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Jainism emphasises that ratnatraya (triple gems of Jainism) — the right vision or view (Samyak Darshana), right knowledge (Samyak Gyana) and right conduct (Samyak Charitra) — constitutes the path to liberation. These are known as the triple gems (or jewels) of Jainism and hence also known as Ratnatraya. These three are essential for the soul to move up spiritually.
Right View, Knowledge and Conduct
Right or Rational View
- Right View - Many disciplines of knowledge are developed based on certain fundamental givens, or axioms. For example, Euclidean geometry is an axiomatic system, in which all theorems ("true statements given the axioms") are derived from a finite number of axioms. Special theory of relativity bases itself on one of the fundamental principles called "The Principle of Invariant Light Speed". It takes it as given that light in vacuum propagates with the constant speed in terms of any system of inertial coordinates, regardless of the state of motion of the light source. Like these structured disciplines of study, Jainism bases itself on the concepts of Jiva (living souls), Ajiva (non-living objects) and the bondage that arises between them due to their interaction (karmic flow) as starting point for the development of its knowledge and practice.
- This is in a way very similar to the popular and modern practice within large commercial organisations to use their vision and mission statement, so as to guide in formulating their procedures, processes and practice. The spiritual goal in Jainism is to attain the true nature of soul by removing the karmic masks on it. This mission provides the direction to Jains in making the right choices and living with right discipline.
- Jain scholar Umaswami defines samayak darshan (right vision) as Tattvarthasraddhanam Samyak-darshanam, which means determination to find out the meaning of the essence of reality is the right vision.
- The framework of right view in Jainism, consists of Seven fundamentals, namely, Jiva (living beings), Ajiva (non-living objects), Asrava (in-flux of karma), Bandha (bonding and constraining soul), Samvara(stoppage of in-flux of karma), Nirjara (eradication of karmic bonding) and Moksa (total liberation or salvation from karmic bonding). These nine fundamental concepts, provide the metaphysical structure of Jain philosophy.
- An intelligent conviction and profound faith in the essential nature of the soul, of matter, and of their mutual relationships, actions and reactions, is a necessary condition for launching upon the path of liberation.
- Each soul when completely free from karmic influences acquires the state of perfection.
- Jainism declares that a person with the right vision will have spiritual calmness (Prasanna), desire for liberation from the endless birth-life-death cycles (Samvega),without any attachment or aversion to anything (Nirveda), kindness (Anukampa), and belief in the nine fundamental principles described just above (Astikya).
- Right knowledge reveals the true nature of reality.
- Most of our knowledge is sensory-based (mati) and based on recorded knowledge developed by our ancestors in the form of books, articles, papers and other medium (sruta). Jain philosophers also include the knowledge acquired directly without any medium. This is achieved by removing the karmic veil on the soul.
- A person who sees the objects illuminated by coloured light may not be able to judge the true colour of the objects. However, the same person viewing these objects illuminated by sunlight will see their true nature of its colours, without difficulty. Similarly, proper knowledge is essential to provide the right guidance to the soul in its journey towards spiritual uplifting.
- Right view and right knowledge are inter-dependent. A good analogy is a case of two men, one blind and another lame caught in a bush fire, and wanting to get to a safer place. If both co-operated, the blind can carry the lame man and the lame can direct on the path to take, thereby both safely getting out of the bush fire. Want of proper faith amounts to blindness and want of proper knowledge amounts to lameness. The two complement and support each other in refining the model and understanding the reality better. There is a fair degree of inter-play between the two and they are not only inter-twined but also linked with the third jewel, namely the conduct, where the knowledge is applied and experienced. Another good example to illustrate this point can be found in the fairly recent scientific history in the development of our knowledge base about light. For a long time, scientists modelled light as electromagnetic waves until photoelectricity was discovered requiring them to re-model it as both wave and a particle (Wave-particle duality). The point to make here is that our perceptions, including how we use our minds, are too limited in nature to understand and comprehend the complexities of reality. This means, the interaction between the three gems is very important to get to the real essence of nature. Jain philosophers have included the concept of multiple viewpoints in their philosophy, so as not to get attached to any one particular viewpoint or model.
- The jain theory of knowledge is a highly developed one based on comprehensive apprehension of reality in multitude of view points and relativity.
- Anekantavada, which literally means search of truth from different points of view, is the application of the principle of equality of souls in the sphere of thought. It is a jain philosophical standpoint just as there is the Advaitic standpoint of Sankara and the standpoint of the Middle Path of the Buddhists. This search leads to understanding and toleration of different and even conflicting views. When this happens prejudices subside and tendency to accommodate increases. The theory of Anekanta is therefore unique experiment of non-violence at the root.
- A derivation of this principle is the doctrine of Syadvada that highlights every view is relative to its view point. For example, when an object weighs 50 kilograms, the measurement is true in the gravitational environment of planet earth. The same object, when measured on the moon where the forces of gravity are entirely different, will be something else. It is a matter of our daily experience that the same object which gives pleasure to us under certain circumstances becomes boring under different situations. Nonetheless relative truth is undobutedly useful as it is a stepping stone to the ultimate realisation of reality. The theory of Syadvada is based on the premise that every proposition is only relatively true. It all depends on the particular aspect from which we approach that proposition. Jains therefore developed logic that encompasses sevenfold predication so as to assist in the construction of proper judgement about any proposition.
- Syadvada provides Jainas with a systematic methodology to explore the real nature of reality and consider the problem in a non-violent way from different perspectives. This process ensures that each statement is expressed from seven different conditional and relative viewpoints or propositions, and thus it is known as theory of conditioned predication. These seven propositions are described as follows:
- 1.Syād-asti — "in some ways it is"
- 2.Syād-nāsti — "in some ways it is not"
- 3.Syād-asti-nāsti — "in some ways it is and it is not"
- 4.Syād-asti-avaktavya — "in some ways it is and it is indescribable"
- 5.Syād-nāsti-avaktavya — "in some ways it is not and it is indescribable"
- 6.Syād-asti-nāsti-avaktavya — "in some ways it is, it is not and it is indescribable"
- 7.Syād-avaktavya — "in some ways it is indescribable"
- As Dr.S.Radhakrishnan stated "Attributes which are contradictory in the abstract, co-exist in life and experience. The tree is moving in the sense that its branches and leaves are moving when there is a wind and it is not moving since it is fixed to a place in the ground. It is necessary for us to know a thing is clearly and distinctly, in its self-existence as well as in its relations to other objects." There are numerous examples that can be referenced from the field of science to substantiate this view. Another way to approach the same example is that for an observer on earth, it would seem that the tree is stationary. But for an observer in space it will be moving along with earth.
- This means, no model of reality is absolute including religious/spiritual/philosophical concepts. However, each model provides insight into the working of the universe that are useful within the bounds of its framework and therefore useful under certain conditions.
- Right conduct is the application of the knowledge developed, so as to exercise control over our inner desires and reach a stage where there is no attachment or aversion. Jainism has well-developed processes for applying the knowledge in the right manner. It prescribes vows(vrats) in the areas of Non-violence, Truthfulness, Non-stealing, Control of senses, and Non-possessiveness. Monks and nuns follow these major vows strictly and totally, while the common people follow the vows as far as their lifestyles will permit.
- Apart from the above five major vows, Jainism recommends the following additional vows to common people for their improvement. The first three are grouped as merit vows and the last four are grouped as disciplinary vows.
- Limited area of activity vow (so as to minimize unavoidable violence as consequence of activity)
- Limited use of consumable and non-consumable items vow
- Avoidance of purposeless activities (without any reason or benefit) vow
- Meditation for limited duration (for example, every day for few minutes)
- Practice of ascetic life for limited duration (for example, once a day in a year)
- Constraining normal activities (in other dimensions in addition to limited area)
- Charitable work or contributions to the extent feasible
- The interesting aspect is that on this path there is a place for every one from the beginner to the most advanced seekers. Further, it encompasses all aspects of human life, namely social, personal, economic and spiritual leading to integrated development of the individual.
- This Jain path is open to all irrespective of caste, creed or class.
- Without the right conduct, there is no annihilation of Karmas.
- And without annihilation of karmas there is no liberation.
- Just like the light from millions of lamps is of no avail to a blind person, studying scriptures alone is of no use to a person who does not apply them.
Jain stages of spiritual developments (Gunasthan)
It is impossible for a newborn baby to have the knowledge, skills and capability of a brain surgeon. However, the child can go through a series of educational steps starting from the kindergarten and applying himself / herself to become an expert in its chosen field. Similarly, Jainism acknowledges that the soul advances to its liberated stage in various steps, called Gunasthan. Jain literature describes these states in detail. The following provides a concise summary on the various statuses of soul on its journey to spiritual advancement.
Awakening - Developing right view
1.Lowest stage with ignorance, delusion, and with intense attachments and aversions. This is the normal condition of all souls involved in the samsara, and is the starting point of spiritual evolution.
2.Indifference to reality with occasional vague memory of spiritual insight.
3.Fleeting moments of curiosity towards understanding reality.
4.Awareness of reality with trust developed in the right view, combined with willingness to practice self-discipline. The soul may be able to subdue the four passions, namely anger, pride, deceit and greed.
Developing right view and discipline
5. The soul now begins to observe some of the rules of right conduct with a view to perfecting itself. With the discipline of introductory or minor vows, the soul starts on the process of climbing the spiritual ladder.
6. Major vows taken up with firm resolve to control passions. There may be failures due to lack of full control over passions or carelessness.
Developing self discipline and knowledge
7. Intense practice of vows assisted in better self-control and virtually replaced carelessness with spiritual vigilance and vigor.
8. Closer to perfect self-control over actions, higher control over mind, thought and passions with the soul ready for reduction of the effects of conduct-deluding karma.
9. Higher control over removal of passions, and elimination of conduct-deluding karma begins.
10. Complete elimination of all passions except for subtle degree of attachment.
Gaining absolute knowledge and bliss
11. Suppressed passions and lingering conduct-deluding karma may rise to drag the soul to lower stages; fleeting experiences of equanimity.
12. This is the point of no return. All passions as well as conduct-deluding karma are eliminated. Permanent internal peace achieved. No new bondage from this point onwards.
13. All Ghatiya karma eliminated. Omniscience achieved and Arihant stage reached. However the perfected soul is still trapped in the physical body (with right knowledge attained).
14 Siddha stage reached. Purest soul associated with no physical body.
- Tattvartha Sutra
- Mehta, T.U (1993). "Path of Arhat - A Religious Democracy". 63. Pujya Sohanalala Smaraka Parsvanatha Sodhapitha. Retrieved 11 March 2008. Cite journal requires
- Jyoti Prasad Jain Dr. Essence of Jainism, Shuchita Publications, Varanasi, 1981
- Singh Ramjee Dr. Jaina Perspective in Philosophy and Religion,Pujya Sohanalala Smaraka Parsvanatha Sodhapitha, Faridabad, 1992
- Champat Rai, Fundamentals of Jainism, Vir Nirvan Smavat, Delhi, 1916