Jaina path of Purification

  • By Munisri Nyayavijayaji
  • September 2003


Spiritualness (Adhyatma) or spiritual welfare concerning soul. ‘To regard the attainment of pure nature of soul as one’s ultimate goal & to strive for it is adhyatma’. The events of the world are incomprehensive & unfathomable. The number of miserable beings are countless are many while happy ones are rare. Happiness & misery depend entirely upon mental states. A rich man is unhappy because he is caught in the whirls of greed. On the other hand a poor man is not agitated because he is under the influence of his mental state of contentedness. This mental state is acquired through the exercise of the power of discrimination. So he passes his life happily. Roots of miseries lie in the varied agitated mental states. There is no doubt that we require water, food for sustenance and external objects for our livelihood and peace. But even in the scarcity of these things, the noble can keep themselves calm because they have acquired the right understanding and wealth of contentedness gifted it. 

Really one who has conquered the mind has conquered all. The victor of the mind is the victor of the whole world. Attachment, aversion & delusion are the mental states. It is only the science of spiritual welfare that can show us how to remove these three defects which cause spiritual disease. The term adhyatma is formed of two words i.e. adhi & atma. Adhi means with reference to, concerning, on the subject of and atma means soul. Thus the term adhyatma means concerning soul. It also means to move in the direction of spiritual development. In the science of spiritualness, the sentient & insentient reals are treated of, explaining all the essential points. To know one the knowledge of the other is necessary.

What is soul? Why does it experience happiness & misery? Is soul’s bondage with something else the cause of it? How can the soul be bound with karmic matter? Has this bondage the beginning? What is the nature of karmic matter? Is it possible for the soul to attain its pure & pristine state? If yes, how? Treatment of all such points come within the scope of the subject matter of the science of spiritualness. By explaining the subject matter of various meditational reflections in various ways, the science of spirituality mainly aims at weakening delusion & attachment and its entire teaching flows towards that goal with full force.

Terms adhyatma & yoga ultimately mean the same thing. The term ‘yoga’ is derived from the verbal root ‘yuj’ meaning to join. The spiritually beneficial religious practice or the spiritual discipline meant for the attainment of liberation is called yoga, because it joins the soul with liberation. It is adhyatma i.e. spiritual discipline, spiritual living.

Delusion the acute spiritual disease. The beginningless stream of karmic bondage and the beginningless wanderings in the worldly existence are due to it. It manifests itself in the forms of anger, pride, deceit and greed. The spiritual means to overcome these are, anger is destroyed by forgiveness, pride by humility, deceit by straightforwardness and greed by contentedness. The victory over passion depends on the victory of sense organs. The victory over sense organs is achieved through purifying mind. Mind becomes pure when defilements of attachment & aversion are removed. Their removal is affected by the water of equanimity. Equanimity manifests itself when the feeling of mineness is renounced. And to renounce it, one should cultivate deep reflections on transitoriness, etc. With the growth of strength of reflections, the darkness of the feeling of mineness is proportionately removed and consequently the light of equanimity is manifested in due proportion. When the highest degree of equanimity is attained, the mental concentration is achieved as a consequence and thus the soul rises to the state of meditation.

At this stage if a yogi develops a liking for self admiration the downfall is certain & immediate. When a practicer reaches the highest state of spiritual development, that is the state of absolute freedom from attachment, he attains his highest cherished goal, the liberation. So long as he lives in his body, he is the highest soul having form. But as soon as his body leaves him he becomes the formless highest soul.

Jaina thinkers describe three states of the soul and thus recognize three types of souls i.e. exterior souls (bahiratma-hanker after spiritual welfare), interior souls (antaratma-souls that distinguish themselves from their bodies, experience peace & calmness) and transcendental souls (paramatma-free from all limitations, shine with infinite light of knowledge). Again Jaina theoreticians trace the spiritual evolution through the seven states of the soul i.e. exterior soul (bahiratma), noble soul (bhadratma), interior soul (antaratma), saintly soul (sadatma), the great soul (mahatma), yogi soul (yoogatma) and transcendental soul (parmatma).

The great Patanjali begins his Yogasutra with the aphorism: ‘yogas cittavrttinirodhah’ (control of mental states is yoga). It means: mental states running outward after the worldly objects & pleasures through the doors of sense-organs should be turned inward & diverted towards wholesome reflections & good thoughts, i.e. yoga. This is the first lesson of yoga.

The spiritual discipline meant for the attainment of absolute & total freedom from all karmic matter depends on the two processes – one stopping the inflow of all karmic matter & the other of disassociating the already bound karmic matter. For the accomplishment of these processes one is required to undergo the spiritual discipline consisting of good thinking, good conduct, equanimity, self-control, austerity, renunciation of desires & passions, spiritual study, and avoidance of bad company.

The soul has infinite powers. By strong spiritual efforts, they can be developed & actualized. They are perfectly manifested when all the karmic coverings are removed. The miracles of physical sciences are nothing compared to those of spiritual powers. Learning & science lead to happiness & prosperity provided they are associated with righteousness and spiritualness otherwise they play havoc & cause infinite miseries & calamities.

12 Soteriological reflections (Bhavana) - as we have seen the power of reflection weakens delusion & feeling of attachment. The Jaina authors treat twelve reflections that are aids to spiritual progress; they inspire renunciation of desires & promote detachment & dispassion. They are a means of purification of thoughts & incentives to liberation.

1. Transitoriness of all worldly objects (anitya) - To think that all things are evanescent is the reflection on the momentariness. It is an effective way of the reduction of attachment. Nothing in this world is eternal, everything is subject to change & decline. The only foundation of embodied beings for achieving their objectives is the body, but even this body is destined to destruction like the clouds devastated by strong winds. Life changes like a wave, beauty of youth lasts for a few days, wealth & possessions are transients like thoughts. This is contemplation on the transitory nature of things.

If we realize that neither adversity or success is permanent we shall not be perturbed or distressed when adversity befalls us. This is the usefulness of the present reflection. But this reflection should not be used to be inactive or idle. Only if we remain engaged in doing good to others according to our ability, it can be said that this reflection of impermanence has rightly permeated our lives.

Those who see permanence in the realm of impermanence suffer from perverse attitude. Those under delusion consider the persons & objects as permanent. But there is nothing in the world which is permanent except the pure soul with infinite knowledge.

2. Reflection on helplessness (asarana) - This reflection uproots the passion of pride. A feeling of pride is improper because none is saved from the powerful & inescapable claws of death nor can anyone save others from them. This reflection is not to be used to shun compassion, friendliness & benevolent acts and thus to become utterly selfish & self-centered.

The main objective of this reflection on helplessness is to bring home to man that he should become self-dependant without desiring help from others, should take shelter under the religion of the form of good qualities like compassion, humility. He should not be proud inspite of his having good qualities and spiritual powers & benevolent acts to his credit, on the contrary he should be soft hearted & humble.

3. Reflection on the world of transmigration (samsara) - In this reflection, one contemplated on the fact, that all – whether rich or poor are miserable. This type of reflection is necessary, keeps man on the path of righteousness. It is useful to contemplate on the fact that this world is full of miseries, there is no end to natural calamities, how much so ever efforts we put in, it is impossible to remove all of them completely. By developing good humanitarian qualities as also by fostering friendliness, we should try to decrease the miseries in the world as far as possible. This is the objective of the present reflection. In order that craving for the world of transmigration is done away with, a feeling of resignation or indifference has to be cultivated in relation to the things of the world.

4. Reflection on aloneness (ekatva) - In order to attain liberation feeling of aloofness has to be constantly evoked on the occasion of attachment & aversion. For that, the attachment developed in relation to things considered to be one’s own and the aversion developed in relation to those considered alien to oneself have to be discarded & so one must reflect” ‘I am born alone, I die alone, and alone do I reap the fruits of the form of pleasure, pain etc yielded by karmic seeds sown by myself’. This is called reflection on aloneness. It nourishes self-dependence & non-attachment.

But we must remember that cooperation on which the society & whole world are sustained is not attacked by the contemplation on aloneness. This is others desire our help just as we desires others, this is an irrefutable fact. We can secure help from others to the extent we have capacity to help them. Wealth goes to him who is deserving. So it is said, ‘Deserve, then desire’. This reflection teaches us to be deserving & capable. It is not for strengthening selfishness, but for making us self-dependant & deserving. Again, in the state of helplessness, it saves man from being depressed and urges him to face difficulties single-handed. It makes us calm, perseverant & patient.

5. Reflection on difference (anyatva) - This is the contemplation on the fact that the soul for which ‘I’ stands is different from the body. Separateness of soul from body is to be reflected over on the basis of their qualities as follows: ‘This body is gross, possessed of a beginning and an end, and is something inanimate, while I myself am subtle, possessed of no beginning and an end, am something conscious’. On account of this reflection, man is not agitated and perturbed by bodily pains & pleasures.

6. Reflection on the impurity of the body (asuci) - One’s body being most eminently an object for craving, one must with a view to reducing attachment for one’s body, reflect: ‘This body is itself impure, it is born out of things impure, it is nourished by things impure, it is a seat of things impure, it is the ultimate cause of a series of things impure’. There are two advantages of this reflection: 1)It destroys the pride of family, caste, race. As a matter of fact, all bodies are uniformly impure. 2). It reduces the attachment for the body & bodily pleasures. It destroys pride pertaining to our bodies.

But in the name of this reflection on the impurity of the body, one should not be indifferent to cleanliness. We must take proper care of the body, use it for performance of good & benevolent acts. Its good use brings us happiness, peace & welfare, gradually puts us on the right path to liberation, and helps us progress on the path faster. This is why it is required as the prime instrument of dharma. The object of this reflection is to reduce & remove one’s attachment for one’s body, which causes neglect of soul & spiritual welfare.

7. Reflection on asrava (inflow of the karmic matter) - contemplations of the conditions of the bondage of the karmic matter with soul or on the causes of miseries or on the evil consequences following from attachment to sensual pleasures is called the reflection on asrava.

8. Reflection on samvara (stoppage of the inflow of karmic matter) - contemplation on the ways & means of the removal of the causes of the inflow of karmic matter as also the causes of miseries is called the reflection on samvara.
9. Reflection on nirjara (dissociation of karmic matter) - contemplation on the ways & means of destroying the causes of miseries, or on how to bear with patience & calmness miseries or on how to destroy attachment causing unending miseries is called reflections on nirjara.

10. Reflection on the universe (loka) - the universe is very vast and we are like an atom in it. This makes us humble & dissolves our pride. To contemplate on the vastness of the universe, various worlds situated in it, its firmament & luminaries is this reflection.

11. Reflection on the utter rarity of the attainment of bodhi (enlightenment, vision of truth) - a human being is equipped with the potentialities of effecting his ultimate release. It is thus, important for him to know the difficulties & hazards which beset a spiritual career.

In the first place, one should know that human birth is extremely rare. After spending an infinitely long time in wanderings in innumerable lower forms of existence, a being is born in human form. It is rarer to be born in a good country – family, have a good teacher and have a desire to hear the true doctrine from his mouth. One must reflect on these rarities. Thus one must not waste life in the acquisition of worldly possessions. One must not surrender oneself to pride, it will destroy us. In the name of religion & sect we foster pride and consequently create obstacles in the attainment of bodhi  (vision of truth).

12. Reflection on dharmasvakhyatatva - dharma means path of purification & spiritual welfare. Dharma is called svakhyata or well expounded because it is good at all times, announces the life of purity that is wholly perfect and immaculate with meaning & detail. Moreover, it is called so because it is good for all beings without discrimination of class, caste, creed etc. Further it is open-minded, large-hearted, noble expounder has incorporated all the good points or elements, accepting them from anywhere & anybody. Narrow outlook etc have no place in it.

One should contemplate on the greatness of dharma. It includes philosophy, theory & practice of good life, ascetic culture & ethical behavior. Liberation of the soul from all impurities is the ultimate aim of dharma. It destroys karmas & rescues beings from the miseries & upholds them in excellent bliss.

Dharma proclaimed by the Jinas is charactertised by inoffensiveness & universal love. It is established on truth, rooted in humility (vinaya), its strength lies in forbearance (ksama). It is protected by chastity (brahmacarya). Its chief executive is quiescence (upasama). Its mark is restraint. And its prop is non-possession & non-attachment.  It is the means of attaining all the good things & true happiness. It is the source of good in human life as well as in heaven. In short, dharma taught by the Jinas is the destroyer of all sufferings. Contemplation on the powers, attributeness, greatness and glories of dharma is what is called the reflection on dharmasvakhyatatva.

Bondage & Liberation: the well known statement in the Maitri Upanishad declares that mind alone is the cause of man’s bondage as well as liberation. The declaration is true and means that inauscipicious mental states cause the bondage of auspicious karmic matter and vice versa. In case activities are caused & guided by the attachment-free mental state, karmic bondage is not affected by such supremely pure mind, on the contrary, on account of such supremely pure mind the supreme state of Ultimate Release is manifested. It is true that to perform activities without attachment & with pure universal affection alone is possible only in a supreme spiritual state. To be in this state is difficult. Yet one must make gradual progress in this direction.

Auspicious inflow of karmic matter caused by the auspicious activities is spiritually beneficial to the soul. Such activities present one with the means of spiritual welfare. The auspicious karmas bring us auspicious circumstances and good means of dharmic / spiritual culture. How important these auscipicious karmas are! The auspicious karma of the highest type i.e. tirthankaranamakarma is highly praiseworthy because is the cause of the attainment of tirthankarahood. One should bear in mind that one should assiduously avoid the bondage of evil karmas and welcome the bondage of good karmas.

Jaina & Non-Jaina Conceptions of Soul: the subject matter of the spiritual science pertains to the soul. Our study of the various views regarding the nature of the soul removes doubts from our mind and generates true knowledge based on which is our spiritual practice. Let us briefly treat some of the points related to it.

One, according to some philosophers (Nyaya, Vaisesiika, Samkhya) the soul is all pervasive. Each body has a separate soul, each one of these souls pervades the entire universe. Two they contend that cognition is not the nature of the soul. It is an accidental quality generated in the soul on accounts of its contact with body, mind & sense-organ. As it is not the nature of soul, in the state of liberation it is absolutely devoid of it.

Jaina philosophers differ from them on these two points. One Jaina philosophers too believe in many souls but according to them the soul only pervades the body in which it lives. The qualities of soul i.e. desire etc are experienced in the body alone & not elsewhere. This fact proves that the soul too exists in the body & not outside it. Two Cognition is not an adventitious quality of the soul, it is its natural quality & constitutes its real nature. By nature soul is cogniser. As cognition is its very nature, in its state of liberation it is manifested in its infinity.

Further Jaina theoreticians regard the soul as changing, doer and direct enjoyer. It undergoes transformations, takes birth in various species of the four main classes of existence i.e. godly, human, animal & infernal. It passes through different states. It is a doer of actions and is an enjoyer of the fruits of its actions. On these three points they differ from Samkhya philosophers, because the latter maintain that the soul is absolutely changeless, performs no action whatsoever and is not the real enjoyer of the fruits of action.

Moreover Jaina philosophers regard the soul as body sized, the dimension of the soul is equal to that of the body in which it lives. On this regard they differ from Naiyayika, Vaisesika and Samkhya thinkers who regard the soul as all-pervasive.

Jaina thinkers think that each body has a separate soul, believe in the plurality of souls. On this point they differ from the Advaita Vedantin who maintains that the soul is one in all bodies.

Jaina thinkers hold that the soul is associated with the karmas which are material. On this point they differ from Nyaya-Vaisesika philosophers who regard karma as one of the nine special qualities of the soul, as also from the Vedantin who do not regard karmas as aggregates of material atoms.

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