First Steps To Jainism
SANCHETI ASOO LAL
BHANDARI MANAK MAL
Fundamentals (The Tattva)
The causes leading to manifestation of
life in variety of forms have taxed the imagination of all thinking men,
just as the universe. If all souls or the animate living-beings are in
essence alike, being formless and conscious entities, why this extreme
divergence from living beings with one sense (like the stationary trees
and plants) to the five-sensed human beings. Again the heterogeneousness
of humanity manifesting itself in differing capacities, behaviour,
material adjuncts and feelings of pain and pleasure has defied logical or
Then why is the world full of suffering?
"Birth is suffering, death is suffering, separation from what is pleasing
is suffering and association with what is displeasing is suffering." Thus
concluded Buddha and renounced the throne. Similarly men�s helplessness
vis-�-vis his lot, destiny or nature sent many a prophet and leaders to
the caves or mountains to find solutions to these problems.
Buddha preached the middle path, Moses
propagated the Ten Commandments and other prophets and leaders of men
suggested their own panacea for the ills of the world. Broadly speaking,
some schools of thought have accepted a personal God, as not only creator
of the universe, but also that of life in all its varieties and as arbiter
of its destiny. At the other extreme are those who suggest that the entire
process of life, death and creation in all its manifestation is nothing
but modification of matter and the part of a natural process.
Jainism does not accept a personal God
as the creator of the variety of life and dispenser of pleasure and pain.
Similarly matter alone is considered as dead and inert and cannot be held
responsible for the creation and its variation. These are at best escapist
approaches that are alien to Jainism. It holds the individual soul
responsible for its actions, its destiny, its pleasure and its pain.
Jain metaphysics prescribes a seven fold
approach that not only provides a satisfactory solution to the riddle of
the creation, birth, death, pleasure and pain but also lays down the path
of liberation of the soul from sufferings and for realization of its full
powers. These seven are, therefore, rightly known as tattvas or the
fundamentals or truths which are the subject matter of this chapter These
form the core of the Jain religion and have been universally preached and
practiced in all ages by successive prophets, last of them being Lord
Before dealing with the seven
fundamentals it may be recapitulated that Jainism believes that the
universe consists of two distinct major constituents i.e. (1)
living-conscious substance i.e. soul and (2) non-living element (group of
five substances called matter, space, time, medium of motion and medium of
rest). These two divisions (1) living and (2) non-living are the most
important fundamentals out of the seven. These may be called the core of
the core. The belief and knowledge of these two is the basis on which the
structure of the seven fundamentals is built. Actually, the seven
fundamentals are nothing but permutations and combinations of these two.
Out of the non-living substances we have
seen that the four formless substances play a secondary role in the drama
of life. To recapitulate, the space provides accommodation, time ensures
modification and medium of rest and motion help in stopping and movement
respectively to the living soul and the non-living matter. It may be
clarified that out of the last two only the soul is the active and
conscious agent, matter being inert and non-conscious.
The attachment of matter with soul is
beginningless, just as the universe is beginningless, and it is under the
influence of matter that the soul undergoes the cycle of life and death
with concomitant pain and pleasure, changing the bodies through
transmigration of soul in which Jainism, like the most oriental schools,
This interplay of soul (living) and
matter (non-living) is in the form of (1) influx of matter into soul
(known as asrava) (2) attachment or bondage of matter with soul (known as
bundh) (3) prevention of influx (known as sanwar) (4) separation of
this bondage (nirajara) and (5) complete liberation of soul from the
matter (moksha). These are five fundamentals in addition to the living and
non-living mentioned earlier which make the total of seven fundamentals.
It may be reiterated that
out of the five nonliving substances, it is matter alone that has form,
which limits and obscures the power of soul. But in so acting to overpower
the soul which is formless, pudgals of matter-indivisible minutest
particles-take invisible form of bodies known as karma. This brings us to
the karma theory of Jainism-the theory of inevitable consequences of one�s
action-to which passing reference is necessary at this stage. No doubt we
shall deal with this at greater length in a separate chapter.
It has been admitted by the medical
science that every intense mood of a man of joy or sorrow or anger or
tension-causes chemical secretions from glands in human bodies which
result in sickness (like blood pressure) or physical well being. Jainism
goes a step further and holds that every activity of every being-through
thought word and deed (mental, verbal or physical), result in vibrations
in the soul which attract waves of matter from the surrounding area that
enter the soul by becoming the karmic body. These obstruct the soul�s
progress towards realization of its four-fold greatness (perfect
perception, perfect knowledge, perfect prowess and perfect bliss). These
karmic bodies may appear in person�s present life or life after death as
they determine the destination of human soul after death. Thus the word
karma not only implies actions or deeds as loosely interpreted but
also material bodies consisting of force or energy or waves too fine to be
discernible to senses but all the same real and powerful.
Thus when we talk of influx or bondage (asrava
or bundh) of matter into or with the soul we refer to the matter in a
restricted sense i.e. to its karmic form. These karmas can be
harmful or beneficial to the degree they result in physical or mental pain
or pleasure which depends upon the nature of one�s own actions. If the
actions are good e.g. charity, or bad e.g. violence, they result in
pleasure and pain respectively. Some even recognize these two also in the
list of fundamentals calling them merit (punya) and sin (pap) to take the
total number of fundamentals to nine. However, generally these are
considered as part and parcel of influx and bondage. It may be clarified,
however, that sin and merit are both fetters of the soul, may be fetters
of gold or fetters of iron, and for complete liberation of the soul it is
essential to get rid of both these types.
With the above background we now take up
the description of the seven fundamentals which may be repeated as (i)
Living soul (ii) Non-living matter (iii) Influx (iv) Bondage (v)
Prevention (vi)Separation and (vii) Liberation.
1. The Living soul-the first
While volumes have been and can be
written on the subject of the living soul, it has been briefly dealt with
already in the chapter of The Universe. Living soul being the center of
the entire Jain philosophy, we may recapitulate in brief that it is
non-material, eternal, conscious substance with perfect perception,
knowledge, bliss and power. It is responsible for its actions and reaps
the fruits thereof. It is numberless, the whole entity filling the entire
body it occupies and tends to arise upward. The broad translation of a
poem by Dr. Bharill of Jaipur, summarizes the attributes of the living
soul which is given below. In this the soul describes itself in the
I am self sufficient,
without trace of anything else,
I have no truck with anything else.
Without colour, without attachment,
without hatred, I am unique,
I am indivisible body of consciousness,
happy in my own physique,
I am responsible for my success or
failure and none else,
I reside in me, needing no rest in
I am pure, omniscience, one, unaffected
by other�s act.
I realise myself through me, I am
knowledge and bliss perfect.
2. Non-living matter-the second
This subject has also been dealt with
earlier. Though the entire group of matter, time, space etc. forms
nonliving fundamental, they are widely divergent from each other as
mentioned earlier. The role played by matter is predominant and it is with
the matter that we are primarily concerned in the present discussion. It
may be added that karma matter has beginningless association with soul.
Though with form, it is so subtle and fine that nothing can check it. It
passes through all and it does not stand in way of anything else. Thus it
travels with the soul from one body to another with its transmigration
3. Influx-Third fundamental:
All worldly creatures are constantly
engaged in some form of activity-mental, verbal or physical. All such
activities create turbulence in the soul and attract corresponding amount
of matter in the form of karma bodies into the soul. This flow of
matter-Karma bodies into the soul is called influx-asrava the third
fundamental. The activity of creatures that attracts is subjective influx
(bhav asrava). While the actual flow of matter into the soul is material
influx (dravya asrava). True to its arithmetical approach, in Jain
scriptures the activities, causing influx, have been divided and
sub-divided into numerous minute sub-divisions, a broad description of
which is as under:
False vision-like wrong belief,
skepticism, ignorance of true path and is of five types.
Undisciplined life- This implies
indulgence in violence, untruth, theft, unchastity and undue
accumulation (of wealth).
non-vigilance, gossip, undue sleep and is of fifteen types.
Indiscretion-in-use-of mind, body and
speech by attachment, aversion and infatuation and lastly.
Passions-anger, pride, greed and
The above list is not exhaustive
specially when only darker side of human nature has been taken into
consideration. For obvious reasons these types of activities have to
shunned. Similarly, the good and brighter side of human nature such as
kindness, also result in activities which are of nine types i.e. charity,
service etc. However, these also result in influx of favorable type of
karma pudgals as elaborated later.
4. Bondage-the fourth fundamental:
Along with influx and depending upon the
intensity of the activity of mind, speech and body, matter (karma) gets
attached or mixed up with soul like water with milk. This is called
bondage, subjective bondage being condition of soul and objective being
the actual attachment of the matter.
In the advanced stage of spiritual
development bondage occurs for a very minute duration time. Otherwise the
soul is bound by karma matter depending upon the extent of involvement of
mind, body or word in the activity. Thus stronger the passion like anger,
or greed the stronger the bondage. This intensity determines the nature,
duration, character and magnitude of karma bondage which in turn
determines the future course of the soul in this world, and hereafter. The
nature of karma, has been dealt with exhaustively in Jain scriptures and a
separate chapter will be devoted to the same in the present series.
For the present it will be sufficient to
explain briefly as under the nature, duration, character and magnitude of
1) Nature of Bondage (of karma)
implies good or evil results that will be reaped by the soul from the
2) Duration of Bondage will determine
the time the said karma will take to expiate.
3) Character of Bondage will determine
the intensity of the results of the particular karma.
4) Magnitude of Bondage implies the
quantum of karma bodies absorbed by the soul.
It may be clarified that, as mentioned
under influx, influx and bondage need not necessarily be painful or
sinful. These may result in pleasure also as those arising out of
meritorious activity e.g. charity, humility, service rendered through
mind, speech and body etc. Such meritorious activity contrary to sinful
one, results in influx or bondage which provides wealth and respect in
this life or hereafter. However, this also does bind the soul and has to
be got rid of for complete liberation of the soul.
Question may arise that how should one
act or behave so as not to attract influx and bondage when both good deeds
and bad actions result in bondage-and one cannot help activity of one sort
or another as long as one lives. This question has been clearly answered
in Jain scriptures that one should act with utmost vigilance without
involving oneself too much in the activity or its result. Again the result
of one�s action, should be accepted with equanimity and indifference. The
simple formula for living in the world without attracting influx or
bondage, thus hastening self realization or liberation of self is:
While acting exercise utmost vigilance;
When accepting results show
Prevention-The fifth fundamental:
The fifth fundamental implies that soul
being a free agent should cease from such activities which invite influx.
For this two fold action is required-firstly non-indulgence in all such
acts which result in influx and secondly exercising positive restraint on
mind, speech and conduct through constant practice, so as to avoid or
minimize the influx.
There are five major divisions of
prevention which are the counter-parts of those resulting in influx and
are stated below in juxtaposition:
Items responsible for Influx
Items responsible for
Control over Passions.
On the positive side the purpose of
prevention is automatically achieved by following the code of daily
conduct for monks and laymen prescribed in great detail which is
summarized in brief as under :
Five Vows-i.e. the vows of
non-violence, truth, non-stealing, chastity and non-accumulation should
Control of mind, speech and body.
Vigilance in movement, speaking,
eating, handling things and evacuation.
Observance of ten commandments of
Jainism i.e. forgiveness, humility, honesty, truthfulness, purity of
mind, mercy, penance, renunciation avoidance of greed and chastity.
Meditation of twelve subjects e.g.
contemplation of the Universe, religion, transitoriness of existence
Toleration of suffering of twenty two
types i.e. tolerance of hunger, thirst, cold, heat, insect bite,
sickness, thorns, dirt, etc.
It will be seen that all the above
discussion leads to Jain ethics which has described the duties of monks
and laymen in the greatest detail. It is the most glorious part of
Jainism. At the same time it is simple and practicable leading to the
greatest good of greatest number. To summarize it is stated that just as
one, who wants to empty a tank full of water, has to stop the inflow,
while throwing out the accumulated water, to achieve the purpose in hand,
similarly those desirous of liberation of soul from the accumulated
karmas, by practicing the methods of prevention described, stop the inflow
of matter (karma bodies into soul) and pave the way for segregation or
separation of accumulated karma bodies from the soul which is the subject
of the next item.
6. Separation-Sixth fundamental:
Ceaseless activities of the soul can be
voluntary as a free agent and these result in influx and/or bondage with
matter (karma bodies) as described above. However, the soul is not always
a free agent. It is rather a slave of the karmas which it has already
acquired through influx and bondage due to its past activities. Such past
bondage makes the soul behave in a certain fashion and suffer consequent
pain and pleasure in the bargain. This is the secret of human destiny and
the cause of variation between man and man, even brother and brother. Such
variation because of its unclear origin is wrongly ascribed to luck,
chance or God or nature.
Indeed it is very difficult to precisely
allocate the activities of the animate being (the soul) to its past karma
or to its fresh voluntary efforts, resulting in further influx or bondage.
This can be done precisely by perfect beings with perfect knowledge only.
However, as a result of some of the activities of the soul, karma bodies
having given results (good or bad) are separated from the soul
automatically. This is the process of separation or Nirjara and is known
as separation by fruition.
However, Jainism lays emphasis on
efforts of soul and suggests way to separate matter from the soul by
deliberate efforts to relieve its burden and to hasten the process of
liberation. This is the way of penance and called separation without
This path of penance need not frighten
any body though some methods are severe. However, simple good conduct and
humility are also parts of penance. There are twelve types of penance-six
pertaining to body and six pertaining to mind.
Detailed procedure of these has been
prescribed in the learned treatises but we shall have to content with
listing the twelve as under:
A. Pertaining to Body (Exterior-Bahiya)
Eating less than one�s appetite (Anodari)
Eating what is received through
Tastelessness (Ras Parityag)
Toleration of body pain (Kaya Klesha)
Withdrawal from bodily pursuits (Sallinta)
B. Pertaining to mind (Interior or
Service (Vaiya vrata)
Indifference (to body and its needs)
By these processes karma bondage of the
soul gets loosened and separated slowly in addition to the natural process
of fruition of karma described earlier. As an example we can consider the
damp or wet apparel which if thrown in a heap may take its own time to
dry. However, if it is spread in sun or waved in the breeze it dries up
much more quickly.
With the separation of matter from the
soul its genuine inherent powers begin to manifest themselves and the soul
shines in its true glory of perfection of knowledge, belief, power and
bliss which is the last and the most important of the seven fundamentals.
7. Liberation or Moksh-the Seventh
Complete separation of the soul from the
matter (Karma pudgal) is liberation or salvation. This is the aim of every
living being (soul) to obtain emancipation from perpetual slavery of
foreign element i.e. matter. Once this is attained there is no suffering
of any type, no birth, no death and no transmigration. As soon as a soul
becomes completely separated from the matter, no further Karma can pollute
it any more because the soul and the matter are entirely distinct
substances-original pollution being due to beginningless contamination of
soul by matter which attracted further defilement.
Though liberation is a very difficult
and laborious process taking millenniums yet the path of liberation is not
desolate or uninhabited. Millions and millions, actually infinite number
of souls have attained liberation and will continue to do so in time to
come. Those, who may be harboring some concern that due to this one way
traffic the Universe may become devoid of worldly souls, need not worry on
that account. Because if this phenomena were to occur it would have
already become devoid of worldly souls. Since this has not occurred in the
past it will never happen in future, because number of souls eligible for
emancipation is infinite and infinity never comes to an end.
It needs mention that even the process
of separation (of bondage of Karma) is full of beatitude. While the
subject will be dealt with separately it may be stated that even partial
liberation of the souls leads to intellectual development, physical
well-being and general material happiness, prosperity of the individual.
Thus one need not wait for complete liberation of soul which is the
ultimate end; the blessings start on the road to liberation itself.
Similarly attaining liberation is
nothing unusual for a soul because actually it is realizing its true self
and should be considered as a natural process. It is like the wolf boy
being taught to behave like a human being, which he actually is. Due to
past association with the foreign matter the soul has forgotten its
genuine original form powers and attributes. With the liberation it is
established on its original pedestal.
Since all liberated souls are alike
there is no distinction between one liberated soul and another. All of
them possess all the attributes of complete consciousness, bliss,
knowledge and faith. There is no sex, no caste, no color and no form. They
being formless, like light of a candle, occupy no space. Just as light of
one candle can pervade a room or light of 100 candles pervades the same
room simultaneously, a large number of souls can occupy and live in the
limited area. Though there is no place earmarked where liberated souls
reside but by their very nature of rising above, the souls when free from
the bondage of karma rise and in one samaya reach the top of the Universe
just on the border of non-universe. These cannot go beyond since there is
no gravitational mediums of motion and rest beyond this point.
To conclude this part it will be
appropriate to quote a Sanskrit couplet translated into English which
describes the quality of a liberated soul:
Omniscience, boundless vision,
illimitable righteousness, infinite strength, perfect bliss,
indestructibility, existence without form, a body that is neither light
nor heavy-such are the characteristics of liberated souls.
Before closing this chapter it may be
recapitulated that just as the first fundamental is soul, the seventh
fundamental is also soul. Though the first described the worldly as well
as the liberated souls the last one deals with only liberated souls.
Actually apart from the second fundamental i.e. non-living matter entire
chapter and all the fundamentals describe different stages and process of
evolution of soul in relation to karma pudgals. In this process the entire
secret of existence, birth and death, pain and pleasure, difference
between different individuals, mystery of chance and luck become resolved
in the orderly pattern of behaviour of the soul. Also the pathway to solve
the problem of human suffering is clearly demarcated and defined. Indeed
the whole arrangement of the soul�s association with matter, attachment
between the two, prevention of attachment and separation are all dependent
upon the soul�s voluntary and involuntary efforts. It is elementary,
simple and automatic that it does not require any intermediary like God or
a Supreme Being. Jainism introduces an element of directness in the law of
compensation or the rule of cause and effect and applies it to the
Simplicity and orderliness of Jain
theory of the seven fundamentals is apparent and it is in tune with the
theory of beginning-less Universe and animistic belief which are
essentially simple and direct in approach. These are all in accordance
with natural laws which are also simple in essence and direct in
approach-as nature itself abhors complication.