Contribution of Āchārya Mahāprajña to the World of Philosophy

Published: 26.09.2008
Updated: 13.11.2008


The study of philosophy is the continuous process of quest for truth. In this non-stopping journey of development of thoughts great philosophers contributed a lot by their novel thoughts and enriched the world of philosophy. Efforts will be made to highlight the philosophical thoughts envisaged by the 21st century's great philosopher Ācārya Mahāprajña. Mahāprajña's independent, innovative thoughts regarding the concept of Jain causation theory, concept of creation, can be considered as the metaphysical contribution. The concept of Ýadjivanikāya and self-development, ātmakartṛtvavāda and the concept of moral responsibility, karmavāda and puruṣārthavāda, etc. concepts give us a clear notion of karma philosophy and its social relevance in the era of technology. Moreover his ideas regarding the Jain ethical code of conduct and criteria of morality are really touching points and can brainwash the misconceptions regarding the Jain ethical concepts that they are not social. But Mahāprajña's revolutionary views can open new horizons in the world of Jain philosophy.

The Theory of Causation

The concept of causation is the basic foundation of each and every philosophy. Jain philosophy is basically based on the theory of Anekānta. So there is a kind of misconception between the Eastern and Western scholars that there is no room for an absolute truth in Jain philosophy and all the truths are relative. It was Mahāprajña who expounded that there are two types of truth as per the theory of Anekānta i.e. sāpekṣa and nirpekṣa i.e. relative and absolute. Moreover he established pancāstikāya, medium of motion, medium of rest, space, soul & matter, 5 substances, kāla (time) loka - aloka (universe and contra universe) as absolute truths, where cause and effect theory can't be applied. In case of relative truths only, one can trace their cause and effect.

He further extends his view in this manner that Jains believe in the principle of pariṇāmika bhāva, which can be classified under two heads as anādi pariṇāmika and sādi pariṇāmika i.e. change which has no beginning and change with beginning. Pañcāstikāya come under the head of anādi pariṇāmika, which are eternal i.e., change without a beginning or an end. But simultaneously they are constantly evolving and taking different forms. It just exists there without any cause since infinity and remains so forever. Where as sādi pariṇāmika case can be explained through cause and effect theory, For e.g. a house was built. It has its beginning. So in such instances of change which has beginning (sādi pariṇāmika) we can search material cause and efficient cause in every relative truth.

The World and Its Creator

Since time immemorial, the philosophers and the scientists of different schools and streams have tried their best to unfold this mystery, ‘Who created this world? Why? When? How?’ These questions have been asked from time to time again and again. There is a wide difference of opinion among philosophers about the creation. If we subscribe to the view that world is a creation then creator has to be somebody different than the world. A question would then be asked, ‘From where he come and is there another world?’ If God is accepted as creator of this world, the question may be raised what are the basic attributes of God through which he created the world. If the creator is regarded to be an embodiment of pure consciousness, how come his creation should have both characteristics i.e., sentient as well as insentient? How come this dichotomy? Another vital question would surface then. In order to make something, the creator has to collect some raw material. Did that came from this world or from some other world. Similarly, if we believe that the world is made out of God's own properties, it is not a new creation but only an extension or new modification of the original stuff.

Jain philosophers didn't wish to tread this futile path in imagining such questions and trying to answer them. They maintained that the world is not a creation by anybody like God. It just exists there since infinity and would remain so, forever. There are different notions regarding the creation. In the words of Mahāprajña, creation is nothing but the combination of anādi and sādi pariṇāman i.e. it is composed of five fundamental substances, which are anādi and sādi parinaman, occurs due to combination of Jīva and pudgala. Ācārya Tulsi also in his text, ‘Illuminator of Jain Tenets’ rightly defined creation as 'Jīvapudgalayorvividha samyogaiū saū vividharepaū'. In fact, Jagat is nothing but mixed product of Jīva (soul) and pudgala (matter), we don't see either of them in its original form, as it is imperceptible. But that doesn't mean that what we don't see is not Jagat (creation). So according to Mahāprajña for creation no need to accept God.

The Concept of Ýajīvanikāya and Self-development

According to Jain Philosophy, the theory of rebirth is nothing but the theory of transmigration between four realms namely celestial, human, animal, and infernal. The concept of Ýadjīvanikāya (classification of six beings) is the upshot of the theory of rebirth. Mahāprajña says:

    • Soul exists
    • Soul is eternal
    • Soul has karmic bondage

These three concepts of Jain ethics are sufficient to prove the theory of rebirth.

In no other school of eastern or western philosophy we find such a subtle classification of Jīvas from one-sensed to five-sensed-beings. Siddhasena rightly commented that for proving the omniscience of Tīrthaṅkara Mahāvīra, only Ýajīvanikāya concept is more than sufficient.

The point of consideration here is that Mahāprajña says, we don't find such a successive development of consciousness on the basis of the sequence of one to five sense organs namely touch, taste, small, colour and sound in other schools of philosophy. He says the development of consciousness begins from the sense of touch and reaches up to the level of five sense organs accompanied by mind. Ācārya Mahāprajña believes that the one who doesn't understand the real existence of Ýadjīvanikāya, can't understand how to give an end to the unending chain of rebirth and the attainment of spiritual heights. So this concept of Sadjīvanikāya must be understood for the attainment of liberation.

Ātmakartrtvavāda and the Concept of Moral Responsibility

Jains believe in the nityānilyātmaka nature of soul. Soul never loses its real nature of chaitanya so it is nitya (eternal) but at the same time it keeps on changing every moment to keep its existence. If for a moment soul gives up parinaman i.e. if svābhāvika change is stopped, then there will be no more existence of soul. To maintain the existence of soul, svābhavika kartṛtva of soul i.e. pariṇāman (change) must be accepted. If soul transmigrates from human realm to the animal kingdom, or hell or heaven, such parinamana is considered as vaibhavika kartṛtva.

Ācārya Shree asserts that this concept of kartṛtva has shown the concept of sādhana that nobody can give either pain or pleasure to anybody in this world. This kind of novel idea gave rise to the concept of ātmakartṛtvavāda which means soul can't endorse any sort of blame on others for one's own deeds and misdeeds but soul himself is responsible for one's own pleasure and sorrow. It seems to be human psychology that one wants to take honour of everything good but disowns anything wrong or evil. It means that for good, you are responsible, but for bad, you throw the responsibility on others. According to Jainism, your soul is responsible for both good and evil. One cannot impose the responsibility on anyone else not even on God. This is the gist of Jain doctrine of ātmakartṛtvavāda. This doctrine helps us to develop a new avenue of our own consciousness, and that is to refrain from accusing others and confess one's own responsibility for doing anything wrong or considering one's own self, responsible for suffering or pain instead of accusing others. This is the novel contribution of Mahāprajña to mould the attitude of the person who imposes the cause of sufferings on others.

Karmavāda and Puruṣārthavāda

Jain Ethical philosophy is based upon the theory of karma. Jain philosophy doesn't accept God as a giver of fruition of auspicious karmas and inauspicious karmas. The world is governed by natural laws, so no need to accept any God. In favour of God many logics are given out of compassion, God created this world. Some say, God was alone, he wanted to be many, so the world came into being. Mahāprajña has given a reasonable logic in favour of the theory of karma:

    1. The basis of accepting the theory of karma is the freedom of will.
    2. The moral responsibility of each and every action is on the individual itself.
    3. Every individual has the right to progress and change his destiny.

If one claims that everything happens according to the theory of karma in Jain philosophy, there will be no difference between the iśvaravāda i.e. theism and karmavāda i.e. theory of karma. But Ācārya Mahāprajña emphasizes that the theory of karma is the theory of puruṣārtha i.e. effort. One can't differentiate the two, as they are twins, found always together. One can change one's karma through efforts. In canonical text we get two types of karmas i.e. dalika karma and nikācita karma. Dalika karmas are those karmas, which can be changed. Nikācita karmas are those karmas, which never can be changed. Here we are helpless. So other philosophers considered that we couldn’t change the karmas once bound. But Ācārya Mahāprajña asserts that at the maximum level, karmas are changeable. The area of unchangeable karmas is very small in number. On this basis we shouldn't accept that we can't change our karmas and future.

Moreover Mahāprajña says it should be kept crystal clear in everybody's mind that from the point of view of the raise of nikācita karma, soul is under the pressure or dependence of karma. From the point of view of dalika karma, there are two possibilities:

    1. Wherever soul tries to change one's karma through the observation of vows, penance and practice of meditation, patience, etc. soul is dominant over karmas and one can change karmas.
    2. Wherever soul doesn't indulge in any kind of efforts for changing one's karma, such soul is dependent upon karmas and such soul is governed by the karmas.

If we don't accept change occurring through auspicious efforts, all the practices of penances, etc. will prove to be meaningless. Tīrthankara Mahavira paved the path of four fold efforts:

    1. Udīranā (pre-maturation),
    2. Upaśamana (partial suppression, subsidence),
    3. Vedanā (experience of karma)
    4. Nirjarā (shedding of karmas).

Ācārya Mahāprajña declares that the concept of Udīranā (pre-maturation of karma) and the concept of Saṁkārmana (possibility of changing karmas) are two revolutionary novel concepts, which prove the theory of karma as the theory of efforts. Ācārya Mahāprajña states, who wishes to make the future bright, must concentrate on the sources of puruṣārtha i.e. efforts. We have three sources of efforts, namely the actions of mind, speech and body. Now the question arises as how these three fold actions can make a bright future. If the mind is pure, passionless and always thinks positively, such mind can create a good fate. One who speaks truth and is straightforward in speech and physical actions can build a good fate. On the other hand, if the three-fold actions work in opposite path, it will lead to the establishment of bad fate. So control over mind, body and speech is the main cause of bright future.

The Jain Ethical Code of Conduct is Social

Ācārya Mahāprajña divides ācāra or conduct under two broad categories, one is ātmabhimukhī i.e. the conduct that leads towards self-upliftment and another is samājabhimukhī i.e. the conduct, which leads to social upliftment. Self-oriented conduct (ātmabhimukhī) is called spiritual conduct and society-oriented conduct is called as morality. He established that the Jain code of conduct, namely five mahāvratas and five anuvratas are basically for peaceful social existence. Basically there is misconception among the non-Jain scholars that the Jain ethical philosophy is giving much emphasis to individual progress and that there is no room for social development.

But the vow of non-violence means not to kill others, the vow of truthfulness means not to lie in any case, the vow of non stealing means not to steal anything without the consent of the owner, the vow of celibacy means to be content with one's own wife or completely giving up one's sexual pleasures which is the main cause of all cruel and violent actions, the vow of non-possession i.e. to give up all sorts of possession or limiting one's possession to the possible extent. All these vows are related with society. Anuvrat and Mahāvrata are samajabhimukhī as they give moral injections for social peace.

Ācārya Mahāprajña emphasized that the basic foundation of anuvratas and mahāvratas are the three gupti’s i.e. control of mind, speech and body, which is purely ātmabhimukhī. It has nothing to do with social upliftment. This kind of clear, impartial distinction can give raise to the concept of Jain sociology in the world of Jain philosophy.

Criteria of Morality

There is no single criterion of morality as it changes from place to place and according to different environmental situations. Eastern and western ethical philosophers have different views regarding the criterias of morality. Ācārya Mahāprajña founded the following criteria of Jain morality:

    • Restraint (saṁyama),
    • Honesty (pramānikatā)
    • Application of pure means (Sādhan Ÿudhi)
    • Modulation of human relations (mānav sambandho mein sudhār).

Activity without restraint is not a moral activity. So restraint over one's desire is the main basis of Jain morality. Moreover Ācārya Mahāprajña believes that the four basic criterias of Jain morality are connected with each other. He says, unless and until, there is no restraint over one's own desires, cases of corruption and mal-practices, all such actions, which arise due to dishonesty, can't be avoided. So practice of honesty and restraint over one's desires are fully inter-related. Man of honesty and controller of desires can never use the wrong means for achieving one's personal end. If the relations between persons to person are compassionate no incident of cruelty can occur in the society. He concludes that only a restraint-oriented life style can bring about a bright future for the individual as well as for the society.

In nutshell it can be concluded that Ācārya Mahāprajña is a man of philosophy as well as spirituality. This is the main reason behind his novel contribution to the world of Jain philosophy. Each and every line of novel contribution of Mahāprajña is capable enough to give a new insight for personal cum social transformation. Not even a single field of knowledge escaped from his wisdom, that's why his literature can create quiet a revolutionary environment and steps can be taken towards the path of achieving global peace and peaceful co-existence in the world as a whole.

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Aloka
  2. Anekānta
  3. Anuvrat
  4. Anuvratas
  5. Anādi
  6. Bhāva
  7. Body
  8. Celibacy
  9. Chaitanya
  10. Consciousness
  11. Environment
  12. Gupti
  13. Iśvaravāda
  14. Jain Code Of Conduct
  15. Jain Philosophy
  16. Jain Vishva Bharati
  17. Jain Vishva Bharati University
  18. Jainism
  19. Jīva
  20. Karma
  21. Karmas
  22. Karmavāda
  23. Kāla
  24. Loka
  25. Mahavira
  26. Mahāvrata
  27. Mahāvratas
  28. Mahāvīra
  29. Meditation
  30. Nirjarā
  31. Nitya
  32. Non-violence
  33. Parinaman
  34. Pañcāstikāya
  35. Pudgala
  36. Puruṣārtha
  37. Siddhasena
  38. Soul
  39. Space
  40. Sādi
  41. Tulsi
  42. Tīrthaṅkara
  43. Upaśamana
  44. Ācārya
  45. Ācārya Mahāprajña
  46. Ācārya Tulsi
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