Jainworld
Jain World
Sub-Categories of Passions

Essence of Jainism

Search for Happiness
Know Thyself
SAMYAKTVA, the basis of Jainism
ASHTAKARMA - Eight types of Karma
  Theory of Karma and Cycle of Rebirth
  Questions and Answers about the Theory of Karma
  Shaddravya, The Six Substances
  NAV TATTVA : Punya and Paap
  NAV TATTVA : Asrava and Bandha
  Samvar and Nirjara
  Other factors conducive to Nirjara
  The Liberation
  Ladder of Elevation
  Syadvad
  History of Jain Sects and Scriptures
  Glossary

LADDER OF ELEVATION


 

- By Manubhai Doshi

We have by now discussed how a worldly soul can gain liberation. This is necessarily a process of evolution. Prior to the commencement of that process, the thinking and behavior of a person stays deluded on account of his ignorance about his true Self. He happens to identify himself with the body and its pleasure. He therefore uses all his energy to gain material happiness and physical comforts. That way, he wanders birth after birth oblivious of his true Self. As and when he gets curious about the spirit ual aspects, his condition undergoes a major change. He can then be termed as an aspirant. For advancing to liberation from that state he has to traverse a long distance...Question may arise whether there are any milestones or other signs on the way to gu ide the aspirant that he is on the right track. Jainism has divided the path of the spiritual uplift in 14 stages. They are known as Gunasthanak or stages of elevation. If the entire track can be compared to a ladder or an elevator, these stages are 14 ru ngs of the ladder or 14 floors where elevator stops, but with the difference that the space between the two adjacent rungs or the adjacent floors is not uniform. The ascent here is in the form of steadily shaking off the bondage of Karma.

Of the eight main types of Karma described in chapter 4, deluding Karma happens to be the strongest. The path of liberation can therefore be presented in terms of ever accelerating destruction of the deluding Karma. As such, it would be useful here to consider some significant aspects of that Karma. Deluded perception and deluded behavior are the two main divisions of deluding Karma. The former arises from ignorance and the latter from indulgence in defilements which in Jain terminology are known as K ashaya. Anger, arrogance, deception and covetousness are the four main types of Kashayas. Depending upon their duration and intensity each of them is subdivided into four subcategories. The most enduring Kashaya is termed as Anantanubandhi meaning the one that results in the bondage of endless duration. This is comparable to the letters engraved in stone. Somewhat less durable and less intense Kashaya is known as Apratyakhyanavaraniya, meaning the one that cannot be overcome even by adopting vow to con trol it. This is comparable to letters on .wood. or paper. Still less durable and less intense Kashaya is known as Pratykhyanavaraniya meaning the one that can be overcome by taking vow for the purpose. This is comparable to letters in sand. The least short-lived is known as Sanjwalan Kashaya which is very subtle. This is comparable to letters drawn in water. This can be overcome after attaining higher state. Thus there are 16 subdivisions of Kashayas that are responsible for deluded behavior. In addition , there are nine types of Nokashayas or semidefilements that also can be overcome at a higher stage. With this background we can now turn to the description of the 14 stages of elevation.

FIRST STAGE: This stage is known as Mithyatva or the stage of wrong faith. As the name suggests, it does not signify even the real beginning of the elevation. It is like the bottom floor where the person comes looking for the elevator. Most of the aspiran ts are supposed to be at this stage. The life at this stage is still more instinctive and reactions to the arising situations are more impulsive than discriminative. The aspirant still attaches more importance to the body and its pleasure. He has however gained curiosity for spiritual development. For that purpose he gets access to religious teachers. But he does not have insight to recognize true preceptors. As such, he gets under the influence of wrong teachers and also undertakes unbecoming rituals etc . at their behests. For the sake of his professed religion, he does not mind even resorting to evil activities. He has dislike and disregard for the true faith.

SECOND STAGE: This stage is known as Saswadan. This too is not the stage of elevation. It is the stage where an aspirant comes down, if he somehow falls from the higher stages. Since he has experienced the taste of right perception in the 4th stage, he ca nnot forget it altogether. Sooner or later he is therefore bound to regain that perception and proceed again on the path of elevation.

THIRD STAGE: This stage is known as Mishra. It is the combination of right and wrong or Samyaktva and Mithyatva. Here, the aspirant does not have discernment to differentiate right from the wrong and truth from the falsity. He still gropes in the darkness of doubt and wavers between right and wrong. He may have overcome dislike for true faith but does not stay tuned to it. He may happen to practise right rituals etc. but is not discriminate enough to recognize their truth. As such, he is likely to accept even falsity as truth.

FOURTH STAGE: This stage is known as Avirat Samyak or the right perception not associated with restraint. This is the real stage of elevation where few worldly souls have ever arrived. As the name suggests, the aspirant attains this stage when he gets fre ed from perception deluding Karma and has gained the right perception. He exactly knows what is right and what is wrong. He stands convinced that soul is his enduring self, while body and all incidental situations are ephemeral and have been gained as con sequence of his operative Karmas. He knows the true nature of soul and might have even glimpsed it some time. He also has right understanding of Karma and its bondage and is keen to shake it off. He has, accordingly, controlled all the four Anantanubandhi types of Kashaya, but has not still gained enough vigor to control other types of Kashayas. As such, he cannot resort to restrained life, even though he desires to adopt it. He gets involved in different activities as destined by his operative Karmas, bu t does not develop attachment for the same. He feels sad for the recurring embodiment and his sole aspiration is to go ahead on the path of liberation. In case, he happens to forsake this right perception on any account, he falls from this stage and goes back to the second stage.

FIFTH STAGE: As the aspirant advances on the path of liberation, he arrives at the fifth stage. From this stage, he starts loosening bondage of deluded behavior. He has now developed more vigor and gained capability to overcome Apratyakhyanavaraniya Kasha ya. He therefore resorts to partial restraints. This stage is called Deshvirati Samyag or the stage of right perception and partial restraints. At this stage, he adopts 12 main Vratas of laymen which have been described in chapter 12. His behavior now rem ains more or less restrained and he continues to strive for the fully restrained life.