jain religion and teachings of bhagwan mahavir





The concept of religion in the Jain philosophy is rooted in the realization of the intrinsic nature of the soul : “Vatthu sahavo dharma”. The eternal or abiding nature of soul is ‘chetana’ (consciousness). Caught up in the ongoing cycle of birth and death (Samsara), it transmigrates from one life form to another and in the process becomes impure and corrupted through its constant interaction with non-living particles (Ajiva pudgal). It accumulates knowledge-obstructing particles of transient and illusory material attachments and passions. True happiness and bliss begins to elude the soul on account of the false perception of joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain.

Integrated pursuit of Rational perception (Samyak darsana), Rational knowledge (Samyak jnan) , and Rational conduct (Samyak charitra) constitute the foundation of Jain philosophy and are reverentially called “RATNATTRAYA”, the bejeweled trinity. This indivisible and logically-knit trinity reflects a uniquely articulated approach to strike a healthy and wholesome balance between logic and faith, reason and belief. The much-revered second century Jain scripture “TATTVARTH SUTRA” begins by emphasizing “rational world view, knowledge and conduct are the three essential elements for liberation.” The very first verse of the Tattvartha Sutra reads :

“Samyak-darsana-jnan-charitrani Mokshamargah”

“The trinity of Samyak darsana, Samyak Jnan and Samyak Charitra

is the path to Moksha (liberation of the Soul)”

Hemachandracharya writes in Jain Yogashastra :

The enlightened consciousness or Self sees clearly its own Self with the light of its own Self, the moment it comes out of clinging and confusion dropping away the veils of ignorance;

Final liberation is none other than experiencing the trinity of right knowledge, right perception and right conduct as the very nature of the Self in its purity”

Uttaradhyanan Sutra 27/31 quotes Lord Mahavir in this regard as follows :

There is no knowledge without right perception; no right conduct is possible without right knowledge; without right conduct, there is no liberation; and without liberation, there is no deliverance.”


Samyak Darsana or rational perception of the true intrinsic nature of a substance- both living and non-living helps in removing false illusions, prejudices and bias. The key element of rational perception is to seek true knowledge and understanding and avoid false perceptions regarding the seven fundamental attributes of the universe, namely JIVA, AJIVA, ASRAV (inflow of karmas), BANDHA (bondage of karmas), SAMVAR (stopping inflow of karmas), NIRJARA (elimination of karmas through meditation, contemplation, penance and total detachment, and MOKSA (liberation of the soul.

For attaining Samyak darsana, Jain scriptures preach avoiding 25 possible faults. These include three elements of ignorance or false perception viz., ‘Dev mudhta’ i.e., allegiance to false Gods, ‘Lok mudhta’ i.e., mistaking blind beliefs and false rituals and customs as true religion, ‘Pakhandi mudhta’ i.e., being influenced by ill-motivated and conceited so-called saints. The eight egos to be avoided are knowledge ego, status ego, family level ego, racial ego, power ego, wealth ego, penance ego and influence ego. The six ‘anayatan’ refer to the false perceptions created by ill-motivated guides and the followers of their misconceived faiths. The balance eight faults relate to the negation of the following eight attributes of Samyak darsana :

Nihsankita’ implies elimination of all fears and apprehensions about the fundamental truths; ‘Nihkanksita’ implies steering clear of succumbing to material temptations and attachments mistaking them for happiness; ‘Nirvicikitsa’ implies focusing on the virtues of others and not their shortcomings; ‘Amudhadrsti’ implies not deviating from the true path of religion by pinning faith in preachers of false perceptions; ‘Upaguhana’ implies respecting and learning from virtuous persons and rejecting overtures of ill-intentioned and selfish persons; ‘Stithiikarana’ implies adhering to the path of righteousness even in the face of difficulties; ‘Vatsalya’ implies nurturing friendly feelings for the virtuous and avoiding egoistic behavior towards others; ‘Prabhavana’ implies assiduously promoting in a noble and self-less manner adherence to true faith among people.


Samyak darsana is the essential prerequisite and crucial step in developing a rational mind-set and vision. Without it, it is not possible to move on the ladder to Samyak jnan.Lord Mahavir observes (Mulachar 5/71) :

That which subdues passions leads to bliss and fosters friendliness is called right knowledge.”

Rational knowledge is devoid of doubt, misapprehensions, misconceptions, delusions and prejudices. Objective approach inherent in it stems from the doctrine of manifold truth viz., SYADVAD and ANEKANTVAD. Truth is and cannot be absolute. It is always relative since it is seen from different angles and attitudes by different persons at different time and place settings.

One needs to develop appreciation of different viewpoints and arrive at a synthesis, which would promote harmonious perception of multifaceted aspects. This would provide an objective basis for getting to the core truth. Comprehensive knowledge is definite and determinate, but may not be absolutely perfect, or complete. It is relative.

Rational knowledge could be of five dimensions. MATI GYAN (non-verbal sensuous cognition witch is instinctive, memory-based, contemplative and estimation-inspired empirical knowledge; SHRUTI GYAN (articulate verbal knowledge based on hearing and listening to others. It implies the presence of Mati gyan to comprehend it; AVADHI GYAN (extra-sensory knowledge which is time-less and time tested acquired through Sadhana (meditation, contemplation and penance); MANAH-PARYAY GYAN (mind-reading knowledge acquired as a result of reaching pinnacle of detachment and self-restraint. This comes to very remarkable and intensely devoted saintly persons).

KEVAL GYAN (knowledge at its highest peak amounting to the purest form of self-realisation and omniscience. It is obtained after very hard penance, deepest contemplation, meditation and concentration after renouncing all material attachments and abuse of resource, giving up all possessive instincts and ego-centric thoughts and actions. Keval gyan opens the doors to soul enlightenment and becoming an all-knowing omniscient Arihant or Tirthankar.


If rational perception is the root of the religion, rational conduct is the religion. In his sermons, Mahavir used to emphasize that :

Mere clever talking will not protect; nor will philosophical disciplines do so. One must first practice and then only preach. Rational conduct is as important as rational perception and rational knowledge.”

It includes both conduct in perception (NISHCHAYA) as well as practice (VYAVAHAR). Practice of ANUVRAT (small five vows of restraint) by lay persons (Shravak), and MAHAVRATA (major five vows of restraint and self-control by saints) fall under Vyavahar Charitra. Scriptures say : “CHARITTAM KHALU DHAMMO’ .

Ancient Jain scripture Tattvartha Sutra has listed six basic and essential attributes for attaining rational conduct. They are SAMYAM (Self-restraint and Equanimity), SWA-NIYANTRAN (self control and discipline), SAKARATMAK SOCH (positive thinking), NAITIK DRSTIKON (ethical mind-set), KARMA VIJAYA (victory over karmic bondage) and APARIGRAHA.

Self-restraint needs to be comprehensive embracing thought, expression and action. Self-control implies meeting bare needs, avoiding greed, wasteful or destructive consumption, exploitation, misuse or abuse of resources, shunning violence and persuading others also not to resort to violence. Positive thinking implies realization of the need to proceed towards ethical way of living which will also pave the way for soul upliftment and eventual salvation from the cycle of birth and death. Ethical mind-set implies forgiveness, humility, love for truth, compassion towards other living beings, and self-less kindness and generosity towards the needy. Aparigraha embraces giving up greed, ego, attachment and possessive instinct, taking to restrained living in every way, controlling one’s desires, wants and passions, and repentance for ill thoughts, deeds and words towards others.

Jain scripture SAMAYASAR has emphasized that one may or may not be a profound scholar, but if one pursues with rational conduct, he will be the eventual winner. The access to the trinity of rational perception, knowledge and conduct is the key to be liberated from the karmic bonds and attain self realization. Moreover rational approach makes the present life much more meaningful, happy and content. The trinity of rational outlook can be like radar which could help us at every step to save ourselves from degeneration, enslavement to passions, immorality and unethical behavior.