Tattvartha Sutra: Appendix - 14 Stages Of Spiritual Elevation

Published: 15.08.2017

The mention has been made at several places in the text about Gunsthānaks. That refers to the stages, where an aspirant may reach during his spiritual pursuit. Jainism lays the following 14 stages on the path of liberation. They can be treated as 14 rungs on the ladder of spiritual elevation.


This stage is known as Mithyātva or the stage of wrong faith. As the name suggests, it does not signify even the beginning of spiritual elevation. It is similar to a bottom floor, where a person might be looking for an elevator to go up. Most of the people are in that stage. The life in that stage is rather instinctive, and the reactions to the situations arising from time to time occur more or less impulsively. There is hardly any sense of discrimination in that stage. One attaches utmost importance to his body and its comforts.

At the later part of this stage the spiritual aspirant is expected to have gained the yearning for religious life. For that purpose he seeks access to a spiritual guide. But he does not have the insight to recognize the true guide. As such, he may come under the influence

of the wrong guides or teachers and would undertake the unbecoming rituals etc. at their behest. He would not mind even resorting to evil activities for the sake of his professed religion. He might also harbor dislike and disregard for the true faith.


This stage is known as Sāswādan, which means the stage of retaining the taste. It is not a stage of ascent. It is the stage where an aspirant would come down, if he somehow falls from the fourth or a higher stage. This is a transitory stage, from which the aspirant either falls down to the first stage or rises to the third one. Since, however, he has experienced the taste of right perception at the fourth stage, he cannot forget it. As such, he is bound to regain the right perception and again resort to the ladder of elevation.


This stage is known as Mishra (mixed), which denotes a mixture of the right and wrong perceptions. One at this stage is neither imbibed with Samyaktva (right perception) nor does he indulge in Mithyātva (wrong perception). It is the stage of rise from the second stage or fall from the fourth one. The aspirant at this stage does not have pure discernment to differentiate the right from the wrong or the true from the false. He wavers between the right and the wrong. He might have overcome dislike for the true faith, but does not remain steady therein. He may practice the right rituals etc. but is not discriminate enough to recognize their purpose. As such, he may accept even the false beliefs as true ones.


This stage is known as Avirat Samyak (stage of right perception unaccompanied by restraints). This is the real stage of elevation, where only a few worldly souls arrive. Prior to attaining this stage one passes through two sub-stages known as Yathāpravruttikaran and Anivruttikaran. The former is still the state of right cum wrong perception, but with the potentialities to go ahead. Accordingly, if one makes the right progress, he reaches the state of first Apoorvakaran (unprecedented), it is termed that way, because the aspirant had never gained it earlier. That enables him to proceed towards Anivruttikaran (no turning back). That represents the firmness to reach the fourth stage. So long as one does not reach it, he continues to strive and does not rest until he gains it.

When an aspirant reaches the fourth stage, he is free from the perception deluding Karma. Since he has gained the right perception, he knows what is right and what is wrong. He is convinced that the soul is the enduring Self, while the body and all incidental situations are ephemeral and have been obtained as the consequence of the operative Karma. He knows the true nature of soul and might have glimpsed it at times. He has the right understanding of Karma and its bondage, and is keen to shake it off. He has brought under control Anantānubandhi (inordinately lasting) types of Kashāy (defiling instinct), but has not gained the vigor to control other types. As such, he cannot resort to a life of restraints, though he desires to adopt the same. He feels sad for the recurring birth and death, and aspires to proceed on the path of liberation. He might still get involved in the worldly activities, but he does not develop undue attachment for any of them.


This stage is known as Deshvirati Samyag, (the stage of right perception accompanied by partial restraints). As the aspirant advances on the path of liberation, he starts loosening the bondage of character-related deluding Karma. He has now developed the vigor to overcome Apratyākhyanavaraniya (coming in the way of adopting restraints) Kashāy and hence he adopts the laymen's restraints. His behavior thus remains partially restrained and he continues to strive for a fully restrained life.


This stage is known as Sarva Virati meaning the stage of full restraint. By continuing the endeavor to shake off the bondage, the aspirant reaches the sixth stage. His vigor is now in high gear. He therefore overcomes Pratyākhyānāvaraniya (coming in the way of totally restrained life) Kashay. He can thus exercise control over all types of Kashāys (except of subtle type known as Sanjwalan type) as well as Nokashāys (semi-defilements). He also has gained the capability to give up the worldly life and may even renounce it in order to remain free from the worldly involvement. But he does not have the capacity to maintain total vigilance. As such, he may become subject to the minor pitfalls. That is due to Pramād (indolence) in which he is likely to indulge. This stage is therefore also known as Pramatta Virati Gunsthān (Stage of restraint subject to indolence). The aspirants at this stage are considered competent to preach.


This stage is known as Apramatta meaning the stage of no indolence. While trying to control indolence, the aspirant arrives at this stage. The subtle anger of Sanjwalan category now comes under control, but other subtle Kashāys may still continue to operate. Moreover, the aspirant is at times overcome with indolence and reverts to the 6th stage. As he becomes conscious of it, he tries to overcome the indolence and gets back to the 7th stage. This movement to and from the 7th stage is likely to continue long. If the aspirant does not happen to fall further below, he eventually achieves irreversible control over indolence and reaches the next stage.


This stage is known as second Apoorvakaran meaning the unprecedented stage. The path of liberation consists of right perception, right knowledge and right conduct. The right perception arises at the 4th stage and right knowledge is gained along with it. From the 5th stage onward the aspirant strives to gain control over the defilement so as to go in for the right conduct. By virtue of overcoming the indolence, he should have gained control over the instinct of anger by the end of 7th stage. During the 8th stage, he develops the capability to control other subtle defilements and semi-defilements, which he never did before. As such, this stage is termed as Apoorvakaran. It is hard to reach that level and only a few aspirants have attained it. The ascent from this stage is rather quick. The aspirant is now capable to go in for Shukladhyān, which is the superior level of meditation. Thereby he can rapidly rise to the next two stages.

The progress on the ladder had so far been partly by eliminating the delusion and partly by pacifying it. The route for advancing from this stage to the 10th stage is bifurcated. One is termed as Kshapak Shreni, which relates to making the progress by destroying the subtle defilement; the other is termed as Upasham Shreni, which relates to making the progress by pacifying the same.


This stage is known as Anivruttikaran (no turning back) or Anivrutti Badar. The term Bādar means gross, but here it is used in the sense that the subtle defilement obtaining at this stage is gross as compared to the one in the next stage. At this stage, the aspirant gains control over very subtle forms of Man (ego) as well as Maya (deception) and of certain semi-defilements. As such, he can stay above the subtle sexual instinct as well. The wholesome attachment, which can be termed as subtle Lobh (geed), still continues to operate at this stage.


This stage is known as Sukshma Samparāy. Sukshma means very subtle and Samparāy indicates here a finer sense of Kashāy. As such, the aspirant at this stage reaches a very subde state. This stage relates to overcoming of all the defiling instincts. The remaining semi-defilements and the subtle sense of Lobh come under control at this stage. At the end of this stage, the aspirants progressing by Upasham Shreni go to the llth stage, while those progressing by Kshapak Shreni skip that stage and go to the 12th one.


This stage is known as Upashānt Moh, meaning the stage where delusion remains pacified. The aspirant reaching this stage has thus pacified the defiling instincts, but has not destroyed the same. As such, he becomes subject to defilement and hence falls back. This happens due to loss of vigilance. If one does not regain enough vigilance, he can fall up to the lowest level. Such aspirants can of course rise again by regaining the vigilance and by progressively destroying the defilement.


This stage is known as Kshin Moh, meaning the stage, where delusion is entirely destroyed. The aspirant reaching this stage has not therefore to revert to the lower stage. What is now required is to get rid of remaining Ghāti (defiling) Karmas pertaining to Darshanāvaraniya (perception obscuring), Jnānāvaranīya (enlightenment obscuring), and Antarāy (obstructing) categories. That is usually done in a short rime. The aspirant then reaches the next stage.


This stage is known as Sayogi Kevali, meaning the embodied omniscience. Since no defiling category of Karma survives at this stage, one attains the full enlightenment and becomes a Kevali (omniscient). Such omniscient Lords are known as Sayogi Kevalis, because they are still embodied. They are endowed with infinite perception, infinite enlightenment, infinite bliss and infinite vigor. These four aspects are known as Anant Chatushtay.

Those at this stage are known as Axihants, whom we offer obeisance by the first line of Namokkar Mantra. They continue to remain embodied as long as Aghāti (non-defiling) Karmas, viz. Aushya (age span), Nam (physique determining), Gotra (status determining) and Vedaniya (situations conferring) stay. Being fully enlightened and devoid of any attachment, they do not incur new bondage. If Aghāti Karmas terminate simultaneously with Ghāti ones, the Arihant instantly leaves the embodiment and attains the stage of Siddha. Such Lords are known as Antahkrut Kevalis. The rest of Kevalis may spend the remaining part of their lives in propounding the religious tenets, and at the end they attain the stage of Siddha, the state of liberation.


This stage is known as Ayogi Kevali meaning the unembodied omniscience. The thirteen stages mentioned above are analogous to the rungs of a ladder. By climbing over it, one reaches the state liberation. That state is the destination, not a rung of the ladder. When a Sayogi Kevali (omniscient Lord at the 13th stage) realizes that the end of his life is near, he relinquishes his physical, vocal and mental faculties. Freed from those faculties, the soul rises up and reaches the top of cosmos known as Siddhashilā (abode of the liberated ones). There it stops, because there is no Dharmāstikāy beyond that point. The rising process is very quick; it takes as little time as is required for uttering five short vowels. That period constitutes the 14th stage. Thereafter the liberated Lord stays in eternal bliss forever.

Title: Tattvartha Sutra
Manu Doshi
Manu Doshi
Federation of Jain Associations in North America & Shrut Ratnakar
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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. 14 Gunasthanas
  2. 14 Stages
  3. Aghāti
  4. Aghāti Karmas
  5. Anant
  6. Anger
  7. Apramatta
  8. Arihant
  9. Avirat Samyak
  10. Ayogi Kevali
  11. Body
  12. Deshvirati Samyag
  13. Dharmāstikāy
  14. Ghāti
  15. Gotra
  16. Gunasthanas
  17. Jainism
  18. Karma
  19. Karmas
  20. Kashay
  21. Kevali
  22. Kevalis
  23. Lobh
  24. Mantra
  25. Maya
  26. Meditation
  27. Mishra
  28. Mithyātva
  29. Omniscient
  30. Pramatta Virati
  31. Samyaktva
  32. Sanjwalan
  33. Sarva
  34. Sarva Virati
  35. Sayogi Kevali
  36. Siddha
  37. Soul
  38. Sukshma
  39. Upasham
  40. Upasham Shreni
  41. Vedaniya
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