Essentials of Jain philosophy

  • By Munisri Nyayavijayaji
  • February 2003

God (Isvara)         
According to Jaina philosophical works, the definition of God is as follows: God is that soul who has completely removed all the karmas. Thus he is not in way different from the liberated soul above. The defining characteristic of Godhood is identical with that of liberation itself. To attain liberation is to attain Godhood. The meaning of the term ‘Isvara’ is powerful. So, the term Isvara can very well apply to the soul who has become powerful by attaining its perfectly pure state constituted of four characteristics i.e. infinite knowledge – vision – power & bliss.

We must recognize that every living being is essentially pure and has the capacity to fully developing its own nature. Jaina philosophical works mention that by constant practice of spiritual discipline spiritually right knowledge & conduct, the means of liberation, gradually develop and ultimately attain perfection. And when they attain perfection, all the coverings get removed and all the bondages are cut off. To attain this state is to attain Godhood.

It is a Jaina doctrine that one who steadily advances on the path of spiritual development and makes the right efforts to attain the state of absolute purity i.e. liberation can well become God. For them there are many Gods. Inspite of this there are reasons for regarding them as one. All the perfected souls are alike. And their absolute alikeness is the cause of our considering them to be one as also our applying the term ‘one’ to them. Again all perfected souls being uniformly formless, they interpenetrate with one another, as do the lights of different lamps. Hence they in their indistinguishable and undifferentiable collectible form are viewed as one and consequently the term ‘one is applied to them. Thus it is not improper to regard many perfected souls as one God (Isvara or Bhagwan) from this standpoint.

Liberation – Everlasting & Endless
There may arise a doubt – according to law a thing that is produced must always get destroyed so liberation too must end at some time as it is produced. However, liberation is not something producible. Liberation is nothing but the removal of all karmas from the soul. No new thing (quality) is produced in it, so there is no question of its destruction or end. When the cloud moves away the bright sunshines, when the covering of karmas get removed, the soul is manifest in its original nature. So nothing is produced through the process of liberation for it to get destroyed.

The soul that has attained absolute purity on the total removal of all karmas does not bind any karma and consequently is never born again in this world.

Total Removal of all Karmas Possible
How can the beginningless bondage of the karmas with the soul be ended or destroyed? It is because there is a rule that the beginningless thing can have no end. In answer to this we are told that new karmas are bound and some old karmas are dissociated. This means that no bondage of an individual karma is beginningless, but the stream of bondage taking place at different consecutive moments has been flowing from beginningless time. In other words every karma has a life span, no individual karma is bound with the soul from time immemorial. From this follows that it is quite possible for the soul to disassociate all the bound karmas as well as to stop the inflow of new karmas into it by the force of pure concentration. This ultimately makes it possible for the soul to eradicate completely all the karmas and to become absolutely free from them.

Moreover, if we observe the worldly souls, we find that in some the degree of attachment and aversion is greater, in others it is less. The degree of its intensity may vary from person to person too. Surely this has a cause. Now if the cause of gradual decrease of attachment and aversion is developed to its fullness, it will completely destroy attachment and aversion. The cause of this decrease is wholesome mental activity or reflection. When the wholesome mental reflections become very strong ultimately resulting in purest mental concentration, then attachment and aversion get destroyed. And, on their destruction the soul attains the state absolutely free from the coverings of karmas.

And then the infinite knowledge (omniscience) manifests itself. The whole palace of the worldly existence rests on the pillars of attachment & aversion. These two are the root cause of deluding karma or delusion. So if these two are destroyed, then karmas get destroyed.

Establishment of the Existence of Omniscience

On the destruction of aversion & attachment, the deluding karmas gets totally disassociated from the soul. As a result of this the other three ghati karmas i.e. knowledge & vision covering karma & obstructible karma get completely eliminated. As a result of this, infinite knowledge gets fully manifested. The following proof is offered of its existence.

What do the varying degrees of knowledge observed in different individuals suggest? It suggests that the degree of manifestation of knowledge is in direct proportion to the degree of removal of the covering of karma. The greater the degree of the removal of the covering, the greater is the manifestation of knowledge.  And when the covering is totally removed, knowledge is manifested fully. Knowledge is not acquired; it is there in the soul.

Infinite knowledge is the nature of the soul. When the removal of karma covering from the soul reaches its highest limit that person is called omniscience (sarvajna), all-seer (sarvadarsi) and his knowledge is designated as kevala-jnana (pure knowledge). The soul can totally remove the defilements of attachment and aversion and consequently can gain absolute purity. And through this purity the light of infinite knowledge manifests itself.

God is not World-creator
One of the Jaina doctrines is that God is not the creator of the world. The Jaina scriptures content that in the worldly cycle of birth and death, revolving by the force of karmas, there can be no place for the creatorship of God, who, according to the Jaina, is absolutely free from attachment and desires. The entire world constituted of the sentient and insentient substances is governed by the laws of Nature. Just to recap sentient substance is the soul and the insentient substances are medium of motion & rest, space, matter and time (chapter 4).

Pleasures and pains experienced by a living being depend on the material traces (karmas) left by the acts performed by it. Absolutely pure and attachment-free God is not pleased with some, nor is He displeased with others. This is because He is supreme soul with no taint or defilement whatsoever and absolutely free from detachment.

Worship of God Necessary
If God is not the world-creator, what is the use of worshipping such God? That if God is free from attachment and consequently, is neither pleased nor displeased, then what is the use of worshipping Him?

Jaina philosophers say that the worship of God is not please Him, but to purify one’s own self. It is highly useful and spiritually beneficial to worship God who is absolutely free from attachment and aversion – the only cause of all miseries. This soul is by nature crystal clear. But it is highly tainted with the defilements of attachment, aversion, delusion & desires. To get free from this situation we need to purify ourself. So we need to worship God who is pure & peaceful. So, by worshipping Him, by contemplating upon Him, the feeling of non-attachment arises in the worshipper and gradually advancing on this path, he can ultimately become attachment free.
God becomes an ideal of non-attachment so by being in his company, it inculcates good qualities within us. What is meant by His Company? His company means to recall Him in one’s mind, to contemplate upon Him, to praise Him and to Worship Him. By worshipping him the feelings of aversion & attachment start subsiding. This is the prime & real reason for worshipping God. He expects nothing from the worshipper, nor does He favor him with something. The devotee worships Him simply to elevate his soul spiritually.

Thus, pleasures and pains are the result’s of one own’s karmas, which is ultimately governed by one’s mental states. And the means by which one can make mental states good & wholesome is the worship of God. This way we can achieve spiritual progress.

In short, according to Jainas, God is not the creator of the world. For them, He is perfected soul. He is absolutely pure. He has destroyed all passions and removed all impurities. As a result of this, he manifests infinite knowledge, infinite vision, infinite bliss & infinite power. This is the reason why he is regarded as God. By meditating on the pure qualities, the Jaina reminds himself daily of the possibility of attaining this pure highest state. He purifies his mind by the contemplation of the pure and strengthens his heart for the uphill journey to liberation. Worship, for the Jaina is not seeking for mercy & pardon.

Friends after having read the full book and the Holy Geeta by Pujya Swami Chinmayananji and Swami Rama I do not see much difference in their essence. Both talk of the Atma – soul, karma, removal of attachment – greed, learning to live life in equanimity, meditation, importance of knowledge and liberation. Surely the austerity levels by the Jainas is higher than others but to my mind that is only a different way of going about reducing desire & aversion. Surely things are not as simple as I have made them out to be. Hey Maa Durga & Bhagwan Mahavir give me the strength to some day compare the two & present them before all of you.

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