The Doctrine of Karma

The Doctrine of Karma

The doctrine of Karma has been universally accepted in Indian thought.  Ordinarily Karma means human deed and is usually conceived by Indian philosophers as leading to the good or bad results in this life or life hereafter which the performer of the action is to enjoy or suffer.  The soul takes many bodies and goes through the cycle of births and deaths to enjoy the fruits of good and bad Karma.  Man is held responsible for all the ills of life due the result of his actions.  He is only reaping the consequences of such actions.  Indian sages and thinkers, argue, therefore that the endeavor should be to get rid of Karma and to obtain a state where the Karma has no longer any effect.

This doctrine of Karma has special significance in Jaina philosophy and is in fact a driving force of this system.  Karma is not a mystic force as some philosophers think.  It is conceived as something essentially material, forming a subtle-bond of extremely refined matter which gets attached to the soul, as dust gets attached to the oily body.  This Karma principle is accepted as the key to the understanding of all the unexplained facts of life and universe.  The essence of Karma principle is that every being of this vast universe is guided by its own Karma.  The heavenly bodies and even gods are not exceptions.  Every event of life is due to the Karma of pervious life.  Birth and death, pain and pleasure, suffering, disease, everything is dependent on the Karma.  On account of good or evil Karma a leaving creature would be reborn into any species, particularly suited to and measured by the action, from the vilest insect to a god.

The soul is perfect in its real state.  It has infinite knowledge, insight, power and bliss.  But the mundane soul is imperfect and limited by Karma.  The subtle particles of matter enter into the soul and make the mundane soul bound and put limitations to its capacity from beginningless time (past).

The subtle particles of matter which flow into the soul and cause its bondage, are called Karma.  It is Karma that binds the soul to the body.  It is caused by the union of the soul with Pudgala (matter).  Passions along with wrong belief, attachment to wordly pleasure or want of control, inadvertence and psychophysical activities of mind, speech and body attract fresh material particles which get transformed automatically into karmic particles and engender empirical bondage of the soul.

In bondage, the karmic matter unites with the soul by intimate interpenetration, just as water unites as water unites with milk or fire unites with the red hot iron ball.  If oil is spilled on a body, dust will easily adhere to it.  Similarly the Jiva which has become sticky by attachment and aversion, gets covered by the Karma particles or the real connection of the Karma with like the sticking of the dust on an oily body.  The body represents the Jiva, the oil the passions and the dust the pudgala (matter).  This karma-bandha is classified into four types, related to its nature, quantity, intensity and duration.

The mundane soul from the beginningless past is under the malignant influence of passions (kasayas).  There are four fundamental passions which are responsible for the defiled state of existence, including transmigration.  They are: anger (krodha), pride (mana), delusion and greed (lobha) (Pr. 24).  These four passions are the main force in holding the soul in bondage (30-33).  These passions obstruct the right belief and hamper the right conduct.  These passions accompanied by wrong belief, want of control, negligence and Yoga, are the main cause of eight kinds of Karmabandha.  These four passions are divided into sixteen kinds on account of function they are reckoned to perform.  So, each passion is of the following four kinds: anantanubandhi, apratyakhayanavarana, pratyakhyanavarana and samjvalana (Pr.  259-60).  Anantanubandhi passion is that which obscures spiritual right belief and conduct and thereby prepares the ground for endless mundane career.  Apartyakhyanavarana is that which obstructs the partial right conduct.  Pratyakhyanavarana is that which obstructs aptitude for complete conduct and allows the existence of right belief partial conduct.  Samjvalana passion obstructs the perfect type of conduct thus thwarting the attainment of Arhatship (I. e. yathakhyata caritra).  Besides these passions, there are nine semi-passions (nokasayas), which are so-called because of their less obstructing nature.  They accompany as well as excite the passions.  They are: Laughter (hasya); liking (rati); disliking (arati); grief (soka); fear (bhaya); disgust (jugupsa), hankering after women (purusaveda); hankering after man (striveda) and hankering after both the sexes (napumsakaveda).

Lesya is responsible for the duration of Karmabhandha.  Lesya is defined as that which associates the self with karmic particles (Lisyate, slisyate karmana saha atma iti Lesya).  Lesya is said to be that by means of which the soul is tained with merit and demerit.  It is also considered as color of the soul, or emotions coloring the soul.  Just as glue is responsible for making colors fast and fixing them on a canvas, similarly this Lesya is responsible for the length of time of the Karmabandha.  This Lesya is of six kinds : Black (krsna), blue (nila); grey (kapota), red (tejasa); Yellow (padma), or pink and white (sukla) (Pr. 38).  Jivas are some times classified into six kinds, based on these emotions.  All Jivas are swyaed respectively by the influence of black, blue, grey, red, yellow and white.  The first three of these Lesyas are inauspicious and the remaining ones are auspicious.  An individual is always swayed by any of the three good or three bad Lesyas.  Only the Siddhas are free from the influence of the Lesyas and so they are called Alesins or Gatalesyas.  The black, blue and grey Lesyas are the lowest type of emotions, through them the soul is brought to misery.  The red, yellow and white are the good Lesyas, through them the soul is brought into happiness.  The black Lesya is the worst of the three bad emotions coloring the soul.  The blue is less evil than the first.  The grey may lead men to do evil.  The red removes all evil thoughts, through yellow Lesya man controls passions.  Love and hatred disappear under the influence of white Lesya.  Each following one is better that the preceding one and the last is the best.  This idea is beautifully illustrated by the following story : Six hungry travelers saw ripe fruits on a Jambu tree and thought of eating the fruits.  The second man told others to chop off the big branches, the third recommended to cut off only the small branches, the fifth advised to pluck the fruits and the sixth advised gathering fruits fallen on the ground.  Here, the six persons are under the influence of different kinds of Lesyas.  The first one has a black Lasya, the second blue, the third grey, the fourth red, the fifth yellow and the sixth white.  The white Lesya is the best and the Jaina religious efforts are directed towards the acquisition of this pure Lesya.

Kinds and Nature of Karma

Karmas are classified into eight fundamental types on the bases of their nature : Knowledge obscuring Karma (Jnanavaraniya), insight obscuring karma (darsanavaraniya), feeling producing karma (Vedaniya), deluding karma (mohaniya), age determing karma (Ayuskarma), body determing karma (nama), heredity determining karma (gotra) and power hindering karma (Antaraya).  (Pr. 34).  Jnanavaraniya, darsanavaraniya, mohaniya and antaraya karmas are called Ghatikarmas as they tend to obscure the real nature of self.  These karmas not only lead to wordly misery but also retard the moral progress of the aspirant.  These karmas actually affect the attributes of the soul.  The remaining four karmas, because, these are not directly concerned with obscuring the nature of the soul.  In the absence of ghatikarmas they do not retard the moral progress of the aspirant.  These eight kinds of karmas are subdivided into many kinds.  The Jnanavaraniyakarma which obscures the knowing faculty of the soul is divided into five kinds; viz., matijnanavaraniya, which obscures the knowledge acquired through the senses and the mind, prevents our right conscience and intellect, srutajnanavaraniya which prevents acquiring any knowledge of Scriptures, avadhinanava raniya, which hinders direct knowledge of material objects, manahparyayajnanavaraniya, which obscures direct knowledge of the thoughts of others and kevalajnanavaraniya, which prevents us from knowing right way of attaining liberation.  Darsana varaniya which prevants us from holiding faith and is of nine kinds, namely, caksurdarsanavaraniya which obscures the physical sight, acaksurdarsanavaraniya which obscures the perceptual power of the four senses (except the eye) and the mind, avadhidarsanavaraniya, which hinders the faculty of direct insight of material things, kevaladarsanavaraniya which obscures the right intuition of obtaining liberation, nidra which generates a light, pleasant slumber from which the sleeper is aroused by the clicking of finger, nails or by a slight call, nidranidra which produces a heavy slumber from which the sleeper can be awakened by being shaken violently, pracalakarma, which causes sound sleep which overtakes a person sitting or standing upright, pracalapracala, which causes and exceedingly intensive sleep that overtakes a person while walking and styanagrdhi which generates worst type of slumber with terrific vigour through which man may commit horrible crime in the sleep.  Vedaniyakarma which produces feeling of pleasure and pain is of two kinds, satavedaniya which leads to worldly pleasures and asatavedaniya which leads to misery.  Mohaniyakarma which obscures true faith and right conduct is divided into 28 kinds.  First of all it is divided into two Darsanamohaniya which infatuates the person so that he looses his discriminative power of distinguishing right and wrong belief and Caritramohaniya which obscures right conduct which is the property of the soul.  Again darsanamohaniya is divided into mithyatvamohaniya, which obstructs getting complete belief but produces correct partial belief and misramohaniya which produces a mixed belief having some degree of truth and some of falsity.  Caritramohaniya is classified into 25 kinds, on the bases of obstruction produced through 16 passions-Kasaya mohaniya and 9 semipassions (no-kasayamohaniya).  Ayusyakarma (age determining karma) which determines the length of 3 times of Jiva in the particular form which his karma has endowed him.  It is again divided into four kinds determining the age of celestial (deva), human (manusya), animal or sub-human (tiryag) and hellish beings (naraka).  Namakarma, which is the cause of physical diversities is of 42 kinds, such as state of existence (gati), caste, body etc.  Gotrakarma which determines the heredity or family is of two kinds-that which destines superior heredity (Uccairgotra) and that which determines the inferior heredity (nicairgotra).  Antarayakarma, which obscures the power of the soul is of five kinds, danantaraya which obstructs charity, labhantaraya, that which obstructs profit of any kinds, bhogantaraya which hinders enjoyment of a thing which can be enjoyed once, such as food, cloth, etc., upabhogantaraya, which obstructs the enjoyment of something which can be enjoyed again and again, such as clothing, dwelling, bed, etc.  and Viryantaraya which obstructs the power of souls and makes a very strong person incapable of exercising his power.  In this way karmas are totally of 97 kinds (35-Com).

We have already seen that these are the different kinds of karmas which bind the soul.  Release will be gained only when the soul is dissociated from all kinds of karmas.  Jainism believes that though the various karmas of man are constantly determining him in various ways, yet there is in him infinite capacity or power of right action by exercising which man can overcome all Karmas and become finally liberated.  In fact all kinds of ethical disciplines are prescribed to achieve freedom from clutches of bondage of karma.  The soul, weighed down by Karma, travels from life on the mundane level.  At first the influx of fresh Karma is to be stopped by observing five vows, samitis, gruptis, ten kinds of dharma, reflecting on 12 kinds of Bhavanas, conquering hardships and controlling passions.  Then the already existing karma must be exhausted.

When this end is achieved, the age old partnership between the soul and matter is dissolved and the soul shines in its intrinsic nature of infinite faith, knowledge and bliss (Pr. s89).  Freed of the dead weight of karma, the soul flies up to the summit of lokakasa and remains there ever after.