Philosophy In Jain Agams ► 05 ►KARMA MĪMĀNSĀ (DOCTRINE OF KARMA - A Critical Probe) ► Doer of Karma

Posted: 21.05.2019

The soul and the karma have a mutual relationship. Who is the pre­cursor of this relation? In other words, who is the doer of the karma? In this context, some optional concepts are presented here -

  1. Prakti is the doer of the karma
  2. Destiny (niyati) is the doer of the Karma
  3. The soul is the doer of the Karma


Sānkhya: Prakti is the Doer of the Karma

According to this first option, karma itself is the doer of the karma. There is no power other than karma which can produce karma. According to Sānkhya philosophy, karma is part of Prakti. The bondage of karma and liberation from it is due to the prakti itself. Sānkhya philosophy holds the purua (soul) as conscious, non-doer, non-transformative and only seer entity.[1] It has no activity or doingness.

Action or doingness is the characteristic of Prakti. There can be no existence of prakti in the absence of action. All that is happening in the universe is due to prakti. In the Gitā, it has been clearly mentioned that, all the activities are being enacted by the senses of a material nature without exception, but an unrealized person,  deluded by false identification of being the body, thinks that I am the doer.[2] In Sānkhya philosophy, the purua (soul) is merely the seer (sākī). It has no doingness. So, according to this philosophy, prakti is non-conscious and the doer of the karma. This means that, karma is the doer of karma.


Destiny-Doer of the Karma

Ajīvaka tradition is Niyativādī (believer in Determinism). It believes that bondage of karma occurs due to destiny. Thus notions of karmic bondage, etc. and efforts are useless. According to Determinism, karmic bondage does not occur due to the good and bad deeds. There is no role of enthusiasm, action, strength or energy etc. in karmic bondage.[3] Whatever good and bad we feel is due to the power of destiny only.


Soul - Doer of the Karma

In the Jain āgama literature, soul has been accepted as the doer of karma. Lord Mahavira was the propounder of puruārthavāda (theory of self-efforts). In this philosophy, soul gets bound to karma due to its own good and bad efforts. Karmic bondage has no relation with destiny. The soul undergoes karmic bondage through its own enthusiasm, action, strength or energy, self-exertion and self-efficiency.[4]The soul accumulates and experiences the karmas, through its own activity. Soul itself, is responsible for its own karmic bondage. Due to the good and bad activities (physical, mental and verbal) of the soul, an aggregate of infinite units of karmic vargaā get attracted, attached and get unified with the soul. It gets transformed into different varieties of karmic clusters, called as karma.[5]

Like the Sānkhya philosophy, Jainism does not accept Prakti to be the prime cause of karmic bondage. Prakti is non-conscious. Non-conscious can never be the doer. Thus, it cannot be held to be the cause of karmic bondage also. Karmas are produced by the soul, and not by a non-conscious element.[6]

Just as the soul attracts material clusters like food fit for transforming it into blood, body-organs etc. and in different forms as required. Similarly, the soul also attracts the cluster of karmic particles and transforms them into different types as required. These activities of attraction or absorption and transformation are definitely done by some conscious entity. Hence, karmic activity is due to conscious elements only. It is not due to any non-conscious substances.[7]

Doer of Karma: Transcendental and Empirical Stand point

Some Acharyas of Jain tradition have given analytic speculation, regarding the doer of karma, from a transcendental and empirical standpoint. From the transcendental stand-point, the soul cannot be the doer of dravya karmas because they are physical in nature. The conscious soul cannot be the doer of material karmas. Each substance can produce only what is inherent in ones nature and cannot produce what is not one's own nature. The soul initiates conscious transformations through karmic activities unified with one’s own nature. It cannot be the doer of material karma. Karma itself is the cause of karmas.[8] This is the transcendental standpoint of Acharya Kundakunda.

The soul is not free from karmas in worldly state, from empirical standpoint, the soul is the doer of material karmas. According to the impure transcendental standpoint, the soul is the doer of conscious karmas i.e. attachment, aversion etc., but, from the pure transcendental standpoint, it is the doer of pure conscious states like knowledge, intuition etc.[9]

According to Jain philosophy, infinite knowledge, infinite perception etc. are the inherent qualities of the soul. From pure transcendental standpoint, the soul is the doer of only such qualities. There can be no relation of the soul with the karma particles. The soul is not the doer of karma, because karma is matter. Thus, previously bound karmas are the cause for newer bondage of karmas. This view of Acharya Kundakunda has a partial similarity to the Sānkhyas view. Sānkhya philosophy also holds the material Prakti as the doer of karma. It has no relation with the conscious purua (soul).

Accumulation of Karma through Efforts

The accumulation of material particles of karma can be two fold - visrasā (natural) and prāyogika (with efforts), but the accumulation of karma takes place with efforts only. It cannot be purely an automated process.[10] Due to the three modes of actions, (mental, verbal and physical), efforts are also of three kinds. Five-sensed living beings, bind karmic bondage through all the three modes. Living beings with two, three, four senses and five sensed (beings devoid of reasoning mind) have no mental faculty. Thus, they have only two modes of action which begets karmic bondage i.e. verbal and physical. The bondage of karma in one-sensed beings takes place only through physical activities. Bondage of karma occurs through all three kinds of activities.[11] Lord Mahavir has accepted the - mental, verbal and physical activities as the cause of the bondage of karma. Living-beings in the form of a conscious doer, uses these three types of causes and gets bound with karma. Thus, it is clear that the conscious element is the doer of karma, and not the unconscious one.

Who Feels the Misery?

Gautam asked Lord Mahavira- 'Oh Lord! Does a miserable person feel misery or a non-miserable person feel misery?' Addressing his curiosity, Lord Mahavira said, only miserable people feel misery.[12] The soul free from karma never gets into the process of bondage again. The soul with previously accumulated karma alone, gets into the bondage of newer karmas.[13] If previously bound karmas are not held to be the cause of newer karmic bondages, then how can liberated souls remain unattached from karmas? Hence, only the bound gets into further bondage again. In the worldly state, the soul is with karma and such soul is always under the influence of karmic bondage. A pure soul i.e. a liberated soul never gets affected by miseries. Abhayadeva sūri has called misery as karma.[14] Karmas are the cause of miseries so, they themselves are miseries. Those who are bound with karmas are in misery and only miserable beings are attached to more misery i.e. karma.

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