Jaina path of Purification

  • By Munisri Nyayavijayaji
  • September 2003

Courtesy & copyright Bhogilal Lehar Chand Institute of Indology

Friends I am eternally grateful to Manish Modi for introducing me to this book, Jaina Darsana by Munisriji translated into English by Shri Nagin J Shah as Jaina Philosophy & Religion. The author has used the word Religion in the title but used the word Dharma in the book so I will stick to Dharma. Shri Shah has done a great job by translating the original book into simple English. This piece is verbatim from the book. My comments if any would start with ‘Friends’. Please forgive me in case of any errors.

The term Jaina is derived from the term Jina. And the term Jina is the common name for the supreme souls who are totally free from all the feelings of attachment, etc that defile the soul. It is a noun from Sanskrit verbal root ‘ji’ meaning ‘to conquer’. Arhan (the Worthy) and Vitaraga (One free from attachment) and Paramesthi (the Supreme Divinity) are the synonyms of Jina. And devotees of Jina are called Jaina. And the Dharma propounded by Jina is called Jaina Dharma. Arhata Dharma (dharma propounded by the Worthy), Anekantadarsana (Philosophy of Non-one-sidedness), Nirgranthasasana (Teachings of the Knotless), Vitaragamarga (Path made and enlightened by one who is free from attachment) – these are the terms employed for Jaina Dharma & Philosophy.

Article Contents

Chap No

Chapter Title




Right knowledge / conduct. Sadhu Dharma etc


12 Vows

E.g. refraining from violence, limiting one’s possessions, abstain from purposeful harmful activities, sharing with deserving guests.



Self-faith purified by discretionary power of thought. Also 5 types of knowledge.


14 stages of Spiritual Development

Gives each stage e.g. Sasadana-gunasthana,  Apuva-karana etc.       


Adhyatma or Spiritualness

What is soul, 12 Soteriological reflections (bhavna), Jaina & Non-Jaina conceptions of soul.


Jaina Karma

Specialty & Jaina conception of Karma.


Jaina Code of Conduct

For monk, layman covers non-violence etc.


6 Obligatory Duties

E.g. worship of supreme soul, veneration of serving elders, austerity, donation. Eating rules e.g. eating by Night.


In the chapter Essentials of Jaina Philosophy (on site) we have given a brief account of the 9 reals. Among them in the sentient & insentient substances are the two fundamental reals. The third real is the inflow of the karmic material atoms into the sentient substance, the soul. The inflow takes place as a result of thought activity. The fourth real is the bondage, which is nothing but a close connection of the soul & the karmic matter. The fifth & sixth reals are the stoppage of the inflow of karmic matter and the partial disassociation of the bound karmic matter respectively. They are caused by the elevated & bright spiritual states of the soul. The seventh real is the total & absolute disassociation of the karmic matter from the soul. It is called liberation; it is the perfect pure state of the soul. Thus, the five reals beginning beginning with the inflow are covered by the two fundamental reals, i.e. the sentient & insentient substances. The eight & ninth reals are the auspicious karmic & inauspicious matter. They are bound by karmic matter. So if we include them in the bondage, the total number of reals remains seven only.

The inflow of karmic matter, which presents us with the means of liberation, is regarded as auspicious. It is considered to be dharma whose three forms are its cause, its nature & its effect. Among them the righteous activity is the cause of dharma. The knowledge is the nine reals is a must for those who are desirous of liberation. This is the reason why they called ‘tattvas’ (reals) in the science of liberation. Bondage (bandha) and its cause the inflow (asrava) are opposed to liberation, whereas the stoppage (samvara).

The brief treatment of the nine reals has presented the Jaina view about the soul, merit/demerit (paap, punya), life after death, liberation and God. It easily awakens our faith in the path of liberation. Search of reality is not possible on the basis of self-perception alone. There are many things which are beyond the beyond the ken of our sense perception for e.g. a bird flying in the sky that soars so high that we are not able to see it. But that does not prove its non-existence. Thus in this world there do exist imperceptible objects just as there exist perceptible ones. To believe what we ourselves have experienced as proper & others as false is not proper. Thus taking into account the effects of the past meritorious & demeritious acts, which we can see, and understanding the innumerable diversities of the world and the terrible consequences of delusion, man must try hard to remove the passional defects like anger etc. He should continue his journey on the path of purity steadily, keeping constantly before his mind’s eye the highest aim of spiritual welfare & liberation. Slowly he progresses to reach his goal.

One should know the path that leads to that final destination. Shunning obstinacy and attachment to one’s preconceived notions & cultivating love for the good qualities, one should examine the essence of the scriptures. After doing so one should transfer one’s knowledge into practice without which knowledge is of no use. This is the reason why Jaina thinkers use the aphorism ‘samyakjnanakriyabhyam moksah’ (right knowledge & right activity – these two combined are the means of liberation). If after laying the foundations of faith & knowledge, a man stops there & does not proceed to construct the temple of spiritual welfare through right acts (conduct), then how can he have the finished temple of spiritual welfare?

Right Knowledge - what is right knowledge? It means knowledge of the nature of the soul as also of the means of spiritual welfare. In order to completely know the nature of soul, it is necessary to know even the karmic coverings that effect it. Without knowing that we cannot understand the various states of the soul and consequently cannot easily achieve the spiritual good. As a matter of fact, without faith in, knowledge of & meditation of the soul, all our worldly knowledge is vain & useless. All out miseries & distress are due to ignorance of the soul. The sole secret teaching of the entire spiritual literature is that one should be inclined to the soul.

Right Conduct - The fruit of the knowledge of reality is the refrainment from vicious acts. And it alone is right conduct. The true meaning of ‘right conduct’ is to make one’s life pure, keeping it aloof from vices & moral defilement, to help others strive for the good according to one’s ability. Generally right conduct is divided into two grades – for the mendicant & layman. For the former it is called sadhu-dharma (spiritual discipline for the mendicant), for the latter it is called grhastha-dharma (spiritual discipline for the layman or householder).

A man who performs acts beneficial to himself as well as to others is a sadhu. And the life long vow of absolute non-attachment, which he accepts, setting his eye on the pure & holy objective of spiritual welfare is sadhu-dharma. It necessarily implies prior renunciation of all the worldly pleasures of wealth, woman and cutting off the bonds of home, family, kin. Refraining from violence, lying of any sort, from taking anything that is not given, sexual activities and from possessions or its attachment for them – these are the 5 major scale vows. Again the prime characteristic of his life is the progressive curbing of the activities of mind, speech & body. His spiritual discipline is the life-long vow of universal brotherhood. Its fruit is liberation.

Those who are not qualified for sadhu dharma observe the spiritual discipline meant for the layman. Requirement one is to qualify is honesty in the earning of wealth, and morality/integrity in one’s behavior with others. It is necessary for the layman to cultivate the quality of fearlessness on the strength of the faith in the existence of the soul & to remain vigilant in the observance of proper self-control. In Jaina scriptures the term ‘grhastha-dharma’ & ‘sravaka-dharma’ have the same meaning. A man & woman who observe grhastha-dharma are called ‘sravaka’ & sravika’ respectively. Those who listen to with interest spiritual discourses on the path of spiritual welfare are sravakas & sravikas.

In the work dealing with the spiritual discipline for the layman there occurs the exposition of 12 vows. They are gross vow of refraining from violence, lying, taking anything that is not given to us, sexual activities, limiting one’s possessions, area of unvirtuous acts, the quantity of things that can be used once as also of things that could be used repeatedly, vow to abstain from harmful activities that serve no useful purpose, remaining completely equanimous for a fixed period of time, of reducing for a limited period of time the limits of area set forth in the sixth vow (digvrata), observing fast & living like a monk for certain days & of sharing with a deserving guest. The first five vows are called ‘anuvrata’ (atomized vows, minor-scale vows) as they are partial.

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