Philosophical Foundations Of Jainism (An Introduction): [21] We Are The Creator Of All Our Happiness And Suffering

Published: 29.08.2008
Updated: 02.07.2015

There are two kinds of feelings: Happiness and suffering. All of us experience both; you cannot find a single man who has not experienced both. Still, we all want to get happiness and get rid of suffering. As long as it is the case relating to the former, we are not bothered, but no sooner when we encounter grief or sorrow than our mind starts searching the source or the cause of that. The answer is that there is a single source for both happiness and suffering—pain and pleasure, and it is none other than our own 'Soul'.

As the door is the same for all to enter in, whether the comer is a man, or a dog, or a donkey. In the same way, the source is the same through which both happiness and suffering enter into our soul, and it is the soul itself which is responsible for both happiness and suffering.

Then, again the question would arise: If all of us aspire happiness and pleasure, why should we get suffering and pain? The fact is that our action is responsible for both. In spite of aspiring happiness, our action is such that it results in suffering. We cannot impose the responsibility on anyone else, not even on God.

Another question is: Why Jainism does not believe in God as the Creator? To this, Jainism's solution is as follows: - Whatever is the fundamental existence can have no creator. Soul is a mūla tattva i.e., fundamental existence itself, and hence, it cannot have a creator. So also, paramāṇu (the ultimate atom) or pudgala (physical reality) itself is a fundamental existence, and hence, it cannot have any creator. Modes have creator. All the modes of soul are created by the soul itself and all the modes of pudgala are created by pudgala. Soul can create its modes through volition, pudgala has no volition, so the modes of pudgala are created by laws of nature.

The modes of soul are happiness and suffering or pleasure and pain. Even "human being" is a mode of soul. House, cloth, utensil—all objects are the modes of pudgala, the paramāṇu being its ultimate cause. But because soul and pudgala are mūla tattva, there is no one to create them.

Now, soul is the creator of all its states including happiness and suffering. The action of soul is due to its volition. If it desires happiness, it creates happiness; if it desires suffering, it creates suffering. Then a question arises as to how anyone can desire suffering. Jainism has deeply pondered over this question. It says that one who desires for happiness also desires for suffering; one who desires for life also desires for death. You cannot separate happiness from suffering, life from death—they are inseparable. You can't desire for one only. If you desire for one, automatically you desire for both. If you do not desire at all, you can remain free from desire of both. So, a person who desires for happiness necessarily desires for suffering.

When Gautama Swami (the chief disciple of Lord Mahāvīra) asked him—"O Lord! who is the creator of suffering?" Lord Mahāvīra said—"Ātmā (soul) is the creator of all its paryārayas. It creates both pain and pleasures for itself." Thus, Lord Mahāvīra propounded the 'Ātmā-kartṛtvavāda' (theory of creation by the self). In matters of pleasure and pain, the worldly soul is solely responsible for them, as it does all its actions consciously. Both pleasure and pain are elementally one and the same, they being the two sides of the coin. When you ask for happiness, unconsciously you invite sorrow; you have no choice.

Is it not strange that when something good happens, and if someone concerned with it is asked as to who has done that,generally the reply is—"I have executed it," but when something wrong or evil is indulge in, the answer would be, "I don't know or I have not done it." It seems to be the human psychology that one wants to take the 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. This is not fair, nor it does justice. According to Jainism, your soul is responsible for both good and evil. Neither God nor anybody else nor any object is responsible for them. This is the gist of Jain doctrine of "ātmakartṛtva".

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 consider one's ownself as responsible for suffering or pain instead of accusing others. One has to distinguish between the two causal factors—the direct involvement as a doer of action and an instrumental cause. There may be many instrumental causes of happiness and suffering. For example, if there are favourable circumstances, a person becomes happy, while if there are adverse circumstances, a person becomes unhappy. The circumstances are only instrumental, but they cannot create the sensation of happiness and suffering.It is the person himself who experiences happiness and suffering. The person himself causes either happiness or suffering.

On the basis of anatomical science, there are two layers in our mind—one is responsible for sensation of happiness, while the other for suffering; one is the stimulating force and the other is that of inhibition. Suppose there occur the external circumstances for causing anger. The stimulative system makes man think—"I should be angry." But the inhibitory system may ask him not to do so, but to wait or watch. Out of the two systems, sometimes one has the upper hand, sometimes the other. If inhibitory system would not be there, man would lose his control over himself. It is only due to this inhibitory system that man could exercise his control.

Explaining the above phenomenon, the science of Karma also gives a similar picture. According to it, two opposite systems of āvaraṇa (the veil of Karma) and anāvaraṇa (the removal of the veil of karma) go together. There is the āvaraṇa over jñāna i.e., knowledge and we can not have knowledge, but at the same time there is partly anāvaraṇa which allows knowledge to occur. The same is the case with darśana (perception).

On account of the rise of pleasure-feeling karma we experience happiness and pleasure, while if the suffering-feeling karma rises, we would undergo suffering. When one rises, the other becomes dormant. In the same way, when the deluding karma rises, there is 'mūrchā' (infatuation), but when it subsides, there prevails alertness.

Deluding karma plays a very important role in our conduct, behaviour and action. There are two states of deluding karma—one is that of rise and the other is that of subsidence. When it is in the latter state, our conduct is good; but when it is in the former state, our conduct becomes evil. There is another Karma viz., nāma karma which is also of two types—auspicious and inauspicious. When the former comes into rise, all the material things we get are good and auspicious, but when the latter is in rise, all of them are bad or negative. The former one helps us in getting honour and good reputation, the latter one is just the opposite—it makes us defamed, we have bad reputation.

Thus there is duality everywhere—in our mind, in our personality, in our body, in our brain—and sometime the negative one. In the same person, the dual personality of a saint and a scoundrel is found (or say, Mr. Jackal and Dr. Hyde). Sometimes, one is manifest, the other is veiled and the vice versa. But, in reality, it is the soul itself responsible for both—saintliness and wickedness. So also, the soul itself is responsible for its own happiness and suffering; the soul is both—the creator of happiness and the creator of suffering.

A man has at his disposal three means to perform any activity—mind, speech and body. Activities maybe good or evil. If mind, body and speech are themselves good, the activity will also be good, and if they are vitiated, the activity will also be evil. Thus there is good mental activity, good vocal activity and good physical activity because of the auspicious mind, speech and body. If, on the other hand, these are inauspicious, there will be evil mental, evil vocal and evil physical activities.

The result of the activity is new bondage of pudgala and formation of new saṃskāras. The nature of bondage and saṃskāras is according to the nature of activities—that is, if the mental, vocal and physical activities are good, the new bondage (of karma) will also be good and so also will be the saṃskāras; and if the former are not good i.e., if they are vitiated, then the new bondage and the saṃskāras will also be evil. The good saṃskāras, when they ripe up, again make us to undertake good activities of mind, speech and body, while the bad or evil ones forces us to indulge in evil activities of mind, speech and body. This cycle goes on and on. The positive or negative saṃskāras or forces create the kind of pudgalas (material stimulants), which, in turn, produce a sort of chemical energy. This is the gensis of our emotional system,which is reflected into our behaviour—good or bad.

Even the same principle is accepted in behavioural science based on our body-chemistry, according to which, the bio-chemicals (hormones etc.) are produced in the body; in accordance with them, the emotions and attitudes are produced in our mind and again in unison with them are made our conduct and behaviour. Take for example, a person indulges in violence. He does so on account of the bio-chemical secretions, for, according to modern science, the hormones are responsible for one's behaviour.

If we consider the Jain view, there are deep inside this physical body the subtle (sūkṣma) and the subtler (sūkṣmatara) elements which carry programmed software for guiding the actions of the body. They are called the saṃskāras and serve as the sole guiding power for all our actions. This is the Universal Law.

Let us understand the whole phenomena—The saṃskāras are inside the subtle elements from which they have their influence on the subtle body which, in turn, effect the physical body. Everything goes on according to the Law; there is, however, nobody to govern. The Laws themselves work and the whole phenomena takes place. We know how the Law works even when there is rain—the rain falls on the fertile soil and we see that the grass grows up. The Law of electrical phenomena works when the electricity is produced because of the two opposite charges—negative and positive. In the lightening, there is no one to govern the production of electricity; it all happens according to the Law, when negative and positive charges in the clouds associate. All cosmic phenomena go on according to the Universal Laws.

There are two kinds of Laws—(1) Universal Laws (2) Man-made Laws. The latter ones are only applicable to limited things, but the former ones are applied everywhere. The search of truth means the search of Universal Laws. The modern science has developed itself on the basis of such research. If finds out the Laws and a new secret is revealed. The philosophical search for truth is nothing else than the realization of these Eternal Laws. Same is the objective of science, which explores these Laws through experiments and observations.

Similarly the Law of 'cause of effect' is also not applicable in all cases. There are cases, which are covered by the phenomena of nature and caused by the mūla tattva themselves. These mūla tattvas are not caused by something. Mūla tattvas are, in fact, not an effect, and hence, they are not caused by anything. Their existence in itself is uncaused. Similarly, there are certain changes which take place only because of nature or they happen as an effect of the passage of time. For example, againg is such a change. Man becomes old only due to the time-factor. New things also become old. Here, the cause of change is time. So, somewhere we find that changes are caused by time, somewhere by nature and somewhere it is brought about by somebody's action. Everywhere, we cannot apply the same Law.

Now, when we talk about the fate of man, Jainism says that in ultimate analysis, the man (soul) is the creator of his own fate. Nobody else could be held responsible for that.

In creation of fate, many things of the external world become instrumental cause. Substances, place, time, and thousands of other factors may assist in materializing the fate, but the principal cause is one's own soul.

A person is enraged, because sometime someone has abused him or at other time someone has criticized him or somebody else has not obeyed him, and so on. There may be myriads of such instrumental causes, but after all, it is the man who is responsible for is anger. In spite of the external instrumental causes, a man may be able to control his anger, if he wants. That is why Jainism says that you are the creator of your own fate. It asks one not to depend upon others for creation of his own fate. He should neither beseech someone as a helpless person, nor should he accuse anyone for his ill-fate. He should always bear the responsibility on his own-self and create his fate. Only one who has understood this principle quite thoroughly can stand on his own feet. Then he pays attention to his own conduct or behaviour and becomes so careful as not to indulge in evil, or do something which would make his own fate blurred or blackened; on the contrary he would always endeavour to shape his future bright and golden through right conduct and right behaviour.

Thus, the control of fate is in our own hands. That is why Lord Mahāvīra says—"Be vigilent, don't be 'pramatta'. The sword of fear hangs on your head if you are 'pramatta'. This is the key with which you can handle the laws of nature. This is the formula by which you can write your own destiny. It is achieved by arresting the negative postulates of 'Karma-bandha' and by creating the auspicious ones."


We may summarise the above discussion: We ourselves (the soul) are the creator of our pleasure and suffering; we ourselves are the designer of our own fate; none else—not even God—is the creator, none else is the governor of our fate. Of course, there are laws or principles of happiness and suffering, viz., what causes happiness and what causes suffering. We have to know and understand these laws.

The first law is: "What produces happiness and suffering" is 'āśrava'." When the āśrava is auspicious, it results in bondage of 'puṇya' (auspicious karma) and when it is inauspicious, it results in the bondage of 'pāpa' (inauspicious karma). Puṇya subsequently brings happiness, pāpa subsequently brings suffering.

The second law is: The opposite of 'āśrava' is 'saṃvara'.

When the saṃvara occurs, there is no bondage either of puṇya or of pāpa; there is neither happiness nor suffering. It is a pure state when our consciousness becomes awakened and developed.

Just like the laws of āśrava and saṃvara, there are the laws of bandha (bondage), puṇya (auspicious karma), pāpa (inauspicious karma), nirjarā (sheding off of karma) and mokṣa (emancipation).

An insight into these Universal Laws enables us to become quite vigilant against incurring bondages. We come to know how to become free from the malevolent saṃskāras already incurred and how to develop new benevolent saṃskāras. On the whole, the laws of self-creationism and self-control have to be understood to understand all other laws and ultimately to go forward in the direction of one's own beatitude.


This is an edited version of the author's work:
Jain I Darshan ke Mool Sutra
Translated by Prof. M. P. Lele under the guidance of Muni Mahendra Kumar ji and Muni Dulahraj ji, Senior disciples of Acharya Mahprajna.

© Adarsh Sahitya Sangh. New Delhi Published by:
Kamlesh Chaturvedi
Adarsh Sahitya Sangh
210, Deendayal Upadhyay Marg
New Delhi - 110002 (India) Printed at:
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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anger
  2. Bandha
  3. Body
  4. Brain
  5. Consciousness
  6. Darśana
  7. Fear
  8. Gautama
  9. Jainism
  10. Jñāna
  11. Karma
  12. Mahāvīra
  13. Mokṣa
  14. Nirjarā
  15. Nāma
  16. Nāma Karma
  17. Nāma karma
  18. Paramāṇu
  19. Pudgala
  20. Puṇya
  21. Pāpa
  22. Saṃvara
  23. Science
  24. Soul
  25. Swami
  26. Tattva
  27. Tattvas
  28. Violence
  29. Ātmā
  30. āśrava
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