Jain World
Sub-Categories of Passions

Jainism  -  Respect For All Life

The birth of Jainism
Mahavira the Path-Maker
The Enlightenment
The Rise of Jainism
  The Two Sects
  The Scriptures
  Rise and Fall
  Jain Beliefs-The Universe
  The Soul
  Karma and Rebirth
  The way of Salvation
  The Everyday Life of a Jain
  The Life of an Ascetic
  Ways of Worship
  Temples and Domestic Shrines
  Ninian Smart

Karma and Rebirth



Like all Indian religions, Jainism upholds the universal law of Karma.  According to this law, every action - thought, word or deed - produces an effect, which in turn serves as the cause of another action, and so on.  This chain of cause and effect is known as `Karmic Bondage� or simply, Karma.  And because Jainism, as we have seen, subscribes also to the doctrine of transmigration and rebirth, it follows that the state of the soul at any given time is due to the Karma accumulated over countless ages.

However, the Jain doctrine of Karma is distinctive.  Whereas Hindus view Karma purely as a law of nature, Jains believe Karma to consist of fine and subtle particles of matter which adhere to the soul, as clay to a pot.  Yet, by effort, discipline and knowledge, man can control Karma.  Selfish, careless and cruel actions lead to the accumulation of heavy Karma which weighs the soul down.  But the Karma accruing from good deeds is dissipated almost immediately and has no serious effects.  Moreover, suffering willingly under taken has the effect of dispersing the Karma already accumulated, so helping to lighten the soul.

To achieve salvation (Moksha) man must therefore free his soul from matter.  Thus freed, its natural lightness will float it to the top of the universe to dwell there for ever in all-knowing bliss.  The souls of heroes like Mahavira virtually achieve salvation in this life.  It is only residual Karma which binds them to the earth, but when that is exhausted through fasting and penance, they rise immediately above the highest heavens of the gods to the eternal rest of nirvana.

Jainism is not fatalistic, but it is atheistic.  There is no world-soul, no supreme being, no creator and sustainer of the universe, no one beyond himself (except the Tirthankaras as guides and examples) to aid man in his endeavors.

Similarly, for all the subtlety and sophistication with which its doctrine of karma and rebirth has been elaborated, Jainism is in practice profoundly pessimistic.  The world is a place of utter misery and sorrow, in no way compensated for by life�s few moments of happiness.