Karma philosophy

  • By Munisri Nyayavijayaji
  • October 2002

States of Karma      
Twelve       States of Karma 
In Jaina philosophy ‘karma’ is not a mere trace or an impression of activity, but it also a real thing, a real substance. It is through the activity of mind, body, speech technically called ‘yoga’ that material karmic particles are attracted to the soul, touch it and through the force of passion stick to it. These passions (attachment & aversion) have been soiling the soil from time immemorial and the soul has been assuming different physical bodies from the beginningless time, so it has been caught in the cycle of influx & bondage from the beginningless time. This cycle is called ‘samsara’ – a transmigratory cycle. When a soul gets absolutely separated from the material karmic particles, it is called a liberated soul. Delusion, or a trio of attachment, aversion & delusion, or a gang of desire, anger, pride, deceitfulness and greed is the chief & prime mover over all the karmas. They rule the karmic system. Once one frees oneself from them, then automatically one frees oneself from the entire karmic cycle. Thus it is said that Ultimate Liberation is nothing but liberation from passions.

As compared to an animal human beings are blessed with buddhi or intellect meaning the power to discriminate between what is right or wrong. When we use this power to tread on the path of righteousness and good conduct, the bitter forces of karmic bondage decreases and their sweetness increase. And when we make great spiritual efforts and manifests his special spiritual power, then the karmic material particles stop sticking to the soul and the ones already stuck start falling off. This condition of the soul is advancement towards the goal of final liberation.
Life cannot be without activity so some bounding of karmas with the soul is bound to happen. But one who follows the path of dharma or the noble path of righteousness & rectitude should not be afraid of the karmic bondage affected by activity. Because of the nature of activity auspicious karmas would get accumulated and along with such accumulation goes on the continuous process of spiritually beneficial dissociation of the bound karmas. This course of life causes happiness and becomes very useful in the attainment of the spiritual goal. Bottom line is man must keep his intellect pure and remain engaged in dharmic or righteous activities.

Dust particles enter & stick on an object on account of the wind blowing in that direction. So also karmic articles move towards & fall on the soul on account of the activities of mind, body, speech and stick to it on account of the unctuousness of passions. When passions are destroyed, the material karmic particles are no doubt attracted to the soul, but do not get stuck to it. Now a?

How can material karmic particles get bound to or be associated with the soul which itself is immaterial?   Though by its nature, the soul is immaterial it looks like a material thing because it has been soiled by the impurities of attachment, aversion & delusion and consequently it has been receiving into itself and binding with itself karmic particles from the beginningless time. It is the soul that assumes different physical bodies, wanders in the transmigratory existence, suffers miseries, experiences, pleasures and lives the life soiled with passions. How can all this trouble be without a cause? The cause of this condition has to be within the soul itself. Also like the soul its cause must be from the beginningless time. The cause – moha (delusion), avidya (nescience), maya, vasana, karma whatever name you may give it is associated with the soul from time immemorial. This is the reason why the soul looks material inspite of being immaterial.

A seed sown does not develop into a sprout instantly. So also whatsoever material karmas are bound with the soul through its activities, give fruits to the soul at the end of a particular fixed duration of time after the bondage has been affected. To say that a ‘karma has risen’ is to say that it has matured to give its fruits to the concerned soul. Having risen to give its fruit, the karma makes the soul experience its fruit fully, and then automatically gets dissociated from the soul. This is a case of ‘effective rise or vipakodaya’. But there is also a state when though the karma rises it does not cause the soul to experience its fruit, gets disassociated from the soul. Such a rise of karma, as characterized by absence of the experience of its fruit, is called ‘nominal rise or pradesodaya’. If accumulated karmas were to get dissociated from the soul through effective rise alone then liberation would not be possible. Nominal rise is when by the force of great spiritual efforts and austerities aggregate karmas get dissociated from the soul. And at last, when the huge storehouse of the accumulated karmas becomes empty, liberation is attained.

Four Aspects of Karma - every time the soul receives karmic particles four aspects are generated in them namely nature, duration flavor and quantity. Generation of any one of the different natures in the karmic particles is called the bondage in respect of nature for e.g. knowledge obscuring, vision (darsana) obscuring, pleasant-painful-feeling-producing nature etc. With the generation of nature is fixed the duration of time for which the karmic articles remain stuck to the soul and is called bondage in respect of duration. The capacity to give good or bad fruits of different degrees of intensity is also generated at the same time, is called bondage in respect of flavor. The quantity of karmic particles is also fixed at that very time, is called bondage in respect of the quantity.

Of these four types of bondage, the first and the last depend on activity (yoga) because the bondage w.r.t. nature & quantity depends on type & quantum of activity. Disrespecting and insulting the learned generates knowledge-obscuring nature in the karmic articles that are attracted to the soul owing to its activity. And the more the activity, the greater is the quantum of those karmic articles. The bondage in respect of duration & flavor depend on passions (kasaya) as we shall see below.

The bondage in respect of flavor is of two types, one is intense flavor and two is mild flavor. Both these kinds are possible in auspicious & inauspicious karmas as well. The flavor of the inauspicious karmas (result pain) is compared to the bitter flavor of the Nimba tree just as the flavor of auspicious karma is compared to sweet sugarcane juice.

Attachment (raga) and aversion (dvesa) are covered by the four passions (kasaya) i.e. anger, pride, deceitfulness & greed. Each of these four passions has four types. One, the passions of the anantanubandhi type are the associates of unwholesome inclination or conviction (mithyatva) and the obstructers of wholesome inclination or conviction (samyagdarsana). Two the passions of the apratyakhyanavarana type arrest even the partial abstinence from violence. Three the passions of the pratyakhyanavarana type arrest only the total abstinence from violence. Four the passion of the samjvalana type obstructs the conduct characterized by perfect non-attachment. Thus the passions of the first type are very intense, those of the second type are intense, those of the third type are moderate and the fourth type are mild.

The duration of bondage depends on the degree of intensity of passions with which the activity was performed. The stronger the passion, the longer is the duration of bondage.

But the case with the bondage of flavor is different. If the passions are intense, the flavor bound in the inauspicious karmic matter is more intense while that bound in the auspicious karmic matter is less intense. And if the passions are mild, the flavor bound in the auspicious karmic matter is more intense, while that bound in the inauspicious karmic matter is less intense. Simply put, in the case of the bondage of inauspicious karmic matter, the intensity of flavor varies directly in proportion to the strength of passions, but in the case of the bondage of auspicious karmic matter, the intensity of flavor varies inversely in proportion to the strength of passions.

It has been repeatedly said that the groups of material particles capable of being received by the souls are not called ‘karmas’ as long as they are not actually received by or bound by the soul. But as soon as they are received by the soul, some wonderful force is generated in them and assisted by mental states afflicted with passions they generate in themselves infinitefold flavor which causes obstruction of spiritual qualities. It is this flavor alone that performs the function of giving various fruits to the soul or to making it experience various consequences & results. This flavor is the greatest calamity befallen on the soul. The auspicious flavor causes happiness and the inauspicious flavor causes unhappiness.

Dry grass is arid & without juice. But when it is eaten by a buffalo or cow, it undergoes some process of transformation in their stomachs and turns into milk, and in this fluid milk we find unctuousness in more or less degree. So also, material particles capable of being received by souls acquire different flavors on coming in contact with different souls and consequently being assisted by their passions of different degrees. This is called rasa-bandha, anubhavabandha (bondage in respect of flavor). Of the milks of different kinds, some have high energy while others have less energy. So also of all auspicious or inauspicious karmas, some have intense flavor while others have mild one.

Ten main states of Karmas

 1. Bondage (Bandha) - is the state in which karmic material particles are assimilated by the worldly soul. It means interpenetration of the space-point (A space point means the most subtle i.e. indivisible ultimate unit) of the soul and the fine particles of karmic matter like interpenetration of the smallest units of milk & water. The fine karmic particles are received by all the space-points of the soul & not by its some space points lying in a particular direction. The karmic bondages of all the worldly souls are not uniform, because their activities of mind, speech & body are not uniform. This is the reason why the bondages-in-respect-of-the-quantity-of-the karmic particles differ with different souls in accordance with their different quanta of activity.

Infinite molecules of each karma-type are bound to all space points of the soul. The molecules of the karmic articles of different groups, lying in the area pervaded by the space-points of the soul, enter into the bondage with soul, those lying outside the area pervaded by the space-points of the soul can never into the bondage with the soul. The karmic molecules that are being bound with the soul are each formed of infinite times infinite atoms.

The first state of karmas is bondage. Without it, no other issue is possible. Bondage has four types i.e. bondage in respect of nature, duration, flavor & quantity.

2-3. Increased realization (Udvartana) & Decreased realization (Apavartana)
As we know, when the bondage of karmic matter with the soul takes place, at that very time the length of duration of time of its association with the soul and intensity of fruition (flavor) are also bound or fixed. But despite this fixation, a person can increase or decrease the length of duration & intensity of fruition. Increase in length of duration & intensity of fruition is called Udvartana while corresponding decrease is called Apavartana.

After having being bound by inauspicious karmas, if a living person performs auspicious acts then he can reduce the length of their duration & intensity of their fruition. This means that if a person who has done adharmic or impure acts earlier can reduce the pain caused by the impact of impure actions through performance of auspicious acts. Friends let me share a personal experience. For the first 37 years of my life I lived for myself. Ever since I made sharing knowledge selflessly the mission of my life it has improved my mental state & can sense its impact on the duration & intensity of the impure/selfish actions performed by me in the past.

This way the degraded & fallen man can very well elevate himself & ascend the ladder of spiritual progress. The greater sinners who had bound karmas causing birth in a terrible hell woke up from the sleep of ignorance, saw the truth, and took to the path of spiritual welfare, by doing so, they destroyed the terrible evil karmas through the fire of their austerity & became great sages capable of attaining the state of Supreme Soul. The soul in the spiritual slumber is like a sleeping lion. When it really wakes up to the truth, and manifests and uses its infinite energy, it assumes greater and greater brilliance.

The reverse is true with Udvartana. For e.g., after having bound the inauspicious karmas of the short length of duration & of mild fruition, if a person performs more evil acts and his mental states become impure by more intense passions, then the length of duration & intensity of fruition of these formerly bound inauspicious karmas gets increased under the influence of his vicious mental states and under that influence the length of duration & intensity of fruition of those formerly bound auspicious karmas gets reduced.

On account of these concepts some karma gives its fruit earlier than time, some later, some karma gives its fruit of intensity higher than the due intensity, some less.

 4. Endurance (Satta) - The existence in potentia of the assimilated karmas from the instant of the assimilation to the moment of the enjoyment is known as Satta (endurance). Karma does not give its fruit as soon as it is bound, but it remains dormant for some time before giving its fruit. This period of existence in a dormant state is called ‘abadhakala’. When this period of time expires in normal course or hastily through the Decreased realization referred to above, the karma swings into action to give its fruit.

 5. Rise (Udaya) - When the karma becomes ready to give its fruit at its due time, it is called the rise of karma. The karma comes into rise in order to give its fruit after the period of time called Abadhakala is over. Simply put, rise means experiencing the actual result of the karma.

 6. Premature Rise or Realization (Udirana) - In the season of mangoes, to ripen mangoes quickly we pluck them from the tree & cover them with grass. By this process the mangoes get ripe earlier than they would have come ripe on the tree itself. So also the fruition of karma can take place even earlier than its due time. This is called Udirana. In udirana, first the due duration karma is reduced by the process of apavartana (reducing the length of duration & intensity of fruition by performing auspicious karmas). And on account of reduction of the due duration, the karma rises even before its due time of rise. When man dies before enjoying the full length of his due life-duration, the world calls its untimely death. The cause of it is the premature realization (udirana) of the life-span determining karma. And this premature realization takes place owing to the process of apavartana referred to above. In premature rise (udirana), the karma comes into operation earlier than its natural due time of operation, on account of the special efforts by the soul.

 7. Transformation (Sankramana) -  the state of transformation is that state in which karmic particles are subjected to the process by which a sub-type of the main karma-type is transformed into another sub-type of the same karma type. In other words, of the eight main karma-types, one cannot transform itself into another, but only a sub-type of any one main karma-type can transform itself into another sub-type of the same main karma-type. That is, knowledge-obscuring karma can never transform itself into any of the remaining seven main karma types, but the pleasant-feeling producing karma can transform itself into painful-feeling-producing karma & vice versa.

Of course there are exceptions. As for instance, the four sub-types of the life-span determining karma can never be transformed one into another; mutual transformation is not possible in their case. The bound infernal-life-span-determining karmas can never be transformed into any of the remaining three life-span-determining karmas i.e. animal – human –celestial-life-span determining karma.

 8. Subsidence (Upasama) - is the state in which the already risen karmic matter is subsided, suppressed. It is like covering the burning charcoal with ashes. The rise (udaya), premature rise (udirana), transformation (sankramana), increased realization (udvartana), decreased realization (apavartana), nidhatti & nikacana are suspended by special spiritual efforts in the state of subsidence.

 9. Nidhatti - is a state in which there is no possibility of a premature rise or transformation. In this state can take place only udvartana or apavartana. Thus this state implies that the bondage of karma is so tight that rise or transformation cannot take place, but not so tight that increased / decreased realization cannot take place.

 10.Nikacana - is the state in which increased or decreased realization are impossible. This state thus implies that the bondage is so tight that no change is possible in it. The karma in this state is unalterable.

Receive Site Updates