Each Bhavi souls has a potential for the spiritual elevation and ultimate liberation, but humans can take the best advantage of the suitable situation. As the human life has its advantages, there is disadvantage too. If as a human, we donot pay attention and donot be discriminatory towards the raag (attachment) and the dwesh (hatred), then these two can put us further away from the liberation. The attachment and hatred are like the road mines. If we are not careful and step on them, then they explode and derail our physical, verbal or mental attitude from the righteous path and pollute our souls with karmas. Therefore we should learn not only to detect them and ignore them, but we must learn how to diffuse them forever. It is a hard task and while doing so some may get exploded away to the bottom of the spirituality but those who succeed can rise to the peak, the salvation. We have to develop the spiritual zeal and control and overcome our desires and whims so that we can learn, think, and behave right. At the base level of the spirituality, rag and dwesh will be more severe, while at the highest level they would be completely eradicated. These different levels are called the “Gunasthanaks”.
A gunasthanak means the stage of the spiritual development of the soul in connection with the controlling Mohniya and other karmas. There are fourteen different gunasthanak levels. The Jain philosophy has explained fourteen stages of the soul, by different levels of spiritual development of jivas. From the time immortal the soul is entangled with ajiva called the pudgals (particles) of the karma. Because of that it wanders in the entire universe in the form of a nigod, bird, animal, narki, human being or dev, etc. When the impurities of karma, which leads to the raag (attachment) and the dwesh (hatred), are minimized or discarded, the spiritual development of the soul commences. The raag and the dwesh are considered vices or defects while the things which help to overcome them are considered virtues or merits. The progress of the soul takes place in accordance to the virtues and vices present in it. Until the soul becomes Arihant, it fluctuates through these various stages of ups and downs depending upon the bondage of new karmas, maturing, and the shedding of the old karmas. To make our task easier, Jinas have given us the keys of three jewels: 1) Samyakdarshan (Right belief), 2) Samyakjnan (Right knowledge), and 3) Samyakcharitra (Right conduct). If the soul does not believe in right faith, right knowledge and follow right conduct, the soul is said to be in the first gunasthanak, called Mithyatva gunasthanak.
The fourteen gunasthanaks are:
Mithyatva Gunasthanak (the stage of false beliefs with intense raag and dwesh)
Saswadan (the stage of having tasted the righteousness)
Samyak-Mithyadrashti (Mishra) (the stage of fluctuation between the false and right belief)
Avirati-samyakdrashti (the stage of the right belief but no renunciation)
Deshvirti (the stage of the right belief with the partial renunciation)
Sarvavirti or Pramatta samyati (the stage of the total renunciation)
Apramatt samyati (the stage of the total renunciation and no carelessness)
Nivritti-Badar (the stage of an extraordinary efforts)
Anivritti-Badar (the stage of almost passionless state)
Sukshma samparay (the stage of the subtle greed)
Upashant Kashaya (the stage of the passionless state by the suppression)
Kshina Kashay (the passionless stage)
Sayogi kevali (the stage of the omniscient with activities)
Ayogi kevali (the stage of the omniscient without activities)
1) Mithyatva (the stage of the false beliefs or intense raag and dwesh) Gunasthanak
A person is called to be in the Mithyatva gunasthanak stage when he believes the wrong as the right and stays involved in carrying out the wrong things and does not have any regret for that. He does not have a faith in the teachings of the Jina and his passions are intense and care only for the physical comforts and the body, not the soul. It is called the first, rather than the zero stage because his perception and knowledge are not totally blocked out at this stage.
To achieve liberation the soul has to progress from first to the fouteenth stage which is difficult but not impossible. Whenever such person comes in contact with a virtuous person, teachings of spiritual teachers he realizes his mistakes. Now, he wants to do good things. This realization is the beginning. That is known as “Yathapravrttikaran”. The soul gets the urge for inner purification but for some this urge is not very strong as to force him to make a definite start in the positive direction. This urge rises and pops out like a balloon. Only a few people make a strong turn for self-purification. The strong commitment to change and follow-up on these actions reduce the karmic stock in quantity, duration, and intensity. Since he has not done these kinds of activities before, this is called “Apurva karan”. At this stage the soul has reached to the stage of breaking the knot of the degradation either suppresses, eliminates or combines both suppression and elimination of Mithyatva Mohniya and Anatanubandhi Kashaya Karma and achieve samyakatva. This is called Anivrutikaran (quietening) activities. Spiritually, such person moves to the fourth Gunasthanak (Samyakdrasti) from here. Attaining samyakatva, his liberation at some point of time is guaranteed.
2) Saswadan (the stage of having tasted the righteousness) Gunasthanak
The soul does not go to second stage (Sasvadana) while rising but it gets there only while falling from the fourth stage to the first stage. This is a passing by stage. Those who have attained fourth or higher stage, for some reason, fall and they pass through this stage before falling to first stage. In this stage they still have some memory of samyakatva but it lasts for a very short period.
3) Samyak-Mithyadrashti (Mishra) (the stage of fluctuation between false and right belief) Gunasthanak:
The condition of the soul that lives in this state is strange. The soul rises to third stage from stage one when misra Mohniya karma rises. During this time he keeps swinging like a pendulum between the right and the wrong views. Therefore in this stage he develops neither liking nor disliking in the teachings of Jina. Usually within an one antahmuhrat (forty-eight minutes) soul either falls back to first stage or if his conviction gets firm, he goes to the fourth gunasthanak.
4) Avirati-samyakdrashti (the stage of the right belief but no renunciation) Gunasthanak
By having an absolute faith in the nine fundamentals (tattvas), the jiva acquires the right belief. When soul reaches to this stage, it has either suppressed, eliminated or the combination suppression and elimination of five types of Mohniya karmas namely Mithyatva Mohniya and four types of Anatanubandhi Mohniya Karma [of krodha (anger), mana (conceit), maya (deceit) and lobha (greed)]. This state of the soul is called samyakatva. Even after realizing the samyakatva the soul is not out of the woods, because in this stage the soul is still under the influence of Apratyakhan-Mohniya karma and other karmas which prevents him from performing any austerities. In this stage, the jiva still exhibits moderate anger, conceit, deceit and greed. He understands and reflects on the soul, but can not pledge to restrain him from vices or harmful activities and cannot renounce the worldly things.
Samyakdrasti jiva possesses the following virtues:
Sama – Natural tranquillity of the passions
Samvega- Discrimination between the right and the wrong
Nirveda- Disliking of sensual pleasures
Anukampa- Compassionate and genrous to everybody
Astikya- Firm Faith in the truth about the soul and the body
In short, at this stage even though person knows what is right and wrong for, he would not be able to take any further steps in the direction of the self-discipline and spiritual endeavors. Once jiva reaches to this stage the liberation is sure but time factor and number of rebirths are uncertain. As Apratyakhan Mohniya karma is either suppressed or eliminated or both by the jiva, it moves to the fifth gunasthanak stage. The celetial beings can reach only upto this stage.
5) Deshvirti (the stage of the right belief with the partial renunciation) Gunasthanak
Desh means some aspect, partial or limited and virati means renunciation. The jiva in this stage makes a partial renunciation and may practice one to twelve anu-vratas and the other austerities. At this stage, jiva is still under the influence of Pratyakhan Charitra Mithyatva Mohniya karmas, which prevent it from the total renounciation. By more contemplation, Pratyakhan Mohniya karma is either suppressed, eliminated or both by the jiva, it moves to sixth gunasthanak stage. Some animals can reach upto fifth gunasthanak. Once the jiva reaches to this stage then, the liberation occurs in minimum of next 3 lives to maximum of next 15 lives.
6) Sarvavirti (the stage of the right belief with the total renunciation)
Sarva means total and virati means renunciation. In this stage, people totally renounce the worldly affairs and adopt the path for the spiritual uplift. They donot have anything to do with the social or cultural life. They are known as monks and nuns. They follow the five major vows. Here they are still under the influence of subtle passions called Sanjwalan Charitra Mohniya karma and no-Kashaya Mohniya karmas like laughing, like disliking, fear, grief or disgust, etc. These no-Kashaya karmas cause some carelessness in their life and that is why this stage is also called Pramatta samyati. Samyati means sadhu and Pramatta means carelessness. This and subsequent stages can be reached only during human life. Actually speaking this stage is the beginning of the real spiritual life.
7) Apramatt samyati (the stage of the total renunciation and no carelessness)
At this stage sadhu’s and sadhvi’s minds are set towards the liberation. They are very focused and alert to their cause. They conform very strictly to the principles of the self-discipline. They do not entertain any sinful thoughts and do not commit any kind of sinful actions. At the end of this stage, Samyakatva-Mohniya karma is either suppressed or destroyed but not both.
8) Nivritti-Badar or Apoorva Karan (the stage of an extraordinary efforts)
In this stage, a few extraordinary things happen which have never happened in this way. They are:
Guna Samkraman, and
Sthitighat means the time of maturation for the karmas is reduced to a shorter period. These way karmas would get over faster.
Rasghat means the intensity of the karmas is reduced to a lower level.
Gunasherin means karmas whose maturation time have been made shorter are moved to mature even in the earlier part of the process.
Guna Samkraman means karmas are transformed into the opposite group, for example bad karmas are transformed into the good karmas.
Apoorva Shtitibandh means the bondage of the new karmas in this stage is of very shorter duration compared to otherwise.
Because of these extra ordinary activities, this stage is also called apoorva karan. Apoorva karan means never happened before. Even though above processes happen in other stages they donot happen in these magnitude. This stage lasts for less than 48 minutes (Antahmuhurt).
Along with the above processes, the soul gets ready to set either in suppressive (Upsham) style (shreni) or destructive (Kshapak) style (shreni) for Samyakatva-Mohniya karma. In Upsham shreni Samyakatva-Mohniya karma is suppressed. In Kshapak shreni Samyakatva-Mohniya karma is destroyed completely. In suppressed state, karmas pretend as if they are not there and that is why we donot see their effects. But unfavorable situations trigger them to surface and they produce their effects that can bring down the soul to lower level than it may be at that time. While any event doesnot trigger destroyed karmas because they are not there. Therefore our goal should be Kshapak shreni and not Upsham shreni. In Kshapak shreni the soul advances further up without coming back to a lower level. Once the jiva reaches to this stage then liberation occurs either in the same life or within the next three lives.
9) Anivritti-Badar (the stage of almost passionless state)
In this stage the passions become so feable that it can be said that the soul is almost free from the passions. This stage also lasts for 48 minutes (Antahmuhurt). By the end of this stage Anger, ego, and deceit Sanjwalan Mohniya karmas are either suppressed or destroyed. During this and next stage the soul who is in the upasham shreni can by destroying the suppressed mohniya karma change to the Kshapak shreni.
10) Sukshma samparay (the stage of the subtle greed)
When a jiva reaches at this stage, all the passions are either suppressed or destroyed except very subtle greediness due to greed Sanjwalan Mohniya karma. By the end of this stage, even the subtle greediness is also either suppressed or destroyed. If the greed is suppressed then the soul advances to the eleventh stage, but if it is destroyed then the soul advances to the twelfth stage and further up.
11) Upashant Kashaya-Vitrag-Chhadmastha (the passionless state by the suppression)
When the soul reaches at this stage all the sub-classes of mohniya karmas are suppressed and it pretends as if it has no attachment or hatred. So the soul, in this stage, is called Chhadmasth Vitragi. This is temparory, because the suppressed Mohniya karma would be trigored to react to something around him within a maximum period of forty-eight minutes (Antahmuhurt). Awakened passions would bring down the soul from 11th to10th stage. If soul is not vigilant it can fall further down, even upto 1st stage. During the fall the soul can stabilize itself on any stage and start up again either in suppressive or destructive style. The soul, in the same life, can rise a maximum of two times in suppressive style and one time on destructive style.
The jiva who has reached to this state may liberate either in this life itself or within the next three lives.
12) Kshina Kashaya-vitragi-Chhadmastha (passionless stage)
When the jiva reaches at this stage, it has destroyed all of its mohniya karma and therefore soul is now free of passions like attachment or hatred. From this stage onward the soul is forever Vitragi in a true sense. This is soul’s one of the true attribute. After reaching this stage, even though the Jiva is active, it does not accumulate the karmas as usual because the gluing factors like attachment and hatred are absent. Therefore, the incoming karmas come to the soul but fall right off in a fraction of a second. Once the jiva reaches to this stage it does not fall from here, rather within next forty-eight minutes it destroys the remaining three ghati karmas namely Jnanavaraniya, Darshanavaraniya, and Antaray karmas and advances to thirteenth stage. Once the jiva has reached at this state, it attains the liberation at the end of this life itself.
13) Sayogi kevali (the stage of the omniscient with activities)
At this stage, the soul is completely free from all four ghati karmas. The soul is called omniscient. The Jiva in this stage is called by different names like Arihant, Jina, and Kevali. It is called sayogi because the verbal and the physical activities are still active. The soul also exhibits its other three attributes namely perfect knowledge, perfect perception, infinite power. Some of these Arihants restore Jain Sangh and are called Tirthankars. Along with some other differences about this stage, Svetamber sect believes that man and woman both can reach to this stage while Digambar sect believes that only the man can reach to this stage.
The jiva attains liberation by the end of this life by destroying the remaining four aghati karmas.
14) Ayogi kevali (the stage of omniscient without activities)
Ayogi State is the final step towards the total liberation from this worldly existence. During this jiva destroys the remaining four aghati karmas. During this stage the soul withdraws from all verbal and physical activities. This stage is very short period lasting long enough to say only five short vowels. As soon this time is over, the soul leaves this body and is liberated forever. When that happens, the soul is said to have attained Nirvana, Moksha, Salvation or Liberation. Thereafter the soul remains in its pure state forever at Siddhashila, at the top of Universe.