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Knowledge - Jñāna (2/2)

Published: 13.10.2008
Updated: 30.07.2015
3.0 Means of Indirect Cognition by Empirical Self

Empirical soul needs other media to cognize the objects as it is masked by jñāna and darśana obscuring karmas. Accordingly it has sense organs (indriyas). Mind is also described as quasi-sense in Jain scriptures. There are five senses namely skin (touch sense), tongue (taste sense), nose (smell sense), eyes (colors and forms sense) and ears (hearing sense). Eyes and mind can perceive their objects without touching or contacting them while the remaining sense organs need contact with their subjects to cognize. Each sense organ has limitations of the distance and time for their respective subject as detailed in Dhavalā. Further the jīva is classified according to the number of sense organs it has (starting with touch and moving on to taste, smell, see and hear). Jīva with up to four senses cannot have mind and the five-sensed jīva can be with or without mind. Sense organs are classified as physical (Dravya) and psychical (Bhāva) and shown below in Fig1.

Physical sense organs are further classified as Form (Nivrati) and upkaraṇa (capability to use physical organs to perceive matter). Nivrati is further classified as external (form of each sense organ as we see it) and internal which is the internal part of sense organ associated with the external part. Upkaraṇa/ enabler is essential as they assist and protect (upkāra) both internal and external sense organs (e.g. eye brow and black eyeball are the upkaraṇa of eye). Psychical sense organs on the other hand are the manifestation of soul resulting in the inclination and capability of each sense organ to know their respective subjects. Psychical sense organs are further classified as capability and its utilization, which are due to the dissociation cum subsidence of matijñānāvarṇiya karmas. Matter sense organs are effective only when associated with psychical sense organs (as they have the cause-effect relationship). Each sense organ can cognize only its own attribute, e.g. skin can cognize touch, eyes can cognize form and colour and so on.


Jīvas are also classified according to the number of sense organs they have like one sense organ (sthāvara or non mobile) and tras (mobile bodies and with 2 to 5 sense organs and with or without mind). Further ear and eye are called kāmi as they cognize with the association of the word and form of the object while the remaining three sense organs are called bhogi or enjoyer as they contact and feel the object for cognition. Further eye is said to be aprāpyakāri as it does not get in contact with the object while the remaining four are said as prāpyakāri as they get in touch directly or indirectly with the object. Detailed cognition and spatial capabilities of different sense organs are given in Dhavalā.

Mind is the quasi sense organ as per Jain scriptures. It is also known as saṅjñā, noindri (nonsense organ) or anindriya (internal-sense organ). It is different from consciousness as it is primarily an integrator of all sensual perceptions (the word sarvārathagrahaṇam manaħ[14] specifies the instrumental character of mind and different from soul which is an agent). It is also of two types namely matter and psychical or conceptual. Physical mind or dravya mana is identified as a lotus like matter structure with eight petals near heart. Svetambaras consider mind to be existent everywhere in the body along with the soul (?). Hema Candra in Pramāṇa Mimāṅsā defines it as a combination of manovargaṇas busy in contemplation / memory or imagination and changes its size and form every moment. Psychical mind or bhāva-mana on the other hand is divided in two parts namely capability and its utilization (like in psychical sense organs) and is born out of the conscious substance (cetana-dravya-janya). Discrimination (īhā), Judgment (avāya), Retention (dhārṇā), Memory (smṛti), Comparison (pratyābhijñāna), Discussion /argument /logic (tarka), Inference (anumāna) and scriptures (āgama) are all different aspects of mental contemplation. Comparative analysis of functions and capabilities of sense organs and mind are given in Table 1.2

Table 1.2


Sense Organ



Perception (by contact or from distance of the object)

Contemplation, memory, imagination. Sensual perceptions analysed

Object of cognition

Concrete, in the vicinity

Concrete/non-concrete objects


Object of present time only

Objects of present, past and future.

Cognition process

One at a time by each sense organ.

Many objects at the same time

Initiation of cognition

Contact (except eye) essential

Contact not required.

An example to differentiate the functioning of sense organs and mind is as follows:

  • I hear the sound Dev Datt. This is the function of sense organ (ear).
  • Who is Dev Datt? Cognition of Dev Datt and his characteristics is the function of mind.

4.0 Process of Knowing

Soul (ātmā or Jīva) is an inseparable lump of innumerable space points. It is of the same size as the physical / matter body it owns. Jīva’s unique characteristic of sentiency and its manifestation (darśana and jñāna)distinguishes it from other substances. Pure soul is pure knowledge. Empirical soul, defiled with karmas has a mask of matter karmas, which obscure its jñāna characteristic partially. The nature and extent of the knowing capacity of the soul is obstructed by jñānāvarṇiya karmas (one of the eight types of karmas classified according to their nature), which mask the soul, and permits it only an imperfect comprehension of the world. Further it is said that the thicker the cover of karmas, the more obscured is the jñāna quality of soul.

As the senses are matter themselves, so the empirical soul can cognise only concrete entities requiring the assistance of sense organs. But when the soul is totally free of kārmika mask (especially of jñānāvarṇiya karmas), its cognition becomes limitless and is extended to all types of entities (concrete or non-concrete of present, past and future). Thus cognition power of soul increases as the kārmika veil masking it decreases. Pure soul cognizes all entities directly and does not use any media for cognition. It cognizes directly and simultaneously all objects of knowledge.

4.1 Darśana - Intuition

Darśana implies intuition of generalities (sāmānya) of things without particulars (viśeṣa). There is no grasping of details in darśana. It just gives a feeling of say existence of the object or of being. Before we know an object in details, there is a stage where we simply see, hear, or otherwise become conscious of a thing in a general way without knowing the ins and outs of it. We simply know it as being or it belonging to a class. It is thus detail-less knowledge (in Jain āgamas it is also called Nirākāra or formless upyoga or indeterminate cognition) or intuition. It is not necessary that this state of intuition be only through the senses. Accordingly it is identified as of four types:

  • Cakṣu (visual intuition)
  • Acakṣu (intuition of the object through senses other than the visual sense)
  • Avadhi (peculiar kind of clairvoyant capacity), which is able to intuit things and events at distant places and times, past or future, without the use of sense organs and hence directly by the soul i.e. objects and events not evident to sense perceptions are obvious to it. It perceives only concrete things
  • Kevala (intuition par excellence) and associated with pure consciousness. It refers to the all-perceiving faculty of an omniscient.

Thus the last two types of darśana are not sensual perception but a sort of indistinct awareness, which precedes the more complete or complete awareness in case of Avadhi and Kevala respectively. Concerning the first type of manifestation of consciousness i.e. darśanaupyoga, Jains talk of realisation of the self - occurring in darśana and hence they use the word darśana instead of belief in samyak darśana. On this basis, sometimes they say that darśana is svaprakāśaka i.e. self-revealing or activating to distinguish it from jñāna-upyoga (Table 1.1). Virasena in his commentary Dhavala states that intuition is the introspection of the self as every entity is with both specifics and generalities. []This is partially true as both darśana and jñāna are cohesive and occur together either serially or simultaneously, e.g. when one becomes introvert i.e. looks and gets immersed in his soul, then the object of knowledge also becomes the object of darśana and the cogniser starts cognizing the object.

4.2 Jñāna - Cognition or Knowledge

Darśana, which occurs on the first contact of the object with the knower, is followed by the cognition process (Avagraha) for cognition of specifics or details about the object. Empirical soul uses pramāṇa and nayas to cognize an entity. As every substance has infinite qualities and modes and there are infinite substances; so the empirical soul cognizes them using pramāṇa (for complete knowledge of the substance) and naya (for partial knowledge of the substance from a specific view point or objective). Empirical souls can cognize only concrete objects (mati and śruta with the assistance of senses and mind; avadhi and manaħparyāya directly though) while pure self has just kevala jñāna. Further mati and śruta jñāna are the only types of acquired jñāna (the other three types of jñāna are direct by soul). Some ācāryas say śruta jñāna can cognise non-concrete objects also, though indirectly with the aid of sermons of kevalis / omniscient. We shall now try to see how the empirical soul and pure soul use their sentiency faculty and its manifestation to know the objects of knowledge.

5.0 Cognition by Empirical Soul

The empirical soul, by its very nature, needs the assistance of external agencies, either as a medium or as an aid to acquire knowledge of the object of knowledge. The physical or celestial body, accompanying the empirical soul is used as a means or a medium to acquire and transfer knowledge. The human beings are said to have the five sense organs and the body comprising the nervous system including the brain (for processing), mind and a host of nerve centers. The kārmaṇa śarira (like a database of programs and data in computers) accompanying the empirical soul is a storehouse of the traces (karmas) and activated by the tejus śarira (which connects the kārmaṇa śarira with soul and the nervous system for information exchange purposes). The empirical soul is affected by the activities (called yoga in Jain literature) of the sense organs as well as the activation of the karmas and called as psychic or bhāva-mana, which cause the lumping of mind particles (manovargaṇās) in the form of a lotus shaped entity called mind. This physical or material mind, in turn, interacts with the nervous system including the brain to transmit appropriate signals to sense organs and psychic mind back and forth. Brain is the first connection of physical mind. It processes all signals from physical mind and transmits the results for processing by other sense organs and vice versa. The brain has the capability to store information processing modules in its various limbs so that it process data received from sense organs and physical mind quickly and without recourse to physical mind all the time.

The empirical soul acquires knowledge through indirect means i.e. mati and śruta jñāna. Table 1.3 gives the steps involved in acquiring these types of knowledge in a sequential manner. Thus we see that avagraha, the first stage of mati cannot start without intuition (i.e. feeling of existence of the object by the cognizer) and the object getting in the zone of cognition of the cognizer, i.e. getting in contact with each other direct or virtual.

  • Similarly īhā without avagraha; avāya without īhā; dhārṇā without avāya; Smṛti without dhārṇā and stages at serial number 7,8,9 and 10 are all serial and require preceding stage to occur to enable the succeeding stage take place. Smṛti is however used in īhā and avāya also.
  • We have also seen that the empirical soul can acquire on its own, without the use of sense organs, the knowledge of concrete objects through two types of jñāna namely avadhi and manaħparyāya directly. These are said to be partial / ek-deśa as they know the concrete objects only but directly without the assistance of sense organs. Soul, due to the subsidence cum destruction of avadhi and manaħparyāya jñānāvarṇiya karmas, attains a capability to know all concrete objects directly. However to some extent, these two types also are dependent on the physical body of the cognizer (Avadhi) and the mind of the other person for manaħparyāyajñānā.

Avadhi knows the objects through some or all-specific space points of the soul associated with the body and spread throughout the entire body (bhava pratyaya particularly). These space points are of the shape of conch shell, swastika, kalaśa etc. for auspicious knowledge while for the inauspicious cognition these are of the shape like chameleon etc. Further these space points keep changing or getting added / deleted as a result of the purity level of the soul (i.e. subsidence cum dissociation of avadhi jñānāvarṇiya karmas). Empirical souls in hellish and heavenly destinies have avadhi jñāna by birth and limited in nature.

With mati jñāna, the cogniser knows the physical mind of the others and then manaħparyaya cognises the objects being thought (or were /will be) by the mind of others as the thoughts are said to be the modes of the mind itself. Manaħparyaya knows the objects with the assistance of mind and hence matijñāna is its darśana. Being the empirical soul, it knows the mind and its modes, this jñāna knows only the concrete objects thought of by the mind of others and not the non-concrete attributes associated with them. As the owner of this jñāna is with a high order of soul-purity, his soul is able to directly cognise these objects and is of right type only.

Avadhi, manaħparyāya and kevala being direct cognition by the soul do not need any media or assistance. These types of jñāna depend on the status of karmas masking the pure soul only. Avadhi and manaħparyaya have limitations, as they are cognized by the empirical soul due to dissociation cum subsidence of respective jñānāvarṇiya karmas.

To acquire knowledge of worldly and physical objects, Akalaṅka divided Matijñāna into two types, namely sāmvyavahārika pratyakṣa (direct by tradition) and/ or parokṣa (indirect) comprising memory, comparison, logic, inference. Further he kept śrutajñāna as scriptural knowledge for spiritual discussions as the last type of parokṣajñāna/. In this process of acquiring knowledge, śruta is generally representing the knowledge acquired from others. In a way, it can be seen that śruta is further refinement of already existing knowledge, as it is first used as memory in acquiring knowledge then in updating this memory for use later on. It is acquired with the assistance of mati and is useful in enhancing the process of acquiring knowledge. Hence mati or mind based knowledge can be said as the most important type of knowledge to know the physical objects.

6.0 Origin and Growth of jñāna Doctrine in Jain Philosophy

We shall now review developments in the concepts and literature on jñāna in Jain philosophy.

a. Pre-Mahāvīra Time to 1st Century BC. Canonical Era

Basis of our knowledge of Jain theory of knowledge is the transfer of knowledge on the tradition of preceptor to disciple for quite some time as no efforts were made for a long time to document the sermons of Bhagavāna Mahāvīra or earlier tīrthaṅkaras. Jain definition of the loka states that loka is eternal i.e. not created by anyone and existent from beginning-less period. The entire time period divided into epochs and each epoch has a series of 24 tīrthaṅkaras practicing and delivering the Dvādaśāṅgas. Thus jñāna origin is beginningless as it is accepted as a co-existent quality of soul.

Fourteen Pūrvas (old texts), which are the organised source of knowledge before Mahāvīra’s time and non existent now, have Jñana- Pravāda as number 5th pūrva dealing exclusively on the subject of jñāna. Dvādaśāṅgas (compiled by Gautama, the principal apostle of Mahāvīra and based on His sermons) all through have discussions on jñāna. So the period from Mahāvīra’s time till say 1st century BC can be considered as the time of Yogi-pramāṇa as the basis of right / valid knowledge (due to the presence of either omniscient themselves or the śrutakevalis or ācāryas having knowledge of some purvās or some aṅgas). Knowledge is described in canonical texts as of five types shown in Fig 1 to 3.

  1. Five types of knowledge as per Fig.1 - Ref Bhagwati Sutra
  2. Regrouping the five types of jñāna in two categories namely direct (pratyakṣa) and Indirect (parokṣa). Fig 2. - Ref Sthānāṅga.
  3. Sensual perception being included both as direct and indirect, i.e. Mati divided in two categories namely sensual perception as direct and memory, comparison, logic, inference as indirect. Fig 3. Ref. Nandi Sutra.

The beginning of Jain logic is evident in the works of Kunda Kunda’s (analyzes every aspect of reality from three view points), Samaṅta Bhadra (Āpta Mimānsā) establishing the essence of omniscience; Umā Swāti (Tattvāratha sutra), SiddhaSena Diwākara (equating knowledge with pramāṇa) in the period 1-4th century AD. They considered knowledge as valid or not from the point of view of logic and not just spiritual progress. They classified pramāṇa into two viz pratyakṣa (direct) and parokṣa (indirect) first based on its origination by the soul directly or through some other external media. The next phase of Jain logic / theory of knowledge was initiated by Akalaṅka, called father of Jain logic (720-780AD). He wrote Laghīstraya, Nyāyaviniscaya, Pramāṇasaṅgraha, Sidhiviniscaya and commentary on Tattvārthasutra called Rājvārtika. He studied all Indian schools of logic and then gave final shape to Jain logic, which was compact, comprehensive, authentic and subtle. Competent Jain logicians like Mānikyanandi (Parīkṣāmukha), Prabhācandra (980-1065AD) wrote commentaries on Parīkṣāmukh and Laghistrya named as Nyāyakumudacandra and Prameyakamalamārtanda and a host of other logicians like Vādidevasuri etc. later on followed. Then in 1108-112AD Hemacandra wrote an excellent systematic textbook on logic called Pramāṇamimāṅsā followed by other logicians later on who wrote commentaries on this and Divākara’s works. Yaśovijaya (1608-1688AD) wrote Tarkabhāṣā and Jñānabindu dealing with subject systematically.

Kunda Kunda in Samaya Sāra (gāthā 5) introduced the concept of pramāṇa, Tattvārathasutra equated jñāna to pramāṇa and further classified it as direct and indirect 8. Ārya Rakṣita tried to define pramāṇa and gave its four types as per Nyāya śāstra. Umā Svāti equated jñāna to pramāṇa in Tattvārthasutra. Samaṅta Bhadra established the validity of Jaina omniscient (apta), anekānta (multiple view points or relative pluralism), syādvāda (relativism) and naya (view point) in Āpta Mīmānsā, Svayambhū Stotra and Iṣṭopdeśa. Siddha Sena used logic to further detail the Anekānta and Naya doctrine and used them to discuss jñāna as indicated in scriptures earlier. Pūjya Pāda also did a comparative analysis of jñāna with other philosophies. Hari Bhadra wrote Anekānta Jayapatākā and also tried to establish harmony between Jain and Patanjali yoga systems. Akalaṅka put Jain pramāṇa on firm footing and wrote Tattvāratha-Vārtika, Aṣṭaśati, Laghistrya etc. He is described as the father of Jain Nyāya. Later on his followers namely Vidyā Nanda (commentaries on Akalaṅka’s works), Māṇikya Nandī (Parikṣā Mukha to describe Jain Nyaya in sutra form), and later on Hema Candra (Pramāṇa Mīmāṅsā) etc. wrote extensive literature on Jain pramāṇa and nyāya.

Hemacandra[15] says,” literally pramāṇa, when studied in parts, stands for pra- means in excellent form i.e. to the exclusion of doubt; - means to determine and the suffix ṇa- means an instrument. Thus the whole word pramāṇa stands for ‘what is the most effective instrument of the determination of reality in its true character through the preliminary exclusion of doubt’”.

b. Recent Developments. 11th Century AD till now

11th century marks the beginning of ācārya Hema Candra’s era. He wrote Pramāṇa Mīmāṅsā and simplified the definition of pramāṇa as per the Jain scriptures namely samyagartha nirṇaya pramāṇam or pramāṇa is an entity, which assists in the determination of the right meaning of the object. He was followed by Prabhā Candra (commentaries Prameya-Kamala-Mārtanda on Parikṣā Mukha and Nyāya Kumucandra on Laghīstriya), Abhaya Deva’s commentary on Sanmati Tarka, Yaśovijaya using Akalaṅka’s concepts of Pramāṇa, nyāya to write books on Jain nyāya like Jain Tarka Bhāṣā, Jñāna Bindu, commentary on śāstra-vārtāsamuccaya. Vimal Dāsa wrote Sapta-Bhaṅgi to elaborate the concept of this important aspect of anekānta. This is the era of developing literature with clarifications on Jain nyāya for commoners and the process continues to date.


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        1. Abhaya
        2. Akalaṅka
        3. Anekānta
        4. Anumāna
        5. Avadhi jñāna
        6. Avagraha
        7. Avāya
        8. Aṅgas
        9. Bhadra
        10. Bhagavāna Mahāvīra
        11. Bhagwati Sutra
        12. Bhava
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        14. Bhāṣā
        15. Body
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        19. Contemplation
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        24. Gautama
        25. Hemacandra
        26. Indriyas
        27. International School for Jain Studies
        28. JAINA
        29. Jain Logic
        30. Jain Philosophy
        31. Jaina
        32. Jñāna
        33. Jīva
        34. Karmas
        35. Kevala jñāna
        36. Kevalis
        37. Loka
        38. Mahāvīra
        39. Mana
        40. Matijñāna
        41. Nandi sutra
        42. Nandī
        43. Naya
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        45. Nyaya
        46. Nyāya
        47. Omniscient
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        52. Samaya
        53. Samyak Darśana
        54. Siddha
        55. Siddhasena
        56. Smṛti
        57. Soul
        58. Space
        59. Space points
        60. Sutra
        61. Svetambaras
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        63. Syādvāda
        64. Sāmānya
        65. Tarka
        66. Tīrthaṅkaras
        67. Vidyā
        68. Virasena
        69. Yoga
        70. Ācārya
        71. Ācāryas
        72. Āgama
        73. Āgamas
        74. Āpta
        75. Ātmā
        76. ācāryas
        77. āgama
        78. Īhā
        79. Śruta
        80. Śrutajñāna
        81. Śāstra
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