Introduction To Jainism: The Systematics & Subdivision Of Karmas

Published: 30.09.2008
Updated: 30.09.2008

The Systematics Of Karma

No other thought system has elaborated the karma concept as such detail as the Jains. They have done so very systematically, dividing and subdividing and sub-subdividing karma into hundreds of types. Each subdivision can be used as a focus for meditation and for reflection against the background of the real world.

There are specific vibrations of the soul related to its mental and emotional activity, and these vibrations are the channels for the inflow of karmic matter particles for every karma we can experience, as we shall see.

The Subdivision Of Karmas

Karma which may be experienced is divided into two classes:


Destructive karmas,

which attack and affect the very nature of the soul;


Non-destructive karmas,

which do not affect the very nature of the soul, but burden it.

These two classes are each divided into in four types.

A   The four destructive karmas are:
  1. knowledge-obscuring karmas, which are subdivided into five kinds:

    1. obstructing the function of senses and mind
    2. obstructing the ability to use reasoning
    3. obstructing the ability of clairvoyance
    4. obstructing the ability to be aware of thought-forms of others
    5. obstructing the ability of omniscience.

      The first two subdivisions of each type represent karmas such as blindness, deafness, mental deficiencies, etc. The latter three show that if we were fully “healthy,” clairvoyance, perception of thoughts, and omniscience would be as normal for us as our ability to see and use the other sense perceptions, and to think and reason, according to our merits.

  2. Perception-obscuring karmas, which are of four kinds:

    1. obstructing perception by means of the eyes
    2. obstructing perception by means of other senses
    3. obstructing perception preceding clairvoyance
    4. obstructing perception associated with omniscience.
  3. Deluding karmas, of two kinds:

    1. deluding right insight, engendering false views
    2. deluding one’s conduct, preventing pure conduct (especially passions, anger, pride, deceit, greed, but also things like fear, disgust, sexual craving (male, female or herm-aphrodite)).

  4. Karmas obstructing or restricting one’s energy; and also those generating the vibrations of body, mind and speech. There are five kinds of these karmas, which result in:

    1. obstructing charity
    2. obstructing gain
    3. obstructing enjoyment of consumable things
    4. obstructing enjoyment of non-consumable things
    5. obstructing exercise of one’s capacities or power.

B    The four nondestructive karmas are:
  1. Feeling-producing karmas, of two kinds: pleasant and unpleasant feelings.

  2. Name karma; that by which a soul is identified as being a man, animal, heavenly being or hell-being; this karma determines these births and provides the appropriate body, senses, mind, sex and color. To this category we will return in the next chapter, called “Millennia before Darwin.”

  3. Life-span karma, which exactly determines the life time of the present incarnation.

  4. Family karma, which determines whether the environmental circumstances in which one is born, such as family and caste, are conducive to having a spiritual life or the opposite.

Prakrit Bharti Academy
Society for Scientific & Ethical Living
13-A, Main Malviya Nagar, Jaipur-302017
Phone: 0141 -2524827, 2520230

First Edition, 2006
ISBN No. 81-89698-09-5

Translated and revised edition of:
" Jainisme - Een introductie"

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anger
  2. Body
  3. Clairvoyance
  4. Deceit
  5. Fear
  6. Greed
  7. Karma
  8. Karmas
  9. Karmic matter
  10. Meditation
  11. Pride
  12. Soul
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