Jainism : The World of Conquerors: 4.1 ► The Philosophy

Published: 28.11.2015

Jainism is a practical philosophy, embracing both the worldly and the spiritual. The first fundamental principle of Jainism is that the human personality is dual: both spiritual and material. Jain philosophy holds that every worldly being has a soul, the characteristics of which is clouded by the attachment of material bodies, such as the karmic and the physical body, which are external to the soul and are created as a consequence of actions performed by an individual. External environments such as relations, friends, wealth, poverty, hunger and psychic factors, which can cause pleasure or pain, affect these bodies.

The second principle is that human beings are imperfect. Imperfection is caused by karmic particles attached to the soul. The human soul can obtain perfection, and in that free and eternal state it is endowed with four characteristics: infinite faith, knowledge, spiritual energy and bliss.

The third principle is that human beings are capable of controlling their material nature through their own spiritual efforts. It is only after the complete shedding of karmic matter that the soul attains perfection, freedom and happiness.

The fourth fundamental principle is that human beings are solely responsible for their future; practically all can liberate their own souls from the karmic matter attached to them. Liberation cannot be effected by others or external agencies, but only through the efforts and actions of the individual. No one is absolved of responsibility for the consequences of their actions. This principle distinguishes Jainism from most other religions, including Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. Jainism believes that the universe exists and continues without any external agency having created or having any control over it; and that no god, no prophet or no other agent can influence the destiny of any being.

In view of this attitude towards gods, Jainism is seen as atheistic. This is an exaggeration. Jainism does not deny that the divine exists, it simply does not attribute the creation of the universe to any god or other agency. Jainism believes in the existence of many divine beings: tirthankaras and liberated souls (siddhas) are gods. Jainism cannot be considered as atheistic, even though its concept of the divine differs from that of other religions.

Jain philosophy claims to offer a clear and logical explanation of the nature of the universe, life's events and their significance, and a way to remove misery and achieve permanent happiness and bliss. As we said in chapter 1.1, the meaning of life is to 'conquer' oneself, purify the soul and experience its true characteristics of infinite faith, knowledge, energy and bliss. Jain philosophy offers solutions to all the major philosophical problems arising in the human mind, through its teachings on the 'nine real entities' (nava tattva) and the 'Three Jewels': Right Faith, Right Knowledge and Right Conduct. A study of these is indispensable to those who seek truth and salvation. Some Jain texts, such as the Tattvartha Sutra, combine certain of the nine entities and count them as seven in total, the majority however, recognise nine (Sinha 1990: p.49):

  • The soul or living entity (jiva)
  • Matter or non-living entity (ajiva)
  • Merit (punya)
  • Demerit or sin (paapa)
  • Influx of karma (aasrava)
  • Karmic bondage (bandha)
  • Prevention of karmic influx (samvara)
  • Shedding of karma (nirjaraa)
  • Liberation (moksa)

It is the soul that performs all the activities of worldly life and achieves liberation. It alone knows and comprehends all the real entities. It is the attachment of non-living material entities to the soul, which facilitates worldly existence and action. Non-living entities do not act without the soul. Karma causes the happiness or misery of the soul, and it alone causes merit and demerit. Attachment of the karmic body makes the soul form a physical body and these three together make a living being or jiva. Jiva is the first fundamental category, and liberation the last. This means that all the real entities between jiva and liberation exist in order that jiva may ultimately attain liberation.

Special Characteristics of the Nine Real Entities: Some entities are 'knowable' (jneya), some are 'to be abandoned' (heya) and some are 'to be attained' (upadeya). Jain philosophy says that both knowledge and action are necessary for liberation. This is characterised, and expressed in the first aphoristic rule of the Tattvartha Sutra: 'Right Faith, Right Knowledge and Right Conduct together constitute the path to liberation.' Soul and matter are 'knowable', and through which knowledge of the entire universe can be obtained. Demerit, influx and bondage are 'to be abandoned'. These give one the knowledge of what not to do. Stoppage, shedding and liberation are 'to be attained', heralding a knowledge of one's action. Merit resembles golden fetters, attaching good karma to the soul, and is 'to be attained' as it facilitates the tools for liberation.

The Six 'Substances'; Jainism emphasises the knowledge of six substances (sad dravyas) or 'real entities' necessary for liberation. The soul and matter are the two principal 'real entities'; matter is further subdivided in into five 'substances' (which with the soul makes six). The subdivisions of matter are the medium of motion, the medium of rest, space, time and the material particles.

Substances change their forms (paryaayas), states or modifications, but basically they are permanent and unchangeable. They can combine together without losing their separate identities or natures. Substances are endowed with 'coming into existence' (utpaada), when they change their form, decay or 'cease to exist' (vyaya), and permanence or 'continuous existence' (dhrauvya). They can exist together in the universe, just as the light of many lamps can remain together in one room. The characteristic nature or property of a substance is called its 'attribute' (guna), while changes in a particular substance are called 'forms' (paryaayas). For example, knowledge and happiness are the qualities or attributes of a worldly being, while humanity and divinity are its forms.

Functions of the Substances: All six substances are continuously active. To be active, the substance has to undergo modifications at every moment. It has to have a new mode, simultaneous disappearance of the old mode and at the same time permanency. These phenomena happen at every moment by the inherent, momentary, imperceptible and continuous wave motion found in the constituents of the substance itself, similar to the waves of the ocean. There are two forms of stationary wave motion: common stationary wave motion found in all the substances; and special stationary wave motion found only in the soul and in the matter.

Common attributes of substances

  • Existing: the rising and decaying rhythmic wave crescents in the substance repeated moment by moment, produce the appearance of a new shape with the simultaneous disappearance of the old, but the substance persists, flowing through a continuous modal change, like ocean waves.
  • Functions: substances have a stationary wave motion.
  • Knowability: this is due to the stationary wave motion of substances. The stationary wave motion imparts information about the substance to the energy waves of other substances, when the energy waves pass through or come in contact with it. The soul that is attuned to such energy waves converts information into perception and knowledge about the respective substances.
  • Individuality: this is due to unceasing wave activity.
  • Spatiality: is the pervading capacity of a substance to occupy a space equal to the extension caused by this stationary wave motion and is backed by the perceptual energy of the substance.

Special attributes: The pure soul and pure matter have special attribute. Special attributes of the soul are infinite faith, knowledge, bliss and energy, perfect conduct, eternity, non-materiality and the equality to other souls. The special stationary wave motion of the soul provides it with consciousness, which is invisible. Special attributes of matter are touch, taste, colour and smell. The special stationary wave motion of matter provides it exclusively with a sensibility that makes it visible. Both these wave motions are special to the soul and matter. Other substances do not have such special stationary sensory waves of either consciousness or sensibility; hence they have no consciousness and are invisible. (Gajapathi 1977 in Upadhye and others Eds. 'How it works' pp.168 and Sinha 'Concept of substance in Jainism pp.244-245)

Stationary wave motion cycles occur in the substance countless times per moment; they establish vibrations in the parts (pradesas or paramaanus) of the substance (dravya), cause disturbance, and produce differing modes; the modes are termed dravya vyanjana paryaaya. The disturbance-carrying energy waves precipitate the attribute (guna) of the substance; the attributes are termed guna vyanjana paryaaya. For the sake of convenience, we will term dravya vyanjana paryaaya as 'special stationary wave motions' and guna vyanjana paryaaya as 'super energy wave motions' in further descriptions of these terms.

In all omniscient souls (embodied or disembodied) these two types of dravya and guna vyanjana paryaaya function normally, as such pure souls are free from obscuring karma. They function abnormally in all worldly souls because of karmic bondage. Likewise they function normally in elementary particles of matter and abnormally in all elementary particles within the molecules.

Bondage between the soul and matter, and bondage between elementary particles of matter, produce abnormal functioning of the special stationary wave motion and the super energy wave motion. Bondage does not transform the substance.

From the onset the relationship between the soul and matter is responsible for worldly existence. Apart from the gross organic body there is a subtle body which serves as a link between the soul and the material body, and which is only discarded at liberation. The disintegrating matter particles of this subtle body are replenished in a continuous succession, and thus the subtle body remains intact. It is the subtle body, which includes the karmic body that holds the soul in worldly cycles.

There are eight main types and 158 sub-types of karma. They are subtle matter particles of peculiar potency, more mysterious than molecular DNA. The main forms of karma are faith obscuring, knowledge obscuring, deluding, energy obstructive, feeling producing, lifespan determining, body producing and status determining. The first four are obscuring in nature and the last four are non-obscuring in nature. Shedding of the four obscuring karma endows the soul with infinite faith, infinite knowledge, infinite energy and perfect conduct as found in omniscience, and shedding of all eight types of karma makes the soul liberated. We will discuss further aspects of Jain philosophy: the path of purification, the substances, the cosmos as described in the Jain canon, karma, the teachings, Right Conduct and the stages of liberation, in the chapters that follow.


Title: Jainism: The World of Conquerors
Dr. Natubhai Shah
Publisher: Sussex Academic Press
Edition: 1998
Share this page on:
Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Ajiva
  2. Bandha
  3. Body
  4. Christianity
  5. Consciousness
  6. DNA
  7. Dhrauvya
  8. Dravya
  9. Dravyas
  10. Guna
  11. Heya
  12. Hinduism
  13. Islam
  14. Jain Philosophy
  15. Jainism
  16. Jiva
  17. Jneya
  18. Karma
  19. Karmic Body
  20. Karmic matter
  21. Moksa
  22. Omniscient
  23. Paapa
  24. Pradesas
  25. Punya
  26. Samvara
  27. Soul
  28. Space
  29. Sutra
  30. Tattva
  31. Tattvartha Sutra
  32. Tirthankaras
  33. Upadeya
  34. Vyanjana
  35. Vyaya
  36. siddhas
Page statistics
This page has been viewed 944 times.
© 1997-2023 HereNow4U, Version 4.5
Contact us
Social Networking

HN4U Deutsche Version
Today's Counter: