Jaina Moksa in Indian Philosophy

A Perspective in Jaina Philosophy and Religion

Jaina Moksa in Indian Philosophy

Prof. Ramjee Singh


The concept of Moksa is perhaps the biggest idea in man’s quest of happiness. Sri Ramashankar Bhattacharya says that the science of Moksa is an experimental science of mental power. The history of human existence is a history of endless effort to eliminate sorrow and attain happiness. This is human nature. But we do not get what we want. We are a miserable lot. Death alone is the full-stop to our sufferings. But if we accept this idea of death, it would mean a tragic blow to the sense of human adventure, freedom and effort. We cannot be satisfied with less than immortality. More than that, Immortality must be accompanied by joy. This state of eternal joy bereft of all sufferings is regarded as Moksa or liberation. This liberation in itself seems to be a purely negative idea; but since the search for absolute freedom involves the search for ultimate purpose of the life of the individual (Parama Purusartha), there is a positive aspect also.

The concept of Mukti roughly distinguishes Indian thought from Western thought. The reason is to be found in the concept of the Soul in Indian Philosophy. With the exceptions of Plato and Platinus, Western Philosophy is quite unaware of a philosophy of the Self. On the other hand, all Indian systems, both orthodox and heterodox, recognize the idea of the Self as the first requisite for any philosophical adventure. This is the spiritual basis of our ethical life. The three pursuits of human life, namely Dharma (virtue), Artha (Wealth), and Kama (enjoyment) are regarded as simply subservient to moksa. It is the highest pursuit (Moksa eva paramapurusartha). The genesis of the idea of Moksa is traced in “the endeavor of man to find out ways and means by which he could become happy or at least be free from misery”, as in the state of `sound sleep’.

Concept of Moksha in Indian Philosophy

Just as no school of Indian philosophy, not even the Carvakas, deny the concept of Self, similarly there is absolute unanimity regarding the central conception of Moksa as the highest goal of life; but the different schools differ with regard to the nature of Mukti and the means for its realization, according to their different metaphysical positions and attitudes.

For example, in consonance with the materialistic conception of the Soul (caitanya-visista-deha-eva-atman), the Carvakas come to a materialistic conception of liberation (dehocchedah-Moksah or Moksastu Marana ca pranavayu-nivartanam). Similarly, in consonance with the doctrines of the Middle-path and Dependent Origination, Buddhists reject both Eternalism (Sasvatavada) of the Upanisads and Nihilism (Ucchedavada) of the Carvakas. They deny the continuity of the stream of unbroken successive states of five kinds (Panca-skandhas). The soul or ego is nothing more than this Five-fold, Aggregate, hence Nirvana must be the destruction of this mental continum (cittam vimuccate), or at least the “arrest of the stream of consciousness (santati-anut-pada)”, leading of the cessation of the possibilities of future experience (Anagatanutpada).

In Nyaya, the destiny of the individual Self is determined by the concept of the Self and its relation to consciousness, which has not been regarded as an essential and inseparable attribute of the soul. Consciousness arises, when it is related to the mind, which in turn is related to the senses, and the senses related to external objects. So in the disembodied condition, self will be devoid of consciousness. Release is freedom from pain. So long as the soul is related to the body, pain is inevitable. Pleasure and pain are produced by undesirable contacts with objects. Thus the state of freedom is like the state of deep dreamless sleep, devoid of consciousness. Pleasure and pain go together like light and shade. So absolute cessation of suffering (atyantika-duhkha-nivrtti) must by implication mean cessation of pleasure too. Now to escape from this dilemma, faced by the majority of the Nyaya-thinkers like Vastsyana, Sridhara, Udayana,Raghunatha Siromani, there is the opposite thesis of the Naiyayikadesins and other Naiyayikas like Bhasarvajna and Bhusana, that freedom is bliss, instead of a state of painless, passionless, unconscious existence free from the spatio-temporal conditions. However, this is not possible unless they revise their conception of the self and its relation to consciousness.

Like, Nyaya, the Self in Vaisesikas has cognitions of things when it is connected with the body. So it is only when the soul is free from the qualities (either pleasure or pain) produced by contact with name and form (atmavisesa gunanama atyantocchedah), or as Sridhara would say navnama atmavisesa gunasnama atyantocchgedah Moksa, that liberation is possible. It is the absolute destruction of nine specific qualities of the Self. To save this view from the charge that Moksa comes perilously near the unconscious condition of a pebble or a piece of stone, the Vaisesikas propound a doctrine of Inherent Felicity in the state of Moksa. But they have yet to explain how felicity is Unconscious.

Mimamsakas, like the Nyaya-Vaisesikas, regard the soul as eternal and infinite, with consciousness as its adventitious attribute, dependent upon its relation to the body. It survives death to reap the consequences of action. Since the Mimamsaka school belongs to the ritualistic period of the Vedic culture, the final destiny of an individual is regarded as the attainment of heaven – the usual end of rituals (Svarga kamoyajete). But latter on, the idea of heaven is replaced by the idea of liberation for they realized that we have to fall back to the earth as soon as we exhaust our merit. The concept of heaven was indeed a state of unalloyed bliss (at least temporary). But the state of liberation is free from pleasure and pain, since consciousness is an adventitious quality of the Soul. To Prabhakaras, Moksa is the realization of the Moral Imperative as duty (Niyoga-siddhi). To Kumarila, it is the “Soul’s experience of its own intrinsic happiness with complete cessation of all kinds of misery,” which is very much like the Advaitic conception. The general conception of Bhattas is the realization of intrinsic happiness (atmasaukhyanubhuti). Parthasarathi Misra and Gagabhatta deny this. Narayanabhatta, Bhattasarvajna and Sucaritra Misra clearly admit the element of happiness in the state of Mukti, since to them, Soul is consciousness associated with ignorance (Ajnanopitacaitanyatmavada) during embodied existence.

According to Samkhys, consciousness is not a mere quality but the soul’s very essence. The soul is pure, eternal and immutable. Hence it is not blissful consciousness (ananda svarupa) or stream of consciousness (caitanya pravaha) or material consciousness (caitanya-deha-visita). The Self (Purusa) of Samkhya remains untouched either by joy or sorrow, migration, bondage and liberation. Bondage and liberation are phenomenal. The latter requires the formal and final cessation of all the three kinds of sufferings without a possibility of return. This neutral and colorless state of Kaivalya is again an unattractive picture with no appeal to the aspirant. Similarly, in Yoga, freedom is absolute isolation of Matter from self. It is only when we can effect a cessation of the highest principle of matter (citta = mahat = Buddhi) that the state of absolute isolation and redirection of our consciousness is possible of matter (citta = mahat = Buddhi) that the state of absolute isolation and redirection of our consciousness is possible. However, there is clear ambivalence in Samkhya doctrine of release in so far as it says “it is the spirit (Purusa) that is to obtain release, and yet the apparently predominant characterization of spirit is such that it is impossible that it should either be bound or released.”

Unlike Samkhya-Yoga, the Self in Sankara is not only consciousness but also blissful consciousness. Unlike Samkhya-Yoga and Nyaya-Vaisesika, what is needed is an intuition of identity instead of an intuition of difference. Unlike Purva-Mimamsa, Moksa in Advaita Vedanta is not only destruction of individual’s relation with the world (Prapanca-sambandhavilaya), but dissolution of the world itself (Prapanca-vilaya).

Ramanuja believes that there is both identity and difference between God and Man. Man’s body and soul are real. The soul’s is not pure and impersonal consciousness, but a thinking substance with consciousness as its essential attribute. Hence, Moksa is not self-annulment in the absolute, but a self-realization through self-surrender and self-effacement – the supreme satisfaction of religious emotion. The liberated soul is not God, but neither is he separated from His all-comprehensive existence. This is Sayujya-bhakti (unitive devotion). To Madhva, the distinction between God and Self is real. Though the Jiva is absolutely dependent upon God, he is active and dynamic. Hence, Moksa is `blessed fellowship’ and not a mere identification. Thus in the state of Mukti, there is not only the utter absence of pain but also the presence of positive bliss. To Nimbarka, with whom the soul is both different and non-different from God (Bhedabheda), complete submission results in both God-realization and self-realization which is endless joy and bliss. Suddhadvaita school of Vallabh regards the relation between God and Soul as that of whole and part. Duality and distress go together. The moment the soul is one with God, we get final release which is utter bliss. To other Vaisnavites like Sri Caitanyadeva, Jaideva, Vidyapati, Candidasa etc., to whom the ultimate reality is love and grace, liberation means love through divine grace. Bhakti is Mukti.

In the, Gita, we find that the status of souls is that of different fragments or sparks of God; hence Moksa must be the unity with Purusottam-indeed a blissful state. However, it must be sameness of nature (Sadharmya) with God, and not Identity (Sarupya). But in the Upandisads, as in the Advait Vedanta, the realization of Oneness with God is the ideal of man, which is a state of ecstasy and rapture, a joyous expansion of the soul.

To the Kapalikas, Moksa is found in the sweet embrace of Hara and Parvati (Hara-Parvatyalingam); to the Pasupats, it lies in the holding of all power (Paramaisvaryam); to the Udasins (atheists), it is in the eradication of egoism (ahankara nirvtti); to the Vaiyajaranas, it is in the power of speech (Brahma rupya banya darsanam); to the Sarvaganas, it is in the eternal continum of the feeling of the highest felicity. (Nitya niratisaya sukhabodah) etc.

Broadly, there are two different approaches to the conception of liberation in Indian Philosophy :

(1) The Materialistic Conception of Moksa of the Carvakas, and

(2) The Non-materialistic Conception :

(a) Positive Conception – Vedanta & Jainism.

(i) Sarupya – Becoming like God in Nature and Form = Gita.

(ii) Sampya – Blessed fellowship = Madhva, Nimbarka, Vallabha, Caitanya etc.

(iii) Salokya – Residing in the world of God (Vaikuntha) = Ramanuijists.

(iv) Sayujya – Becoming one with God = Advaita Vedanta.

(b) Negative Conception : Buddhism.

(i) Uccheda – Nihilism = Madhyamika Buddhism.

(ii) Nirodha – Cessation of suffering = Nyaya-Vaisesikas & Mimamsakas.

(c) Neutralistic Conception : Samkhya & Yoga.

However, there is ample evidence to prove that some of the Buddhists texts, and some Naiyayikas and Mimasakas go so far as to prove a positivistic conception of liberation.

The Jaina Outlook

Jainism is an important ideological phenomenon in the religio-philosophical history of mankind. It attempts a `reapproachment between warring systems by a breadth of vision which goes in the name of Syadvada or Anekantavada. It shares the realism of the Vedas, the idealism of the Upanisads, the worship-cult of the Puranas, the colourfulness of the Epies, the logical analysis of the Naiyayikas, the atomism of the Vaisesikas, the metaphysical dualism of the Samkhyas, the mysticism of the Yogins, and most surprisingly even the monistic trends of the Advaita Vedanta, reflected specifically in Kunda-kunda and Yogindu. Siddhasena affirms that all heretic views combined constitute the sayings of Lord Jina. the is the non-absolutistic attitude of Anekantavada, which is an extension of Ahimsa in the intellectual field. Absolutism or imperialism in thought, word and deed is unknown to the Jainas, who are opposed to all kinds of force and fanaticism. Jainism has tried to develop a neither-nor attitude by avoiding extremes.

Soul and Karma : The Basis of Freedom and Bondage

The Jainas believe the Doctrine of Soul as the Possessor of Material Karma and the Doctrine of Extended Consciousness. The Jainas subscribe to the Doctrine of Constitutional Freedom of the Soul and its Potential Four-fold infinities, meaning thereby that the Soul is intrinsically pure and innately perfect. But Soul and Karma stand to each other in the relation of beginningless conjunction. Karma is an aggregate of very fine imperceptible material particles, which are the crystallized effect of the past activities or energies. The link between matter and spirit is found in the Doctrine of the Subtle Body (Karma-Sarira or Linga-Sarira), a resultant of the unseen potency of Passions and Vibrations. “The soul by its commerce with the outer world becomes literally penetrated with the particles of subtle-matter.” Moreover, the mundane soul is not absolutely formless, because the Jainas believe in the Doctrine of Extended Consciousness. While the Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya-Vaisesikas and the Buddhists kept consciousness of the inter-influencing of the soul and Karmic-matter; hence the relation between soul and Karma become very easy. The Karmic-matter mixes with the soul as milk mixes with water or fire with iron. Thus formless (amurta) Karma is affected by Murta Karma, as consciousness is affected by drink or medicine. Logically, the cause is non-different from the effect. The effect (body) is physical form. But unless karma is associated with the Jiva (soul), it cannot produce any effect; because Karma is only an instrumental cause; it is the Soul, which is the essential cause of all experiences. This explains the Doctrine of the Soul as the Possessor of Material Karma. The question arises, but why is the conscious soul associated with unconscious matter. Unlike Samkhya, which propounds Doctrine of Unconscious Teleology, Jainas work out a karma-phenomenology. Karma is a substantive force or matter in a subtle form, which fills all cosmic space. It is due to karma that the Soul acquires the conditions of nescience or ignorance. The relation between soul and non-soul is beginningless, and is due to nescience or avidya. This is responsible for worldly existence, or bondage which is determined by the Nature (Prakrti), Duration (Sthiti), Intensity (Anubhava) and Quantity (Pradesa) of Karmas. Jiva takes matter in accordance with its own karmas and passions (kasaytas). This is our bondage, the causes of which are Delusion (mithya-drsti), Lack of control (avirati), Inadvertence (pramada), Passions (kasaya) and Vibrations (Yoga), Nescience is at the root of all evils and cause of worldly existence. the Jainas do not bother about its whence and why. It is regarded as coeval with the Soul; hence it is eternal and beginningless. Both the Self and Nescience are accepted as facts on the basis of uncontradicted experience. Vidyananda Swami says that Right Attitude, Right Knowledge and Right Conduct constitute the path of liberation. Naturally, the antithesis of this Trinity must lead to bondage. If the very outlook is wrong, one cannot expect right knowledge; and there cannot be right conduct without right knowledge. Theory and practice are interlinked. So, on this realistic ground, the Jainas reject the metaphysical position of all those who subscribe to a unitary principle as tha cause of Bondage.

Jaina Moksha

(a) Definition of Moksha – Moksa, the last of the Jaina moral categories, is the gist of Karma-phenomenology and its relation to the Science of the Soul. Mukti is total deliverance of the Soul from karmic-veil – Sarvavarnavimuktirmuktih. As Umasvami says, Moksa is the total and final freedom from all Karmic-matter; in other words, the non-existence of the cause of bondage and the shedding of all the Karmas. Asrava is the influx of the Karma-particles into the Soul. This influx is caused by the actions of the body, speech and mind. As the Karmic inflow is the principle of bondage and its stoppage is a condition of Moksa, so Samvara is opposite to Asrava. Samvara literally means controlling. But Samvara only arrests fresh-flow of karma-particles. What we require is not only stoppage of the fresh-flow, but also dissipation of the old one. This shedding or dissipation called Nirjara is possible by austerities. Umasvami has used two prefixes – VI (Visesarupena), PRA (Prakrstarupena) in defining Moksa, meaning thereby that Moksa is the total and exhaustive dissolution of all karmic particles, which is the condition of omniscience.

(b) The Nature of Moksha : The Agamic verse “sukhamatyantikarm yatra” etc. admits the experience of eternal bliss in the state of Mukti. “It is the safe, happy and quiet place which is reached by the great sages.” Some of the Jaina Acaryas regard bliss as an attitude of knowledge. In Advaita Vedanta, consciousness and bliss commingle together in the undifferentiated One Brahman. Mallisena ridicules the Naiyayikas for reducing Moksa to a state which is indistinguishable from pebbles, etc. He says that our phenomenal life is better, in which happiness comes at intervals, than the state of Mukti, which is emotionally dead and colorless. But the Jaina claim for attaining a state of eternal happiness in the state of Moksa faces a serious dilemma. If it is a product (of spiritual Sadhana), it is non-eternal, and if it is not such a product, it must be conceded that either it is constitutional and inherent or at least impossible of attainment. So the very conception of Jaina Self and bondage makes the enjoyment of eternal happiness well-nigh impossible. This might be a logical objection. But the Jaina idea of Moksa is one of Infinite Bliss, which follows from the Doctrine of Four-fold Infinities of the Soul.

(c) The Doctrine of Constitutional Freedom and Four-fold Infinities : The Jivas possess four-infinities (ananta catustaya) inherently, which are obscured by the veil of four Ghatia (destructive) Karmas. but the Jaina doctrine of Constitutional Freedom of the Soul and the Four Infinities presents a difficulty. If the Self is inherently good and essentially perfect, how can Karma be associated with the Soul ? If karma is said to e the cause of bondage, and bondage the cause of Karma, then there is the fallacy of regressus-ad-infinitum. But if Karma is beginningless, then how can the soul be essentially perfect ? All the doctrines, of Moksa-Sadhana then seem to be quite meaningless. Bondage and Moksa are both phenomenal, not real. As Samkhya-Karika says – “Of certainity, therefore, not any (Spirit) is bound or liberated.” We think that the Soul is constitutionally free. But this freedom cannot be manifested without spiritual discipline. This is in consonance with the Jaina doctrine of Satkaryavada which makes a distinction between the Manifest and the unmanifest. Samkhya and Advaita Vedanta hold that Moksa is not the attainment of what is unattained but what is already attained (Praptasya praptih). But whereas Samkhya stresses the need of `discrimination’, and Advaita Vedanta emphasizes `identification’, the Jainas work out a scheme of `manifestation’. The logic is simple. If what is non-existent cannot be produced, the effect is existent even before the operation of the cause.

(d) Jivan-Mukti and Videha-Mukti : The Jainas, like the Upanisadic thinkers, Buddhists, Nyaya-Vaisesika, Samkhyas, Yogins, Vijnanabhiksu and Vallabha etc., recognize the existence of Jivana-Mukti together with Videha-Mukti. But Ramanujists, Nimbarka, Madhva etc. do not accept Jivana-mukti. Apart from Jivana-mukti and Videha-Mukti there is an idea of Krama-Mukti (Gradual salvation) in the upanisads. However, Mukti is Mukti-it must be one and indivisible. Any reference of the persistence of body etc., is meaningless. The duality of Mukti in Jainism is perhaps a legacy of the Upanisadic influence. Since the Jainas, like Advaita-Vedanta believe in release through the dawn of wisdom and the annulement of nescience, Jivana-Mukti is the one and only legitimate concept. Mukti refers to the soul, not to the body; and the dissolution of the body is neither an inevitable pre-condition nor an integral feature of Mukti.”

(e) Nirvana and Moksha : Mosha literally means `release’, release of the soul from eternal fetters of Karma. Nirvana (Buddhist) is derived from the Pali root `nibuttu’, which means `blowing out’. However, instead of taking it in a metaphorical sense of `blowing out’ of passions etc., it is taken in the literal sense of extinction. There is ample evidence to believe that Buddha himself looks upon Nirvana as a positive state of consciousness. The distinction between Sopadhisesa & Nirupadhisesa Nirvana is a significant one. One refers to the annulment of the dirt of the mind, while the other refers to the annulment of existence itself.

(f) Bhava Moksha and Dravya Moksha : The Jiva attains Moksa when he is free from the snares of Karma (Karma-phala-vinirmuktah moksa). The Moksa is either Bhava (Objective) or Dravya (Subjective). When the soul is free from four Ghatiya Karmas (Jnanavaraniya), Darsnavaraniya, Mohaniya, Vedaniya), it is Bhava Moksa; and when it is free from Aghatiya Karmas (Nama, Ayu, Gotra, Antaraya), it is Dravya-Moksa. After freedom from Aghatiya Karmas (action-currents of non-injury), the Soul attains a state of never ending beatitude. A person attains the state of Omniscience when Mohaniya (Deluding), Jnanavaraniya (Knowledge-obscuring), Darsanavaraniya (Faith-obscuring) and Antaraya (Obstructive) karmas are destroyed. After the attainment of Kevala-Jnana a person is free from all kinds of Karmas and attains final liberation. The Soul comes into its own and regains infinite knowledge, infinite bliss and infinite power.

(g) The Abode of Moksa : When the Jiva attains freedom, it rises higher and higher and reaches the summit of Lokakasa which is called Siddha-Sila (Region of the Free and Liberated). It may be pointed out that this is a new conception. The Vedic conception regards Atman as all-pervasive. The Buddhists do not accept any such things as Atman; The Mandali sect of the Jainas think that there is no such fixed place of Moksa. The Soul is ever-progressing. But the Jaina concept of Dharma and Adharama (Medium of motion and rest), present in each object, leads us to think that there must be a fixed state where the motion must stop.

(h) Conclusion : Moksa in Jainism is not something new. It is a rediscovery of man himself through self-realization. True happiness lies within. `Look within’ is what Jainism says. “Self-realization is the ideal of systems such as Nyaya-Vaisesikas and the Samkhya too.” Advaita-Vedanta also is a philosophy of self-realization par-excellence. The Karma-phenomenology of the Jainas is the realistic and the externalistic approach. Constitutional freedom of the soul is a logical necessity. This is simple Satkaryavada.