THE PATH OF ARHAT
ONTOLOGY OF ATMAN, THE SELF
Categories of Jiva , Quality of Self', Avataravada ruled out , Proof of Existence .
"Access to truth demands the passage beyond the compass of ordered thought, and by the same token, the teaching of transcendent Truth can not be by logic, for what transcendent' means is the transcending (among other things) of the bounding and basic logical laws of human mind." H. Zimmer.
Truely, the ultimate reality, the final Truth is always beyond the reach of logic and reasoning. Reason and logic are the products of mind and the human mind, however advanced it may be, has its own limitations -Yardstick which is limited, cannot measure up the unlimited. This has been repeatedly emphasised by Indian thinkers and it is only for that reason that they have always emphasised that to have the taste of the transcendental Truth Life' and not the logic' is the means of achievement. The great masters of the history of Indian philosophical thought, though have widely divergent views in their formulations of the essence of the ultimate Truth, but none-the-less, they are unanimous in proclaiming that the ultimate Truth is beyond description (Nama) and beyond any form (Rupa). That is why, they preferred a negative course of describing it as Not this, Not this' (Neti-Neti).
Therefore, our attempt to show the existence of the self, the Atman, by a metaphysical process, is bound to remain imperfect. This metaphysical process would, however, serve its purpose if it is able to kindle a desire to know further, to think further and then to perceive further. Comprehension, rather than conclusion, should be our aim.
The Atman, known in Jaina terminology as Jiva', is the corner-stone of Jaina philosophy. If self is excluded from the philosophical structure erected by the Jainas, the whole edifice of that structure will collapse. It is, therefore, essential to consider first what is this Self' and by what process of reasoning we can comprehend its existence.
The Jainas broadly divide the whole universe, including all its animate objects, into two categories, viz. Jiva and Ajiva, i.e. Soul and matter. This Soul or spirit' is variously known as Soul, Atman', Purusa' or Jiva'. The connotation of the word is the same, namely the element (Dravya) known as Jiva' in its pure form, is all conscience and knowledge, sentient and possessing limitless motivating force. This force is apparent in all living beings including the plant life, but it is dormant even in inanimate thing such as earth, water, air and fire.
All the elements, not covered by this category of Jiva', are Ajiva'. For the present, we shall neither discus the sub-categories of Jiva and Ajiva; nor the qualities and attributes of Ajiva, rather we shall concentrate on the metaphysics of Jiva.
Physical science has by now disclosed that every matter in this universe is composed of atoms. Democritus, an early Greek philosopher (460 to 370 B. C.) was a brilliant mechanic and inventor and also had profound knowledge of mathematics and astronomy. He taught that world consisted of innumerable and infinitesimal atoms. He used the term atom or atoms' (the Greek word meaning indivisible) and held that these atoms moved in the universe in a whirlwind fashion and formed composite substances like fire, water, air and earth.
Several centuries before Democritus, Indian philosophers and especially the Jain and the Sankhya philosophers, not only came to the same conclusion but went further by stating that all things of the universe including the atoms can be divided into two categories, namely, spirit and matter. Physics now tells us that all objects are made up of atoms and, if each of these atoms is split, it will be found composed of electrons, protons and neutrons, which can supply such a forceful energy that all-destructive and forceful bombs can be constructed therefrom. It is this energy, this power which is identified by Jainas as real spirit. Hindus identify it as Sakti'. This spirit, this motivating force, is known in Jaina terminology as Jiva'. Terminologies may differ but the essence is the same. In terms of Psychology this motivating force is pure consciousness, pure knowledge (Kevala Jnana) unhindered and unobstructed by any kasaya', i.e., passions such as pride, prejudices, predictions, anger, avarice and malice. It is true to emphasise that it is this energy, this spirit, this motivating force, which enables humans to perform all their small and big adventures in life and animal as well as plant life to grow into this bewildering multiplicity of existence. Even otherwise, various mental experiences of man point to something which is experiential, some constant entity which gives meaning and significance for changing modes. This is the soul or the self. From whence this energy came ? Jaina answer is that it is eternal and is also indestructible. It has no beginning and will have no end. Moksa - Salvation, according to Indian thinking in general and that of Jaina in particular is not an end of the spirit. It is the state of total liberation from the bondage of matter - Ajiva. Science also believes that matter is indestructible. It may change forms, but the essence, the substratum, is not destroyed. This change of form or circumstances is known in Jainism as Paryaya'. The principle is illustrated by taking the case of an earthen pot. Earth can be shaped in form of a pot or of any other vessel, just as gold can be shaped in any ornamental form. However, whatever, be that form or shape, the substratum, namely the earth and the gold, remains the same. Similarly Jiva may assume the form of a plant or an animal or a human being, it remains the Jiva of equal potentiality, though at a different stage of development. Thus, the Jaina philosophers do admit that the Jivas is born, it appears' that he is born for the first time. Similarly when one dies it appears' that the Jiva has come to an end. Both these attributes of birth and death are known as Utpada and Vyaya. But so far as the soul is concerned they are mere appearances, mere modifications known as Paryaya because the real characteristics of soul are beginninglessness, that is, Anadi and endlessness, that is, Ananta. Its permanence - Dhravya is experienced even when it undergoes modifications - Paryayas. For instance, every human being undergoes the states of childhood, youth and old age involving serious modifications of body, mind and intellect. However, it is the experience of everyone that pure ego I' remains the same. It was this I' which was made the subject-matter of inquisition by the greatest saint of our modern times Sri Raman Maharsi, who admonished us to go on constantly asking ourselves the question -- Who am I'. This I' is the Soul, the Spirit, the Jiva.
Such souls are infinite in number and retain their individuality. Each one has to chalk out its own path of liberation and utilise its inherent potentiality to be fully liberated.
The above approach is obviously different from the one adopted by Advaita Vedantists led by the great Sankara, according to whom there is only one Supreme Reality, the Brahman and the entire visible cosmos is Maya, i.e. an illusion, super-imposed on un-illuminated human mind by Avidya, i.e., ignorance. In other words, Sankara does not recognise the duality of Jiva and Ajiva, and according to him, whatever is Ajiva, the matter is unreal. To a Jaina Philosopher Ajiva is as much real as Jiva. Jiva (the soul) has come into contact with Ajiva from time immemorial, and it is only the reality of Ajiva that results in soul's journey from one birth to the other and its struggle for the ultimate freedom from the bondage of Ajiva.
Categories of Jiva
Consistent with the above approach, the Jainas have seen two man categories of Jiva, namely (1) Siddhas', liberated soul and (2) Samsarins', worldly, not liberated. The latter are further classified as Tras' (mobile), Sthavara' (immobile) and Nigoda', i.e., dormant and lost souls with a common body and respiration, representing the lowest stage of existence. Tras' (mobile) are at a higher level and are classified in accordance with the sense-organs possessed by them, viz.
(1) Those with two senses of touch and taste.
(2) Those having three senses of touch, taste and sight.
(3) Those having four senses of touch, taste, sight and smell.
(4) Those having five senses of touch, taste, sight, smell and hearing. The Sthavara' (Immobile) have only tactual sensation. They are in the bodies of earth, water, fire, air and vegetables. Jaina seers have gone much deeper into this question and have given detailed enumeration of the number of Jivas in different categories of immobile life.
Such a minute and detailed study of living beings has a great significance as it reveals not only a metaphysical insight but also a highly ethical object of putting emphasis on the inherent potentiality of every type of life to achieve the highest. It thereby shows that every type of life is entitled to protection. One cannot do better than quoting Prof.Zimmer who has lauded this aspect in the following words :
"The systematization of the forms of life in Jainism is anything but primitive. It is quaint and archaic indeed, yet pedantic and extremely subtle and represents a fundamentally scientific conception of the world. In fact one is owed by the glimpse that it gives of the long history of human thought - a view much longer and more imposing than one that is cherished by our western humanists and academic historians with their little story about Greeks and Renaissance.
Twenty-fourth Tirthankara Mahavira was roughly a contemporary of Thales and Anaxagoras, the earliest of the standard line of Greek philosophers, and yet the subtle, complex-thorough-going analysis and the classification of the features of nature which Mahavira's teaching took for granted and upon which it played, was already centuries (perhaps even millenium) old (Prof. Zimmer is of the view that the Sramana School, to which Mahavira belonged, existed in India much prior to the advent of Aryans). It was a systematization that had long done away with the hosts of powerful gods and the wizard-magic of the still earlier priestly tradition - which itself had been as far above the really primitive level of human culture as are the arts of agriculture, herding and dairying above those of hunting and fishing, roof and berry gathering. " The world was already old, very wise, and very learned, when the speculations of the Greeks produced the texts that are studied in our universities as the first chapter of philosophy."
Speaking of the all-comprehensive universally of the idea of a cosmic man in Jainism, Prof. Zimmer says : "In Jainism, the whole Universe, including its infra-human stratifications, is comprised in the Divine anthropomorphic organism-beasts and plants, devoid of man's higher faculties of love, wisdom and spirituality, and also inorganic matter and the mute elements. This accords with the universal scope of India, doctrines of perfection, transformation and redemption. Not only human beings but all existences are included. Though steeped in darkness, the beasts and even atoms are looking for salvation, for they are the members of all-comprehending brother-hood of life -Nomads. Their destiny is to ascend, at last, beyond the bondages of Karmas."
Quality of Self
According to the Jaina seers the essential quality of Jiva (Soul) is pure consciousness - consciousness which does not die even in deep sleep in which the soul does not participate in any of the worldly affairs and remains unaffected by all the pleasures and pains of the world going around him. What is it which remembers the pleasant and unpleasant experiences undergone during sleep ? It is the self, the soul, the I' consciousness. This I' consciousness remains steady throughout life. I', the knower, is pure ago distinguished from empirical ego, being clouded by Karmic forces, begins to think that worldly actions are done by me'. According to William James, the American Psychologist, the empirical self consists of "entire collection of consciousness, the psychic faculties and dispositions taken concretely." Distinguishing pure self from the empirical one, he says, "It is the thinker which thinks. This is permanent, what the philosophers call soul or the transcendental ego." Thus, when it is said that the soul is pure consciousness, what is revealed is the untainted principal characteristic of soul which, in Jaina terminology, is known as Niscaya Naya'. However, when it is said that the soul is enjoying its Karmas, and therefore, subjected to mundane existence, what is revealed is its empirical character known as Vyavahara Naya' in Jaina terminology. Naya' means view-point, Niscaya' means ideological and Vyavahara' means practice. In Jainism the qualities of the self, are expressed in terms of Niscaya'.
Acarya Kunda-kunda, a leading Jaina saint and scholar, has described the qualities of soul in his famous work Samaya-sara' -"The soul is the Lord (Prabhu), the doer' (Kartta), the Enjoyer (Bhokta) and limited to a body' (Dehamatra) still incorporeal, and ordinarily with Karma. As the potter considers "himself the maker and enjoyer of the clay-pot, so from the practical point of view (Vyavahara-naya) the mundane soul is said to be the doer of things and enjoyer of sense-objects."
Umasvati, another great saint-scholar, in his well known work Tattvartha-sutra' says that, "consciousness manifests fully in perfect comprehension and apprehension (Jnana and Darsana) but the potentiality of every Jiva is not confined to these alone, because it extends also to perfect bliss and infinite power."
Thus the state of pure consciousness in which the soul remains totally untouched and unaffected by the events of the universe is the state of final liberation called Moksa'. Such a soul is known as Siddha'. He is unaffected by good or bad events because he is all knowing. His knowledge comprehends all possible events and happenings -past, present and future. In our little human experience we find that we are not gravely affected emotionally or otherwise, by any event or circumstance, if we already know that the said event is going to take place. Moreover, we also experience that the events for which we have no attachment or desire, do not affects us. The soul having attained the state of Siddhahood', becomes all-knowing' and desireless' and would, therefore, obviously remain unaffected by good or bad happenings of the universe. Thus, the pure consciousness of a liberated soul must be the consciousness of a Knower' (Jnata) and a Seer' (Drasta).
Avataravada Ruled our
"Dagdhe bije yatha'tyantam, pradurbhavati nankurah. Karmabije tatha dagdhe na rohati bhavankurah", meaning "Just as a burnt seed cannot sprout, the soul whose seeds of Karmas are totally burnt, cannot reborn again."
Such a soul, bereft of desire, would not think of again taking birth on earth to relieve its pains as thought by some Hindu thinkers. The theory of Avatara', that is, the descent of the Divine on earth in human form has no place in Jainism. To the Jaina, their Tirthankaras (Path-makers, known otherwise as Prophets) including Mahavira, were not Avataras or Divine. They were, indeed great souls having successfully liberated themselves by their own efforts. They have shared their knowledge with the humanity out of sheer love for it. After attainment of the salvation, they have no emotional attachment to the world, the real cause of the Rebirth'. As Chandogya Upanisad puts it : Na sa punaravartate, Na sapunaravartate' that He does not return back, he does not return back'. A grain, that has already sprouted does not sprout again. Perfect non-activity, in thought, speech and deed, is possible only when one has become dead' to every concern of life; dead to pleasure and pains, dead to the power and pelf, dead to all so-called intellectual pursuits including social and political reforms. Lao-tse, the great Chinese saint and philosopher, asked us to remain dead' to all events of life, to adopt an attitude of objective observance and to allow the nature to take its own course, for, according to him, even those trying to meddle with social and political affairs with perfectly altruistic motives of correcting the world, are unnecessarily poking their nose in the unfolding of the universal course. Thus the real Siddha' is one who has literally died to time. Such a Siddha' has no reason to take Avatara' to ameliorate the worldly woes.
Proof of Existence
If these are the attributes and characteristic of a soul, it is indeed very pertinent to ask what are the proofs of its existence. Bhagavati-sutra refers to Mahavira as prescribing four means of true knowledge, namely- Pratyaka' (Direct perception), Anumana' (Inference), Upamana' (Analogy) and Agama' (Scriptures). All these four means are utilised, hereafter in proof of soul's existence.
According to the modern science, every atom of every object possesses electrons, protons and neutrons, which constitute the source of energy. We have seen that this energy is the spirit because it is the motivating force. In a living object this very energy constitutes its Soul'. Thus no further proof about soul's existence is needed. But this discovery of science was not available to early seers like Mahavira, who therefore came to the conclusion about soul's existence by a process of metapysical reasoning.
Acarya Jinabhadra, a very learned and respected scholar saint, flourished in 5th century A.D. has written the classic named Visesavasyaka-bhasya. It contains the dialogue, between Lord Mahavira and eleven leading Vedic Scholars on different aspects of self and other philosophical theories, which are basic to Jainism. Indrabhuti Gautam, who subsequently become the chief disciple of Lord Mahavira, was a great Vedic Scholar, seeing many persons flocking to listen the first sermon of the Lord, he went to see him along with his own disciples. There the Lord himself disclosed to Indrabhuti, the nature of philosophical doubts regarding the existence or otherwise of soul' which afflicted him. Oh, Indrabhuti' ! Mahavira said, "I know that you have doubts about the existence of Jiva (soul). You believe that the existence of Jiva (soul) cannot be proved by any method, as it cannot be directly perceived by any sense-organs. You further argue within yourself that even atoms cannot be seen by naked eyes, but they could be perceived as collectivities. But this cannot be said about the soul. You contend that if one wants to prove the existence of the soul by the process of inference, even that cannot solve the problem because every inference is based on some tangible experience. You say that even scriptural authority is of no use as even they are not uniform in accepting the existence of soul, and even otherwise, scriptural knowledge is nothing but inferential knowledge. According to you even the process of analogy is useless because there is no tangible thing, analogous to soul. Thus it is not possible to prove soul's existence through any of the means of Valid knowledge. So the only conclusion is that the soul does not exist."
Having thus formulated the opposite point of view, the Lord proceeded to resolve the doubts as under :
"Oh Gautam, your doubts about the soul's existence are out of place, and your contention that soul cannot be perceived by senses is also not correct because it can be perceived very directly."
"Sir, how that is so ?" asked Gautam.
"Gautam, just consider what is Soul'. It is nothing but pure consciousness or knowledge Vijnanarupa'. If this consciousness exists, soul exists. This consciousness exists in you because, otherwise, there can not be any doubt in your mind about the existence of souls. Hence the very fact of the existence of doubt is the proof of consciousness. Unconscious has no doubts. Thus, there is direct proof of consciousness and hence of soul. If it can thus be directly perceived, it does not require any further proof."
Gautam however, required further proof. He therefore asked : "May be that the Soul' can be directly perceived as you say, but still further proof is required, because there are some philosophers known as Sunyvadi, not recognising the real existence of even the things which could be perceived by senses and insist upon their proof by other logical methods."
Lord Mahavira said : "We often say I did' or I am doing' or I shall do'. In all these statements of past, present and future, the subjects is I' even though the action was over, or is being done in the present or is yet to be done in future. This suggests the continuity of I' consciousness throughout past, present and future. The ego consciousness' (Ahamrupa Jnana), thus expressed by reference to a constant I' is a further proof of the existence of soul because that I' is the soul' or the self', is not destroyed by the past, exists in the present and projects existence in future also. This ego consciousness is not the subject matter of any inference, nor does it require any scriptural authority. Even those, ignorant of scriptures, experience this ego consciousness. So this is direct perception and hence direct proof of soul's existence."
"Moreover, Oh Gautam! there cannot be any knowledge' of the object having no existence at all. So if the soul' does not exist, who has the consciousness or knowledge of I', when one says I did', etc. If you say I doubt' who is it who is it who doubts ? Every doubt presupposes a doubter. That doubter, that I', is your own self, your soul. Ego consciousness' has soul as its object because the question is whose consciousness' ? Answer is consciousness of I' which is the object of this consciousness."
Gautam : "Sir, this ego consciousness' would not be rendered objectless if instead of believing that soul' or self' is its object, we take our body as its object. When I say I am black' or I am thin;, the ego consciousness I' is used with reference to our body. So, what is objectionable if we take I' as referring to our body and not to our self'."
Mahavira : "If ego consciousnes expressed by the use of I' has a reference to our body as its object, then even our dead body could be having that ego consciousness and could be referred to as I'. But that is not so. It follows, therefore, that the object of ego consciousness is not the body. It cannot be said that the doubter' of your body.
Moreover, consider what is a doubt'. Every doubt' is an attribute (Guna) of some object which is its substratum. Every substratum is known by its attributes because attributes and their substratum are mutually reciprocal so that the existence of one can be known by the existence of the other. Therefore, even though the substratum cannot be perceived by our senses its existence can be mentally perceived through our knowledge of its attributes. A doubt can never be an attribute of your body because doubt is always an attribute of consciousness and the body has no consciousness of its own."
"Further, just consider who possesses the power of memory, who remembers the past and the present and who has a comprehension about future. This attribute of memory is not the attribute of body. It is the attribute of I' consciousness. So when you are doubting the very existence of I' you are doubting your own self, because, the moment you doubt your own self, you do not exist. But you do exist because you are doubting. So, the doubter of your doubts is your self', your soul'. Soul exists because I' exists and I' exists because doubt' exists."
"Again, it is many a times seen that the attributes such as memory, perception, sensation, etc., are absent even when body is present and in a living condition. This proves that these attributes are not of body.'
"It is found that body gets consciousness only in association with soul and without soul, it is dead as wood. Hence consciousness is soul'."
The dialogue which proceeded further left Indrabhuti Gautam fully convinced about the existence of soul and he became the principal disciple of Mahavira.
Chandogya Upanisad contains another famous dialogue on the subject between father Aruni and his son Svetaketu. Aruni' a Brahmin Rsi, learned in Vedas, sent his son Svetaketu at the age of twelve years to learn Vedas. The son returned back to father after the completion of his course at the age of 24 years, conceited and thinking himself very learned. So the learned father inquired of the son -
"Svetaketu, my dear, since now you think yourself very learned and proud, did you also ask for that teaching whereby what has not been heard of, becomes thought of, what has not been understood, becomes understood ?"
"How pray Sir, is that teaching" ? asked the son.
"Just as my dear", the father explained, "by one piece of clay everything made of clay may be known (the modification is merely a verbal distinction, a name, the reality is just clay'). Just as, my dear, by one copper ornament everything made of copper may be known (modification is merely a verbal distinction, a name, the reality is just copper'). Just as, my dear, by one nail-scissors, everything made of iron may be known (the modification is merely a verbal distinction, a name; the reality is just iron'). So, my dear, is that teaching."
"Verily", said the son, "those honoured men did not know this, for, if they had known it, why would they have not told me ? But do you, Sir, tell me."
"So be it, my dear, -bring hither a fig from ther".
"Here it is, Sir".
"It is divided, Sir".
"What do you see there"?
"These rather fine seeds, Sir" ?
"Of these, please divide one".
"It is divided, Sir".
"What do you see there" ?
"Nothing at all, Sir".
Then he (father) said to him (son) : "Verily, my dear, that finest essence which you do not perceive - verily, my dear; from that finest essence, this great fig tree arises. Believe me, my dear, that which is the finest essence - this whole world has that as its self. That is Reality. That is Atman. That art thou (Tattvamasi) Svetaketu."
"Do you, Sir, cause me to understand even more".
"So be it, my dear", said he, "Place this salt in water. In the morning come to me." Then he did so. Then he said unto him : "that salt you placed in the water last evening, please bring it hither." Then he grasped, but did not find it, as it was completely dissolved.
"Please, take a sip from this end", said he, "How is it" ?
"Salt", said the son.
"Take a sip from that end", said he, "How is it" ?
"Salt", said the son.
"Take a sip from middle, How is it" ?
"Take a sip from that end", said he, How is it" ?
"Set it aside and then come to me".
He did so, saying, "It is always the same".
Then he (father) said to him : "Verily, indeed, my dear, you do not perceive Being here. Verily, indeed it is here. That which is the finest essence - this whole world has that as its self. That is Reality; That is Atman, That art thou (Tattvamasi), Svetaketu."
Truly, the essence of life is spirit, the soul. Body, mind and soul are the three components of human beings. Body works through senses. The impulses which are created in physical senses when they come in touch with external objects are carried to mind. The mind reasons out and stores the feelings created by these impulses and conveys to the soul. The soul thus gets experience of pleasures, pain and utility of the material objects of the external world through physical senses and mind. Function of the physical senses is confined to each individual sense so that one physical sense cannot discharge or remember the function of any other physical sense. Function of mind is to a great external supervisory. It is the internal function which works in the most subtle manner. It reasons and compares and stores, but its motivating force is the self. Mind can work only through sense. But self can work directly. So long as self and its functions are clouded by Karmas, it functions only through mind and senses and is not capable of having direct perception.
The Jaina philosophers have distinguished mind from the self by emphasising that mind is the internal instrument that helps the self in cognizing internal states like pleasure, pain etc. Sri Hemcandra Acarya, a renowned Jaina scholar of 12th century, defines mind as the organ of cognition of all objects of all the senses (Sarvartha grahanam manah). It is the cognition of all the objects of senses, only not of all the objects, that is, the Mind excludes the cognition of these objects which are not the objects of senses. There lies the distinction between the mind and the self because self, in its pure existence, is free from the bondage of Karmas, and can cognize all objects irrespective of the medium of senses. That is direct, i.e., Pratyaksa, cognizance. But cognizance, obtained through senses and mind is indirect, i.e., Paroksa.
The philosophical paradox is that self experiences through mind and body (physical senses), but in the ultimate analysis, the efforts of self is to get free from the obstacles created by the mind and body. So, the obstacles are sought to be removed through obstacles themselves. The paradox is solved if we bear in mind that according to Jaina philosophy, self, i.e., the Jiva is associated with Ajiva since time immemorial and the real nature of every Jiva is to ascend and to become free from the bondage of Ajiva, resulting in self's struggle through experience, gained only through the mind and body. Thus, in this chapter we have seen that,
(1) Existence of soul can be proved by direct perception as well as by metaphysical reasoning.
(2) Soul is distinct from matter, but is in close association with the matter from time immemorial.
(3) Soul is eternal and indestructible.
(4) Association of soul with karmic matter is the cause of birth and rebirth.
(5) Process of birth and rebirth is nothing but the soul's struggle to become free from the bondage of Karma.
(6) Once the soul completely frees, itself from the bondage, it becomes all powerful and omniscient, Siddha, i.e., attains God-hood.
(7) Having attained God-hood it does not take rebirth.
(8) Such a soul is in existence even in an atom and every such soul-even of an atoms, has the potentiality of achieving God-hood and this belief is at the root of the theory of Ahimsa.
Having thus seen the proof of existence and the main characteristics of one of the Universe, we may now proceed to consider the characteristics of the other components, namely, Ajiva.