STAGES ON THE PATH
From the nature of Moksha and the means prescribed for its realization it is abundantly clear that the attainment of perfection is the culmination of a graduated course of training, which must be followed step by step. The sages have, therefore, divided the path, which leads to the Supreme Seat (Nirvana) into fourteen stages, each of which represents a particular state of development, condition or phase of the soul, arising from the quiescence, elimination, or partial quiescence and partial elimination of certain energies of karma, and the manifestation of those traits and attributes which are held in check by their activity. The names and characteristics of each of these fourteen stages, called Gunasthan, may be stated as follows:--
(1) The first stage is called Mithyatva, which signifies ignorance, the normal condition of all Jivas involved in the samsara, and is the starting point of spiritual evolution. The consciousness of the soul in this condition is obsessed with gross ignorance, and pure truth is not agreeable to it. Those who pass out of it are the lucky ones who, in consequence of their past good karmas, evolve out the desire to find a way to escape from the pain and misery of life in this world. When a man reaches this turning point in his life, he begins to meditate on the nature of the world and on his own relation with it. This results in a temporary quiescence of the first three energies of darsana Mohaniya karma (Nos. 17, 18 and 19) and the Anantanubandhi type of anger, pride, deceit and greed (Nos. 20,21,22 and 23), producing what is called the prathamopasama- samyaktva --a kind of faith which generally subsides, sooner or later, like the effervescence of aerated water. All cases of sudden conversion to truth are due to the quiescence of these seven energies of karmas.
The subsequent loss of faith is due to the recrudescence of the prakriti of any one of the Anantanubandhi kasha's (anger, pride, deceit and greed) whose destruction or quiescence is related to the manifestation of true insight as cause to its effect.
(2) Sasadana (sa = with + Sadhana = exhausted, hence that which is characterized by exhausted faith). This Gunasthan represents the mental state of the soul in the process or act of 'falling' form right faith. Its duration is momentary and does not extend beyond the time actually needed for the fast- slipping faith to be replaced by a false conviction in the mind.
(3) Misra (lit. mixed). The consciousness of the Jiva in this stage is characterized by a hovering between certainty and doubt as to the word of Faith.
This Gunasthan also marks a state of back-sliding from Right Faith, in the first instance, since faith and Mithyatva can become combined in the consciousness of him alone who has already evolved out proper convictions.
(4) Avirati - Samyagdrishti. When the doubts of an individual have been removed by meditation or the instruction of a guru (preceptor), he passes on to this stage, and becomes a Samyagdrishti (true believer); but as he is not yet able to observe any of the vows enjoined on a layman, he is still described as Avirati (a= not + virta = a vow). This stage arises when the seven prakriti already named have been wholly or partially subdued or destroyed, and denotes the acquisition of Right Faith. Anger, pride, deceit and greed of the Apratyakhyana type may be subdued here.
(5) Desavirata (desa = partial + vrata = vow). The soul now begins to observe some of the rules of Right Conduct with a view to perfect itself. The Pratyakhyana type of passions (kasha's) may be controlled in this stage.
(6) Pramatta vrata (slightly imperfect vows). The aharaka Shareer prakriti (No. 60) becomes nascent at this stage which is the first step of life as a Muni.
(7) Apramatta vrata (perfect observance of vows). The conduct of the Muni (ascetic) in this stage is marked by the absence of Pramad (negligence).
(8) Apurva karana (Apurva = new + karana = thoughts or mental stages). The conduct being perfect, so far as the observance of vows is concerned, the Jiva now applies himself to holy meditation (Sukla Dhyana.) Some of the no- kasayas got rid of in this stage.
(9) Anivritti karana (advanced thought activity). This is a more advanced stage than the preceding one.
(10) Sukshma sampraya (sukshma = very slight + sampraya = conflict, hence struggle to control the kasayas or delusion). Only the slightest form of greed, which is also fully under control, remains to be eradicated in this stage.
(11) Upasanta Moha (Upasanta, from upasama = quiescence + Moha = delusion). This stage arises from the subsidence of the energies of the Mohaniya karma.
(12) Kshina Moha (destruction of delusion). Complete eradication of the Mohaniya karma is the chief characteristic of this stage. It should be pointed out here that the path bifurcates at the end of the seventh stage, one route lying along what is known as upasama sreni (upasama = subsided or quiescent, and sreni = flight of steps, hence ascent) and the other along the kshayaka (eradication). The former path finds its culmination in the eleventh stage, that is the total suppression, but not destruction, of the Mohaniya karmas; but the other which is trodden by those who are not content with the mere subsidence of karmic energies, and who, rejecting half measures, proceed by destroying the 'enemy' once for all and for ever, is the high road to Nirvana. Those who follow it pass directly from the tenth to the twelfth stage, and, acquiring omniscience as the reward of their unyielding, unflinching asceticism, reach the Supreme Seat. The saint who reaches the Upasanta Moha stage falls back to a lower one, and keeps on travelling backwards and forwards between the first and the eleventh station on the line till he is able to gird up his loins to tread the more trying and difficult kshayaka path.
(13) Sayoga kevali (sa = with, yoga, the three channels of activity, i.e., mind, speech and body, and kevali = omniscient). This is the stage of Jivana Mukti, characterized by the total destruction of the four kinds of Ghatia karmas, but indicating the association with the physical body due to the operation of certain Aghatia prakriti. Those who evolve out the Tirthankara prakriti become the Master (Tirthankara) who reveals the true Dharma (religion). Surrounded by Devas and men who hie from all quarters to offer Him devotion, the Tirthankara explains the truth in the divine anakshari * language, which is interpreted into popular speech, for the benefit of the masses, by an advanced disciple and Muni called Ganadhara.
(*It is somewhat difficult to give an exact description of the anakshari speech; it consists of the powerful, audible vibrations of the Tirthankaras will become omnipotent by the destruction of the Ghatia karmas. These vibrations impinge on the mind of the congregation in a manner akin to the process of thought-transference of the telepathic type, and are at the time heard by all who understand them in their own tongues. Subsequently they are translated into popular speech and constitute what is called Agama (Scripture). The ordinary mode of conversation is not possible for the Tirthankara on account of the changes wrought by Tapa in His organs of speech.) The truth thus known is called sruti (revelation), or Sruta Jnana, and its absolute accuracy is guaranteed by the faculty of omniscience which does not come into manifestation so long as there remains the least trace of any of the energies of the Mohaniya karma.
(14) Ayoga kevali (Ayoga, without mind, speech and body, and kevali, omniscient). This is the last stage on the Path, and is followed by the soul's ascent to Nirvana on the exhaustion of the Aghatia karmas. The Jiva who passes this stage is called Siddha. He has now become fully established in Right Faith, Right Knowledge and Right Conduct, and is freed from all kinds of karmic impurities and bonds, which had hitherto held him in captivity. No longer subject to the de-pressing influence of matter. He rises up immediately to the topmost part of the universe to reside there, for ever, in the enjoyment of all those divine attributes, which many of us have never even dreamt of. A conqueror in the true sense of the word, He now enjoys, to the full, the fruit of His unflinching fight with His own lower nature. Pure intelligence in essence, He now becomes an embodiment of knowledge by bursting His bounds. Thus, what some people consider to be a stultification of character is really the acquisition of such godly qualities as perfect discernment or faith, infinite knowledge, inexhaustible power and pure non-abating joy. The Ideal of absolute Perfection, the Siddha becomes the object of worship for all the Bhavya (those who have the potentiality to attain Nirvana) Jivas in the three worlds; and what language can describe the glory of that Siddha Atma, the mere contemplation of whose worshipful feet is sufficient to destroy all kinds of karmas of His Bhaktas (devotees)?
To revert to the subject under consideration, it will be observed that the arrangement of the Gunasthan is based not upon any artificial division of the 'path', but upon the natural effects observable in the being who takes himself scientifically in hand to control his destiny. No serious student of religion stands in need of being told that of all kinds of Tapa the Antaranga is the principal cause of emancipation, though the physical control of the bodily functions and organs is also necessary for bringing the wandering Manas (the organ of desires) under subjection. It follows from this that the best results can only flow from a system which scientifically deals with the subject of internal Tapa, and that no method which ignores or minimizes the importance of this most important department of self- training can ever be relied upon as a means for escape from the bondage of karmas. Applying these observations to the non-Jaina systems of Tapa (yoga), it can be seen at a glance that none of them is possessed of that scientific validity which alone can be depended upon for the realization of the ideal in view. Indeed, almost all of them in the end leave the aspiring soul in the greatest uncertainty as to the effect of the practices enjoined and the exercises laid down by them; and even the more perfected systems of Hindu yoga-- Jnana yoga, raja yoga, Bhakti yoga, Hatha yoga and karma yoga- -do little more than point out the direction in which lies the way out of the samsara, intersected by paths that certainly do not lead to Nirvana, but only to the four Gatis, or conditions, of life. That the unwary traveler needs something more than a mere indication of the direction to pick out the right track is a matter which is not open to dispute; and the importance of accurate scientific knowledge is an absolute necessity where a single false step might prove one's undoing. The Jaina Siddhanta has throughout kept these principles in view in its schematic arrangement of the stages on the journey, and the intelligent tyro is merely required to make himself familiar with the nature of the karma prakriti to know precisely what to do at any particular moment of time in the course of his onward progress on the Path.
To understand the philosophy underlying the arrangement of the Gunasthan, it is necessary to bear in mind the fact that the attainment of every ideal requires:
(i) The determination to know the precise truth, i.e., the proper attitude of inquiry.
(ii) Exact knowledge of the thing to be attained, together with a steady, unchanging belief, or faith, in the possibility of its attainment, and
(iii) Exertion in the right direction, that is the proper conduct.
To put the same thing in the language of the Jaina Siddhanta, Right Faith, Right Knowledge, and Right Conduct are the three jewels, which enable their possessor to enter into the holy Abode of Gods. Of these three, Right Faith*(Samyag darshan) precedes Right Knowledge, (Samyag gyan) while Right Conduct (Samyag Charitra) is a characteristic of those alone who have almost perfected themselves in wisdom and faith.
(*The word faith, it may be pointed out here, is a somewhat unsuitable equivalent for the 'Samyag darsana' of the Jaina Siddhanta, though usually employed as such. The idea underlying Samyag darsana, described as the cause of Samyag Jnana, is that of a proper insight into the nature of things which is necessary for the knowledge of truth. The man who acquires this true insight, or point of view, is characterized by an attitude of mind determined to know the precise truth at all costs, as distinguished from that which may be satisfied with half-truths, agreeable to one's preconceived or prejudiced views. This attitude would naturally give rise to right knowledge in due course of time, and would it self arise, as stated in Jaina Philosophy, on the destruction, or quiescence, or partial destruction and dispassionate judgment. These energies comprise the three kinds of anger, pride, deceit and greed (Nos. 17-19) and the anantanu Bandh type of the four kasayas, anger, pride, deceit and greed (Nos. 20-23). Thus, Samyag darsana is as much the natural attribute of the soul as Samyag Jnana, and is brought into manifestation by the destruction or loosening of the karmic bonds.
So far, however, as faith is concerned, it might signify assent to the word of another or firmness of belief. It is acquired either as the result of study or meditation, or under the influence of surroundings, as in the case of parental religion which men generally adopt without inquiry. Knowledge is, however, necessary in either case to keep it from wandering away from rationalism, for faith without knowledge is only a form of fanaticism, incipient or full fledged.
The casual connection between knowledge and faith, therefore, is to be found in the fact that rational faith pre-supposes some sort of intellectual inquiry or investigation, notwithstanding the fact that right knowledge is itself dependent on right faith. The dependence of right knowledge on right faith is evident in respect of those matters at least which fall outside the province of perception and reason; for such knowledge is a matter of testimony, and depends on the word of the Teacher, which cannot be acceptable to those who have yet to evolve out the right faith. It would thus appear that knowledge and faith are to some extent dependent on each other; knowledge leading to right faith in the first instance, and right faith giving rise to right knowledge in the end.
The dependence of right knowledge on right darsana implies that no true insight can be had into the nature of things without it. It is not to be supposed that there is no difference whatever between the knowledge of a man endowed with right faith and of him who is involved in Mithyatva. There is, no doubt, a superficial resemblance between their ideas, to some extent, but that is confined to the surface of things. For instance, they may both know consciousness to be the distinguishing feature of life, but it is the true believer alone who also knows it to be an independent reality, eternal, undying and capable of enjoying the freedom and joy of Gods. This knowledge is not shared by the other man, who is, consequently, debarred from striving to obtain the bliss and blessedness pertaining to divinity, since no one ever tries for that which he does not know or believe to be attainable, or true.) Hence, the earliest stages of the journey are necessarily those, which mark the transition from the state of settled wrong convictions to the acquisition of true faith.
The next thing to be attended to is conduct without which it is not possible to realize the ideal in view. Hence the remaining Gunasthan are the landmarks on the path of progress in respect of Right Conduct. The eight and the ninth stages are also characterized by increased meditation, hence concerned in the advancement of knowledge; but to follow the teaching of the Siddhanta on the still higher rungs of the ladder, it is necessary to remember that perfection in conduct means neither more nor less than the attainment of the state of non-desiring which is possible only with the complete eradication of all those traits which spring from desire.
Now, desire signifies greed, the immediate cause of deceitfulness. Greed also leads to pride by focusing attention on the physical personality and by augmenting the sense of agouti; and pride and greed combined give birth to anger. Thus, greed is the root of the remaining three forms of kasayas (passions) and the most difficult mental trait to be destroyed. It cannot be eradicated before the twelfth stage for this reason. Omniscience is manifested in the thirteenth stage, while the fourteenth is like an ante- room to Nirvana. For facility of reference we give the main features of the Gunasthan in the accompanying tabulated form.
Main features of the fourteen stages.
Serial Names of
Number. gunastha- Characteristics
1 Mithyatva, Gross ignorance
2 Sasadana. Vanishing Faith, i.e., the condition of mind while actually falling down from the fourth to the first stage.
3 Misra. Mixed faith and false belief.
4 Avirata- Right faith, unaccompanied by austerities
5 Desavirata Commencement of Right Conduct.
6 Pramatta. The formation of the aharaka Shareer, and observance of vows though tinged with Pramad (carelessness or laziness). This is the first stage of life as a Muni, i.e., of homelessness.
7 Apramatta. Elimination of Pramad, and partial realization of the Svabhavik Ananda, i.e., joy.
8 Apurva Noted for the new channels of karana. thought, thrown open by the purification of the mind and the quiescence of the elements of disturbance.
9 Anivritti More advanced thought-activity, i.e., meditation.
10 Sukshma Only very slight greed left to be
11 Upasanta- Quiescence of the remaining
Moha traces of greed.
12 Kshina- Desirelessness, i.e., the complete
Moha. eradication of greed, hence perfection in Right Conduct.
13 Sayoga- Omniscience, hence the perfection Right Knowledge, and the realization of the state of Jivan- Mukti, that is liberation in the embodied state. In the ease of Tirthankaras revelation also takes place in this stage.
14 Ayoga- The cessation of the activity of three yoga, i.e., the channels of Asrava. The next step takes one to Nirvana.
A glance at the above table would suffice to show that the liability to fall back to the earlier stages is completely shaken off only on reaching the state of no desire at the twelfth Gunasthan, since greed, the mother of the remaining three forms of kasha's and the root of all other minor passions and emotions, is eradicated only at the moment of stepping from the suksmasamparaya to the Kshina Moha state. Other forms of passions and emotions, such as superciliousness, envy and the like, are really the progeny of the four principal kasha's alluded to above, and have not been specifically treated for this reason; they disappear with the drying up of their respective sources. The complete eradication of greed simply means their total destruction and the full manifestation of all the divine attributes and properties of the soul, now become defied by the destruction of its Ghatia karmas.
It only remains to study the working of the diverse karma prakriti in respect to study the working of the diverse karma prakriti in respect of their engendering, fruition and elimination. Obviously, all these energies cannot become active at one and same time, since some of them are counter indicated by those of an antagonistic nature which may be in actual play, e.g., one cannot have a human and an animal body at the same time, though a human being may contract the liability to the reborn as an animal, and vice versa. Hence, bandha does not signify immediate fruition of karmas, but only the liability to undergo certain experience at some future moment of time. This liability is contracted, as already pointed out, in consequence of the fusion of spirit and matter, and remains in abeyance till it finds a suitable opportunity for its operation in consequence of the subsidence of the activity of the particular energies which hold it in check. Thus there are three different aspects of the karmic force, namely, Satta (potentiality), bandha and Udaya (rising, hence fruition or activity), which have to be taken into account in a systematic treatment of the subject. The following tabular statement will show at a glance at what stage which of the karma prakriti are engendered, rendered inactive and destroyed. If the reader would only bear in mind the fact that a karma prakriti is not necessarily destroyed when it is rendered inactive, he would not find any difficulty in studying the table, though for fuller explanation he would still have to consult such works as the Gommattasara which contains a wealth of detailed information on subject.