The Jaina philosopher bases his stand on experience and
avoids absolute conceptions of soul and karma. He admits concrete relation
between the soul and Karma. Soul is affected by the influx of Karma. The
change effected in the soul is determined by the nature of the Karmic
matter, and the nature of Karma is in turn determined by the passions.
Similarly, the nature of passion is determined by the nature of Karma.
This is a reciprocal relation affecting the soul and matter. In this
conception, the distinction between the material karma (dravya-karman) and
psychic Karma (bhavakarman) is very significant. The former is associated
with avarana; the latter is associated dosa (defect). Every act brings
with it the after-effects in physical and psychic aspects. The physical
aspects of the traces is Dravya-Karma; while the psychic traces are the
Bhava Karma. The material Karma and the psychic counterpart are related as
cause and effect.  In a passage in the Karmagrantha, a question
regarding the cause of the Karmic influx has been raised. How is it
possible that particular particles of Karmic matter-entering the soul can
transform the selves into various forms of Karma? And we are told that
this is possible through the mysterious power of the soul and through the
peculiar quality of matter itself. We find matter of one form is
transformed into another; water is transformed into clouds and rain again.
Why, then, cannot matter of Karma besmearing the Jiva be transformed into
different types of Karma? We are then told that all further discussions
would not be necessary.
The discarding of rational argument, in this
connection, is justified, because Jainism does not pretend to have
attained this doctrine by human rational means. It is not through the
limited comprehension of an average man that the view has been presented
but by revelation or on the authority of a Kevalin.
lV. Karma theory has been found by some to be an
inadequate explanation for the prevalent inequalities in life. It is
suggested that the theory suffers from serious defects.
1. Karma leads to the damping of the spirit and men
suffer the ills of life with helpless equanimity of attitude simply
because they get the awareness that it is beyond their power to change the
course of their life as it is determined by Karma. Karma leads to
fatalism. It does not give any incentive to social service. The general
apathy of an Indian towards the natural, social and political evils is
mentioned as an example of the impact of Karma on our life. The famous
temple of Somanatha was destroyed; and there was no visible resistance
because the common man in India was over powered by the belief that
everything that happens is the result of Karma.
But this is more an over-statement of a fact, if not a
misstatement. It is not true to say that the Karma theory does not give
any incentive to social service. The Upanisads enjoin social service. The
Jaina ethics is based on service and sacrifice, although on the highest
level one has to transcend social morality. The five vows to be observed
by an ascetic and the layman (sravaka) imply the recognition of dignity
and equality of life. Schweitzer maintains that the attitude in the
ancient Indian thought was that of world and life negation. Still the
problem of deliverance in the Jaina and the Buddhist thought is not raised
beyond ethics. In fact it was the-supreme ethic. The deliverance from
reincarnation is possible through the purity of conduct, and the soul
cleanses itself from the besmirching it has suffered and altogether frees
itself from it; What is new then, in Jainism is the importance attained by
ethics. -- an event full of significance for the thought of India.
And Karma is not a mechanical principle, but a spiritual necessity.' It is
the counterpart in the moral world of the physical law of uniformity.
Unfortunately the theory of Karma became confused with fatality in India
when man himself grew feeble and was disinclined to do his work.
Still the importance of Karma as after effects of our action and
determining the course of life cannot be easily underestimated. Karma has
to be looked at as a principle involving explanation of action and
reaction. Fatalistic theories of life was presented by Makkhali Gosala, a
contemporary of Mahavira. He considered himself a rival of Mahavira. He
said that happiness and misery are measured to one as it were in bushels.
The duration of life and the transmigration of souls have their fixed
forms. No human effort can change them. Mahavira and the Buddha opposed
Gosala most vigorously.
2. It is also said that the Karma theory is
inconsistent with individual freedom of the will. It does not guarantee
true freedom to the individual which is essential to his moral progress.
 Karma works as the inexorable law of causation, in its essential
mechanical way. And in the background of caste system, the boon of
individual inequality becomes a curse; if Karma had not to work with
caste, a varnasrama-dharma, a wrong idea of the self and transmigration,
we might reconcile Karma with freedom. But as it is, it is not possible.
The theory in entirety cannot escape the charge of 'determinism' from the
point of view of higher morality. Older Buddhism and Jainism were much
concerned to defend self-regulative character of Karma; salvation was
essentially through self-reliance: and there was fear of the antinomian
tendencies of the notion of reliance on others (e.g. the Lord). The
answer to the charge of fatalism was that by our own efforts we can
annihilate the existing Karma and neutralise its effects.
But it is difficult to determine the nature of this
objection. We are told that from the point of view of higher morality
Karma theory cannot escape the charge of determinism. Yet, the objection
is determined by and based on the individual's status in a particular
caste. It is more a sting against caste system than a criticism of Karma
theory. The objector appears to confuse the essential from the accidental.
It is a fallacy of Ignoratio Elenchi. Caste system is a sociological
problem, and it is not essential for understanding the nature and
operation of Karma. In fact determinism is, here, interpreted in a narrow
sense as a mechanical operation of Karma to produce its effects, as does
the law of gravitation. The present condition and nature of an individual
is determined by the past Karma, yet the individual is free to act in such
a way as to mould his own future by reducing or destroying the existing
Karma. The present is determined, but the future is only conditioned.
In general, the principle of Karma reckons with the material in the
context in which each individual is born. 'But the spiritual element
in man allows him freedom within the limits of his own nature. There
is room for the lowliest of men even of animals to rise higher and purify
his self. Attempts were made to reconcile the law of Karma with freedom
of man. Karma is compared to a fire which we can, by our effort, fan into
a flame or modify it. Human effort can modify Karma. For the Jaina, such
a saving of the soul is possible by one's own efforts. Grace of God has no
place in Jaina ethics. Self-effort in the direction of purification of the
soul is the one way towards perfection. A thief, for instance, undermines
his own character and being every time he commits theft. No amount of
prayer and worship will erase the effect that has been accumulated,
although it may create a mental atmosphere for eliminating such future
possibilities. Jainas have, therefore given a detailed theory of conduct
distinguishing it: into two grades as that of the muni, an ascetic, and of
a sravaka -- a householder.
3. It has been objected that the Karma theory connects
actions and its consequences in a rather mechanical way. In its mechanical
aspect, it mistakes the means for the end. In this it is presumed that
repentence is the end and paying the due penalty-is only a means. It is
said that Karma theory overemphasises the retributive aspect of
But, here again, we find a confusion between ends and
meansRepentence has its place in life. but it is not the end to be
achieved. Repentence does purify the mind and has the effect of a
catharsis. This would be a means for the future development of an
individual. Even as a means it is not all. The Jaina theory of Karma
emphasises that by individual efforts at moral and spiritual development,
we can reduce the intensity of karma, suppress its effects or even
annihilate. We have seen that one can, by suitable efforts. transform the
energy of one form of Karma into that of another, as we can transform
electrical energy into that of heat or light. Repentence is not to be
taken as the final end. It only creates an atmosphere for moral efforts
towards selfrealization. It is at best a powerful psychological means
which would help us in the attainment of spiritual perfection. If
repentence were sufficient to lead to purification, the after-effects of
past action cannot be accounted for, nor can they be explained away, as
that would be contrary to the laws of physical and moral nature.
4. Karma doctrine implies that sin is a finite offence
that can be made good by private temporary punishment. It presupposes that
we can make good our sin which is entirely beyond our power.
It is also said that the dominant impression that one
gets of the Karma doctrine is that the individual is in the grip of
power, which, heedless of his own wishes, is working out a burden of an
immemorial past. 
Pringle-pattison shows that the whole emphasis of the
Karma theory is on retribution. There is nothing redemptive in its
operation, and the process becomes an endless one, leading to no goal of
ultimate release. He quotes Deussen and says that expiation involves
further action which in turn involves expiation and thus the process is
endless. The clock work of requital. in running down always winds itself
up again, and so in perpetuity. Accumulation of merit may ease a
future life, but it would not suffice to effect a release from the wheel
of life. Even when a new world follows after the deluge in the cycle of
worlds, it does not start with a clean balance-sheet, as the operation of
will proceeds from the point where it was suspended. Karma only
perpetuates the curse of existence. So, the Karma doctorine seems open
to the criticism to which the vindictive theory of punishment has been
subjected in modern times ' To conceive this universe as primarily a
place for doling out punishment is to degrade it to the level of a
The dominant note in the objection is that to make good
our sin is beyond our powe; and the emphasis on the retributive element in
the doctrine of Karma makes this world frightful and miserable, 'as a
glorified police-court'. But this is far from truth. It is not beyond our
power, as we said earlier, to improve our states of existence. The Jainas
have shown that self-effort can shape the future. The present is with us
and the future is in our hands.
Retributive theory is a more consistent theory of
action and reaction and not merely of punishment, than Reformative
theory. Man gets what he merits to get; and to with-hold it would be
injustice to him, unless he makes his own efforts to modify the effects of
his actions. Reformative theory may be full of noble and soft sentiments,
it may be comforting to be told that by the grace of God, we would be
better. But that destroys the individuality and dignity of an individual
and he would become a tool in the hands of a Higher Power or his agent in
this world. We refuse to be treated as things. Moreover, it is good to te
men, though it is unpleasant to do so, that they are alone responsible for
their present state To put the responsibility on the individual is hard
truth. And Radhakrishnansays that Karma ls not so much a princip]e of
retribution as one of continuity.
5. Some have said that the doctrine of Karma leads to
unbridled individualism;, It fails to see that we all belong to a
community, that there is what is called joint Karma corporate sin or
guilt. It allows the fortunate ones to boast of their 'self-merited
happiness'.  Explanation for the inequality is referred to the
'vicarious suffering'. The ethical justice is to be found in the
crucification of Christ; and the Cross is a symbol of taking over the
sufferings of men upon oneself so as to lighten the sufferings of men.
But according to the Jainas, as also in other Indian
thought, except in the Carvaka, self realization is to be attained through
a moral effect which is essentially social in its content. We have seen
that the Jaina ethics is essentially social in its significance. Moksa is
to be attained through the practice of goodness, charity, compassion and
humility, although the Moksa is attained by one who practices the virtues
and the three-fold noble path. It is, therefore, more accurate to say that
Karma theory awakens a man to his responsibilities to himself and to
others, and does not make him isolated and self-centred.
We may also add that Karma does not imply a hedonistic
outlook on life. Reward for pleasure is not a life of pleasure nor is the
punishment for sin, pain. The theory is not to be confused with hedonistic
or a judicial theory of rewards and punishments.: Pleasure and pain
are determinants of animal experience, but for human life the end to be
attained is nohing short of perfection. His efforts are to be directed to
the attaimnent of this highest end. The universe is, in the words of
Tennyson. 'a vale of soulmaking' and not a pleasure garden.