Jain philosophy simplified

  • By Shri Narottamdas Kapasi
  • July 2002

For nearly a year now I had wanted to put together a piece of the various tenets of Jain philosophy. However, there were so many unanswered questions in my mind that I decided to read about Jain philosophy at a later date. I happened to share this anxiety with a friend over dinner. He said, no problem, my father is very well read on the subject, he will write for esams. I was thrilled. The entire article is in point form and so easy to understand. The article is divided into sixteen chapters.
1. Soul
2. Ajiva
3. Karma
4. Ahinsa
5. Truth
6. Theft
7. Celibacy
8. Renouncement of Possession
9. Path to Salvation
10. 14 steps to Salvation
11. Journey of Soul
12. Anukant Vad
13. A Philosophical Basis
14. Jainism and Science
15. Jainism and Atheism
16. Jindev


1. Jainism welcomes war; a war that being bliss, a war that cools passions, a war that destroys desires, a war that is fought without weapons, a war that is fought within.
2. The religion preached by Jinas is known as Jainism. The Jinas have won the war within.
3. On attaining omniscience, the Jinas preach the Truth as revealed to them.
4. This first sermon speaks of the universe.  According to them the universe is eternal.  Being eternal, it cannot be a creation.
5. The universe exits for all time. Therefore, there is no extinction of the universe.
6. Not being a creation, there is no creation of the Universe.
7. Not being subject to extinction, there is no destroyer of the universe.
8. The universe consists of only two things. One is soul and the other is inanimate thing.
9. The soul is formless and invisible.
10. When a soul passes away from the body, the body is termed as ‘Dead’.  It becomes inactive.
11. The inactive limbs of the body commence working, if transplanted in another living body.  It signifiers that even on death, the limbs were potentially active.
12. The body remains in the same state, in which it was prior to the death of man.
13. The body, with its limbs exists, why do we call it a dead-body?
14. It is because the body has ceased to act.  Why has it ceased to act? The only inference can be that some thing invisible, which was inducing and directing the body to act, has left the body.
15. No one has been able to see that something, which, with its exit, left the body dead.
16. Even with the help of the powerful modern machinery, it is not possible to see the ‘exit’ of that ‘something’.
17. The persons well versed in the spiritual science assert that the ‘exit’ of that ‘some thing, was the ‘exit’ of the ‘soul’ which, prior to death, was activating the body.
18. The soul, which has left the body, does not rest.  It travels elsewhere to another body, where it stays in. Like Hinduism, even Jainism believes that Atma amar hai. The body – or Deha is dead, but soul is amar, which becomes alive with the birth of new jiva.
19. There are always a few persons who speak of their past lives and experiences.  In independent inquiries their experiences of past lives have been found to be correct.  Those who do not know about it have no right to challenge the Truth of experiences of others.
20. Several modern psychologists confirm the happenings of such events.
21. Some times some children exhibit extra-ordinary mental ability, which normally other children do not exhibit.  This goes to confirm the existence of past life.
22. Once the existence of ‘past-life’ is accepted, the existence of ‘next life’ necessarily follows.
23. The above facts clearly confirm the Theory of Re-incarnation, held by learned persons.
24. The Jinas preach that the ‘soul’, which is here in this body, now, was somewhere else prior it’s coming here.  The Jinas further preach that on leaving the present body, the soul will travel somewhere else and will form another body, for it is live in.
25. Once the existence of the soul is accepted, one would be inquisitive about the nature of the soul and its attributes.
26. The Jinas says that the soul is formless and invisible.
27. The ‘Jinas’ preach that the attribute of the soul, knowledge, is equally invisible.  But no one dare challenge the existence of knowledge.
28. An inanimate object knows no object knows nothing and can know nothing.  Therefore, the existence of knowledge necessarily proves the existence of the ‘knower’.
29. ‘Heat’ is a quality of fire. There cannot be fire without ‘heat’.  Similarly. ‘Knowledge’ presupposes the knower and vice versa.
30. Water takes the shape of the vessel in which it is kept. So does the soul take the shape of the body in which it exists?
31. When a soul leaves a body, the body, not only becomes inactive but it also ceases to know.  Even if the dead body is placed on the fire, it does not protest.  This show, that ‘knowledge’ is an attribute of the soul and not that of the body.
32. Jainism classifies knowledge into five classes.

(i) Mati Gnyan
(ii) Shruta Gnyan
(iii) Avadhi Gnyan
(iv) Mana-paryaya Gnyan
(v) Keval Gnyan

(i) Mati Gnyan:
Knowledge acquired through intellect is Mati Gnyan when an object comes before sense organs; the mind started working what is the object;

The object touches the sense organ. The mind then decides the nature of the object. It then tries to remember the object. It keep the knowledge of the object in one of it corner. A particle of smell comes in contact with the sense organ. So, a word listened to, comes in contact with the ear.

An object comes in contact with the tongue and the mind finds out the object of taste. An object comes in contact of the skin and the mind determines the nature of the ‘touch’.
But in the case of eyes, the object does not come in contact with it.  Inspite of it, the eyes determine, form, colour, etc. of the object.

 When mind thinks of an object, the object is not even supposed to come in to contact, with the mind, which itself is not visible. This process of learning about an object takes a very short time.  Even in less than a second the senses and the mind learn about it.  Ultimately; it is the soul, which gets the knowledge and keeps it, stored in the mind.

(ii) Shruta Gnyan:
 What a person learns by hearing i.e. with the help of the ears, it termed as ‘Shruta Gnyan’.  The knowledge acquired through scriptures or books etc. as, ‘Shruta gnyan. The knowledge acquired the ‘signs’ made by others also forms part of ‘Shruta Gnyan’.

 ‘Mati Gnyan and Shruta Gnyan’ are acquired with the help of the mind and not directly by the soul.  Therefore, they are called, ‘Paroksha Gnyan’ i.e. a kind of indirect knowledge.  However in practice, it is treated as ‘direct knowledge’.

(iii) Avadhi Gnyan:
In this kind of knowledge, the soul sees an object directly without the help of senses and without the help of mind. People who belong to heaven have this kind of knowledge. To a permitted extent, even in Hell, this kind of knowledge tone is endowed with.

Spiritually developed persons and even beasts and birds used to have kind of knowledge. Some souls, endowed with this kind of knowledge could force things. Avadhi Gnyan is classified into six parts:

(a) The Gnyan that follows the persons whatever be moves.
(b) The Gnyan that does not so follow.
(c) The Gnyan that increases with the passage of time.
(d) The Gnyan that does not so increase.
(e) The Gnyan once had never disappears.
(f) The Gnyan once had vanishes later.  

(iv) Manparyav Gnyan: 
This kind of Gnyan enables it’s knower to know the mental process and thoughts of others. A person, who has renounced the world, can alone obtain this kind of knowledge.

The universe is full of particles of thought. A person attracts these particles; when he thinks. The person having Man-Paryay Gnyan can see the particles and can correctly infer the thoughts of others.

The persons having Man-paryav Gnyan may see the thought process of others in a lesser or greater degree in Gnyan with lesser degree is known as “RUJU MATI” i.e. a simple Intellect.

The Gnyan with the greater degree of knowledge is known as ‘VIPUL – MATI’ i.e. wide knowledge.
(v) Keval Gnyan:     
The fifth and last is known as ‘Keval Gnyan’. It is complete knowledge of one’s on self and the complete knowledge of every thing also.

The knowledge extends to all times; past, present and future. It sees every vicissitude of every object, in past, present and future.

The entire universe as it was in past, as it is in present and as it will be in the time to comes is mirrored in the soul.  Nothing is outside the vision of Keval Gnyan

33. Darshan is another attribute of soul.  Just as knowledge covers the field of the entire universe; the vision of the soul covers the entire field of the universe.  Without eyes, it sees every thing.
34. The charitra is also an attribute of soul. Emptying out all the karmas is known as ‘charitra’.  Enjoying its own nature is also known as ‘charitra’.
35. ‘Upyoga’ is one of the attributes of the soul.
   A continuous consciousness of the Self is ‘Upyoga’ of the soul.
36.  Just as knowledge is one of the attributes of soul, ‘Tapa’ – penance is also  
               One of the attributes of the soul.

   None can live long without food.  But one can certainly try to reduce his 
   servitude to food.  It may amount to inflicting pain on oneself. It may as well
   cleanse the body of all impurities and lighten the burden on the body.
   It is certain that when the soul tries to free itself from all its bondage, it will
   also have to free itself from the bondage of food.  Discarding of body  
   necessarily results in discarding food.
  A soul free of all kinds of bondage can alone attain, Siddhi, the final goal.

37. There is another attribute of soul.  It is energy or strength.  It is not physical energy or physical strength.  It is spiritual energy and strength.  It is called ‘VIRYA’.
38. Love for physical energy and strength prevents the spiritual energy and strength from coming to its own. The spiritual strength is infinite.
39. The soul is ever happy. It is happy to the brim.  Its knowledge is infinite its happiness is equally infinite.
40. This happiness is spiritual and not temporal or earthly. All the happiness in the world, including the heavenly happiness, does not amount even to a drop of happiness compared to the happiness of the free soul.
41. The happiness of the free soul is eternal.  It never even decreases.
42. With eternal knowledge, with eternal ‘Darshan’, with eternal strength and with eternal happiness, a free soul happily lives in eternal abode.
43. Thus Jainism promises to its followers the highest abode of bless peace is the ultimate.

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