First Steps To
SANCHETI ASOO LAL
BHANDARI MANAK MAL
The Doctrine of Karma Part -1
The Doctrine of Karma is a direct outcome of
the extension of the age-old and well-established principle "as you sow, so
you reap" to the spiritual sphere. In other words, this doctrine is nothing
but an extension of the physical phenomenon observed in every day experience
in nature that every action has a reaction, every effect has a cause and vice
According to the Karma doctrine the course
of life of every living being here and hereafter is determined by his Karma or
his deeds and a pious life leads to comforts, contentment and general
well-being in the present life and re-birth in higher and better forms of
existence. Evil actions result in birth in lower forms of existence in future
life and unhappiness or misery,, in the present existence. In short Karmavada
may summarised as the "theory of inevitable consequences of one's actions."
This doctrine seems to have developed along with other doctrines about the
course of events or creation. These include Kalvad or doctrine of time
(treating time as a determining agent), Svabhav-vad or doctrine of Nature
(which held the nature of things as sole determinant), theory of
pre-destination (holding destiny as the prime factor) etc. These are proposed
to be discussed separately in this book. Here it will be sufficient to mention
that in Jain thought, true to its non-one-sided (Anekantvadi) approach, due
importance is given to all these factors as agents determining the course of
life along with the doctrine of Karma.. However, prime place is given to Karma
doctrines as it involves elements of freedom of will of the individual,
accountability for one's acts or deeds (Karma) and is living or active as
against the inert and passive nature of other factors like time, nature and
The Indian thinkers universally accepted and
adopted the Karma doctrine in all the major religious systems originating in
India viz. Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Though the emphasis varied, all
these major systems gave the Karma Doctrine prime place in the scheme of
things spiritual, pertaining to each system.
What is a bit surprising is that the
doctrine of Karma, did not get the place it deserved in the three western
religions viz., Christianity, Judaism and Islam, Though it is said that
prophet Mohammed warned his daughter that she will be judged by God, on the
day of reckoning, by her deeds in her life-time and not because she was the
prophet's daughter. May be the concept of an omnipotent God-head did not
permit acceptance of the due importance of the Karma Doctrine.
However, nowhere else except in Jainism is
so much importance attached to the principle of Karma. Coupled with the
concept of soul and its transmigration in a continuing cycle of deaths and
re-births Jainism lays down that it is one's Karma which primarily regulate
the future destiny and course of life of all souls. In this concept there is
no place for an all powerful God who interferes with, nay determines, the
destinies of living beings as in some other religions and beliefs. As already
stated in Part I Jainism does not believe in such an all powerful God. The
position occupied by God in other religions and faiths as an arbiter of
destinies of beings is held by Karma of the beings in Jain Philosophy. In this
process the individual being is raised to a high pedestal, capable of
determining his destiny and competent to write one's fate.
Also the disputes and doubts surrounding the
concept of an all powerful and jealous God are resolved as if by one stroke.
At the same time the Karma concept and belief in the same- encourages and
enforces an ethical behaviour in its believers. This is not on account of the
fear of an Almighty God (whom no one has seen) but for the simple reason that
one will have to face the consequences of one's behaviour - good or bad or
indifferent - in this world or hereafter. Moreover the Karma doctrine provides
satisfactory explanation for the otherwise inexplicable divergence in
existence viz., poverty v/s prosperity, health v/s sickness, happiness v/s
misery, which strikes one at every stage and which is unjustifiably ascribed
to an almighty God when these are the inevitable consequences of the beings
Against the brief background above, we take
up detailed discussion of Karma doctrine in Jain philosophy. The meaning of
the word Karma commonly accepted in Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. is activity,
work, deed or act. It also implies sacrifices or yagyas performed as a part of
Brahamanic rituals as well as the prescribed formalities like fasting and
other forms of worship called Karma-Kand.
However in Jain philosophy every form of
activity in thought, word or deed with any of the passions (anger, pride,
deceit and greed) together with the resultant material particles (Pudgals),
which can get attached to the soul, are covered in the definition of Karma.
Thus Karma in Jain scheme is a "complexes of very fine matter, imperceptible
to senses, which enters into the soul, causing great changes in it." This can
do with some elucidation, though it may involve a little repetition or
According to Jain philosophy the
beginningless, endless and uncreated universe consists of six substances viz.
(i) Living being (Jeeva); (ii) Matter (Pudgal); (iii) Time (Kaal); (iv) Space
(Akash) (v) Medium of rest (Adharma) and (iv) Medium of Motion (Dharma). Of
these only the living beings or souls have consciousness and possess the
potential of infinite knowledge, infinite perception, bliss etc. Actually the
liberated souls possess these qualities and, therefore, are considered the
perfect souls the Siddhas. These powers in case of the unliberated or mundane
souls are fettered due to their association with the other substance-matter
which is non-conscious or non-living but possesses form and is the only
substance with form out of the six substances.
The association of the formless or shapeless
living souls with the non-living and tangible matter is beginningless (but not
endless as we shall see). This beginningless association is an established
concept and an accepted fact in Jainism like other similar accepted fact of
uncreated beginningless universe. This association is constantly renewing
itself (till complete separation form the soul i.e. Mukti) through the release
of old matter and absorption of fresh matter by the soul because of the acts
and deeds of the living beings. That element of the matter which is so
associated with the souls or living beings is known as the Karma Pudgal or the
Karmic matter and is included in the wider meaning of the word Karma. Thus
when it is said that one is engaged in the Karma of walking or talking it
broadly implies that one is performing the act or activity of walking or
talking and also absorbing the resultant karma matter into his soul. strictly
speaking the word karma should imply action only and the attachment of matter
with the soul should correctly be expressed by the word Karma Bundh or Karma
Bondage. However, the fact remains that in common parlance the term karma is
used to denote the actions and also their consequences by way of Karma
Bondage. This has at times resulted in misunderstanding, which is explained at
the cost of a little diversion.
While comparing the message of the Bhagwat
Geeta with Jain teachings it is usually said that while the former teachers
activity or karma, the latter is against Karma or action. This is hardly
justified. Jainism does not teach inaction or non-activity because it is
simply not possible to forgo actions in one form or another as long as one
lives. This has been clearly stated in the beginning of Acharang Sutra, one of
the earliest and most authentic compilation of the Jain canon. What is
however, prescribed in Jain teaching is to avoid Karma Bondage or Karma Bandh
which is loosely interpreted as Karma or activity. Actually there is
considerable similarity in the message of the Geeta and the Jain prescription
for the pursuit of a correct course of life. The former teaches action without
worrying about the result "Karmanyevadhikaraste, maphaleshu Kadachan" in
Jainism also we find exhortation about action with vigilance or Karma with
Jayana i.e. without passions, at the same time maintaining equanimity or
indifference while accepting the result, as this will not result in Karma
Bondage. After this slight diversion we take up the questions about the Karma
Principle, that naturally arise :
What is the Karma matter or Karma pudgala,
How does it get attached with or detached
from the soul.
Let us take these questions one by one to
throw light on the subject of Karma.
What is the Karma Matter or Karma Pudgal ?
We have seen that "Matter", the only
substance in the universe with form consists of infinite number of Pudgals-indivisible
particles of matter-very much smaller than the atom. They are so fine that in
each part of space infinite number of combinations of the Pudgals or Skandhas
can be contained in their subtle (Sukshama) form. Each of these pudgals has at
least four qualities i.e. touch, taste, smell and colour.
There are many categories of clusters of
these pudgals called varganas. These varganas are of eight types (with many
subtypes) like Bhasha vargana or category of speech, Sharir vargana (category
of body), Mano vargana (mind category) etc. One of such categories of pudgals
is Karma varagana i.e. pudgals that have the potentiality of becoming Karma
matter of different types and of getting attached to the soul. It is this
particular category of matter called Karma Vargana which is absorbed by the
contaminated and thus material soul due to its activity and passions and is
converted into Karma body (Karma Shareer) just as an oil lamp absorbs oil and
converts it into a flame due to its heat. It has been mentioned that it is the
contaminated soul that absorbs Karma matter. This needs to be elucidated.
Essentially the soul is pure consciousness and is absolutely non-contaminated
and non-material the liberated souls (Siddhas) are like this. Such pure souls
cannot be contaminated by Karma-as they are two categories distinctly separate
from each other i.e. one is living being (Jeeva) and other is non-living being
(ajeeva). But due to the beginningless contamination with matter (Karma) the
soul's pure non-material form has also become partly material and, therefore,
it may further be contaminated. As stated earlier pudgals joining the soul are
in the form of Karma Vargana each with infinite number of pudgals in their
fine (sookshama) form and constitute the Karma body or Karma Shareer of the
soul. These Karma varganas are the finest (sookshama) of all other varganas,
which means that while they have the largest number of Pudgals, yet they
occupy the least space (as explained in a separate chapter).
All the Karma matter associated with a soul
form the soul's Karma body (Karma Shareer) which is one of the five categories
of bodies of the soul i.e.
Karman (to be discussed separately).
Here it will suffice to say that Karma body:
has beginningless association with the
soul which is renewing itself by shedding old Karma and acquiring new ones
and which can and finally end only upon the complete liberation of the soul,
it consists of the highest number or
infinite pudgals and is the finest (sookshma) of all the other bodies,
it is not stopped by any obstruction,
it always travels with the soul on its
transmigration from one life to another and finally,
it determines the destiny and course of
life of the soul in the world and the next which is, good, bad or
indifferent depending on the nature of the Karma body-Karman Shareer-accompanying
the soul and giving results.
How does Karma matter get attached with the
After dealing with the Karma matter, we come
to the second and more important question of the nature of attachment of Karma
matter with the soul. This issue is the core or heart of Jain thought and to
some extent it has been dealt with in Pt. I while dealing with Seven
Fundamentals. However, that discussion was primarily from the point of view of
the soul and its journey in this world. We shall now deal with this subject
from the point of view of Karma which is the subject under discussion.
The process of attachment of Karma (it
should imply Karma matter) with the soul can be divided into two parts (i)
entrance or introduction of Karma into the soul, (ii) attachment proper or
retention of Karma by the soul. The former is called Asrava or Influx and the
letter is known as Bandh or Bondage as they denote entry into and the binding
of the soul by the Karma respectively.
Entrance or introduction of the Karma into
the soul ?
All Influx or Asarva of Karma into the soul
may or may not be followed by or become bondage or bandh, but bondage is
always preceded by Influx. In higher stages of spiritual development or
progress of the soul (Gunasthans to be dealt with separately) when the soul is
passionless, the Karma entering the soul leave it simultaneously, staying just
for one Samay (smallest division of time), which need not constitute bondage.
However, all bondage i.e. bandh of soul by Karma must be preceded by entrance
or influx or Asrava as without such introduction or influx the Karma cannot
bind the soul. The line of distinction between the two is very fine so much so
that in its broader concept bondage includes influx and the causes for the
latter (influx) are also included in the list of causes of the former
(bondage). This will be clearer as we continue this discussion. Let us first
discuss the influx, introduction or Asrava of Karma into the soul.
The unliberated worldly (Sansari) or
contaminated (with Karma) soul is undergoing constant vibrations which are due
to the effect of the old Karma already attached to the soul. These vibrations
in the soul space are called YOGA-distinct from the other meanings of word
YOGA like meditation, concentration or addition. In the external world they
are manifested through the body that the soul may be occupying. The Yoga is of
three types depending on the results of the vibration of the soul in (i) body,
(ii) speech or (iii) mind. In case vibrations result in activity of the body
it is called Kaya or Body Yoga, if it manifests itself in activity of the
speech or speaking it is called speech or Vachan Yoga and if it results in
thought process it is termed Mano Yoga or Mind Yoga. It is because of these
vibrations of the soul, termed three types of Yogas as mentioned above, that
disturbance is created in the area of influence of the soul and body (it
occupies) in the world. The potential Karma pudgal (Karma varganas) out of the
other infinite number of pudgals in the world are attracted into the soul as a
result of these vibrations and Yoga and this is termed as Influx or Asrava.
This Asrava or Influx due to the three types
can be good and beneficent (Shubh or Punya) or bad and sinful (Ashubh or Paap).
This is determined by the intention behind the activity of body, speech or
mind. If the intention is bad being coloured by the four passions, viz.,
Anger, Pride, Deceit and Greed, it shall lead to sinful or bad (Ashubh) Yoga
and Asrava and if the intent is good marked by restraint over these passions
it will be good or beneficent. As examples we give the following acts which
are called good or shubh or Punya Ashrava or beneficent Influx :
Good body yoga - Charity, restraint,
Good speech yoga - Truthful, sweet
Good mind yoga - Wishing well of others in
thought, good meditation.
The following are the examples of bad or
Ashubh Yoga or Pap Asharava :
Bad body yoga - Violence, theft etc.
Bad speech yoga - Falsehood or harsh or
Bad mind yoga - Thinking ill of others.
Viewed from another angle it is the
attachment or hatred and otherwise involvement with things worldly i.e. Raga
(attraction) or Dwesha (aversion) that are the villains of the piece as they
lead to the four passions. It is due to the presence of these that Yoga or
Asrava of Karma becomes bondage and without these it does not. When it does
not result in Bondage it is called Iryapathic Asrava i.e. non-affecting Karma
which go out of the soul as they come in. The Karma influx accompanied by
attraction or aversion is called Samprayik Asrava or affecting influx which
attach the Karma pudgal with the soul body and that results in bondage of the
soul. The causes of such connecting Influx-Samprayiak Asrava is given as under
though they are all covered in the broader scope of Raag and Dwesh activities
Three Yoga - Activities of Thought, Word
Five Avirati - Non-observance of vows of
Non-violence, truth, non-theft, sexual restraint and non-covetousness.
Four Kashaya - Anger, Pride, Deceit &
Five senses - (& their actions) Sense of
touch, taste, smell, sight & hearing.
Twenty five types of activities -
Including acts of false faith, negligence, attachment etc.
To summarise, a soul which is acting through
thought, word or deed under the influence of Raga and Dwesh or Passions (Kashya)
will attract Karma (Ashrava) which will stick to it just like dust blown by
wind sticks to a wet or oily piece of cloth, and will become bondage (Bundh).
This type of Ashrava is of the nature of affecting or Samprayik Karma ashrava.
Another soul which is also so acting but without Raag-Dwesh or Passions (Kashaya)
may attract Karma but they will not stick to the soul just as a wooden ball
striking against a dry wall does not stick to it but falls apart, and are
known as Non-affecting or Iryapathic Karma. To some extent this touches upon
the second and main part of our enquiry i.e. "How does karma matter gets
attached and retained by the soul" which we can take up now in detail.
Attachment proper or retention of Karma by
To put the record straight it might appear
incorrect to say that Karma get attached or retained by the soul as the Karma
as we have seen are non-conscious, non-living matter and, therefore, the
passive agent. Actually, it is the living soul that is the conscious and
active agent which by its vibrations through the acts of body, speech and mind
attracts and retains the Karma and binds itself. However, it has to be
remembered, that the soul is not a completely free agent (though at times it
is) and is acting under the influence of past Karma with which it has
beginningless attachment, and which are in turn guiding its activities as they
come to fruition. Further, though the Karma are considered lifeless and
non-conscious, due to their attachment with the soul they acquire conscious
character and give results. Similarly, though the soul is invisible shape-less
entity, due to the close association with Karma it acquires a Karmic body
which is with shape and form and which is its constant companion.
It has been noted above that due to
Yoga-activities of the soul of three types (body, speech and mind),
disturbance is caused in the material world or Pudgal which are attracted to
the soul and which get converted into Karma. It has also been mentioned that
these Pudgal or Karma-vargana get attached to the soul due to presence of the
four passions, kashyas i.e. Anger, Pride, Deceit and Greed along with Yoga
activities, otherwise they leave the soul simultaneously with their influx (Ashrava).
As such it is clear that it is with passions that the influx (Ashrava) becomes
bondage-bandh of the soul. Thus the passions or Kashayas are the principal
causes of Bandh or Bondage of soul and its transmigration in the world, though
Yoga are a precondition.
Thus we have seen that YOGA and KASHAYA are
the two causes of Bondage or Bandh. According to other tradition false vision
(Mithya Darshan), un-diciplined life (Avirati) and Negligence (Pramad), are
also considered causes leading to Bondage (Bandh) of the soul (in addition to
the YOGA and KASHYA). However, an in-depth look will reveal that these three
causes are covered by Yoga and Kashaya in their broader meaning.
False vision or faith (Mithya Darshan)
implies want of true belief or indulgence in false belief. Undisciplined life
(Aviriti) is not following the five vows (Vratas) i.e. Indulgence in violence,
untruth etc. and Negligence (Pramad) is carelessness or recklessness in
thought, word or deed and all these ultimately result in four Kashayas, the
four passions i.e. Anger (Krodh), Pride (Maan), Deceit (Maya) and Greed (Lobh).
Also these are the prime agents of bondage and therefore, are rightly
considered so along with Yogas (cause of influx). However, in higher stages of
the development of the soul (Gunasthan), where finer distinction and detailed
appraisal has to be made, all the other causes are also mentioned so as to put
them in proper perspective.