Jainism – a way of life




THE WAY to liberation is through enlightened faith, enlightened knowledge and enlightened conduct. The enlightened faith is an awareness of reality or truth and leads to the knowledge of every substance in the universe. It also means having unwavering faith in the words of Jinas (who have conquered their inner passions and are enlightened souls). In order to obtain the correct knowledge of reality, one must put faith in their words. This is also known as samyak darshan, which is made up of two words, samyak and darshan. Samyak means enlightened, proper and holy and darshan means view, vision or faith.

Enlightened knowledge includes scriptural knowledge, intuition and other achievements associated with mental and spiritual powers.

Enlightened conduct is the conduct, which befits a noble person determined to make progress on his or her spiritual journey. Enlightened conduct frees man from all attachments and aversions and finally destroys karma bondage. Conduct can only be called ‘enlightened’ if it goes hand in hand with enlightened faith and enlightened knowledge.

Pythagoras called ‘three’ the perfect number-expressive of beginning, middle and end. The concept of Trinity is common to most religions. The Christians have the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. The Hindus have the Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. The Buddhists have the Buddha, His Order and the Law. The Jains Holy Trinity consists of Right Belief, Right Knowledge and Right Conduct.

K.B. Jindal in his book
An Epitome of Jainism

Liberation or moksha is the ultimate goal and is a state of eternal bliss, wherein one’s soul becomes free of all karma bondage. When a soul is freed of all karmas, it is pure and in its natural blissful state. Moksha also means freedom from the cycle of death and rebirth.


This is the first thing to know for achieving enlightened faith.

Jainism has classified this in following seven categories.

1, Sentient beings or souls (life) = jivas
2, Inanimate entities (non-life) = ajivas
3, Inrush/Influx of karma towards soul= ashrava
4, Bondage of soul by karma-matter = bandh
5, Stoppage of influx= samvar
6, Shedding of karma and freeing oneself from the bondage= nirjarā
7, Liberation of soul from karma-matter = moksha

There are two additional tattvas:- Punya or meritorious deeds and papa which means sinful acts.

First let us see jiva and ajiva:

Cosmic constituents can be divided into two categories.

Cosmic Constituents

|                                                      |

JIVA= LIFE                                 AJIVA= NON-LIFE

(1) Jiva comprises an infinite number of independent spirit-units or souls

(2) Ajiva means an infinite number of atomic units. Jiva possesses consciousness and has perfect knowledge, vision, power and bliss whilst ajivas are inanimate entities. To understand the remaining tattvas, one must know what karma-theory is.

Jainism has its own unique karma theory. Our good or bad deeds and thoughts are in the forms of minute particles invisible to the naked eye. These particles or atoms of karma called karman vargana are attracted to the soul. They bind themselves to the soul, thereby ‘polluting’’ it. If one commits evil deeds, the soul is bound with the karma particles of evil deeds. Every soul suffers according to the quantity and quality of the particles bound to it.

The cycle of birth and death is determined by these karma particles. When all the karma particles are destroyed or shed the soul attains liberation.

Inrush/Influx (ashrava).

The process of the movement of karmas towards the soul is called influx. Any activity will result in the influx of karma particles and the soul will receive and will be stained by the layers of these particles. The wind blowing and dumping dust in the house through an open window can be compared with this phenomenon.

Stoppage (Samvar)

Now we know what influx is, the next points to consider are how the particles of karma can be prevented from approaching the soul and how to keep the soul free of karma particles. This can be achieved by following the path of enlightened conduct. If we use a parallel in the above example, it can be compared to the closing of a window to stop the dust getting in.

The shedding of karmas (nirjarā).

What about the dust already accumulated in the house? The house itself must be wiped clean. But as far as soul is concerned one cannot completely clean it by wiping out the dust of karma particles accumulated on it. Here, another analogy will explain. A criminal can have his sentence reduced if he shows genuine remorse and repentance (this is wiping out some karma particles) but he may still have to go to a jail and suffer for a short time. The repentance and related activity can be called the shedding of karmas. The jail sentence is the effect, which he cannot avoid. This way, man has to suffer, to a certain extent, from the effects of his bad deeds. But his sentence may be reduced and he may leave the jail earlier if reformed.

Bondage (bandh)

This entity explains the mechanism and mathematics of the bondage of karma particles to a soul.

Liberation (moksha).

After having gone through the complete process of wiping out karmas and also after being rewarded or punished to a certain extent, the soul is finally free. This is nirvāna or moksha; the final emancipation.

(Omniscience means the knowledge of all forms of matter in the universe. An “Omniscient” knows the past, present and future of all worldly matter. Omniscience or keval gyan is the final, supreme knowledge. It comes after the elimination or removal of destructive karmas. The one who possesses this knowledge is called Arihant or Arhat.)


In Jain terminology, the word used for a soul or living being is jiva. Jiva means everything, which has a life. Therefore, the characteristic of jiva is consciousness. This can also be referred to as the characteristic of awareness, the use of senses and the ability to distinguish between right and wrong.

There are two types of souls. Worldly and emancipated or in other words: ‘bound’ and ‘ free’ souls. A free soul is a liberated soul, which has no bondage of karmas. This is called Siddha.

Liberated souls live (or rest) on top of the universe (Lokākāsa) and never return to take re-birth. The soul can achieve nirvāna after all karma particles have been destroyed).

LIFE =Jiva             AJIVA=Non life

|                       |

Like humans, animals, plants etc.    Those who have attained Nirvāna

|                           |

Worldly souls include plants, animals, humans and other life forms. These souls go through the innumerable cycles of birth and death. Worldly souls reap and consume the fruits of karma. That is, by their activities they create the bondage of karma and as a result of this bondage, either suffer from, or enjoy, the resultant effects. Some worldly souls have thinking faculties whilst others do not. Worldly souls may also be classified, as mobile or immobile souls.

Non-mobile or sthavar jiva are those that are stationary and cannot move on their own.
Mobile or trasa jiva are those that can move on their own..

All living beings are classified according to the number of senses they possess.

All living beings have at least one sense. (All immobile beings have one sense; the sense of touch. They are further divided into five sub-categories

Earth-bodies: Living beings that have earth as a body.
Water bodies: Living beings that have water as a body.
Fire bodies: Living beings that have fire as a body.
Wind (air) bodies: Living beings that have air as a body.
Plants: Living beings that have plant as a body.

Mobile beings:
Worms, shells, insects and similar beings have two senses. (touch and taste).
Ants, centipedes, insects in crops and similar beings have three senses. (touch, taste and smell).
Bees, spiders and similar beings have four senses (touch, taste, smell and vision).
Humans, animals, heavenly beings, hellish beings and similar beings have five senses (above four plus hearing. They also have a mind).


The shape of the universe resembles the figure of a man standing with his feet apart. This is a three-dimensional shape. The central, cylindrical part is the home of all ‘mobile’ life. The top part of the universe is the home or abode of liberated souls and is called siddhashilā. Below the siddhashilā lies the abode of celestial beings.

There are different islands and oceans in the middle central part of the universe. Again in the middle of these islands and oceans there is an island called Jambudvip where we live. However precisely speaking Jambudwip is divided in many regions. Our own region is called Bharat Kshetra. There is a mountain called Meru in the centre of Jambudwip. The suns, moons, planets, constellations and stray stars are considered jyotishka-gods which circle round the Mount Meru. The lower part is inhabited by hellish beings.

Within the vast space (akash) of our universe there are jiva and ajiva: ie souls and matter. Jiva are sentient entities where as ajiva and space are non-sentient. Furthermore ajiva is governed by the ‘medium of motion’ and the ‘medium of rest’. These two media are also non-sentient.

To explain these two media, let us take the analogy of a fish in its’ bowl. The fish is the ‘life,’ the bowl is non-life. There is space in the bowl. Water in the bowl provides the medium of motion.

The medium of motion helps the movements of material objects ie all matter. The universe itself has no motion but the force of motion is present in the Universe. The medium of motion is invisible and has no consciousness or knowledge. The medium of rest is a latent force and it enables matter to be inanimate. It is also invisible and has no consciousness or knowledge. Collectively, souls (or sentient beings), space, matter and the medium of motion and medium of rest are called substances.



|                      |                      |                     |

 Medium of motion     Medium of rest       Space            Matter


THESE substances are eternal and they go through innumerable changes and they cannot be destroyed. Souls and matter are infinite in number. The medium of motion, medium of rest and space are singular in nature.

| Contents |