What is Swadhyay?

Great Jain saint Amitagati once said that one cannot get rid of inner darkness of ignorance without the bright light of Swädhyäy. Another great Jain saint Äsädhara recommended to have Swädhyäy schools where the monks are not available on a constant basis. Swädhyäy is one of the most important aspect for all the schools of thought. In Jainism, it is considered as one of the daily necessities (one of six Ävashyakas). Swädhyäy like Humility (Vinay), meditation, etc. is one of the internal Tapas (austerities) that purify our emotions and consciousness (soul). Practicing Tapas is considered the most important process for purification of the consciousness (for shedding our Karmas). Fasting, restrain in eating, control of mind and senses, etc. are external Tapas that purify our body, mind and senses. Therefore, Swädhyäy is one of the most important Tap for spiritual progress. Swädhyäy is one of the least painful and the most rewarding Tap. Swädhyäy is for all human beings regardless of their level of knowledge, spiritual progress, intelligence, grasping power or memory power. It is incomparable and indispensable. It yields immediate rewards. One of the differences between human beings and animals is that human beings have the ability to do Swädhyäy and animals don’t.

Its simple meaning is to study. Swädhyäy word consists of two words; Sva and Adhyäya. Sva means self, and soul is the self. Adhyäya means study. Therefore, Swädhyäy means self-study. Looking from the absolute point of view, the fruit of engaging in self-studying is self-realization. To obtain the benefits of self-study, association with another self-realized soul, or following of his spiritual teachings, is necessary. Where possible, guidance of Guru (learned saint) should be obtained.

Pride, anger, ignorance, unhealthy body and laziness are the five obstacles in the acquirement of knowledge (Vidya).

Determination, making self-improvement as a top priority, open mind, strong desire to know (learn), strong desire to practice after knowledge is acquired, finding time and firm faith in Tirthankara’s teachings can be considered essential elements to start Swädhyäy. As nutritious food is necessary to maintain a healthy body, Swädhyäy and meditation are necessary to keep our mind and emotions healthy.

Swädhyäy is traditionally divided into five parts: (1) Vächanä: Studying and explaining the sacred texts and their meanings; (2) Pruchchhanä: Asking questions to clarify doubts (3) Paravartana: Repeating the texts and their meaning. (4) Anupreksha: Contemplating on the meaning of the sacred books; (5) Dharmakatha: Listening and engaging in spiritual discussions, inquiries, teaching, etc.

Every day, one should find some time to carry out Swädhyäy or the study of the scriptures or religious matter. We must study, learn and reflect deeply upon those books which help us to be virtuous and elevate our life. If it is not possible to do every day, one should try to do when he/she finds the spare time.

The following are some important points to be considered for undertaking Swädhyäy when guidance of Guru is not available:

  • Guidance from learned person
  • Setting up structure and frequency
  • Selection of topics / books
  • Set up objectives & rules
  • Avoid simply reading books or “crammed” speech. Speak in a simple and “explaining” style. Avoid difficult words. Look at everyone and make eye contacts.
  • First, develop fundamental concepts of Jainism. Do not go too deep in a subject until everyone is ready
  • Do not rush to finish a topic and do not lengthen it unnecessarily. Have a clear message (what, why & how).
  • In the beginning, avoid Jain cosmology, and the topics that have elements of miracles and material rewards
  • No criticism, open mind, active listening, confidence. Have a harmonious and joyful way
  • Use modern techniques for discussion (brain-storming, prioritizing, introducing role of a facilitator, etc.), flip charts, chalk or white board, and audio/video aids.
  • Make sure everyone is enjoying and no one is getting bored or loosing concentration. Every participant should have the feeling of learning, involvement and contribution. Encourage to read, write, think, memorize, ponder and discuss.
  • Include current issues and topics like Jainism & ecology, comparative study with other religions, Jainism & modern time, etc.
  • Include oral and written tests, essay writings, material research and presentation by every participant
  • Minimize socialization, snacks, etc.
  • Encourage practicing what is learnt

Fruits of Swadhyay:

  1. Acquires proper knowledge to become a true life-artist.
  2. Knows what is good (right) and what is not good (wrong).
  3. Resolves doubts, removes blind faith and eradicates false views
  4. Removes himself/herself from wasteful activities
  5. Is convinced that the best things are not possible without the utmost efforts.
  6. Departs from wrong companies and gets involved with right people.
  7. Does not praise or fear wrong people.
  8. Learns the importance of practicing the knowledge
  9. Enhances concentration, intelligence and self-control.
  10. Improves results of meditation
  11. Realizes that body and soul are different substances
  12. Develops inner vision
  13. Begins to Develop forbearance (forgiveness), modesty (humility), straightforwardness (candor), contentment, truthfulness, self-restraint (control of senses and mind), etc.
  14. Commences the purification of conscious mind and shedding of Karma.

Swädhyäy is one of the internal tapas that purify our conscious mind by shedding our Karmas. Swädhyäy is for getting rid of false views, acquiring right knowledge about what is right and what is wrong, understanding the art of living and getting inspiration to put it in practice.