Three-fold path of
From the basic principles
of Jaina philosophy, it is evident that the inherent powers of the soul
are crippled by its association with karmic matter and that is why every
person is found in an imperfect state. The Jaina philosophy, therefore,
asserts that real and everlasting happiness will be obtained by a person
only when the karmas are completely removed from the soul. Further,
Jainism firmly believes that even though man is imperfect at present, it
is quite possible for him to rid himself of the karmas associated with his
soul by his own personal efforts without any help from an outside agency.
Moreover, it is quite clear that according to Jaina philosophy the highest
happiness consists in securing final emancipation from the cycle of births
and deaths and in attaining the state of liberated soul, that is,
obtaining Moksa or salvation. Furthermore, the Jaina philosophy reiterates
that as this world is full of sorrow and trouble, it is quite necessary to
achieve the aim of transcendental bliss by a sure method.
When the goal has been
ascertained the next question arises regarding the way how to achieve that
objective. To this question the Jaina religion has a definite answer. In
this connection, the Tattvarth-adhigama-sutra, the most sacred text of
Jainism, emphatically states in its first aphoristic rule,
Samyag-darsana-jnana-charitrani moksa margah, that is, samyag darsana
(right belief), samyag-jnana (right knowledge) and samyak charitra (right
conduct) together constitute the path to salvation. Further, these three
basic ingredients, namely, right belief, right knowledge and right
conduct, are called ratna-traya or the three jewels in Jaina works.
It is pertinent to note
that these three are not severally considered as different paths but are
thought to form together a single path. That is why it is firmly
maintained that these three must be present together to constitute the
path to salvation. Since all the three are emphasized equally, since
moksamarga, i.e., way to salvation, is impossible without the unity of all
the three, it is obvious that Jainism is not prepared to admit any one of
these three in isolation as means of salvation.
In view of this firm
conviction in Jainism, the Jaina works always strongly emphasize that the
three must be simultaneously pursued. This conviction is brought home by
some effective illustrations. For example, it is contented that to effect
a cure of a malady, faith in the efficacy of a medicine, knowledge of its
use, and actual taking of it; these three together are essential; so also,
to get emancipation, faith in the efficacy of Jainism, its knowledge and
actual practicing of it, these three are quite indispensable. Similarly,
the Moksamarga, i.e., the path to salvation, is compared in Jaina works to
a ladder with its two side poles and the central rungs forming the steps.
The side poles of the ladder are right belief and right knowledge and the
rungs or steps of the ladder are the gradual stages of right conduct. It
is obvious that it is possible to ascend the ladder only when all the
three i.e., the side poles and the rungs, are sound. The absence of one
makes the ascent impossible.
Thus a simultaneous pursuit
of right belief, right knowledge and right conduct is enjoined upon the
people as the only proper path to salvation in the Jaina scriptures.
Further, the ethical code prescribed by Jainism for both the house-holders
and the ascetics is based on this three-fold path of liberation. Hence it
is quite necessary to see the main characteristics of these Three Jewels"
which constitute that path.
Meaning of Right Belief
It is clear that out of the
three jewels, mentioned above, right belief comes first and that it forms
the basis upon which the other two jewels, viz., right knowledge and right
conduct, rest. Hence it has been laid down that one must, by all possible
means, first attain right belief, i.e., the basic conviction in the
fundamentals of Jainism, because it has been asserted that only on the
acquisition of right belief, the knowledge and conduct become right.
The term Right Belief has
been defined by Acharya Umasvami in his authoritative Jina sacred text
entitled Tattvarthadhigama-sutra as follows :
that is, right belief is
the faith in the true nature of the substances as they are. In other
words, right belief means true and firm conviction in the seven principles
or tattvas of Jainism as they are, without any perverse notions.
Further, it is maintained
that right belief consists in believing that
the Jaina Arhats
including the Tirthankaras are the true Gods,
the Jaina sastras are the
true scriptures, and
the Jaina Gurus are the
Moreover, it is also
asserted that such right belief
should have eight angas,
i.e., essential requisites,
should be free from three
kinds of mudhatas, i.e., superstitious beliefs, and
should be free from eight
kinds of mada, i.e., pride or arrogance.
Requisites of Right
The Jaina scriptures states
that the right belief should be characterized by eight angas, i.e.,
essential requisites or components or limbs, and that these angas
determine the excellence of right belief. These eight angas which support
the right belief are :
Nihsankita-anga, that is,
one should be free from doubt about the truth or validity of the tenets
is, one should have no love or liking or desire for worldly enjoyment as
everything is evanescent.
that is, one should decline to have an attitude of scorn towards the
body even though it is full of impurities and should have regard for the
body as it can be purified by the three jewels of right faith, right
knowledge and right conduct.
is, one should have no inclination for the wrong path or one should be
free from perversity and superstition.
Upaguhana-anga, that is,
one should maintain spiritual excellence and protect the prestige of
that faith when it is faced with the risk of being belittled on account
of the follies and shortcomings of others. In other words, one should
praise the pious but should not deride those who may be faltering in
their pursuit of religion.
is, one should sustain souls in right convictions. One should have the
quality of rehabilitating others in the path of right faith or conduct
by preaching them or reminding them of the religious truths whenever
they are found to be going astray.
Vatsalya-anga, that is,
one should have loving regard for pious persons. One should show
affection towards co-religionists and respect and devotion towards the
spiritually advanced by receiving them with courtesy and looking after
Prabhavana-anga, that is,
one should endeavor to demonstrate and propagate the greatness of the
Jaina tenets and scriptures. One should try to wean people from wrong
practices and beliefs by establishing to them the importance of the true
religion by arranging religious functions and charities.
It is also laid down in
Jaina scriptures that right belief should be free from the following three
kinds of mudhatas, i.e., superstitious beliefs:
Loka-Mudhata is the false
belief in holiness. It relates to taking baths in certain rivers,
jumping down the peaks of mountains and entry into fires under the
supposition of acquiring merit for themselves or for their kith and kin.
Deva-mudhata is the
belief in false Gods. It accepts the efficacy of village gods and
goddesses who are endowed with ordinary human qualities and attempts to
propitiate them. This superstition consists in believing in gods and
goddesses who are credited with passionate and destructive powers,
willing to oblige the devotees by grant of favors they pray for.
Pakhandi-mudhata is the
belief in and respect for dubious ascetics. It shows regard for false
ascetics and considers their teaching as gospel of truth. It refers to
entertainment of false ascetics and respecting them with a hope to get
some favors from them through magical or mysterious powers exercised for
personal gain or show of power.
Thus the mind must be freed
from such superstitious beliefs and any doubts so that the ground can be
made clear for the rise and development of right belief.
Freedom from Pride
Besides the avoidance of
these three kinds of superstitious beliefs, the mind must be made free
from the eight kinds of mada or pride : jnana (learning), puja (worship),
kula (family), jati (caste, or contacts and family connections), bala
(power or one's own strength), riddhi (wealth or affluence or
accomplishments), tapas (penance or religious austerities and vapus (body
or person or beautiful form or appearance).
It is obvious that all or
any one or more of these kinds of pride are likely to disturb the
equilibrium of mind, and create likes or dislikes for men and matters. In
such a case understanding is likely to be erroneous, if not perverted.
Naturally an inflated notion of oneself on necessary that for the blissful
drawn of right belief there should be an effacement of these types of
Glory of Right Belief
The Jaina works describe at
length the glory of right belief and enumerate the benefits which can be
accrued by a person possessing right belief. They go to the extent of
declaring that asceticism and that even a low caste man possessing right
belief can be considered better fit to attain moral dignity.
In short, the Right Belief
is given precedence over Right Knowledge and Right Conduct, because it
acts as a pilot in guiding the soul towards moksa, i.e., salvation.
Further, there can be no rise, stability growth and fulfillment of
knowledge and character, unless they are founded on right belief or faith.