Jain World
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Doctrine of Karman in Jain Philosophy

PREFACE TO THE GERMAN EDITION by Dr. Helmuth von Glasenapp
The contents of first volume of the Karmagranthas.
PREFACE TO THE ENGLISH EDITION by Dr. Helmuth von Glasenapp

PREFACE TO THE GERMAN EDITION by Dr. Helmuth von Glasenapp



         The doctrine of Karman is the central dogma of the Indian religions. It means: every action, every word, every thought produces, besides its visible, an invisible, transcendental effect-the Karman: every action produces, if one may so express it, certain potential energies which, under given conditions, are changing themselves into actual energies, forces which, either as reward or punishment, enter sooner or later into appearance. As in the case of a bond which, although the amount borrowed may long ago have been spent, continues to exist and only loses its validity on the repayment of the capital sum, so also the invisible effect of an action remains in existence long after the visible one has disappeared 1. This effect does not confine itself to the present life, but continues beyond it; it destines qualitatively and quantitatively the state after death. Actions performed during the present existence are the causes of the future existence, and the present life is, in its condition and duration the result of the actions of the preceding one. Thus the natural difference between individuals finds an explanation which is so plausible that inversely it is adduced as a proof of the truth of the karman theory 2. The karman doctrine involves the idea of an eternal metempsychosis; for as in each new existence actions which must be expiated in a future life are performed anew, so the migration of souls continues without end; but as on the other hand every existence presupposes the actions of a preceding one, so likewise it is without beginning. Now, however, the idea of the eternity of the samsara, as soon as life was contemplated pessimistically, necessarily led to the endeavor to bring the painful re-incarnation to an end and eradicate the power of the karman. To this longing after salvation from the painful cycle of re-births a great number of religious and philosophical systems owe their origin, systems which, widely as they may deviate from one another in detail, are all in agreement in belief in the operating power of fault and of merit, in acceptance of the theory of the migration of souls, and in striving after a nirvana.


When and where the karman doctrine has had its origin in India we do not know; 3 only is it sure that it existed at least a thousand years before the beginning of the Christian Era, and has since become the basis and center of religious thought. Although the various sets and schools are to some extent in accord with one another in their estimation of the efficacy of the karman, there exist great differences between them regarding its philosophical explanation. There may be distinguished a whole scale of views, from the most extreme realism, which regards the karman as a complexity of material particles infecting the sinful souls, to the most extreme idealism, according to which it is a species of newly-produced invisible force, after all, in its highest meaning only unreal, because the entire world of the senses is an empty illusion, a dream, a Fata Morgana.


The conception first mentioned, the most realistic of all that have had their origin in India, is that of the Jains, of that Indian religious community which has existed from pre-Buddhistic times down to the present day. Their fundamental idea is, that the soul, pure in itself, is polluted through its actions and, in order to regain its natural state, must be freed from its stain-an idea which is also found in other religions, but which, however, while it has remained with them only an allegorical expression, has been adopted by the Jains in the real sense of the word, and has been worked up into an original system, which even now is the foundation of the belief of one-and-a-half million people.


The karman theory of the Jains as still taught to-day has been fully dealt with in a great number of works. Of these up till now, as far as I know, the following have been published: (1) the karmagranthas; (2) the Pancasamgraha; and (3) the karmaprakrti.


The Karmagranthas

The Karmagranthas are six books, of different dimensions, which treat of the most important points of the karman doctrine. The text, composed in Prakrit-Gathas, and the Sanskrit Commentary on books I-V., have been written by Devendrasuri (died Samvat 1327 in Malava). There also exist a Commentary on the Gathas, Balavabodhas written in Gujarati by Maticandra, Yasahsoma 1* and his pupil Jayasoma, which is printed in the collection Prakaranaratnakara (Bombay, Samvat 1937) Vol. IV, pp. 305 et seq. The last, the sixth Karmagrantha, consists of some 70 Gathas, which have been taken from Drstivada by Candramahattara 2. The most important commentary appears to be that by Malayagiri 3 (according to Kielhorn in the 12th century A.D.), 4 which in the edition employed is added to the text; here the number of the gathas is 75. Peterson, Report 1883, Appendix I, p.27, mentions a manuscript, with a commentary by Devendrasuri, which comprises 77 Gathas: "Candramahattaracarya-krtagatha 70 tatra praksiptagathakarta Devendracaryah". In the Fourth Report (1886-1892) p.57, he mentions another manuscript which contains 89 Gathas and makes the following comment: "At the end of the Saptatika Devendra states that that tract is the work of Candramahattara to which he has himself added 19 gathas, bringing the total number up to 89." According to that, then, the original text must have contained 70 Gathas, and the one used by Malayagiri was already enlarged by additions. In the Prakaranaratnakara IV, pp.773 et. seq., the sixth Karmagrantha is also furnished with a commentary. The number of the Gathas therein has been increased by additions to 93. The variation in the number of the verses shows that this book has been the object of extensive activity on the part of commentators, so that it is to be supposed that divergence between the views of different teachers has taken in it particularly acute forms. To me the commentary of Malayagiri has alone been accessible, for which reason deviations from the doctrine, that may have been expounded in his commentary by Devendra, might have been unavoidable. The difference between the views of the two masters cannot, however, have been of far-reaching consequence, because the variations existing between the first five Karmagranthas, explained by Devendra, and the sixth, commented upon by Malayagiri are altogether of insignificant importance.


The Pancasamgraha

The Pancasamgraha contains a summary of the entire karman doctrine. It consists of a great number of Prakrit-Gathas, which emanate from Candrarsi (Candramahattara)-i.e., from the author of the Gathas of the sixth Karmagrantha. Its name, Pancasamgraha "Epitome of Five Things", the book owes either to the circumstance that is has been compiled from five older books: Sataka, Saptatika, Kasayaprabhrta, Satkarma and Prakrti (p.3) 1* or to the five dvaras, of which it treats, namely yogopayogamargana, bandhakah, baddhavyam, bandhahetavah, and bandhavidhayah (p.5). It was commented upon by Malayagiri.