KARMA THEORY IN JAINISM
by Prof. A.Chakravarti
The conception of Karma is a special feature of Jaina thought. The term "Karma" is used in different senses by different philosophical systems. The vedic schools of thought speak of Karmakanda as different from Gyanakanda. There, the Karma is synonymous with the action. The term has the same significance in Karmayoga as different from Gyanayoga. The term Karma used Karma theory according to Jainism has different significance. It is used in Jainism as an important factor in the development of organic world. In Poorva Meemamsa and Buddhism, every action is supposed to leave behind it, its effect in the form of Adrushta or Vasana. The term Adrushta was used by Poorva Meemamsa School, which signifies the after-effect of a sacrifice performed by an individual. This after-effect or Adrushta, which means, "Not perceived," is supposed to shape the future destiny of the individual who performs the sacrifice or Karma. Similarly, the Buddhist thinkers who do not postulate self or Atma, speak of the Vasana the after-effect of the psychic life. The only reality according to Buddhist philosophy is the series of psychic stages experienced by an individual. Neither the external world of objective reality nor the self is accepted by the Buddhist thinkers.
They introduced the conception of Vasana or the after-effect of particular stage in order to explain the causal relation of the psychic stages to one another. In all these cases, the theory of Karma has not been fully analysed as it is done in Jaina thought. Most of the Indian systems of philosophy do not accept the theory of creation; hence, they do not postulate the creator who is responsible for producing the world of things and persons. Since the Jaina thinkers do not accept the theory of creator, they cannot get satisfaction by referring these changes to the will of the creating deity. Hence, they have to provide a rational explanation for all the changes observed in the concrete world. How are the organic beings born? What are the factors, which contribute to their growth and development? Why do they cease to exist after a certain period of life? What happens to them after the disintegration of their bodies? All these problems are explained by the theory of Karma. This theory is similar to that of Charles Darvin who attempted to give a rational and scientific explanation in the Origin of Species.
The term Karma implies two things. Certain material particles, which constitute the different karmas, are called Dravya Karma. The impure psychic conditions which from the causal factors for the accumulation of karmic material particles constitutes Bhava Karma. Those two classes are inter-related to each other. Organisms in the concrete world are all characterised by the inter-play of these two kinds of Karmas. Jaina philosophy postulates two distinct types of reality,
Chetana and Achetana, spiritual and non-spiritual. Organisms in the world of living beings have both these aspects. The body of the organism is constituted by material particles and the body is associated with conscious being, which operates through the body, the body being a suitable vehicle for the manifestation of the conscious Ego. The Ego in its pure form is not related to the material body in any form. But in the concrete world the Chetana spirit and Achetana matter, these two, are found in association. What is the cause of this unholy alliance? When was the pure Ego first entangled itself into the material meshes? This question has in meaning for the Indian thinkers in general. Irrespective of their different philosophical systems, all of them assume that the embodied
existence of the Ego has no beginning. According to them, Samsara is Andi. The term "Samsara" is used to denote the world of organism characterised by birth, growth and development and decay and death. This world of Samsara is considered to be Anadi without beginning. Though this world of Samsara is taken as Anadi, still and individual in this world may hope to achieve a state of existence, which is not subject to the changes of birth, growth and death, the characteristic changes of Samsaric existence.
This state of existence, which knows no rebirth, is assumed to be the goal of life, state of liberation or Moksha.
An individual living being whether human or sub-human, is subjected to birth and death. But after death, which result in the dissolution of the body, there still survives the spiritual entity the Ego which has to be born again in the world of Samsara and continue its life of birth, growth and death once again. This must go on indefinitely till the self attains its final liberation. What is the characteristic of the Ego at the time of the death of the organism? Except the Indian materialistic school of Charvakas, all the other Indian systems of philosophy believe that the soul survives after death, The Jaina system also accepts this doctrine that the soul survives death; at the disintegration of the body, the surviving soul is still associated with a subtle body constituted by Karmic particles. This subtle body is called Karmana Sarira, body constituted by subtle karmic material particles. This Karmana Sarira is unalienable, associated with the soul throughout its career of births and deaths in the world of Samsara. This Karmana Sarira will be broken up and destroyed at the last stage when the soul attains its pure nature. The causes by which this Karmana Sarira is built up, how this affects the nature of the pure self, how the pure self is obscured and prevented from its free expression, are all connected with and explained by the Theory of Karmas according to Jaina thought.
The karmic particles which constitute this subtle body are said to be 8 different kinds. Some of these karmic particles grouped together form a distinct class, which has the characteristic of obstructing or preventing the knowledge, which is an intrinsic quality of the pure Ego or self. This is called Gnanavarniya Karma, the karma which covers and obstructs Gyana or knowledge of the self. This is again subdivided into 5 classes, which are called:
Mathi Gnana Varniya,
Sruthi Gnana Varniya,
Avadhi Gnana Varniya,
Mana Paryaya Gnana Varniya and
Kevala Gnana Varniya.