Bhävanäs (Reflections or Contemplations)


Twelve Bhävanäs (Reflection on Soul):

01.  Anitya Bhävanä (Transitoriness)

02.  Asharan Bhävanä (Helplessness)

03.  Sansär Bhävanä (Cycle of Birth and Death)

04.  Ekatva Bhävanä (Solitariness)

05.  Anyatva Bhävanä (Otherness)

06.  Ashuchi Bhävanä (Impurity)

07.  Äsrava Bhävanä (Inflow of Karma)

08.  Samvar Bhävanä (Blockage of Karma)

09.  Nirjarä Bhävanä (Shedding of Karma)

10.  Bodhi-durlabh Bhävanä (Rarity of Enlightenment)

11.  Loka-svabhäva Bhävanä (Nature of Cosmos)

12.  Dharma Bhävanä (Religion)

Four Bhävanäs (Compassionate Reflection)

01.  Maitri Bhävanä (Universal Friendship)

02.  Pramod Bhävanä (Respect For Virtue)

03.  Karunä Bhävanä (Sense of Compassion)

04.  Mädhyastha Bhävanä (Neutrality)

Reasons for Practicing these Bhävanäs

What Do These Bhävanäs Do?



Jain religion puts a significant emphasis on the thought process (inner aspirations) of a human being.  A person's behavior and his actions are the reflection of his internal thoughts.  It is not only the action but also intention behind the action results in the accumulation of Karma.  Hence, one should be very careful about his thoughts, and the subject matter of his thought.

To make room for pure thoughts, and to drive out the evil ones, Jainism recommends reflecting or meditating on the twelve thoughts known as the Twelve Bhävanä (Anuprekshä) or Reflections.  The Twelve Bhävanäs cover a wide field of Jainism.  They are designed to serve as an aid to spiritual progress leading to the path of liberation.  They are reflections upon the fundamental facts of life.

Twelve Bhävanäs (Reflection on Soul):

01.  Anitya Bhävanä (Transitoriness)

‘Anitya' means ‘transitory'.  All material things of the universe are transitory in nature.  It is an ever-changing world.  Nothing is still and permanent here.  What gives us pain is not the changing modes but our insistence to see that the things of our liking remain permanent.  Unthinking man never reconciles himself to the fact of change and this is the root of human misery because no one who belongs to this universe, and is a part of it, can free himself from the laws of nature, which govern the universe.  We experience every moment that all objects of pleasure, wealth, power, and everything around us undergo changes.  The moment we are born, we begin to age and then die.  Change is the rule.  The only exception is our own true self, Soul (Chetanä).  However, we tend to forget the Soul that is permanent and cling to the things that are transitory, and if in the process we become unhappy, we blame others.  Obviously, the pangs of our pain would be greatly relieved if we constantly remember, that everything except the self (soul) is transitory, change is the rule and clinging to the changing modes is pure ignorance.

02.  Asharan Bhävanä (Helplessness)

Sharana means refuge.  Asharan means lack of refuge or helplessness.  When death occurs and the soul has to leave the body, there is no one who can save the soul from that helpless situation.  Wealth, family etc. have to be given up at that time.  No worldly thing can thus provide refuge, so why should we depend upon them.  ‘It should be constantly borne in mind that we have to find out our own course in life.  Pure religion alone ought to be accepted as help in life.  Seers and scriptures can only guide us.  We have to tread on the path by our own efforts, discrimination, and wisdom.  When we are, overtaken by pain, physical or mental, no one can save us from its pangs.  We are the makers of our own future and our pleasures and pains.  We have to learn to bear them with equanimity and without depending on others.

03.  Sansär Bhävanä (Cycle of Birth and Death)

In the cycle of birth and rebirth, mother of one life may become wife in another life, and similarly wife can become mother; and an enemy can become a friend.  How strange and futile is the Sansär?  We should not have any attachment to it.  This Bhävanä asks us to remember that this self is wandering in this Sansär from one life to another, since time immemorial.  This endless wandering from one life to the other must have some purpose.  Can there be an end to it?  Surely, it cannot be the scheme of Nature that this Ätmä should go on endlessly to experience pleasures and pains, hopes and despairs during life after life without any purpose.  In addition, if there is any purpose I must find it out.  It is found that I have not gained anything by repeating this endless cycle of birth and rebirth, life and death and all the ups and downs, tensions and turmoil of aimlessly moving in this Sansär.  What can I do to avoid it?  A mind of a Sädhaka (aspirant) constantly occupied with this type of perception finally leads him to a state of Nirgrantha (without knot or Granthi) where every knot of bondage is dissolved.

04.  Ekatva Bhävanä (Solitariness)

"I am alone, I was born alone, I will die alone, I am sick alone, I have to suffer alone, I alone have to experience the consequences of Karmas which I have earned," Therefore, one should be cautious, and stay away from attachment and aversion.

Ekatva means aloneness and Anyatva means separateness.  We enter the world alone and we leave it also alone.  Each one of us has to suffer the fruits of our individual karmas.  Our cooperation in worldly affairs, love and affection for others should not be allowed to be degenerated into attachment because no amount of attachment either for our family or friends can save us from pangs of life.  Consciousness that I am alone and I alone have to chart my course of life is not being selfish. Also that my family, my friends and my belongings are not mine, does not breed selfishness, but clinging, to all these things, does bring selfishness because such clinging is the result of gross attachment which is the worst vice in human nature.  In fact both these Bhävanäs of Ekatva and Anyatva (otherness) are not only complimentary to each other but are, also the logical consequence of the Asharan Bhävanä referred to above.  What these two Bhävanäs prescribe, is to suggest that you have to bear the fruits of your own karmas ‑ others cannot relieve you of them.  Similarly, you cannot relieve others of the fruits of their karmas.  If we cultivate such an objectivity of outlook, we would be better equipped to serve others around us and ourselves.

05.  Anyatva Bhävanä (Otherness)

This body is transitory and it is different from me.  I am the soul, which is not perishable, while the body is perishable.  Even wealth, family etc., is not mine.  They are different from me, therefore, I detach myself from all these things."

06.  Ashuchi Bhävanä (Impurity)

"This body is made of impure substances.  It is being nourished by impure substances.  I will discard my attachments to my body, and engage myself in self-discipline, renunciation, and spiritual endeavors."  We all are most deeply attached to our body.  In fact, all pleasures and pains are of our body.  Our attachment to our family and our worldly possessions is in the ultimate analysis the attachment to our body.  But what is this body?  When the self withdraws from the body what is its condition?  Even when the self does not withdraw, what does this body consists of?  How do various diseases arise in our body?  Why does it gradually decay?  If we give deeper thought to all these questions, we find two important aspects of our body:

·         Without the existence of the soul within it, it is nothing but a conglomeration of dirt and diseases.

·         Even with the existence of soul within, it is constantly under the process of decay and deterioration.

To keep these aspects of the body constantly in mind is called Ashuchi Bhävanä.  The constant reminder of these aspects blunts our attachment to our body and keep us alive to the fact that self is something distinct and different from the body, and the body can be best utilized not for enjoying the transitory objects of the world but for liberating the self from the shackles of karmas.  This Bhävanä is called ‘Ashuchi' as it points out to the impure aspects of the body.  This is required to be done to mitigate our attachment to the body and not for cultivating hatred towards it, as misunderstood by some.  All the roads of Sädhanä ‑ roads of self‑realization ‑ are required to be traversed through body and it is this body, which is the best vehicle to take us to the final destination.  It is therefore, quite necessary to take its proper care and to keep it properly nourished, healthy and efficient so that it remains a fit and efficient vehicle to carry us safely in our spiritual journey.  What is discounted here is indulgence in material objects of life to satisfy the undisciplined cravings of the body.

07.  Äsrava Bhävanä (Inflow of Karma)

Contemplation on inflow of Karmas and its causes: All causes such as worng belief (Mithyätva), non-vowness (Avirati), spiritual laziness (Pramäd), passions (Kashäya) and non-spiritual activities (Yogas) that create the inflow of Karmas should be discarded.

08.  Samvar Bhävanä (Blockage of Karma)

Samvar means blocking of the inflow of Karmas.  One must contemplate on Samiti, Gupti, and Yati-Dharma etc. One must carry out these activities and try to reduce or stop new bondage of Karma.

09.  Nirjarä Bhävanä (Shedding of Karma)

Nirjarä means to shed whatever Karmas we have.  One must think of the benefits that accrue from each of the 12 kinds of Tapas or the austerities, which lead to Nirjarä.  One must contemplate on these austerities in order to destroy sins.

10.  Bodhi-durlabh Bhävanä (Rarity of Enlightenment)

One must contemplate how difficult it is to attain the right belief and Jain Dharma for the souls that are wandering aimlessly in four destinies.  Withour right belief (Samyaktva), one cannot begin the process of liberating the self from the misery of the world. One must have faith in right Dev, right Guru and right Dharma. There should not be even the slightest negligence in observing the religion propounded by the Jin."

11.  Loka-svabhäva Bhävanä (Nature of Cosmos)

Loka-svabhäva means one must contemplate on the three Lokas, namely: 1) the upper world, 2) the middle world, 3) the lower world, and also the whole universe filled with souls and Pudgals.

12.  Dharma Bhävanä (Religion)

"Arihanta Bhagawän, the omniscient, has expounded an excellent Shruta Dharma and Chäritra Dharma.  I will engage myself in that Dharma.”  One should carry out such contemplation again and again.

A constant reminder of these twelve Bhävanäs mitigates our pangs of pains and expands our understanding of the life's problems, and even the uncomfortable situations of life do not appear burdensome.

However there are four auxiliary Bhävanäs that represent the positive means of supporting the Five Vows.  They are intended to develop purity of thought and sincerity in the practice of religion.  They play very important role in the day- to- day life of a householder and these reflections can be practiced very easily.  Adopting these Bhävanäs in daily life can make a person very virtuous.

Four Bhävanäs (Compassionate Reflection)

These four Bhävanäs (reflections) represent the positive means of supporting the Five Vratas.  The qualities, which a devotee of nonviolence must possess, are Maitri (amity, love, friendship), Pramod (joy and respect), Karunä (compassion), and Mädhyastha (indifference or neutrality).  Friendliness and non-violence strengthen each other.  Friendliness softens the heart and nourishes the capacity for forgiveness and forbearance.  Praising others virutes with joy and respect corrodes one’s own ego and conceit.  Compassion for their misfortune fosters a charitable heart.  The cultivation of neutrality and equanimity has the power to chastise vainglory in self and others.  These Bhävanäs are designed to make the devotee a good person, to serve as aids to spiritual progress, to produce detachment, and to lead the devotee from the realm of desire to the path of purification.  They are intended to develop purity of thought and sincerity in the practice of religion.


Sattvesu Maitri Gunisu Pramodam

Klistesu Jivesu Dayä Paratvam |

Madhyastha‑bhävam Viparita‑vrttau

Sadä Mamätmä Vidadhätu Deva ||

O God, Let my soul ever diffuse

Good‑will for all living beings

Delight for those that are virtuous

Compassion for the afflicted ones and indifference towards the ill behaved!


01.  Maitri Bhävanä (Universal Friendship)

Shashibhushan Bandopadhyay, well known for his honesty and compassion, was a very successful and famous advocate of Calcutta who lived in the early part of the 19th century.  One afternoon during the hot summer of May, he hired a horse cart and went to the house of a well-known gentleman for some work.  When the work was over, and it was the time for departure, the gentleman said, "Sir!  You could have sent a note with your servant instead of having taken the trouble of coming to my place in this hot weather and I would have visited you."

The advocate replied, "Yes, it occurred to me in the beginning, but when I thought of this scorching heat, I did not feel it right to send the servant.  If he had come, he would have been either walking or on a bicycle, instead of a horse cart, In that case, he would have suffered more due to this extreme hot weather.  With this in mind, I preferred to come myself.”  What a humane treatment of the servant it was!  He looked upon the servant as a friend!

The cultivation of friendliness without any selfishness towards all living beings is Maitri (Universal friendship).  The devotee should show equal friendship to all living beings without any reservation due to sex, color, race, wealth, nationality, look, size, and so on.  Lord Mahävir said that we must be friends of all living beings.  Feelings of friendship should be the foundation of all our future thinking.  Thus, when we make friendship with someone or for that matter with all living beings, how can we think of harming, deceiving or quarreling with them?  How can our actions be harsh towards anybody?  We would never hurt our friends; on the contrary, we support them and protect them.  That way we develop bonds with each other.  Friendship teaches us to be tolerant, to forgive, and to care and share among one another.  There would be time when our thoughts may be reactionary and harsh; at that time instead of reacting right away, it would be better to wait and think of friendship with the person concerned.  This always serves to ease up the reaction, making you more reluctant to do anything that is not desirable.  Moreover, since human nature is such that it always happens to react, Lord Mahävir said, if you want to react, then react with Pramod.

02.  Pramod Bhävanä (Respect For Virtue)

Over a hundred years ago in the year 1883, Swämi Dayanand Saraswati, a great torchbearer of Indian culture, died.  Efforts were made by his devotees to prepare a biography of Swämiji.

One devotee of Swämiji very humbly approached a great scholar disciple and said, "You are a great scholar, and you know Swämiji’s doctrines so well.  You are thoroughly acquainted with his life.  Please write a biography of Swämiji.  It will be a permanent memorial to Swämiji, and will inspire future generations to a higher and nobler life."

The scholar-disciple replied, "Well, friend, the work has already begun and will end at the proper time.”  The devotee replied, "We are very grateful to you.  Kindly set aside all other works and complete this work as early as possible."

The scholar-disciple said, "Well brother, our viewpoints are different.  I am writing it with every moment of my life, by adopting the qualities of Swämiji.  That is how I am writing his biography.  I would not feel satisfied simply by writing description of his virtues on paper.  Writing on paper will surely not create a real memorial of Swämiji.  At this time we should follow his principles and live our lives the way he did, and that way we will be able to continue his work.”

Pramod (joy, praise, and respect), or delight in the virtues of others, is defined as a state of experience of real joy and enthusiasm for those who possess higher and superior qualities.  In this Pramod Bhävanä, we admire the successes and virtues of our friends, and spiritual leaders. Whenever we come across virtuous persons, we should really respect, honor, and admire their virtues.  When we are overwhelmed with joy because of such fine virtues in our friends, and spiritual leaders, the process of becoming virtuous begins.  Good virtues are the right faith, the right knowledge, the right conduct, and the right penance. We should praise and show our highest respect to Tirthankars who showed the path and Gurus who help us in following that path for our spiritual journey.

Human nature is such that sometimes it cannot tolerate even the successes of friends or virtuous people.  Sometimes, we are so jealous that we label their good virtues as bad qualities.  When we are burning in the fire of jealousy, it also ignites the fires of cheating, lying, and hurting others.  But, instead of being jealous of the success or higher virtues of our friends or our spiritual leaders, we should feel content that if not me at least my friends are doing well; that way our unhappiness will turn into happiness.  In addition, as soon as such thoughts come in our mind, we may feel silly that we had become jealous.  That way the friendship or feeling of admiration would turn the negative impulses into the positive ones and we would be more at peace.

When we consider everyone as our friend, hostility stops, and when we start admiring successes of our friends even a negative force like jealousy would disappear.  One should not entertain such feelings as jealousy, enviousness, and maliciousness.  That is not the end of road, because as we notice the successes of our friends, we also notice the downfall and suffering of many friends.  Moreover, that is going to disturb our mind.  At such this time, we are urged to contemplate Karunä Bhävanä.

03.  Karunä Bhävanä (Sense of Compassion)

Swämi Dayanand Saraswati once was going on foot, from Banaras to the Dadupur.  It was the rainy season and the water had formed a puddle all around.  One bullock-cart, fully loaded with grass, had gotten stuck in the mud.  People all around were giving instructions to the driver of the cart but the cart was going deeper and deeper in the mud.  The bulls were breathing heavily and saliva was dropping out of their mouths.

The heart of the Swämi melted at the suffering of the bulls.  He immediately took hold of the cart, freed the bulls and with his physical strength, he pulled the cart out of the mud.  The driver and people all around thanked the Swämi.  This was Karunä Bhävanä towards the bulls by the Swämi.

The feeling of self-affliction and pity produced in our heart upon witnessing suffering by other living beings is known as Karunä (compassion).  In this Karunä, we should show compassion to those who are in distress, and to those who are weak, sick and helpless.  Since we have accepted everyone as a friend, we cannot just stand aside and let them suffer.  We should help them and should offer them support.  We should try to remove their sorrows and agonies.  We should make all efforts in these directions.

There are two types of compassion, (1) material and (2) spiritual.  When we see someone is homeless, poor, and sick, or in need of something, the feeling we get to help is called material compassion.  By helping the needy materially, we are able to reduce their material sufferings.  At the same time, there are people who are ignorant, have wrong beliefs, are suffering from internal passions such as anger, ego, deceit and greed; the feeling we get to help is spiritual compassion.  We try to show them the right spiritual path to reduce their internal sufferings.

By helping them and showing them the right path, we may see improvement.  Sometimes, we may try again and again but all efforts go to waste.  They just do not change.  This may bring disgust and aversion in our mind, but that would not be good for us either.  Here we were trying to do something good for others, and if they do not improve, it should not affect us.  At this time, we should contemplate Mädhyastha Bhävanä.

04.  Mädhyastha Bhävanä (Neutrality)

About hundred years ago in the state of Orissa, India, a robber named Ramkhan had spread terror.  Nobody dared even to take his name.  People were terror stricken and used to tremble by just a reference to his name.  Every one wished to be freed from the terror of this robber.

Mahätmä Harnath was a great saint of the area.  He gave courage to the frightened people and said, "Well brothers, no sinner is bad, only the sin is bad.”  With these words, he took the track towards the forest where the terrorizing robber lived.

With an extremely peaceful composure, detached and fearless vision, and the luster of celibacy, the Mahätmä proceeded to the forest where the bandit lived.  As he reached the place of his residence, the eyes of Ramkhan fell on the Mahätmä and he was immediately impressed.  The emotions of the robber, to whom killing was just a game, were transformed.  He said, "O great saint!  I have committed countless crimes.  Now you have come and with you has come the time for my uplift.”  With these words, he bowed down at the feet of the Mahätmä.

The Mahätmä raised the robber and embraced him with love.  He showed him the right path.  Ramkhan became a monk and led a spiritual life.  This shows that even the lowest of the low can get uplifted with equanimity.

To have indifference or to stay neutral in an irretrievable situation is Mädhyastha Bhävanä.  In Mädhyastha Bhävanä one should stay neutral, uninvolved with those who, even after realizing and knowing what is right and wrong, carry on wrong ways.  As mentioned earlier, we can try our best to help, support, or advise; but some, out of their arrogance, obstinacy, stubbornness, or ignorance, may refuse to walk on the right path.  Instead of developing hatred, anger, contempt, or abhorrence towards them, we should think that we have done all we can; and changing is up to them.  We should not let our mind be disturbed for what they are doing.  Even though we desire the well being of such people, we do not get involved, unless they come for help.

Reasons for Practicing these Bhävanäs

There are many reasons.  The main one is for our own purification process.  A few other ones are as under.  Every living being has a soul.  All souls are equal.  No one is inferior and no one is superior.  Each one can excel and achieve Moksha.

Every living soul has a right to put in its own effort to improve and this right should not be taken away.

We have no right to rule other living ones, as others do not have a right to rule us.

We need to restrain/minimize our hatred towards arrogant, egotistical and deceitful, and towards the people with wrong belief and/or ill behavior.

The cause of eradicating/reducing violence, falsehood, stealing, and carnality does not warrant despise, or abhorrence of the persons involved in the sinful activities.

A neutral attitude can enhance the cause of non-violence and may restrain passions like anger, ego, deceit, greed, jealousy, etc.

Such attitude helps in preventing the influx of new Karma.

What Do These Bhävanäs Do?

The significant results due to practice of Bhävanäs are listed below:

·         Practicing these four Bhävanäs enhances the cause of promoting nonviolence, truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy, and non- possessiveness.

·         Friendliness and non-violence strengthen each other.  Friendliness softens the heart and nourishes the capability of forgiveness and forbearance.

·         Delighting in the glory and distinction of others consumes one's own ego and conceit while compassion for the misfortune of others fosters a charitable heart.

·         The cultivation of equanimity has the capability to chastise vanity.

·         These Bhävanäs strengthen the qualities of forgiveness, fearlessness and tolerance.

·         They foster the atmosphere of peace and mutual respect.

·         How to develop these Bhävanäs?  There are many ways.  The vital factors for the purpose are faith, proper guidance, right knowledge, and strong will to improve, learn and practice.

·         Treat others the way you would like to be treated.  Wish them the same that you wish for yourself.

·         Practice of Jiv-Dayä: Ahinsä (non-violence) is an aspect of Dayä (compassion, empathy and charity).  Jiv-Dayä means caring for and sharing with all living beings, tending, protecting and serving them.  It creates universal friendliness, (Maitri) universal forgiveness, (Kshamä) and universal fearlessness (Abhay).

·         Take care not to think of deceiving or quarreling with anyone.  Avoid speaking ill of others.

·         Make sure our actions are not harsh.

·         Stay constantly aware that we do not want to hurt our friends.  We want to support and protect them.

·         Be tolerant and have sense of caring and sharing.  Remain careful in walking, talking, thinking or doing any thing so as not to inflict the slightest hurt, pain, insult etc. to any living being, inclusive of human beings, animals, insects etc.

·         Avoid instant reaction.  Instead, wait and think of amity.  Reaction is not the nature of soul.  Lord Mahävir said if you want to react, then react with Pramod (praise, adoration and respect) Bhävanä.

·         Stay away from adverse feelings like “He/she is my enemy or adversary, he/she inflicts pain on me, he/she insults me, he/she is not on my side,” and so on.  If one cherishes such adverse feelings directly or indirectly, the sense of friendliness cannot be developed.  We should accept even the adverse situations as resulting from our own Karma rather than reacting to them adversely.  We should make effort to avoid recurrence of such situations.

·         Acquire right knowledge, guidance from the right Guru and/or from the right religious books.

·         Avoid the narrow mentality that may be prevailing/persisting in our family, caste, creed, sect, sex, color or society.  Let us show real affection and regard for all human beings and creatures as we have it for ourselves.

·         Develop close association with the persons who have cultivated these virtues.  Observe the virtue and its impact on the daily life of the virtuous person, with an open mind.  This will develop inclination towards these virtues.  Endeavor to cultivate the same in your life.

·         Stay aware, practice & have patience

·         Contemplate in your conscious mind on the virtue of Maitri that “Feeling of hatred generates fear, and weakens body and mind.  Therefore, I must develop the virtue of Maitri.  When one expresses the hatred in thought, speech or action, his/her happiness is destroyed.  To develop and enhance my own happiness, I must develop the virtue of Maitri, universal friendship.”

·         Pray sincerely, daily or as often as possible:


Khämemi Savvajive

I forgive all living beings.

Savve Jivä Khamantu Me

May all living beings forgive me.

Mitti Me Savva Bhuesu

I have friendship with all the beings

Veram Majjham Na Kenai

I have no animosity towards any one


Maitri Bhävanä (Immortal Song of Universal Friendship):


Maitri Bhävnun Pavitra Zaranun,

May the sacred stream of amity

Mujha Haiyamän Vahyä Kare,

Flow forever in my heart.

Shubha Thäo Ä Sakal Vishvanun,

May the universe prosper,

Evi Bhävanä Nitya Rahe.

Such is my cherished desire.



Gunathi Bharelä Gunijana Dekhi,

May my heart sing with ecstasy

Haiyu Märun Nrutya Kare,

At the sight of the virtuous.

Ye Santonä Charan Kamalmän,

May my life be

Mujha Jivanano Arghya Rahe.

An offering at their feet.



Deen Kroor Ne Dharma Vihonä,

May my heart bleed at the sight of

Dekhi Dilmän Darda Rahe,

The wretched, the cruel, the irreligious.

Karunabheeni Ankhomänthi,

May tears of compassion

Ashruno Shubha Strota Vahe.

Flow from my eyes.



Märg Bhulelä Jivan Pathikne,

May I always be there to show the path

Märg Chindhavä Ubho Rahun,

To the pathless wanderers of life.

Kare Upekshä ye Märagani,

Yet if They should not hearken to me,

To Ye Samatä Chitta Dharun.

May I bide in patience.



Chandra Prabhuni Dharma Bhävanä,

May the spirit of goodwill

Haiye Sau Mänav Läve,

Be there in everybody’s hearts.

Ver Zernä Päp Tajine,

May we all sing in chorus

Mangal Geeto Sau Gäve.

The immortal song of human concord.