Socio-Spiritual Analysis of Philosophy of Karma

Posted: 19.03.2016
Updated on: 16.12.2017

The entire ancient Indian philosophical thought, right from the vedās to the modern Vedānt of Sankar, has the law of Karma as its basic foundation. If this presupposition is negated or is shown to have no logical or scientific basis for its acceptance, all Indian philosophical systems except Cārvāka philosophy become redundant. The law of Karma is not only the foundation of India's philosophy but also guides all social actions of the people of this country. The Indian moral ideas have evolved from the vedic and sramanic traditions and the Law of Karma is one of the central principles on which the entire Jain philosophy rests.

As per Jain perspective, our Karmas determine what we deserve and what we can deserve. We are responsible for what we are. Moreover, what we wish to be, we have the power to make ourselves. If our present life is the result of our past deeds, it certainly follows that our future can be produced by our present actions. For illustration: X produces Y and Y produces Z and So on. So we can assert that Z is produced by X. So the law of causation upon which the entire structure of physical and biological sciences are based, strengthens our belief in the law of karma. The law of karma in turn ultimately based on the doctrine of rebirth. It is said that when a man is born in this world, his birth may be the result of anyone of his numerous acts, or a set of acts, which may have to be fructified through several bodies. The consequence of a person's acts not being fully worked out in this life, need afuti.1re life for their consumption. The doctrine of immortality of the soul which justifies the belief in a future existence of the individual, equally justifies the pre-existence of the Law of Karma

Karma, according to Jains, is of material nature, is a matter in a subtle form, having a substantial force. It has the property of developing the effects of merit and demerit. The soul, by its dealing with the outer, becomes associated with the particles of subtle matter scattered throughout the universe. These become Karma and build up a special body called Kārmanaśarira, which does not leave the soul till its final emancipation. As per Jain view, each Karma works in such a way that every change which takes place leaves a mark on our character. It produces effects on character, disposition, instincts and tendencies of the doer. The word saṃskāra is meant for the physical, moral and mental traits with which a person is born. They form part of his personality and are borne by him in this life time and carried into a future existence. This leads us to conclude that all that exists and happens in the phenomenal world is if,. Thus, it may be said that all our miseries as well as happiness are due to our own Karmas. (the outcome our own deeds of. So, if our deeds are go09, the results are also good and they are bad they lead to bad results.

The general maxim, 'As you sow, so shall you reap', which formulates the essence of the law of Karma, has no evidence in the empirical world. If we try to look into the lives of individuals, the law is operative in its negative form. You do wrong, and still you lead a happy life. You are virtuous still your life is full of miseries. Such cases have, no doubt, been attempted to be reconciled with the law of Karma on the other grounds, especially the present one. But what is the scientific basis for the acceptance of the past life cases? Cases have been reported wherein some persons are believed to be narrating the incidents of past life. But we have not as yet found an instance which has received universal acceptance as the scientific laws. Observation and experiment are the two important steps of scientific procedure. It is on the basis of verification that scientific laws are established. Can the law of karma be verified? The analysts would surely brush aside such laws for the simple reason that they are meaningless, because this theory cannot be verified empirically. So we have no scientific evidence for the law of karma. The law of causation itself is a presumption which has not been proved conclusively. Still moral arguments adduced in support of the law of karma can at best put in the category of a postulate of morality. Not only morality but also the entire structure of Indian philosophy rests on this law of karma presumption.

All the so called Cārvākās and western thinkers don't agree and believe in this law of karma. Those semantic religions like Christianity, Islamism, and Judaism don't believe in the concept of rebirth. So it is the belief system of a person which regulates the entire actions of the human beings. The history of India also repeated the very same things during the period of British rule colonise the belief system of Indians and colonise the Indians. This tool was adopted by the Britishers and they succeeded in their goal. In the same way, what we see in the western world situations today is an effect of their belief system which can be seen in the name of over materialistic life style, highly technological progress and comfort zone attitude leading towards the problem of deficiency of natural resources, deforestation, global warming, climate change, species extinction, reactive violence and all such dis-compassionate human behaviour. They were all together bearing the fruition or consequences of their own belief system backed up by their non-belief in law of karma.

But for the Cārvākās all the orthodox systems base their views upon the Law of Karma: For them, perception is the only valid source of knowledge. Nothing is real, which is not perceptible. As soul has no existence in the philosophy of Cārvākās, they do not believe in the future life and the Law of Karma. The ideal which Cārvākās present before us is that of hedonism. It lays emphasis on the individual happiness.

The denial of soul is as absurd as to say that "my mother is barren". If there is no soul as a separate entity then body is the soul, which is contradiction in saying. By rejecting the existence of soul, Cārvākās reject the doctrine of rebirth and Karma which reduces their philosophy to escapisms. They do not care even for moral values. As they reject every other source of knowledge other than perception and all moral values of life, 'Agnosticism' and 'Escapisms' are the necessary outcome of the philosophy of Cārvākās.

The Buddhists hold that everyone in the universe is subject to the influence of cause and effect. "What is that which sets the phenomenal world into motion in order to come into existence from the unknown and again, to disappear into the unknown to reappear again, as before, without ever stopping the continuity coming and disappearing? The only answer to this is that it is due to the saṃskāras, the result of our own day-to-day actions, that the continuity of the samsāra is maintained.

According to the Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika school, our body has its source in the acts done by the person, and is the basis of pleasure and pain. The body is formed under the influence of the unseen force of destiny and is the result of the persistence of the effect of the previous acts. The birth of a being is not a mere psychological process. Uddyotakara says: The karma of the parents who have to enjoy the experiences resulting from the birth of the child, as well as the karma of the personality which has to undergo experiences in the world, both these conjointly bring about the birth of the body in the mother's womb. The connection of the soul with the body is called its birth and its separation it death. We come into the world not in entire forgetfulness, but with certain memories and habits acquired in the previous step of existence. There must be a future where we can experience the fruits of our deeds and a past to account for the differences in our lots in the present. When we exhaust all our deeds, the soul is freed from rebirth and attains emancipation. According to Vatsyayan, "the fruition of all one's acts comes about in the last birth preceding release".

In the philosophy of Sāṃkhya-yoga school, the law of Karma is assumed as a valid principle of life. They hold that our life, its character and everything are determined by it. They argue that though we do not remember our past lives, we can infer particulars about them from the tendencies of the present. These tendencies, according to them, will cease to exist on the disappearance of their cause (hetu), motive (phala), substratum (āsraya), and object (ālambana). The root cause is avidyā, though we may have other proximate causes..

Sāṃkhya's theory of satkāryavād also points out the admissibility of the Law of Karma. According to it, the effect subsists in latent in the cause. They argue for the same reason that the non-existent cannot be made existent. In the same way, our present is an outcome of our past lives and on the same logic; the future will be the result of our present lives.

Mimāṃsakās thinks attempt to prove the Law of Karma with the help of its doctrine of apurva. They say that our acts are enjoyed with a view to their fruits. There is a necessary connection between the act and its result.

Jaimini terms such unseen force, as apurva, i.e., something new, not known before. So, apurva is the metaphysical link between work and its result. According to them, man enjoy the fruits of his actions performed in the past life, here in the present by means of. In the same way, he will have to enjoy the fruits of actions performed in the present life, with the help of same apurva.

For Śankara individuality is due to Karma, which is a product of avidyā. The world, we live in, is just the return of the works of doer. The individual is working machinery intended to produce its effects in the form of suffering and happiness. Moral life is always active and is never exhausted. It takes endless forms, owing to the variety of the demands of the conditions of human life. This process goes on forever, unless perfect knowledge is gained. Perfect knowledge consumes the seed of Karma and makes rebirth impossible. Freedom from the subjection of the Law of Karma is the end of human life. To get rid of Avidya is to be freed from the Law of Karma.

Jains don't impose on anybody to have belief in this notion of karma. As Jain philosophy is basically anekantic philosophy, it do asserts and supports the contradictory notion in the light of the other infinite number of perspectives. We can manage to experience the difference in the responsible actions operated by the person having belief in this natural law of karma. The law of karma, therefore is a law, which dominates all other natural laws, but it is not a blind law. It is living and spiritual-cum-social law. We can proceed into the world of practical life where this philosophy of karma has its own socio-spiritual relevance in all spheres of human life. But in spite of the great importance accorded to the law of karma by the indologists and Indian as well as non-Indian-it has not been given a conceptual analysis which is very important from the philosophical point of view to understand the intelligibility of the doctrine of karma. Dayakrishna and Rajendra Prasad have attempted to give a conceptual analysis of the doctrine of karma. Bit in the process they have raised a number of conceptual issues which deserve a closes attention on the part of researchers. It is hoped that the study undertaken here is the extension of such a spirit. Unless we analyses the concepts of karma and karma phala and their relation to kartā, we cannot understand the doctrine of karma in a fruitful manner.

The notion of karma is conceptually connected with the notion of saṃsāra, transmigration, freedom and responsibility. In order to understand the notion of karma, a socio-spiritual analysis of the notion of saṃsāra, transmigration, freedom and responsibility is also required at which the present article aims. The objective of this article is not to ascertain the truth or falsity, validity or invalidity, of the doctrine of karma nor even to make a historical study of the different interpretations of the doctrine of karma.

Socio-Spiritual Relevance of Karma Theory

Karma and rebirth are the two most important presuppositions of all schools of Indian Philosophy with the solitary exception of the system of cārvāka. The Indian religions are intensely theistic and believe that God is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient and hence possessing absolute authority. The cārvākās were a school of total materialism and didn't believe in any metaphysical reality be it soul or God. Both Buddhism and Jainism didn't believe in God as the creator, sustainer and destroyer of this universe. They believe that the universe is anādī, without beginning and ananta, without an end. Among the systematic schools, only the Nyāya Vaiśeṣika admits God as the necessary condition for the fruition of the kārman, which remains as an unseen potency (adṛṣṭa) consisting in merit and demerit in the soul. The yoga philosophy admits God only as an object of worship or meditation, and not as an agent in the fruition of the kārman. Śaṅkara accords a provisional place to personal God in his monistic vedanta. Even Christian religion also asserts God but does not believe in the concept of rebirth. The entire ethics of Jain Philosophy is based on the strong foundation of the theory of karma. Now let us proceed to the relevance of this theory.

Change of Karma VS Doctrine of Self-effort (puruṣārthavāda)

In Jainism, the moral responsibility of each and every karma is not endorsed to the God, but it falls under the orbit of the individual self. This novel concept of moral responsibility of the individual self, which is based on the philosophy of karma can restrain the human race from blaming others for ones good or bad actions. Although it is sure and certain that bound karmās must be experienced by the self someway or the other, after the completion of the duration of karmās. As per Jain philosophy, there are two types of kārmic bondage,[1] dalika karma and nikācita karma. When the intensity of a bondage is extremely strong, it has to be suffered as it is, it cannot be mitigated. Such karmās are of nikācita nature, they can't be changed in any case.[2] The other part of dalika karmās, which occupies the maximum space in the kārmic range, is changeable. The unchangeable part of nikācita karma is very small. On the basis of that small part of unchangeable karma, we can't declare that we can't change our destiny or bound-karmās.[3] In Bhagavatī Sūtra, we get the reference of two types of vedanā (sensation) namely, evaṃbhūta and anevaṃbhūta vedanā. Evaṃbhūta means to experience the karmās as it is bound. Anevaṃbhūta means to experience the karmās with a difference. Gautam asked–Lord! Soul experiences evaṃbhūta or anevambhūta vedanā?

Mahāvīra replied–Gautam! Soul experiences both the kinds of vedanā. This reference is authentic proof of concept of change in karma.[4] So the kārmic atom of dalika type can be changed and in experiencing its fruition man is independent. One is free in experiencing the dalika karma as it is or can be made other-wise. Whereas in nikācita type of karma, all the possibilities of change, ceases in itself. Thus tīrthaṅkara Mahāvīra possessed anekāntic perspective. He didn't give absolute importance either to karma or to self-effort. He established the relativity of soul and karma.[5] If we assert that once the karmās are bound, can't be altered in any state. Then, there will be no scope of transformation through meditational practices, auto suggestions and practice of different kinds of austerities. One should not give up ones hard work or efforts by giving importance to the small range of unchangeable karmās. The philosophy of tīrthaṅkara Mahavira is the philosophy of efforts (puruṣārthavāda).

The two most important revolutionary concepts of tīrthaṅkara Mahāvīra in the context of karma theory are Udīrana (pre-maturation of karmās) and saṁkramaṇa (change of karmās). On the basis of which we can call the doctrine of karma as the doctrine of puruṣārthavāda in the words of Mahāvīra.[6] This concept of puruṣārthvāda as propounded by Mahāvīra must be understood clearly. The doctrine of karma truly speaking is a doctrine of self-effort. It is believed that puruṣārtha or human effort is essential pre-requisite for the maturing of past karmās. The Mahābhārata 136.7-8 compares past karmās to seeds which remain fruitless if they are not sown, the tilling of the soil for sowing is human effort which is essential for sown seeds to mature. This proposition is however not universally true. Birth, length of life, death and human sufferings generally has no relationship to human effort. Every soul has a right to do ātma sādhana and thereby transforming human-personality through freedom of action. The Bhagvad Gītā also emphasizes on "ātmaiva hyātmano bandhurātmaiva ripurātmanaḥ", one's own self is ones friend and ones own self is ones enemy. Hence one should lift one's self up by one's own effort. As Jain Āgama Uttarādhyayana Sūtra avers: "appā kattā vikattā ya duhāṇa ya suhāṇa ya"[7]: self or ātmā is the maker of sorrow or happiness. As compared to animals, man is endowed with the capacity to counter his pravrttis (actions) born of saṃskāras through the process of udavartana,[8] apavartana,[9] saṁkramana, [10] udīraṇā, i.e. increased realization, decreased realization and transformation, prematuration. The energy whereby the soul increases the length of duration and the intensity of fruition of a kārman this process is called increased realization. And the energy whereby the soul decreases them is called 'decreased realization'. Saṃkramaṇa means transformation of the length of duration and intensity of fruition of a kārman. There are few exceptional cases, where the concept of saṃkramaṇa does not apply. They are as follows:

a. Saṃkramaṇa (transference) always occurs in parallel prakṛti (sub-types) only but not in opposite sub-types of karmās.
b. Saṃkramaṇa never occurs in main types but always occurs in sub-types.
c. The four sub-types of life-span karma mutually don't change.
d. Likewise deluded view and deluded conduct mutually doesn't change.[11]

Pre-mature realization is the process by which a kārman is made capable of premature fruition. Thus there is an open room for changing the dalika karmās through the process of nirjara i.e. penances and tolerance of hardships etc. If there is no scope for change, then there will be no difference between the God and karma, both are once determined are unchangeable. Then there will be no scope for personal efforts of sādhanā, giving charity, observing vows, humanly behaviour, meditation, service to others etc. But through determined will power and self-effort we can change our future.

In the area of nikācita karma bhoga, experiencing the results of past actions, a man is not free, but in the area of yoga as a discipline for transformation of human personality he is free. "Restrain" or "Saṃyam" is a supreme virtue which can be observed in various ways i.e. restrain over emotions or passions, restrain over thoughts, restrain of sensual organs, restrain over ones legs, hands, words etc. are possible only in the human realm.[12] The believer of karma philosophy will always remain optimistic in his approach and accepts the existence of rebirth, heaven, hell and fruition of karmās according to ones deeds, i.e. asserts the concept of reward and punishment. Man is independent in binding new karmās as well as in shedding of the karmās. This belief acts as a remote control over ones behaviour, over ones attachment towards possessions, over ones consumable and non-consumable goods, over ones violent acts and over ones laxity and control over ones attachment and aversion. Uttarādhyayana Sūtra explains attachment and aversion is the main cause of bondage. Kundakunda explains: "Sauvarṇikampi nigalam badhanāti kālāyasam ca yathā puruṣam badhanātyevam jīvam śubhamaśubham vā kṛtam karma"[13] i.e. a shackle made of gold is as good as one made of Iron for the purpose of chaining a man. Similarly the karmās, whether good or bad equally bind a person.[14] It is quoted in Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad, akāmaḥ, a desireless person, transcends the human seed, that is overcomes rebirth and transmigration. According to Jainism, the inflow of kārmic matter, that is āsrava, is stopped by saṁvara coupled with the destruction of, or exhaustion of past karmās through nirjarā. Thus it is clear that each and every soul can get rid from bondage through positive efforts and can attain the ultimate goal of liberation. Thus karma is a doctrine of self-effort. It is not a doctrine of eternal damnation of a sinner in hell for one-time sin committed by him, which is so eloquently and powerfully expressed by John Banyan: "one leak will sink a ship and one sin will destroy the sinner". The karma doctrine offers prospects of redemption, change of attitude, change of ones habits, change of ones nature through disciplined conduct and atonement. Impartial justice in the heart of society can be established automatically through the law of karma.

Ācārya Mahāprajña says, there is a great mystery of science hidden behind the theory of karma. The person who wants to establish good destiny, must concentrate on the main sources of purushārtha i.e. mind, body and speech activities, which work only after the destruction of antarāya karma. Tīrthaṅkara Mahāvīra showed the great path of establishing ones bright destiny through the practices of mental, vocal and physical inhibitions. Moreover Ācārya Mahāprajña says that kuśala mana, kuśala vāṇi and kuśala karma is a cause of establishing good fortune.[15] It is a tenet in Jainism that man alone is responsible for his own condition of weal or woe. He is the architect of his own destiny. It is the result of the reciprocal interaction between himself and the rest of the world.

Doctrine of Karma and Non-transference of Merit

Jainism is the only religion which didn't countenance the concept of puṇyadāna. Puṇya is not treated as dātavya, the thing given. The Jain thinkers believe the concept of karma as being material in character.[16] There is influx of karmās into the soul on account of performance of karmās and the same could be purged (nirjarā) by appropriate but there could be no question of transfer of karma as accepted in smṛtis, purāṇs and vedās. The sharing, inheritance or transfer of evil karmās is contrary to the doctrine of karmās, which postulates an exclusively personal responsibility for good and evil karma. But we find traces of the belief in sharing, inheritance, and transfer of evil karma in early literature like Ṛgveda, Atharvaveda.

The problem of mass or collective suffering such as due to natural cala3mities like draught, floods, earthquakes etc. was also explained as the consequence of the misdeeds of the ruler. The Buddha says that when kings are evil minded, his ministers become likewise; in consequence the rhythm of the seasons is disturbed, rain winds occur out of time and crops are poor, people suffer from sickness.[17] The Mahābhārata[18] attributes the natural calamities to the sins of the ruler. This was supported by the Manu[19] that a king who fails to do his duty of protection towards the subject shares, one-sixth of the sins of his subjects, whereas the doctrine of karma which strongly emphasizes the element of personal responsibility for actions that each person enjoys and suffers the consequences of his own acts and there is no transference of merit. Nobody can share ones suffering and pleasure according to the theory of karma. Neither his kinsmen, nor his friends, nor his sons, nor his relations will share his suffering; he alone has to bear it; for the kārman follows the doer.[20] Nearest or dearest whosoever it is, nobody can share or transfer ones deeds to others as per Jainism.

Lord Mahāvira, in Uttaradhyana Sūtra rightly discussed that appākattā vikattāya, duhāṇa ya suhāṇaya.Soul experiences joy and sorrow according to one's own karma. If there is no law of karma, it means a complete abrogation of the law of karma by permitting an evil-doer to escape the consequences of his misdeeds by transferring the same to someone else and thereby make an innocent person suffer for the same. So Milindapañha 295-296 says emphatically, "An evil deed, O king, cannot be shared with one who has not done it, has not consented to do it. Well, O King, so is it that a good deed can be shared but not an evil one. "It is not the case. The idea of sharing and inheritance of evil as embodied in the Ṛg-veda and Atharva veda and Mahābhārata represents ideas of a stage prior to the formulation and universal acceptance of the classical doctrine of karma which strongly emphasizes the element of personal responsibility for actions.

Law of Personal Responsibility

The main difference between the acceptance of God and theory of karma is that in case of God, moral responsibility of an individual is transformed to the almighty God and on the other hand, theory of karma places a strong foundation and endorses moral responsibility of each and every action to oneself. The doctrine of karma is a revolutionary development which endowed man with free will, made him responsible for his own acts and the architect of his destiny. The doctrine of karma is a doctrine of personal responsibility for a man's entire actions. So each man is responsible for his own actions and he alone has to bear their consequences. It made him self-centred but not selfish. It is also an essential feature of the doctrine that a person must do well and avoid evil. He must not cause injury to various forms of life as, such acts produce demerit; likewise, he must do good to all beings to earn merit (puṇya) which will ensure rebirth in higher forms of existence and bring happiness. Thus, the doctrine of karma provided strong motivation not to act exclusively for personal benefit and disregard to the interests of his fellow beings. The graph of morality will be increased to the highest extent and an individual will not always stick to the materialistic objects leading a luxurious life and there will be a balance between spirituality and materiality.

The belief in the theory of karma can establish a society bereft of corruption, adulteration, terrorism, mal-practices, incidents of rapes, cruel behaviour with the animals and the employers etc. The members of society who believe in karma can never exploit the rights of others and can help in building an eco-friendly life on the earth. The cruel behaviour resulting through selfish urge in case of dowry, medical experiments causing environmental pollution, mismeasurement and mixing harmful materials in the milk products used for the babies etc. can also be avoided. Jainism asserts that one who tortures and kills other beings, who strives in an extra-ordinary manner after possessions and who is governed by life long passions, obtains naraka āyuṣya (infernal life). The deceitful, the fraudulent man, who is in possession of the thorns, binds tiryunca āyuṣya (non-human life), the humble, sincere one, whose passion is slight, manuṣya āyuṣya (human life).[21] The belief in the above statements of canons can restrain the entire act of an individual. The Ācārāṅga Sūtra cites, kārmic bondage occurs when the actions are done in the wake of non-vigilance. Thus the karma incurred due to non-vigilance is uprooted by means of vigilance (self-awareness).[22]

Theory of Ātmakartṛtvavāda

A man has, at his disposal, three means to perform any activity, mind, speech and body. Activities may be good or evil. If mind, body and speech are themselves good, the activity will also be good, and if they are vitiated, the activity will also be evil. Thus it is clear that result of the three fold activity is the cause of new bondage. So according to Jainism, your soul is responsible for both good and evil kārmic bondage. It creates both pain and pleasures for itself. Neither God nor anybody else nor any object is responsible for them. Thus Mahāvīra propounded the concept of ātmakartṛtvavāda (theory of creation by the self).[23] In matters of pleasure and pain, the worldly soul is solely responsible for them, as self does all its actions consciously and automatically encouragement to moral values in life occurs. This is the greatest relevance of karma theory that crimes and punishments can be kept under control in the society.

Jainism believes that puruṣārtha is the key factor, through which a man can transform himself.[24] It means, puruṣa (soul) is neither a toy in the hands of niyati (universal law) or bhāgya (fate), nor even everything is controlled by karma. It is the puruṣārtha that builds the system of karma. One should be very clear about the limitations of the power of karma or niyati. Some people say, "Whatever is destined in bhāgya (fate) is bound to happen." Jainism however does not conform to such absolutistic statements. If we enthrone karma or bhāgya i.e. fate of destiny on the seat of God, then what is sense in denying the theist conviction that man is not a mere puppet in the hands of God or almighty? As cited in the Uttrājjayaṇāṇi, my own self is the doer and undoer of misery and happiness; my own self, friend and foe, according as I act well or badly.[25] Therefore, it would be absolutely wrong to believe that karma is everything or whole and sole. Karma is not the universal sovereign. Man can change ones destiny through efforts.


Equanimity in Bearing Karmās Leading to Liberation

Self, in its dynamic march through worldly lives is constantly earning and shedding karmās. It earns further kārmic bondages even while suffering the fruits of the past karmās, if it does not suffer the said fruits with equanimity and objectivity. A person, who passes through some calamity-mental or physical grumbles against his fate, loses temper and commits acts of indiscretion and violence with a view to avoid the uncomfortable circumstances in which he is placed. Another man who is passing through a period of prosperity or is invested with some power over his fellow men, he while enjoying this prosperity and power, he commits of acts of indiscretion and violence. Both these persons are reaping the fruits of their past or present karmās but while doing so, they are creating fresh bondages by their acts of indiscretion and violence. Even acceptance of fruits of good and bad karmās with over joy or sorrow disturbs the mental equilibrium and results in fresh bondage of karmās.


Therefore, the ideal way to face the fruits of ones karmās is to face them calmly, objectively and peacefully with full equanimity of mind. If you are oppressed with pains, treat the occasion with equanimity and understanding, thinking within yourself that it is a good opportunity to shed your karmās, which have been of your own creation out of some ignorance. If you are passing through a period of pleasure, thank the scheme of universe which has not failed to reward your good actions of the past, and be prepared to do further good without any strings of desires attached to it. One should constantly remember that pleasure and pain are the inseparable constituents of life and the true art of living consists in learning to bear with equanimity and understanding. If this is done, no fresh kārmic bondages are evolved while reaping the fruits of our past karmās.[26]

Thus it can be concluded that in the context of Jain ethics, doctrine of karma is as important as the theory of cause and effect in the field of science. Thus the doctrine of karma is based on certain fundamental postulates:

(i) It is a law of personal responsibility; the doer himself must bear the consequences of his actions. This liability cannot be shifted. If a person escapes human retribution, he must face 'divine' retribution. The unexhausted karmās have to be experienced by the doer in his subsequent life or rebirth. The very belief in this karma theory restrains each and every action of the human conduct. Moral conduct of an individual is the cause of moral conduct of the society. So it can be said that peaceful co-existence, law and order in the society can be maintained through the faith in the law of karma in this L.P.G. era.

(ii) There is inequality and sufferings in life, the doctrine of karma is evolved as a parallel to and on the pattern of the general law of causation, cause and effect, which we notice in the physical universe. The doctrine of karma seeks to explain these phenomena in a "rational" manner, that they are not the result of blind functioning of the universe, an arbitrary fate. Hence, the doctrine is based on the maxim, 'As you sow, so shall you reap'. The inequality and suffering, which a man has to face or undergo, is nothing but the consequences of his own earlier acts. It is a law of retributive justice. Thus it is the doctrine of karma, which makes the world of sentient creation morally intelligible. There is no escape from the consequences of karmās in case of nikācita karmās.[27]

(iii) The doctrine of karma extended the causal law to the moral realm. It held that good and evil deeds have a necessary causal connection with the experience of happiness and unhappiness. Since this is intended in a more than psychological sense there was obviously need for a mediating agency which would connect karma with its result which might be separated from it widely in time and space. Brahmanical system tended to postulate God as the agency, which rewards or punishes good and evil deeds. Jainism, like Buddhism, however attributed an unseen power to kārman itself, which brought about its result at the appropriate time. One implication of this doctrine is that the distinction of good and evil must be held to be objective and independent of subjective relativity.[28]

(iv) Another implication is that action must be held to create an unconscious and persistent force which remaining connected with the psyche of the agent and has the capacity of directing it into situations appropriate to its own fruition and controlling the affective reactions of the experiences arising form such situations.

(v) The doctrine of karma is useful in keeping mental equanimity in good and bad times and in receiving urge from within for performing good acts. He never become arrogant in the days of his happiness and good fortune, nor does he become downcast and depressed in the days of his miseries and misfortune.[29] But he remains calm and composed and maintains balance of mind at all times favourable and adverse, because he knows that all the circumstances and situations that arise in man's life are but plays of karma. He is convinced of the fact that by force of good works, man can overcome difficulties and remove miseries as also that he can make his life more and more happy by advancing on the path of righteousness. By doing so, man makes himself permanently happy and at the same time attains higher and higher stages of spiritual evolution and consequently attains liberation lying beyond the duality of good and evil.

(vi) The importance of human effort is emphasized by Mahāvīra, which rules supreme in Jainism. According to him, a man should lift his soul by his own efforts. He says, "The soul is the begetter of both happiness and sorrow, it is its own friend when it treads the path of righteousness and is its own enemy when it treads the forbidden path.[30] The prerequisite to the path of righteousness is to conquer the four passions, viz., anger, pride, deceit and greed and the five sense organs. He says conquer anger by forgiveness, pride by humility deceit by straight forwardness and greed by contentment.[31] According to Mahāvīra, conquering one's own self is the most difficult thing in the world. He says, Victory over one's self is greater than conquering thousands and thousands of enemies on the battle-field. A true conqueror is one who conquers his own self.[32]


In short, doctrine of moral causation inspires optimism and makes man the master of his own destiny. It teaches man to remain always engaged in good works and to perform ones duties well. The doctrine of karma has the message for man that he can attain fortunes by good works. It is in his own hands to shape his own good or bad destiny and consequently to experience their good or bad fruits. Practice of righteousness, influence his karma, in accordance with their intensity, he can alter his karma, transform the bad karmās into the good and almost destroy it. No karma lasts forever. On the expiry of its time limit, it is destroyed and with its end, ends its fruition. This is the reason why the wise remains continuously engaged in the activity of creating good destiny in order to perpetuate forever their good state. By doing so man makes himself permanently happy and at the same time attains higher and higher stages of spiritual development. Thus Mahāprajña states that karmavāda is a powerful tool to root out the wide spread immorality. It is neither an escapist theory nor it calls for modify resignation, its actual, deep and practical meaning is to employ our efforts to our present and future for the better.[33]



Original Texts

Aṅguttara Nikāya. Ed. Bhikkhu J. Kashyap. Pali Publication Board. Bihar: Motilal Banārasidass.1960.

Ācārāṅga Sūtra.Ed. Yuvācārya Mishrimalji 'Madhukar'. With original Text, Hindi version, Notes, Annotation and Appendices. Beawar: Shri Āgam Prakashan Samiti.1998.

Daśvaikālika Sūtra. Ed. Mishrimalji Maharaj. Beawar: Āgam Prakāshan Samiti.1991.

Gommatsāra (Karmakāṇḍa) of Nemichandra Siddhānta Chakravarti. Ed. Manoharlalji Shastri. With Sanskrit Renderings and Hindi Translation. Agās: Shrimad Rājchandra Āshram.1986.

Maṇḍūkyopaniṣad..Gorakhpur: Geeta Press, v.s. 2026.

Samayasāra of Kundakundācārya. Ed. Ācārya Vidyāsāgar. Ajmer: Digambar Jain Samiti.3rd edn. 1994.

Bhagavaī Viāhapaṇṇattī. Ed. Mahāprajña, with Prakrit Text, Sanskrit renderings, Hindi translation and Critical annotations. Ladnun: Jain Vishva Bharati Institute.Vol. I, II, III.1994.

Uttarādhyayana Sūtra. Ed. Muni Mishrimalji Maharaj.Trans. Muni Rajendra. Beawar: Āgam Prakāshan Samiti.1991.

Bhagvad Gītā. Geeta Press,Delhi,1992.

Viśeṣāvaśyaka Bhāṣya of Jinabhadra Gaṇī. Ed. Dalsukha Malavaniya and Bechardasji, Lal Bhai Dalpatabhai. Ahmedabad: Bhārtīya Samskṛti Vidyāmandir. Vol.-I, 1968.

Mahābhārata of Vedavyas. Ed. Sukthankar V.S. and S.K. Belvalkar. Poona: Bhandārkar Oriental Research Institute.1954.

Karma Prakṛti of Nemicandra. Ed. Hiralal Shastri, Bhāratīya Jñānpītha.1964.

Karma Prakṛti with cūrṇi and the commentaries of Malayagiri and Upādhyāya Yaśovijaya (1937)

Manusmṛti, Ed., Hargovinda Shastri, Varanasi: Coukhambha Samskrit Samsthan,V.S.2062.

Thāṇaṁ. Ed. Muni Nathmal. With Prakrit text, Sanskrit Rendering and Hindi version with notes. Ladnun: Jain Vishva Bhāratī.1976.


Secondary Books

Jain Darśan kā Samyak Darśan, Ādarsh Sāhitya Sangha, Curu, 2004,

Ācārya Mahāprajña, Philosophical Foundations of Jainism, Ādarsh Sāhitya Sangha, Delhi, 2000

Ācārya Mahāprajña, Jain Darśana: Manan Aur Mīmāṁsā, Ādarsh Sahitya Sangha, Curu, 1995

G.C. Pande, Lectures on Jainism. Delhi: Delhi University Press.1977.

Jain Philosophy and Religion, Eng. Trans. Of Jain 'darśana' by Muni Nyāyvijayaji, trans. by Nagin Galera, Mahavira Raj. Vijñāna ke Āloka mein Jaina Dharma.Pune: Shri Prakashan.2007.

Galera, M.R. Jain Vidya Aur Vigyan. Ed. Sadhvi Rajeemati, Samani Mangalprajna. Ladnun: Jain Vishva Bharati Institute.2005.

Mehta, T.V. The Path of Arhat. Varanasi: Parsvanatha Sodhapitha.1993.

Yuvaraj Krishan.The Doctrine of Karma. Delhi: Motilal Banarasi Dass.1997,  

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