Jain World
Sub-Categories of Passions

The doubt regarding the existence of the soul

Dont Despair: Remember Soul
The Second Ganadhara
The Third Ganadhara
The Fourth Ganadhara
  The Fifth Ganadhara
  The Sixth Ganadhara
  The Seventh Ganadhara
  The Eighth Ganadhara
  The Ninth Ganadhara
  The Tenth Ganadhara
  The Eleventh Ganadhara

The doubt regarding the existence of the soul

Shri Amar Muni

Indrabhuti had been till then in the snares of Mithyatva. Therefore though he was in the presence of the supreme Lord possessing infinite virtues, he could not seek his shelter and accept his refuge. He entertained fears. He experienced repentance: "I think I have fallen into some snares. I have come to carry out a debate with this Supreme Lord who is seated on a golden throne studded with diamonds, and who is honoured and worshipped by countless heavenly beings. What would I lose if I can not defeat him? This is nothing but foolishness on my part. I am going to lose the previous place of my honour and prestige; just as a foolish person tries to destroy his palace for the sake of a nail." Think over this. Though Indrabhuti was haughty, he had the wisdom to recognise the abilities and merits of the opponent. Indrabhuti himself says, "He is the last Thirthankar, the one who is absolutely spotless. Oh! What a fool I am in thinking of defeating the incarnation of Lord Ishvar?" Indrabhuti had not yet attained the Jin-Shasan. He had not yet understood the Jain doctrines. He had not yet developed faith in the Jain Dharma, still he understood the circumstances properly and had the power of self criticism and realising his own foolishness, Why? He had the power of discrimination. Yet, it is wonderful that he did not seek the refuge of such a Lord. What kind of heart had he? He thought "What has happened? What can be done? Where shall I go? May god Shiva safeguard my fame and prestige". This is the effect of Mithyatva. Though he was in the presence of the supreme world-preceptor, the incarnation of God, yet, he could not seek his refuge, but thought of finding his refuge in Shiva! His prayer for refuge goes to Shiva.

Again he began building castles in the air like a foolish Shekhchilli. There is a proverb: 'God helps those who help themselves'. So, he thought 'If I can defeat him using my vast scriptural knowledge, I will become famous in the three worlds. Oh! and then what will be my status, prestige and my greatness? They are indescribable.' What kind of a whim is this?

Yet, this thinking is true. Indrabhuti was going to achieve such a marvellous victory over illusion and ignorance at the hands of the Lord and was going to attain prestige in the three worlds, but all that would happen only when once he was defeated at the hands of the Lord. Where does our victory lie? Does it lie in our defeat at the hands of the enlightened preceptor or does it lie in our defeating the preceptor? "I am not at all defeated. He has fooled me only in his own castle and in the presence of his own followers. Can any importance be attached to such a victory?" If he had thought like this, and feigned baselessly he could not have attained a real victory over his illusion. Therefore; specially in this modern age of decline (kaliyuga) we should refrain from revealing our external prudence in the presence of spiritual heads. We should admit our defects in the presence of elderly people and even if we do not have defects, we should say, "I have forgotten the right path. I have gone astray. So kindly pardon me. Oh! Lord". In this kind of humbleness lies the fruitfulness of this valuable human birth.

Meanwhile, the omniscient Shri Vardhaman Svami, said with a voice which was solemn like an ocean and sweet like nectar: "O Indrabhuti Gautam! You have come, I believe, without any trouble". The Lord possessing infinite knowledge knew what effect this first medicine, namely, these assuring words, would produce on the soul of Indrabhuti and what sort of second medicine would be necessary. Indrabhuti thought, "Ah! He even knows my name. Why not? In the three worlds, is there anyone who does not know my name and calls me by my name. If he mentions the doubt lying in my heart, I would deem him a true omniscient one." The supreme Lord Shraman Bhagavan Mahavir Parmatma possesses infinite knowledge. Nothing is unknown to him. Then what to talk of this doubt? So suddenly he said "Oh Indrabhuti Gautam! Why do you doubt the existence of the jivas in this world thinking 'Is there in this world any substance like jiva or not?' But, why don't you think and rightly understand the statements in the Vedas." The Lord recited the actual wording of the Vedic sentences.

Gada image

Ah! How sublime was the voice of the Lord when he recited the statements from the Vedas. His voice was like the voice produced by the churning of the ocean. It was like the voice of the mighty floods of the Ganga. It was like the first voice of the creator Brahma. What a charming, solemn, elevated and piercing voice was his! Indrabhuti felt:

'Oh! Have I come to some other world? Or what is this? How splendid this samavasaran is! How have all these heavenly beings become the servants of the Lord? How his radiant form is beyond all comparison. How superhuman, sublime and incomparable his voice is! Only on hearing this voice the three kinds of afflictions disappear and we feel that all sorrows subside. We wish that we could go on listening to this voice. The doctrines expounded by this voice must be extraordinary. It is true that the world preceptor's infinite knowledge, incomparable form, sublime voice, his unique dignity and his excellent expositions of invaluable doctrines are beyond description. Therefore, when a worldly soul hears that voice how can he retain its ego? The poet says: "I have pondered over many subjects in my life but all in vain . Now meditate solely upon the word Arihant."

Gada image

(Meditate upon the holy Arihant who possesses 34 transcendent qualities and who is the master of 35 merits of speech. "Even after attaining the Jineshvar Dev (Tirthankar) if we do not appreciate heartily his doctrines and if we do not have a deep yearning for the knowledge of true doctrines all our endeavours are futile".)

gada some words Indian in next paragraph

If even on seeing Jineshvar Dev one does not experience a feeling of approval and veneration and an intense desire to know the metaphysical truth, then all is futile. Indrabhuti did have this, therefore, the Lord tries to explain the Vedic statement thus. "You have understood the meaning of the Vedic statement thus: indian writing ~ = consciousness; ~ indian writing from among these five basic elements; ~ emerged, disintegration of the elements, consciousness also is destroyed; lindian writing, this does not go elsewhere, it is destroyed. In the same Veda you get this contradicting statement indian writing ; Those who desire attainment to heaven must perform the sacrifice called Agnihotra From this statement, you get the doubt: "If consciousness does not go anywhere, what is that entity which goes to heaven after performing Agnihotra? If nothing remains of this life, what can go to the other world? Is there any entity called jiva (soul)?"

The Excellent way of explaining the truth

What an excellent method this is of the supremely compassionate Lord to explain the truth even to opponents in a convincing manner! First of all, he discloses the thoughts and doubts concealed in the heart of the opponent. In other words, he states them in clear terms. Even for this, he employs very affectionate words. This is an extraordinary method because it convinces even opponents of the truth. On account of this, the opponent becomes a friend and is interested with and by this method, his prejudices disappear and he begins to think of the right arguments. Otherwise, as long as he has his prejudices, he refuses to be carried away by the force of logical arguments.

In the great grantha entitled Sri Visheshavashyak Bhashya, Jinabhadragani Kshamashraman, the revered ocean of scriptural knowledge, describes fully and in detail Ganadharavad. The great grantha contains a clear account of the way in which Shri Mahavir Bhagavan by means of logical arguments cleared the doubts of eleven Ganadharas relating to such entities as jivas and Karmas etc.

The arguments in support of the theory "jiva does not exist" and the arguments in support of the theory "jiva exists are briefly propounded here:

The proof for the non-existence of soul. Soul cannot be accepted without evidence:

Here the Lord states the arguments of those who do not believe in the existence of soul as an independent entity. We do not have the necessary evidence to prove that soul is different from 'Panch Bhutas' i.e. the five basic elements like earth, water etc., and without evidence or proof we cannot believe in anything. Big debaters, controversies confront one another with logical arguments. If the evidence presented by anyone is proved to be unsound then the conclusion based upon that evidence and the subject of that evidence cannot be considered sound. There are many kinds of Pramanas (evidences) such as Pratyaksha (direct evidence through the senses), Anumana (Inference), Upamana (comparison), Arthapatti (presumption), Sambhava (inclusion), Agama (Scriptural testimony) etc. If we can prove that jiva (soul) is different from the five elements on the basis of any one of these evidences, then we can conclude logically that "jiva exists", but we cannot find such evidence:

The existence of atma (soul) cannot be proved by menas of Pratyaksha pramana. To have perceptible evidence, we should be able to perceive it at least by one of our five senses, but none of our five senses can perceive the existence of soul. A soul is not visible like a pot. It cannot be heard with the ear like a sound. It cannot be tasted with the tongue. Thus, the existence of soul cannot be seen, smelt, tasted, heard or touched.

Question: If a jiva cannot be perceived by our senses, how can we believe in its existence? Though a Paramanu (atom) cannot be perceived with the senses, we can see its effect in the form of the pot. Therefore, we cannot negate its existence, whereas a soul cannot be perceived with the senses and the effect of the soul also cannot be seen in any form. When that is so, how can we believe in its existence?

Answer In this world, though the soul may not be outwardly perceptible in the form of a substance, we can recognise its existence by means of Anumana (inference ). For instance, the fire burning inside a cottage may not be visible outwardly yet on the basis of the smoke emerging from its roof, we can infer the existence of fire in it. In this manner, we can infer the existence of soul on the basis of such evidence as the scriptures etc. You set forth a proof on the basis of inference, but, we cannot realise the existence of soul even on the basis of Anumana (inference). Anumana is of three kinds.

1. Karana-Karya Anumana (Inference of effect from the cause): The feet of ants, the play of 'the ruddy goose in the dust storm etc, seen with dark dense clouds, are indicative of the imminence of rain. On the basis of these things, the farmer infers that rain (the effect) will fall; in the same manner, when we see rice mixed in water being boiled on a stove, we infer that food (of cooked rice) will be ready. When we see on a battlefield two hostile armies, we infer the possibility of a war and when we see the sun declining to the west, we infer that sun-set will take place soon.

2. Karya-Karana-Anumana (infering the cause from the effect): For example smoke emerging from fire is the effect of fire. It is the effect from which we infer the cause which is the fire. The cause is the fire and the effect is the smoke. Seeing the smoke. that is, the effect, we infer the cause, that is, the fire. Similarly, when we see a child (the effect) we infer the cause, namely, the father.

3. 'Samanyato-drishta Anumana': The first two kinds of inferences are based on a relation of succession. Now, samanyato-drishta (commonly seen together) is based on a relation of two things simultaneously present (coexistence). Each is connected with the other. In such a case, we infer the presence of one entity, on seeing a second entity. For instance, taste and smell or colour co-exist. In the case of a mango put into dry grass to be ripened, we infer in darkness also, by the sweet taste of it, that the mango has become ripe. In the same manner, the noise of the barking of dogs etc. makes us infer from a distance the existence of a village.

All these are inferences drawn on the basis of the connection between the Linga (sign) and the Lingi (the signified ) or the Hetu (reason) and Sadhya, (major term). What we infer from smoke is called the Hetu and the thing inferred e.g. fire is called the sadhya. Whenever there is the Hetu, there must exist the Sadhya. The Hetu is said to be dependent; and the Sadhya is said to be that on which it depends. Between the two (Hetu and Sadhya) there is Vyapti (the relation) of invariable concomitance. In the case of the fire and the smoke in the cottage, there should be a determined relationship (Vyapti) between the Hetu and the Sadhya i.e. the smoke and the fire. The dependence (relation) of the two should have been known formerly. We have seen this Vyapti or relationship in the kitchen. Therefore, when we see smoke emerging from a cottage we infer the existence of fire there.

Now, what is such a thing which is coexistent with a soul, on the basis of which we can infer its existence? As far as the Atma (soul) is concerned we do not have any such thing . It means, no one of these inferential basis (succession or coexistence) is seen because soul has no cause; no effect and no co-existential entity on the basis of which we can make inferences.

The existence of soul cannot be proved or inferred on the basis of Upamana (comparison) and Arthapatti (presumption from an apparent inexplicability).

Upamana implies knowing the unknown through the known which is similar to it. After having known a certain entity on the basis of Upamana, if we happen to see it we can easily recognise it. But we do not have any known things which can be compared to soul. Therefore, the evidence called Upamana is not available to prove the existence of soul.

Arthapatti: If a certain entity seen and heard cannot occur without a certain other entity unseen and unheard, then the existence of the unseen and the unheard is established from the inexplicability of the seen and the heard. For instance, when we see a well-fed and well-grown person, and hear if somebody says that he does not at all eat food during day- time, it is clear that he must be eating food at night. But relating to the soul we do not find any such object which can be seen and heard but which, without the existence of soul, cannot be explained and on the basis of which we can presume the existence of soul.

Sambhava Pramana (Inclusion): Even on the basis of sambhava, the existence of the soul cannot be proved. Sambhava Pramana means inferring the existence of one thing contained within another thing. For instance, if we know that a person has one lakh rupees, then we can say for certain, that he has one thousand rupees. We say that an old man has seen youth because youth is a part of the long human life. But there is no such entity as comprises the soul, hence there is no such entity by looking at which we can assert that soul exists because that entity exists. We do not find such an entity.

Aitihiya Pramana (Historical proof): The historical evidence consists of such things as legends according to which for generations people believe, for example, that a ghost dwells in a certain ruined house. This kind of belief runs through generation on the basis of historical truth, but regarding the existence of soul no such legends or sayings are current, because no such legend about the dwelling of the soul in a body is current uptil now through generations.

Question: Among those who believe in the existence of soul there is a traditional belief that the soul dwells in the body, but is different from it. Why so?

Answer: This traditional belief cannot be treated as Pramana (Authority) since it is not prevalent among all people. Moreover, many legends and sayings which are current in a certain section of people are not an evidence: and can also be false and unauthentic. Therefore, on the basis of historical evidence, Aitihiya Pramana, the existence of soul cannot be indisputably established.

The remaining ones are:

Agama Pramana and Shabda Pramana (The evidence of scriptural words):

If the existence of a thing cannot be proved on the basis of any one of the 'Pramanas' considered above, then we can establish the existence of even a thing on the basis of 'Agama Pramana'-'Shabda Pramana'. 'Agama means the words of an 'Aapta'--person i.e. a trustworthy and truthful man. Just as a son can know on the basis of the words of his father that a certain person is his grand-father, so we can know from the science of astrology the time of such things as the lunar eclipse, the rising of the moon and the solar eclipse etc., Regarding these timings the fore-going evidences like Pratyaksha (direct perception), Anumana (inference) etc., do not help us. Now, regarding soul, of course, we have enough testimony in the 'Shastras', i.e. Scriptures but the Shastras contain many mutually contradictory statements regarding soul. For instance, some say that soul is only one while others say that souls are infinite in number, whereas some believe that soul is momentary (i.e. transient) and perishing within a moment while others assert that it is eternal and imperishable. When such is the case which shastra should be trusted as the authority? And what sort of a soul can be proved?

So far we have tried to present the arguments in support of the theory that soul does not exist. Now, we shall consider the arguments in support of the theory that the soul exists as an independent entity.

The evidence in support of the view that the soul exists.

The pratyaksha pramana (perceptible proof) in support of the theory that the soul exists.

1. The Omniscient ones directly perceive the soul. Just as a particular man's inner doubts and reflections are directly perceived and visualized by him, who has such doubts, in the same manner, the soul is directly perceived, observed and visualized by those omniscients, which must be accepted and must be believed in.

2. Even by our direct perception the soul is really proved. The doubts, decisions, arguments, joys and sorrows which are directly perceived by us, are direct experiences of the soul itself since soul itself is these qualities incarnate, i.e. these qualities are not different from soul. Whereas the body is not these qualities incarnate.

3. "I am doing; I did; I will do; I am speaking; I spoke; I will speak" etc. In these experiences of the three phases of time, the experience of 'I' is the direct unobstructed self experienced by perception of the very soul, because in the present, the past, and the future the soul remains as it is, while the body goes on changing. It is not said; 'If I eat more I might be spoiled', but is said, 'If I eat more, my body might be spoiled'. Such is our experience. In this, 'I' means the soul and so its existence is established.

4. Who is the one that experiences a dream? It is the soul. In dense darkness, where you cannot see your body there the experience occurs as "I am" This unobstructed direct experience is that of the soul only, and not of the body.

5. When the body sometimes suddenly changes its colour or grows weak to a great extent, the doubt arises, 'Is this my body?' At any time, we do not get a doubt regarding 'I' even in that darkness. Such a doubt regarding 'I' never arises, "Am I existing or not"? The 'I' is always determined. This determination regarding 'I' is really the determination of the soul.

6. On the basis of the direct perception of a quality, the possesser of the quality also is styled as "Directly perceived". For instance, if the colour of a pot is seen through a hole of a curtain behind which the pot is placed, it is asserted that the pot is directly seen. In this manner by the direct perception of the soul as memory, curiosity understanding, desire, happiness etc., it is believed that the soul also is perceived directly, because the quality is not different from the possessor of the quality, rather the possessor of the quality is himself qualities incarnate.

Question: Are not the qualities like memory etc. the qualities of the body? What need is there to treat them as the qualities of the soul?

Answer The body is gross an object of visual perception, inert. Its qualities are whiteness, blackness, weakness, fatness etc. but not memory etc. which are formless, colourless and shapeless as well as of the nature of consciousness. The sweetness of the water with which sugar has been mixed, lies not in the water but in the sugar i.e., sweetness does not belong to water but to sugar. In the same manner, knowledge, happiness etc. that are experienced in the body, do not belong to the body, but belong only to the soul. The relation of quality and possessor of quality can occur only between things of homogeneous nature. For instance, the quality of ash is not greasiness but dryness. In the same manner, the qualities like memory belong to the soul.

In this manner, the soul is partially perceptible. But the soul in its totality is perceived only by an omniscient person. He only can see it and if one likes to become omniscient, he must practise severe spiritual austerities. The ghee lying concealed in milk also can be extracted only by processes like converting milk into curds, churning it, by separating the butter from it and by heating the butter. Similarly for the direct perception of the soul we have to undergo spiritual austerities. In this manner the existence of the soul is proved by:

1. The Sarvajna's Kevalajnan-- Omniscient's direct perception:

2. self-perception of doubts etc.:

3. the experience of one and the same entity "I" in the three phases of time;

4. the experience of "1" in the dream state.

5. the absence of doubt regarding the soul as "I" and

6. direct perception of the qualities of the soul.

The Anumana Pramana (inferential proof of the existence of the soul:

Question: Doubt, deliberation, judgement etc. are inner experiences and they are the direct evidences of the existence of soul. If so, where is the need for using Anumana or inference?

Answer: The nihilists negate all realities and assert that all our doubts, judgements etc. are illusory, unreal false and non-existent. For refuting them, it is necessary to use Anumana (inference) Pramana to prove the existence of the soul. The inferences are:

1. In order to establish the truth that in one's body a different entity like the soul is residing, we have to use Anumana. Just as in our body, so in another's body also when we observe the activity or withdrawal from activity, we infer that there dwells in the body soul which causes bodily activity or withdrawal therefrom. Just as a cart moves because of the horse, so the body also acts, moves, speaks, etc. because of the soul in it. Moreover the body's activities can be withdrawn only owing to soul leaving the body after death, which means that when soul leaves the body, the body like a cart without a horse cannot have activity aimed at the attainments of a desired object nor withdrawal of activity at all from an undesired object.

Question: Just as a living snake can of its own accord contract itself, in the same manner, can the body of its own accord not be active or cease to be active ? Where is the need of soul in this matter?

Answer: Even a snake can contract when it is alive, not when it is dead. Even this example illustrates the truth that in it resides some entity which produces these effects. Whenever we like, we cast our eyes at something; we can stop seeing; we can reason and can stop reasoning, we can move our hands and legs; we can stop moving them. How can these capacities be styled as possessed by the body which is inanimate? It is the soul that causes activity or refrainment from activity.