Jaina path of Purification

  • By Munisri Nyayavijayaji
  • September 2003

14 stages of Spiritual Development     

These 14 stages are call Gunasthanas means ‘a state of spiritual quality’. When seekers reach the 12th stage they become free from passion & destroy delusion, 13th they become liberated while living and at death they enter the 14th stage & at once attain the disembodied state of liberation. Seekers take time to cross each stage, trip on the way but after the beginning of destruction of delusion at the 8-9th stages, the danger of following down is totally removed. In the term ‘gunasthana’ the term guna has the meaning ‘degrees of spiritual development’. The names of the 14 stages are Mithyatva, Sasadana, Misra, Aviratisamyagdrsti, Desavirata, Pramatta, Apramatta, Apurvakarana, Anivrttikarana, Suksmasamparaya, Upasantamoha, Ksinamoha, Sayogakevali, Ayogikevali.

1. Mithyatvaagunasthana - When a living being does not have the right faith in or inclination for the path leading to spiritual welfare, or on the contrary has wrong understanding about it & suffers from illusion & ignorance, it is in the 1st stage. Absence of true spiritual mind is mithyatva and where there is mithyatva, all other progress has no value at all. Mithyatva means to accept the sinner as the saint, the evil act as a good act, vice versa. Not only that but to believe in superstitions & harmful customs is Mithyatva. In short lack of discrimination of what is worthy of action from what is unworthy of it is mithyatva.

Acarya Haribhadra traces the spiritual evolution thru 8 yogic drstis (vision) i.e. mitra, tara, bala, dipra, sthira, kanta, prabha & para. That drsti where primary good qualities like compassion, friendliness for the attainment of spiritual welfare make their appearance is called Mitra. And in attaining this drsti, one attains the first gunasthana says Acarya H. Thus the first gunasthana is the primary stage where good qualities manifest themselves. Yes it is given this name Mithyatva because at this stage right faith has not manifest itself. Good qualities are present but not intensly manifest. All living beings whether small or great who have not attained the first yogic drsti called Mitra & are still below it are also considered to be in the first gunasthana for three reasons given in the book.

2. Sasadana-gunasthana - This is the stage characterized by the fall from right faith. Thus this stage is the stage of fall from right faith to delusion or wrong faith. Once the process of downfall starts, it does not take much time to land on the first step. The souls do not pass the second stage from the first but only halt at it for a moment, while falling down from some higher stage of spiritual development.

3. Misra-gunasthana - In this stage, the soul is characterized by a peculiar transformation which is of the form of a mixture of right & wrong faith. When a soul suddenly for the first time sees truth, it is struck with wonder. Its old tendencies drag it back while the new drag it forward. After this temporary tug of war it either lapses into mithyatva or attains samyaktva. This stage is more advanced than first two because there is an absence of the most intense passions. But there is no perfect discrimination of what is right from what is wrong. Two opposite forces at work at this point – one dragging towards truth & the other towards untruth. As a result it either falls back to the first stage or rises up to a higher stage of right faith.
4. Avirati - samyagdrsti - The meaning of this term is ‘right faith’ accompanied by non-abstinence. The soul at this stage acquires the right faith but is lacking in spiritual efforts. This stage is the basic ground for spiritual development. The soul at this stage has steady right faith but is lacking in the capacity for spiritual development in conformity with right faith.

5. Desavirati - to practice properly the householder’s vows with right faith is deavirati. Not complete but partial abstinence from immoral acts is the meaning of the term desavirati.

6. Prematta-gunasthana - This is the stage of the months who have taken the great vows. Though at this stage there is complete abstinence from unvirtuous acts, there does exist spiritual lethargy or carelessness (pramada). Negligence, carelessness or unmindfullness causes excessive eating, sleep and are regarded as careless acts. The rise of mild passions is not regarded as a case of pramada. It is because the rise of passions is there even in the 7th stage and upto the 10th stage too, but their intensity becomes milder and milder. Thus the 7th stage is regarded as free from pramada.

7. Apramatta-gunasthana - This is the stage when the monk is free from spiritual lethargy. In this stage all careless conducts are stopped and the practice of vows becomes perfect and faultless.

8. Apuva-karana - at this stage the soul attains unprecedented spiritual fervor necessary for effecting suppression or annihilation of the conduct-deluding karma. From this stage begins the process of either suppression or annihilation of the conduct deluding dharma.

9. Anivrrtikarana - unprecedented spiritual fervor and vigor already attained in the previous stage becomes uniform in all the souls climbing up the same ladder. This and the previous stage indicate the different stages of internal purity attained by the soul.

10. Suksmasamparaya - while gradually undergoing suppression or annihilation, when all the conduct-deluding karma gets suppressed or annihilated and the subtle greed (attachment) alone remains to disturb the soul, this stage is attained. Here the soul is practically free from four passions, except a very slight degree of greed.

11. Upasantamoha - In the case of those who have started in the 9th stage suppressing the conduct-deluding karma of the form of four passions, when they completely suppress them, they are in this stage. The subtle greed which was active in the previous stage is also suppressed in this stage. Thus, there is total suppression of all the four passions.

12. Ksinamoha - But in the case of those who have started in the ninth stage annihilating the conduct-deluding karmas of the form of passions, when they completely annihilate them, they are at this stage. The subtle greed which was active in the tenth stage is also destroyed in this stage. That is the soul which has started climbing up the ladder of destruction in the ninth stage goes up from the tenth directly to this twelfth stage. The 11th and 12th stages are both characterized by perfect equanimity, but the only difference between the two is that the former is not permanent whereas the latter is permanent.

Let us understand the difference between subsidence & destruction. In the former the deluding karmic particles are totally subsided but they do rise again within a short period of time and soil the soul as soon as it is internally agitated. As a result of this the soul falls into the lower stages. On the other hand, the soul that has attained the total destruction of delusion at once gains kevalajnana (omniscience, pure knowledge). It is so because after its destruction, there is no possibility of the rise of delusion again. At this stage the soul enters into the pure trance (suklasamadhi), the highest meditation, totally destroys the deluding, knowledge-obscuring, vision-obscuring and obstructive marmic matter, and a result gains kavalajnana (omniscience).

13. Sayogakevali-gunasthana - in the name of this stage, there occurs the term ‘sayoga’ which means ‘possessed of yoga’. In Jaina philosophy the term ‘yoga’ has a technical sense meaning ‘activity of the mind, the organ of speech and the body’. Even after obtaining omniscience, a person performs mental, vocal & bodily activities. As he is having threefold activity, he is called ‘sayoga’. And as he is possessed of kevalajnana (omniscience) he is called ‘kevali’. Thus, he is the omniscient with three-fold activity (sayogakevali). So this stage is equivalent to what is known as the jivamukta (the liberated-while-living) stage in the other systems of Indian philosophy.

Among the eight basic types of karmas, the mohaniya-karma (the deluding karma) is the chief one. As already said, it has two sub-types i.e. faith-deluding (darssana-mohaniya) & caritra-mohaniya (conduct-deluding). And as pointed out there, darsana in this context means right faith in the essentials of spiritual welfare. So that karmic matter which obstructs it is called darsana-mohaniya. And that karmic matter which obstructs good conduct is called caritra-mohaniya.

That soul whose fall the faith-deluding karmic material particles have stopped rising for an antarmuhurta (a period of upto 48 minutes) attains right faith for that much period only, and that right faith is called upasamasamyaktva (right faith due to the subsidence of faith-deluding karmic matter). In the light of that right faith, the soul makes efforts to purify the faith deluding karmic matter, which is sure to rise after the antarmuhurta. Thus the entire mass of karmic matter is divided into three heaps. One is pure, two is semi-pure and third is impure.

Now we propose to study the types of conduct-deluding karma. They are 25, the sixteen passions (kasayas): anger, pride, deceit, greed – these are the four types of passions. Each of them has been said to be of four types depending on the degree of its intensity. One is that which makes the soul wander for an infinite period of time. Two is that which hamper the proper conduct of a man taking the layman’s vows. Three is that which obstruct not partial but complete renunciation of unvirtuous acts. Four is that which obstructs the pure conduct completely free from attachment. These are 16 passions plus there are nine quasi-passions (nookasaya) associated with passions. They are – laughter, liking, disliking, fear, sorrow, disgust, sexual cravings for male, female & hermaphrodite species. Thus the total number of conduct deluding karmas come to 25. As stated earlier, the total number of the types of the deluding karmas is three. So the number of deluding karma comes to twenty-eight.

On the total & absolute destruction of delusion in the 13th stage, no new karmas are bound henceforth, that is, there is an end to the process of bondage. This means there is an absolute stoppage of the inflow of karmic matter into the soul. That is the stage of the liberated while living. And the disembodied state of liberation is attained in the 14th stage. Both the processes of samvara (stoppage of the inflow of karmic matter) and nirjara (dissociation of the bound karmic matter) make their completion in the 13th stage. The process of nirjara reaches its completion when the soul reaches the mortal body at the death in the 13th stage.

A piligrims’s spiritual progress beginning with the attainment of right inclination (faith) and ending in the attainment of Jinahood is grossly divided into ten stages for the sake of convenience. The greater the internal purity, the more is the karmic matter dissociated from the soul. The ten stages or states in point are as follows –

1. The state of samyagdrsti, where in the wrong inclination (faith) is removed and consequently right inclination is attained.
2. The state of upasaka, wherein the partial abstinence from unvirtous acts manifests itself.
3. The state of virata, wherein the total abstinence from unvirtuous acts manifests itself.
4. The state of anataviyojaka, wherein such purity as is necessary for the destruction of the most intense passions is attained.
5. The state of darsanamohanksapaka, wherein such internal purity as is necessary for the destruction of the faith-deluding karmas is attained.
6. The state of upasamaka, wherein the process of subsidence of the conduct-deluding karma of various types continues.
7. The state of upasanta, wherein that process of subsidence is completed.
8. The state of ksapaka, wherein the process of destruction of conduct deluding karma of various type continues.
9. The state of ksinamoha, wherein that process of destruction is completed.
10. The state of Jina, wherein Jinahood (omniscience) manifests itself.

14. Ayogi-kevali-gunasthana -  this is the spiritual stage where the practiser stops all his threefold activity with spiritual efforts. Ayogi means one free from all activities or operations. As soon as the omniscient in the embodied state becomes free from all activities, he leaves his mortal body and attains the disembodied state of liberation resplendent with its pure light which is non-corporeal and non-physical. At this juncture let us ponder a little over spiritualness.

Receive Site Updates