SOAS University of London

Centre of Jaina Studies

International Journal of Jaina Studies

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Who is a Yogi? Depictions of the Yogi in Classical and Medieval Digambara Jain Literature
Author: John E. Cort

Year: 2022

ISSN: 1748-1074

International Journal of Jaina Studies (Online) Vol. 18, No. 1 (2022) 1-61

The four classical and medieval Digambara Prakrit and Sanskrit texts known collectively

as the Yogī-Bhaktis contain four depictions of the ideal Jain yogi. These texts depict him
as (1) a Digambara mendicant following the many rules of Jain mendicant conduct,
whose practice is firmly within the constitutive elements of Jain cosmology and
soteriology; (2) a renouncer living in the open in all seasons in the forests and atop
mountains and practicing fierce asceticism; (3) a practitioner of postures (āsana) and
other yogic techniques; and (4) a possessor of supranormal powers (ṛddhi). This article
explains these four portraits in detail. It then contrasts these with a fifth depiction, found
primarily in the Apabhramsha texts of the Digambara mystical tradition, of the ideal yogi
as a seeker of spiritual knowledge (jñāna) who rejects the formal practices found in the
other four depictions. Taken together, these five depictions make an important
contribution to the study of the history of yoga and yogis in South Asia.

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