Jain World
Sub-Categories of Passions


The Antiquity of Jainism
Jain Heroes
Jaina Order and Literature
Fundamental Beliefs
  The Human Predicament
  The Doctrine of Karma
  The Doctrine of Man
  The Denial of God
  Jaina Ethics and Morality
  Three Spiritual Paths
  Response to Contemporary Issue
  Social Issues
  The Economic Order
  The Idea of Ahimsa and Vegetarianism

The Doctrine of Karma



The role of cause and effect in the physical world corresponds to the role of Karma in Jaina ethics.  Every person is deemed responsible for bearing the fruit of his own deeds.  It is also the rule of nature in practical life that the quality of the seed determines that of the fruit.  Jaina philosophy theorizes that one achieves happiness by doing good deeds, and sorrow by doing evil deeds, hence the need to perform noble works that are at all times well intentioned.  The self is free and fully competent to act as such.  The self is the real cause of sorrow and joy.  It is clearly pointed out in Uttaradhyayana-Sutra, �My own self is the doer and undoer of misery and happiness; my own self is friend and foe, as I act well or badly.�

Jaina philosophy has described the details of the process of the bondage of Karma and its view must be distinguished from other formulations of the same.  The principle, �As a man gives, so he receives,� is present in many philosophies.  Often such types of Karma theories are fatalistic because the past is seen as determining the present.  In this way the Karmic explanation of one�s deeds delivers the doer from the bondage of some superintending divinity, but it only exchanges bondage to the supernatural for bondage to the unrelenting grasp of Karma.  This tells us why there have been so many popular views on the cause of happiness and sorrow in Indian philosophies.  Time, Fate, Nature, Chance, Maiter, Purusa, and combinations of all these, have been taken as the cause of joy and sorrow.  In all these the individual is stripped of his capacities to free himself from the force that holds him captive.

Jaina philosophy differ from such fatalistic renderings of Karma.  According to Jain ethics, man can increase or reduce the period of his Karmas by his own effort and can reduce or increase their power of bearing fruit.  It has been called Udirana:  the energy that makes possible the premature fruition of Karmas.  Similarly, a person can convert his Punyas (virtues) into sins because of his evil deeds (asat Karmas) and he can convert his sins into Punyas (virtues) because of his virtuous activities (sat Karmas).  Udirana is called the energy that contributes to differentiation of Karmas (samkramana).

The conversion is possible in a positive sense, through right knowledge and self-control.  The process is called Upasaynana.  It is described in the Karma-Siddhant of Jainism.  It saves a person from becoming a fatalist and imparts confidence to change the direction of one�s life through actions (Sadacarana).  Thus the role of self awakening and human effort within the framework of the doctrine of Karma invests Jaina ethics with originality.  Its optimistic attitude toward the success of human efforts to cancel the effects of previous actions and to block the inflow of fresh Karmic matter makes ethics a force for good.