Jain philosophy can be described in various ways, but the most acceptable tradition is to describe it in terms of Tattvas or fundamentals. They are:

  1. Jiva (Soul): All living beings are called Jivas. Jivas have consciousness known as the soul, which is also called the atma (soul – chetan).  The soul and body are two different entities. The soul can not be reproduced.  It is described as a sort of energy which is indestructible, invisible, and shapeless. Jainism divides jivas into five categories ranging from one-sensed beings to five-sensed beings. The body is merely a home for the soul.  At the time of death, the soul leaves the body to occupy a new one.  Tirthankaras have said that the soul has an infinite capacity to know and perceive. This capacity of the soul is not experienced in its present state, because of accumulated karmas.
  2. Ajiva (non‑living matter): Anything that is not a soul is called ajiva. Ajiva does not have consciousness. Jainism divides ajiva in five broad categories: dharmastikay (medium of motion), adharmastikay (medium of  rest), akashastikay (space), pudgalastikay (matter), and kala (time).
  3. Punya  (results of good deeds): By undertaking these wholesome activities, we acquire punya or good karmas. Such activities are: providing food or other items to the needy people, doing charity work, propagating religion, etc. When punya matures, it brings forth worldly comfort and happiness. Digambar consider “Punya” as part of Asrava.
  4. Pap (results of  bad deeds): By undertaking bad activities, we acquire pap or bad karmas.  Such activities are: being cruel or violent, showing disrespect to parents or teachers, being angry or greedy and showing arrogance or indulging in deceit. When pap matures, it brings forth worldly suffering, misery, and unhappiness. Digambar consider “Pap” as part of Asrava.
  5. Asrava (influx of karmas): The influx of karman particles to the soul is known as asrav. It is caused by wrong belief, vowlessness (observing no vows), passions, negligence, and psychophysical activities. Such an influx of karmas is facilitated by mental, verbal, or physical activities.
  6. Bandh (bondage of karmas): This refers to the actual binding of karman particles to the soul. Bandh occurs, when we react to any situation with a sense of attachment or aversion.
  7. Samvar (stoppage of karmas): This is the process by which the influx of karman particles is stopped. This is achieved by observing samiti (carefulness), gupti (control), ten fold yati‑dharma (monkshood), contemplating the twelve bhavanas (mental reflections), and parishaha (suffering).
  8. Nirjara (eradication of karmas): The process by which we shed off karmas is called nirjara. Karmas can be shed off either by passive or active efforts. When we passively wait for karmas to mature and give their results in due time, it is called Akam Nirjara.  On the other hand, if we put active efforts for karmas to mature earlier than due time, it is called Sakam Nirjara. Sakam Nirjara can be achieved by performing penance, repentance, asking for forgiveness for the discomfort or injury we might have caused to someone, meditation, etc.
  9. Moksha (liberation): When we get rid of all the karmas, we attain liberation or moksha.

Now, let us use a simple analogy to illustrate these Tattvas. There lived a family in a farm house. They were enjoying the fresh cool breeze coming through the open doors and windows. The weather suddenly changed, and a terrible dust storm set in. Realizing it was a bad storm, they got up to close the doors and windows. By the time they could close all the doors and windows, much dust had entered the house.  After closing all of the doors and windows, they started cleaning away the dust that had come into the house.

We can interpret this simple illustration in terms of Nav‑Tattvas as follows:

  1. Jivas are represented by the people.
  2. Ajiva is represented by the house.
  3. Punya is represented by worldly enjoyment resulting from the nice cool breeze.
  4. Pap is represented by worldly discomfort resulting from the sand storm, which brought dust into the house.
  5. Asrava is represented by the influx of dust through the doors and windows of the house which is similar to the influx of karman particles to the soul.
  6. Bandh is represented by the accumulation of dust in the house, which is similar to bondage of karman particles to the soul.
  7. Samvar is represented by the closing of the doors and windows to stop the dust from  coming into the house, which is similar to the stoppage of influx of karman particles to the soul.
  8. Nirjara is represented by the cleaning up of accumulated dust from the house, which is similar to shedding off accumulated karmic particles from the soul.
  9. Moksha is represented by the clean house, which is similar to the shedding of all karmic particles from the soul.