Glory of Jainism: Sixteen Soteriological Reflections

Published: 25.07.2012
Updated: 02.07.2015

Sixteen Soteriological Reflections

1. Transitoriness:

According to the first sermon of the Lord, it is the nature of modes (transformations, composite things) to originate and to get destroyed while it is the nature of substance to continue forever. Wealth, prosperity, youth, power, strength and associations with loved ones - all these are impermanent as they depend on past karmas. Having cultivated equanimity towards life and death, union and separation, happiness and misery one should deeply reflect on the eternal soul.

2. Utter helplessness:

Worldly objects, friends, kinsmen, loved ones - all have their limitations. They cannot share one's diseases, grief and death. They cannot free one from one's fear. Supreme doctrine (dharma) propounded by the attachment-free Deity is the sole refuge in the world and one should seek refuge in it alone.

3. Transmigratory Existence:

Tirthankaras (Builders of ford-of-Religion which leads across the ocean-of-transmigratory-existence) have declared that this transmigratory existence involves constant and infinite misery. All its effects and all its associations or courses are miserable. One wrongly regards absence of misery as happiness. Feeling of my and mine and egoism give rise to attachment and aversion. Attachment, desire and expectation lead to misery. Longing for delicious food, fear, lust and acquisitiveness cause a living being wander in the fourfold transmigratory existence infinite times. So having become contented and equanimous one must engage one's mind in virtuous concentration.

4. Absolute Aloneness:

In this transmigratory existence a being is born alone, and alone he dies. One alone has to experience the good or evil consequences of one's auspicious and inauspicious of past deeds. One should constantly reflect: 'I have nobody belonging to me, nor do I belong to anybody, my soul alone belongs to me.' So having turned inward one should fix one's mind on virtuous concentration.

5. Fundamental Separateness:

The soul and the body are utterly separate. Who am I? I am not this body. The relations that are due to it are also not mine. I am the immortal soul who is by nature endowed with infinite knowledge, infinite bliss and infinite power. None can torture me, pierce me, cut me. bum me or kill me. Then, why should I have any fear?

6. Impurity of the body:

The body is the receptacle of impurities. It is filled with filthy substances like flesh, blood, excrement, urine, bones, etc. It is the home of diseases. It makes pure things impure. Its beauty is superficial and skin-deep. So having abandoned attachment towards one's own body and other's body as well, one should abstain from doing evil activities for its sake.

7. Karmic Inflow (Ashrava):

Ashrava means the inflow of Karmic matter into the soul. And secondarily even the causes that effect the inflow are also regarded as ashrava. These causes are five: -

  1. wrong understanding (mithyatva).
  2. non-refrainment from violence etc. (avirati),
  3. fourfold passion (kaskaya),
  4. negligence (pramada); it includes eightfold pride, longing for the pleasure of worldly objects, passions, idleness and indulgence in talks arousing feeling of attachment,
  5. mental, vocal and bodily activities.
Karmic inflow is of two types, viz. auspicious and inauspicious. One should slop the inauspicious Karmic influx by abstaining from evil activities, cause the auspicious one by performing virtuous activities, and keep the ultimate goal of absolute self-purification constantly before oneself.

8. Stoppage of the inflow (Samvara):

Samvara means the stoppage of the inflow of Karmic matter. And secondarily even the causes that effect the stoppage are also called samvara. The causes in point are: -

  1. right inclination or understanding (samyaktva),
  2. self-restraint (virati), i.e. observance of the vows of the monk or the householder,
  3. vigilance or mindfulness (apramada),
  4. victory over the afflictions (parishaha-jaya),
  5. cultivation of ten meritorious qualities (dharma), viz. forbearance, modesty, uprightness, purity, truthfulness, restraint, austerity, renunciation, non-attachment and continence,
  6. wholesome restriction of mental, vocal and bodily activities (gupti),
  7. five self-regulating careful activities of mind, speech and body (samiti).

9. Partial dissociation (Nirjara):

Nirjara means partial dissociation of Karmic matter clung to the soul. It is of two types, viz. involuntary and voluntary. The Karmic matter gets dissociated from the soul as soon as it rises and gives its fruit. This dissociation is called involuntary dissociation as it is not effected by voluntary efforts of the soul. The Karmic matter which has not risen to give its fruit but remains dormant is dissociated from the soul by the voluntary efforts. As this dissociation is effected by voluntary efforts it is called voluntary dissociation. The voluntary efforts here meant are the twelve-fold austerity. Of the twelve austerities, six are external and six are internal. The six external austerities are as follows:

  1. to give up all sorts of food for a limited period of time or till death (anashana),
  2. to eat less than what is needed to fill the belly (unodari),
  3. to limit the items of food (vruttisamkshepa),
  4. to give up stimulating or delicious food (rasaparityaga),
  5. to stay in lonely places free from all disturbances (viviktashayyasanasamlinata), and
  6. to place one's body under stress through cold or heal, through adopting diverse postures and the like (kayaklesha).

These external austerities help and strengthen the practice of the internal ones. By the practice of the internal austerities one can achieve the dissociation of more Karmic matter. The six internal austerities are as follows:

  1. atonement: to repent and atone for the sinful acts (prayaschitta);
  2. veneration:  to respect and honour the teachers and elders (vinaya);
  3. service: to render service to teachers, elders, the sick etc. (vaiyavruttya);
  4. study: to study scriptures and other works conducive to spiritual development (svadhyaya);
  5. to prevent one's body from doing unwholesome and evil acts, to renounce all attachment to one's body and to give up all egoistic thoughts (kayotsarga); and
  6. mental concentration; to renounce all the distraction of mind, to concentrate mind on wholesome objects and to cultivate trance states (dhyana).

These internal austerities are capable of destroying (dissociating) infinite Karmic particles.

10. Deep reflection on Religion (Dharma):

In this worthless worldly existence the only thing worthy of one's attention is the Religion (the Doctrine) propounded by the Lord who, having conquered attachment and aversion, attained omniscience. It is so because it saves beings from falling into low existence, puts them on the right path of salvation and ultimately emancipates them from the whirlpool of fourfold existence. One should repeatedly concentrate on Religion which is constituted of right inclination, right knowledge and right conduct.

11. Deep reflection on the nature of Universe (Loka):

One should deeply reflect on the nature of Universe (loka) and Empty Space (aloka). Auspicious and inauspicious past Karmas cause us to go to heaven and hell respectively. But our ultimate goal is to reach Siddhashila (Abode of the liberated) and rest there. We should never lose sight of it. We must cultivate this type of wakefulness.

12. Rarity of right faith:

Human birth, good family, healthy body with unimpaired sense-organs, hearing of the true Doctrine, etc. are very difficult to attain. And it is to be borne in mind that the succeeding one is even more difficult to attain than the immediately preceding one. Of them, a good spiritual teacher and faith in his words are extremely difficult to attain. Infinite Tirthankaras had flourished in the beginningless past yet this being has remained unenlightened even to this day. It is so because for that abundant auspicious Karmas-causing-auspicious-karmas-in-their-train and merit are needed. One should strive for the cultivation of required merit or qualification.

13. Reflection on universal friendliness:

In the infinite past births at one time or another one happened to have close and loving relationship with each and every living being of the entire universe. Having remembered this love and affection as also having forgotten; wrongs done by them one should develop a feeling of friendliness towards them. Others have their souls as one has one's own. All souls are similar in nature. So one should view others as one views one's self. One should behave with others as one would like others to behave with one. One should conquer attachment and aversion and cultivate equanimity. One should curb passions. One should wish the well-being of all beings. One's own well-being or good is contained in the well-being or good of others. So one should cultivate a feeling of universal friendliness. One should never bear ill-will or enmity towards others.

14. A feeling of gladness:

One will gradually develop those very qualities in one's self if one feels great joy on seeing good qualities and progress of those superior to oneself. The Master has declared that (in accordance with the internal mental state) one may or may not attain the good result of one's good act, but one who approves and praises the good act is certainly benefitted. This is the reason why one should honour the Lord Arihanta endowed with all spiritual qualities, saints, patriots, Jaina lay followers, philanthropists, donors, followers of the path of salvation, etc., constantly recall their good qualities to one's mind and derive pleasure from it. At least one should not indulge in backbiting slandering and reproaching others.

15. Compassion:

Having compassion on the miserable, the poor, the helpless and the wicked one should ever strive to remove or lessen their hardships and sufferings. One should render all possible assistance and service to them. One should help them financially according to one's capacity. One should always reflect as lo when one will attain the spiritual capacity to free the beings from evil activities that cause misery. One should never be hard-hearted and cruel.

16. A feeling of indifference:

When one comes across a person who does not adopt a wholesome path inspite of one's right instruction and advice but on the contrary disrespects and despises one, one should not be angry with such a deluded, perverse and egoist person but should maintain an attitude of neutrality (indifference) towards him. Of course, under such circumstances it is very difficult to maintain an attitude of neutrality. One should pray the Lord that we may attain more and more capacity to maintain an attitude of neutrality when our attempt at reforming a person or a group of persons ultimately comes to utter nought. These sixteen soteriological reflections are spiritually beneficial to one's self and to others as well. They endow one with new spiritual vision or attitude as opposed to old worldly one. They purify the soul and manifest its natural Love tor truth. This natural love for truth is strengthened by them.

Title: Glory Of Jainism

Ashok Saha and Prathana Saha


Shri Anilbhai Gandhi (Trustee),
Palitana - 364270 (India)

Edition: 1998

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Aloka
  2. Apramada
  3. Arihanta
  4. Ashrava
  5. Avirati
  6. Body
  7. Concentration
  8. Dharma
  9. Dhyana
  10. Equanimity
  11. Fear
  12. Gupti
  13. JAINA
  14. Jaina
  15. Karmas
  16. Karmic matter
  17. Kayaklesha
  18. Kayotsarga
  19. Loka
  20. Mithyatva
  21. Nirjara
  22. Pramada
  23. Pride
  24. Samiti
  25. Samvara
  26. Samyaktva
  27. Siddhashila
  28. Soul
  29. Space
  30. Svadhyaya
  31. Tirthankaras
  32. Unodari
  33. Vinaya
  34. Violence
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