chapter eight

Eastern Religions and Traditions



Jainism traces its origin from ancient times and ascribes twenty-four enlightened beings who emerge in the course of a cosmic cycle to teach the path to liberation.  Earlier Tirthankaras had enormous life spans and falls outside of the historical periods. Each Tirthankara has a shorter life span than the previous one. The current series ends with Mahavira, the twenty-fourth, who is held to have lived for seventy-two years.

The traditional dating of the twenty-third Tirthankara, Parshvanatha,  is 877-777 BC.

The last Tirthankara was Vardhamana Jñatriputra lived during the period 599-527 BCE  and was given the title of Mahavira "the Great Hero". 

Modern scholars date his time as 499-427 BC which makes him a contemporary of Buddha.

The word Jain means "Victorious", the one who had conquered.

File:Jain Prateek Chihna.svg

Jainism like Buddhism was again a similar attempt at explaining life and existence on the basis of Cause and Effect and developed its detailed science around the law of Karma. However it differs from Buddhism in considering Karma as a real metaphysical/physical  mass zero particles in constant reaction with the Soul which it surrounds.  These explanations goes deep into detailes of how Karmic particles affect the souls and propels it into rebirth.

Innumerable souls or life forces (jiva) exist. They have always existed and will continue forever. They were not created by anyone. No one controls these souls. Each soul authors its own destiny under the laws of the universe. The nature of the soul is energy, consciousenss, and bliss (virya, caitanya, sukha). Consciousness includes both perception (darsana) and knowledge (jnana).


The jiva which grows, decays, fluctuates, varies, eats, sleeps, awakes, acts, fears, rests, has knowledge and perception, attempts to self defend, and reproduces. These and many more qualities of the jiva are obvious through a physical body when the soul is present in it but when the soul leaves, these qualities cease. These qualities are external features and consciousness (chetan) is the basic inner feature of the soul. This also makes it clear that the body and the soul are separate entities.

Since the soul is flexible, it pervades the entire body it occupies.  Such bodies stay alive as long as there is a soul.

Jivas are categorized in two groups:·        

·        Liberated or Siddha Jiva ·   Liberated souls have no karmas and therefore, they are no longer in the cycle of births and deaths. They do not live among us, but reside at the uppermost part of this universe called Siddhashila.  They are formless and shapeless, have perfect knowledge and perception, and have infinite vigor and bliss

·        Non-liberated or Sansari Jiva.. The sansari jivas have karmas, and are continually going through the cycle of birth and death. non-liberated jivas have limited knowledge and perception.

They are known by the senses they possess. There are five senses in all, namely touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing. Different types of Jivas possess one or more of these senses.  Among the five sensed beings some have minds and some do not. Those having a mind are called sangni panchendriya and those without a mind are called asangni panchendriya.

This bondage of the soul is explained in the Jain texts by analogy with gold ore, which—in its natural state—is always found unrefined of admixture with impurities. Similarly, the ideally pure state of the soul has always been overlaid with the impurities of karma. This analogy with gold ore is also taken one step further: the purification of the soul can be achieved if the proper methods of refining are applied. Over the centuries, Jain monks have developed a large and sophisticated corpus of literature describing the nature of the soul, various aspects of the working of karma, and the ways and means of attaining mokṣa.

In Jain view karma is seen as a most subtle body (karma sarira), consisting of subatomic small particles [those which mass is = 0 (zero), like photons etc.] in motion , which surround the  Jiva completely, and act as an intermediate medium that constitute  the Jiva's awareness to the outer dimensions of cosmos which consists of the Tejas body and the Physical body.  Jainism speaks of karmic "dirt", as karma is thought to be manifest as very subtle and microscopically imperceptible particles pervading the entire universe. It is these karmic particles that adhere to the soul and affect its natural potency. This material karma is called dravya karma; and the resultant emotions—pleasure, pain, love, hatred, and so on—experienced by the soul are called bhava karma, psychic karma. The relationship between the material and psychic karma is that of cause and effect. The material karma gives rise to the feelings and emotions in worldly souls, which—in turn—give rise to psychic karma, causing emotional modifications within the soul. These emotions, yet again, result in influx and bondage of fresh material karma.  Jains hold that the karmic matter is actually an agent that enables the consciousness to act within the material context of this universe. They are the material carrier of a soul's desire to physically experience this world. When attracted to the consciousness, they are stored in an interactive karmic field called kārmaṇa śarīra, which emanates from the soul.  Thus, karma is a subtle matter surrounding the consciousness of a soul. When these two components—consciousness and ripened karma—interact, the soul experiences life as known in the present material universe. The karma particles sticking to the soul cause the soul to be happy or unhappy and affect the events in the soul's present and future lives. All forms of karma prevent the soul from attaining final liberation.




Soul immersed in the Karma Particles with varying colors.

"Similar to energy, the soul is invisible. An infinite number of souls exist in the universe. In its pure form (a soul without attached karma particles), each soul possesses infinite knowledge, infinite perception, infinite energy and power, and unobstructed bliss." (from a Jain Sutra)

  • Karma is a physical substance
  • This substance is everywhere in the universe
  • There are 8 forms of karma
  • The mental, verbal and physical actions of the jiva attract karma to it. The more intense the activity, the more karma is attracted
  • The karma sticks to the jiva because negative characteristics of the jiva, passions like anger, pride and greed, make the jiva sticky. Karma can be warded off by avoiding these negative characteristics
  • If the being is without passions then the karma does not stick, thus a person can avoid karma sticking to them by leading a religiously correct life
  • Karma must be burned off the jiva in order for it to make spiritual progress. Living according to the Jain vows is the way to get rid of karma
  • The jiva takes its karma with it from one life to another

The 8 Types of Karma particles and their properties: 

Destructive karmas

  • mohaniya-karma (delusory):
    • deludes the jiva
    • causes attachment to false beliefs
    • prevents the jiva living a correct life
  • jnana-avaraniya-karma (knowledge-obscuring):
    • interferes with the jiva's intellect and senses
    • prevents the jiva understanding the truth
    • blocks the jiva's natural omniscience
  • dars(h)an-avarniya-karma (perception-obscuring):
    • interferes with perception through the senses
  • antaraya-karma (obstructing):
    • obstructs the energy of the jiva
    • blocks the doing of good acts that the jiva wants to do

Non-destructive karmas

  • vedaniya-karma (feeling-producing):
    • determines whether the jiva has pleasant or unpleasant experiences
  • nama-karma (physique-determining):
    • determines the type of rebirth
    • determines the physical characteristics of the new life
    • determines the spiritual potential of the new life
  • ayu-karma (life-span-determining):
    • determines the duration of a being's life (within the limits of the species into which the jiva is reborn)
  • gotra-karma (status-determining):
    • determines the status of a being within its species

Here is the body structure in various dimensions of existence according to Jainism:

The tejas body gives energy to the whole body.

The karman body carries the imprints of karmas to the next birth.

When the soul departs from the current body, at the time of death, the tejas and karman bodies go with it to the next life.

Uttarādhyayana-sūtra 3.3–4 states:

"The jīva or the soul is sometimes born in the world of gods, sometimes in hell. Sometimes it acquires the body of a demon; all this happens on account of its karma. This jīva sometimes takes birth as a worm, as an insect or as an ant."

File:Gati or existences.jpg

Uttarādhyayana-sūtra 32.7: "Karma is the root of birth and death. The souls bound by karma go round and round in the cycle of existence."

There is no retribution, judgment or reward involved but a natural consequences of the choices in life made either knowingly or unknowingly. Hence, whatever suffering or pleasure that a soul may be experiencing in its present life is on account of choices that it has made in the past. As a result of this doctrine, Jainism attributes supreme importance to pure thinking and moral behavior.

Lesya – colouring of the soul

According to the Jain theory of karma, the karmic matter imparts a colour (leśyā) to the soul, depending on the mental activities behind an action. The coloring of the soul is explained through the analogy of crystal, that acquires the color of the matter associated with it. In the same way, the soul also reflects the qualities of taste, smell and touch of associated karmic matter, although it is usually the colour that is referred to when discussing the leśyās. 

Uttarādhyayana-sūtra 34.3 speaks of six main categories of leśyā represented by six colours: black, blue, grey, yellow, red and white.

·        The black (Krishna), blue (Neel) and grey (the color of a pigeon: Kaapot) are inauspicious leśyā, leading to the soul being born into misfortunes. They have an adverse influence on the individual's spirit, causing the influx of painful (PAAP) karma. They also lead to detrimental impact on one's animate and inanimate environment. Obviously, the worst shade of passion is the black one as it involves the most intense emotions and passions (KASHAAYs) of anger, pride, intrigue and greed. An individual having this shade of passion has total disregard for his/her own spiritual well-being and for the welfare of his/her environment - living and nonliving.

·        The yellow (color of sunlight, Peet or Tejoleshya), red (or light pink, color of lotus, Padma) and white (or crystal clear,Shukla) are auspicious leśyās, that lead to the soul being born into good fortune.  In this sense, they are auspicious. The most auspicious shade of passion is white (SHUKLA). At its highest stage, it embodies the complete absence of passion and is achieved by those who are in the state of spiritual meditation (SHUKLA DHYAAN).

"A man who acts on the impulse of the five sins, does not possess the three guptis,  has not ceased to injure the six (kinds of living beings), commits cruel acts, is wicked and violent, is afraid of no consequences, is mischievous and does not subdue his senses – a man of such habits develops the black leśyā." —Uttarādhyayana-sūtra, 34.21:22

"A man who abstains from constant thinking about his misery and about sinful deeds, but engages in meditation on the law and truth only, whose mind is at ease, who controls himself, who practises the samitis and guptis, whether he be still subject to passion or free from passion, is calm, and subdues his senses—a man of such habits develops the white leśyā." —Uttarādhyayana-sūtra, 34.31:32

Role of deeds and intent

Any action committed, knowingly or unknowingly, has karmic repercussions.

Tattvārthasūtra 6.7: "The intentional act produces a strong karmic bondage and the unintentional produces weak, shortlived karmic bondage."

Similarly, the physical act is also not a necessary condition for karma to bind to the soul: the existence of intent alone is sufficient. This is explained by Kundakunda (1st Century CE) in Samayasāra 262–263: "The intent to kill, to steal, to be unchaste and to acquire property, whether these offences are actually carried or not, leads to bondage of evil karmas."