The word Nirjara is made up of "Nir" and "Jara". Nir is prefix
while Jara means to fall off. Hence, in the Jain philosophy Nirjara means
falling off, destruction, or removal of karmas from the soul. In the discussion
of asrav and samvar, we gave the illustration of boating. Let us again go over
that example which also explains how nirjara works. Let us pretend, as if you
went boating. You were having a good time and suddenly noticed the water rising
on the floor of boat. You immediately felt that the boat had a hole and if leak
was not sealed the boat would sink. So, the first thing you did was to find a
hole and then seal it so that new water would stop coming in. Then, you started
pouring out the collected water so that the boat would be dry again. This
removal of water is called a nirjara. Karmas are accumulating to the soul
through asrava. These karmas cover the attributes of our soul, and the removal
or destruction of these karmas is called Nirjara.
The more effective the nirjara, the faster the
attributes of the soul will shine. Once all the karmas are shed off, the soul
will go to the salvation and then it will be able to exhibit all its attributes
in a full capacity. In fact, as we are constantly accumulating and stopping
karmas, we are also to some extent shedding off karmas too. In respect to
quantitative shedding off, nirjara is grouped into two kinds:
Desh (limited) Nirjara, and
Sarva (total) Nirjara.
In Desh Nirjara there is limited
shedding off of the karmas. This is experienced by all while suffering from
adversity or performing austerities, or prayers etc. This shedding off is done
during all the stages of all gunasthanaks.
Sarva Nirjara is
the total shedding off of the fkarmas and occurs right before the soul is
liberated. Whenever the soul becomes a Kevali, it has shed off all the ghati
karmas forever, but still has to shed off the aghati karmas. The rest of the
aghati karmas are shed off forever right before the soul is liberated and
achieves the salvation. These liberated souls are called Siddhas.
When karmas mature they show their results and
once these results are experienced completely the karmas are considered shed
off. Nirjara can also be divided into two kinds by the process of shedding off
of the karmas. They are:
When karmas mature automatically at their due
time they cause suffering accordingly. Thus, we have no control on the timing
and intensity of such suffering and we have not put any special effort or shown
special desire or intention to suffer on our side. Once the supposed suffering
is over then those karmas which caused this suffering are considered shed off.
This natural process of maturity and sheding off of the karmas is called Akam
Nirjara. Example: When someone suffers from hunger not voluntarily or willingly
but due to unavailability of the food then those karmas which caused these
suffering will be shed off passively.
On the other side when karmas are brought to
maturity ahead off their due time by special efforts, voluntarily or willingly
to give their results, then those karmas will be shed off sooner then expected.
Thus, we have a control on this process and this active process to shed off the
karmas prematurely is called Sakam Nirjara. Example: When we perform fasting
(not eating) voluntarily and willingly even though the food was available in
abundance, then we brought out suffering actively ahead of the time which in
turn will shed off the karmas prematurely.
Therefore in akam nirjara, conditions for
shedding off of the karmas are ripe, and karmas exhaust themselves after
producing their results. When karmas lose their bondage in this way, it is
called swathaha, self-destruction. In sakam nirjara, the destruction of karmas
occurrs ahead of their natural time by special efforts, by means of tapas
(austerity), That is called Upayanirjara, initiated destruction.
Our life is a live drama consisting of
accumulating the karmas and shedding off of the karmas. This drama never stops
till we reach salvation. Depending upon what kind and with what intensity we
commit sinful activities (pap), nirjara may be easier or harder. In order to
simulate the process of nirjara, different examples are given to show how easy
or hard it would be to remove dust or a stain from an article of clothing.
The dust from the dry clothes can be easily
removed by just shaking it.
It becomes a bit harder to remove the dust if
the clothes was wet.
It becomes much harder to remove the dust if
the clothes was oily.
It would be almost impossible to remove a
stain from the clothes when it is from a coal-tar and would have to throw away
Same way, from these examples, you can imagine
how simple or how complicated a process of nirjara can be. In some instances,
one would have no choice but to bear the results of one's karmas. This last kind
of karmas are called nikachit karmas. At this time, it would be wise to remind
us that nirjara is done most effectively by humans only, because other destinies
have their own limitations. But for humans, the limitations are set by humans
The special efforts to destroy karma is done
through Tapas or austerities. Austerity means restraint, which is done willingly
by giving away some of the bodily comforts to discipline our mind from passions
and pleasures. Austerities are performed at various occasions and in various
different ways. All austerities have their own uniqueness. Austerities may be
performed at two levels:
Physical manner or
In the physical manner the person performs the
austerity, but does not have the inner desires to change his or her life and
therefore, it is just a physical act. While in the psychic austerity the person
controls his or her inner desires along with performing a physical act. Unless
the austerities are performed in psychic manner, they do not produce the much
needed results. After all, the whole purpose of austerities is not just to
simply make the body suffer, but to change our desires. Once that happens the
person will be on the path to spiritual uplift. Austerity is part of right
Austerities are categorized into two groups:
External (Bahyantar): External austerities are
noticed by others because they have a greater component of physical than psychic
Internal (Abhyantar): Internal austerities are
not noticed by others because they have a greater component of psychic than
Each of these two austerities are further
divided in six types:
Fasting Completely (Anasan),
Partial Fasting (Unodari),
Limiting the number of items of food (Vruti
Limiting desired tasty food (Ras parityag),
Bodily Endurance (Kayakalesh),
Controlling of the Senses (Pratisanlinata).
Serving others (Vaiyavachch),
Giving away (Vyutsarg),
Spiritual study (Sajzaya),
Fasting Completely (Anasan):
Anasan means fasting, renouncing food and
water, etc., for a day, for many days or throughout one's life. One day of total
fasting is called upavas. Fasting completely until death is done when life is
close to an end. Such fasting is considered very auspicious and is called
Bhav Anasan refers to the total control of our
inner desires for a short or a long time. If this austerity is cultivated then
only we will be able to strive for spiritual uplift.
Partial Fasting (Unodari):
Unodari means eating less than what one’s
hunger is. The Jain dharma prescribes thirty-two handfuls of food per day and in
order to perform this austerity, one may eat a few handfuls less than the
Bhav Unodari means to limit our desires to
some extent. It may be more difficult to do this than to control them totally,
but once this starts then we will be able to limit our desires for the things in
our daily life.
Limiting the number of items of the food (Vruti
In Vruti Sankshep, we put a limit on the
number of items we may eat during a single sitting or throughout the day.
Bhav Vruti Sankshep means to limit our desires
for some part of a day or a whole day. This austerity will help us to control
our desires so that our mind will keep from wandering.
Limiting desired tasty food (Ras Parityag)
Ras Parityag means to renounce tasty foods
which one likes very much. It can be done partially or in total for a short time
or prolonged period of time.
Bhav Ras Parityag is more difficult to perform
than the other austerities because in this we limit our most desired thoughts.
An austerity of this nature will help us to control our passions even in the
most tempting situations.
Bodily Endurance (Kayakalesh)
Kayakalesh means to stand or sit in a
particular posture for a long period of time. This austerity may cause pain, but
one should ignore the pain.
In Bhav Kayakalesh one stands firm in
controlling passions even if temptations are great.
Controlling of Senses (Pratisanlinata)
In Pratisanlinata one controls all types of
senses in order to prevent pleasant and unpleasant temptations. In order to
perform this austerity one may stay in isolation for one or more nights.
In Bhav Pratisanlinata one controls oneself
from lying, telling the distorted truth, or from participating in sensual
activities. Thus this austerity helps to control passions like anger, pride,
deception, and greed.
In Prayaschit, one asks for forgiveness for
the various errors of commission and omission, the faults and sins committed
knowingly or unknowingly. This austerity may be performed in the presence of a
monk or nun or can be done alone. Prayaschit helps us to reflect upon ourselves
in a way that leads to self correction. Even for a small fault we begin to say "
One must cultivate humbleness towards
everyone. This austerity leads to tolerance and sympathy towards others and
helps us to overcome ego and anger.
There are four types of Vinay:
Jnan Vinay - One should be humble and
respectful to those who are superior in knowledge and wisdom.
Darshan Vinay - One should be humble and
respectful to those who have acquired the true insight of religious
Charitra Vinay - One should be humble and
respectful to those who have good morals and follow religious principles.
Mana Vinay - One should pay respect and be
humble to all saints who help others in their spiritual uplift.
Serving others (Vaiyavachch)
Vaiyavachch means serving religious teachers,
ascetics, virtuous people, sadhus, colleagues, and companions with devotion. One
should especially render services to the sick and weak. Though this austerity
seems to be external activity it makes a person humble and serves the purpose of
overcoming ego and hatred.
Giving away (Vyutsarg)
In Vyutsarg, not only one gives away sinful
physical activities but also gives away sixteen different inner passions.
Spiritual Study (Svadhyay)
Svadhyay means to study scriptures or can also
mean to understand the self. Through study we try to answer the questions: who
am I? Who should I be? Through Svadhyay we realize that a soul is a pure thing.
This will lead us to contemplate on the question: what am I doing in this body?
Thus, study will lead you to be a pure soul. This study is divided into five
When one starts reading the scriptures it is
While reading some doubts may arise and trying
to resolve them is called Prachana.
After understanding what is right and
contemplating on it is called Anupreksha.
After realizing what is right, one should
contemplate on it again and again so one can stay in focus. This repetition is
After learning what self is one should teach
others the same. This is known as Dharmopadesh.
All five of the above are external svadhyay,
but they will lead us to do internal svadhyay about the self. Thus, one will
acquire right perception and right knowledge which will lead to right conduct
and will open up the path to ultimate liberation.
Dhyan means concentration of thought. This
concentration could arise from intense passions like attachment, lust, or
animosity or from the search for the truth and from absolute detachment towards
Dhyan is divided into four categories:
In arta dhyan a person reflects on the i) loss
of dear ones (Ishta Viyog), ii) development of a new relationship with an
undesirable or unpleasant person (Anishta Samyog), iii) physical illness (Roga
chinta) and iv) future planning (Agrasocha or Nidanartha).
In raudra dhyan one is absorbed in taking
total revenge for some damage or loss caused by others. There are four types: i)
Hinsanubahndhi, ii) Mrishanubadhi, iii) Steynubandhi, and iv) Samrakshanubandhi.
Both arta and raudra dhyan lead to
accumulation of bad karmas and therefore art and raudra dhyan should be avoided.
Dharma dhyan means reflecting on the ways and
means towards realization of self.
Shukla dhyan means reflecting on the purity of
Dharma dhyan and shukla dhyan lead to the
removal of karmas. Therefore, for the purpose of nirjara we shall contemplate on
dharma dhyan and shukla dhyan. If contemplation on dharma dhyan is at the
highest level then we can completely destroy Mohniya karma and within 48 minutes
of the destruction of Mohaniya Karma, Jnanavarniya, Darshanavarniya and Antaräy
Karmas are also destroyed and one becomes a Kevali.
Other Austerities (Tapasyas)
There are some other common external
austerities. They are:
must take food or water forty-eight minutes after sunrise. Even the brushing
of one’s teeth and rinsing of once mouth must be done after sunrise.
food or water three hours after sunrise.
Taking food or water four hours and thirty minutes after sunrise.
Taking food or water six hours after sunrise.
food or water eight hours after sunrise.
food twice a day sitting in one place while taking food.
food only once and sitting in one place.
food only once in one sitting. The food should not have any taste and spices
and should be boiled or cooked. Also, one shall not use milk, curds, ghee,
oil, and green or raw vegetables.
must not take any food for twenty four hours starting from sunrise to sunrise
the next day.
One may drink only boiled water during upavas.
One does not even drink water during upavas.
sunset no food or juice shall be taken, but one may take only water until
sunrise the next day.
After sunset no food or water is taken until sunrise the next day.
for two consecutive days.
for three consecutive days.
for eight consecutive days.
Consecutive upavas for one month.
During every year for 9 days starting from the 6/7th day of the bright
fortnight until the full moon day in Ashwin and Chaitra months, one does
Ayambil. This is repeated for the next four and half years. These ayambils can
also be restricted to only one kind of food grain per day.
Varshitap, Vardhaman, and visasthanak tap,
In Ekasan, Biyasan, Ayambil, or upavas one
drinks boiled water only and that too only between sunrise and sunset. It is
better if one can do a chauvihar or tivihar on the night before starting these
austerities. If any of the austerities allow food, one shall not take raw
vegetables, underground roots, and raw grains while performing such austerities.