The entire edifice of the text of Upamiti-Bhava-Prapañca-Kathā has been built on the concept of manifold existence ie., the concept of Bhava. Hence a study of the concept of the manifold existence becomes vital in this context. In the words of J.Bruce Long, ““The Indian Sages conceived of life, within both the micro and macro cosmic spheres, not as a steady state but as a process, a continual and protracted flow of life-powers, a perpetual fluctuation of forces or a coursing of energies through channels that pervade the body of the universe and the bodies of all creatures who inhabit it. That the world and the passage of the creatures from state to state is conceived to be a transmission of power from place to place through time is clearly articulated in the Sanskrit term for metempsychosis or rebirth. The term Saṅsāra means literally the act of going about wandering through, coursing along or passing through a series of states or conditions, specifically the passage through successive states of birth, death and rebirth’’.1 The term Bhava or manifold existence is popularly understood as Saṅsāra, Punarjanma, Rebirth.2 Other concepts which are closely associated with manifold existence are that of Ātman, Karma and Emancipation.

Rebirth is one extreme of manifold existence and emancipation is the other end of manifold existence. It is the soul which transmigrates and gets liberated. Hence the study of manifold existence presupposes an understanding of the theory of soul. The causes of rebirth and liberation can conveniently be studied in the theory of karma. In fact the evolution of the theory of rebirth, took place in the light of the concept of Karma. Karma and Rebirth are the two facets of the same coin. Karma causes Rebirth and Rebirth is an effect of Karma. Indian Literature is replete with stories of Rebirth and narratives of past existences. A peep into the biographies of liberated souls (Tīrthaṅkars) reveals the fact that seeds of spiritual progress and enlightenment were sown in their past existences (in the form of acquiring Right Faith and Tīthaṅkarā Nāma Karma).3 While commenting on karma and rebirth, James P.Mc. Dermott remarks from the Majjhima Nikāya, ““On the night of his enlightenment, as he passed through a series of states of higher consciousness, the Buddha came to recognise that beings pass from existence to existence in accordance with the nature of their deeds (Kamma). Thus with divine, purified, super human eye he sees beings passing away and being reborn (Upapajjamāne). He knows that beings are inferior, exalted, beautiful, ugly, well faring, ill-faring according to (the consequences of) their Kamma.’’4 He further remarks that ““Men are heirs to what they do.’’5 The Smritis as well as Upaniṣads of the Hindus echo the above sentiments. The Smritis reveal that the karmas essentially show their effect in the form of the eighty four lakh species where the souls take birth and die.6 The Śvetāṣvatara Upaniṣad reveals that, ““The soul is neither masculine, feminine nor of neutral gender. It identifies itself with the body it takes and this is rebirth.’’7 Some Western Philosophers, writers and poets have drawn the attention of the readers towards the concept of Rebirth. Woodsworth, Milton, Browning, opined that death is incapable of terminating the immortal soul. When death snatches away the body, the soul finds another home and makes it vibrant with life.8 Indian thinkers have tried to attribute the law of Karma for the inequalities in the lives of human beings which can be studied in various Indian traditions, be it the Śramanic current of thought or the Brahmanic current of thought. Though they reveal it in different styles, the essence of all spiritual study can be summarised in the following paradigm.


Hence the concept of Manifold Existence is studied through the theories of the Ātman, Karma and Emancipation. While dealing with Karma and the problem of Rebirth in Jainism, Padmanabh S. Jaini remarks, ““Although nearly every religious or philosophical tradition of India has accepted the idea of karma as valid, a wide divergence exists in the extent to which various schools have developed this idea into a coherent system of doctrine. In terms of the level of interest shown in such development- a level best measured by the amount of sacred and scholastic works devoted to it- one tradition, that of the Jainas stands clearly apart from all others.9 The text of Upamiti-Bhava-Prapañca-Kathā is a classic example of the interest shown in the idea of karma and rebirth. Throughout the entire text the above ideas of Ātman, Karma and Rebirth seemed to have come to life and are consistent with the spiritual and philosophical outlook of the author.


As the title goes “An Allegorical Story of Manifold Existence’, the concept of Manifold Existence in Jaina thought and tradition is spread on the entire canvass of the text of Upamiti-Bhava-Pranpañca-Kathā. The text serves as a model of the biography of the journey of “The Worldly Soul’, hence the concept of Manifold Existence is studied under the following heads:

(1) The nature of the soul with its classifications and few evidences to prove the existence of the soul.
(2) The nature of karma and its relation with “The Worldly Soul’.
(3) The nature of emancipation and the triple fold path of emancipation.


It is “Worldly Soul’ which is subject to Manifold Existence and the author has highlighted the nature of the soul that suffers in the cycle of births and deaths. Jainism advocates that all souls are essentially divine and the characteristics of infinite knowledge, infinite vision, infinite power, and infinite bliss are latent in the soul.10 Jainism does not believe in a creator God but propounds that “The Worldly Souls’ exist since beginning-less time in association with karma and it is solely responsible for its sufferings in the manifold existence. Thus the independent nature of the soul and the freedom of will is a distinct characteristic of the Jain philosophy. Due to ignorance and passions the soul binds the karmas and causes its own impurity and this impurity of the soul manifests in the form of the worldly sojourn.11 In order to free the soul from the web of transmigration, one must discard the beginningless nescience about the nature of the soul and have a perfect understanding of the nature of the self. One should understand and realize its intrinsic divinity, purity and perfection in more ways than one. The conditioning of the soul in the worldly sojourn is due to the lack of fundamental understanding of the nature of the soul and the author says that it should be urgently attended to.

In the Ācārāṅga Sūtra, Gaṇadhara Sudharma recalls the words of Lord Mahāvira and says that he was heard from Lord Mahāvira, that many people are ignorant of their existence in previous births. They are unable to comprehend from which direction they have come and where they will go after death.12 Those who believe in the existence of the soul before this birth and after birth, (Rebirth) are believers of Ātmā (Soul), Loka (World), Karma (Deeds and their fruits) and Kriyā (Auspicious and inauspicious activities).13 They are said to be Ātmavādis, Lokavādis, Karmavādis and Kriyāvādis. One who believes in the eternal soul characterised by Infinite-Knowledge, Infinite-Vision, Infinite-Bliss, Infinite-Power, is Ātmavadi, and Ātmavādi is also a Lokavādi for he visualizes the souls wandering in the worldly sojourn and believes in the existence of the nether world, celestial world and the world of lower animals and birds. He also apprehends the nature of knowledge and believes that they cause the existences in different worlds, hence he is said to be Karmavādi. He further believes that karmic bondage and conditioning is caused by one’s own auspicious and inauspicious activities of mind, body and speech, hence he is a Kriyāvādi.14 The principle of self is fundamental of Indian Philosophical thought with an exception of the Caṛvaka School and in Jaina Metaphysics it is understood by the terms Jīva, Ātman etc. Soul, Being, Spirit etc. are the modern designations of the Soul or Jiva. From the noumenal point of view (Niṣcaya Naya) the soul is pure (ṣuddha) perfect (purna), formless (amūrta), conscious (cetana), eternal (nitya) possessing Infinite knowledge (anantajñana), Infinite vision (anantadarṣana), Infinite bliss (ananta ānanda), and Infinite power (ananta vīrya) and is the doer (karta) and experiencer (bhoktā) of its own modifications (ṣuddha bhāvas). From the phenomenal point of view (Vyavahāra Naya) the self is considered to be the one possessing the life forces (prāṇa), one, two or more senses (indriya), age (āyuṣya), respiration (ṣvāsohvāsa) and is the doer and experiencer of the karmas and its fruits.15 The characteristics of knowledge, vision, power and bliss are immanent in the self and natural to it, but its existence in a material body, which is subject to disease, old age and death is not natural but caused by karmic conditioning, hence it is ephemeral and subject to change and destruction. Hence the soul is said to be eternal from the point of view of its intrinsic nature and subject to change in the worldly sojourn.

Ācārya Kundakunda says that the soul is the agent, the instrument, the deed and the fruits.16 It pervades the body it dwells in, be it micro or macro, human or animal, celestial or infernal. In the Uttarādhyayana Sūtra it is said that the soul is the doer and experiencer of happiness and sorrow.17 It is its own friend when it treads on the path of righteousness and its own foe when it treads on the forbidden path. Nathmal Tatia observes the problem of the relation of body and soul as answered by Mahāvira in the following way:

“Is the body, O Lord, (identical with) the soul or is the body different from it?’
“The body, O Gautama, is identical with the soul as well as it is different from it.’

The relation of body and soul is given as one of identity-cum-difference. The soul suffers from the injuries of the body in as much as it is identical with the body. It does not become extinct with the extinction of the body in as much as it is different from it as well.18


The classifications of the souls are done in many ways. From the point of view of bondage and liberation the souls are either bondaged (Saṅsāri) or liberated (Siddhas).19 Among the bondaged souls some are worthy of emancipation (Bhavi) while others are unworthy of emancipation (Abhavi). These bondaged souls are classified into two types based on the nature of the body they possess ie. they are either Trasa (beings that can move on their own) or Sthāvara (beings which cannot move from one place to another on their own).20 In the beings which can move, consciousness is manifested in various degrees and in the beings which cannot move, consciousness is unapparent and obscure, they cannot be apprehended by the human eyes and not even by the most sophisticated microscopes. The Trasa beings are either two-sensed, three sensed, four sensed or five sensed21 while the Sthavara beings are all one sensed and are of five types viz earth-bodied, water-bodied, fire-bodied, air-bodied and vegetative-bodied.22 In the Uttarādhyayana Sūtra, fire-bodied and air-bodied are considered as Gati trasa as they move about haphazardly and their movements are not self willed like those of the beings which move from one place to another on their own will.23 The five sensed beings are of four types viz (1) Hellish (Nairāyika), (2) Lower Animal (Tiryaṅca), (3) Human beings (Manuṣya) and (5) Celestial beings (Deva). Among the lower animals and birds some move in water (Jalacara), while some move on the earth (Sthalacara) and some others move in the air (Khecara).24 According to the senses they possess, beings are said to be Ekindriya (possessing one sense of touch alone), Dvindriya (possessing two senses of touch and taste), Trindriya (possessing three senses of touch, taste and smell), Caturindriya (possessing four senses of touch, taste, smell and sight) and Pañcendriya (possessing five senses of touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing).25 Of the above five types, the one-sensed beings are either subtle (Sūkṣma) or gross (Bādara) and are of many types.26 The subtle one-sensed organisms pervade the entire universe while the gross one-sensed organisms are restricted to specific places of the universe.27 All the five types of one-sensed organisms are classified into various subtypes and the journey of the soul in the one- sensed existence is elaborately dealt with in the text of Upamiti-Bhava-Prapañca-Kathā.

Further the souls can be classified in three categories of Bahirātman (Deluded External Self) Antarātman (Awakened Internal Self) and Paramātman (Transcendental Perfect Self) from the point of view of their material and spiritual inclinations.28 Bahirātman are the worldly minded souls who are deeply infatuated and engrossed in the material comforts and sensual pleasures. They are defiled by ignorance and attachment and do not honour the pure and perfect souls. There is not an iota of right belief in such souls. They are not spiritually inclined due to the veil of ignorance and delusion. Nathmal Tatia observes, ““The self with the deluded belief that it is none other than the body is the exterior self. The self that clearly discriminates itself from the body and the sense organs is the interior self. The pure and perfect self free from all limitations is the transcendental self. The exterior self becomes the transcendental self by means of the interior self. Or, in other words, the transcendental self is the self-realisation of the exterior self through the intermediary stage of the interior self.29 Antarātman or the Awakened Interior Self is that which does not identify itself with the body it possesses but considers itself to be distinct from the body and the senses. This soul has pierced the knot of ignorance and delusion and spiritual vision has dawned on this kind of soul. They set an example of right attitude in all walks of life and remain detached. They adorn themselves with Right Faith and exercise equanimity and self-restraint in order to free themselves from the clutches of karmic conditioning. Whatever circumstances they are put into by their karmic patterns, they remain indifferent to them.

Paramātman is the omniscient and perfected transcendental self. The Awakened Interior Self relinquishes all that is exterior to its pure self and annihilates the karmas that defile and delude the soul and rises to become the Paramātman. Vigilance and Renunciation alone enables one to rise to this perfect state of Arhats (perfected souls) and Siddhas (perfected souls in Nirvāṇa). Paramātman or the transcendental perfect self is not subject to the worldly sojourn as he has freed himself from the wheel of transmigration. He neither favours or disfavours anyone as he is devoid of Attachment and Aversion. Those who worship him and tread on the path of righteousness are automatically delivered from the worldly sojourn.

For a soul to transcend from the state of delusion to that of transcendence, a long journey full of obstacles in the form of perverse attitude, delusion, attachment, aversion, sensual pleasures has to be overcome and conquered. This victory of the self over the self is considered to be more beneficial than conquering thousands of external foes on the battlefield.30 Delusion keeps the external self deluded and prevents it from contemplating upon and realizing its true self and also obstructs it to remain absorbed in its pure transcendental self. Hence discrimination of the true self from the defiled self is of prime importance besides spiritual contemplation, meditation and other practices which enables one to remain absorbed in the pure self.

This inward journey is an uphill task and the soul falls down many times, loses its path, goes off-track and suffers the pangs of birth, death, old-age and disease in the wheel of transmigration. The awakened interior self too becomes deluded if it is careless even for a while and becomes a prey of the worldly pleasures but in due course it rises as a phoenix and realizes his goal of perfection and transcendence.


Those who believe in the existence of the soul as distinct from the body, proofs are not necessary, but for those who do not believe in its existence, any amount of explanations and theories will not suffice to prove the existence of the soul. Philosophers like Descartes, Berkely, Locke have shown that the reality of the self is self evident. Descartes said, ““I think, therefore I am,’’31 while John Locke said, ““I think, I argue, I experience pleasures and pains. The I is the substance, it is the substratum of experience. Self is an object of knowledge.’’32 George Berkely says that the universe is constituted of three principles (1) Self (2) God (Ultimate Self) and (3) External World.33 The consciousness is the essential characteristic of the soul. Without consciousness the soul cannot exist.

Time and again scientists and psychologists have discussed and tried to analyse the nature of the self, but the problem of the self eludes them. They have not been able to draw any conclusive remarks and continue with their experiments. They are able to apprehend the working of the intelligence in the physical body and the universe but are unable to prove it.34 The origin and growth of Indian Philosohpy has taken place in the light of the concept of soul. With an exception of Carvaka school, all Indian Philosophical schools have voiced their opinion on the concept of soul but all are not unanimous about their findings, they talk about it in different ways. Some said that the soul is identical with the body while others pronounced it to be a product of the Pañca Bhūtas.

When one says “This is my body’ it goes to prove that the body belongs to somebody and that somebody is none other than ātman, soul, being, jīva, spirit. Whatever name one chooses to call it can identify with it and realize it. It is the attributes of consciousness that makes a living thing different from a non-living thing.

In the Rāyapaseṇīya Sutta we come across King Pradeṣī who carried out experiments to prove that the soul is identical with the body.35 But Keṣīṣramaṇa gave many examples and educated King Pradeṣī about the true nature of the soul and proved the existence of the soul.

Once King Pradeṣī enquired from Keṣīṣramaṇa that if the soul is not identical with the body and if there is heaven and hell, why don’t his relatives who have gone to heaven or hell after their birth, come and reveal to him about their existence and their status in heaven and the torments in hell, so that he can believe in it and work for his spiritual welfare.

To the above question, Keṣīṣramaṇa answered that if a person is accused of various crimes and begs for release from captivity will not be left loose at any cost, so also the persons who land in hell have to experience the fruits of their deeds and cannot be released from there for a specific period. In accordance with their feeling-producing evil karmas and age-defining karmas, they have to reside there and bear all the infernal pangs.

On the other hand a person who is born in heaven is unable to bear the unpleasant smell of the earthly existence and does not return to the earth before his age-defining karmas are exhausted. Just as a person who has got ready to go to the temple will not accompany a person to a dirty place. The celestial beings remain absorbed in the heavenly pleasures and find it difficult to give them up and come down on earth.

King Pradeṣī then said that he locked a thief in an air-tight compartment and covered it with heated iron blocks. When he got it opened after sometime, he found the dead body. As there was no passage for the soul to go out of the compartment, King Pradeṣī concluded that the soul and the body are identical. To this Keṣīṣramaṇa replied that just as sound transverses all obstructions and spreads from inside to outside so also the soul can pass through the earth, the rock, the mountain etc. So it is true that the soul is different from the body.

Then King Pradeṣī said that once he kept a dead body of a thief in an air-tight compartment and after some days he found that the body had decayed and in its place many micro organisms were found. As there was no passage for the micro organisms to enter the compartment, he believed that body and soul are one and not different. Keṣīṣramaṇa gave the example of the heated iron rod and asked King Pradeṣī to show the holes through which heat penetrates the heated rod, so also the soul can penetrate all surfaces and reach the inside of a mountain rock, earth etc.

King Pradeṣī then said that a young man can accomplish even the impossible, where as the same person when he becomes old is unable to exercise the same strength and valour. If there is any thing such as “soul’ then even the old man should be efficient and capable in accomplishing the tasks. To this Keṣīṣramaṇa replied that in the absence of efficient means (like strength) any task cannot be accomplished.

Then King Pradeṣī said that he weighed a thief before hanging him to death and weighed his dead body after hanging him, and found no difference. Had he found any difference he would have believed that the difference was that of the weight of the soul. To this Keṣīṣramaṇa replied that the weight of a bellows (a contrivance for pumping air into fire) before blowing and after blowing is the same, so also the soul is formless and weightless and different from the body.

King Pradeṣī then said that he cut the body of a thief to many small pieces in search of the soul, but did not find it in any part of the body of the thief, so he believed that the soul is the body and the body is the soul, they are not different from each other but identical. Keṣīṣramaṇa then took pity on the King and said that he was like the ignorant woodcutter who searched for fire in the pieces of wood to cook food. So also King Pradeṣī was ignorant to search the soul by cutting the body to small pieces.

Then Keṣīṣramaṇa revealed to King Pradeṣī that an imperfect person cannot see ten things with his naked eyes, viz (1) The principle of motion (Dharmāstikāya), (2) The principle of rest (Adharmāstikāya), (3) Space (Ākāṣāstikāya), (4) Unembodied souls (Aṣarīri jīvas), (5) Smallest particle of matter (Parmāṇu pudgala), (6) Sound, (7) Smell, (8) Air, (9) Cannot know if a person will become a future Jina and (10) Cannot know that a person will free himself from all miseries. But the omniscient souls can apprehend the nature of the above along with their modifications through Kevalajñāna.36 Thus Keṣīṣramaṇa clarified the doubts of King Pradeṣī and educated him about the existence of the soul and its distinct nature from the material body that it inhabits.

From the above study the existence of the soul is proved and the theory of rebirth stands self-explanatory. Further the instincts of laughter, fear and feeding etc. in a new-born reveal the existence of the person in previous incarnations from where these instincts are inherited. The differences of caste, colour, creed, status among human beings press for our belief in the invisible cause of karma and rebirth. The cause of extra-ordinary intelligence in some and unparalleled ignorance in others cannot be understood and answered in the perspective of the present birth, hence, the belief in previous birth and rebirth. The knowledge of previous existences (Jātismaraṇa Jñāna) is revealed to some people and they are able to recollect their activities of past birth, such cases also prove the existence of the soul. In the Gita it is said that just as a person discards his old clothes and wears new ones, so also the bondaged souls discard the old body and take a new body.37 Those who question and those who doubt the reality of the Self have no valid arguments to give. The Self is expressed through the experiences of the senses. The Self cannot directly be seen through the senses. It can be inferred through its effect. Consciousness cannot belong to the material and non-living objects. Therefore, the Self is different from the non-living objects. Those who argue that consciousness is the product of the physiological and chemical changes in the brain cells, cannot prove that the brain cells or the chemical effect is the soul. They have not been able to show that the physiological processes produce mental states, although some Naturalist Psychologist like Pavlov have tried to demonstrate that all activities of an organism are physiological. It is of the nature of stimulus response and conditioned reflex. But, evolution of anything has to be from within its nature. Nothing can evolve from something which is not of its nature. Therefore, the development of life has to be from life only. It cannot be from non-living to life. Therefore, it would be proper to consider that the immaterial soul and the material body are qualitatively different.38

Go to (2) The Nature of Karma

| Contents |

  1. J. Bruce Long, Karma and Rebirth in Classical Indian Traditions, Pg. 57. []
  2. Sanskrit English Dictionary of Sir Monier Monier Williams. []
  3. Jain Dharma Kā Maulika Itihāas of Ācārya Hastimalji. []
  4. James P. Mc. Dermott, Karma and Rebirth in Classical Indian Traditions Pg. 165. []
  5. Ibid., Pg. 165. []
  6. Pramukh Smrityo Kā Adhyayana Pg. 56. []
  7. Śvetāṣvatar Upaniṣad. 5/10 []
  8. Kalyāṇa Vaṛṣa Pg. 441. []
  9. Padmanabh S. Jaini, Karma and Rebirth in Classical Indian Traditions Pg. 217. []
  10. Pravacansāra of Ācārya Kundakunda. []
  11. Tattvārtha Sūtra 8/1. []
  12. Ācārāṅga Sūtra 1/1. []
  13. Ibid. 1/1. []
  14. Ibid. 1/1. []
  15. Samayasāra, Bhagavati Sūtra, Ācārāṅga Sūtra, Pañcāstikāya sāra, Tattvārtha Sūtra. []
  16. Samayasāra 2/33. []
  17. Uttarādhyayana Sūtra 20/37. []
  18. Nathmal Tatia in Studies in Jaina Philosophy Pg. 23. []
  19. Tattvārtha Sūtra. 2/7 and 2/10. []
  20. Ibid. 2/12. []
  21. Ibid. 2/14. []
  22. Ibid. 2/22. []
  23. Uttarādhyayana Sūtra 36/108, 127. []
  24. Uttarādhyayana Sūtra 36/172. []
  25. Uttarādhyayana Sūtra, Prajñāpana, Dhavala. []
  26. Ibid. []
  27. Dhavala 1. []
  28. Mokṣa Pāhuḍa, Jñānaṛṇava. []
  29. Nathmal Tatia, Studies in Jaina Philosophy Pg. 281. []
  30. Uttarādhyayana Sūtra 9/34. []
  31. Source Book in Jaina Philosophy Pg. 116. []
  32. Ibid. []
  33. Ibid. []
  34. Devendra Muni Śāstri, A Source Book in Jaina Philosophy Pg. 116. []
  35. Rāyapaseṇi Sūtra, Gātha, 242-269. []
  36. Ibid. []
  37. Gītā 2/22. []
  38. D.M. Śāstri, A Source Book in Jaina Philosophy Pg. 117. []