Philosophy of Jainism

Jainism emphatically asserts that every soul is capable of attaining perfection if it willfully exerts in that direction. But the real situation is that from time eternal the soul is bound with matter and it is the aim of every person to get the soul rid of matter so that soul can assume its true state. This spiritual emancipation requires 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 what are the existing elements or substances of nature and mode of their interaction. Jainism believes that the whole universe can be divided into two categories, viz., Jiva, i.e., soul and Ajiva, i. e. non-soul. These two – Jiva and Ajiva – exhaust between them all that exists in the universe and Jaina philosophy is based on the nature and interaction of these two elements. It can be said in short that the living and the non-living, by coming into contact with each other, forge certain energies which bring about birth, death and various experiences of life; this process could be stopped, and the energies already forged destroyed, by a course of discipline leading to salvation.

A close analysis of this brief statement shows that it involves following seven propositions.

  1. Firstly, that there is something called the living.
  2. Secondly, that there is something called the nonliving.
  3. Thirdly, that the two (i. e. the living and nonliving) come into contact with each other.
  4. Fourthly, that the contact leads to the production of some energies.
  5. Fifthly, that the process of this contact could be stopped.
  6. Sixthly, that the existing energies could also be exhausted; and
  7. Lastly, that salvation could be achieved.

These seven propositions are called the seven tattvas or realities in Jainism.

These seven tattvas are termed as follows:

  1. Jiva (i. e. Living substance)
  2. Ajiva (i. e. matter or non-living substance)
  3. Asrava (i. e., the influx of Karmic matter in the soul
  4. Bandha (i. e., bondage of soul by Karmic matter)
  5. Samvara (i. e., the stopping of Asrava)
  6. Nirjara (i. e., the gradual removal of Karmic matter).
  7. Moksha (i. e., the attainment of perfect freedom or salvation).

It is clear that the first two of the tattvas deal with the nature and enumeration of the external substances of nature and the remaining five tattvas deal with the interaction between these two substances, viz., Jiva, i. e., spirit and Ajiva, i. e., matter.

Further, much importance has been given to these seven tattvas as every would be aspirant for Moksha has to understand the nature of these tattvas. Again, out of these seven tattvas the substances are really two viz., soul and non-soul, and among these two, the non-soul is all that is not soul, i. e., devoid of sentiency. Therefore, among these two substances, the really sentient object is the Jiva, i.e., the soul. Naturally, the living substance, viz. Jiva, assumes highest importance in the context of Ahimsa.


As regards the characteristics of Jiva, i.e., the soul, it is stated that there is an infinite number of souls; in fact, the whole world is literally filled with them. The souls are substances and as such they are eternal. Again, their characteristic mark is intelligence, which can never be destroyed. Further, the soul is ever all perfect, all powerful; but by ignorance it identifies itself with the matter and hence its degradation and troubles start.

Furthermore, souls are of two kinds, viz.,

  1. Samsari, i. e., mundane souls and
  2. Siddha or Mukta, i. e. liberated souls.

Out of these, the samsari jivas, i. e. the mundane souls, are the embodied souls of living beings in the world and are still subject to the cycle of Births and Deaths and the Siddha or Mukta Jivas are the liberated souls and as such

  1. they will not be embodied in future,
  2. they have accomplished absolute purity,
  3. they dwell in the state of perfection at the top of the universe,
  4. they have no more to do with worldly affairs,
  5. they have reached Mukti or Nirvana or Nivrtti, i. e. liberation, and in their condition they have four enjoyments, viz., Ananta-darsana, i.e.,. unlimited perception, Ananta-jnana, i. e., perfect knowledge, Ananta-Virya, i.e., infinite power, and Ananta- sukha, i.e., unbounded happiness.

In addition, from the Metaphysical point of view the difference between the Samsari-Jiva, i.e., the mundane soul, and the Mukta Jiva i.e. the liberated soul, 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.

Moreover, the mundane or embodied souls, i.e. the Samsari Jivas, are further classified in different ways and this classification 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.

  1. Samanska and Amanaska Jivas
  2. The mundane souls are divided into two groups, viz., `Sthavara Jivas’, i. e. those who have a mind (i.e., the faculty of distinguishing right or wrong) and `Amanaska Jivas’ i.e., those who have no mind.
  3. Sthavara and Trasa Jivas

The mundane souls are also divided into two groups from another point of view, viz. `Sthavara Jivas’ are the immobile or one-sensed souls, that is, having only one sense, i.e. the sense of touch; and `Trasa Jivas’ are the mobiles, many- sensed souls, that is, having a body with more than one sense. Again, the mobile souls are those which being in fear have the capacity of moving away from the object of fear, and immobile souls do not have this capacity.

The Sthavara, i.e., the immobile or one-sensed souls are further divided into following five kinds :

  1. Prthvikaya, i.e., earth-bodied souls,
  2. Apkaya, i.e., water-bodied souls,
  3. Tejahkaya, i.e., fire-bodied souls,
  4. Vayukaya, i.e., air-bodied souls; and
  5. Vanaspatikaya, i.e., vegetable-bodied souls.

The Trasa, i.e., the mobile or many-sensed souls are also further divided into four classes according to the possession of two or more of the five senses of touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing :

  1. Dvi-indriya Jivas, i.e., those which have the first two senses of touch and taste, for example, worms, etc.,
  2. Tri-indriya Jivas, i.e., those which have the first three senses of touch, taste and smell, for example, ants, etc.
  3. Chatur-indriya Jivas, i.e., those which have first four senses of touch, taste, smell & sight, e. g. humble-bee
  4. Pancha-indriya Jivas, i.e., those which have five senses of touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing, for example, man, etc.

Thus, in this classification each class has one sense more than the preceding it.


Jaina philosophy starts with a perfect division of the universe into living and non-living substances, Jiva and Ajiva. The non-soul substances are of five kinds, viz.,

  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 living and non-living substances are called Dravyas in Jaina Philosophy.

A Dravya has got three characteristics. First, Dravya has the quality of existence. Secondly, it has the quality of permanence through origination and destruction. Thirdly, it is the substratum of attributes and modes.

The Dravya is thus un-created and indestructible, its essential qualities remain the same and it is only its Paryaya or mode or condition, that can and does change.

Asrava :

The third principle Asrava signifies the influx of Karmic matter into the constitution of the soul. Combination of Karmic matter with Jiva is due to Yoga. Yoga is the activity of mind, speech and body. 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.

Bandha :

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. The union of spirit and matter does not imply a complete annihilation of their natural properties, but only a suspension of their function, in varying degree, according to the quality and quantity of the material absorbed.

Thus, the effect of 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.

Samvara :

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 those 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.

Thus Samvara is the stoppage of inflow of Karmic matter into the soul. There are several ways through which the stoppage could be effected.

Nirjara :

Nirjara means the falling away of Karmic matter from the soul. The soul will be rendered free by the automatic falling out of the Karmas when they become ripe. But this is a lengthy process. The falling away may be deliberately brought through the practice of austerities.

Thus, Nirjara is of two kinds. The natural maturing of a Karma and its separation from the soul is called Savipaka Nirjara and inducing a Karma to leave the soul, before it gets ripened by means of ascetic practices is called Avipaka Nirjara.

Moksha :

Moksha or liberation is the freedom from all Karmic matter, owing to the non-existence of the cause of bondage and the shedding of all the Karmas. Thus complete freedom of the soul from Karmic matter is called Moksha.

Moksha is attained when the soul and matter are separated from each other. The separation is effected when all the Karmas have left the soul, and no more Karmic matter can be attracted towards it.