Jainism: The Eternal and Universal Path for Enlightenment: 06.1 Procedures for Purification of Soul (1)

Published: 28.09.2011
Updated: 02.07.2015

Nanāssa sārmāyaro
Knowledge is only meaningful if it can be imbibed in conduct

Mahāvrats, The Essentials, Prayers,
Yoga, Tapa, Dhyān, Auvrats, Jnān, Bhavanā, Mokṣa,
Physiological, psychological and spiritual effects

Having discussed the foundations of Jainism (Cardinal Truths), the theories of true nature of the Universe (Anekāntavād), the laws operating in the interaction of soul and matter (Karmavād) and the various milestones on the path to enlightenment (Gunsthāṇs) in the previous chapters, we now come to Kriyavad, the most important, operative part of Jainism which deals with the procedures for attaining Mokṣa. For this purpose we have to intimately know the body, mind and soul. We have discussed the soul and its powers, as much as is possible to describe in Chapter 2. The most fundamental aspects of soul are indescribable and cannot be expressed in words or thought; they can only be experienced. Mind is very complex and it is difficult to fathom it, as we see below.


Brain is part of the body but it is governed by mind. After the omnipotent soul, mind is the most powerful entity in the Universe. Mind encompasses the whole Universe in space and time. Its scope is bigger than the Universe and longer than eternity; it has a reach anywhere in space and time, past, present and future. It can project anything. Even the "God" is a projection of mind. Mind holds the key to a man's destiny. Everything starts with a thought. A thought does not come singly; it usually arises in a chain, as a train of thoughts. Thoughts create feelings which, in turn, determine attitude of a person towards others or towards events or a situation; attitude controls man's behaviour which results in action; actions accumulate in to habits of a person; habits form a man's personality and personality is what a man is, and this, in turn, shapes man's destiny. So it is said " a man is the master of his own destiny"; you become what you think.

The mind consists of three parts, the outer (conscious) mind, the inner (subconscious) mind and the superconscious mind, which is the seat of the soul. The outer mind consists of two parts, the logical mind, located on the left, and the intuitive and emotional mind, located to the right side. The subconscious mind is not fully active. Jainism and Buddhism have carried out lot of studies to understand the functioning of mind and activating the sub-conscious mind through meditation. Mind is multidimensional and always exists in excited state. It has unsurpassed multi-tasking and parallel processing capabilities. It is the one which perceives, discriminates and forms an opinion. It is discursive, dualistic, thinking and always functions with respect to external references. It desires, compares, plots, manipulates, indulges in anger, emotions like hate, love, jealousy, greed, pride etc.  Since in reality it is non-existent, all the time it is engaged in asserting, validating and confirming its existence by fragmenting, conceptualizing and accumulating experience. This ordinary mind is ceaselessly shifting and is subject to external influences, habitual tendencies and environmental conditioning. Actually, it is flickering, unstable, chaotic, confused, undisciplined, changing, repetitive and endlessly minding other's business; It is rarely concerned with the Self who is its master and does not ponder over its impermanence, death, rebirth etc.; its energy is consumed by projecting outwards. No-mind is its ground state when all these activities cease. The nature of pure mind is defined by five qualities: It is vast and boundless, like space and possesses wisdom of all compassing space. It is a perfect reflector, like a mirror, and precisely reflects whatever comes before it in all the details, without being affected in any way. This is the mirror like wisdom of mind. It possesses equalizing wisdom, meaning essentially that it is impartial and has no bias towards anything. It has wisdom of discernment implying that it can distinguish all phenomena without confusion. The mind also has all accomplishing wisdom, that is it can visualise, analyse, perfect and spontaneously comprehend everything it comes across.

In comparison, the inner mind, much more powerful than the outer mind is pure, pristine awareness, that is at once intelligent, cognizant, self-illuminating, intuitive and always awake, but it is hidden within the outer mind, obscured by mental scurry of our thoughts. The inner mind always remains untouched by change, fear or death. It is said to be the knowledge of knowledge itself. When the outer mind goes to the state of no-mind, then the infinite faculties of the inner mind come into play and can be experienced but have to be activated, to function fully. Mind is similar to a film; if one wants to project Self on it then the old exposures have to be erased, otherwise there will be no clarity and the Self will not be recognized. It is said that the mind is a bad master but is a good slave and therefore it has to be controlled.

Upon death, the brain dies but mind, which is also the repository of the memory, is attached to the soul through karmānus and it takes rebirth, according to the karmas.

As for the body, firstly we must realize that any living body is a miracle. It defies many basic laws applicable to the physical universe. Most importantly, it defies the law of entropy (measure of dis-orderliness), according to which the entropy of any physical system should always increase with time. Most physical systems on a large scale are formed as a consequence of chaos on a small scale thus apparently creating "order from disorder". A biological system is the most orderly system in the universe and is capable of further increasing orderliness, by its actions. The physicists do not consider this orderliness as violation of laws of physics but explain it by considering the biological system and its environment together as one system; whereas the entropy of the biological system decreases, that of the physical environment around it with which it interacts, increases much more, effectively increasing the net entropy of the whole system. Each cell of the body is in perfect order and the brain with its neural system is the most orderly system. Thus the biological system is capable of extracting energy from its environment. It is made possible by presence of soul or consciousness because physical body by itself cannot extract energy from the environment. This energy is infinite and by certain practices, large amount of energy can be extracted from the environment by a living being. The scope of this process is enormous and progressive. When we eat food, every cell extracts energy from it; when we breathe, every cell gets purified and energised; Then Chakras (Fig.6.2), as will be discussed later, take the body to higher level of energy, making mind more energetic and orderly and reducing its entropy. All Jain practices, in effect, are aimed at reducing the entropy, increasing the orderliness and energising the system, starting with body and then mind and then consciousness. Some of these aspects will be discussed here. This is also the basis of Tantra schools of Jainism and Buddhism. We must also note that body has inbuilt amplifiers which can be activated by practice. Physics has postulated an amplification effect known as the "butterfly effect". The butterfly effect envisages that if a butterfly flutters somewhere, the atmosphere has an enormous amplification effect which can turn it into a hurricane or a giant storm elsewhere. The same is true of the biological systems which are capable of amplifying small amount of energy they extract from the environment into an enormous source of energy, by which kundalini can be activated.


Fig. 6.2

Various chakras in the body (right) correspond to various glands (left), which can be activated by practicing various yogasans, Seven main Chakras are shown.

However, it may also be mentioned that simply understanding the concepts and theories is not enough. Bhagvān Mahāvir1 has said that unless the jnān (knowledge) is transformed into conduct (charitra), it is of no value. Although jnān is essential for guiding a person towards the right path, it is the practice which takes him towards the goal. Therefore it is necessary to follow these practices to achieve the final goal of enlightenment. One basic requirement is that these practices must not be carried out ritualistically but with an aim of purifying the soul. Rituals do not result in any progress. With this awareness, when one is practicing and even when one is not practicing, results can be achieved quickly. By practicing some of the procedures given here, it is said that one can achieve some siddhis but that should not be the aim. One should not be distracted by the attainments of siddhis, to avoid bondage with the Lobha karma, which will halt further progress. The siddhis are actually hurdles in the path of Mokṣa and should be ignored, rather than used for material or mental benefits. Bearing this condition in mind, we now turn to various Jain practices. These practices are based on three aspects: Ahimsa (non-violence), sanyam (restraint or self-discipline) and Tapa (penance).


The primary practices are the five Mahāvrats, or the great vows, essential for everyone, who wants to move on the path of salvation, to follow. These are Ahimsā, Satya, Achorya, Brahmacharya, and Aparigrah translated as non-violence, truth, non-stealing, celibacy, and minimizing one's requirements, respectively. We discuss them here in some detail.

Ahimsa (Non-violence)

Practicing non-violence is the primary requirement for attainment of salvation. The physical basis of non-violence, based on the evolution of life forms on Earth, is discussed in chapter 1. As mentioned before, all the souls are entangled with each other. Killing a jiva is essentially like killing a part of oneself. Again ahimsa should not be reduced to non-killing of living species, because that is not total non-violence; it is only the first step. Nonviolence is to be practiced at several levels. First by refraining to kill, then stop hurting, by all the three modes, mana, vachana and karma, i.e. by thought, speech and deeds, then feeling and experiencing the pain of others and then feeling and experiencing that the other is actually your own self. When your soul becomes one with other souls, experiences their pain and pleasure, is unhappy at their plight, then only true nonviolence is practiced. The highest form of non-violence, turns in to compassion when one is able to wish, as Nagarjuna, the Buddhist monk, said "may everybody's ill deeds fructify for me, and all my virtues fructify for them”.

It is said that practicing true non-violence to the ultimate extent instantly leads to manahparaya jnān.

The first and foremost implication of non-violence is vegetarianism. One must not kill just to survive. Neither it is necessary nor is it desirable. How would we humans feel if there was a superior being who kills us to eat? The same feeling, the fear of death and torture, is there in lower animals. It is a misconception that meat is essential for good health. On the contrary refraining from eating meat is good for health, which can be tested by practice. Vegetarianism has many layers of practice: To refrain from killing higher animals for food, then to avoid lower animals (fungus and yeasts) and then to refrain from eating eggs which are potential source of life, then to avoid killing plants and trees for vegetables, which are also forms of life, as was discovered by Jains much before the western world and then to eat only fruits and vegetables which fall down from trees and plants on maturity by themselves and so on. It is also a misleading concept prevalent in the society that all bacteria are bad for our health. In fact our body is a storehouse of all kinds of bacteria, good and bad, of all kinds of diseases, and we cannot survive without them. It is the balance between their population which is important for good health and that can be achieved by cleanliness and not by killing them.

Following ahimsa to its logical extreme changes life style in toto, as will be discussed later. This will include avoiding tramping on microforms oflife as one walks for example, on grass, avoiding killing water borne bacteria and breathing slowly to avoid killing of airborne jivas etc. From killing one has to transcend to the next level of avoid hurting them and then experiencing oneness with them in pain and pleasure to the ultimate level when one experiences that the self (soul) and any other life is the same.

Violence of thought and action (Himsa) binds one to several serious types of karmas but more importantly to the jnānāvarniya and darśanāvarniya karma.


Truth is the prime requirement for salvation. It should not just be interpreted as speaking the truth. Speaking truth is essential but trivial. The real meaning of this vow is continuous search for truth, which everyone has to search and find for himself. What is one's true nature? What is the ultimate truth (and goal)? Is this the true path? etc. Truth is actually woven in the universe and therefore one should examine everything around to search for truth. Jainism does not, like Shankara, assert that the world is an illusion; rather it urges one to consider it as a reality and observe it to find the ultimate truth. This provides a common ground between science and Jainism. Jainism has proposed a mode of logic based on various 'standpoints' (nayas) such as practical mode (vyavahār naya) and definitive mode (nishchaya naya). Some allotropes (paryāys) may be different from practical point of view but they all ultimately are manifestation of one basic thing. This kind of logic for the physical universe is mostly irrelevant now because physics deals with these problems in a different manner and is able to get to determine the nature of matter using various theoretical and experimental approaches.

Anekāntvād or multifacedness describes the ultimate reality. The principle of Syādvād states that every attribute is contextual and only partly true (Chapter 3). The uncertainty about complete understanding of the true nature of matter, is the only way to describe it and, according to this principle, the most certain statement one can make is that the true nature of things cannot be described with certainty.Therefore uncertainty is the only statement which is certian. This principle can be applied to the constituents of the physical universe as well as to Self. Ignoring this fact is falsehood and falsehood binds one to several types of karmas, depending on the motive, but above all, binds to jnānāvarniya karma.


Sexual energy is the main source of physical energy in the body. Brahmacharya implies that sexual energy is used for mental upliftment and physical betterment and requires that it is not wasted in trivial pleasures. In practice, Brahmacharya means non-misuse of sexual energy and avoiding sexual misconduct and lust, which is only one aspect. Actually the whole life style, daily routine and behavior should be consistent with preserving and enhancing the sexual energy to the extent possible. At the extreme level it is equated to celibacy. Abstinence is only the first of these steps. The desire for sex in thought and speech also depletes energy and should be minimised or avoided. Whereas continuous and intense concentration is required for attaining Mokṣa, any thought of sexual activities or thought acts as a distraction. The argument for observing celibacy is that one requires all the energy at his disposal to attain something as difficult as Mokṣa. Brahmacharya should thus be practiced at several levels and in a broad sense all activities of mind and body which result in depletion of energy should be avoided and activities which enhance energy at physical, mental and spiritual levels are recommended.

Indulgence in sexual activities not only depletes the much required energy for attaining Mokṣa, it binds one to Mohaniya karma.


Jainism - The Eternal and Universal Path for Enlightenment - Narendra Bhandari- jainismbook_final_28-5-2011.pdf

Edited by:
Acharya Vijay Nandi Ghosh Sūri

Published by:
Research Institute of Scientific Secrets from Indian Oriental Scriptures (RISSIOS), Ahmedabad

Online Edition 2011: HN4U


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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Achorya
  2. Ahimsa
  3. Ahimsā
  4. Anekāntavād
  5. Anekāntvād
  6. Anger
  7. Aṇuvrats
  8. Bhavanā
  9. Body
  10. Brahmacharya
  11. Brain
  12. Buddhism
  13. Celibacy
  14. Chakras
  15. Charitra
  16. Concentration
  17. Consciousness
  18. Dhyān
  19. Environment
  20. Fear
  21. Greed
  22. Gunsthāṇs
  23. Himsa
  24. Jainism
  25. Jiva
  26. Jnān
  27. Karma
  28. Karmas
  29. Kundalini
  30. Lobha
  31. Mahāvrats
  32. Mana
  33. Meditation
  34. Mohaniya
  35. Mohaniya Karma
  36. Mokṣa
  37. Naya
  38. Nayas
  39. Non-violence
  40. Nonviolence
  41. Pride
  42. Sanyam
  43. Satya
  44. Science
  45. Soul
  46. Space
  47. Syādvād
  48. Tantra
  49. Tapa
  50. Vachana
  51. Vegetarianism
  52. Violence
  53. Yoga
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