Philosophy of Jainism

With a view to achieve emancipation of soul from the bondage of karmas man has to acquire the knowledge of the beatific condition and of the causes which stand in the way of its attainment. To find out these causes it is necessary to understand the nature of reality as it exists, sat is the concept the explains the nature of reality.

Jainism believes that sat, i.e., the reality, is uncreated and eternal and further asserts that sat, i.e., the reality, is characterized by : utpada, i.e., origination or appearance, vyaya, i.e., destruction or disappearance, and dhrauvya, i.e., permanence. Jainism categorically states that every object of reality is found possessed of infinite characters, both with respect to what it is and what it is not. In other words, according to Jainism every object of reality has its paryayas, i.e., modes, and gunas, i.e., qualities, through which persist the essential substrata through all the times. That is why it is asserted that the basic substance with its gunas, i.e., qualities, is something that is permanent, and that is permanent, and disappear. Thus both change and permanence are facts of experience. For example, the soul or spirit is eternal with its inseparable character of consciousness, but at the same time it is subjected to accidental characters like pleasure and pain and superimposed modes such as body, etc., both of which are changing constantly. For instance, gold with its color and density is something that is permanent though it is subjected to different shapes at different times.

Jainism believes that in this world dravyas, i.e., the substances, are real as they are characterized by existence. Jainism also believes that the entire substances of the universe can be broadly divided into two major categories, viz., jiva i.e., living, or soul and ajiva, i.e., non-living, or non-soul. These two categories exhaust between them all that exists in the universe. Jaina philosophy is based on the nature and interaction of these two elements. It is this interaction between the living and the non-living, when they come into contact with each other, that certain energies generate which bring about birth, death and various experiences of life. This process can be stopped, and the energies already forged can be destroyed by a course of discipline leading to salvation.

A close analysis of this brief statement about Jaina philosophy shows that it involves the following seven propositions:

  1. that there is something, called living;
  2. that there is something, called non-living;
  3. that the two come into contact with each other;
  4. that the contact leads to the production of some energies;
  5. that the process of contact could be stopped;
  6. that the existing energies could also be exhausted; and
  7. that the salvation could be achieved.

These seven proposition imply the seven tattvas or principles of Jaina philosophy. These tattvas are termed as follows:

  1. jiva, i.e., living substance,
  2. ajiva, i.e., non-living substance,
  3. asrava, i.e., the influx of karmic matter into the soul,
  4. bandha, i.e., bondage of soul by karmic-matter,
  5. samvara, i.e., the stopping of asrava, the influx,
  6. nirjara, i.e., the gradual removal of karmic matter, and
  7. moksa, i.e., the attainment of perfect freedom from the karmas.

It is clear that the first two tattvas deal with the nature and enumeration of the eternal substances of nature, and the remaining five tattvas are concerned with the interaction between and separation of these two eternal substances, viz., jiva and ajiva, i.e., spirit and matter. In Jaina religion much importance has been given to these seven tattvas as every soul would be aspirant for moksa, i.e., salvation. To achieve the ultimate goal a person has to understand the nature of these tattvas. These seven tattvas point to two groups of substance. Hence the really sentient object is the soul.

A recognition of these two entities – soul and non-soul – at once marks out the Jaina philosophy as dualistic and quite distinguishable from the monistic Vedanta philosophy which accepts only one reality without a second.

In view of this distinguishing feature of Jainism it is necessary to have a proper conception of these seven tattvas of Jaina philosophy.