The Fourteen Gunasthanas

First Steps To Jainism (Part-2)


Stages of Progress of the Soul due to Development of its qualities –
(The Fourteen Gunasthanas)

For a simple definition of Gunsthan we may quote from the book “Outlines of Jainism” by Shri J.L. Jaini which says as under :-

“In Jainism fourteen stages are indicated through which the soul progresses from impurifying matter on to final liberation. The psychical condition of the soul due to the rising. (Udaya), settling down and partly perishing of Karma matter (Kshyopasham) is called “Gunasthan”.

However, there is more depth and meaning involved in this subject which has been called occult Jainism or Jain Mysticism. Just as Mysticism elsewhere e.g. Sufism involves the union of the being with God, in Jainism the Gunasthans describe the path, modalities and pre-requisites for the bonded soul-Bahiratama to become liberated soul or Paramatma through the path of internal progress or by becoming Antaratma. The process begins with the soul which is at the lowest stage from times immemorial circulating in the whirlpool of births and deaths due to lack of true knowledge and true conduct. Since there is a divine spark in every soul (without which it will not be a living being), it is struggling to find its true identity and potential of becoming liberated. Thus a constant struggle is going on between forces of darkness of unbelief (mithyatva) which try to keep the soul tied down to the Sansar (worldly existence) on the one hand; and forces of light or true belief (Samyaktva) which try for its liberation on the other. In the long run there comes a chance when by reducing its Karma load, the forces of light (Samyaktva) prevail and the soul is able to break the shackles of Mithyatva (Unbelief), just like a piece of straw or paper is able to escape out of a whirlpool. This is like cutting the Gordian knot and is also called Granthi bhed in Jain terminology. Once this happens, the soul is set on the road of rising Gunasthans. In other word the pilgrim has found his path and the Pilgrim’s Progress has begun which may ultimately lead to the liberation of the soul though it may take millenniums and millenniums. During this progress through different Gunsthans the soul has to encounter ups and downs as also very unusual and unprecedented experiences known as Sreni etc. which have been described in detail in the Karma Grantha, for those interested in detailed study of this subject. Here it may be sufficient to give below the general observations and rudimentary information about these processes –

Three Karnas are:

1. Yatha pravrti Karna –

When the soul reducing the intensity of Karma comes face to face with the Granthi or the Gordian knot of unbelief. Success or failure depends on its own efforts.

2. Apurva Karna –

Having succeeded in breaking the Gordian knot, the soul through further mitigation of Karma by Rasaghat (mitigation of intensity), Stithighat (mitigation of duration) Gunsankraman (interchange) and such processes enters upon new vistas of unprecedented experiences of spiritual advancement which lead to the next Karna.

3. Anivritti Karna –

Where the worst type of Kashaya and Karma are annihilated and the soul is ready for higher stages of spiritual development and Gunasthans.

Two Srenies (Ladders) –

These are the two spiritual ladders one of suppression/subsidence of Karma and other of complete annihilation. Obviously only the latter can lead to liberation; the former may lead back to lower stages, though it may temporarily mean progress. They are named Upsham Sreni (suppression ladder) and Kshapak Sreni (annihilation ladder) according to their nature.

Further, the Gunasthaans denote a purely spiritual exercise – the fourteen classifications relate to the spirit or the soul though it is embodied. The progress or regression is of the soul and is on the spiritual scale and according to spiritual yard-sticks. It connote be seen or observed in the physical world.

Though the stages of spiritual development relate to the soul or are of the soul, they directly result from and are immediately caused by Karma (matter) contaminating the soul. As such the worse and more intense the association of Karma with the soul, lower the stage of the soul in this categorisation. Conversely lesser and lighter the Karma load on the soul, the higher and better is the stage it attains.

Karma may appear as the immediate cause determining gunasthans, but since Karma in turn accrue, arise or subside by Yoga (vibration), Kashaya (passion), Premad (negligence), Avirati (indiscipline) and Mithyatva (false faith ) as seen earlier – these ultimately are responsible for soul’s progress or downfall. As the Yoga and Kashaya etc. are committed by the soul itself with or without other conditions participating in the final and ultimate analysis, it is the soul itself which determines its Gunasthan or its development or downfall. The manifestation of Karma in their , different varieties and aspects like Prakritis, Udaya, Udirna, Bandh, Satta etc are described in detail in the Karma Grantha alongwith the relevant Gunasthana. In brief all these have found mention in the chapter on Theory of Karma of which, this chapter may be considered as a supplement.

Though only fourteen stages are identified there are innumerable points on the path of liberation on which the soul transits up and down or at which it stays – just like numerous points or stations on a railways route though the path is identified by a few important or junction stations. The soul has been on this path since times immemorial and will be so till its final liberation, which is its final destination being completion of spiritual development.

The Gunasthan, on which the soul may be, varies from moment to moment depending on its Karma Udaya or Kshyopsham or Raag Dvesh or Yoga Kashaya, just as blood pressure of a man varies from moment to moment. To identify the Gunasthan of a being exactly at any moment is only possible for the Keval Gyani the Perfect Being since it is a purely spiritual barometer; it is not possible of assessment by ordinary beings – who can only form some idea by the external conditions, circumstances and behaviour of the beings.

The movement of the beings from one Gunasthan to another is not in strictly numerical order i.e. first to second and so on but the soul moves up and down on the spiritual path according to logical rules e.g. from first Gunasthan the soul transits straight to the fourth, but it may regress to third or second on its path to the first for reasons given herein-later.

We will know more about them as we briefly describe each of the fourteen Gunasthans, in the subsequent paragraphs, First let us enumerate the names of the fourteen Gunasthans and then describe each of them briefly as under :-

  1. Mithyadrishti Gunasthan

  2. Sasvadana-Samyagdrishti Gunasthan

  3. Samyag-mithyadrishti Gunasthan

  4. Avirat Samyagdristi Gunasthan

  5. Deshvirat Shravak Gunasthan

  6. Pramatta-Samyata-Gunasthan

  7. Apramatta-Samyata-Gunasthan

  8. Apurva Karana or Nivriti Badar Gunasthan

  9. Anivritti badar Gunasthan

  10. Sukhshama Sampraya Gunasthan

  11. Upshant Kashaya Gunasthan

  12. Ksheena Kashaya Gunasthan

  13. Sayogi Kevali Gunasthan

  14. Ayogi Kevali Gunasthan.

Mithyadrishti Gunasthan

This is the lowest or first stage, wherein the soul, due to manifestation of Mohaneeya (Deluding) Karma, does not believe in the Right Path to salvation. The characteristic mark of this Gunasthan is perversity of attitude towards truth; or unbelief in the truth taught by the Jina in its entirety. The soul, at this stage, has the minimum degree of right vision and very indistinct enlightenment – just enough that is required for a living conscious soul. A soul may find itself in this stage abinition or may come to it from higher stages but the reason is the same i.e. the manifestation of Deluding or Mohaneeya Karma. From this stage a soul rises only to the fourth stage (not to second and third ) as described later.

Sasvadan Samyagdrishti Gunasthan

This is the second higher stage where the soul finds itself for a very short time on its downward journey to first stage, but with some taste or memory of the still higher stage (fourth). A soul has attained the higher stage due to arising of true belief or enlightenment for a short duration due to suppression of Deluding (Mohaneeya) Karma but due to the re-manifestation of the same Karma of acute type it goes back to the first stage staying for a minimum period in the second stage with taste of true belief lingering which has given it the name of tasteful Gunasthan. From this stage it only goes down to first Gunasthan viz., Mithyatva.

Samyag Mithyadrishti Gunasthan

This third stage is marked by indifference towards true belief, the soul being in a mixed state of belief and non-belief in the true doctrines. This condition arises on account of manifestation of mixed Deluding Karma in soul at a higher stage (Fourth) from which the soul comes down to this stage. The stay in this third stage is also of very short duration and is transitional, the soul going down to the first stage of complete unbelief-Mithyatva, or making a recovery and rising upto the higher stages with right vision.,

Avirat Samyagdrishti Gunasthan

In this stage the soul though having been blessed with Right belief and Right Knowledge is not able to proceed on the path of Conduct in as much as it is not capable of adopting the vows or Vratas for want of will, power and energy. The path of salvation consists of all the three elements being right viz., belief, knowledge and conduct, the last one consisting of vows-as seen in Part I. Due to operation of Karma the being may have Right faith and knowledge and even know and accept the path or vows of Right conduct, but due to weakness it is not able to properly practice the vratas or vows. The right faith may be due to suppression (Upsham) or annihilation (Kshya) of Faith Deluding Karma as a result of which the being attains this stage from stage (i) Mithytva. The bar on conduct is due to rise of conduct Deluding Karma on the other hand. As such from this stage the way is open for the soul to rise or fall. In the case of rise it may proceed forth to higher stages by suppressing the Karma or annihilating them. In case of a fall it goes to stage (ii) and thence to stage (i); or to stage (iii) and further on as stated earlier.

Deshvirat Shravaka Gunasthan

When a being gathers sufficient will and power to persevere on the path of spiritual and moral progress, it adopts the Vows (Minor vows) meant for laymen (Shravaka) thus partially refraining from sins ensuring partial self-control. Thus it achieves this stage number five, though due to partial manifestation of Deluding Karma it is still not able to completely renounce the world which is required for the next stage. This is the highest stage possible for a layman, hereafter all higher stages require adoption of sainthood or asceticism and renouncing the world for achieving complete self-control. The stage is important as it is starting point for the being to adopt Right Conduct and to begin discarding undisciplined life-Avirat though only partly. The minor vows have been described in part I, and the followers thereof are the laymen and laywomen who constitute the two centres of pilgrimage – Teerth according to Lord Mahavir.

Prammatta Samyat Gunasthan

In this stage of spiritual development, the soul renounces the world completely ensuring complete self-control by adopting all the vows prescribed for a saint or Muni (Major vows) for purity of conduct. However, occasionally it tends towards negligence or Pramad, hence the name Prammat or negligent samyat or saint or Muni. Needless to repeat that these manifestations are due to the Karma bondage of the particular type giving its result. Depending upon the dispensation of Karma the being may land down in stage (v) Deshvirat or even in stage (iv) of Avirat Gunasthan from this stage. However, if it is able to adjure negligence (Pramad) it may progress to the next higher stage No. (vii) Apramatt Samyat Gunasthan. The salient features of this stage is completely disciplined life by adoption of all the five Major Vows (vrata) described in Pt. I. This means complete dedication to the practice of Three Jewels the Three Ratna – Right faith, Right Knowledge and Right conduct which is prescribed as the royal road leading towards liberation. Thus, in this stage second cause of Bondage of Karma i.e. Avirati is also discarded by the soul.

Apramatt Samyat Gunasthan

Herein are saints who have not only adopted all vows and self control but who adjure negligence (Pramad) completely. From this stage of spiritual development the soul may go down to stage (vi) of Negligence. Or it may progress on the pathways called srenies which may be the Suppression (Upsham) or Annihilation (Kshaya) of the Karma known as Upsham sreni or Kshapak sreni respectivley.

If it goes to stage (vi) it can come back to this stage (vii) and this process can continue for a long time, till one of the srenies is attained. In respect of srenies also, only kshya sreniannihilation of Karma can ensure complete liberation (and not the other Upshma sreni). The inclination and preparation for these srenies takes the being to the next stage number eight called Apurva Karna Gunasthan.

From this stage No. (vii) to stage (x) the soul purifies itself by progressively reducing passions or Kashayas-mithyatva, avirati, and pramad having been discarded already. This stage is therefore, the beginning of the four stages of progressive purity which prepare the soul for the higher stages xi, xii and xiii. At the same time this stage being on the border is full of chances of downfall of the soul to lower stages due to Karma manifestation and due to pramad (negligence) etc.

Apurva Karana or Nivratti Badar Gunasthan

As implied by its name this stage involves unprecedented (Apurva) attainments by the soul indicating for it the path of liberation. These are destruction of intensity and duration of bound karma called Rasaghat or Stithighat respectively. Through such processes of purification the soul prepares to ascend one of the two srenis i.e. either the Upshama sreni (Subsidence ladder) or Kshapak sreni (annihilation ladder). Some of the other processes the soul undergoes for the sake of rise on the srenies (which actually starts in the ninth Gunasthan) are called Gunasreni i.e. reduction in duration’s of karma and Gunsankraman i.e. conversion of harsh karma into mild areas. All these important events in the evolution of the soul are unusual and unprecedented, therefore, the name of this stage is Apurva or Unprecendented Gunastha. Lest it be ignored, the fact is reiterated that all these events in the sphere of activities of the soul are due to the Karma – old and new and their manifestation, suppression or annihilation.

Anivritti Badar Gunasthan

A stage of even greater purity of thought than the earlier one, this stage takes the soul to the verge of enlightenment. In this stage the soul embarks upon one of the two srenies or ladder – Upshama (suppressing of Karma) or khsapak (Annihilation of Karma) which determine its future destiny. However there is the possibility Iurking in this stage of Deluding (Mohaneeya) Karma manifesting in their crude (badar) form and therefore, the other nomenculture. The striking feature of this stage is high degree of suppression or destruction of Karma with resultant purity of the soul and progress to the next stage. However, if the soul allows itself to be afflicted by Karma it may go back to lower stages too.

Suksham Sampraya Gunasthan

In this stage of high degree of purity of the soul there do remain some traces of Deluding Karma (Mohaneeya) in the form of minutest degree of subtle greed. If this is also overcome the soul progresses to stage xi or xii. If the subtle greed is supressed by Upshama; the stage xi is reached. If it is annihilated by Kshaya, stage xii is reached.

Hence forth the distinction between the two srenies gets marked as there is no liberation from Upshama sreni, while the Khshapak sreni leads to Moksha – as explained later.

This is the stage up to which both Yoga and Kashaya (passions) are present, though the latter is of a very minute extent or Suksham degree. It does not allow the soul to go to higher stages, xi and xii which require suppression or destruction of passions respectively. If this does not happen, the soul may sink back to lower stages afflicted by not only Kashyas but also negligence, indiscipline and unbelief.

Upshant Kashaya Gunasthan

By suppressing completely all the Kashaya including subtle greed (Tenth Gunastha) the soul attains this stage for a short while. However, it is only suppression or subsidence (and not annihilation) of the Karma, like dirt settling down in water. Therefore, as soon as this suppression or upshaman stops, Karma manifest themselves and the soul sinks back to the lower stage. Further in this stage the soul is hampered by Gyanavarniya Karma and, therefore, it is still chadmast. For obvious reasons this Gunasthan lasts for a very short duration, and as there is no scope for rise the soul descends to lower stages even landing in the first, the lowest Gunasthan. The depth to which the soul may sink depends upon the Karma of particular type and the Kashaya or Passions afflicting the soul. However, such a soul can stage a recovery even in the same lifetime and attain liberation passing through different stages including Khsapak sreni. In any case the souls that have once touched this Gunasthan of Upshanta Moha, must reach their destination of Nirvan though it may take time; the maximum limit of which is ardha pudgala paravartan.

Ksheen Kashaya Gunasthan

The soul that is able to destroy completely the subtle greed-remanents of Mohaneeya (Deluding) Karma in tenth Gunasthan attains this stage, as it is on the Kshapak sreni, bypassing the (xi) stage which was for the Upshama sreni. This is a stage of almost the highest purity of meditation, whereby the soul also destroys the other three Karma viz.; Gyanavarniya, Darshanavrniya and Antraya. In the end of this stage the soul becomes omniscient – Kevalgyani- and enters the (xiii) stage of Sayogi-Kevali which is the stage of omniscience. However, in this stage the soul is not Perfect, but only Chadmast as the name of this Gunasthan indicates. This is due to the part Bondage of Major or Ghati Karmas, which the soul sheds in this stage for progress to the next stage of perfect knowledge etc. This is made possible by the soul as it has given up passion or Kashay completely and resultantly the Ghati Karma are eliminated. As such this stage is important as a stepping stone to liberation or Moksha.

Sayogi Kevali Gunasthan

This is the stage when all the Kashayas or passions are destroyed and, therefore, the Ghati and Samprayik Karma are eliminated and the soul is blessed with Perfect Rationalism (Samyaktava) Perfect Perception (Darshan) Perfect Knowledge (Gyan) and Perfect Prowess (Veerya). It is the stage of Godhood known as Kevali or Jina or Arihant or Teerthanker in Jain terminology. Only Aghati Karma remain which keep the soul embodied and they also come and go without further binding the soul. A lot can be written on this stage which is not possible of complete description by words. Here only Yoga or simple activity remain, but since it is passionless, it does not bind the soul. In Vedanta this stage is known as Jeevanmukta, as such beings though embodied and in this world are not bound by Karmas and are beyond the world. Such a state may last for a short time, but the duration may be very long too. It is such souls called teerthankar who lay the foundations of the true path and preach the true religion for the guidance of generations of laymen. Therefore they are given precedence over the liberated souls- the Siddhas- in the Navkar Mantra in praise of the Panch Parmesthi of Jains (dealt with in Pt. I) which begins with Namo Arihantanam.

Ayogi Kevali Gunasthan

This is the last and momentary stage of duration equal to time taken in uttering five small vowels. During this even Yoga stops and all remaining Aghati karmas are simultaneously exhausted by the soul and it leaves the body and attains liberation or Nirvan-free from further births and deaths in the world. This is achieved by the soul engaging in the highest type of meditation known as Shukla Dhyan, which stops all types of subtle as well as gross physical, vocal and mental activities or Yoga. The result is a state of complete motionlessness, internal and external, known as Saileshikarna, for the short duration equal to time taken in uttering five vowels. This is followed by liberation or salvation or Mukti or Moksha or Nirvan, not only from the body, but also from worldly existence and also Karma Bondage for all times to come.

This brief description of Gunasthan can be closed with some further remarks to throw light on their salient features from the point of view of spiritual development. The first three stages are marked by external activity of the soul, when it is involved with things other than itself and the soul is Bahiratma or Extrovert. From stage four to stage twelve it becomes Introvent or Antratma- concerned with its own welfare. In the last two stages the soul attains Godhood and can be called Parmatama – the perfect soul.

From the point of view of Karma Bondage it has to be noted that the five causes (Mithyatva, Avirati, Pramad, Kashaya and Yoga) thereof, determine (along with the Bondage) the stages or Gunasthan, and their presence or absence results in regression or progress of the soul on these stages, respectively. When all the five causes of Bondage persist in the soul it remains in first stage of Mithyatva and Third stage of Samyag Mithyadristhi. When the soul gets rid of Mithyatva or False vision but if the other four causes subsist, it can rise upto stages number two, four and five-Sasvadan, Avirat and Deshvirat. By getting rid of Avirati or Undisciplined life the soul can reach stage number six-Pramatt Virat-because Pramad or negligence is persisting. By getting rid of Pramad the soul reaches stage seven or Apramat Virat to stage Ten-Suksham Samrpaya. Thus from stage (vii) to stage (x) only two causes of Bondage remain viz.; Kashaya (Passions) and Yoga. By freeing itself from passions or Kashay the soul can reach upto stages (xi) (xii) and (xiii). Upsham Moha, Kshina Moha and Sayogi Kevali. At the end of stage number (xiii) the soul stops Yoga also and enters stage (xiv) i.e. Ayogi Kevali for a very brief moment and relinquishes the body thus achieving liberation or Mukti. This will be more clear from the following statement :-


Cause of Karma Bondage Present

Number —- Name


1. Mithyatva (False Faith)

First- Mithyadristhi


2. Avirati (Indiscipline)

Third – Samyag-mithyadrishti


3. Pramad (Negligence)



4. Kashaya (Passions)



5. Yoga (Vibrations of the soul)



2. Avirati

Second – Sasvadan


3. Pramad

Fourth – Avirat


4. Kashaya

Fifth – Deshvirat


5. Yoga(Four)



3. Pramad

Six – Prammat – Samyat


4. Kashaya



5. Yoga (Three)



4. Kashaya and

Seventh- Aprammat – Samyat


5. Yoga (Two)

Eight – Apurva Karana



Ninth – Anivriti badar


Tenth – Suksham Sampraya


5. Yoga (alone)

Eleventh – Upshama – Kashaya


Twelfth – Khsina – Kashaya


Thirteenth – Sayogi Kevali



Fourteenth – Ayogi Kevali

It will thus be clear from the above that the whole scheme of Gunasthan is derived according to the principle of decreasing sinfulness and increasing purity of the soul and lessening of the Karma bondage. To progress on this scale, the being has to eliminate each of the causes leading to Karma bondage in the successive order stated above (i.e. Mithyatva, Avirati, Pramad, Kashaya and Yoga) one by one, and thus bring refinement in its own qualities or the Guna, and therefore the name-fourteen stages of Progress of the soul-the Fourteen Gunasthan.

Note – It has not been possible to translate some technical terms used in this chapter as elsewhere. Original terms have therefore been used. Even the meanings given in English are approximate.