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THE PATH OF ARHAT

Justice T.U.Mehta

Nirjara (Shedding of Accumulated Karmas)

Function of Samvara is to stop the fresh inflow of karma but the function of Nirjara is to dry up the reservoir of the past karmas. This process can be achieved in two ways, namely- (1) by allowing the past karmas to fructify in due course of time and tasting their fruits-good or bad --with equanimity and (2) by shedding past karmas through observing suitable penances before their actual fructification. The first method is known as ‘Akama-nirjara' while the second as ‘Sakama-nirjara'. In the first method the karmas are exhausted themselves on their fructification. There are two main drawbacks of this method, namely - (a) we do not know when the past karmas would fructify and it may also be possible that they may not fructify during the present life, (b) If the fruits of the past karmas are not received with equanimity and objectivity and if the self is affected and agitated by good or bad fruits respectively, it earns further karmas. Thus while exhausting past karmas the self earns some fresh karmas. It is for these inherent defects of ‘Akama-nirjara' method, i.e., the passive method of shedding the karmas that the seers have recommended the second method of ‘Sakama-nirjara', i.e., active method of shedding the karmas. This is the method of shedding of karmas by positive efforts. It is like ripening a fruit by artificial means, instead of allowing it to ripe in natural course. The positive efforts are through penances, called ‘Tapas'. These penances are of two types, namely - (a) Abhyantara Tapa meaning Internal or ‘Inward penances', (b) Bahya Tapa meaning External or ‘Outward penances'. ‘Inward penances' are classified as - 1. Prayascitta (atonement of sinful acts), 2. Vinaya (reverence or politeness), 3. Vaiyavrtya (service to saints and elders), 4. Svadhyaya (scriptural study), 5. Vyutsarga (abandonment of passions etc.), 6. Dhyana (meditation). The whole range of ‘internal penances' is mental and psychological towards life and its problems. This transformation is styled as ‘Penances' which shows that in Jaina terminology the expression ‘penances' is not confined to physical and sensual restrains only. At every stage of philosophical reasoning the Jainism has emphasised the prime importance of ‘Bhava', i.e., inner working of mind, for the simple reason that the gross always follows the subtle and no action is actualized without it being previously entertained in the inner mental plane. Therefore the significance of Jaina emphasis on "inward penances lies in the fact that it clearly proves that Jainism does not advocate only sensual repression and physical tormentation as is generally misconceived by these, ignorant of the basic approach of the Jaina seers. These ‘inward penances' are known as ‘Bhava-nirjara'.

External penances known as Bahya-tapa are meant to rest-rain and discipline the sensual cravings. These are of six subtypes, namely (1) Anasana - fasting, (2) Avamaudarya - reduced diet, (3) Vrttiparisankhyana - delimiting the varieties of food, (4) Rasa-parityaga - giving up stimulating diet, (5) Viviktayyasana - lonely habitation, (6) Kayaklesa - Mortification of the body. However, these outward restraints are of no use if they are not accompanied by inner restraints and understanding. Unless these outer restraints and penances are able to maintain equanimity of mind and spirit, they would result in mere tormentation of one's body which is strictly prohibited. A fast with mind lingering in kitchen, is not Nirjara. Contrarily it results in accumulation of fresh karmas. Similarly fasts and other such penances undertaken with a view to gain material benefits or worldly pleasures and to earn name and prestige in the contemporary society would result in ‘Asrava'. It is thus evident that those who celebrate their penances by advertisements, processions and feasts are merely making a mockery of this subtle principle of Nirjara.

The processes of Samvara and Nirjara are not exclusive and hence both can be and should be taken up simultaneously. They are mostly overlapping because both postulate a prior change in mental attitude and approach towards life and its problems. Therefore, the classifications described above are only for the purpose of understanding the details of their working.

As regards ‘Gunasthanas' the ascendance of the soul by different steps (already discussed in Chapter Sixth) Samvara and Nirjara cover all the fourteen steps of Gunasthanas, before achieving the absolute Bliss, i.e.,Siddhahood.