Jain World
Sub-Categories of Antiquity of Jainism
Meaning of Jainism
Tradition of Tirthankara
Historicity of the Jaina tradition
Jaina tradition and Buddhism
  Jaina tradition and Hinduism
  Jaina tradition & archaeological evidence
  Fundamental principles of Jainism
  Philosophy of Jainism
  Tattvas of Jainism
  Doctrines of Jainism
  Three-fold path of Salvation
  Prescription of Ethical Code
  Private distinctiveness of Jaina Ethics
  Importance assigned to five vratas
  Prominence given to Ahimsa
  Easy practicability of ethical code
  Commoness of ethical code
  Rise of sections in Jainism
  The Great Schism of Jainism
  The Digambara and Svetambara sects
  The Digambara sub-sects
  The Svetambara Sub-sects
  Jainism in East India
  Jainism in Northern India
  Jainism in Western India
  Jainism In South India
  Contribution of Jainism to Indian Culture
  Jainism and other religions
  Significance of Jainism
  Glossary of Jaina terms



5. Salvation - Path of Jainism: three-fold path of Salvation


Relation between Right Belief and Right Knowledge

It is considered desirable that on attaining right belief one should strive after right knowledge. As regards the relationship between right belief and right knowledge it has been specifically stated that although right belief and right knowledge are contemporaneous, there is yet a clear relation of cause and effect between them, just as it is between a lamp and its light. It is true that lamp and light go together, still the lamp precedes the light, and light cannot be said to precede the lamp. In the same way there is the relation of cause and effect between right belief and right knowledge, though both are almost simultaneous. Right knowledge cannot precede right belief, and from this point of view right knowledge is called the effect and right belief, the cause.

Nature of Right Knowledge

Right knowledge has been described in Jaina scriptures as "that knowledge which reveals the nature of things neither insufficiently, nor with exaggeration, nor falsely, but exactly as it is and with certainty". It has also been stated that right knowledge consists in having full comprehension of the real nature of soul and non-soul (i.e., matter) and that such knowledge should be free from samsaya, i.e. doubt, vimoha, i.e., perversity, and vibhrama, i.e., vagueness or indefiniteness.

Moreover, Jaina scriptures always assert that knowledge is perfect when it does not suffer from the mithyatva, i.e., wrong belief. Mithyatva is the enemy of right knowledge as it perverts both the understanding and the attitude. That is why all Jaina thinkers have insisted upon the elimination of wrong belief from mind. Mithyatva reminds one somewhat of the aviveka, i.e., want of discrimination of the Samkhya, and the maya, i.e., illusion of the Buddhist systems of philosophy. Hence Jainism insists that right knowledge cannot be attained, unless wrong knowledge is banished.

Kinds of Knowledge

When considered with reference to its means of acquisition, knowledge is of five kinds :

  1. Mati-jnana (sense knowledge) is knowledge of the self and non-self acquired by means of the five senses and the mind. Obviously this kind of knowledge is limited to things in matter of existence.

  2. Sruta-jnana (scriptural knowledge) is derived from the reading or hearing of scriptures. Like the first kind of knowledge, the sruta-jnana is not limited to the things in existence but it can comprehend all matters of the present, past and future as expounded in the scriptures.

  3. Avadhi-jnana (clairvoyant knowledge) is knowledge of things in distant time or place. It is knowledge of the remote or past. It can be acquired by saints who have attained purity of thought and developed their mental capacity by austerities. It is otherwise possessed by the celestial and infernal souls.

  4. Manah-paryana-jnana (Mental knowledge) is direct knowledge of another's mental activity, that is, about thoughts and feelings of others. It can be acquired by those who have gained self-mastery or samyama.

  5. Kevala-jnana (perfect knowledge or omniscience) is full or perfect knowledge without the limitations of time or space, which is the soul's characteristic in its pure and undefinable condition. It draws on the Tirthankaras and perfect souls.

Pillars of Right Knowledge

Like right belief, right knowledge also has got eight pillars or requirements:

  1. Grantha, that is correct use of words. It means that reading, writing and pronouncing of every letter and word should be done correctly. It also denotes that books must be studied with care and faith.

  2. Artha, that is meaning. It indicates that reading should be directed towards understanding the meaning and full significance of words, phrases and text. It suggests that mere mechanical study without understanding the meaning serves no purpose.

  3. Grantha-artha, that is combination of grantha and artha. It stresses that both reading and understanding of the meaning are essential as they together complete the process and the purport. It is emphasized that mere reading is not enough.

  4. Kala, that is observance of regularity and propriety of time. It means that improper and unsuitable occasions should be avoided. Again, the time chosen for study must be peaceful and free from disturbance due to worries and anxieties.

  5. Vinaya, that is reverent attitude. It is laid down that humility and respect towards the scriptures should be cultivated to develop our devotion to learning.

  6. Sopadhanata, that is propriety. While studying we do come across difficult expressions and inexplicable ideas. But in such cases one should not draw hasty conclusions which might lead to improper behaviour.

  7. Bahumana, that is zeal. It is pointed out that zeal in the mastery of the subject under study is also essential to sustain interest and continuity.

  8. Anihnava, that is without concealment of knowledge or of its sources. It is suggested that one must keep an open mind and attitude so that narrow considerations do not shut one out from fullness of knowledge.

Thus, the right knowledge can be acquired by pursuit with devotion by reading sacred scriptures, understanding their full meaning and significance in proper time and with punctuality, imbued with zeal, proper behaviour and open mind.

In conclusion, it can be specifically maintained that both right belief and right knowledge are very closely associated with each other just as the association between a lamp and its light. Even though lamp and light go together, there must be a lamp which must oil and wick before it could be lighted. Similarly, before right knowledge can be gained, there must be the inexhaustible piety and urge for knowledge which is the oil; the source of knowledge like the scripture, the discourses from preceptors and saints are the wick; the pursuit and study with devotion are like the lighting of the lamp; then only there can be light in the form of knowledge.


After right belief and right knowledge, the third, but the most important path to the goal of moksha, i.e. salvation is right conduct. In Jainism utmost importance is attached to the right conduct because right belief and right knowledge equip the individual with freedom from delusion and consequently equip him with true knowledge of the fundamental principles clarifying what are worthy renunciation and realization and ultimately lead to right conduct as an integral and crowning constituent of the path of salvation. That is why conduct which is inconsistent with right knowledge is considered as wrong conduct or misconduct. Hence conduct becomes perfect only when it is in tune with right belief and right knowledge. It is, therefore, enough to point out that the importance of right conduct in the process of self-realization consists in the fact that it is only when right knowledge based on right belief is translated into practical and spiritual discipline that the path of emancipation of soul from the cycle of births and deaths becomes smooth. It is clear that in accordance with Jaina philosophy right conduct presupposes the presence of right knowledge which presupposes the existence of right belief. Therefore the Jaina scriptures have enjoined upon the persons who have secured right belief and right knowledge to observe the rules of right conduct, as the destruction of karmic matter associated with the soul can be accomplished only through the practice of right conduct.

Right Conduct includes the rules of discipline which

  1. restrain all censurable movements of mind, speech and body,

  2. weaken and destroy all passionate activity and

  3. lead to non-attachment and purity.

Further, right Conduct has been conceived of two kinds or categories according to the degree of intensity of the actual practice of rules of behavior laid down under right conduct. These two kinds are (i) Sakala-charitra, i.e., complete or perfect or unqualified conduct; and (ii) Vikala- charitra, i.e., partial or imperfect or qualified conduct.

Out of these two kinds of right conduct, the former, i.e., the sakala-charitra involves the practice of all the rules of conduct with vigor and higher degree of spiritual sensitivity while the latter, that is, the vikala-charitra, involves the practice of the same with as much increasing degree of diligence, severity and purity as might be possible.

Further, it may be noted that (i) Sakala-chritra is meant for and observed by ascetics who have renounced worldly ties, and is also known as muni-dharma; and (ii) Vikala- charitras is meant for and observed by laymen who are still entangled in the world and, is also known as sravaka-dharma, i.e., the householder's dharma.

The several rules of conduct prescribed both for laymen and ascetics constitute the ethics of Jainism. As such they are discussed in detail in the next chapter on `Ethics of Jainism".