A study of the philosophy of Jainism

by Deepa Baruah | 2017 | 46,858 words

This page describes the The nature of the Self (Jiva) in Jaina philosophy from the study of the philosophy of Jainism: one of the oldest religions in India having its own metaphysics, philosophy and ethics. Jainism is regarded as an ethical system where non-violence features as an important ethical value.

Chapter IV.a - The nature of the Self (Jīva) in Jaina philosophy

The term jīva is used in the sense of self in Jaina philosophy. The jīva has occupied an important position in this system. Jainism aims at the liberation of the jīva from the cycle of births and deaths. They also hold that the self is directly perceived. By introspection, anybody can perceive the self. The jīva or the self is different from ajīva, because ajīva means both material and immaterial entities. Space, time, merit and demerit are the immaterial entities, while pudgala is the material entity. The self or jīva is different from these entities.

The self or jīva is an eternal substance. It is sāvayava. It is incorporeal and immaterial. It is the knower, enjoyer and active agent. The self is the enjoyer of the fruits of its action in the form of pleasure and pain. It is active and free. It can freely do the right actions or wrong actions and acquire merit and demerit. It is the master of its own destiny. According to Kundakundācārya, the jīva is existent; is conscious; has cognition, is a doer; is active; is an enjoyer; is of the same size as its body; is formless; is attached to karman or non physical matter. Ācārya Nemicandra has also opined that the jīva is possessed of cognition. It is formless and is a doer. It is of the same size as its body and is the enjoyer of the fruits of action. It migrates in the saṃsāra or in the series of existence. But in essence it is free and has an upward motion. Vādideva also points out that the jīva is essentially conscious; undergoes modifications; is a doer; is a direct enjoyer; is of the same extent; as its body; is of different in each individual; has transmigrations owing to its being attached to pudgala or matter. Therefore, the most important quality of the self is consciousness.

From these descriptions of the self or jīva it is evident that the Jainas accept the existence of the self. This is a presupposition which requires no proof. The most important characteristic of the self is consciousness. Every substance possesses some general qualities, viz., origination, decay and permanence, so, when the Jainas define jīva as a substance possessing of consciousness, they do not exclude all the general qualities. The Jainas further hold that Consciousness is both the essence and the quality of the self. That means, consciousness is not only its accidental quality, but it constitutes its essence. The self is qualified by consciousness. Consciousness being the essence and quality of the self is always present in the self. This consciousness of the self is manifested in two ways darśana or vision and jñāna or knowledge, which is jointly called upayoga.

Upayoga is the defining characteristic of the self. The word upa means “close” and yoga means “relation” i.e. which is closely related to the self. Another meaning of upayoga is that by which a function is served--- upayujyate anena iti upayogaḥ. Therefore, upayoga is the function of the self through which it manifests its nature. The self is of the nature of consciousness and it is revealed through jñāna and darśana. Darśana or vision means the knowledge of things without their details, while jñāna means the knowledge of details. In other words, darśana is indeterminate, while jñāna is determinate. So, the Jainas uphold that upayoga is the fundamental characteristics of the self.

Jñāna and darśana are, thus, two aspects of upayoga. It has already been said that jñāna and darśana are actually two stages of the same cognitive fact, jñāna being the determinate and darśana being the indeterminate stage. Kundakundācārya also opines that jñāna and darśana are differentiated only from the phenomenal point of view, while in reality they are inseparable. That is why;the term jñāna is frequently used to mean both jñāna and darśana, i.e., upayoga. The Jainas also say that jñāna is neither completely different nor completely identical with the self, yet it is somehow different and somehow identical with the self. Jñāna being a state of consciousness and a quality of the self is not quite different and identical with the self. If the self and jñāna were completely identical, then the self would have been known as jñāna, but that is never done. Therefore, the Jainas hold that jñāna must be regarded as bhinnābhinna, i.e., both different and non different from the self.

It has been already mentioned that the two aspects of upayoga are jñāna and darśana. In Jainism, jñāna-upayoga is known as sākāra -upayoga, while darśana-upayoga is known as nirākāra-upayoga. Jñāna -upayoga is of two kinds, viz., natural knowledge and non–natural knowledge. Again non-natural knowledge is divided into two, viz., (i) right knowledge and (ii) wrong knowledge. Right knowledge is further divided into four kinds: (i) mati-jñāna (sensory knowledge), (ii) śruta-jñāna (scriptural knowledge), (iii) avadhi-jñāna (limited direct knowledge) and (iv) manaḥparyāya-jñāna (direct knowledge of mind). Wrong knowledge is of three kinds, viz, (i) mati-ajñāna (sensory wrong knowledge), (ii) śruta-ajñāna (scriptural wrong knowledge), (iii) avadhi-ajñāna (limited direct wrong knowledge). Thus knowledge or jñāna is divided into eight categories, viz., (i) kevala-jñāna (ii) mati-jñāna, (iii) śruta-jñāna, (iv) avadhi-jñāna (v) manaḥparyāya-jñāna, (vi) matiajñāna, (vii) śruta-ajñāna, (viii) avadhi-ajñāna. Darśana-upayoga is also of two kinds, viz., (i) natural vision and (ii) non-natural vision. Non-natural vision is further divided into three kinds: (i) cakṣur-darśana (visual vision), (ii) acakṣur-darśana (non-visual vision) and (iii) avadhi-darśana (limited direct vision). Thus, darśanaupayoga is divided into four categories, viz., (i) kevala-darśana, (ii) cakṣur-darśana (iii) acakṣur-darśana and (iv) avadhi-darśana.

The self possesses innumerable parts and these parts get intermixed with the karmaparamāṇus in bondage. Karmaparamāṇus are the atomic particles which are attracted by the self towards itself from outside through its activities. For this reason, the self identifies itself with these karma-particles and cannot realize the difference between its own parts and these particles. If, one can know the nature of jñāna and darśana, then he could know the distinction between the karmaparamāṇus and the parts of the self. In other words, it is through upayoga that one can realize the real nature of the self.

According to the Jainas, the self is naturally pure, free, perfect and divine and is endowed with ananta-catuṣṭaya i.e., four infinite qualities, viz, anantadarśana, (infinite vision), ananta-jñāna (infinite knowledge), ananta-sukha (infinite bliss) and ananta-virya (infinite power). The liberated self possesses these four infinite qualities, while the worldly jīvas do not possess these four infinite qualities, because they are obscured by the veil of four destructive karmans. The four destructive karmans are: jñānāvaraṇīya, darśanāvaraṇīya, mohaṇīya and antarāya. But, the liberated selves are free from these four kinds of karmans.

The Jainas further hold that the self is always subject to change or modification. In the state of bondage, it undergoes changes because of the elements of the body and the mind. In liberation, on the other hand, it changes by itself within its knowledge and vision. They also hold that if the self were immutable, acquisition of knowledge would not be possible. So, before the rise of a particular knowledge, the self is devoid of it and with the rise of that knowledge, the self is endowed with it. The self in the states of action and enjoyment is different from the self in the states of inaction and non-enjoyment. So, from this difference, it may be presumed that the self can never be absolutely immutable. But the Jainas admit that though the self undergoes modifications in its modes, it remains the same substantially. Being a substance, the self also possesses dhrauvya, i.e., permanence. Hence, the self is eternal when viewed from the standpoint of substance, but it is non-eternal from the standpoint of modes.

The jīva is described from two different viewpoints. These are: the noumenal or niścayanaya and the phenomenal or vyavahāranaya. From the noumenal point of view, the self is described in the pure form, while the phenomenal point of view describes the empirical qualities of the self. From the suddhaniscaya point of view, the jīva possesses pure consciousness in the form of pure knowledge and pure vision. However, this consciousness undergoes changes. From the asuddhaniscaya point of view, the jīva is of the nature of impure consciousness having paryāyas or modifications under different conditions.

Jainism holds that the self or jīva is an active agent. They do not accept the Sāṃkhya theory of the passive Puruṣa. The Jainas also hold that pleasure and pain can not belong to an unconscious entity. Consciousness belongs to Puruṣa, so Puruṣa is subject to pleasure and pain.This Puruṣa is an active entity, because an inactive entity cannot be subject to pleasure and pain. Moreover, consciousness itself is active, because the term consciousness implies knowledge or intelligence which is active in character.

The Jainas further hold that the self is the direct enjoyer of all its actions. The Sāṃkhyas maintain that Puruṣa is the enjoyer in an indirect manner, i.e., through buddhi. The Jainas hold that material buddhi cannot enjoy anything. Enjoyment is the function of a conscious substance. As Puruṣa is conscious, so enjoyment belongs to Puruṣa only and not to buddhi which is unconscious. Thus Puruṣa is the kartṛ and bhoktṛ directly.

From the phenomenal point of view, the jīva is the lord (prabhu), doer (kartā), enjoyer (bhoktā), limited to its body (dehamātra), incorporeal (amūrta) and it is ordinarily found with karma. As a potter considers himself to be a maker and enjoyer of the clay pot, in the same way, the mundane self is said to be the doer and enjoyer of the sense objects. From the noumenal point of view, jīva is the doer of śuddhabhāvas or pure thoughts, but from the phenomenal point of view, it is the doer or active agent of karma-pudgalas or karmic matter. It enjoys the fruits of its action in the form of pleasure and pain.

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