In Jain philosophy, karma are classified in many different ways. They are classified as Ghäti or Aghäti karma depending upon whether they subdue the qualities or innate nature of the soul or create physical environment of a living being. The same karma are also classified in a different way into Punya and Päp karma categories. Also, in Jain literature we come across other types of Karma like Dravya Karma, Bhava Karma, and Nokarma. However this article is not discussing these three types of karma.
Acquiring Karma and its Consequences
Jain philosophy explains that Karma is a matter which is made up of very fine and subtle particles that one cannot see or feel by any physical means. The entire universe is filled with such particles (we need to believe this by faith only).
When these karma particles attach (bond) to the soul it is called the bondage of karma. In general the bondage of karma occurs due to the soul's Mithyätva (illusion or ignorance), Avirati (vowlessness), Pramäda (spiritual laziness), Kashäya (anger, ego, deceit, greed etc.) and Yoga (activities of the mind, body, and speech).
Such bondage occurs for certain duration only. We do not have any karma attached to us forever. When the time of the attachment of karma is over then these karma will create an environment surrounding the soul and then they will immediately separate from the soul. The soul that is surrounded by such environment may feel pleasure or pain based on the surroundings created by these various types of karma and hence we acquire new karma. This process occurs at every moment in our life. This way under normal circumstances we will never be free of karma because at every moment we remove some old karma and acquire some new karma.
Types of Karma
Ghäti karma subdue the innate qualities of a soul namely; infinite happiness (faith and conduct), infinite knowledge, infinite perception or vision, and infinite power or energy. They are divided into four categories.
Deluding Karma obscures blissful nature or happiness (faith and conduct) of the soul
Obscures infinite Knowledge of the soul
Obscures infinite Perception of the soul
Obstructs infinite Power and Energy of the soul
Aghäti karma are non-destructive to the innate qualities of the soul but are responsible for the creation of physical body, physical mind, social environment, and life span for the soul. They are also divided into four categories.
Creates Favorable or Unfavorable Physical Environment for the Soul
Physical Body and Physique Determining Karma
Status Determining Karma
Life Span Determining Karma
The above 8 categories of karma are divided into many (about 120) sub-categories. The same sub-categories are also categorized differently into Punya and Pap karma categories.
Punya or Pious Karma
We acquire Punya or pious karma when we perform or reflect upon virtuous activity with or without a feeling of self-satisfaction and accomplishment. When Punya karma matures they produce a result; they will create favorable environment conducive to spiritual life such as human life, healthy body, comfort, moral family etc.
A person may use such circumstances to progress himself spiritually or a person may use it to increase his power, fame, luxury, and/or comfort. This depends upon the person's free will or self determination (Purushärtha). However, if a person decides to progress further spiritually his Punya karma will have created a proper environment for him to do so. All Tirthankars fall into this category. In contrast however a few Chakravarti kings used this type of environment to increase their power throughout their life and went on to hell to suffer.
We acquire Pap or sinful karma when we perform or reflect on any non-virtuous work associated with violence, dishonesty, stealing, not behaving chastely, attachment to worldly objects, anger, conceit, deceit, lust, revenge, and having impure thoughts. When the Päp karma mature and the results come to fruition, they will create an unfavorable environment which may bring misery, discomfort, unhappiness, and dissatisfaction to the living being. Under such environment, one rarely progresses spiritually.
Muni Kuragudu's life is one example that comes close to this situation. Due to Punya karma, he attained human life and became monk. However due to some Pap karma he could not fast (Upaväs) even on Samvatsari day. Yet he attained Keval-Jnän and liberation because he remained equanimous under very adverse circumstances.
Relationship among Ghäti, Aghäti, Punya and Pap karma
All Ghäti karma subdue the innate qualities of the soul and hence all four categories of Ghäti karma and all their sub-categories are classified as Päp or sinful karma.
Only Aghäti karma that are responsible for the physical environment of a living being are classified as the result of Punya karma or Pap karma.
· Certain sub-categories of Aghäti karma that produce a human life, a healthy body, high social status, and a longer life span are considered the result of Punya or virtuous karma.
· Certain sub-categories of Aghäti karma produce an unhealthy body, a shorter life span, low social status, poverty, birth in hell, or as an animal, insect, or in a vegetative state or similar categories. These are considered the result of Päp or sinful karma.
In summary all Punya Karma are Aghäti karma while Pap karma belongs to both Ghäti and Aghäti karma.
Discussion on Ghäti, Aghäti, Punya and Pap karma
Under normal circumstances, the environment created by Päp or sinful karma are not conducive to the spiritual progress of a soul because it produces an unhealthy body, a shorter life span, low social status, poverty, birth in hell, or as insects, animals etc.
Only the environment created by Punya karma are conducive to attain higher spiritual state because they can result in human birth, healthy body, spiritual education, a longer life span and so on. Without a human life and spiritual environment one cannot attain a Vitaräga state (a spiritual state beyond attachment and aversion) and hence Keval jnän (infinite knowledge).
Jain philosophy states that the following karma related events occur in the life of every living being:
· At every moment all 8 categories of karma (4 Ghäti karma and 4 Aghäti karma) together produce results and then they are released from the soul.
· At every moment 7 of 8 categories of new karma are attached to the soul and only once in a life time a soul acquires all 8 categories of karma. Äyu karma of the next life is acquired only once in a current life time.
· Only the Mohaniya karma (Mithyätva and Kashäya together) is responsible for the bondage of new karma of all 8 categories.
· In the absence of Mohaniya karma, no new karma are attached to the soul because of the presence of Jnänävaraniya, Darshanävaraniya, Antaräya, Vedaniya, näma, Gotra, and Äyu Karma.
If we think in terms of Punya and Pap karma, we can conclude that at every moment a person, who is always under the influence of Mohaniya karma, may acquire either all Pap karma or both Punya and Pap karma by reflecting and doing non-virtuous or virtuous activities.
Under no circumstances, a person will acquire only Punya karma and no Pap karma. This happens because any virtuous work done under the influence of Mithyätva and Kashäya will result in acquiring some Pap karma along with Punya karma. This process continues until one attains a very high spiritual state known as Vitaräga state (Spiritual state of 12th Gunasthänak).
Therefore; at every moment, we should be very alert and try our best to acquire maximum Punya karma and minimum Pap karma. Under such effort a net reduction in Ghäti karma will occur because all Ghäti karma are Pap karma only.
This can be accomplished by continuously reflecting on to the reduction of our Mithyätva and Kashäya (reduce Karta Bhava or ego) while continuously reflecting and doing pious or virtuous activities of body, speech and mind.
The highest pious activities of body, speech and mind are the six Abhyantar Tapa (internal austerities): Präyashchitta (repentance for bad deeds), Vinay (humility towards all living beings), Vaiyävruttya (rendering selfless service all living beings), Swädhyäy (study of the spiritual literature), Dhyäna (meditation on the nature of the soul), and Käyotsarga or Vyutsarga (remain in a complete state of equanimity).
In practicing these activities one eliminates all Ghäti karma and attains Vitaräga state and Keval-jnän. After the attainment of Keval-jnan, a person will have only punya karma left to shed. This will happen at the end of current life and results in the person attaining liberation.
Discussion of Two Important Questions
1. Sometimes people argue that "pap karma is an iron chain and punya karma is a golden chain for the soul”. Since both are ‘matter’, neither can liberate the soul. The soul is liberated by becoming free of ‘matter’; both punya and pap.
Spiritually the above logic is not correct because when a person removes all his Ghäti Pap Karma he attains Keval-jnän. All his Punya karma and other Aghäti Pap karma matter is still attached to him, but those karma cannot stop him in the attainment of liberation.
However, the above logic has created a incorrect perception in our community’s mind that Jainism is a selfish religion and hinders the people from doing virtuous work.
2. In my teaching of Jain religion, I generally ask the following question:
Mahävir swämi attained Keval-jnän at the age of 42 and then he travelled for 30 years to preach the truth he has realized to the people. At the age of 72 he attained nirvana or liberation.
Why did he travel for 30 years to preach? He could have stayed at one of the cave in a meditation and still attain the liberation.
I get only one answer - Because of Tirthankar Näma Karma
In my opinion this is an incorrect statement, and here is my logical explanation:
Keval-Jnäni possesses "Yathäkhyäta Chäritra"; meaning his conduct is natural and according to the innate nature of the soul. In this state no karma can influence him. Karma has maximum influence on the people who are at Mithyätva state (1st Gunasthänak) and have no influence who are in a Keval-Jnäni state (13th Gunasthänak). So the answer does not fit the Jain philosophy at all.
The correct answer is that "Because of Compassion" Mahavir Swami preached two or three times a day every day and travelled for 30 years. Compassion is the innate nature of the soul. To indicate that "because of näma karma" he traveled and preached does not fit into the definition of what is natural conduct for a Keval-Jnäni.
A Word of Caution with Regards to Punya Karma
While doing virtuous activities, many a times due to our ignorance of reality (Mithyätva) and ego (Kashäya), a person feels (reflects) that because of his good effort or action many people are being helped or that because he is a big donor, a temple or hospital was able to be built. In doing such deeds, he receives a high social status and he takes great pride of this status.
But in acquiring these valid Punya or virtuous karma for his good deeds, he at the same time acquires maximum Pap karma because he has done the good work under the very high influence of Mohaniya karma to gain power and fame (Karta Bhava).
Hence Jainism warns that any virtuous activity done under Mithyätva and Kashäya state ultimately results in a sinful activity to that person even though other people and animals, and environment are being helped.
Only Ghäti karma and in particular Mohaniya karma hinders the soul in acquiring the Vitaräga State. Once one attains a state of Vitaräga by removing all Mohaniya karma, other three Ghäti karma become powerless and they are destroyed within 48 minutes without any effort and a person attains Keval-jnän. A Keval-Jnäni person attains liberation at the end of the current life and no fallback occurs during this time.
In the absence of Mohaniya karma, all other karma become totally powerless even though their present exist. None of them can provide any obstacle in the attainment of soul's liberation. Now theoretically one can say that any karma is a hindrance to the attainment of liberation, but it has no spiritual value.
Are We Capable of Removing Aghäti Karma before their Maturity?
No human being is capable of removing any Aghäti karma before their maturity. At the most we can modify them from one sub-category to another sub-category within the same group. Hence everyone has to complete these karma. Even after the attainment Keval-jnän, a person is not capable of removing such karma. They all have to wait until the completion of Äyu karma, because Äyu karma cannot be modified in the last life.
In case of a kevali person, if his time of Äyu karma is less than the maturity time of the remaining three Aghäti karma, then the kevali performs Samudghat near the end of his life. He expands his soul and spreads it across the entire universe (spreads throughout the 14 Rajlok area). This way he forces the remaining three Aghäti karma to mature earlier and produce their result in a very short time. After the completion of the three Aghäti karma, he withdraws his soul into his body. Then he withdraws his activities of body, speech, and mind. Now his spiritual state is considered 14th Gunasthänak. He stays in this state for few seconds and attains Nirvana.
In conclusion, we can say that we have to complete the maturity cycle of all Aghäti karma. Only Kevali can force the Aghati karma to mature earlier to coincide with the maturity time of the Ayu karma. However no one can force Ayu Karma of the last life to mature earlier.
One can easily conclude that in order to attain liberation, Jain philosophy teaches us that we continuously need to do virtuous activities like helping others, showing compassion to all beings, following a strict vegetarian (Vegan) diet, study and discussion of religion (Svädhyäya), and protecting the environment. However, while doing virtuous activities, we should remain very alert and should not get trapped by fame, power, high social status or frustration of not accomplishing the result. In other words we continuously need to reduce or eliminate Mohaniya (Mithyätva and Kashäya) karma.
Never think that Jainism teaches that Punya is a karma that hinders the soul in attaining liberation. Punya is a good Aghäti karma and no Aghäti karma hinders any innate qualities of the soul and hence Vitaräga state and Keval-jnäna. On the contrary Punya karma provide a favorable environment for the soul to attain Keval-jnän. It is our free will or determination (Purushärtha) that determines how we use of the favorable environment.
The Mohaniya karma is the single most dangerous karma because due to this karma we acquire all other karma and hence one cannot attain Vitaräga state and in result, Keval-jnän.
The Mohaniya karma can easily be removed if we properly use the environment created by Punya karma for our spiritual growth, which is a human life-form, a healthy body, a good spiritual education, and so on. In conclusion, the essence of Jain philosophy is very clear. In order to attain liberation, one should continuously do virtuous activities without any expectation of the fruits of his work. In future this will provide a more conducive environment to eliminate Mohaniya karma which is the only karma that hinders a person's ability in attaining Keval-jnän and liberation. Without the presence of Mohaniya karma, all other karma become powerless.
Pravin K Shah
Jaina Education Committee
Raleigh, NC USA
February 18, 2011