Samyag Darshan

Posted: 21.08.2008
Updated on: 02.07.2015

Many of us who have been brought up in the Jain tradition have heard the term  “Samyag Darshan (Right Perception)” or its equivalent quite often while listening to the monks or to our parents, or while reciting prayers or hymns or while reading the religious books. They all contain one central message: Until we succeed in acquiring the virtuous state called “Samyag Darshan”, there can be no liberation. In this article, I would like to discuss this unique Jain concept by answering questions such as: What is it? Why is it so important? What is the process of acquiring it? How do we know whether we have acquired it? If we have acquired it, how do we maintain and reinforce it? How does it relate to the 14 stages of spiritual elevation (gunsthanaks) outlined in Jain scriptures?

Dansan Moolo Dhammo

 

Lord Mahavir

Samyagdarshanjnānchāritrāni Mokshamārgah

 

Umaswati

Tattvārthshraddhānam Samyagdarshanam

 

Umaswati

Tuh Sammatte Laddhe….Jivā Ayayāmaram Thānam

 

Uvasaggaharam Suttam

Judging from the width and depth of thought that has been given to the subject of Samyag Darshan by Jain seers over many centuries, it is clear that they have held it in high esteem and treated it as the most important goal of human life. They have asserted very emphatically that since Samyag Darshan puts the soul on the path of liberation for the first time, it must be looked upon as a very valuable spiritual achievement. Because of its very high significance, they have described Samyag Darshan in metaphors such as dawn before sunrise, lightening, sudden glimpse of self-realization, swift flash of insight, spiritual awakening etc. and regarded it as an indicator of inner spiritual transformation. They have said that without its presence, scriptural knowledge remains merely the information in one’s memory bank; neither does this knowledge nor conduct transform into the instruments of liberation. With Samyag Darshan, knowledge becomes Samyag Jnān (Right Knowledge) leading eventually to Samyag Chāritra (Right Conduct) and finally to liberation.

 

Meaning

Samyag Darshan (synonymous with Samkit, Samyaktva, Bodhi, Samyag Drusti etc) is described as the total faith in the teachings of Tirthankaras and in the truth explained by them about the soul and the laws governing it. Samyag Darshan also means having right perception/vision of these core tenets and genuine interest in them. At the very simplest level, it means having an insight as well as conviction to recognize "truth as truth and untruth as untruth" regarding the soul and body and their true nature.

Studying the scriptures, performing rituals, and listening to the sermons are useful steps to get to the initial stage of Samyag Darshan but not sufficient. Until we have clarity about the fundamental truths and unwavering faith in what was enunciated by Jain seers, our scriptural knowledge and other religious activities provide only a limited benefit.  Once the truth is known, the vision is clear and the conviction is there, other things start falling in place. Perhaps this can be better understood through the example of a potter who has a diamond in his possession but is unaware of its worth because he is regarding it as just a stone.  When he finds out the truth about what he has, its nature and value, and believes in it, his behavior and his actions change naturally and for good. In other words, once his vision and his belief are straight and he has realized the true value, he starts doing the right things. 

In the same manner, once Samyag Drashti is obtained, one becomes clear about his goal or focus in life  (dhyeya) and then the right conduct falls in place. The clarity of “What” leads to the knowledge of "How” which in turn leads to the "right actions".

 

Stage before Samyag Darshan

The stage before the onset of Samyag Darshan is defined as Mithyatva (first gunsthanak). This stage is considered as one of darkness, soul being under the dark cloud of Darshan Mohaniya (perception eluding) karma. Under its influence, the soul remains spiritually ignorant, possesses wrong beliefs about the reality and lacks a sense of discrimination. He may be knowledgeable but acts with a distorted vision. His thoughts and actions are permeated with attachment and aversion (Rag and Dvesh) most of the time. The resulting emotions of anger, arrogance, deception, greed, etc. keep adding additional layers of karmic particles on the soul. Under this condition, the knowledge acquired or religious activities such as temple worship, rituals, charity, fasting etc. performed remain at the superficial level and does not contribute much to the spiritual advancement. Unfortunately, most of the human souls remain in this stage during their entire life span without being even aware of their deluded condition.

 

Journey from Mithyatva (First Gunsthanak) to Samyag Darshan (Fourth Gunsthanak)

At the very early stage, humility, open mindedness and receptivity to religious concepts are a must. Deep respect and faith in the preacher as well as his message, and overcoming infinitely lasting emotions/defilements (Anantānubandhi Kashāyas) are also other required prerequisites. Without these ingredients, no spark can ignite. Taking the example of Naysar, we can observe that being a son of a wood cutter, in all probability he did not have much scriptural knowledge at his first encounter with the wandering Jain monks but must have possessed these important virtues- most likely as a result of his spiritual progress in the previous lives. He displayed profound humility and respect towards the monks, listened to their sermon with a pure heart, experienced an inner change and the lightening of Samyag Darshan struck-the lightening that guided him until he became Lord Mahavir after only 26 more births.  His innocence and pure feelings (Bhava’s) proved to be an excellent fertile ground for the spiritual seed only to blossom into a full blown tree in Mahavir’s life. Although he did not realize the full potential until he became Mahavir, his first step was a turning point.  Naysar’s example proves that even when one gets a glimpse of Samyag Darshan for a short duration, he starts the beginning of an end of the journey from that auspicious moment.

Samyag Darshan is the beginning of spiritual awakening but achieving liberation is a long drawn out process for most souls and requires Samyag Darshan and Samyag Jnān to be implemented into Samyag Charitra in a perfect form. Even after the lightening strikes, the soul goes through twists and turns along the way, advancing sometimes and retracting at other times. The soul may ascend spiritually from the first to the fourth gunasthank but may fall back.  The soul loops around under the primary influence of Mithyatva Moyaniya Karmas  for many births but the power of Samyag Darshan-acquired earlier and his own self efforts-eventually propel him into the fourth stage of self realization for further progress.

In the 4th gunsthanak–also called Avirat Samkit, as the grip of Darshan Mohaniya Karmas loosens, the light of Samyag Darshan gets brighter and consciousness unfolds further. Brighter this light, faster one ascends spiritually. This light of Samyag Darshan has been classified in 3 states: (1) Aupashamik Samyaktva (2) Kshāyopashamik Samyaktva (3) Kshayik Samyaktva. When the soul suppresses his mohaniya Karmas but does not destroy them, he is considered to have acquired Aupashamik Samyaktva, meaning he has been able to change his external behavior but he is on a shaky ground because the Mohaniya Karmas are still dormant and could over-power him at any time and slide him back.

Kshayik Samyaktva at the other end of the spectrum -only possible in human life-represents a state of soul where the Darshan Mohaniya Karmas are totally destroyed and the soul moves faster towards the goal of reaching the emancipation (12th Gunsthanak). According to Jain scriptures, King Shrenik had achieved Kshayik Samyaktva during his life time. He is destined to be one of the tirthankaras in the future era, after destroying his remaining karmic particles. The 2nd state- Kshāyopashamik is a mixed and wavering state, falling somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.  At the 4th gunsthanak the soul could be in any of the first two states (rarely in the third state)-alternating back and forth for many years and then either moving up the spiritual ladder or falling back to the first gunsthanak depending upon his will power and motivation.

When a person starts making spiritual progress in the 4th stage, his behavior patterns show a remarkable change. He starts differentiating between body and soul (jiva and ajiva), becoming more introspective, staying close to his true self, showing deep interest in the spiritual matters, and begins acquiring more knowledge. As he ponders over the newly acquired knowledge, he changes his priorities, becomes detached from the superficial worldly life and begins moving away from it. He starts developing equanimity and stops reacting to the pleasant as well as unpleasant situations. He becomes a different person because he lives like a lotus-staying in the world but untouched by its dirty aspects.

 Jain masters have said that the person who possesses Samyaktva will exhibit the following attributes (virtues) the degree of which will depend upon his spiritual progress:

 

  1. Upsham: Lessened intensity of the destructive emotions of anger, arrogance, deception, greed and related other passions, AND development of divine virtues such as forgiveness, humility, honesty, & contentment, equanimity (subdued reactions to life’s problems), peace and tranquility.
  2. Samveg: Total focus on achieving liberation (Moksha) and detachment from the worldly matters.
  3. Nirveg: Disinterest in worldly affairs, genuine interest to escape the cycle of death and birth, meditative mood, self absorption.
  4. Anukampa: Compassion towards all living beings, treating every one with respect, always thinking well of others, charity work (Dravya Daya) as well engaging in activities designed to show the path of religion to the people who are not on that path (Bhav Daya).
  5. Astha (Astikya): Total and unwavering faith in the teachings of Tirthankaras. Always believing that Tirthankaras who acquired perfect knowledge (Keval Jnān) had no reason to misguide or preach the wrong path. Their only motive was to guide the souls towards the path of emancipation by sharing their knowledge and experience.

 

Two important points are worth noting:

 

  1. The sequence shown above is in the order of importance. These virtues in reality are developed in the opposite order. This means the starting point is Astha -the total faith in the teachings of tirthankars and the ending point is Upsham.

  2. The person with Samyag Darshan exhibits the above virtues-implying that Samyag Darshan is the cause and virtues are the effect. But the reverse is also true!  The efforts to develop the above virtues could also result in one acquiring Samyag Darshan.

These virtues do not manifest in their highest form until one achieves Keval Jnān. The important point to remember is that what is needed is just a humble beginning with Astha with the right attitude. Using this strong foundation as a spring board, one moves up as he perfects the other steps.

 

Steps to maintain Samyag Darshan

Jain masters have identified several ways to maintain and reinforce the virtuous state of Samyag Darshan. They have advised to resolve doubts in the teachings of Tirthanakaras soon after they arise and never to retain them.  They have further recommended to stick to one’s own religion and use interfaith exposure only to strengthen one’s own faith, avoid suspicion in the outcome of one’s efforts, and suggested not praising any Mithyatvi in public thus- albeit unintentionally- promoting his deluded path of liberation.

To reinforce Samyag Darshan, Jain sages have recommended continual self study and contemplation, participating in the religious rituals, staying in touch with monks, nuns, scholars and the like minded community members.  They have also asked them to use their wealth and talents to help the Jain community and promote JAINISM actively in the public at large.

 

Practical Suggestions to start the process

 

  • Since total faith in the teachings of Tirthankaras is the first critical step for Samyag Darshan and since Tatvarth Sutra and Theory of Karmas contain the core teachings, it may be a good idea for us to start with a few very simple books on these two topics. We need to focus on the parts we can relate to in every day life and skip the parts that are difficult to comprehend in the first go around. We need to look at the real message instead of getting bogged down into the details.
  • Most importantly, we need to contemplate on the material learned and try to integrate it with day to day life.
  • If we put our heart and soul into the above steps and do so every day for a long time, our life will change and hopefully the lightening will strike one day!

Conclusion:

Through this article, I have made a humble attempt to address just the overall concept of Samyag Darshan and hope it inspires the readers to pursue further and study it in more details. There is a vast amount of knowledge available on each and every aspect of Samyag Darshan.

It is possible that we may not be able to comprehend fully and/or achieve Samyag Darshan during this life time. But this should not discourage us from making a beginning. More we dig in, more enlightened we will become. The good news is that the time spent on this critical issue will never be a loss because the understanding we develop in this life will stay with us in the next life and beyond.

Another important point to remember is that to achieve the level of Samyag Darshan expected at the 4th gunsthanak, we do not have to have an in depth knowledge of scriptures, nor does it require a full compliance with the canonical rules of living a moral and ethical life. But it does require a total faith in the basic teachings and a dramatic shift in our thought process and feelings. Thoughts and feelings are important because they eventually lead to attitudes, attitudes become beliefs, and beliefs become the basis for actions. Fortunately, the Jain sages have discovered and documented this process in minute details and we are fortunate that they have shared with us their process knowledge which offers hope and promise for us all.


(This article reflects my current understanding of Samyag Darshan based upon interpretation of the material listed below and a review by a few Jain scholars. Please read it a few times and study it critically to get the most benefit. Although I have spent a fair amount of time in preparing it, I do recognize the limitations of my own comprehension as well as the limitations of language. Please contact me at Vora5000@yahoo.com if you have suggestions for improvement.)


References:

  In Gujarati

  1. Samyag Darshan by Kirtiyash Vijayji Ganivar (Disciple of Ramchandra Suriji Maharaj)
  2. Samkit na Sadsath Bol ni Sajjay-Composed by Yashovijayji Maharaj and translated by Dhirajbhai Pandit
  3. Karma Vipak by Dhirajbhai Pandit

 
 In English

  1. Tatvarth Sutra by Manubhai Doshi
  2. Karma - The Mechanism & The Key to the Center of the Universe (A two volume set) by Herman Kuhn
  3. Atma Darshan by Atamanandji Maharaj
  4. Samyag Darshan: Right Belief by Dr. Sushma Singhvi (Fourth International Summer School for Jain Studies notes)

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