First Steps To
SANCHETI ASOO LAL
BHANDARI MANAK MAL
Freedom of Will - The Five Samvay
Is man free ? Is he a master of his fate ?
Is he free to act the way he likes and blaze his own trail? In short has man
got freedom of will ? Or is he a slave-slave of destiny, nature, time or any
other force by whatever name it may be called ? Such questions have been
haunting all thinking men from times immemorial. Even today the issue remains
unresolved-whether destiny is supreme or man's efforts have power to change
the destiny. Expressed in simple terms this endless but interesting
controversy is between Niyati and Purusharth-between Taqdeer and Tadbeer.
The reasons for this controversy are not far
to seek. Two men sow, water and tend their crops in identical circumstances
and manner-one reaps the golden grain, the other loses even the chaff. Two
persons born as twins with same care from the same mother and training from
the same father meet different fates-one becomes a successful policeman and
another a criminal destined for the gallows.
No wonder man abjectly surrendered all his
prowess and power-nay-himself-completely before an un-known force. Call it
Ishwer or Allah or God. Indeed such an abdication-abject surrender was
embellished as Bhakti-devotion-as one of the means of man's salvation from
misery, whereby, even a confirmed sinner like Ajamil could be resurrected,
simply by uttering the name of the Lord.
Such a surrender, however, does not appeal
to some brave souls-more strongly inclined towards knowledge-Gyan and
Action-Karma. Such thinkers have been analysing the causes leading to the
failure and success of the exercise of man's free will. Indeed it was strange
that inspite of complete and undivided exertion success deluded such efforts.
It was realised that there are a number of other factors apart from human
exertion-called Pursharth- which tend to matter in the success or failure of
These are described by various names in
different schools of thought; but in Jain thinking they are the five factors
called (i) Kaal (time) (ii) Swabhav (nature or disposition) (iii) Purakrit
(past karma) (iv) Niyati (destiny) and (v) Pursharth (human exertion). These
are known as the five Samvay.
Emphasis of varying degree has been laid on
each of these by different advocates and different schools from times
immemorial. Thus we can trace discussions on these recorded in Sutrakritang-
one of the oldest canons of Jainism which is supposed to contain the thoughts,
if not words, of Lord Mahaveer himself, dating back to era before Christ.
Shloka 30 of Sutrakritang declares a prevalent notion :
Read with reference to context it means that
"some hold that whatever pain and pleasure individuals beget are not the
results of their own acts or volition nor due to others-but it is due to
In the next shloka 31 this belief is
That is "those who brag thus are fools
declaring themselves as learned; because they do not know that all pleasures
or pains (or whatever happens) are not only due to destiny but they are due to
destiny and also due to factors other than destiny".
A brief description of each one of the five
Samvaya can now be attempted in the subsequent paras.
Kaal or Time-
Time or Kaal is infinite, beginningless and
endless. It pervades the whole of the universe. It contributes towards the
birth and death, stability and change, growth and decay- every phenomena in
the universe. The believers in supremacy of Time as the sole factor
responsible for pleasure and pain or success and failure of all endeavour are
known as Kaalvadies. They find mention in Mahabharat like Asur Raj Bali who
In simpler terms Kaalvadies held that it is
only when appropriate time comes the seeds will grow and trees will bear
fruits inspite of all efforts made; thus holding supremacy of Time.
No, wonder, therefore, that Kaal or Time was
defined as the supreme God of destruction as Mahakaal, which could not only
annihilate everything but also hold everyone accountable after death in the
form of Yamraj and his subordinates.
Swabhava or nature or disposition -
It was advocated by some that it is the
inherent nature or disposition of the thing or its swabhav which produces the
results. Just as only clay can be moulded into a pot and not cotton, which can
produce cloth, all efforts aimed otherwise shall be in vain.
This school of thought known as Swabhavvadi
It follows that according to swabhavvadis
like Prahlad (described in Mahabharat -Shanti Parva) only such of the seeds
will grow which have the nature of fertility - infertile or dead seeds will
not grow irrespective of watering, manuring etc. It was, therefore, held that
disposition or swabhav was the determining factor in the success or failure or
pain and pleasure in the world.
Niyati or Destiny -
Believers in destiny, pre-destination or
Niyativadies have been quite common in the East or the West in the past and
the present. They believe that everything is pre-destined and whatever has to
happen-good or bad - will happen. Contrarily whatever is not pre-destined to
happen will never happen All efforts to undo or oppose pre-destination will be
One of the greatest exponents of Niyati was
Goshalak (and his Ajeevaka) who was a contemporary of Lord Mahaveer and who
held that whatever has to happen in whatever form and method has to happen
like that, no body can stop the destiny :
Further we find praise of Destiny or Niyati
in a number of Sanskrit works; an example from Yogvashista is given below :
That is "Destiny always dispassionately and
beautifully executes the dance drama of wordly affairs.
Purakrit or Past Karmas -
In the ordinary sense every act through
mind, word or deed (mental, verbal or physical ) is known as Kriya or Karma or
action. In Jain thought all the actions get recorded on the soul in the form
of karman varganas, pudgals or waves due to the vibrations of the soul on
account of the acts. If the acts are also accompanied by passions like anger,
pride, deceit and greed, the attachment or bondage of soul is stronger. All
such action have their reaction which are the karma fruits or Karmanphal.
It is generally believed that the past Karma
were the reasons for the success or failure of one's efforts, and whatever
pleasure or pain was derived; was due to past Karma.
Scriptures are full of precepts and examples
how past Karma-Purkarit determine the future course of the beings.
(Karma are the roots of birth and death.
Birth and death are the roots of misery.)
(These is no escape (except facing the
results) from past Karma).
The above references are from Jain Agam-
Uttaradhyayan. However, most of the other schools of thought like Sankhya,
Nyaya, Meemansa, Vedanta and Budddha have accepted the importance of Karma in
the lives of all living beings. Looking for the cause of manifestation of life
in different forms, its variations in capacity, behaviour, pleasure and pain,
the Indian thinkers universally concluded that these were due to the past
Karmas (purakrita) of the individual soul which follow it in successive lives
just as a calf follows the mother.
Pursharth or Efforts -
As the name implies those who believe in
Pursharth or efforts as the determining factor in world affairs hold that
whatever pain or pleasure, success or failure - exist in the world is the
result of one's efforts, there being no outside agency interfering in it. In
other words such schools accept complete freedom of will as its base, and
maintain that it is no use putting the blame on other factors like time,
nature etc., the main reason being intelligent or un-intelligent effort
leading to success or failure respectively. We shall come back to Pursharth
again in subsequent paragraphs.
Apart from these five Samvay discussed above
there are other factors found in different philosophies like Brahamvad, which
treats God, the Supreme Being, solely responsible for everything. On the other
extreme is Bhootwad which takes a purely materialistic view of he world; and "accidentalism"
akasmatvad holding that everything in the world is accidental or by chance. We
find such numerous schools described in Sutrakritang mentioned earlier.
What is the Jain view on this subject ? It
is well-known that the bedrock of Jain Philosophy is theory of Non-absolutism
or Anekantwad whereby different viewpoints are considered as valid in judging
every phenomena. True to this approach Jain thinkers have considered that all
the five Samvay jointly are responsible for the world phenomena. All these
together contribute to the success and failure, or pain or pleasure. None of
these five viz.;, time, disposition fate, past karmas, and exertion are
individually effective. It is only when all the five come into play that - to
take an example - crop shall grow in the field. Time for seeding, watering,
cutting etc. should be appropriate. There should be timely rain and sunshine.
The seeds and soil and water should be such that they have the capability to
germinate, grow and ripen. If seeds or soil are infertile there shall be no
crop, inspite of all watering and tending. Again it should be destined that
there will be crop. Similarly past karma of the farmer should entitle him to
reap a satisfactory harvest. Lastly proper exertion of efforts should be put
in for tilling the soil, manuring, seeding, watering, deweeding, cutting,
winnowing and so on.
Jain thinkers have laid great emphasis on
this composite or non-absolutist -anekantwadi view -as much as that Acharya
Siddhsen Diwakar has declared in his monumental work "Sanmati Tarka" :
This is "to hold time, disposition, fate,
past karma and exertion as valid severally or individually is false faith (mithyatva).
To hold them jointly or relatively valid is right faith (samyakatva)."
However, exertion or Pursharth has been
given the prime place, amongst the five samvya. It is the first amongst the
five equals. The reasons are not far to seek.
Firstly, exertion is the only active agent.
While time, fate, etc. are non-living and, therefore, inactive and dormant,
exertion is the result of active efforts of the living soul, and therefore,
full of life. Again exertion attracts responsibility. The soul which exerts is
responsible for the result of its efforts. There is no such responsibility
attached to time, fate, and others.
Further at least partly, if not fully,
proper exertion can even change the course of time etc. Thus it is
scientifically possible to grow crops out of season and the course of time can
be modified. Similarly science can improve infertile soil, and purakrit is
nothing but exertion or Purshart done in the past. Here also we find that
effect of some type of Karma e.g. Niddhat Karma can be changed by proper
exertion e.g. tapasya. Similarly, it should be possible to adjust the course
of fate by proper exertion.
This brings us to the subject under
discussion and we find that though the living being is partly a free agent in
as much as it is free to exert or do Purshart, it is also a slave of or bound
by time, fate, disposition etc. However, to the extent that exertion or
Purshart is the active and responsible agent, it is free to act and,
therefore, has complete freedom of will. Following this one should do Purshart
without bothering about the result that may be the outcome of play of the five
samvay. No wonder same message is given in the book of books Bhagwad Geeta "Karmanye-Vadhikaraste
Ma Phaleshu Kadachan." If the exertion is right exertion, known as Samyog
Charitra in Jain terminology, guided and inspired by Samyag Darshan and Samyag
Gyan, there is no reason why the result should be different from the desired
Incidentally Vedanta also gives the same
answer to the question of freedom of will of the individual. It clarifies that
as long as the individual is under the control of Avidya, he has no freedom of
will, but as soon as he is able to throw away the yoke of Avidya he is a
completely free agent, the other factors dance to his tune. However, to get
rid of Avidya one has to make efforts or Purusharth, which makes it the prime
factor or the prime mover to use a scientific term. Taking another example, if
life is a game of cards, the way cards are distributed is determined by
Destiny, Time Swabhava etc. but it is Purusharth which decided how the cards
are played. It is well known that much depends on the way cards are played,
the best hand being thrown away by poor play and an ordinary hand scores if
the play is well managed. This again establishes the primacy of Purusharth.
To summarise, it is stated that amongst the
five factors which are equally important in the affairs of men (and all living
beings) namely Time, Disposition, Past karma, Destiny and exercise of free
will, the one known as Purusharth is the first among the five equals. This
leads to an optimistic approach and gives confidence to the beings that they
can mould their present and future in a manner as they will. This is true
about matters temporal as well as spiritual. Indeed, many men have progressed
on the spiritual path by the exercise of their will in the right manner. In
matters temporal the progress made by men in scientific sphere is for every
one to see.
Finally, it will be appropriate to conclude
this article with quotations from the Geeta and sacred texts of Jainism and
Buddhism which identically lay emphasis on Purusharth or Freedom of will and
exhort human beings on the path of progress through efforts of their own i.e.
Geeta (6 : 5) says :
The soul should attain one's own progress,
and soul should not digress by grief-because the soul is his own friend and
his own enemy,
Buddhist scriptures prescribe :
The soul is the ruler of the soul, none
except the soul can help. Just as a merchant regulates his horse, one should
regulate his soul.
Jain agam (Uttaradhyayan) says similarly :
Soul is the creator and destroyer of
happiness and misery. Soul is the friend and the enemy (if it is) on the wrong
path or the right path.