Importance of the Doctrine
The doctrine of karma occupies a more significant
position in the Jaina philosophy than it does in the other systems of
philosophy. The supreme importance of the doctrine of karma lies in
providing a rational and satisfying explanation to the apparently
inexplicable phenomena of birth and death, of happiness and misery, of
inequalities in mental and physical attainments and of the existence of
different species of living beings.
It will not be out of place to recapitulate here
whether we have already discussed that every Jiva or soul is possessed of
consciousness and of upayoga comprising the powers of perception and
knowledge; it has no form but it is the doer of all actions; it has the
capacity to occupy the full dimensions of the body which embodies it; it
is the enjoyer of the fruits of its actions and is located in the changing
universe; it has an inherent tendency to move upwards and is a Siddha or
liberated in its state of perfection.
If these are the characteristics of jiva or soul, how
is it that a jiva finds itself entangled in the samsara, i.e., cycle of
transmigration, suffering birth and death, happiness and misery? In the
world, only a few souls are in a state of comparative development and the
rest of them are encaged in forms and bodies which make them blind to
The answer to this enigma is to be found in the
doctrine of karma which explains the operation of karmic matter which
draws a veil over the natural qualities of the soul crippling their powers
in varying degrees. Jainism starts with the premise that the soul is found
entangled with karma since eternity. It is the primary function of
religion to stop the influx and mitigate the presence of karma with the
soul and to show the path of the liberation and the methods through which
the soul could achieve perfection.
Nature of Karma
In ordinary parlance karma means action, deed or work.
Sometimes it means acts of ritualistic nature enjoined by the scriptures.
In Jaina philosophy, it means a form of matter or pudgala. It is inert and
lifeless. It is very fine and subtle. It cannot be perceived or discerned
by any of our senses. It cannot be seen even with the most sensitive
microscope, and with the maximum magnifying capacity. It baffles all
analysis at the hands of the chemist or physicist who can neither identify
or analyze it. It is millions of times finer and subtler than the waves of
sound, light or electricity, or the electrons or the protons conceived by
modern science. Yet the matter is ever surrounding us on all sides and
permeating the entire space and atmosphere. It is the primary cause which
keeps the universe going. Every phenomenon in the universe is the
manifestation of the karmic energy.
Bondage of Karma
As already noted, the basic principle of Jainism states
that mundane souls exist in the world from time eternal in association
with matter. Of course, the character of the bondage is freely and
constantly being changed; but the fact and condition of the bondage of the
soul by matter persists through all changes. This association leads to
further bondage and so the cycle goes on till the association is severed
in such a manner as to avoid any fresh contact.
As regards the process of bondage of karma with soul,
it is maintained that the contact takes place in the following way:
The soul is surrounded by a large volume of fine
matter called karma.
The vibration of the soul is called Yoga or activity
and the activity may be due to the body, speech or thought. Hence
vibrations in the soul occur as a result of activity of any kind.
When the soul tries to do anything, instantly the
surrounding particles of matter cling to it just as the particles of
dust stick to the body besmeared with oil.
Like water in milk these particles of matter get
completely assimilated with soul.
This assimilation of matter with the soul remains
throughout life as well as in its migration from one body to another
through the process of birth and death.
This connection of soul and matter is real; otherwise
in a pure state the soul would have flown to the highest point in the
universe, as it is the innate quality of the soul.
As this connection or bondage is effected by the
karma or deed or activity of the soul, the subtle matter which combines
with the soul is termed as karma.
This bondage of karmas with soul produces in the soul
certain conditions, just as a pill of medicine which when introduced
into the body, produces therein manifold effects.
This bondage of karmas with soul, obscures the innate
qualities of the soul in the manner in which the light of the sun is
obscured by thick clouds or blinding dust.
Karma may result in or cause the inflow of punya,
i.e., merit, or papa, i.e., demerit or sin, according as the activity is
subha, i.e., virtuous, or asubha, i.e., wicked. The intention underlying
an activity and its consequences are both taken into account. That is
why, subha karma, i.e. merit, produces happiness and an asubha karma,
i.e. demerit or sin, produces misery, pain or uneasiness.
The karmic matter remains with the soul and binds it
in the circle of birth as gods, men, denizens of hell and sub-human
Kinds of karma
The karmas are divided into eight main divisions and
148 sub-divisions according to the nature of karmic matter. The main eight
karmas are :
Jnanavaraniya, i.e., the Knowledge-obscuring karma.
It obscures the right knowledge of the soul and thereby produces
different degrees of knowledge.
Darsanavaraniya, i.e., the Contation-obscuring karma.
It obscures the conation attribute of the soul.
Vedaniya, i.e. the Feeling karma. It produces
pleasure and pain and thereby obscures the nature of the soul.
Mohaniya, i.e., the Deluding karma. it distorts the
right attitudes of the soul with regard to faith and conduct, etc. and
produces passions and a variety of mental states.
Ayuh, i.e., the Age karma. It determines the length
of life of an individual.
Nama, i.e., the Body-making karma. It determines
everything that is associated with personality, that is, the kind of
body, senses, health and complexion and the like.
Gotra, i.e., the Family determining karma. It
determines the nationality, caste, family, social standing, etc. of an
Antaraya, i.e., the Obstructive karma. it obstructs
the inborn energy of the soul and thereby the doing of an action, good
or bad, when there is the desire to do it.
Further, these Karmas fall into two broad categories,
viz., (A) the ghatiya, the destructive karmas, that is, those which have a
directly negative effect upon the soul; and (B) the aghatiya, the
non-destructive karmas, that is those which bring about the state and
particular conditions of the embodiment. Each category includes four kinds
of karmas as given below:
The Ghatiya, i.e. the destructive Karmas comprise:
Jnanavaraniya, i.e. the knowledge-obscuring karma
Darsanavaraniya, i.e. the Conation (darsana)-
Mohaniya, i.e., the Deluding Karma, and
Antaraya, i.e. the Obstructive karma.
The Aghatiya i.e. the non-destructive karmas
comprise the remaining four kinds of karmas, viz.,
Vedaniya, i.e. the Feeling karma
Ayu i.e. the Age karma.
Nama i.e. the Body-making karma and
Gotra i.e. the Family-determining karma.
The reason for distinction in these two categories lies
in the fact that while ghatiya karmas destroy the manifestations of the
essential attributes of the soul, the aghatiya karmas are mainly concerned
with environments, surroundings and bodies.
Destruction of Karma
Since the presence of karmic matter in the soul is the
cause of the cycle of births and deaths and of all conditions of life, the
soul must be freed from the karmic matter. For this the influx or inflow
of karmic matter into the soul must be stopped by cultivating pure
thoughts and actions, and the stock of existing karmic matter must be
consumed by the practice of religious austerities.
In this way when the karmas are completely destroyed,
the soul becomes liberated with all its potential qualities fully
developed. This liberated and perfect soul is the embodiment of infinite
perception, infinite knowledge, infinite bliss and infinite power. It
should, therefore, be the aim of every individual to achieve this perfect
and natural condition of soul by one's own efforts.
In regard to the question of the destruction of karmas.
Jainism clearly asserts that the attainment of the freedom of the soul
from the karma matter entirely depends on one's own proper deeds or
actions and not on the favors of human or divine beings. Just as the
interacting eternal substances, viz., the dravyas, postulated in Jainism,
admit no Creator, so also the inviolable law of karma makes the man the
master of his destiny and dispenses away with the favorite theistic idea
that some divinity bestows on man various favors and frowns.
The doctrine of karma is not the doctrine of fatalism.
It is the law of cause and effect. It is the moral law of causation which
shows that man is the maker of his fortunes or misfortunes. If a man
enjoys or suffers, he does so as a consequence of his actions, thought or
DISTINCTIVENESS of the Doctrine
Thus the doctrine of karma is the key-stone in the arch
of Jaina ideology. It tries to explain the reasons lying behind or causes
leading to effects. It maintains that every happening is the result of
antecedent causes. As the soul is regarded as the doer of actions, really
the soul is made responsible for all differences in people's conditions.
Whatever actions are performed by the soul, it must bear the consequences
thereof sooner or later. There is no way out of it. The responsibility of
consequences cannot be shifted, nor exemption from the consequences be
given. The soul has to enjoy the fruits of the karmas in this life or in
Further, it is clear that according to the doctrine of
karma, there is no salvation until the soul stops the influx or inflow of
karmas and gets rid of the existing karmas and that the soul will have to
activate itself by its own deliberate efforts without expecting any help
from an outside agency. There is no use in asking the favor of God or His
representatives because Jainism never invests God with the power of
determining the consequences of the karmas nor bestows on them the
authority to forgive people from future consequences of past actions.
It may be noted that Jainism denies both
inter-mediation and forgiveness on the part of God; of what we have done
we must bear the consequences. It is not fate, nor even predestination,
but it is the ceaseless effect of recording of the different accounts that
we keep with the forces of life. The karmas constitute the karmic body
bids good-bye to the soul.
This doctrine or theory of karma is an original and
integral part of the Jaina system. As it lays full stress on individual
action and completely denies the existence of divine dispensation, it is
clear that the ethics and asceticism of the Jainas are the logical
consequences of this doctrine of karma.
In this connection Dr. C. Krause, in her book Heritage
of Last Arhat, has rightly said that, "Jainism does not fortify its
followers by the terrors of karma nor does it make them languish in
unhealthy, effeminate fatalism, as many people think all oriental
religions do, but on the contrary, it trains the individuals to become a
true hero on the battlefield of self-conquest".