have the reading evaṃ yogo bhaved yogair. It is possible the author may have understood yoga and aṅga as synonyms. However, I (Birch) am not aware of a precedent for this. I have emended the text simply because I cannot see how yogaiḥ could be understood other than as referring to the auxiliaries.

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