Tattvas of Jainism

The seven tattvas, i.e., principles of Jainism mentioned above are explained in Jaina religion as follows:


The Jiva means atman, i.e., soul or spirit. The Jiva is essentially an undivided base of consciousness and there is an infinity of them. The whole world is literally filled with them. The souls are substances and as such they are eternal. Their characteristic mark is consciousness, which can never be destroyed. Basically the soul is all perfect and all powerful. But by ignorance soul identifies itself with matter and hence all its troubles and degradation start.

Kinds of souls

The souls are of two kinds, viz.,

  1. samsarin, i.e., mundane, or baddha, i.e., those in bondage, and
  2. siddha, i.e., liberated, or mukta, i.e., those that are free.

Mundane souls are the embodied souls of living beings in the world and are still subject to the cycle of births. On the other hand, siddha jivas are the liberated souls and they will be embodied no more.

Liberated souls

The liberated souls without any embodiment dwell in the state of perfection at the top of the universe. So to say, they have no more to do with worldly affairs as they have reached Nirvana or Mukti, i.e., complete emancipation. The liberated souls in their pure condition possess four attributes known as ananta-chatustaya, i.e., infinite quaternary, viz.,

  1. ananta-darsana, i.e., infinite perception
  2. ananta-jnana, i.e., infinite knowledge,
  3. ananta-virya, i.e., infinite power, and
  4. ananta-sukha, i.e., infinite bliss.

Thus the most significant difference between the mundane and the liberated souls consists in the fact that the former is permeated with subtle matter known as karma; while the latter is absolutely pure and free from any material alloy.

Mundane souls

The mundane or embodied souls are living beings, the classification of which is a subject not only of theoretical but also of great practical interest to the Jainas. As their highest duty is not to injure any living beings, it becomes incumbent on them to know the various forms which life may assume.

The mundane souls are of two kinds, viz., (i) samanaska, i.e., those who have a mind ( the faculty of distinguishing right or wrong), and (ii) amanaska, i.e., those who have no mind.further, the mundane souls are also classified into two kinds from another point of view: (a) sthavara, i.e., the immobile or the one sensed souls, that is, having only the sense of touch; and (b) trasa, i.e., the mobile or, having a body with more than one sense organ.

Again, mobile souls are those which, being in fear, have the capacity of moving away from the object of fear. But immobile souls do not have this capacity.

One-sensed souls

The immobile or one-sensed souls are of five kinds, viz.,

  1. prthvi-kaya, i.e., earth-bodied,
  2. ap-kaya, i.e., water bodied,
  3. tejah-kaya, i.e., fire-bodied,
  4. vayu-kaya, i.e., air bodied, and
  5. vanaspati-kaya, i.e., vegetable-bodied.

The Jaina believe that ‘nearly everything is possessed of a soul’ has been characterized as animistic and hylozoistic by some scholars and therefore they regarded Jainism as a very primitive religion. But a careful study of Jaina scriptures shows that Jainism cannot be termed as animistic faith because Jainism makes a clear distinction between soul and non-soul. It cannot be labeled as animism in the sense that `everything is possessed of a soul’.

Many-sensed souls

There are in all five senses of touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing and therefore the mobile or many-sensed souls are classified accordingly into four classes, viz.,

  1. dvi-indriya jivas, i.e., those souls which have first two senses of touch and taste, for example, worms, etc.,
  2. tri-indriya jivas, i.e., those souls which have first three senses of touch, taste and smell, for example, ants, etc.,
  3. chatur-indriya jivas, i.e., those souls which have first four senses of touch, taste, smell and sight, for example, bumble bee, etc., and
  4. pancha-indriya jivas, i.e., those souls which have all the five senses of touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing, for example, human begins etc.

Thus we find that in each class there is one sense organ more than those of the one preceding it.

Grades of mundane souls

From another point of view mundane beings are divided into four grades according to the place where they are born or their condition of existence. The forms of existence or gatis are of four kinds, viz., (i) naraka-gati, that is, hellish form, (ii) tiryag-gati, that is, sub-human form, (iii) manusya-gati, that is, human form, and (iv) deva-gati, that is, celestial form.

It is asserted that mundane beings are born in these four gatis according to their punya-karmas, i.e., merits or papa- karmas i.e., demerits. Jainism further believes that for moksa, i.e., complete salvation, birth in the human form is essential and that those in other forms or gatis will attain salvation only after taking birth in manusya-gati, i.e., human form.

Characteristics of mundane souls

The mundane souls are always in the impure state, and in this state their features are described in the classical text Dravya-sangraha in the Prakrit language :

Jivo uvaogamao amutti katta sadehaparimano

Bhotta samsarattho siddho so vissasoddhagai

  1. Jiva : It lived in the past, is living now and shall live for ever.
  2. Upayogamaya : It has perception and knowledge.
  3. Amurti : It is formless, that is, it has no touch, taste, smell or color.
  4. Kartr : It is the only responsible agent of all its actions.
  5. Svadeha-parimana : It fills the body which it occupies, for example, that of an ant or an elephant.
  6. Bhoktr : It enjoys the fruits of its karmas.
  7. Samsarastha : It wanders in Samsara.
  8. Siddha : It can become in its perfect condition, siddha.
  9. Urdhvagati : It has the tendency to go upwards.


As we have seen Jaina philosophy starts with a perfect division of the universe into living and non-living substances, jiva and ajiva. The ajiva, i.e., non-living or non-soul substances are of five kinds, namely,

  1. pudgala, i.e., matter,
  2. dharma i.e., medium of motion,
  3. adharma, i.e., medium of rest,
  4. akasa, i.e., space, and
  5. kala, i.e., time.

These six substances are called dravyas, i.e., elementary substances, in Jaina philosophy. It should be noted that the terms dharma and adharma have a special significance other than usual meaning of punya and papa, i.e., merit and demerit.

A dravya has got three characteristics as follows :

  1. first, dravya has the quality of existence,
  2. secondly, dravya has the quality of permanence through origination and destruction, and
  3. thirdly, dravya is the substratum of attributes and modes.

Thus the drvya is uncreated and indestructible, its essential qualities remain the same and it is only its paryaya or mode of condition, that can and does change.


Whatever is perceived by the senses, the sense organs themselves, the various kinds of bodies of Jivas, the mind, the karmas, and the other material objects-all of these are known as pudgala or matter.


Dharma is the principle of motion, the accompanying circumstance or cause which makes motion possible. Just as water itself, being indifferent or neutral, is the condition of movement of fishes, so dharma, itself non-motive, is the sine qua non of motion of jivas and pudgalas. Hence dharma is coterminus with the universe, and is one substance unlike jiva and pudgala which are infinite in number.


Adharma or the principle of rest has all the characteristics associated with dharma. But it is like the earth the sine qua non of rest for things in motion.


What contains or accommodates completely all jivas and pudgalas and the remaining dravya in the universe is termed as akasa or space. It is very pertinent to note that in Jaina philosophy the term akasa means space and not ether as it is very often interpreted in other systems of Indian philosophy.


That which is the cause or circumstance of the modification of the soul and other dravyas is kala, that is, time. It is immaterial and it has the peculiar attribute of helping the modification of other substances.

It is thus clear that dharma, adharma and akasa are each a single dravya, whereas jiva, pudgala and kala are held to be manifold dravyas.

Further, it must be remembered that the doctrines of Jainism firmly emphasize that these six jiva and ajiva dravyas, i.e., living and non-living substances, are externally existing, uncreated and with no beginning in the time. As substances they are eternal and unchanging but their modifications are passing through a flux of changes. Their mutual cooperation and interaction explain all that we imply by the term `creation’. hence the doctrines of Jainism do not admit of any `Creator’ of this universe.


The third principle asrava signifies the influx of karmic matter into the constitution of the soul. Combination of karmic matter with jiva or soul is due to the activity of mind, speech or body. In other words, Yoga is the name of a faculty of the soul itself, to attract matter under the influence of past karmas. Hence in the embodied state this faculty comes into play.

Thus Yoga is the channel of asrava. The physical matter which is actually drawn to the soul cannot be perceived by the senses as it is very fine.

Further, asrava is of two kinds, viz., (a) subha asrava, i.e., good influx, and (b) asubha asrava, i.e., bad influx.

The subha asrava is the inlet of virtue or meritorious karmas, and asubha asrava is the inlet of vice or demeritorious karmas.


When the karmic matter enters the soul, both get imperceptibly mixed with each other. Bandha or bondage is the assimilation of matter which is fit to form karmas by the soul as it is associated with passions. This union of spirit and matter does not imply a complete annihilation of their natural properties, but only a suspension of their functions, in varying degrees, according to the fusion of the spirit and matter is manifested in the form of a compound personality which partakes of the nature of both, without actually destroying either.

The causes of bandha or bondage are five, viz.,

  1. mithya-darsana, i.e., wrong belief or faith, or wrong perception,
  2. avirati, i.e., vowlessness or non- renunciation,
  3. pramada, i.e., carelessness,
  4. kasaya, i.e., passions, and
  5. yoga, i.e., vibration in the soul through mind, speech and body.

Further, this bandha or bondage is of four kinds according to (i) prakrti, i.e., nature of karmic matter which has invested the soul; (ii) sthiti, i.e., duration of the attachment of karmic matter to the soul; (iii) anubhaga, i.e., the intensity or the character-strong or mild – of the actual fruition of the karmic matter, and (iv) pradesa, i.e., the number of karmic molecules which attach to the soul.


Effective states of desire and aversion, and activity of thought, speech or body are the conditions that attract karmas, good and bad, towards the soul. When these conditions are removed, there will be no karmas approaching the jiva, that is complete samvara – a sort of protective wall shutting out all the karmas is established round the self. This samvara is described as Asrava-nirodhah samvarah, that is, samvara is the stoppage of inflow of karmic matter into the soul.

There are several ways through which this stoppage could be effected and further inflow of karmic matter into the soul could be checked.


Nirjara means the falling away of karmic matter from the soul. It is obvious that the soul will be rendered free by the automatic shedding of the karmas when they become ripe. But this falling away of karmas is by itself a lengthy process. Hence with a view to shorten this process, it is asserted that the falling away of karmic matter from the soul can be deliberately brought through the practice of austerities.

This nirjara is of two kinds : (i) Savipaka nirjara: It is the natural maturing of a karma and its separation from the soul, and (ii) Avipaka nirjara : It is inducing a karma to leave the soul, before it gets ripened, by means of ascetic practices. In this way, in the savipaka nirjara the soul, in the maturity of time, is rid of the karmas by their operating and falling off from it; and in the avipaka nirjara, the karmas, which had not yet matured to operate, are induced to fall off from the soul.


Moksa is described as

Bandhahetvabhavanirjarabhyam krtsnakarmavipramokso moksah,

that is, moksa or liberation is the freedom from all karmic matter, owing to the non-existence of the cause of bondage and shedding of all the karmas. Thus complete freedom of the soul from karmic matter is called moksa.

This condition is obtained when the soul and matter are separated from each other. Complete separation is effected when all the karmas have left the soul, and no more karmic matter can be attracted towards it.