Ladder of Spiritual Development
As seen above, spiritual perfection comes after great
effort, and this effort is not of a life-span. It is an effort of birth
and re-birth also, during which the self tries to climb the ladder of
spirituality. Jaina thinkers have analysed the different stages through
which the self passes in its climb on this ladder during different lives.
There are all fourteen stages through which the self passes before
achieving the highest goal. These stages are mere indications to show how
the self progresses. They enable us to know at what spiritual stage we are
standing in this life. We shall shortly consider these fourteen stages
which are known as Guna-sthana. ï¿½Guna' means meritorious order and
ï¿½Sthana' means stage.
Stage 1 is known as Mithya-Drsti. ï¿½Mithya' means
unreal, false, and ï¿½Drsti' means vision. This is a stage of spiritual
blindness. The whole outlook of life is false and unreal. The ï¿½Darsana'
i.e., the perspective of the soul at this stage suffers from great
ignorance on account of the Karmic veil known as ï¿½Darsanavaraniya'.
Stage 2 is known as Sasadana Samyag Drsti. While
ascending the ladder of life, the soul sometimes reaches great heights,
but on account of some weakness asserting, it slips down on the ladder,
and the fall brings it to this stage. It has tasted the fruits of higher
stages once, and so does not remain more at this stage and again begins to
Stage 3 : Misra- It means mixture. It is the
stage where the self experience a mixed feeling of proper and unreal (Samyag
and Mithya) attitude towards life. The self at this stage is oscillating
between the two extremes. It remains agitated and is unable to settle
Stage 4 : Avirati Samyag Drsti-ï¿½Virati' means
cessation (rest). It suggests rest from the enjoyment of material things
of life. The prefix ï¿½A' suggests the negative and hence ï¿½Avirati' means
want of the stoppage of the material enjoyment. However, at this stage the
oscillating mind becomes steady and begins to entertain right thoughts. It
gets correct or proper ï¿½Darsana' and hence it is called ï¿½Samyag Drsti'.
But on account of ï¿½Avirati', enjoyment of sensual objects goes on, even
though the self knows what is the correct path.
Stage 5 : Desavirati Samyag Drsti-ï¿½Desa' means
partial. When the soul progresses from the 4th stage it begins to conquer
sensual desires. But this conquest is partial.
Stage 6 : Pramatta-Samyag - At this stage there
is still further progress in as much as ï¿½Desa Virati', i.e., partial
cessation from sensuality, becomes complete cessation. There is, however,
some spiritual inertia (Pramtta). Eternal vigilance is the price for
liberty is as much true for spiritual freedom as for political one.
Mahavira emphatically admonished his chief disciple : "Gautam, do not
remain inert even for a moment." At this stage even thought the self is
living the life of a recluse this vigilance is not running from moment to
moment and hence this spiritual inertia on his part remains an
Stage 7 : Apramatta-Samyat - now the inertia has
gone. The self is now ready for a jump and prepares to enter further
stages of ï¿½Ksapaka-sreni' which means the series (Sreni) of the stages
wherein karmic influence is being shed partially and then wholly.
Stage 8 : Apurvakarana - Apurva means the thing
which was not before (Purva means ï¿½past'). At this stage the soul
experiences a potency which was never experienced before. It acquires a
psychic force which would now enable it to shed its karmic veil. This
shedding of karmic veil assumes two courses. One course is known as
ï¿½Upasama' and other course is known as ï¿½Ksaya', Upasama means pacification
and Ksaya means annihilation. When the Karmic bodies such as anger,
attachment, avarice, hatred and violence are made to lie dormant, what
happens is ï¿½Upasama'. But when they are totally destroyed, it is called ï¿½Ksaya'.
If the self takes the course of pacification (Upasama) there is always a
lurking danger of the karmic bodies coming to the surface and asserting
themselves. If this happens, the self which has achieved sufficient
heights again slips down the ladder and goes to the lower stages from
where it begins the journey afresh. It is just like suspended impurities
in water settling down at the bottom of the vessel. Water does appear
clear so long as impurities remain settled. But the moment some
disturbance is caused these impurities come up to the surface and the
clarity of water is destroyed. Exactly this happens to the soul when it
takes the course of pacification (Upasama). But if a great and determined
soul like that of Mahavira takes up the course of total annihilation of
karmic bondage, it jumps to the last two steps and obtains complete
freedom of Siddhahood.
Stage 9 : Anivrtti Samparaya and Stage 10
: Suksama Samparaya-Samparaya means ï¿½Kasaya' (passions). ï¿½Anivrtti' means
not totally annihilated. ï¿½Suksma' means subtle. During these stages the
soul adopts either the course of ï¿½Upasama' (passification) or of ï¿½Kasaya'
(annihilation). If the former course is adopted it comes to the next stage
No. 11 and if the latter course is adopted it comes to the stage No. 12.
Stage 11 : Upasanta Moha - This stage is the
final one where the self adopts the course of passification. However,
ï¿½Moha' (attachment) which is considered as the most dangerous of all the
karmic bondages remains ï¿½Upasanta', i.e., passified. Being Upasanta, it is
not totally destroyed. So it may come up to the surface and cause a slip.
Then there is a fall to the lower rungs of the ladder. Many a times, it is
the second stage of Sasadana.
Stage 12 : Ksina Moha, means total destruction
of Iha attachment. This, now, is practically the end of the journey. all
the Karmas are destroyed. Next two stages come as a matter of course.
Stage 13 : Sayogi Kevali-After being free from
karmic bondage the soul attains Kevala-jnana. It sees everything and knows
everything. ï¿½Kevala' means pure, unalloyed. ï¿½Sayogi' means having
connection (ï¿½Yuj' means ï¿½to join'). The soul has connection with the body
as it is still in human form, but all other connection, all other
attachment has gone away. This is the condition of real ï¿½Vitaraga', one
whose all sorts of attachments (Ragas) have disappeared (Vita means
Stage 14 : Ayogi Kevali- Now the body connection
is also gone. This happens when the Sayogi Kevali of the previous stage
ï¿½dies'. The last formal tie was of body. That tie is dissolved by ï¿½death'.
The soul now gets the stage of final consummation - a bodiless, existence
of pure consciousness and bliss-the stage of Siddhahood, the stage from
where one never returns to earthly existence when all the problems of
birth death and rebirth come to an end.
This is a short story of journey of freedom. The
journey is not only long and arduous but is also full of pains, pleasures,
hopes, despairs and conflicts. Broadly speaking, in the first four stages
the soul is struggling against wrong belief which is overcome in the fifth
stage where righteous conduct begins. In the sixth stage he is till liable
to lapses and negligence, as the required vigilance is not from moment to
moment. When the self enters the seventh stage, it is ready to shed its
accumulated karmas. From 8th stage onwards he proceeds with powerful force
but so long as the Mohaniya Karma (i.e., Karma arising from attachments)
is not totally destroyed there is likely-hood of a fall. But the fall is
only temporary and practically the whole journey is over when the soul
reaches 12th and 13th stages. Thus the entire spiritual career comes to an
end, and it is the end of all pains and pleasures of life. Buddha based
his whole philosophical structure on the premise that life is painful.
Mahavira also believed that life is painful and the effort of every soul
is to be finally free from this pain and to obtain permanent bliss.
A question arises in the mind of every thoughtful
person, when he nears the end of this physical existence, whether the life
which he lived was worth living, what was the purpose of life, what has he
achieved in life and whether, taken as a whole, it was satisfying,
pleasureful or painful. Answers may be of varying types but nobody will be
able to say that he has been able to get permanent joy and happiness from
the things of the world. On the final analysis, it would appear that so
long as we are not able to approach the problems of life in a detached and
objective manner we are not able to get joy and happiness from any
activity however, altruistic, benevolent or high-minded it may be.
Attachment, whether it is for physical objects, individuals or even idea
or ideals, always results in dejection. If this be the final lesson of
life, the only solution which can be offered to life's problems is to try
to achieve a condition of detachment, a condition of a Vitaraga, one whose
all attachments are gone. Vitaraga is an expression of great significance.
It is peculiar to Jaina epistemology as in other philosophical thinking,
they have used the word Vairagya or Viraga. Viraga is the opposite of Raga
(attachment) and being an opposite, it carries and idea of aversion. so
the expression Viraga is, many a times, understood as ï¿½dislike', which is
nothing but a negative form of attachment. But the expression Vitaraga
merely refers to a condition where all attachments are gone. There is no
ï¿½like' and no ï¿½dislike'.
If the life is painful, it is no use cultivating
dislike for it. The correct attitude is the attitude of Vitaraga. Mahavira
showed the way of achieving the state of a Vitaraga.
Greeks perhaps knew the stings of life as intimately.
when the Greek Midas asked Silenus, ï¿½what fate is best for man'. Silenus
answered : "Pitiful race of a day, children of accidents and sorrow, why
do you force me to say what were better left unheard ? The ï¿½best' of it
all is unobtainable-not to born, to be nothing. The second best is to die
Silenus's attitude was rather cynical. Mahavira would
not agree, however, with his statement that we are all children of
ï¿½accidents' and ï¿½sorrow'. Mahavira never believed in accidents as
according to him everything which happens in this universe has a cause and
the results which we are reaping are generated by the causes supplied by
us. If we are children of ï¿½sorrow', the sorrow is also of our making.
Mahavira would also not agree with Silenus that the ï¿½best' is
ï¿½unobtainable' though he may agree that the ï¿½best' is ï¿½not to be born' or
ï¿½to be nothing'. Journey to freedom is a journey ï¿½to be nothing' which
means ï¿½to be everything', though desiring nothing and doing nothing. It is
therefore a journey to achieve the stage of a Vitaraga, who does not
require ï¿½to be born' again.