Asrava signifies the influx of matter into the constitution of a soul. As Moksha cannot be attained without the removal of the last particle of matter from the soul, knowledge of the process which causes the inflow of fresh matter and of the means to check it with is a necessity which cannot be exaggerated.
Every action that is performed by living being in the samsara is always in relation to some kind of matter. Whether we enter into intercourse with the outside world through the media of senses, or indulge in mental or moral speculation in the seclusion of our private apartments, or carry on any other kind of activity, in each and every instance we only traffic in matter some of which is being constantly absorbed by the soul. Even when fresh matter does not come from outside, there is always a sufficient amount of it present in the physical organism itself to be absorbed by the soul. Every action opens the door to certain kinds of particles of matter, which may immediately enter into union with the soul, and modify the structures of its two invisible bodies, the Karman and the taijasa. This is the case generally with all kinds of actions. Even when meritorious deeds, short of the natural functioning of pure spirit, are performed, there is no stoppage of the process of the karmic influx; only the soul then assimilates particles of matter whose fruit is pleasant, instead of those, which bear evil consequences. For the difference between virtue and vice is precisely the same as that between a gold and an iron chain; they both tend to prolong the bondage of the soul though in one case it is not quite unpleasant, while in the other it may be, and, in the worst cases, actually is, intolerable. The natural functioning (self-contemplation) of pure spirit differs from Punya (virtue) in so far that while the exercising of the functions of pure spirit does not imply the negativity of the soul in the least degree, and, therefore, is unaccompanied by the Asrava of matter, virtuous actions are only calculated to render captivity pleasant and agreeable to the soul. Thus, virtue is as much a cause of bondage as vice from the stand-point of him, who aspires for perfect liberation.
Certain types of mental attitude strikingly demonstrate the operation and effect of Asrava on the soul. Such, for instance, is the case with mental depression when the soul is literally weighted down by a kind of sukshma (fine) particles of matter. The same is the case with excessive grief, a general tendency towards pessimism, and the like. What seems to happen in such cases is that certain kinds of feelings weaken the intensity of the rhythm of the soul, exposing it to the influx of the particles of matter from its physical organism itself. As an oily surface soon becomes covered over with dust, so does the soul attract to itself and is depressed (from pre-down, and pressum to press) by a large number of particles of matter from within its own outer encasement of flesh. It is to be borne in mind that the soul's association with the outer body of gross matter is not of the same type as that with the Karman Shareer, for while it becomes intimately fused with the particles of finer matter of which that subtle body is made, there is no such fusion in the case of the gross body. The idea of the association of the soul with its three bodies may be partially grasped by likening it to oxygen and the matter of the Karman sarira to hydrogen which combine together to form water. If we now throw some coloring matter into the liquid, formed by the fusion of hydrogen and oxygen, we should have an idea of the form of the taijasa Shareer. The position occupied by these two bodies in relation to that of gross matter is something like that which comes into existence by holding the volume, or mass, of colored liquid in a sponge, so that the liquid saturates every portion of the sponge without actually becoming fused or united with it. There is, however, this important, distinction to be drawn between the sponge and the physical organism that while the former is an independent article, the latter is only organized by the soul which is to become en-soul in it.
To return to the influx of matter into the soul, the idea of Asrava through the senses can be easily understood if we put ourselves the question: who feels the sensations of taste, smell, color, touch and sound which are received through sense-organs? Is it, for instance, the tongue that enjoys the relish of food, or the soul? Obviously the soul; for if its attention is exclusively engaged elsewhere it is not only not conscious of the taste of food but may also fail to take conscious cognizance of the quality of eatable put before it. It follows from this that while the bulk food passes into the stomach through the gullet, some finer particles of its relish reach the soul through the glands of taste and the nerves connected with them, enabling it to feel and enjoy the taste of each morsel. Hence, when these relish-particles do not come in contact with the soul it is not cognizant of their presence. The same is the case with the feelings of pain and pleasure and with the bodily sensations in general; these, too, are not felt if the mind is busy elsewhere. These facts unmistakably point to some kind of material Asrava with every sensation and feeling. The same conclusion is to be arrived at by a study of certain kinds of mental states, for the process of controlling such passions as anger, greed, and the like, clearly points to the exertion of will on some kind of matter, while their complete eradication means neither more or less than a complete annihilation of their causes, i.e., the freedom of mind from some kind of foreign material whose presence was responsible for their existence and recurring recrudescence. Whether we regard our passions and emotions as the states of our consciousness or as so many kinds of rhythms of the soul, or in any other way, it is certain that a simple substance like the soul or consciousness can never, by itself, be the basis of so many different kinds of states of rhythms some of which are undoubtedly antagonistic to one another. Hatred and love both, for instance, cannot be the natural functions of the soul, so that if the latter be the normal state of our consciousness, the former must owe its existence to something else. Matter, the only other substance which enters into interaction with the soul, then, is the substance whose influence is responsible for the abnormal types of emotions and passions. Its fusion with spirit gives rise to disposition, and renders the soul liable to experience different kinds of affections according to the varying circumstances of life. The two opposite types of feelings known as de-light (literally, intense lightness) and depression (mental 'heaviness'), also furnish strong evidence in support of Asrava, for the former conveys the idea of the removal of a kind of weight from the soul, while its antithesis, the latter, implies the imposition of some sort of burden on it. Hence, if our language is to be true to nature, we must acknowledge that it is not purely the weight of words, ideas or circumstances which makes us experience the unpleasant feeling known as depression of spirits, nor the cessation or removal there of which serves as an occasion for delight.
The truth is that when the soul becomes negative in consequence of some ungratified desire, it is exposed to the Asrava of matter in a marked degree, and, consequently, feels de-pressed in the literal sense of the word. Similarly, when its desires are gratified, or voluntarily abandoned, its condition of negativity comes to an end, and some of the particles of matter, which had flowed in on account of the slackening of the intensity of the rhythm of life, are mechanically dispersed, giving rise to the feeling of de- light.
As a result of the foregoing discussion, it may be stated that Asrava always signifies the influx of matter into the substance of the soul, and that the soul remains subject to it so long as the rhythm of life remains slackened by the attitude of receptivity,. This is due to the influence of desires for material thing, for the soul is perfection itself in its natural purity, but the entertainment of desires leads it to depend on the objects thereof, throwing it into an attitude of expectancy and uneasiness. Pure intelligence by nature, the Jiva is affected by its beliefs, so that the expectation of joy, comfort or help from outside itself instantly impairs its natural buoyancy and strength. It is this condition of expectancy, which may be called receptivity or negativity. This harmful attitude, as stated before, is forced on the soul in consequence of its desires for intercourse with, and traffic in, matter from which it expects to derive pleasure, or joy, in some form or other. In reality, however, the soul is perfect and blissful by nature, so that its desires for the enjoyment of matter only betray its ignorance of its own true natural perfection. Thus, any kind of activity, physical, mental or moral, is a cause of Asrava, no exception being made even in the case of actions performed carelessly, since they point to the presence of an attitude of carelessness which is quite incompatible with self-consciousness.
The causes of Asrava may now be enumerated categorically. They are:--
(1) Mithyatv, i.e., wrong belief or faith
(2) Avirati, i.e. moral failings,
(3) Pramad, i.e., negligent conduct, or lack of control,
(4) Kashaya, or passions, and
(5) Yoga, or the general channels of inflow.
Of these, the first class consists of five kinds of mithyatv, namely,
(i) One-sided absolutism, which insists on the absolute accuracy of knowledge obtained from one point of view alone;
(ii) Untrue attribution of a quality to a being or thing;
(iii) Entertainment of doubt about the truth;
(iv) Failure to distinguish between right and wrong; and
(v) The notion that all religions are equally true.
The second division includes:
(i) Hinsa, that is, injuring another by thought, word or deed,
(ii) Falsehood or perjury,
(iv) No chastity, and
(v) Attachment to things of the world.
The third category comprises:
(i) Reprehensible discourse about the king, state, women and food,
(iii) Mild kind of passions,
(iv) Sleep, and
The kasha's include four different types of anger, pride, deceitfulness and greed, and nine minor blemishes (no- kasayas), namely, joking, attachment or live, aversion or hatred, grief, fear, disgust and the three kinds of sexual passion peculiar to the three sexes, the male, the female and the neuter. The four types of kasayas are:
(1) Anantanubandhi, i.e., that which prevents one's acquiring the right faith and stand in the way of true discernment;
(2) Apratyakhyana, or that which prevents the observance of even the minor vows of a house-holder;
(3) Pratyakhyana, which interferes with the observance of the vrata (vows) enjoined on a monk; and
(4) Sanjvalana, which is of a mild nature, and the last obstacle to the absolute purity of Right Conduct.
Yoga, which means a channel for the inflow of matter, is of three kinds--
(i) Manoyoga, that is, mental activity, or thought,
(ii) Kayayoga, or bodily actions, and
(iii) Vachanayoga, i.e., speech.
These are the main causes of Asrava, and, although the
subheads in this classification may be divided still further, it would serve no useful purpose to describe their minute sub-division here.