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Tattva (Jainism)

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Tattva (Jainism)

Jain metaphysics is based on seven (sometimes nine, with subcategories) truths or fundamental principles also known as tattva or navatattva, which are an attempt to explain the nature and solution to the human predicament. The first two are the two ontological categories of the soul jīva and the non-soul ajīva, namely the axiom that they exist. The third truth is that through the interaction, called yoga, between the two substances, soul and non-soul, karmic matter flows into the soul (āsrava), clings to it, becomes converted into karma and the fourth truth acts as a factor of bondage (bandha), restricting the manifestation of the consciousness intrinsic to it. The fifth truth states that a stoppage (saṃvara) of new karma is possible through asceticism through practice of right conduct, faith and knowledge. An intensification of asceticism burns up the existing karma – this sixth truth is expressed by the word nirjarā. The final truth is that when the soul is freed from the influence of karma, it reaches the goal of Jaina teaching, which is liberation or mokṣa.[1] Some authors add two additional categories: the meritorious and demeritorious acts related to karma (puṇya and pāpa). These nine categories of cardinal truth, called navatattva, form the basis of entire Jain metaphysics. The knowledge of these reals is essential for the liberation of the soul.


Jainism believes that the souls (jīva) exist as a reality, having a separate existence from the body that houses it. Jīva is characterised by cetana (consciousness) and upayoga (knowledge and perception).[2] Though the soul experiences both birth and death, it is neither really destroyed nor created. Decay and origin refer respectively to the disappearing of one state of soul and appearance of another state, these being merely the modes of the soul.[3]


Ajīva are the five non-living substances that make up the universe along with the jīva. They are:

  • Pudgala (Matter) –Matter is classified as solid, liquid, gaseous, energy, fine Karmic materials and extra-fine matter or ultimate particles.[4] Paramānu or ultimate particles are considered the basic building block of all matter. One of the qualities of the Paramānu and Pudgala is that of permanence and indestructibility. It combines and changes its modes but its basic qualities remain the same. According to Jainism, it cannot be created nor destroyed.
  • Dharma-tattva (Medium of Motion) and Adharma-tattva (Medium of rest) – They are also known as Dharmāstikāya and Adharmāstikāya. They are unique to Jain thought depicting the principles of motion and rest. They are said to pervade the entire universe. Dharma-tattva and adharma-tattva are by themselves not motion or rest but mediate motion and rest in other bodies. Without dharmāstikāya motion is not possible and without adharmāstikāya rest is not possible in the universe.
  • Ākāśa (Space) – Space is a substance that accommodates souls, matter, the principle of motion, the principle of rest, and time. It is all-pervading, infinite and made of infinite space-points.
  • Kāla (Time) – Time is a real entity according to Jainism and all activities, changes or modifications can be achieved only through time. In Jainism, the time is likened to a wheel with twelve spokes divided into descending and ascending halves with six stages, each of immense duration estimated at billions of sagaropama or ocean years.[5] According to Jains, sorrow increases at each progressive descending stage and happiness and bliss increase in each progressive ascending stage.


Asrava (influx) refers to the influence of body and mind causing the soul to generate karma. It occurs when the karmic particles are attracted to the soul on account of vibrations created by activities of mind, speech and body.[6]

According to the Nava Tatva Sutra, there are forty-two asravas or ways through which the soul is exposed to the inflow of karmas. Of the forty-two, five are senses, four are passions (kashayas, viz. anger, pride, love and covetousness), five are sins (avratas, viz. killing, stealing, lying, adultery and worldliness), three are activities (yogas, viz. mental, verbal and physical activity) and twenty-five are "minor asravas", individual acts such as "walking carelessly", "lending a weapon", "wishing ill to any being", "the reception of a gift", "the exercise of cunning" or "accusing any of the Jain books of falsehood", etc.

The āsrava, that is, the influx of karmic occurs when the karmic particles are attracted to the soul on account of vibrations created by activities of mind, speech and body.[7] Tattvārthasūtra, 6:1–2 states:[8] "The activities of body, speech and mind is called yoga. This three-fold action results in āsrava or influx of karma."[9] The karmic inflow on account of yoga driven by passions and emotions cause a long term inflow of karma prolonging the cycle of reincarnations. On the other hand, the karmic inflows on account of actions that are not driven by passions and emotions have only a transient, short-lived karmic effect.[10][11]


The karmas have effect only when they are bound to the consciousness. This binding of the karma to the consciousness is called bandha. However, the yoga or the activities alone do not produce bondage. Out of the many causes of bondage, passion is considered as the main cause of bondage. The karmas are literally bound on account of the stickiness of the soul due to existence of various passions or mental dispositions.[6]

Pāpa and Punya

In many texts punya or spiritual merit and papa or spiritual demerit are counted among the fundamental reals. But in Tattvārthasūtra the number of tattvas is seven because both punya and papa are included in āsrava or bandha. Both punya and papa are of two types — dravya type (physical type) and a bhava type (mental type).[12]


Saṃvara is stoppage of karma. The first step to emancipation or the realization of the self is to see that all channels through which karma has been flowing into the soul have been stopped, so that no additional karma can accumulate. This is referred to as the stoppage of the inflow of karma (saṃvara).[13] There are two kinds of saṃvara: that which is concerned with mental life (bhava-saṃvara), and that which refers to the removal of karmic particles (dravya- saṃvara). This stoppage is possible by self-control and freedom from attachment. The practice of vows, carefulness, self-control, observance of ten kinds of dharma, meditation, and the removal of the various obstacles, such as hunger, thirst, and passion stops the inflow of karma and protect the soul from the impurities of fresh karma.


Nirjarā is the shedding or destruction of karmas that has already accumulated. Nirjarā is of two types: the psychic aspect of the removal of karma (bhāva-nirjarā) and destruction of the particles of karma (dravya-nirjarā).[13] Karma may exhaust itself in its natural course when its fruits are completely exhausted. In this, no effort is required. The remaining karma has to be removed by means of penance (avipaka-nirjarā). The soul is like a mirror which looks dim when the dust of karma is deposited on its surface. When karma is removed by destruction, the soul shines in its pure and transcendent form. It then attains the goal of mokṣa.


Mokṣha means liberation, salvation or emancipation of soul. It is a blissful state of existence of a soul, completely free from the karmic bondage, free from samsara, the cycle of birth and death. A liberated soul is said to have attained its true and pristine nature of infinite bliss, infinite knowledge and infinite perception. Such a soul is called siddha or paramatman and considered as supreme soul or God. In Jainism, it is the highest and the noblest objective that a soul should strive to achieve. It fact, it is the only objective that a person should have; other objectives are contrary to the true nature of soul. With right faith, knowledge and efforts all souls can attain this state. That is why, Jainism is also known as mokṣamārga or the “path to liberation”.

See also


  1. ^ *Soni, Jayandra; E. Craig (Ed.) (1998). "Jain Philosophy". Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (London: Routledge). Retrieved 2008-03-05. 
  2. ^ Nayanar, Prof. A. Chakravarti (2005). Pañcāstikāyasāra of Ācārya Kundakunda. New Delhi: Today & Tomorrows Printer and Publisher.   , Gāthā 16
  3. ^ Nayanar, Prof. A. Chakravarti (2005). Pañcāstikāyasāra of Ācārya Kundakunda. New Delhi: Today & Tomorrows Printer and Publisher.   , Gāthā 18
  4. ^ Shah, Natubhai (1998). Jainism: The World of Conquerors. Volume I and II. Sussex: Sussex Academy Press.  
  5. ^ James, Edwin Oliver (1969). Creation and Cosmology: A Historical and Comparative Inquiry. Netherland: BRILL.   p. 45
  6. ^ a b Jaini, Padmanabh (1998), The Jaina Path of Purification, New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, p. 112,  
  7. ^ Jaini, Padmanabh (1998). The Jaina Path of Purification. New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.   p.112
  8. ^ Kuhn, Hermann (2001). Karma, The Mechanism : Create Your Own Fate. Wunstorf, Germany: Crosswind Publishing.   p. 26
  9. ^ Tatia, Nathmal (1994). Tattvārtha Sūtra: That Which Is of Vācaka Umāsvāti (in Sanskrit - English). Lanham, MD: Rowman Altamira.   p.151
  10. ^ Tatia, Nathmal (1994) p.152
  11. ^ Kuhn, Hermann (2001). p.33
  12. ^ Sanghvi, Sukhlal (1974). Tattvārthasūtra of Vācaka Umāsvāti (in trans. K. K. Dixit). Ahmedabad: L. D. Institute of Indology. 
  13. ^ a b T. G. Kalghatgi, Philosophy East and West, Vol. 15, No. 3/4, (Jul. - Oct., 1965), pp. 229-242 University of Hawai Press
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