If we look around us, we see not only
men and women, boys and girls, but also cats, dogs, birds, bugs, plants,
etc. It can be seen that there are various forms of living beings in this
universe. Nothing is permanent. Every second someone dies and someone is
born. This makes us wonder what happens to those who die, and who decides
what one should be born as. Jainism explains that in a very simple and
sound logical way based on the karma theory. Due to the karmas associated
with their souls, living beings have been going through the cycle of
births and deaths in various forms since times immemorial. Unless the soul
gets rid of its karmas, it will never be free from the cycle of births and
deaths in different forms. When a living being dies, it can be reborn into
one of the four gatis (destinies). These four destinies are as follows:
(1) Human (Manushya) beings.
(2) Dev (Celestial) beings.
(3) Tiryancha (Animal) beings.
(4) Naraki (Infernal) beings.
Present science is inconclusive about
the life after death or rebirth or reincarnation. But Jinas who had
kevalgnan (omniscience) have explained that there is life after death and
it is us, and no one else, who decides what will happen to us after our
death. No God or super power decides your future. Your past and current
deeds accumulate the karmas, which govern what we will be reborn as. Let
us discuss about these destinies.
As the human beings we have been endowed with the ability to think. We
can make out right from the wrong. We can decide what is good for us,
and what is not. We also have the capacity to control our minds and
activities. We can learn about the wholesome religious principles of the
Jainism and put them to practice by adopting the appropriate vows and
restraints. We can also renounce worldly life (samsar) for the monkshood
which can lead us to the liberation or salvation
As a heavenly being one has superior physical capabilities, numerous
supernatural powers, and access to all the luxuries. But the heavenly
life is transient and when it comes to an end, heavenly beings feel very
unhappy. They can not adopt restraints or renounce their lives to become
monks or nuns. Therefore, there is no salvation in the heavenly life,
and such beings will have to be reborn as the human beings in order to
attain liberation. It may be said that the soul is born as heavenly
being due to relatively accumulation of more good karmas (punya). But at
the same it should be remembered that the soul uses up good number of
good karmas there too.
As a tiryanch (being born as an animal like a lion, an
elephant, a bird, a plant, a bug, etc.) one is considered to be a lower
form of life. Animals, birds, sea creatures and reptiles has mind but
rest of tiryanch do not have a mind. Therefore most of tiryanch suffers
passively. Even animals and birds, etc., who has mind can not think or
restrain nearly as much as humans and therefore their progress is
compromised. Overall there is a great degree of passive suffering and
dependency in their life. The cruel animals accumulate more bad karmas.
In short, their life is not conducive to attain salvation.
As an infernal being (living beings of the hell), one has
to continuously suffer. Most of the time, infernal beings fight among
themselves, and cause more suffering to each other. Such a life is,
therefore, absolutely unsuitable for the spiritual pursuit.
Thus, it is clear that out of these four
Gatis or destinies only the human life is suitable for spiritual pursuit
and freedom from the cycle of births and deaths. Let us now try to
understand what leads a soul to the different destinies.
Those who do excessive violence, lying,
stealing, and enjoy sensual pleasure or are too possessive, angry,
egoistic, greedy, deceptive, or intensely attached to the worldly life are
likely to be re-born as infernal beings in the hell.
Those who are selfish, cause troubles,
or wish evil for the others are likely to be re-born as the tiryancha.
Those who are simple and disciplined,
observe vows, behave well, have a good character, and follow a good moral
life are generally re-born as the heavenly beings.
Those who are simple, straightforward,
observe vow and restraints, have faith in true teachers, attemt to gain
true knowledge, have only a slight attachment, have a controlled level of
anger, greed, or deception, and try to follow the religious teachers are
generally re-born as the humans.
In conclusion, we (the souls) are the
masters of our own destiny and we should not blame anyone or anything else
for our own destiny. Let us inspire to lead a spiritual life without any
delay, so that we may be reborn as the human beings again and may continue
to progress on the path of the liberation.