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Karma Theory
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It is one of the peculiar characteristics of Jainism, which is elaborately discussed. The theory of karma is nothing but the theory of causation, the law of moral causation. Nothing happens without a cause. Each individual is responsible for his or her own actions. These actions are the cause that produces proper effects at people times. This is the eternal and universal law of Karmas. Other systems also believe in the theory of Karma. According to the theory of Karma, man is dependent upon only himself. It does not believe in the supremacy of God. It is against Akriyavada. It is against Fatalism. There is glorification of freedom of individual. ‘Purusharth’. Person should make good use of the knowledge of the law that good actions generate good fruits and bad actions generate bad fruits. Then, he will hesitate to perform bad actions and feel elated to perform only good actions. At times, under certain circumstances, we are constrained to disregard the law of Karma and forced to perform evil actions against our will. In such cases too we do bind Karmas. But the duration of such Karma may be short and the bitterness may be less intense.

The doctrine of Karma occupies a more significant position in the Jain Philosophy as compared to other system of philosophy. The supreme importance of the doctrine of Karma lies in providing a rational and satisfactory explanation to the apparently inexplicable phenomena of birth and death , happiness and misery, inequalities in mental and physical attainments and the existence of different species of living beings. Every Jiva or soul is possessed of ‘consciousness’ and of ‘Upayoga’ comprising the power of perception and knowledge; it is the doer of all actions; it has the capacity to occupy the full dimensions of the body which embodied it; it is the enjoyer of the fruits; it has the inherent tendency to move upwards and is a Siddha or liberated in its stage of perfections. However, soul finds itself tangled in ‘sansar’ the cycle of transmigration, suffering, birth and death, happiness and misery.

The doctrine of Karma explains the operation of Karmic matter, which draws a veil over the natural qualities of the soul, crippling its powers. The soul is found entangled with Karma since eternity. It is the primary functions of religion to stop the influx of Karma and mitigate the presence of Karma with the soul and thereby show the path of liberation and methods through which the soul could achieve perfections.

The literal meaning of the Sanskrit word Karma is deeds, including thoughts and words. Karmas are invisible, fine particles of matter prevailing all around us just like the air particles.

The Jain Dharma considers Karma as an independent and separate entity. It has been calculated in terms of Pudgalas because the body is made up of Pudgals. Hence Karma is also made up of Pudgals.

The impact of Karma and pudgalas on the soul is deep. The relationship between the soul and Karma is without beginning. Though Karma becomes inert,it envelops the soul in the form of an energy. It is not correct to think that the soul was pure once, and that later it became enveloped in Karmas. The soul and Karma have been bound together always and that has no beginning. Of course, it is possible to prevent new Karmas from entering the soul. Jain darshan believes that Karmic particles is a physical substance that is everywhere in the universe. The Karmic bondage occurs as a result of the two processes, Ashrava and Bandh. Ashrava is the inflow of karma. The karmic influx occurs when the particles are attracted to the soul on account of Yoga. Yoga is the vibration of the soul due to activities of mind, speech and body. However yoga alone does not produce bondage. The karmas have effect only when they are bound to the consciousness. This binding of the karma to the consciousness is called Bandh.

But it is also possible to discard and destroy the karmas that have collected to the soul and are clinging to it. Gold is found mixed with rocks. In the mines, they cut the rock, take out the pieces and by various physical and chemical processes, pure gold is separated from these pieces of rocks. In the same manner, even the soul can be made bright and pure by discarding and destroying all karmas. It is possible to discard and destroy the karmas that are seated in it exercising an unnatural sway over it and it is possible to deliver the soul from their power. When terror and impact of all the karmas are discarded, the original radiant form of the soul shows itself.


The whole universe is packed with the fine karmic material particles. Only when they get attracted towards the soul through its activity and stick to it, they are designated as karma. The karmic material particles bound with the soul are called Dravya Karma, while the internal mental state of attachments, aversion etc. are called Bhav Karma. The soul in its impure and perverse state is the doer of Bhava karma as also of Dravya karma. Bhav karma cause Dravya karma and Dravya karma cause Bhav karma. They are mutually related as cause and effect just as the seed and the sprout are.

Why do some people are successful in life and others are not? Why some are rich and some are poor? Why do some suffer and other enjoys the life? Why some children’s are good in studies and others are not? Why do some live longer while others die at a young age? Why some people are healthy and fit throughout the life and others suffer severe disease.

The answer to all of these questions is the effect of our karmas. The theory of karma explains the role that karma plays in our lives, how we accumulate karmas, and how we get rid of them.

At the time of bondage of karmas to the soul, four characteristics of karmas are decided. They are ;

1) Prakriti bandh(Nature)
2) Sthiti bandh(Duration)
3) Anubhag bandh(Intensity)
4) Pradesh bandh(quantity).


Each karma particle has a capacity to give a specific type of fruit to the soul when it matures. The nature of the fruit that karma will give on maturity is determined right at the time of bondage of karmas. There are 8 major types and 158 sub-types of nature of karma. These 158 varieties of karma lead to various type of pleasant and unpleasant experiences and circumstances for the Jiva.

There are eight main types of karma which are categorized into the ‘harming’ and ‘non-harming’ each divided inti four types. The harming karmas known as GHATIYA KARMA directly affect the soul powers by impending its perception,knowledge,energy and also brings about delusion. They are destructive karmas as follows:

1) Gyanavarniya karma(knowledge-obscuring karma),
2) Darshanavarniya karma(perception-obscuring karma),
3) Mohniya karma(deluding karma), and
4) Antray karma(obstacle-creating karma)

While ghati karma destroy the manifestations of the essential attributes of the soul and Aghatiya karmas are mainly concerned with the environments surrounding and bodies.


The karma particles that get bound with the soul become a part of the karmic body, which accompanies the soul even in the future births.

The duration of the karmic particles to be bonded with the soul is decided by the intensity of our desires at the time of the activity. The milder the intensity, the shorter is the duration of the bondage of the karmas. The stronger the intensity, the longer is the bondage of the karmas. The time karma stay bonded to the soul range from a fraction of a second to an innumerable number of seconds.


Karma particles give mild or intense fruits to the jiva on attainment of maturity. The intensity of karma depends upon how intense our passions are at the time of our activities. The lesser the intensity of our passions, the less severe is the result of the bondage; the greater the intensity, more severe the result of the bondage.

Accordingly, there are 4 types-SPRUSTA – just touched, BADDHA—loosely bonded, NIDHATTA—firmly bonded, and NIKACHIT—intensely bonded. (the first one is superficial and loose while the last one is severely stuck with the soul and the remaining two are in between),


Karma enters the soul and become part of the karmic body. The exact number of karmic particles that get assimilated in the karmic body at a point of time is called Pradesh bandh. Allocation of stock for each variety of karma is decided by Pradesh bandh Of these four distinctive characteristics, Prakruti bandh and Pradesh Bandh are dependent mainly on Yoga i.e vibratory activities of the mind, speech and body while the duration and intensity of bondage(Sthiti and Anubhagbandh) are mainly dependent upon the Kashaya that the soul indulges in.


1) Mithyatva(Irrationality and a deluded world view) : The deluded world view is the misunderstanding as to how this world really functions on account of one-sided perspectives, perverse viewpoints, pointless generalisations and ignorance.
2) Avirati(non-restraint or a vowless life) : Avirati is the inability to refrain voluntarily from the evil actions, that harms oneself and others. The state of avirati can only be overcome by observing the minor vows of a layman.

3) Pramada(carelessness and laxity of conduct) : This third cause of bondage consists of absentmindedness, lack of enthusiasm towards acquiring merit and spiritual growth, and improper actions of mind, body and speech without any regard to oneself or others.
4) Kasaya(passions or negative emotions) : The four passions-anger, pride, deceit and greed are the primary reason for the attachment of the karmas to the soul. They keep the soul immersed in the darkness of delusion leading to deluded conduct and unending cycles of reincarnations.

5) Yoga(activities of mind, speech and body) : Each cause presupposes the existence of the next cause, but the next cause does not necessarily pre-suppose the existence of the previous cause. A soul is able to advance on the spiritual ladder called guṇasthana, only when it is able to eliminate the above causes of bondage one by one.

When karmas attach to the soul, there are four levels of bondage:

1. Sprusta or Sithil (Loose): Karmas can be easily shed by regret.
2. Baddha or Gadha (Tight): Karmas can be shed by offering an apology.
3. Nidhatta (Tighter): Karmas can shed by very strong efforts, like austerity.
4. Nikachit (Tightest): Karmas can only be shed by bearing the results.

It should be realized that it is not always true that we have to wait in Order to bear the results of our karmas; we can change the course of Our karmas before they mature. It can be changed in duration and Intensity as well as in nature too. This is very important point because it means, that not only we do have control over our karmas, but that we can change our fate. For explanatory purpose let us understand some terms.

1) Abadhakal - the duration of bondage of karmas to the soul, which starts from the time of the karmas, bondage until its maturity.
2) Bandh - bondage of karmas to the soul.
3) Uday - refers to the results of karmas being manifested in normal during their normal maturation time.
4) Udirana - refers to the results of karmas being manifested prematurely.
5) Satta - refers to those karmas which are dormant on the soul.

6) Sankramana - Depending of our activities, bonded karmas can transform within some of their sub-types.
Example: Shata and Ashata Vedniya karmas are the two sub-types of Vedniya karmas. Shata Vedniya karma causes comfort while Ashata Vedniya karma causes discomfort. If our current activities causes comfort to someone then our Ashata Vedniya karma gets transformed to Shata Vedniya karma. And, so it works for opposite activities.

7) Utkarshana - increase of duration and intensity of karmas which are already bonded to the soul.
8) Apakramana - diminution of duration and intensity of karmas which are already bonded.
9) Upashama - state in which karmas are suppressed and cannot produce results.
10) Nidhatti bondage - type of bondage in which karmas are neither brought into operation prematurely nor transferred into that of another sub-class, but may increase or decrease in duration and intensity of results.
11) Nikachit bondage - type of bondage in which karmas do not operate prematurely, nor transferred, nor increase or decrease in duration or intensity of results.


1) Kevaljnana (Perfect Knowledge) - State in which the soul knows Everything, past, present, and future that is happening in the world, All at the same time. Jnanavarniya Karma obscures this attribute.
2) Kevaldarshan (Perfect Perception) - State in which the soul can see, hear, and perceive everything from the past, present, and future all at the same time. Darshanavarniya Karma obscures this attribute.

3) Anant Virya (Infinite Power) - State in which the soul has infinite power. Antarya Karma obstructs this attribute.
4) Vitraga(Victory over Inner Enemies) - State in which the pure soul has no attachment or hatred for anyone. Mohniya Karma obscures this attribute. Aforementioned four attributes of the soul are experienced by Lord Arihants. The following four attributes are experienced only when the soul is liberated, when Lord Arihants become Lord Siddhas upon their death.

5) Infinite Bliss (No Joy or Sorrow) - State in which there is no pain, suffering, or happiness; the soul has ultimate peace. Vedniya Karma obscures this attribute.
6) Ajaramar (End of the Cycle of Birth and Death) - Point at which the soul is never again born. Ayushya Karma obscures this attribute.

7) Arupi (No form) - State in which the pure soul no longer occupies a body and is formless. Nam Karma obscures this attribute.
8) Agurulaghu (End of Status) - fact that all liberated souls are equal; none is higher or lower in status than any other. Gotra Karma obscures this attribute.


Karmas are of innumerable types. Lord Umaswati in Tattwarthasutra mentions 97 types in all. Some others specify 148 types. All of them can however be broadly classified into 8 categories as detailed below. Of these the first four are called Ghatiya in the sense that they tend to defile the real nature of soul; they do not allow its true properties to be manifested. The remaining four are called Aghatiya. Though the soul has to bear their consequences, the operation of these Karmas does not come in the way of manifestation of its true properties.

1) Jnanavaraniya or Knowledge Obscuring Karma

Soul has infinite capacity of knowing anything and everything. We however do not realize this capacity because the knowing property of the soul is obscured by the operation of this Karma. It does not actually reduce its inherent capacity of knowing, but it's operation remains restricted as the impact of sunlight gets limited when the sky is clouded. Similarly, the operation of this Karma hampers the manifestation of soul’s know ability. This type of Karma is acquired mainly by disregard of preceptors and of the sources of knowledge. Matijnan, Shrutjnan, Avadhijnan, Manahparyayjnan and Kewaljnan are the five divisions of Jnana. Therefore this obscuring Karma is also subdivided into those respective five subdivisions.

2) Darshanavaraniya or Perception Obscuring Karma

Perceiving property of soul gets obscured by the operation of this Karma. This also does not reduce soul’s inherent capacity of perceiving, but restricts its manifestation. This Karma is acquired on account of absence of conviction and loss of faith in the tenets of truth. Chakshudarshan, Achakshudarshan, Avadhidarshan and Kewaldarshan are the four divisions of Darshan. Therefore, this obscuring Karma too is subdivided into those respective four subdivisions.

3) Mohaniya or Deluding Karma

The operation of this Karma deludes the soul by causing wrong perception. On account of this Karma, soul fails to perceive the realities and tends to identify itself with the ephemeral body, its worldly connections, acquisitions etc. Thereby, the soul happens to perceive the comforts or discomforts of the body and its environments as its own happiness or misery. One feels pleased when such situations are comfortable and strives to maintain them as such. If the situations are not comfortable, (s)he strives hard to change them to his/her liking and indulges in different types of defilements, when something does not happen to his/her liking. This arises from our basic ignorance on account of which our Self is smeared with defilements and we indulge in craving and aversion.

This Karma is divided into two parts viz. Darshan Mohaniya and Charitra Mohaniya. The former arises on account of ignorance and the latter from indulgence in defilements. There are 28 subdivisions of this Karma.

2) Antaraya or obstructing Karma

By the operation of this Karma, we experience obstacles or obstructions in our efforts for Self realization or in our intention to do something good. For instance, there may be a lecture of some enlightened person and we might be intending to attend it. But all of a sudden we may be overcome by some bodily pain, or some of our family members gets sick, or the car gets stuck or any such eventuality may arise preventing us from going to the lecture. It would be possible to conceive of such obstructions arising when we get ready for undertaking some good or desirable activity like charity, extending help to others, enjoying any situation etc. Five subdivisions of this Karma are:
Danantaraya, Labhantaraya, Bhogantaraya, Upabhogantaraya and Viryantaraya.

In our series of types of Karma, here are the remaining 4 types of KARMA. With these we end our series on Karma.

1. Vedaniya or situation conferring Karma

By operation of this Karma, a living being is endowed with comfortable or uncomfortable situations. Previous good deeds result in this Karma being Shatavedaniya or one that can be undergone with the feelings of happiness and pleasure; evil actions result in this Karma being Ashatavedaniya or one that can be experienced with the feelings of unhappiness and miseries. Everyone tries to be happy. One however hardly gets results in proportion to his efforts. Only so called lucky ones succeed and get happiness. That apparently inexplicable phenomenon is witnessed on account of the operation of this Karma.

2. Aayu or life span determining Karma

As the name suggests, this Karma determines the life span of any particular being. It is not normally possible for any being to live longer or shorter than the period fixed by this Karma. This is irrespective of divine, human, animal or infernal life. There is however exceptional cases where persons endowed with special achievements can reduce the life span by bearing the destined consequences in a shorter period. This is known as Udirana

3. Naam or physique determining Karma

By the operation of this Karma it is decided what type of body, mind, intellect etc. a living being will have. What we call Gati or state is also decided by this Karma. Divine, human, animal or plant life and infernal life are the four states in which the worldly souls get born from time to time depending upon this Karma.

4. Gotra or status determining Karma

A living being is born in a particular type of family by the operation of this Karma. One is born in a noble or high status or religiously oriented family by virtue of good Karmas. By indulging in evil Karmas, one has to be born in a low status or not religiously oriented family.

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