jain religion and teachings of bhagwan mahavir



(continued from Chapter 8a)

The Jain theory of Karma

The souls go through several incarnations in varying life forms since they get entrapped in the unending cycle of birth and death. Depending on the merit or otherwise of their respective karmas, rebirth could be in any one of four forms or destinies (gatis) viz., celestial being (deva), human being (manushya), plant, animal or insect (tiryanch) and hell being (naaraki). In these various life forms also, according to Jain religion, the soul passes through as many as 8.4 million yonis (incarnations).

Every living being is a single ‘jiva’ entrapped in a material body. Jivas interact with Ajivas, and become impure and polluted. Karmic bondage to material attractions keeps them in an illusory mirage of happiness, which is transient. Pudgal or matter has form and consists of individual atoms (parmanu) and conglomerates of atoms (skandha), which can be seen, heard, smelt, tasted and/or touched. The energy or the phenomenon of sound, darkness, light, shade and heat etc. are produced by the conglomerates of atoms.

Worldly soul does not realize that its physical embodiment and all its surroundings have resulted from its past karmas. It tends to identify itself with all those situations and pudgals ignoring the fact that they are all transient. This has been the root cause of continuous bondage of karmas to the soul and the resulting transmigration.

ASRAVA – inflow of karmas

Inflow of karmas (asrava) – good or bad is caused by ‘Mithyatva’ (ignorance and false perception), ‘Avirati’ (lack of self-restraint and self-control), ‘Pramada (unmindfulness, idleness and addiction), ‘Kashaya’ (passions like anger, conceit, ego, deceipt, delusion, greed and attachment (krodh, maan, maya and lobha), and ‘Yoga’ (activities of mind, speech and body).

BANDH – the process of karmic attachments

Following ‘asrava’, ‘bandh’ comes up as the continuous process of attachment of karma particles to the soul through physical, verbal or mental activities. These activities may be done by oneself or by askingor encouraging others to carry them out. Karma bandha, thus, attached could be Prukruti bandh (nature of karma), Pradesha bandha (quantity or location of karma), Sthithi bandha (duration), and Ras bandha (intensity).

Types of Karmas

Karmas are grouped in eight categories. Four among them are called Ghati karmas (destructive karmas), and the other four Aghati or non-destructive karmas.As explained in other chapters, ghatti karmas are knowledge obscuring (Jyanavarniya), perception obscuring (darshanavarniya), obstructing (antaraya), and deluding (mohaniya) karmas. Of these the mohaniya karmas are the most difficult to overcome. It is wellknown that Indrabhuti Gautam could not attain Omnicience as long as he harboured ‘moha’ (attachment) for Lord Mahavir. For achieving Omnicience, it is imperative to overcome all the four ghatti karmas completely.

The four ‘aghati karmas’ are ‘vedaniya karma’ (feeling producing like good or bad health, happiness or sorrow), ‘Nam karma’ (body determining like healthy or unhealthy physique), ‘Gotra karma’ (status determining like higher or lower status in the society), and ‘Ayushya karma’ (life span determining in all the four gatis. Siddhahood is achieved as soon as the soul gets rid of these four aghati karmas in addition to the already eliminated four ghati karmas.

The duration of karmic bondage is determined by the quality and intensity of our passions at the time of their enactment. If our desires were mild, the duration of the bondage would be for a shorter period than otherwise. The intensity (ras bandh) could be loose, tight, tighter or tightest. The impact of karmas may not be necessarily felt immerdiately in the same life, but may spread over the ongoing life cycle depending upon the pace of ‘nirjara’ (extinguishment of accumulated karmas) through dedicated effort.

SAMVAR – stoppage of karmic influx

Samvar’ is the process that stops fresh karmas from attaching into the soul. It is a reverse process of ‘asrava’ It can be accomplished by right belief, observance of vows, passionlessness and peacefulness of activities. Jain scriptures enunciate 57 practical ways of stopping the influx of karmas. They are 5 Samitis (carefulness in walking, speaking, taking, keeping, giving and begging), 3 Guptis (control over thoughts, speech and body), 10 yati dharma (practicing virtues like forgiveness, humility, straightforwardness, contentment, truthfulness, self-restraint, penance, renunciation, non-attachment and celibacy, 12 bhavanas (thoughts about impermanence of the world, no permanent relationships, solitude of the soul, impurity of the body, influx, stoppage and shedding of karmas, consistent and dedicated endeavour required to attain right faith, knowledge and conduct, and choosing the right preceptor, and religion; 22 Parishaha (facing sufferings like hunger, thirst, harsh words, diseases , cold, heat, insect bites etc. with patience and equanimity; and 5 Charitra (rational and right conduct, taking to ascetic life, practising penance and eliminating all passions (kashayas).

NIRJARA – eradication of all karmas

Nirjara” or eradication of karmas is a process of soul-purifying endeavour through resort to penance and austerities. The six types of internal penance are repentance, humility, self-less service, self-study, meditation and renunciation. The six external forms of penance are ‘anashan’ (total fasting for a set period of time), Unodari (eating less than appetite), Vrutti sankshep (eating within limits of pre-determined restrictions on number of items, area, time, source of cooking etc., Ras tyag (giving up tasty food), Kaya klesha (tolerating physical pain voluntarily) and Sanlinata (staying in forlorn places and occupying limited space). Fasting depends on one’s capacity and will power and could range from ekasan, biyasan, ayambil to upavas, navakarashi, porsi and varshitap and so on.

Soul’s essential characteristic is consciousness. The qualities of Jiva are obvious through a physical body when the soul is present in it. But when the soul departs, the physical body perishes. Thus the body and the soul are two distinct entities. Souls can be classified into two main categories : Liberated or Siddha jiva, and non-liberated or Sansari Jiva. Liberated souls have no karmic bondages, and have gone out of the cycle of birth and death. Siddhas are formless, but with perfect knowledge and perception, and possess infinite vigor and bliss.

Features of worldly souls

Worldly or sansari soul is covered by karmic particles. Unlike Siddhas, it has the following characteristics :

(1) Limited knowledge, vision, power and bliss;
(2) Possesses a body (human, animal, insect, plants, hellish or angel;
(3) Is caught up in the cycle of birth and death;
(4) Suffers from birth, death, pleasure and pain;
(5) Doer of all kinds of karmas – good and bad;
(6) Enjoyer of the fruits of all karmas – good or bad;
(7) Innumerable number of worldly soul caught up in the process of transmigration;
(8) Have the potential of liberation from worldly life.

Equality of all souls

Jain religion believes in the equality of all souls, irrespective of their life form. Based on mobility, all Jivas are divided into two categories : non-mobile or sthavar with only one sense (of touch). And mobile or trsas that can move on their own and are endowed with two to five senses of touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing. The lowest form of physical body has only the sense of touch. Trees and vegetation have souls with sense of touch, and are , therefore, able to e4xperience pleasure or pain. Above the single sense Jivas are microorganisms and small animals with two or three or four senses. The highest in the order are the Jivas with five senses. The highest grades of animals and human beings also possess rationality and intuition (manas). As a highly evolved form of life, human beings have a great moral responsibility in their mutual dealings as well as in their relationship with other living beings and the universe.

The review of the Jain theory of Karma is amply illustrative of the scientific orientation of Jain philosophy. Indeed, Jain religion is an ensemble of scientific spiritual techniques to know and realize the eternal self. Inbuilt in its schientific and rational vision (Samyak Drsti) is the methodology with a clear road-map of achieving liberation through a life based on renunciation and detachment from material bondages, self-introspection, contemplation, meditation, penance, restraint, austerity and practice of comprehensive non-violence in thought, deed and expression.

Baraha Bhavana (The twelve spiritual perceptions)

Widely recited Jain prayer frequently in usage particularly on the sad occasion of the death of near and dear ones contains the essence of the Jain theory of Karma. There are several versions in poetry- rendering of 12 Bhavana, but the most popular is the one written by poet Bhudardas in the 19th century. Its translation in English rendered by the author together with the original poem in colloquial Hindi language of 19th century (in Roman script) is as follows :

Nothing is eternal (Anitya Bhavna)
All persons
Even elephant-riding
Emperors, rulers and chieftains
Have to die one day
When it is their turn
Raja Rana, Chhatrapati
Hathin ke aswar
Marna sabko ek din
Apni-apni bar.
There is no savior (Asharan Bhavna)
Gods and Goddesses
Collective might and power
Family, father and mother
None can save a mortal
From the jaws of death ever
Dal-Bal Devi Devata
Mat-pita parivar
Marti biriyan jeeva ko
Koi na rakhan haar.
The world is an illusion ( Sansar Bhavna)
Unhappy all are
The poor without purchasing power
The rich is shackles of desire
All the world over
Happiness is nowhere
Daam bina nirdhan dukhi
Trishna-vasha dhanawan
Kahun na such sansar mein
Sab jag dekho chhan.
One is alone ( Akatva Bhavna)
One is born alone
One dies alone
A living being
Has truly none
Real relation or companion
Aap akela avatare
Mare akela hoy
Yun kabahun es jeeva ko
Sathi-saga na koy.
Nothing belongs to you ( Anyatva Bhavna)
When even your body
Is not yours for ever
How others surrounding you
For your riches
Could ever be yours
Jahan na deha apni nahin
Tahan na apno koy
Ghar-sampati par pragat ye
Par hain parijan loya.
Ugliness of body (Ashuchi Bhavna)
Though wrapped in
Glowing white or dark skin
The body is a mere skeleton
Of all worldly things
Most ugly within
Dipe cham-chadar madhi
Haad pinjara deha
Bheetar ya sam jagat mein
Aur nahin ghin geha.
Inflow of Karmas (Asrava Bhavna)
Intoxicated by attachment
Complacent living beings wander
Drifting around
Blissfully unaware
Of creeping in Karmas
Moha-neend ke jor
Jagwasi ghumen sada
Karma-chor chahun oor
Saravas lootein sudha nahin.
Preventing karmic inflow ( Samvar Bhavna)
When enlightened saints awaken
You from attachment slumber
Realization begins to dawn
For preventing accumulation
Of fresh karmic burden
Satguru deya jagayyy
Moha-neend jab upshame
Tab kachhu babahi upaya
Karma-chor avat ruken.
Shedding karmic burden (Nirjara Bhavna)
Only the lamp of wisdom
Lit by penance and meditation
Leads to soul purification
By removing all delusions
And entrenched karmic intrusions
Five ‘Mahavrata observance
Five Samiti adherence
Conquering five indriyas
Is ‘Nirjara’ essence
Gyana-deep tap-tel bhar
Ghar shodhe bhrama chhor
Ya vidhi bin nikase nahin
Paithe poorab chor.
Pancha mahavrata sancharan
Samiti pancha parkar
Prabala panch indriya-vijaya
Dhar nirjara saar.
Universal perspective (Lok Bhavna)
From times immemorial
In this universe of huge dimensions
Living beings are drifting round
Devoid of true knowledge perception
Chaudaha raju utanga nabha
Lok purush-santhan
Tamen jeeva anaaditen
Bharamata hain bin gyan.
True knowledge is rare (Bodhi durlabh Bhavna)
Gaining access in this world to gold
And hold off ruling power
Luxuries of wealth and health
Is a lot easier
Than gaining access to rare true knowledge wealth
Dhana kana kanchan raj such
Sabahin sulabhakar jaan
Durlabha hai sansar mein
Ek yatharath gyan.
The Elixir of faith ( Dharma Bhavna )
Miracle tree (kalpataru) when invoked
May fulfill one’s wishes
Contemplation may rid you of nights sleepless
But faith alone without crutches of miracles
Could bring you total bliss and happiness
Jaanche sur-taru deya such
Chintan chinta rain
Bin janche bin chintaye
Dharma sakal such dain

Tirthankars as path-setters

Jain religion offers hope and equal opportunity to all souls irrespective of their life form. The 24 Tirthankaras have shown the way by blowing out all karmic impurities, becoming Omnicient while alive, and then reaching the exalted state of attaining Moksha and becoming Siddha. In common parlance, Tirthankars have been called ‘JIN’ or ‘Jinendra’, i.e., conquerors of self. The popular form of social greeting among Jains is ‘Jai Jinendra’. This underlines the fact that human initiative and endeavour to seek purification of soul through weeding out of karmic bondage as per path shown by Tirthankars is central to the Jain world view. In common parlance, Tirthankars are addressed with reverence as Bhagwan, whose example can and needs to be emulated. The system expounded by JINAS has come to be called the Jain religion, and its adherents as JAINS.

All Jains deeply adore all the 24 Tirthankaras, and offer their eulogy and respects in a variety of Pujas (worships). Mentioned below is the oft-recited reverential offering to them for their unique attributes as included in the Mangalacharan :

Tubhyam namastribhuvanartiharaya natha,
Tubhyam namah ksititalamalabhusanaya,
Tubhyam namastirijagatah parameshvaraya,
Tubhyam namo jina bhavodadhishoshanaya.


Lord, we bow to you, the eradicator of the misery of the three worlds;We bow to you the adorable ornament on the face of the Earth;We bow to you, the Lord of the three worlds;Omniscient Lord, we bow to you the destroyer of the sea of the life cycle.


(end of Chapter 8)