Causes of karmas

Causes of generation of the foreign energies which are in us.

The characteristics which a person has at the present time are the result of forces generated in the past. The person attracts (asrava) to himself and assimilates (bandaha) that finest material which is the substance of these foreign energies, by reason of certain impelling forces which are already in him. But these impelling forces are only the instrumental cause of the generation of the above named energies (karmas). We ourselves are the substantial cause of their generation.

If the attitude of mind is not one of protest or aloofness from these impelling forces, then fresh energy is not generated.

There are four classes of these impelling forces, causes, or means whereby we generate the energies above mentioned. These four classes are :

  1. Delusion (mithyatva).
  2. Lack of self-control, laxity of thought, or of sense activity. Indulgence of the senses stops consciousness (avirati).
  3. Passion (kasaya) : An unclean moral nature.
  4. All other activities of body, mind, and speech not included in the first three causes (yoga).
  5. Indolence (Pramad) [not mentioned here]

These four general causes are each sub-divided into greater detail. There are five kinds of “mithyatva”, twelve kinds of “avirati”, twenty-five kinds of “kasaya”, and fifteen kinds of “yoga”, making 57 sub-divisions. (Cf. Tattvarthadhigama Sutra VIII.1)

When any or all of these causes precede our actions, words or thoughts, then we generate the energies under the eight-fold classification given above. These causes form the ground so to speak in which the energies are generated. It is like a man having an oiled body going out into a sooty atmosphere; the oil will be the ground on which the particles of soot will settle.

The sub-division of these four instrumental causes of the energies which clog the natural qualities of the soul, is as follows:


There are five kinds, namely :

1. A state of mind in which we stick to a false belief. We may not know that it is a false belief. If a man does not examine the doctrines into which he is born, but accepts them without criticism as to their merits or demerits, he may hold a wrong belief, and not know it. (abhigraha mithyatva).

2. A state of mind in which the person thinks well, this may be true, also that may be true, or all religions are true. He does not go into it. (anabhigraha mithyatva).

3. The state of intentionally sticking to a false opinion.

4. The state of doubts as to whether a given course of action is right or wrong. You stand still. (samsaya mithyatva).

5. Lack of development. The entity sticks to a false belief or has no belief. Not having developed the faculties of judgment, conviction, etc., he does not come to a conclusion. And when in this state his thoughts, words, or actions generate a certain force obscuring the soul’s natural qualities (anabhoga mithyatva).


Over the senses and over the mental activities (avirati).

This second of the four impelling forces in us is sub-divided into twelve kinds. These include lack of control of thoughts and of the five senses in relation to living beings having the power of locomotion; and other forms of lack of control.

The five senses are the channels for acquiring knowledge, and indulging them stops consciousness. If you relish a nice taste your thought about the thing stops. Thus knowledge is hindered. Also if inspite of our decision not to think injurious thoughts about a person we do still think them, from lack of control of the thoughts, then we are generating energies which will obscure some quality of our soul.


This is the third of the four impelling forces in us, and it is sub-divided into twenty-five kinds.

They are the same states as the last twenty-five energies in the sub-division of the fourth class (Mohaniya karma), viz., anger, pride, deceitfulness, greed, etc. But here the point of view is not, as there, the nature of the energy, but the energy as an impelling force under the influence of which we generate fresh energy of the same undesirable kind, unless we assume an attitude of protest or aloofness and so do not identify ourselves with anger, etc.


This fourth impelling force or cause has a technical meaning, and is sub-divided into fifteen kinds, relating to thought or speech that is truthful, untruthful, or mixed; also relating to the activities of the five different kinds of body it is possible to have (yoga).

So now we have had a description of man as he is, in impure soul; we have had an explanation of the instrumental cause whereby he makes himself what he actually is. This is the law of moral causation; and thus are implied the two remaining parts of the subject, namely by avoiding the causes that make him an impure soul.

The law of moral causation (the doctrine of karma) mentioned above is the law under which come so-called rewards (punya) and punishments (papa), which are really nothing but effects we have caused. This law of moral causation is not in any fatalism. Man suffers or enjoys the consequences of his actions, and the sense of fatalism comes in only when we overlook the element of choice. Under the influence of a desire for champagne a man many choose to drink it, though he may understand quite well that his body will be better served by choosing milk. The desire does not compel, it is only the instrumental cause of the man’s choice to drink champagne in preference to milk. He has the power of choosing to drink milk. When this is remembered, then there is no sense of fatalism in the act performed. The nature of champagne is such that if he takes it he will experience different consequences from those of taking milk, and if he does not want the consequence of drinking champagne all he need do is to leave off. It is no more fatalism than the fact that water boils if placed over fire; it is simply cause and effect, and the effect will not follow if the cause is avoided.

Neither is this moral law of causation in any sense mechanical system: it may be a scientific system, but in mechanical system there is an absence of consciousness, whereas in this law of moral causation of the Jain Philosophy, consciousness is an essential factor. The causes of disaster are consciously and deliberately avoided by those who wish to remove the impurities from their souls. In this law of moral causation it is living forces that operate in combination with physical forces and this is not the case in mechanical causation.

We now come to the third part of the subject, man as he may become, or potentially is.