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Samayasara - by Acharya Kundakunda: Śruta Kevalī—Omniscient

Published: 07.05.2010
Updated: 02.07.2015

jo hi sudeṇahigacchadi appāṇamiṇaṃ tu kevalaṃ suddhaṃ.
taṃ sudakevalimisiṇo bhaṇaṃti loyappadīvayarā..9

jo sudaṇāṇaṃ savvaṃ jāṇadī sudakevaliṃ tamāhu jiṇā.
sudaṇāṇamāda savvaṃ jamhā sudakevalī tamhā..10

(Jo hi) only that soul who (sudeṇ tu) through his own faculty of śruta-bhāvaśruta (scriptural/verbal knowledge) (ahigacchadi) apprehends by direct experience (inaṃ kevalaṃ suddhaṃ appāṇaṃ) this singular pure and perfect self (bhaṇaṃti) is entitled to be called (suda-kevalī) ultimate or real śruta-kevalī i.e. one who is deemed to be omniscient by virtue of his perfect scriptural knowledge (isiṇo loyappadīvayarā) by seers who are illuminators of the entire loka (cosmos).

(Jo) That soul who (jāṇadī) has learnt (savvaṃ sudaṇāṇ) scriptural knowledge in its entirety (tamāhu) is called (vyavahāra (suda-kevalī) empirically scriptural omniscient by (jiṇā jiṇadevā (tīrtaṅkaras)—founder-omniscents), (jamhā) because (savvaṃ sudṇāṇa) scriptural knowledge in its entirely—drayya śrutajñāna is sure precursor of (āda) SELF; (taṃhā) and therefore, (sudkevalī) he is qualified to be designated scriptural omniscient.


The Jain theory of knowledge (epistemology) holds that the soul is inherently capable of knowing/cognizing all things—the self as well as non-self with all their attributes. But this capacity of the soul is obstructed by the veil of jñānāvaraṇīya karma which permits only a piecemeal and fragmental cognition. The knowledge is perfect when the veil is totally removed and imperfect when there is only partial removal. Again the knowledge is direct (pratyakṣa) or indirect (parokṣa) according as it emerges without or with the help of any instrument, other than the self, including sense organs and the mind.

For the sake of systematic investigation, the various states of knowledge ranging from the most primitive, imperfect and perverted knowledge of the one-sensed organism—such as plants—upto the most perfect and pure knowledge of the omniscient (kevalī), have been classified into five categories:

  1. Perceptual knowledge (mati-jñāna)
  2. Scriptural/verbal knowledge (śruta-jñāna)
  3. Knowledge akin to clairvoyance (avadhi-jñāna)
  4. Knowledge akin to telepathy (manaḥparyaya-jñāna)
  5. Omniscience pure and perfect knowledge (kevala-jñāna)

Of these, the first two are indirect or mediate as they are dependent upon the help of the sense-organs and mind, while the last three are direct or immediate ones as they are free from the dependence upon the sense-organs. The conception of these (latter) categories may appear rather dogmatic, but it should be remembered that the vital source of Jain Theory of Knowledge lies in this conception. If the soul has the ability to know everything, it must know independently and without any external help. Spatial or temporal distance can obstruct physical movement but it cannot have any limiting influence on the capacity to know. When the soul is unable to penetrate the distance, it is due to the delimitation of its own knowing capacity by the obstructive veil and not due to any inherent privation.

Knowledge is as independent as existence. Just as existence does not depend upon something external for its existence, so also knowledge does not depend upon anything else for its knowledge. It is there in its own right just as its objects are there in their own right. No physical contact, direct or indirect, with objects, is necessary for the emergence of knowledge. The question of physical contact or limits of distance or size comes in only when the inherent capacity is itself delimited. And this delimitation is, even, not ultimately due to some extraneous condition. It is due to the soul itself which has acquired the karmic veil by its own delusion.

It should also be noted that avadhi-jñāna and manaḥparyaya-jñāna can cognize only these (material mūrta) (which have form or shape). The formless (amūrta) entities such as souls, dharmāstikāya and adharmāstikāya cannot be apprehended by those two but only by kevala-jñāna. Nothing remains unknown in omniscience.

Śruta-jñāna originally meant knowledge embodied in the scriptures i.e. knowledge of scriptures is called śruta-jñāna. All organs of valid knowledge (including omniscience) excepting śruta-jñāna are for one's own (congnizing) self and not for others in as much as they cannot express themselves to others. This means that whenever they are so expressed they fall in the category of śruta-jñāna. Thus out of the five categories, only śruta-jñāna serves the two-fold purpose of enlightening the congizing self as well as others—the former function is on account of its self-revealing nature and the latter is through the instrumentality of language. The śruta quâ knowledge reveals its contents to the cognizing self while śruta quâ verbal expression reveals its contents to others as well. The former is called bhāva śruta while the latter is called dravya śruta—a unique instrument of transferring knowledge to others.

Now as stated above, the truth, about the real nature of soul is not unknowable, but can be directly apprehended only by an omniscient (kevalī). To enlighten others about the character of soul, the omniscient has to express his knowledge verbally through scriptures which are therefore the records of the direct experiences of the omniscient. Jains believe that the twelve original scriptures (angapraviṣṭa) contain all the truths and all possible knowledge i.e. they comprise the whole truth an omniscient can possibly express verbally. Hence the knowledge of those gifted scholars who have learnt and fully understood all the scriptures is equivalent to that of an omniscient because an omniscient himself cannot express any thing more. Such gifted scholars are designated as śruta-kevalī-omniscienl by virtue of their total scriptural knowledge. And since the instrument of transferring the knowledge to others is called dravya śruta, the omniscient by virtue of his scriptural knowledge is properly called dravya-śruta-kevalī.

It should be borne in mind that though the knowledge of a śruta-kevalī quâ verbal expression is not even an iota less than that of an omniscient (kevalī), it cannot match the latter's knowledge (i.e., omniscience).

A real experience can never be expressed verbally in toto because a verbal expression is about an experience and not the experience itself.

These two verses are probably meant to revalidate what has been conveyed in the first verse viz. Ācārya Kundakunda reiterates what is originally propounded by śruta kevalī.


Samayasara - by Acharya Kundakunda Publishers:
Jain Vishva Bharati University First Edition: 2009

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Adharmāstikāya
  2. Amūrta
  3. Bhāva
  4. Clairvoyance
  5. Dharmāstikāya
  6. Dravya
  7. Jñānāvaraṇīya
  8. Jñānāvaraṇīya Karma
  9. Karma
  10. Kevala-jñāna
  11. Kevalī
  12. Kundakunda
  13. Loka
  14. Omniscient
  15. Soul
  16. Ācārya
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