The Buddhist Path to Enlightenment (study)

by Dr Kala Acharya | 2016 | 118,883 words

This page relates ‘Three Stages (1): Samvara (Self-restraint)’ of the study on the Buddhist path to enlightenment. The Buddha was born in the Lumbini grove near the present-day border of India and Nepal in the 6th century B.C. He had achieved enlightenment at the age of thirty–five under the ‘Bodhi-tree’ at Buddha-Gaya. This study investigates the teachings after his Enlightenment which the Buddha decided to teach ‘out of compassion for beings’.

5.3. Three Stages (1): Saṃvara (Self-restraint)

The soul in bondage is a stage of saṃsāra. One must do something to help the soul to set free. According to Jainism there are three stages to free the soul from bondage. They are saṃvara (selfrestraint), nirjarā (dissociation of karma) and mokṣa (liberation).

A first state through right knowledge and self-restraint, the flux of fresh karma matter is to be stopped. It is in Jainism called saṃvara. By saṃvara the channels through which karma matter finds entrance into the soul is to be blocked.

There are two kinds of saṃvaras: bhāva-saṃvara and dravyasaṃvara. Bhāva-saṃvara is by actual thought modification of contrary nature, while dravya-saṃvara is by actual stoppage of the inrush of karma particles.

The Bhāva-saṃvaras are

  1. the vows of non-injury,
  2. truthfulness,
  3. absence from stealing,
  4. sex-control, and
  5. nonacceptance of objects of desire.[1]

Saṃvara is preventing, by means of samitis and guptis, the āsarava, or flowing in order to avoid injury to insects (iryā), gentle and holy take (bhāsā), receiving proper alms (esanā) etc. The other is guptis or restraints of body, speech and mind. Dealing with bhāvasaṃvara-dharmas, anupreksā parisahajaya and cāritra are also enumerated. The dharmas consist of habits of forgiveness, humility, straight forwardness, truth, cleanliness, restraint, penance, and abandonment, indifference to any and of gain or loss and supreme sex-control. The anupreksha consists of meditation about the restraint character of the world, about our helplessness without the truth, about the cycle of world-existence, about our own responsibilities for our good and bad actions, about the difference between the soul and the non-soul, about the un-cleanliness of our body and all that is associated with it, about the influx of karma and its stoppage and the destruction of those karmas which have already entered the soul, about soul, matter and the substance of the universe, about the difficulty of attaining true knowledge, faith and about the essential principles of the world.[2]

From what precedes it is pretty clear that all our poverty and degradation, all our sorrows and afflictions are due to āśrava and bandha caused by subjection (mithyatva and the like). Fresh āśravas forge fresh links of bandha of the soul which is constitutionally free and potentially divine. We have also seen elsewhere that in order to manifest this constitutional freedom and essential of the soul, a jīva must shake off all karma-matter which being alien to its real nature works as a veil of ignorance to prevent the enfoldment of right vision into the verities of life and living leading to right-knowledge without which right conduct in the empirical life and thought ultimately crowing its efforts with a free and beatific state of being, a swardiya, a self-rule, an autonomy, for all time to come.

But the question is how can the soul be freed from the snares (pash) of karma? How can the veil of ignorance be removed? The Jain processes of purging the soul out all karma-matter, of renting the veil of nescience and the like jnana-darshan-avara-nadis hiding the jīva from the knowledge of its own real nature begins with what is termed as saṃvara. With saṃvara, the fifth principle of the Jain moral categories begins the most practical side of the Jain moral philosophy. It is true that the ultimate end of all the different systems of thought and culture on this side of the Eastern Hemisphere is Freedom. And the nature of this freedom has been variously conceived and defined by the different schools of philosophy, but with the Jains it means swaraj, selfrule, or autonomy pure and simple. Swarah or self-rule in every department of life and activity is the Ideal of the Jain system of thought and culture. Subjection to anything alien being recognized as the true characteristic insignia of servitude both here and hereafter, the Jain sages have deemed it wise to lay down for the aspirants to swaraj and for the good of humanity in general, a few rules and canons, movements along the lines of which will surely enable the jīva to realize the Ideal by the removal of the aliens standing in the way. Of these rules of life, comes first the saṃvara which is nothing more than practically putting a stoic to the influx of foreign elements into the constitution of the jīva.

Like asrava and bandha, saṃvara is also analyzable into subjective (bhava) and Objective (dravya). By Subjective saṃvara, we mean the kind of conscious and voluntary striving, mental and moral, along certain lines, on the part of the jīva, to arrest the influx partially or wholly whereas Objective saṃvara means the actually shutting up of the channels against further influx of fresh Karma-matter into the constitution of the jīva.

Now the lines along which a jīva should strive and struggle for the gradual effectuation of saṃvara are of fifty-seven kinds; viz.

  1. Five Samitis.
  2. Three Guptis.
  3. Ten-fold Yati-dharma.
  4. Twelve Bhāvanās.
  5. Twenty-six Parishahas.
  6. Five Charitras

Note: thus making up fifty-seven kinds in all.

Footnotes and references:


HIPh, I: p. 325.


HIPh, I; p. 195

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