From the basic principles of Jainism it is evident that the
inherent powers of the soul are crippled by its association with Karmic
matter and that is why we find every person in an imperfect state. The
real and everlasting happiness will be obtained by a person only when the
Karmas are completely removed from the soul and Jainism firmly believes
that even though man is imperfect at present, it is quite possible for him
to rid himself of the Karmas by his own personal efforts without any help
from an outside agency. The highest happiness is to escape from the Cycle
of Births and Deaths and be a liberated soul, that is, to obtain Moksha.
This world is full of sorrow and trouble and it is quite necessary to
achieve the aim of transcendental bliss by a sure method.
When the goal has been fixed the next
question arises regarding the way how to achieve that objective. To this
question Jainism has a definite answer. It emphatically states that
Samyag-darsana, i.e., right belief, Samyag-jnana, i.e., right knowledge,
and Samyak-charitra, i.e., right conduct together constitute the path to
salvation. Right belief, right knowledge and right conduct are called
Ratnatraya or the three jewels in Jaina works.
According to Jainism these three things
must be present together to constitute the path to salvation. Since all
the three are emphasized equally and since the Mokshamarga is impossible
without the comprehension of all the three, it is obvious that Jainism is
not prepared to admit anyone of these three in isolation as means of
salvation. This position in Jainism is quite distinct from many religious
faiths in India. For example, there are religious schools in Hinduism
which lay all the emphasis on Bhakti, i.e., devotion, or on jnana, i.e.,
knowledge, or on Karma, i.e., moral conduct. The sect of Bhagavatas mostly
emphasizes the Bhakti aspect, the sect of Advita Vedantins the Jnana
aspect and the sect of Purva Mimamasaksa the Karma aspect. But according
to Jainism no such one-sided emphasis can be accepted as the correct path.
In this respect Jainism has clearly laid
down that with a view to attaining liberation all the three must be
simultaneously pursued. It is strongly contended that to effect a cure of
a malady, faith in the efficacy of a medicine, knowledge of its use, and
actual taking of it; these three together are essential, so also to get
emancipation, faith in the efficacy of Jainism, its knowledge and actual
practicing of it: these three are quite indispensable. This Jaina path to
liberation is compared to a ladder with its two side poles and the central
rungs forming the steps. The side poles are right belief and right
knowledge and the rungs or steps are the gradual stages of right conduct.
It is possible to ascend the ladder only when all the three are sound. The
absence of one makes the ascent impossible.
Thus, a simultaneous pursuit of right
belief, right knowledge and right conduct is emphatically enjoined by
Jainism upon the people. Obviously on this path, Jainism has based its
distinctive ethical code for its followers - both householders and monks.
Of the three jewels, right belief comes
first and forms
the basis upon which the other two rest.
One must, by all possible means, first attain right belief or the basic
conviction on the fundamentals, because only on its acquisition, knowledge
and conduct become right.
Right belief means true and firm
conviction in the seven principles or tattvas of Jainism as they are and
without any perverse notions. The belief that the Jaina Tirthankaras are
the true Gods, the Jaina Sastras the true scriptures, and the Jaina saints
the true Preceptors, is called right belief. It is laid down that such
right faith should have eight Angas, i.e., requirements or pillars to
strengthen or to support the belief, that it must be free from three types
of Mudhas i.e., superstitious ignorance and eight kinds of Madas, i.e.,
pride or arrogance.
The Jaina works describe at length the
glory of right faith and enumerate the benefits which can be accrued by a
person possessing right faith. They go to the extent of describing that
asceticism without faith is definitely inferior to faith without
asceticism and that even a lowcaste man possessing right faith can be
considered as a divine being. In short, right faith is given precedence
over right knowledge and conduct, because it acts as a pilot in guiding
the soul towards Moksha.
Right Knowledge :
On attaining right belief it is
considered desirable to strive after right knowledge. Although right
belief and right knowledge are contemporaneous there is yet a clear
relation of cause and effect between them, just as there is between a lamp
and its light. Right knowledge is that which reveals the nature of things
neither insufficiently, nor with exaggeration nor falsely, but exactly as
it is and that too with certainty. Such knowledge must be free from doubt,
perversity and vagueness. Jainism also insists that right knowledge cannot
be attained, unless belief of any kind in its opposite, that is, in wrong
knowledge is banished. Further, like right belief, right knowledge also
has got eight Angas, i.e. pillars or requirements which support the right
Right Conduct :
Right conduct includes the rules of
discipline which restrain all censurable movements of speech, body and
mind, weaken and destroy all passionate activity and lead to
non-attachment and purity. Right conduct presupposes the presence of right
knowledge which presupposes the existence of right belief. Therefore, it
is enjoined upon the persons who have secured right belief and right
knowledge to observe the rules of right conduct as the destruction of
Karmic matter can be accomplished only through the right conduct.
Further, Samyak Charitra, i.e., right
conduct is divided into two kinds, viz., Sakala Charitra, i.e., perfect or
unqualified conduct, and Vikala Charitra, i.e., imperfect or qualified
conduct, and of these two kinds the unqualified is observed by ascetics
who have renounced worldly ties and the qualified by laymen still
entangled in the world.
Obviously Jainism attaches great
importance to actual observance of the ethical code or the rules of
conduct prescribed both for the ascetics and the householders with a view
to attaining their ultimate objective in life, i.e., Moksha.