Jain World
Sub-Categories of Passions

Jivaraja Jaina Granthmala, No. 20

General Editorial
Preface to The First Edition
Preface to The Second Edition
Synoptic Philosophy
  Approach to Reality
  The Jaina Theory of the Soul
  Critique of Knowledge
  The Doctrine of Karma in Jaina Philosophy
  The Pathway to Perfection
  In this Our Life
  Men and Gods




Karma to explain provident inequalities in life -- meaning of Karma  --Potter's view and Jung's interpretation analysed -- origin and development of Karma theory -- Jaina theory of Karma -- types of Karma -- operation of Karma -- soul's entanglement in the wheel of samsara -- problem of the relation of soul and Karma analysed -- some criticisms of the theory discussed -- a note on the theory of Lesya.


I. "O Gautama, just as a sprout has a seed for its hetu, as there is a hetu for happiness and misery; since it is a karya.  That hetu is the karman."[1] We find in this life persons.  having the same means for enjoying happiness, do not get the same type of happiness. Misery comes in unequal ways.  This difference cannot be without any hetu which is not seen.  This very unseen hetu is karman.[2] Misery, in his life, is too much of a fact to be ignored. It is also true that there is abundant inequality in the status and experiences of individual men. which is inexplicable by our empirical methods of enquiry. Good men suffer and the evil prosper like the green banyan trees. It is necessary to explain this provident inequality in the status and development of individuals.


Attempts have been made to refer this inequality to man's first disobedience and the fruit of that forbidden tree. Others have denied the existence of evil and the consequent inequality; still others would like us to think of this world as training ground for perfection. But life is not a pleasure garden and God a sort of a Santa Claus whose main duty is to please his creatures.  It is necessary to find a solution on the bais of autonomous nature of man and his responsibility to shape his own destiny. The Indian thought has found it in the doctrine of Karma.


II. The doctrine of Karrna is one of the most significant tenets of Indian thought. It has profoundly influenced the life and thought of the people in India. It has become the 'logical prius of alt Indian thought '[3] It is the basal presupposition of Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism (of course with minor differences). As man sows, so does he reap: our actions have their effects. These effects cannot be destroyed.  They have to be experienced and exhausted. If we cannot exhaust the effects of our actions in this lifewe have to complete the cycle of births and deaths to earn the fruit for all that we have done. No man inherits the good or evil of another man. The doctrine of Karma is. thus, closely associated with the transmigration of souls.  Every evil deed must be expitiated. and every good deed must receive its reward. If it is not possible to reap the fruits in one single empirical existence, it must be experienced on earth in a fresh incarnation. Plato has made a reference to this theory in the Laws, perhaps under the influence of orphic mysticism, and refers to 'the tradition which is firmly believed by many, and has been received from those who are learned in the mysteries.[4] In Indian thought, the Jainas have developed the doctrine of Karma on scientific basis.


Karma etymologically means whatever is done, any activity. It got associated with the after-effects of actions, both physical and psychical. Every Jiva (living being) is constantly active, expressing the activity in the three-fold functions of body. speech and mind. It leaves behind traces of after-effects in the physical and psychic forms. Every action, word or thought produces, besides its visible, invisible and transcandent effects. It produces wilder certain conditions certain potential energies which forge the visible effects in the form of reward or punishment. As in the case of a bond which continues to operate until, but loses its validity on, the repayrrlent of the capital sum; so does the invisible effect of an action remain in potential form after the visible effect has disappeared.  Actions performed in this life would be the causes of future life, and the present life is the result of actions performed in the previous life. So is the chain of life connected in the series of actions and their effects realized. The Karma doctrine involves the idea of an eternal metempsychosis.[5] Kerl Potter in his Presuppositions of India's Philosophies has tried to interpret Karma as a form of habit. Human being faces challenges from many sides which have to be met by birth, social action and by the application of scientific techniques in order to be free from the bondage in life. But the more subtle challenges lie underneath the surface, and 'arise from' habits themselves, which continues after the conditions that' engender them have been removed, and which engender new habits which in turn must be removed somehow. This round of habits breeding habits is a part of what is called in Sanskrit samsara, the wheel of birth, which is governed by Karma, the habits themselves.'[6] Karma is described in the Jaina philosophy as a kind of dirt which accretes to the otherwise pure Jiva by virtue of one's actions. In the Bhagavad-gita the dirt is described as of three kinds. "one may think of these as types of habits"2 I have not been able to understand how Potter interprets Karma as a type of habit.[7]  One must be steeped in the Indian tradition in order to understand the nature and significance of Karma.


C. J. Jung, while distinguishing, personal and the collective unconscious, hints at the possibility of comparing the archetypes of the collective Unconscious to the Karma in Indian thought.  The collective unconscious stands for the objective psyche. The personal layer ends at the earliest memories of infancy, but the collective layer comprises the pre-infantile period that is the residue of ancestral life. The force of Karma works implicitly and determines the nature and development of personality. The Karma aspect is essential to the deeper understanding of the nature of an archetype. [8] Although it is possible to say that Karma has essentially a reference to individual differences and hence a personal acquistion, yet each individual has a common heritage which he shares with the community and which shapes his being.  The archetypes refer to the common heritage. To this extent they refer to the Karma aspect.


However. Jung was primarily concerned with and interpretations of dreams and fantasies in presenting his theory of the collective unconscious. 'Had he developed the archetypes of the collective unconscious. he would have reached the doctrine of Karma, the store-house of the physical and psychical effects of the past.[9]


It is difficult to say when and where the Karma doctrine originated in India. Some have traced the origin of Karma in the principle of Rta. Rta is the cosmic principle. It prevades the whole world, and gods and man must obey it. It is the anticipation of the law of Karma. In the Rgvedic hymns the doctrine of Karma is yet in its infancy as Rta.  The doctrine does not appear in the old hymns of the Rgveda.  The Vedic seers were mainly interested in the good of this life, and when death came they went the way of their fathers to the world where Yama, the first to die, ruled. The doctrine must have developed against a number of other doctrines about creation. Some regarded time as the determinant factor of creation. Others believed in nature (svabhava) as the prominent factor. There were other theories as well. The Jainas rejected these doctrines and said that even time and svabhava are determined by Karman.[10] Concept of Karma must have existed at least a thousand years before the beginning of the Christian era, world has since become the basis and centre of religious thought.[11] It is probable that Karma and rebirth must have been pre-Aryan doctrines which were important in the Sramana culture later assimilated in the Brahmana thought by the time the Upanisads were clearly formulated. The Indian view of Karma was doubtless of nonAryan provenience, and it was a kind of a natural law. [12] Transmigration of the soul was perhaps one of the oldest forms in which the belief in the after-life was held.  Karma was closely linked with this doctrine. With the gradual emphasis of asceticism under the influence of the Sramana culture, came the awareness of one's responsibility to shape one's personality here and here-after, However, the doctrine has been widely accepted in ancient Indian thought,  except for the Carvaka. In the Samnyasa Upanisad we are told that the Jivas are bound by Karma[13]  A man becomes good by good deeds and bad by bad deeds; [14] and while thus we live, we fetter ourselves with the effect of our deeds. In the Mahabharata, the emphasis is on the force of Karma. Of the three kinds of Karma, prarabdha, samcita and agami mentioned in the Bhagavadgtta, agami and samcita can be overcome by knowledge In Buddhism, as there is no substance as soul, that transmigrates is not a person but his Karma. When the series of mental states which constitues the self resulting from a chain of acts ends, there would still be some acts and their effects which continue; and the viltiana projects into the future due -to the force of the effects of Karma. The Buddhists distinguish acts accompanied by asrava (impure acts) from pure acts which are not accompanied by asrava. Samsara is the effect of Karrna.  Our pleasant happiness and misery are the fruit of what we have ourselves done in the past. Operation of Karma can be considered as a principle of moral life, as force limiting and particularizing personality and as a principle of conservation of energy in the physical world.[15]  But Buddhism maintains that involuntary actions, whether of body, speech and mind do not constitute Karma, and therefore cannot bring about the results accruing to Karma. It only means that unwilled actions do not modify character.[16] Karma theory has been expressed in a variety of ways 'from the most extreme realism which regards Karma as a complexity of material particles infecting the soul to the most extreme idealism' where it is a species of newly produced invisible force, in its highest unreal.  The Jainas give a realistic view of Karma.  It has existed from the preBuddhistic time.  The idea of the pollution of the soul due to Kamla has been largely allegorical in other religious philosophies in India.  while the Jainas 'have adopted it in the real sense of the world' and have -worked out into an original System.[17] The Jaina conception of Karma must have been completely developed after a thousand years of Mahavira's nirvana. The Sthananga.  Uttaradhyayana sutra and the Bhagavatlsutra contain general outline of the doctrine, and the details have been worked out in the KarmagranthaPancasamgraha and the Karmaprakrzi. In working out the details, there have been two schools of thought: Agamikas and ii) Karmagranthikas.


Jainism is, in a sense, dualistic. the universe is costituted of the two fundamental categories: jiva (living) and ajiva (non-living).  Soul (jiva) has been described from the noumenal and the phenomenal points of view. From the pure and ultimate point of view, jiva is pure and perfect. It is characterized by upayoga the hormic energy. It is simple and without parts. It is immaterial and formless.[18] It is characterized by cetand. It is pure consciousness. From the phenomenal point of view Jiva is described as possessing four pranas. It is the lord (prabhu). Limited to his body (dehamatra), still incorporeal. and it is ordinarily found with Karma.[19] The Jiva comes in contact with the external world,-Ajiva. The Jiva is active. and the activity is expressed in threefold forms the bodily, in speech and mental. This is called yoga.  Yoga brings in after-effects in the form of Karmic particles which veil the pure nature of the soul. The souls are contaminated by the Karma which is a foreign element, and are involved in the wheel of samsara. This contamination is beginningless, though it has an end. It is difficult to say how and when souls got involved in the heel of samsara. Caught in the wheel of Samsara the soul for gets its real nature and the efforts to search for the truth are obscured by the paissions. The inherent capacity of the soul for self-realization is also obstructed by the veil of Karma.[20]' It is subjected to the forces of Karma which express themselves first through feelings and emotions, and secondly, in the chains of very subtle kinds of matter invisible to the eye and the instruments of science. It is then embodied and is affected by the environment, physical and social and spiritual. We, thus, get various types of soul existence.