Fundamental principles of Jainism

Principles of Jainism

The fundamental principles of Jainism can be briefly stated as follows.

Man’s personality is dual

The first fundamental principle of Jainism is that man’s personality is dual, that is, material and spiritual. Jaina philosophy regards that every mundane soul is bound by subtle particles of matter known as karma from the very beginning. It considers that just as gold is found in an alloyed form in the mines, in the same way mundane souls are found in the bondage of karma, from times immemorial. The impurity of the mundane soul is thus treated as an existing condition.

Man is not perfect

The second principle that man is not perfect is based on the first principle. The imperfectness in man is attributed to the existence of karma embodied with soul. The human soul is in a position to obtain perfection and in that free and eternal state it is endowed with four characteristics, viz., ananta-darsana, ananta-jnana, ananta-virya and ananta-sukha, i.e. infinite perception or faith, infinite knowledge, infinite power and infinite bliss.

Man is the master of his material nature

Even though man is not perfect, the third principle states that by his spiritual efforts man can and must control his material nature. It is only after the entire subjugation of matter that the soul attains perfection, freedom and happiness. It is emphatically maintained that man will be able to sail across the ocean of births and achieve perfection through the control of senses and thought processes.

Man alone is responsible for his future

The last basic principle stresses that is only each individual that can scientifically separate his own soul from the matter combined with it. The separation cannot be effected by any other person. This means that man himself, and he alone, is responsible for all that is good or bad in his life. He cannot absolve himself from the responsibility of experiencing the fruits of his actions.

It is pertinent to note that this principle distinguishes Jainism from other religions, e.g., Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. According to Jainism no God, nor his prophet or deputy or beloved can interfere with the destiny of any being, with creation of the universe or with any happening in the universe. Jainism also stresses that the universe goes on of its own accord.

In view of this specific attitude towards God, Jainism is accused of being atheistic. This accusation is based on the fact that Jainism does not attribute the creation of universe to God. But at the same time it must be realized that Jainism cannot be labeled as atheistic because of the basic facts that Jainism firmly believes in Godhood, in an infinity of Gods, in punya and papa, i.e., merit and demerit, and in various religious practices, etc. Jainism believes that the emancipated soul is itself God. It is thus clear that Jainism cannot, in general, be considered as an atheistic religion.