Article: Yogīndu

Contributed by Jérôme Petit

Yogīndu is a Digambara teacher, probably from the sixth century. He is the author of two short treatises on the true nature of the self that have acquired great popularity among Jains of all sects.

Deeply influenced by Kundakunda, his thought found an echo in Rāmasiṃha Muni’s poetry in the 11th century. Initially written for monks, his works later had genuine success among the religious-minded laity.


The research of A. N. Upadhye, who edited Yogīndu’s works, sets him in the sixth century. Other scholars are in favour of a later date and think that he lived probably in the eighth century. The difficulty in dating him accurately lies in the fact that nothing is known about Yogīndu’s life. He just gave his name at the end of his writings and the name of his disciple, Bhaṭṭa Prabhākara, for whom he had composed them in the form of a dialogue with him.

Yogīndu wrote in Apabhraṃśa, a middle Indic language that is more accessible and flexible than Sanskrit. His style is vibrant, vivid and very clear. Despite using a technical vocabulary, Yogīndu found many original expressions that strike the readers. He signed his works with the names ‘Jogicanda’ and ‘Joindu’ which has been sanskritised to ‘Yogīndu’, meaning ‘the ascetic who can be compared to the moon’.


Yogīndu has been clearly influenced by Kundakunda’s MokṣaprābhṛtaMokkhapāhuḍa in Prakrit – and Pūjyapāda’s Samādhiśataka. This influence can be seen in his insistence on the threefold aspect of the self in the expression of liberation. He writes that one should renounce the external selfbahir-ātman – to realise the supreme self – paramātman – by knowing the internal self – antar-ātman.

His thought gives also weight to the difference between two philosophical perspectives on reality:

  • mainly conventional view – vyavahāra-naya
  • absolute view – niścaya-naya.

This emphasis on the conventional and absolute viewpoints can also be found in Kundakunda.


In Jain and wider Indian culture, high places are sacred. The peaks of Mount Girnar in Gujarat are holy to both Digambara and Śvetāmbara Jains, as well as to Hindus. Like all Jain temple-cities, Girnar has many temples dedicated to the Jinas at its top an

Mount Girnar
Image by Nilesh Bandhiya © GNU GPL

Paramātma-prakāśa means Light of the Supreme Self. It can be translated also as Light on the Supreme Self by using the figure of speech known as śleṣa – 'double meaning’. It is a text of 345 stanzas divided into two books, respectively of 126 and 219 stanzas.

The text takes the form of a dialogue in which the pupil Bhaṭṭa Prabhākara asks the master Yogīndu controversial and difficult questions on the true nature of the self or soul.

At that time, the philosophical Digambara tradition and the Hindu school of the Vedānta were rivals. Their thinking was very close because both focused on the search for the nature of the self. The main difference is that the Vedānta school proposes an identification of the self – ātman – with the one universal soul – Brahman. Yogīndu explains, with some so-called Upaniṣadic accents, the true nature of the self and the way to realise the supreme self. The self is an eternal substance. As a substance it has qualities – guṇa – and is subject to modifications – paryāya. Its two main qualities are vision or perception – darśana – and knowledge – jñāna.

The difference between the conventional and absolute points of view is crucial here. It leads Yogīndu to say the opposite of what the doctrine proclaims.

For example, the karma that affects the soul is influenced by meritspuṇya – and demerits – pāpa. Jain lay people tend to concentrate on binding merits, which produce well-being in this life and positive rebirths. Thus Yogīndu states that a wise man should prefer demerits to merits because demerit will give him a small pain but will let the self be free. Merit, on the contrary, will grant him a wonderful experience in this world that will really be a source of worries! Merits lead to prosperity, prosperity to vanity, and vanity to perversity that leads to demerits.

That is why Yogīndu writes (book II, 60) that merits are not at all enviable. Instead of focusing on merits, which can be thought of as a conventional aspect of religion, Yogīndu invites his pupil to focus on the destruction of karma and on knowledge of the self. He says that a pilgrimage to holy places will not save anyone from the transitory cycle of rebirths if it is devoid of knowledge of the self (book I, 85). And that self – ātman – is nothing but the Supreme Self – paramātman. From the conventional point of view, the self undergoes modifications but from the absolute point of view it has only the capacity to see and know. The aspirant must concentrate his thoughts on that purity of the self. The Jains see meditation – dhyāna – and supreme contemplation – samādhi – as a huge fire that will consume the particles of karma that bind to the soul. Hence the importance of meditation in Jain doctrine as helping souls to escape the cycle of rebirth.


A typical Digambara representation of a siddha, shown as an empty space. This underlines the idea that a siddha has no body and is a soul that has recovered its original purity. It regains this purity when it is liberated from the cycle of rebirth. In thi

Image of a siddha
Image by Hindi Granth Karyala © Public domain

As the Paramātma-prakāśa does, the Yoga-sāra describes the true nature of the self. The title means Essence of Activity [Leading to Liberation]. Here the term yoga designates all the rules that an aspirant to liberation must follow, like meditation or self-control. It is a short text of 108 stanzas, a kind of summary of the Paramātma-prakāśa.

It describes quickly the threefold aspect of the self and invites the aspirant to know what the self is about, instead of encouraging him to follow conventional conduct prescribed by the Jain doctrine. The number 108 is also the number of beads in a rosary, so the number in itself is an invitation to recite this text every day and learn it by heart.

The metre used is the dohā, which was extremely popular among medieval Indian poets because it produces short, balanced stanzas that are easy to memorise.


Yogīndu's influence can be seen in later writers, both Jain and otherwise.

Rāmasiṃha Muni

Both Yogīndu's use of the Apabhraṃśa language and dohā metre inspired a mystical poet, who probably lived in the 11th century. He is known as Rāmasiṃha Muni – ‘the monk named Rāma, powerful as a lion’.

His DohāpāhuḍaOffering of Stanzas – is more an anthology of existing verses than a real composition. The text has many references to Yogīndu and many borrowings of some entire stanzas, as Colette Caillat points out.

This anthology gathers verses that invite aspirants to realise the self, which is made of knowledge – jñāna-maya – and is free from ageing and death – ajarāmara. Even if the technical vocabulary is purely Jain, the mode of expression of the spiritual quest can be found in Brahmanical poetry. Later mystical poets, such as the non-Jain Kabīr, also employed this style.

Daulatrām Kāslivāl

This 1868 photograph from 'The People of India' shows a Jain banker in northern India. Jains do not have jobs that involve violence. As part of the fourfold community, lay Jains make donations to temples and give alms to mendicants.

Nineteenth-century Jain lay man
Image by J. Forbes Watson & J. W. Kaye © Smithsonian Institution

The name of Yogīndu came down to later times probably because Daulatrām wrote a Hindi commentary on the Paramātma-prakāśa in the first half of the 18th century. More precisely, he wrote a Hindi rendering of another commentary, which was written in Sanskrit by Brahmadeva, probably in the 13th century.

In other words, between the 16th and 18th centuries some poets translated many important Jain treatises with spiritual tenets into Hindi. This assured them wider access and great popularity among the laity. Yogīndu is one of the writers who benefited from this development.


  • Mount Girnar In Jain and wider Indian culture, high places are sacred. The peaks of Mount Girnar in Gujarat are holy to both Digambara and Śvetāmbara Jains, as well as to Hindus. Like all Jain temple-cities, Girnar has many temples dedicated to the Jinas at its top and draws thousands of pilgrims.. Image by Nilesh Bandhiya © GNU GPL
  • Image of a siddha A typical Digambara representation of a siddha, shown as an empty space. This underlines the idea that a siddha has no body and is a soul that has recovered its original purity. It regains this purity when it is liberated from the cycle of rebirth. In this cycle, karma causes a soul to be born into a succession of bodies until it progresses spiritually to enlightenment and then to liberation. The siddhas exist without bodies in the siddha-śilā at the top of the universe in endless bliss.. Image by Hindi Granth Karyala © Public domain
  • Nineteenth-century Jain lay man This photograph from an 1868 publication, 'The People of India', is of a Jain banker in northern India. Traditionally barred from jobs that may involve violence, historically many Jains have been traders. As part of the fourfold community, lay Jains make donations to temples and give alms to mendicants.. Image by J. Forbes Watson & J. W. Kaye © Smithsonian Institution

Further Reading

‘Glossaire du Paramātmaprakāśa et du Yogasāra’
Nalini Balbir
Bulletin d'Études Indiennes
volume 16
Association Française pour les Études Indiennes; 1998

Full details

‘Expressions de la quête spirituelle dans le Dohāpāhuḍa (anthologie jaina en apabhraṃśa), et dans quelques textes brahmaniques’
Colette Caillat
Indologica Taurinensia
volume 3–4
International Association of Sanskrit Studies; 1975

Full details

‘L'Offrande de distique (Dohāpāhuḍa): Traduction de l'Apabhraṃśa’
Colette Caillat
Journal Asiatique
volume 219
Société Asiatique; 1976

Full details

‘Le Yogasāra de Yogīndu’
Colette Caillat
Bulletin d'Études Indiennes
volume 16
Association Française pour les Études Indiennes; 1998

Full details

‘Creative Corruption: Some Comments on Apabhraṃśa Literature, Particularly Yogîndu’
Friedhelm Hardy
Studies in South Asian Devotional Literature: Research Papers 1988–1991
edited by Alan W. Entwistle and Françoise Mallison
Manohar Publishers and École Française d'Extréme-Orient; New Delhi, India and Paris, France; 1994

Full details

Pahuda doha of Ramasimha Muni: an Apabhraṃśa work on Jaina mysticism
Hiralal Jain
Ambadas Chaware Digambara Jaina granthamala or Karanja Jaina series; volume 3
G. A. Chaware; Karanja, Maharashtra, India; 1933

Full details

Śrī Yogīndudeva’s Paramātmaprakāśa (Paramappapayāsu): an Apabhramśa work on Jain mysticism
A. N. Upadhye
Rājacandra Jaina śāstramālā series; volume 3
Shrimad Rajachandra Ashram; Agas, Gujarat, India; 1963

Full details

Lumière de l’Absolu
translated by Nalini Balbir and Colette Caillat
Rivages poche: Petite Bibliothèque series; volume 281
Payot et Rivages; Paris, France; 1999

Full details



Apabhraṃśa is an umbrella term for the dialects that were the forerunners of modern Indian languages. Taken from the Sanskrit term apabhraṃśa, which literally means 'corrupt' or 'non-grammatical language', Apabhraṃśa was used to write a large number of Jain texts. Though Apabhraṃśa developed over the 6th to 13th centuries, literary works date back to the 8th century.


Someone who withdraws from ordinary life to meditate and practise physical hardships in order to advance spiritually. Jain ascetics or mendicants beg for food from devout lay followers and wander the land.

Also used as an adjective to describe the practice of rigorous, even extreme, physical hardships in the belief that it leads to a higher spiritual condition.


An essay explaining a text. Commentaries on the scriptures are common in the Jain tradition and there are various types, including the:

  • bālāvabodha
  • bhāṣya
  • cūrṇi
  • niryukti
  • ṭīkā.


Vision, insight or perception. It works with the quality of jñāna – knowledge in the soul – to gain deep, true understanding and is ever-changing.

Also one of the 14 'gateways' or categories of investigation of mārgaṇā or 'soul-quest'.


Sanskrit for 'meditation', one of the six internal austerities or tapas that help purify the soul of karma. Meditation is deep thought about religious doctrine or mental focus on spiritual matters over a period of time. An important part of many religions, meditation is especially important in Jain belief because it forms key elements of religious practice and spiritual development.


An active follower of a religion, especially one who passes on teachings to others.


A principle or system of teachings, especially religious philosophy.


Quality, positive point.


The most widely spoken group of languages in India, originating in the northern part of the subcontinent. Local dialects and Hindi languages are spoken all over northern India and in surrounding countries. Standard Hindi is used in administration by the central government of India, along with English.


Follower of the majority faith in India and an adjective describing something belonging to Hinduism. Hindus have numerous gods and diverse beliefs and practices, though many believe in the soul, karma, the cycle of births and liberation. Roughly a billion Hindus comprise the third largest religion in the world.


Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.


Sanskrit for 'self', 'soul' or 'that which is sentient'. It makes up the universe along with ajīva, or non-sentient material substance. It is a material substance that changes in size according to the body it inhabits in each life. It is born in different bodies in various places in the Jain universe based on karma from earlier lives. The soul is liberated from the cycle of birth when it has achieved spiritual purity and omniscience. Also called ātma or ātman.


'Knowledge', of which there are five main types:

  • mind-based and sensory knowledge – mati-jñāna
  • scriptural knowledge – śruta-jñāna
  • extra-sensory knowledge or clairvoyance – avadhi-jñāna
  • knowledge of others’ minds or telepathy – manaḥparyaya-jñāna
  • omniscience or absolute knowledge – kevala-jñāna.

With spiritual progress, one can gain the different types of knowledge.

Also one of the 14 'gateways' or categories of investigation of mārgaṇā or 'soul-quest'.


Action or act, thought of as physical in Jainism. Created by mental or physical action, karma enters the soul, which then needs religious restraints and practices to make it flow out. Karma can be both:

  • negative – deriving from harmful acts
  • positive – arising from beneficial actions.

Both types of karma trap a soul in continual rebirth. A pan-Indian concept, karma has extremely complex, detailed and technical divisions and subdivisions in Jainism.


Digambara monk who lived in the second or third centuries CE. Little is known of his life but his mystical writings, concentrating on the soul and internal religious experience, have been enormously influential in Jain thought. Key works include Samayasāra, Niyamsāra, Pañcāstikāya and Pravacanasāra.


Believers in a religion who are ordinary worshippers, not clergy or members of religious orders. In Jainism, lay people are often called 'householders', indicating that they live in houses and have domestic responsibilities, unlike ascetics.


The 'liberation' of the soul from its body and thus from the cycle of rebirth because it has no karma and becomes omniscient. The ultimate aim of Jainism is to achieve mokṣa and become a liberated soul in siddha-śilā.


Sage. A common term for a Jain monk.


A system of contemplative prayer, meditation and complete detachment from worldly affairs in the hope of gaining direct spiritual experience of the divine. In Jainism those who practise mystical techniques hope to gain true self-realisation and thus destroy karma and be liberated.


Wrong or bad action. Similar to a bad merit in Buddhism.


The highest soul, the liberated soul, the Absolute, often used instead of siddhi. Jains believe that a soul or ātman can achieve liberation from the cycle of birth through its own spiritual development. This concept has been called God in Western thought since the start of the Christian era.




A journey to a place of religious significance. Some religions encourage pilgrimage as ways to advance spiritual progress and deepen the faith of those who make the trip – pilgrims.


A term for any of the dead vernacular languages of ancient and medieval India. It may be contrasted with classical Sanskrit, the language used by priests and the aristocracy. The Jains used a large variety of Prakrits, with the Jain canon written chiefly in Ardhamāgadhī Prākrit.


Sanskrit for a 'right or good action'. Similar to a merit in Buddhism, it helps to reduce karma.


Giving up something. A lay person who becomes an ascetic renounces the life of a householder within society, instead choosing the physical hardships of being a monk or nun. The formal renunciation ceremony in Jainism is dīkṣā.


String of beads used by devotees to help them count the number of prayers or chants they are repeating.


Cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth caused by karma binding to the soul as a result of activities. Only by destroying all karma can this perpetual cycle finish in mokṣa – liberation. The karma gained in life affects the next life, and even future lives, for example:

  • in which of the three worlds the life is lived out
  • which of four conditions – gati – the body takes, namely human, divine, hellish or as a plant or animal.


A classical language of India, originally used by priests and nobility. Sanskrit has a rich literary and religious tradition. With only a few thousand native speakers nowadays, it is predominantly used in Hindu religious ceremonies and by scholars.


Reality or truth. This is very important to Jains and the satya-vrata is the second of the mendicant's Five Great Vows and the lay person's Five Lesser Vows.


Spiritual discipline. But Jains also use it to mean an ‘activity’ that produces vibrations.

Also one of the 14 'gateways' or categories of investigation of mārgaṇā or 'soul-quest'.

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