A Treatise On Jainism
Category: Jainism
2:40 h
Jain philosophy is the oldest Indian philosophy that separates body (matter) from the soul (consciousness) completely. Jain philosophy deals with reality, cosmology, epistemology (study of knowledge) and Vitalism. It attempts to explain the rationale of being and existence, the nature of the Universe and its constituents, the nature of soul's bondage with body and the means to achieve liberation.

A Treatise on Jainism


Shri Jayatilal S. Sanghvi


The Jain Religion

The religion which enjoins adoration and worship of Jinas or the religion which is propounded by Jinas is knows as the Jain religion.

Jina means one who has conquered the internal enemies and impurities of the soul like attachment (raga) and hatred (dwesha). He is known as Parmatma (the great soul), Sarvajna (omniscient), and Savadarshee (omnipotent). Such Jinas have been in existence from times immemorial. No beginning can be traced for them, and the Jain Religion has also no beginning. It is a very ancient religion. It teaches us to become Jina and those who follow it are called Jains.

According to Jain conception the period of time consists of two cycles, ascending (utsarpinee) and descending (avasarpini). In each of these two cycles, twenty-four Tirthankaras (Jinas) came into existence. They are called Tirthankaras because they are to become the propounders of the sacred order of religion. The last Tirthankar was Lord Mahavir. Some say that Lord Mahavir was the founder of Jainism, but this is incorrect. Twenty-three Tirthankaras existed before Lord Mahavir flourished. In their times Jainism also flourished and before that also Jainism existed. By their extraordinary perception and knowledge, Tirthankaras who come from time to time, bring the fundamental principles into light again. They preach them, propound them, and also spread them.

The souls of Tirthankaras, from the very moment of their births, are gifted with superb knowledge and are very highly meritorious. They renounce their kingly status, cast aside their riches and worldly pleasures, and adopt asceticism. By the performance of extremely severe penances, they destroy all sins accumulated during their past births, burn all karmas, inculcate a spirit of equanimity towards friends and foes both, attain the status of Vitaraga i.e, where there is no attachment or hatred towards anyone, and gain omniscient knowledge.

Those souls (atmas) who have thus become Parmatmas are of two kinds, Jeevanmukta and Videhmukta. Those who have destroyed the four Ghati Karmas are called Jeevanmukta.

Jnana-varaniya, Darsana-varniya, Mohaniya, and Antaraya

Those who have destroyed the four further Karmas, known as Aghati Karmas are called Videhmukta or Siddha.

Nama, Gotra, Ayushya, and Vedniya

Jeevanmukta Parmatmas, Arhats, or Arihants impart their rare and unprecedented teachings to all to realize true happiness and ultimately attain the eternal bliss of the final beatitude (Moksha). The principles of Jain religion having been propounded by Veetraga (souls with no attachment or hatred) and Sarvajna (Omniscient) are universally wide and based on truth and for that very reason their universal beneficence can be said to be established and proved.

Ahimsa Parmo Dharma (nonviolence is the paramount religion) epitomize the true essence of Jainism. This suggests that one should bear love towards all living beings, as they are considered potentially divine in whatever form they exist. All of them have the capacity to be liberated from the endless cycle of birth and rebirth and attain eternal bliss. Attainment of the purity and liberation of the soul are achieved by the means of Right Faith, the Right Knowledge and the Right Conduct.

Jainism allows full freedom to all human beings to observe the vows and practice self-discipline. The vows to be observed by monks and nuns are stricter than those for lay people. The Jain religion preaches that even the smallest of the small living beings (jivas) should be given protection and should not be hurt. It is the teaching of Jainism that all living beings in the world desire to live. Death is not desired by anyone. All beings desire happiness, and dislike misery.

There is life (Jiva) even in earth, water, fire, air, and vegetables. The soul in all worldly living beings is potentially like the soul in us. There is no difference in the soul of an ant and that of an elephant, though the very same soul (Atma) takes the form of an ant as well as that of an elephant.

Contraction and expansion are its characteristic attributes and due to the bondage of karmas a soul finds itself born in any one of the eighty-four lack of forms of existence.

If any living being is ill disposed towards us, even so we must love and give protection to it, whether it is an animal or man. This is the magnanimity of Jain Religion. What a height of eminence! What a noble sentiment for universal welfare!

The Jain Religion preaches the Doctrines of Ahimsa (nonviolence), Satya (truth), Asteya (nonstealing), Brahmacharya (celibacy) and Aparigraha (nonattachment).

Anger, pride, deceit, greed, attachment, aversion all these are our terrible foes. One should be away from them.

Avoid nocturnal meals, look the ground you tread upon lest any injury may be done to any living being, filter water and other liquids and then use them.

Do not speak ill of anybody, nor feel jealous. Avoid strives and quarrels. Maintain mutual good-will and do not do evil to anybody. Be delighted at the, sight of virtuous. Be desirous of allaying the sufferings of the unhappy. Be friendly towards all living beings. By giving pain to others, one will have to experience bitter fruits. Therefore, one desiring happiness should make others happy. Inculcate the spirit of equanimity towards others. Be charitable, try to uplift the poor and the afflicted, observe the best moral standards in your conduct i.e. make your character an ideal one, practice austerities to the best of your abilities and lead a life of the pure and noble thinking. This is the principal message of the Jain Religion. The details will be found in the following pages.

It is extremely difficult to get this human existence. One should therefore shake off idleness and indolence, instill and practice religion and, thereby, enjoy the endless and unobstructed happiness of the final beatitude.


It is the doctrine of Jain Philosophy that the ultimate principle is always logical and there can be no principle devoid of logic. The Jain mode of explaining everything logically is very charming. One finds deliberative exhortations on any subject in all its facts, may they be constructive or obstructive, enlightening or destructive, consumptive, or nutritive. The main reason for this is the exquisitely beautiful system of logic and reasoning known as “Syadvad”. The principles of Jain Philosophy are based on the theory of Syadvad. It is the best means of arriving at the truth or of ascertaining fundamental principles and it is because of this that the Jain Philosophy is at the helm of all philosophies and the Jain Religion is the perfect religion. The word Syadvad is composed of two words ‘Syat’ and ‘Vada’. Syat means in a sense or from a certain standpoint (Apeksha) and Vada points at Principle or School. One thing from one standpoint or point of view appears to be of a certain type while from another point of view the same thing appears to be of a different type. Therefore, to comprehend the full aspect of a thing one must take into account several points of view. This being the belief of Syadvad, it is sometimes also known as “Anekantvada” as well (i.e. that school of thought which takes into account more than one point of view).

To understand the true nature of Syadvad, Apekshavada or Anekantvada one must properly follow the two parables viz, (1) The other side of the shield, and (2) The story of Blind Men and the Elephant.

Parable-1 Other side of the Shield

On the outskirts of a village a statue was erected in honor of one of its hero. It had a sword in one hand and a shield in the other. One side of the shield was covered with gold while the other one was covered with silver. Two unknown persons came there each from the opposite direction and began expressing their views. One said that the statue was beautiful and more so because its shield was covered with gold. The other said that the shield was not covered with gold but was with silver. A quarrel ensued between them. A wise man came from the village by that time and said that the shield was covered with gold as well as silver. Let both of you just exchange your places and see the other side of the shield. Both realized their error and apologized to each other for fighting falsely.

Parable-2 Blind Men and Elephant

Once a royal retinue was stopping at a village to spend their afternoon. The village folks came there and amongst them there were six blind men. All had heard a lot about elephants but none had ever been able to see one. They requested the care-taker to allow them to touch the elephant so that they may be able to make out what the elephant could be like. They were permitted to do so. The first who came across the ears stated that the elephant was like a tusk weeding tool (Supada). The other caught hold of the trunk and stated that the elephant was like a big wooden pestle. The third touched the tusks and said it was like a big windpipe. The fourth touched the legs and said it was like a big pillar. The fifth felt the stomach and said it looked like a water-bag. The sixth had a tail in his hand and said it appeared to him like a broom. Each thought that his version was right and others were wrong. The care-taker said that none of them had ever seen the elephant fully. Each one had merely seen one limb and from that data each one had given his surmises about the whole elephant. This was, therefore, the cause of their quarrel. He explained the whole position, and all the blind men became silent and departed.

By these parables, one thing certainly becomes clear that the same thing can be explained from different stand points and any description of a thing would be true from one stand point but from this it cannot mean that the other points of view cannot be right. From the above it follows that to comprehend the real nature of any thing one must pay due regard to all points of view. Viewing things in this light, one will have to admit that everything in this world involves endless points of view and has endless characteristics.

Any one of the standpoints to which one has to resort for expounding a thing is called Naya (standpoint). In Naya, there is only partial truth, but in denying other characteristics that statement could result in falsehood. Suppose there is an elderly person of 75 years and he has a son aged 45 and the latter has a son aged 15. Now if the son who is aged 45 is only addressed as “father,” this form of address will result in falsehood because from the standpoint of his 75 years old father he is also a son. If the 45-year-old man is only styled a “son,” that too would be wrong because from the standpoint of his 15-year-old son, he is also a father. Similarly, one person is known as “Arya” from standpoint of territory; or as “Vaishya” from standpoint of Verna; or as “Oshwal” from standpoint of his sub-caste or say “Nagori” from standpoint of the village or as a son, father, husband or brother from the standpoints respectively of his father, son, wife or sister. In this way, from various standpoints, it is possible to have different characteristics in one and the same thing.

Syadvada if properly understood reveals the true nature of a thing. What is the nature of this world? How many things have existed therein? What are their attributes? etc. Perfect solution of all such quarries is obtained by Syadvada. It is an unprecedented gift of the Jain Religion to the world. If its secret is properly understood, all false schools of philosophy would end and the earnest desires for universal brotherhood will shine to the fullest extent.


The Theory of Karma
(Law of Causation)

Everyone in this world desires happiness and dislikes misery, but we find that one is a millionaire while another is a pauper; one is healthy while another is diseased; one is white while another is black; one is handsome while another is ugly; one is stout while another is lean; one is intelligent while another is an idiot; one is a master while another is a slave. Similarly, we find the high and the low, the mutilated and the lame, the blind and the deaf, and many such oddities. What is the reason for all these conditions? People would say that it is due to individual luck. What is that luck? Who made it? Who governs it? How can you be free from all the above oddities and truly be happy? The Jain religion shows us the correct path to follow and we shall see in the following pages how to do it.

As said above there are many oddities in this world. It will have to be admitted that behind all of this some powerful force is at work. This force is called “karma”. We are unable to perceive karma by our naked eyes, yet we are able to know it from its actions.

The thrones of mighty monarchs are gone, the proud and the haughty have been humiliated in a moment and reduced to ashes. What is the principal cause of all this? It is karma. Even amongst the twins born of the same mother we find one an idiot and another intelligent, one rich and another poor, one black and another white. What is all of this due to? They could not have done any deeds while they were in their mother’s womb. Why then should such oddities exist? We have then to infer that these disparities must be the result of their deeds in their past births though they are born together at one time.

In Jain philosophy the word karma has quite a different and unique significance. The starting principle of Jainism is that there is an eternal union between soul and matter. This union though without a beginning is not without an end. Once the union is entirely broken, when the soul is free from the slightest vestige of contact with matter, nothing can bind it again. It is liberated.

The activity of soul which invites and enables matter of an exceptionally subtle form to flow into it, as also the matter which actually does flow into the soul, is technically called Karma. The thought activity is called Bhava-Karma, and the actual matter flowing into the soul and binding it is called Dravya Karma. It is a substance. It is in itself inert matter, lifeless like a pebble, but in combination with jiva (life) its potency is immense, beyond calculation and measure. It then keeps the jiva itself bound and fettered. A prisoner, dancing constantly at karma’s every beck and gesture. At each step, the momentum for a new movement is gained. At each embrace of matter, the delighted deluded soul throbs and vibrates for a fresh embrace. Matter is ever ready to attack the soul and to flow into it with its billion insinuations, to keep alive the vigorous bondage of the living by the nonliving. It is so very fine and subtle, that it cannot be perceived, recognized, discerned by any the most highly developed sensory organ, or by the most perfected microscope. It eludes all efforts of the chemist and the physicist to calculate, measure, graph, photograph, use, harness, or control it. It is millions of times finer and subtler than the waves of sound, light, or electricity, or the electrons and protons conceived by man. Yet this matter is ever and anon surrounding us on all sides, and permeating through and through every particle of our body and soul. There is no space where it is not. It is perceivable, appreciable, and knowable by the omniscients. Its workings, metamorphoses, make-ups, and changes are explained by Acharyas, who have heard the voice of the omniscient, and who have transmitted the knowledge thus directly acquired from the omniscient to others through the past millenniums, by mouth and in writings.

Karma is the original cause, the first the ultimate, which keeps the universe going. All phenomena, all changes, all manifestations are due to karmic effects. Jain saints, the masters of wisdom, have analyzed the workings of karma in the most minutest details in the Jain Shastras.

Karmic matter never remains in an isolated condition. As soon as it takes form, it combines with the physical or fluid body, which stimulates it into activity. The stimulation into activity is called asrava or inflow, and when it combines is called bandha or bondage.

The karmic molecules produce their effect after a certain period. This duration is called abadhakala or quiescence.

The action or effect is called udaya or operation.

The period for which it continues to operate is called sthiti, and this varies with the mildness or intensity of passions.

The natural siddance, falling or shedding off, of karmic molecules in due course during the period of duration is called nirjara or shedding. This can also be effected earlier, and the operation and duration period can be shortened, by austerities. The duration and effect or fruition of karmas can be increased or decreased. A person is the maker and master of his destiny. He can make himself happy or miserable, he can rise above circumstances, and can make a hell of heaven and a heaven of hell. A karma bound in one life may produce its effect in the same life, in the next, or in a life thereafter.

Just as gold is mixed with mud in the mines, the soul is covered with karmas from the infinite past. Just as gold is purified by means of acids and other processes, the soul is purified and freed from karmas by the process of mercy, charity, penance, self control, etc. The soul then attains salvation.

The living souls (jivatmas) are infinitely infinite. Each has a distinct entity. If these were parts and parcels of one soul we would have found every one happy or miserable at the happiness or misery of any one of them. However, what we see is entirely different. If one eats sweets he alone enjoys sweetness. At the death of one, all do not die. From this we have to conclude that though similar in nature the soul of each individual has a distinct existence. The soul which gets absolved from karma becomes a Parmatma. Such a soul is not affected by karmas again and is not born again. There are no births and deaths for such a soul. It becomes Siddhatma.

The soul gets covered with karmas mainly due to attachment (raag) and hatred (dwesha). The fruits of karmas i.e, actions would be good or bad according to the nature of actions (good or bad) done. One who has self control and can resist from acquiring karmas i.e. One who has no attachment or hatred is called Jina and the religion which teaches us to become a Jina is known as Jainism. Those who follow this religion are Jains. To follow the Path of Liberation it is not necessary to be born a Jain. However one should lead a life which is in accord with Jainism and conforms to the type and measure of faith, knowledge, and conduct leading to the goal. If that be so the soul may be sure that he or she is a liberal being and on a path to truth and freedom from the miseries and limitations of embodied existence.

One would ask how many types of karmas exist? How do they bind the soul? How are their fruits are realized, and how they wear away or get destroyed? All of this is shown in detailed in the Jain Shastras. Karma can be divided into eight main classes. They have 148 sub-classes.

The main classes are:

(1) Jnanavarniya:

Knowledge obscuring karma; it is matter which obscures the soul’s attribute of knowledge (5 subclasses).

(2) Darshanavarniya:

Conation obscuring karma; it is matter which obscures the soul’s attribute of conation, perception (9 sub-classes).

(3) Vedniya:

Feeling karma; it is karma which mundane souls (embodied souls) come in contact with agreeable or disagreeable objects, which in their turn cause the feelings of pleasure or pain in the soul, according to their various degrees of attachment and aversion therein (2 sub-classes).

(4) Mohaniya:

Deluding karma; it is karma which obscures the attributes of right belief, and right conduct of the soul (28 sub-classes).

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