Jain World
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The doubt regarding the existence of the soul

Dont Despair: Remember Soul
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Don't Despair: Remember soul

Shri Amar Muni

The Sankhya and Yoga Philosophies

Sankhya and Yoga Darshanas (philosophies) believe in infinite souls, but according to them should named `Purush' is a steadfast substance unchangeable in the three phases of time, and hence not bearing charges of different knowledge, death, birth, bondage, deliverance etc., i.e. soul is void of knowledge etc. The qualities, the attributes, like knowledge, desire, endeavour, etc., seen in soul are not of soul but they are possessed by the substance named `Prakriti' (an aggregate of main three qualities named Satva, Rajas, Tamas. The `Prakriti' is shinning like a mirror in which soul is reflected, and the qualities and attributes of prakriti are adopted as of soul, which is in fact an illusion originated by `Avidya'.

Now the questions arise,

(1) If the soul is utterly void of knowledge etc., how can we believe soul as possessing consciousness?

(2) In soul what is the thing called conscience?

(3) If soul si not under bondage, what is the meaning of soul's salvation?

(4) Let `Prakriti' be under bondage, but why and how should soul exercise efforts for salvation?

The Theory of the Nyaya and Vaisheshika Darshanas

The philosophies believe in infinite souls recognising the existence of the qualities like knowledge (Jnana) etc., in soul: of course not as the natural qualities of soul, but as the creative extraneous qualities (in being created) dependent on the causes and newly originating, when the contact of the senses, inference etc., are applied as the causes. When there is no causes, as in salvation, these qualities cannot exist there in soul. Now the questions arise,

(1) If knowledge (jnana) is not the nature of soul, then what exactly is the nature of soul in the absence of jnana?

(2) What is meant by consciousness, when the soul is devoid of qualities like jnana?

(3) In the state of moksa, according to them soul is devoid of jnana. In other words, if the salvation is utterly devoid of knowledge, will it not be an inanimate thing like a stone?

Moreover, the Nyaya Darshana (philosophy) etc. believe in the principal of `ekantavad' (i.e. absolutism) by adopting the Ekanta (absolute) point of view Nyayadarshan says that soul is absolutely imperishable and absolutely Omnipresent i.e. pervading the whole cosmos. But if it is absolutely omnipresent and permanent and if it cannot undergo transformations the following questions arise:

Obstacles in the Theory of Soul's omnipresence

(a) How can there be souls in different states at different times?

(b) Where is the need for accepting the path of salvation since it undergoes no changes?

(c) How can it keep moving from Janama to Janama and from place to place, if it is omnipresent?

(d) Why should soul experience and realise joy and sorrow only in the body but not everywhere, when it is omnipresent?

The Bauddha Darshan: According to the Bauddha Darshan, (Philosophy) soul is momentary and it is knowledge incarnate, since it is momentory it undergoes transformations, and the original form disappears. If that is so, the question is "who will have to experience the fruits of previous Karmas? If there is one who experiences the fruits of previous karmas he was not at all existing in the previous moment, then who performed those Karmas? How can there be remembrance? How can such gradual activities take place like knowing first and then desiring, and then acting? First, acquiring the knowledge of Tattvas, and then contemplation on them, and then deep meditation. These gradual activities take place in soul. But if soul is momentary how can those actions of gradual moments happen? If soul is wholly "Enlightenment incarnate", then it is only the quality, but not a dravya, or a substance. If that is so, what is the supporter of this quality? Who is the possessor of the quality? If you say, "It itself is the quality and is itself the substance", then what about the activity? Who is the performer of activity? In the same manner, how can other qualities be justified in soul if it is in the form of pure 'cognition' quality because quality cannot remain in any other quality.

Anekantvad, Sapekshavad (The theory of Relativity) conquers:

The irrefutable questions arising in various non-Jain darshanas are due to the principle of Ekantvad (Absolutism). Looking from the 'Anekant' point of view, one vital truth emerges from this discussion and that is that there are infinite number of souls in existence. Every soul, excepting those in salvation, is of the size of the body, being confined in the body. It is both immortal (permanent) and transient, meaning mortal. It is both the performer of Karmas, and the one who experiences their fruits of Karmas. It can be bound by Karmas, and it can also attain deliverance from Karmas. It is both knowledge incarnate itself, and a supporting substance also of knowledge; and it is different from, as well as in the form of, knowledge. The Jain Darshana which adopts the non-absolute but the relative (Anekant) point of view, (the relative aspect, vision) believes the soul in all these mutually alternate forms. Owing to this, true scriptural evidence regarding form and nature of soul is available in Jain darshana. the proof of the existence of soul on the basis of daya (mercy, kindness) dan (charity), daman (self restraint or restriction over senses).

In this manner, refuting the theory of nihilists viz. 'there is no substance like soul', (a) the existence of soul has been proved on the basis of the pratyaksha (direct perception), Anumana (inference) and Agams (the scriptural testimonies); and (b)the nihilistic philosophy that soul does not exist has been repudiated and disproved. Here, Lord Mahavir said to Indrabhuti Gautam: "O Indrabhuti Gautam! If there is a substance like soul an independent reality, then only (a) such sacrifices as the Agnihotra etc., propounded in Vedas can be of a sound basis, and a heavenly state of existence etc., as their fruit, can be logically established as true. If soul does not exist at all, who would go to heaven after death? The body being burnt here, there remains none who can go to heaven. In the same manner what is the need of 'Da', 'Da', 'Da', viz Daya, Dana, Daman! Daya (Mercy, kindness), Dana (charity) Daman (self-restraint) are impossible in the absence of soul. The law of nature is "as you give, so you receive", "As you sow, so you reap". As you sow you are to accomplish the fruit. Just as your soul does not like agony and anguish, other souls also do not like them. Then if you cause anguish to others, it will surely cause anguish to yourself, if not in this life, surely in the next life you shall have to experience anguish. It is a valid doctrine that instead of causing anguish to others, you bestow mercy, kindness and benevolence upon others. Benevolence, magnanimity or charity is a duty of human beings because blessed are the benevolent. Our giving alms or exercising charity in this life brings a great benefit to us in the next life. In the same manner, we must exercise strict restraint upon our senses which impel the soul engrossed in villainous tendencies (in devilish propensities), and which bind soul with inauspicious karmas, which in the next life give wicked births like those of worms etc. Hence by keeping restraint over senses, these calamities are avoided. This means that if you restrain your sensual desires and cravings, you will not have to commit sins, in consequence of which you will be born in your next life at a higher state of existence; and higher births will give you virtues and bliss and there you will not be tortured with agonies as in the births of birds, animals, worms and insects, etc. or in hell. In this manner we can observe and practise the three sublime ethical principles implied in the upanishadic sounds 'Da-Da-Da'. This is possible only if a substance like soul exists in the world utterly different from the body as a different entity just like a body.

Now, the supreme Lord Mahavir further preaches thus "O Gautam Indrabhuti!

[gada page 42 indian writing]

(Vijnanghan eva etebhyuh bhutebhyuh sumutthaaya tanyevaanu - vinashyati na pretyasanj naasteet(a)

This statement from the Vedas has been thus wrongly interpreted by you. The word 'Eva which follows the word 'Vijnanghan', has been wrongly joined by you with the word 'Bhutebhyuh', instead of reading 'Eva' with 'Vijnanghana.' By reading that phrase with bhutebhyuh, you understand that soul is created out of 'Panch Bhuta' i.e. five basic elements.

You interpret the statement to mean that the soul arises from the five basic elements. But in the Vedic statement the word 'Eva' is to be read in its place where it is exactly put in the sentence and then this reading gives us the right meaning thus--

'Vijnanghana Eva' means that the soul itself is the embodiment of knowledge. 'Vijnan means a special kind of knowledge, which is a working consciousness that sprouts and flashes out that becomes only disclosed, but not newly originated. It means the soul possesses the inherent natural ability of knowledge. This kind of quality of knowledge constitutes the nature of soul. Therefore, it is a part and parcel of soul remaining non-different from soul, and therefore, soul assumes the form of knowledge. In other words, soul is an embodiment of knowledge. Hence, there happens the intimate contact of soul with the flashes of knowledge. By such true interpretation the soul is called vijnanghana.

The Anekant Theory of the Quality Separate and Non-Separate from Substance

Knowledge which arises relating to such 'Bhutas' viz. the basic elements as the earth, water, air etc., knowledge which arises relating to a pot, a cloth, or water, is the knowledge that arises from the basic elements, but in fact that knowledge arises and remains inseparable in soul. Hence the implication is that the knowledge being inseparable from soul, new souls are created in accordance with the gradual creations of flashes of new gradual knowledge of pot, cloth etc. As for example, see that first the finger is straight, and afterwards if it is bent in other words if it assumes a curved form, this curvedness is not absolutely separate from the finger but it is also in the form of the finger i.e. inseparate from the finger. Thus the attributes like straightness or curvedness are not independent substances, but are the form of independent substances like the finger etc. These forms are inseparable from the supporting substances. Therefore on being straightness or curvedness in the finger, it is said that the finger itself has become straight or has become curved. Here "has become" means "has been created". It implies that the finger has assumed a new form. In other words a new curved finger has been created, a new form creating a new finger. In the same manner, when we say new knowledge is created, it means that knowledge being inseparable from soul, and hence being a form of new knowledge has been created. From this it is evident that a new form of knowledge, by means of its relationship with the basic elements 'bhutas', has been created from 'bhutas' Moreover, the knowledge being an inseparable form of soul on the creation of a new form of knowledge, a new soul 'vijnanghan' has been created. The soul itself is changed in the varied forms of knowledges. This means new souls are created in accordance with the creation of new forms of knowledges, because the form of knowledge is not absolutely separate from soul. Inasmuch as it is also partially separate from soul, it is said that varied forms of knowledges "come and go" in soul, because soul is the container of the knowledges. Now as regards the creation of 'only Vijnan', when it is said 'only vijnanghan' is created, here by the word "only" is meant a negation of the other qualities of soul such as happiness etc. From this it is evident that the basic elements 'bhutas' impel only knowledge to occur in soul, but not happiness etc. to occur. 'Vijnanghan Eva Bhutebhyuh samutthaya' i.e. the soul acquires only a form of knowledge from its contact with the basic elements. 'Tanyevanuvinashyati i.e. on the destruction (i.e. separation) of those elements soul in that form is disturbed, that form of knowledge being destroyed.

When Indrabhuti Gautam was thus enlightened and when his doubts were thus cleared, he felt that he could not find such a sublime spiritual refuge anywhere else except such Omniscient Lord. Moreover he felt that to seek the refuge of others was in the end futile and fruitless. He also realised "since my soul also, in its original form is so faultless and perfect, my first duty is to safeguard my soul. So let me accept the refuge of Lord Mahavir.'' Thus being relieved of all his doubts, he with his 500 disciples accepted on the spot Charitra dharma at the hands of Bhagavan Mahavir. Renouncing worldly house holder's life he became an 'Anagar Sadhu' (asetic without any possessions of a house, an abode and wealth etc.)