Jain philosophy can be described in various ways, but the most
acceptable tradition is to describe it in terms of Nav Tattvas or
nine fundamentals. They are:
- Jiva (soul): All living beings are called Jivas.
Jivas have consciousness known as the soul, which is also
called the atma (soul - chetan). The soul and body are
two different entities. The soul can not be reproduced.
It is described as a sort of energy which is
indestructible, invisible, and shapeless. Jainism divides
jivas into five categories ranging from one-sensed beings
to five-sensed beings. The body is merely a home for the
soul. At the time of death, the soul leaves the body to
occupy a new one. Tirthankaras have said that the soul
has an infinite capacity to know and perceive. This
capacity of the soul is not experienced in its present
state, because of accumulated karmas.
- Ajiva (non-living matter): Anything that is not a
soul is called ajiva. Ajiva does not have consciousness.
Jainism divides ajiva in five broad categories:
dharmastikay (medium of motion), adharmastikay (medium of
rest), akashastikay (space), pudgalastikay (matter), and
- Punya (results of good deeds): By undertaking
these wholesome activities, we acquire punya or good
karmas. Such activities are: providing food or other
items to the needy people, doing charity work,
propagating religion, etc. When punya matures, it brings
forth worldly comfort and happiness.
- Pap (results of bad deeds): By undertaking bad
activities, we acquire pap or bad karmas. Such activities
are: being cruel or violent, showing disrespect to
parents or teachers, being angry or greedy and showing
arrogance or indulging in deceit. When pap matures, it
brings forth worldly suffering, misery, and unhappiness.
- Asrava (influx of karmas): The influx of karman
particles to the soul is known as asrav. It is caused by
wrong belief, vowlessness (observing no vows), passions,
negligence, and psychophysical activities. Such an influx
of karmas is facilitated by mental, verbal, or physical
- Bandh (bondage of karmas): This refers to the
actual binding of karman particles to the soul. Bandh
occurs, when we react to any situation with a sense of
attachment or aversion.
- Samvar (stoppage of karmas): This is the process
by which the influx of karman particles is stopped. This
is achieved by observing samiti (carefulness), gupti
(control), ten fold yati-dharma (monkshood),
contemplating the twelve bhavanas (mental reflections),
and parishaha (suffering).
- Nirjara (eradication of karmas): The process by
which we shed off karmas is called nirjara. Karmas can be
shed off either by passive or active efforts. When we
passively wait for karmas to mature and give their
results in due time, it is called Akam Nirjara. On the
other hand, if we put active efforts for karmas to mature
earlier than due time, it is called Sakam Nirjara. Sakam
Nirjara can be achieved by performing penance,
repentance, asking for forgiveness for the discomfort or
injury we might have caused to someone, meditation, etc.
- Moksha (liberation): When we get rid of all the
karmas, we attain liberation or moksha.
Now, let us use a simple analogy to illustrate these Tattvas.
There lived a family in a farm house. They were enjoying the
fresh cool breeze coming through the open doors and windows. The
weather suddenly changed, and a terrible dust storm set in.
Realizing it was a bad storm, they got up to close the doors and
windows. By the time they could close all the doors and windows,
much dust had entered the house. After closing all of the doors
and windows, they started cleaning away the dust that had come
into the house.
We can interpret this simple illustration in terms of
Nav-Tattvas as follows:
1) Jivas are represented by the people.
2) Ajiva is represented by the house.
3) Punya is represented by worldly enjoyment resulting from
the nice cool breeze.
4) Pap is represented by worldly discomfort resulting from the
sand storm, which brought dust into the house.
5) Asrava is represented by the influx of dust through the
doors and windows of the house which is similar to the influx of
karman particles to the soul.
6) Bandh is represented by the accumulation of dust in the
house, which is similar to bondage of karman particles to the
7) Samvar is represented by the closing of the doors and
windows to stop the dust from coming into the house, which is
similar to the stoppage of influx of karman particles to the
8) Nirjara is represented by the cleaning up of accumulated
dust from the house, which is similar to shedding off accumulated
karmic particles from the soul.
9) Moksha is represented by the clean house, which is similar
to the shedding of all karmic particles from the soul.