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JAINISM – THE CREED FOR ALL TIMES

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9

GuṇasthĀna

(stages of spiritual advancement)

 

The Soul’s Journey From Delusion To Deliverance –

The condition of the naturally pure and free soul in a state of karmic bondage is quite different from its natural state. When the bonded inauspicious karma–matter is on the rise its (the soul’s) spiritual power is subdued. It cannot realise its deplorable condition and its unlimited power and prowess. The all–powerful sovereign spirit becomes unable to feel its reality. Under such a state of bondage the conscious soul starts thinking that it is one with the inert body composed of insentient matter. It fails to appreciate the duality of the sentient soul and the insentient body and becomes totally engrossed in the pursuit of bodily enjoyment. It throws the spiritual concerns to the winds. This is its lowest state – that of complete delusion (Moha)– induced by the false belief that soul and body are the same. However, when the pressure of such deluding karmic influence reduces a bit due to karmic separation achieved through the process of inevitable retribution, albeit unconsciously, it starts to realise the duality of the body and the soul and comes to recognise the soul’s powers. This is the dawn of right–belief and the beginning of its journey to rise from the dungeon of falsehood to the garden of truth. Though this journey to the final spiritual destination is a continuous one, it is marked by certain land–marks on its way just like a train journey is continuous but is marked by some stations and junctions on the way. The final destination of the soul that has awakened from the deep sleep of delusion is deliverance or Mokṣa.

In this chapter we shall discuss the fourteen way–stations that mark a soul’s journey from delusion to deliverance. In Jaina parlance they are known as ‘Virtue–stations or Guṇasthāna or Jīvasthāna.

Rise From Deluding Falsehood –

Delusion is caused by the false–belief that soul is not different from the body that embodies it. Under the influence of such delusion the spiritual flaws like attachment and aversion, indulgence in material pleasures, negligence towards spiritual duties occurs and actions directed by the gripping passions take place.

According to the Jaina belief infinite number of extremely fine creatures belonging to vegetable kingdom and known as Nigoda live in a permanent state of delusion. Their condition is so acutely miserable due to continuous and quick births and deaths (they get born and die a innumerable times in as short an interval of time as blinking of an eye) that they get no respite to become conscious of their miserable condition. They live in such condition for an eternity and only some of them occasionally get a chance to come out of such miserable existence and come into the mainstream of living beings where it is possible to rise above falsehood and delusion. It is believed that only as many Nigoda creatures come into the mainstream as attain liberation and become Siddha. Again out of the Nigoda creatures that break free from their lot and come into the mainstream, too, only a few are endowed with the quality of liberatability and can rise above falsehood. They are called Bhavya. A lnot so endowed and cannot part with their false–beliefs and, consequently, can never hope to liberate. Such creatures are Abhavya.

Amongst the liberatable creatures there comes a time for each of them when pressure of karmic bondage eases due to one or more of the three reasons – 1. Destruction or separation (Kṣaya), 2. Suppression or subsidence (Upaśama), and 3. Part destruction and part subsidence (Kṣayopaśama) of deluding karma after yielding its due retribution and the truth in the form of right–vision or right–faith dawns like a glimmer of light in the blinding darkness. This dawn of rightness, which is the first step in the right direction, may be compared to the cutting of the Gordian knot.

This chapter is about the spiritual journey of the liberatable Bhavya living beings.

Guṇasthāna –

Guṇasthāna or Jīvasthāna is an epoch or a way–station in a soul’s journey from binding and deluding falsehood to liberating and emancipating perfection of absolute right–belief, perfect knowledge or omniscience, eternal bliss and unlimited spiritual prowess. There are fourteen such identifiable epochs that mark the spiritual progress of a soul from absolute imperfection to absolute perfection. Here, we shall give a brief description of each of these stages of spiritual advancement. However, before we proceed to describe these virtue–stations (Guṇasthāna) we must understand some processes that are integral to their attainment. The following are the hallmarks of this process: –

A. The process of progression or regression is a continuous process with infinite points on the way. Fourteen virtue–stations are only the traditionally identifiable stations.

B. The process of ascending or descending on the scale of virtue–stations is a spiritual phenomenon and there are no physical manifestations of this process.

C. The process is controlled by the karma–matter associated with the soul at any given point of time. These are, in turn, the outcome of the physical, mental and vocal activities of the material embodiment of the soul as well as of its psychic or volitional dispositions such as passions, attachment and aversion and delusion or their opposites.

(The position of the soul on this scale is, therefore, a continuously changing one depending on the changes in these causatory factors.)

D. There are three processes (Karaṇa) that help the process of spiritual progress. They are 1. Normal endeavour method (Yathāpravṛtti Karaṇa) in which the progress in cutting the Gordian knot of false–belief or getting bogged down in the mire of falsehood depends on the soul’s own efforts, 2. Exceptional endeavour method (Apūrva Karaṇa) in which the soul’s progress in accelerated by exceptional spiritual endeavour, and 3. Passions annihilating method (Anivṛtti Karaṇa) in which the most persistent passions are shed by the soul.

E. During its spiritual journey beyond a certain stage the soul is helped further only by karmic destruction (separation by annihilation) and not by suppression or destruction cum suppression. Accordingly, beyond the eighth station there are two paths or ladders that the soul can take. These are known as Subsidential ladder (Upaśama Śreni) and Destructional ladder (Kṣapaka Śreṇi). The first is reversible, that is the soul that ascends the subsidential ladder certainly regresses back. The second ladder is irreversible. The ascendance on this ladder is permanent and leads to the ultimate accomplishment of perfect spiritual emancipation and liberation from the miseries of the mundane existence.

arge number of them areduration is six Āvalikās and the minimum one is one Samaya. It is easily seen that from this stage the soul goes to the first stage of falsehood only.

3. Mixed Stage (Miśra Guṇasthāna)

This is the third spiritual stage, attainable by a soul on the ascendant as well as on the descendant. The soul with a traceable falsehood–stage can ascend to this stage directly from the first while the soul that descends from the higher stages, of right–belief, passes this stage on its way down. This stage is attained when a soul that has attained temporary right–vision regresses from higher stages towards falsehood; there comes a stage when it is mixed up in the right as well as wrong beliefs. It has been compared to the state when someone who eats sweetened curds. His mouth if filled with the sweet and sour taste of sugar and the curds. This stage is not passed by a soul on the ascendant. Its duration is that of less than a Muhurta (a period of 48 minutes). Again, if the infinitely binding passions of the soul are not on the rise, it ascends to the fourth stage of a soul with right–belief but without restraint. If such passions are on the rise it descends to the first stage through the second.

4. Right–Beliefed Unrenounced Stage (Avirat Samyagdṛṣṭi Guṇasthāna)

This is the fourth spiritual stage, attained by a soul on the ascendant as well as on the descendant. As has been mentioned above, a soul that has been able to overcome the infinitely binding passion quartet (Anantānubandhī Kaṣāya Catuṣka) and vision deluding (Darśan Mohanīya) karma, by either destroying them or suppressing or partly destroying and partly suppressing them, realises the right perspective. He is, then able to discriminate between the self (soul) and the other (body), as well as between the beneficial (upādeya), the knowledge worthy (jñeya) and the deplorable (heya). At this stage it believes in the true form of reality and has a steadfast belief in the fundamentals. It realisesthat the path of spiritual emancipation goes through the right–belief, the right–knowledge and the right–conduct. That the belief in the fundamentals, as stated by the Lords Prophets, is the right–belief; the knowledge of these fundamentals is the right–knowledge and a conduct in accordance with the right–belief and the right–knowledge is the right conduct. However, due to the rise of the conduct deluding (Cāritramohanīya) karma and renunciation prohibiting passions (Apratyākhyāna Kaṣāya) it cannot restrain itself according to the dictates of the right–conduct how–so–ever much he desires to do so. The duration of various ingredients of this virtue–station are as follows: –

A. Right–belief –

a. Minimum – Less than a Muhurta,

b. Maximum –

i. Destructional – For ever,

ii Destructo–subsidential – 66 Sāgaropama.

B. This Guṇasthāna –

a. Minimum/– Less than a Muhurta,

b. Maximum – Somewhat more than 33 Sāgaropama.

This duration holds good only if the subject soul stays in this virtue–station only throughout. If it accepts restraint in the mean while, it can proceed further on the scale of spiritual virtues.

5. Part–Renounced Stage (Deśavirat Guṇasthāna)

This is the fifth spiritual stage, attainable by a soul on the ascendant as well as on the descendant. This virtue–station is attained by a soul that has achieved the partial destruction or destruction cum subsidence of the conduct–deluding karma as well as the complete renunciation obscuring passions (Pratyākhyānā–varaṇa Kaṣāya). Still the complete restraint is hindered and the subject is able to adopt only partial restraints or the vows of the lay follower. Here, too, it must be understood that amongst such souls also there are some who observe all the twelve vows and eleven advanced practices of the householders (Śrāvaka Pratimā) while some only accept and observe one or more of them. This stage can last from a minimum duration of less than 48 minutes to a maximum of somewhat less than a Pūrvakoṭi Varṣa.

6. Negligent Restraint Stage (Pramatta Saṁyatta Guṇasthāna)

This is the sixth spiritual stage, attainable by a soul on the ascendant as well as on the descendant. At this stage even the conduct deluding karma in the form of complete renunciation obscuring passions are either destroyed or subdued. As a result the soul shuns violence and accepts monastic ordination and leads an ascetic life of five great vows etc. However, the soul is still under the influence of the gleaming passions (Sañjvalana Kaṣāya) and therefore, given to negligence in observance of monastic vows that it has accepted. In this virtue–station there is every possibility of the subject falling prey to such negligence as sleep, gossip, sense–enjoyments, passions, etc. The maximum and minimum durations of this Guṇasthāna are also the same as those of the fifth one.

7. Vigilant Restraint Stage (Apramatta saṁyatta Guṇasthāna)

This is the seventh spiritual stage, attainable by a soul on the ascendant as well as on the descendant. The souls at this virtue–station do not exhibit any negligence and remain fully vigilant in the pursuit of their monastic vows. Unlike their counterparts at the last virtue–station, they do not fall prey to the negligence inducing practices like sleep, gossip, sensory indulgence and passions. At this stage the subjects are free from all forms of negligence and ever engaged in pious contemplation (Dharma Dhyāna). This is also the stage where the soul applies the first of the three soul purifying processes mentioned in theearlier part of this chapter – that of normal endeavour or Yathāpravṛttikaraṇa. The minimum extent of this Guṇasthāna is one Samaya and the maximum is less than one Muhurta.

8. Gross Passion Dissimilarity Stage (Nivṛtti Bādar Guṇa– sthāna)

This is the eighth spiritual stage, attainable by a soul on the ascendant as well as on the descendant. The vigilant soul that has completely freed itself from the clutches of the first three vile types of passion–quartets – Infinitely binding, Renunciation hindering and Complete renunciation obscuring – attains this stage. This is the stage, which also decides the future of the subjects’ spiritual progress. Here, the souls prepare to mount the Destructional or the Subsidential ladder. Here, a word about the nomenclature ‘Nivṛtti Bādar Guṇasthāna’ will not be out of place. The word ‘nivṛtti’ here means dissimilarity. It is because the volitional dispositions of the souls at each samaya of its duration of one Antarmuhurta are innumerably dissimilar. Again, the passionate states of the souls remain gross up to the ninth stage and become fine only at the tenth stage, it is also known as ‘Bādar’. Another feature of this stage is that the souls employ exceptional endeavour method (Apūrva–karaṇa) to attain spiritual purity and, therefore it is also known as Apūrva–karaṇa stage. According to ‘Guṇasthāna Kramāroha’ spiritual contemplation is possible at this stage. The minimum and maximum durations of this stage are also the same as those of the seventh Guṇasthāna.

9. Gross Passion Similarity Stage (Anivṛtti Bādar Guṇa– sthāna)

This is the ninth spiritual stage, attainable by a soul on the ascendant as well as on the descendant. ‘Anivṛtti’ means similarity. It is because the dispositional states of souls at specific points of time during the duration of this stage are similar, and the types of passions that are being annihilated or suppressed are still gross (Bādar), it is known as Anivṛtti Bādar Guṇasthāna. Also, as the souls employ the most intense gross passion–annihilating method (Anivṛttikaraṇa), it is also known as Anivṛttikaraṇ>a Guṇasthāna. At this stage also the gleaming passions are not completely annihilated and their finest traces still persist. Here, the souls mount the Destructional or the subsidential ladder. Those who mount the Destructional ladder, begin the destruction of the remaining gleaming passions as well. Those that mount the subsidential ladder achieve their suppression, only to raise their heads, at a latter stage, the event that ultimately marks their downfall.

10. Fine Passions Stage (Sūkṣma Samparāya Guṇasthāna)

This is the tenth spiritual stage. At this stage, too, the remaining very fine traces of greed, the most persistent of passions, are annihilated or subsided according as the soul has mounted the destructional or the subsidential ladder at the ninth stage. Because of the presence of the fine traces of greed–passion this stage is also under the grip of delusion, how–so–ever minute, and remains attached. Once, these traces are also suppressed or destroyed the soul progresses to the higher stage – 11th stage if it is on the subsidential ladder and directly to the 12th stage if it is on the destructional one. Also, this is the stage up to which both yoga – body, mind and speech – and kaṣāya – passion are present. After this stage even the greed–passion is absent and so are delusion and attachment.

11. Passion–subsided Detachment Stage (Upaśāntakaṣāya Vītarāga Guṇasthāna)

This is the eleventh spiritual stage on the scale of spiritual progress, attainable by only those souls that mounted the subsidential ladder at the ninth stage. The souls that achieve complete suppression of the gleaming passions’ quartet exceptsome traces of persistent greed–passion at the ninth stage and even the traces of greed at the tenth stage come to this stage of complete passion–subsidence and consequent state of complete detachment, albeit temporary. However, this stage can last only for a maximum period of less than a Muhurta, after which it starts its descent in the same way as it ascended due to the assertion of the suppressed passions and resultant attachment, aversion and delusion. This descent can be checked at any stage depending upon the strength or weakness of the subject’s volitional disposition. However, the soul that has achieved permanent right–vision in the past does not slide back beyond the fourth stage but the one that had attained only subsidential or destructo–subsidential right–vision may also revert back to the first stage of falsehood and delusion. It must be understood that there is no way in which a soul can progress further from this stage. It is because any further spiritual progress requires complete separation of deluding karma from the soul, an accomplishment that is possible only when the passions have been completely annihilated and not merely suppressed. Also, those souls that mounted the destructional ladder at the ninth stage do not even touch this stage. They rise, directly, to the twelfth stage of Delusion–destroyed Detachment Stage. The duration of this stage is one samaya.

12. Delusion–Destroyed Detachment Stage (Kṣīṇamoha Vītarāga Guṇasthāna)

This is the twelfth spiritual stage on the scale of virtue stations, attainable by only those souls that mounted the Destructional ladder at the ninth stage and thereby achieved complete destruction of the gleaming passions’ quartet except some traces of persistent greed–passion at the ninth stage and even the traces of greed at the tenth stage. The complete annihilation of the passions results in total freedom from delusion induced by them and hence a state of complete detachment from everything worldly prevails and the subject concentrates only on the contemplation of the pure and unflawed form of the soul. This pure and white contemplation (Śukla Dhyāna), possible only in the absence of delusion, goes on to achieve the soul’s separation from the other three destructive types of karma, namely the Knowledge obscuring karma, the Vision obscuring karma and the Obstructive karma. As soon as this is achieved the soul rises to the next (thirteenth) stage on the spiritual scale – that of Embodied Omniscient Stage, the stage, which can be considered as a stepping stone to final deliverance or Mokṣa. The duration of this stage is only an Antarmuhurta.

13. Embodied Omniscient Stage (Sayogī Kevalī Guṇasthāna)

This is the thirteenth stage on the scale of spiritual virtues, attained by a soul that has achieved a complete and irresidual separation from the four destructive types of karma. This stage is marked by Perfect delusion free disposition achieved by the destruction of Deluding (Mohanīya) karma, the Omniscience achieved through complete annihilation of the Right–knowledge obscuring (Jñānāvaraṇīya) karma, Perfect vision achieved through destroying the Right–vision obscuring (Darśanā–varaṇīya) karma and Perfect spiritual prowess achieved by the separation of Obstructive (Antarāya) karma. It is called ‘Sayogī’ because the perfect soul is still embodied in the body that is associated with it from birth. The freedom from the confinement of the body can be achieved only when the remaining four non–destructive types of karma are also shed by the soul. This happens with the passage of time as the life–span determining karma comes to an end. Two other non–destructive types of karma – Nāma karma and Gotra karma also come to an end with the Āyu karma. In some cases, however, some portion of feeling producing (Vedanīya) karma remains unexhausted and that has to be exhausted before the soul can liberate. As it is not possible to extend the life–span in any case, this exhaustion of the unexhausted Vedanīya karma is achieved by a special procedure called Kevalī Samudghāta in which the soul–spaces of the omniscient soul are spreadthroughout the universal space and as a result it can experience the remaining Vedanīya karma in the remaining life–span. Having exhausted all the eight types of karma in this manner, the soul leaves the mundane existence forever and rises to the ultimate stage of attainment of spiritual perfection or Siddhatva, which is the fourteenth and final stage of spiritual progress called Incorporeal Omniscient Stage (Ayogī Kevalī Guṇasthāna). The soul can stay in the thirteenth stage of embodied perfection for a minimum period of an Antarmuhurta and a maximum of somewhat less than a Pūrvakoṭi varṣa.

14. Incorporeal Omniscient Stage (Ayogī Kevalī Guṇasthāna)

This is the fourteenth and the final stage of spiritual progress. It is attained by a perfected soul that has irresidually exhausted all the eight types of karma at the thirteenth stage. This accomplishment is achieved by stopping the bodily functions by the omniscient soul at the end of its life–span in the thirteenth stage. The soul stays in this state only for a time taken to pronounce five short vowels a, i, u, ṛ and ḷ, after which it rises to the uppermost part of the universe and permanently resides on Siddhaśilā, or Iśatprāgbhāra Pṛthvī, the abode of the perfected incorporeal souls.

Conclusion –

The foregoing description of the fourteen spiritual virtue–stations or Guṇasthāna reveals as to how systematically and methodically the Jaina seers have realised these concepts in their lives and preached them for the benefit of the posterity. It tells us the various ingredients of spiritual progress – rightness of faith, belief, vision or perspective, gaining of right–knowledge, controlling of passions, restraining one’s body, mind and speech, to be vigilant in performance of one’s spiritual duties, not succumb to the lure of sleep, gossip, sensory pleasures, etc. so that one can make uninterrupted progress towards one’s ultimate goal of spiritual emancipation and final liberation.Svastika

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