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The Philosophy of Karma and the Nine Jain Tattvas
To understand the relation between karma and soul, Acharya Somadev (10th century A.D.) has given beautiful analogy:

"It is just like a person sitting in a boat, boat takes the man in the direction in which he drives the boat.”

The Jain tattvas, or principles, are the single most important subject of Jain philosophy. It deals with the theory

of karma, which provides the basis for the path of liberation. Jain literature explains nine fundamental tattvas.

Without the proper knowledge of these tattvas, a person can not progress spiritually. The proper understanding

of this subject brings about right faith (samyak darshana), right knowledge (samyak jnana), and right conduct

to an individual.

Nine Tattvas (Principles)

 1. Jiva
 Soul or living being (consciousness)
 2. Ajiva
 Non-living substances
 3. Asrava
Influx of karma
 4. Bandha
 Bondage of karma
 5. Punya
 6. Paap
 7. Samvara            
 Stoppage or arrest of the influx of karma
 8. Nirjara
 Exhuastion of the accumulated karma
 9. Moksha
 Total liberation from karma
            * Punya and Papa are the diverse results of Asrava and Bandh. Some exponents of Jains do not treat them as                        separate tattvas. According to them, there are only seven principles instead of nine.

Soul (Jiva) or Living Being Substance:

Jiva or Soul is the only substance, which in pure state possesses infinite knowledge, vision, power, and bliss. The pure soul is a liberated soul. The worldly soul is covered by karma particles. The karma subdues the natural qualities of the soul. The qualities of the impure soul are as follows:
  • Limited Knowledge, Vision, Power, and Bliss

  • Possesses a body (plants, hellish, animal, human, or angel)

  • Wanders into the cycle of life and death

  • Suffers from birth, death, pain, and pleasure

The ultimate goal of human life is to remove all karma particles, which are attached to the soul. Then the soul will become pure and liberated.

Non-Living (Ajiva) Substances:

Except soul, everything else in the entire universe is non-living substance. The non-living substances are classified into five categories.

Kaal or Samay
Medium of Motion
Medium of Rest

Out of five categories, only matter substance possesses body, color, and senses. Karma is one of the categories of matter. It is known as karmic matter (karma pudgala). Karma particles are of very fine matter not perceptible to the senses. The entire universe is filled with such karmic matter.

Every living being is covered by karmic matter from their eternal existence. It is the karmic matter that keeps the soul away from realization of its true nature. It is due to karma one feels pleasure and pain, reincarnates in the different form of life, acquires certain types of physical body, and the duration of life.

Asrava (Influx of karma):

Asrava is the cause, which leads to the influx of good and evil karma which lead to the bondage of the soul.

Asrava may be described as attraction in the soul toward sense objects. The following are causes of Asrava or influx of good and evil karma:

Delusion or ignorance
Lack of self restraint
Unawareness of unmindfulness
Passions like anger, conceit, deceit, and lust
Activities of the mind, speech, and body
        * Some Jain literatures mention only four causes of Asrava. They include Pramad in the category of Kasaya.

Bandha (Bondage of karma):

Bandha is the attachment of karmic matter (karma pudgala) to the soul. The soul has had this karmic matter bondage from eternity. This karmic body is known as the karmana body or causal body or karma.

Karmic matter is a particular type of matter which is attracted to the soul because of soul's delusion or ignorance, lack of self restraint, unmindfulness, passions, activities of body, mind, and speech.

The soul, which is covered by karmic matter, continues acquiring new karma from the universe and exhausting old karma into the universe through the above mentioned actions at every moment.

Because of this continual process of acquiring and exhausting karma particles, the soul has to pass through the cycles of births and deaths, and experiencing pleasure and pain. So under normal circumstances the soul cannot attain freedom from karma, and hence liberation.

When karma attaches to the soul, its bondage to the soul is explained in the following four forms:

Prakriti bandha
Type of karma
Sthiti bandha
Duration of attachment of karma
Anubhava bandha 
Intensity of attachment of karma
Pradesa bandha
Quantity of karma

Prakriti Bandha (type of karma):
When karmic matter attaches to the soul, it obscures soul's essential nature of perfect knowledge, perfect vision, bliss, perfect power, eternal existence, non corporeal, and equanimity. The different types of karma obscures different quality or attributes of soul. This is known as Prakriti bandha.

Ghati karma and Aghati karma: Prakriti bandha is classified into eight categories, according to the particular attribute of the soul that it obscures. These eight categories of karma are grouped into two major catagories, known as Ghati karma, which subdues the qualities of the soul, and Aghati karma, which relates to physical body of the living beings.

Ghati karma:

Jnana varaniya karma
Covers the soul's power of perfect knowledge.
Darasna varaniya karma                                     
Covers the soul's power of perfect visions.
Mohniya karma
Generates the delusion in the soul in regard to its own true nature. The soul identifies itself with other eternal substances and relationships.
Antaraya karma
Obstructs the natural quality or energy of the soul such as charity and will power. This prevents the soul from attaining liberation. It also prevents a living being from doing something good and enjoyable.

Aghati karma:

Vedniya karma
Obscures the blissful nature of the soul and thereby produces pleasure and pain.
Nama karma
Obscures the non-corporeal existence of the soul and provides the body with its limitations, qualities, facilities, etc.
Gotra karma
Obscures the soul's characteristics of equanimity and determines the caste, family, social standing, and personality.
Ayu karma
Determines the span of life in one's birth, thus obscuring the soul's nature of eternal existence.

When a person destroys all of his ghati karmas, he attains keval jnana (absolute knowledge). At that time he is known as Arihant. However, he continues to live his human life until all his aghati karmas are destroyed. He attains liberation only after his death at that time all aghati karmas are destroyed.

Some Arihants establishes the religious order of Monks, Nuns, Sravaka, (male layperson), and Sravika (female layperson). These Arihants are called Tirthankaras and the religious order is known as four fold Jain order. Other Arihantas who do not establish religious order but remain as a part of the existing order are known as simple Kevali. After nirvana (death) both Tirthankaras and simple Kevali (all Arihantas) become Siddhas.

All Siddhas are unique individuals, they all possess perfect knowledge, vision, power, and bliss, and no physical body. Hence from the qualities and attributes point of view all Siddhas are same.

Sthiti Bandha (Duration of attachment):
When karmic matter attaches to the soul it remains attached for certain duration before it produces the result. The duration of the attachment is determined according to the intensity or dullness of the soul's passions or actions when the karma is being attached to the soul. After producing the result, karma will separate from the soul.

Anubhava Bandha or Rasa Bandha (Intensity of attachment):
What fruits the karmic matter will produce are determined at the time of attachment by varying degrees of soul's passions.

Pradesa Bandha (Quantity of karma):
The intensity or dullness of the soul's action determines the quantum of karmic matter that is drawn towards the soul for attachment.

Punya (Virtue):
 The influx of karmic matter due to good activities of the mind, body, and speech with the potential of producing pleasant sensations is called punya or virtue. Activities such as offering food, drink, shelter, purifying thought, physical and mental happiness result in producing punya karma.

Paap (Sin):
The influx of karmic matter due to evil activities of the mind, body, and speech with the potential of producing unpleasant sensations is called papa or sin. Activities such as violence, untruth, theft, unchastity, attachment to objects, anger, conceit, deceit, lust result in producing papa karma.

Samvara (Stoppage of Karma): 
The method that stops fresh karma from attaching into the soul is called samvara. This process is a reverse process of asrava. It can be accomplished by constant practice of:
  • Right belief
  • Observance of vows
  • Awareness
  • Passionlessness
  • Peacefulness of vibratory activities
Jain literature explains 57 practical ways, a person can stop the influx of karma:

Samitis - carefulness
Guptis - preservation
Yati Dharma - religious virtues
Bhavna - reflections or thoughts
Parishaha - subduing of suffering
Charitra - conduct

Five Samitis (Carefulness): Samitis purify the actions
Irya Samiti
Proper care in walking
Bhasha Samiti
Proper care in speaking
Eshna Samiti
Proper care in begging
Adana Nikshepa Samiti
Proper care in taking and keeping
Utsarga Samiti
Proper care in disposing waste

Three Guptis (Preservations): Guptis prohibit sinful activities
Mano Gupti
Proper control over Mind
Vachan Gupti         
Proper control over Speech
Kaya Gupti
Proper control over Body

Ten Yati Dharma (Religious Virtues):
 Kshama  Forbearance, Forgiveness
 Mardava  Modesty, Humility
 Aarjava  Straightforwardness, Candor
 Satya  Truthfulness
 Samyam Self-Restraint, Control of Senses 
 Tapa  Austerity, Penance
 Tyaga  Renunciation
 Akinchanya  Non-attachment
Celibacy, Chastity 


Twelve Reflections (Thoughts, Bhavna, or Anupreksa):
 Anitya Bhavna
 Impermanence of the world
 Asarana Bhavna
 No one provides protection
 Samsara Bhavna
 No permanent relationships in the universe
 Ekatva Bhavna
 Solitude of the soul
 Anyatva Bhavna
 Asuci Bhavna
 Impurity of the body
 Asrava Bhavna
 Influx of karma
 Samvara Bhavna
 Stoppage of the influx of karma
 Nirjara Bhavna
 Shedding of karma
 Loka Bhavna
 Transitoriness of the universe
 Bodhi-durlabha Bhavna    
 Unattainability of the right faith, knowledge, and conduct
 Dharma Bhavna
Unattainability of true preceptor, scriptures, and religion

Reflections on Universal Friendship (additional reflections):

Nirjara (Exhaustion of the attached karma):
The attached karma exhaust themselves by producing their results when it is time for them to do so. At that time new karma attach to the soul.

Unless the attached karma are exhausted before they start producing the results, it becomes difficult for the soul to be free.

Therefore, it is necessary to exhaust all karmas before their maturity. This is done by rigorous austerities and penance. This process is called nirjara.

There are twelve types of nirjara defined in the Jain scriptures. They are divided into two groups; external nirjara which disciplines the human body against passions and desires and internal nirjara which purifies the soul. The internal nirjara is the true austerities because it exhausts the attached karma before their maturity from the soul.

External Nirjara:
Complete abstinence of eating any food and drinking liquid for certain time
Alpahara or Unodary
Reduction in the quantity of food one normally eats
Ichhanirodha or Vritti Sankshep                 
Limiting the number of food items to eat and material things for use
Complete abstinence of eating or drinking juicy and tasty foods such as honey, alcohol, butter, milk, tea, sweets, juice, etc. (no attachments to the taste of the foods)
Live and travel on bare foot in a severe heat and cold weather condition; remove hair with the hand
Sitting in a lonely place in due postures with senses and mind withdrawn inwardly

Internal Nirjara:
Repentance for the breach of vows for spiritual purification
Politeness (appropriate behavior) towards teachers and elders
Rendering selfless service to the suffering and deserving
Studying and listening of religious scriptures
Religious meditation
Kayotsarg or Vyutsarga                          
The ultimate internal austerity where the activities of body, speech, and mind are withdrawn. The body is fixed without movement, the speech is fixed by means of silence, and the mind is fixed by means of sublime meditation. This nirjara destroys all karmas.


Moksha (Liberation):
Moksha is the liberation of the soul after complete exhaustion or elimination of all karmas. A liberated soul regains totally its original attributes of perfect knowledge, vision, power, and bliss. It climbs to the top of Lokakas and remains their forever in its blissful and unconditional existence. It never returns again into the cycles of birth, life, and death. This state of the soul is the liberated or perfect state, and this is called "Nirvana."
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