A study of the philosophy of Jainism

by Deepa Baruah | 2017 | 46,858 words

This page describes the Jaina theory of Karman 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 V.b - Jaina theory of Karman

The doctrine of karman is accepted by all the philosophical systems of Indian thought except the Cārvāka. The common meaning of the word karman is action. The theory of karman or action states that man is sure to get the fruits of his own acts. The Jainas also subscribe to the view that karman is the cause of man’s happiness, miseries etc. In their view, good karman produces good consequences i.e. pleasures, happiness etc.; while bad karman produces bad consequences i.e. miseries, sorrows etc. The Jainas further hold that karmans are the subtle particles of matter and as such are dravyas or substances. They reject the Vaiśeṣikas point of view about the nature of karman.

The Vaiśeṣikas describe karman as a padārtha. It is motion which is of five kinds, viz., (i) upward, (ii) downward, (iii) contraction, (iv) expansion and (v) going. Upward means the contact of a body with a higher region, e.g. throwing a stone upward. Downward means the contact of a body with a lower region, e.g. throwing a stone from a tree to the ground. Contraction means the bringing of the parts of the body closer to one another. Expansion brings the parts of the body farther from one another. All other kinds of motion are denoted by the term going. Revolving, flaming up etc. are some other kinds of motions which included in going. These are the five kinds of karman accepted by the Vaiśeṣikas.

Prabhācandra has categorically refuted the view of the Vaiśeṣikas regarding karman as a separate category. The Vaiśeṣika’s karman is nothing but motion or activity which is generated by means of conjunction to one place and disjunction from another place. This is nothing but the different movements of a substance from one place to another. Utkṣepaṇa etc. are included here. If, on the other hand, seeing different kinds of motion karman is regarded as a separate padārtha and is of five kinds, then other types of motion like revolving, flaming up etc. should also be accepted as separate karman. But the Vaiśeṣikas do not accept these as separate karman, but include them under the motion ‘going’. Moreover, it is a fact that karman is never apprehended separately from substance. That which is not apprehended, even though capable of apprehension, is non-existent. Karman is capable of apprehension, but is not apprehended separately. Hence, karman is not a separate category.

In Jainism karman is not merely motion, it is material It is an aggregate of material particles. Not only this, the Jainas also maintains that karman is mūrta i.e. it has some form, because it is a subtle-particles of matter which has some form. The karma-pudgalas are entered into the self through mental, bodily and verbal actions and intermixed with its parts, as a result of which the self comes under bondage. These karma-particles form a fine body called kārmaṇaśarīra which adheres to the self and exists until it attains emancipation. Matter or karma-pudgala mixes with the self, just as water mixes with the milk. So, the relation between the self and the karmic-matter is called as a relation of water and milk. According to Hemacandra, though the self is obscured by the veil of karmic-matters, yet there is no harm to the nature of the self. The light of knowledge is not destroyed by any kind of veil, just as the light of the sun or moon is not destroyed by the veil of the clouds. The veil of the karmic-matters is destroyed by the regular particles of bodily discipline and meditation. That means, when the self realizes its pure nature by giving up all the passions with the help of mental and bodily discipline and meditation, then, there would be no relation of the self with karman; the self becomes pure and perfect and there arises infinite knowledge. This pure self is called arhat, paramātman etc.

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