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Philosophy of Jainism



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Jainism believes that in this world dravyas, i.e. the substances are real as they are characterized by existence. Jainism also believes that the entire substance of the     universe can be broadly divided into two major categories, viz, jva i.e.    living, or soul and ajva i.e. non-living, or non - soul. These two categories exhaust between them all that exists in the universe. Jaina philosophy is based on the nature and interaction of these two elements.   

It is the interaction between the living and non-living, when they come into contact with each other, that certain energies generate which bring about birth, death and various experiences of life. This process can be stopped, and energies already forged can be destroyed by course of discipline leading to salvation.

A close analysis of this brief statement about Jaina philosophy shows that it involves the following  seven propositions:

  • that there is some thing, called living;

  • that there is some thing, called non-living;

  • that the two come into contact with each other;

  • that the contact leads to production of some energies;

  • that the process of contact could be stopped;

  • that the existing energies could also be exhausted; and

  • that the salvation could be achieved                                                    

These seven propositions imply the seven tattvas or principles of Jaina philosophy. These are termed as follows:-


sn Scriptural Name Meaning
1 jva living substance
2 ajva non-living substance
3 sava the influx of karmic matter into the soul
4 bandha bondage of soul by karmic- matter
5 sam'vara stopping of srava, the influx
6 nirjar the gradual removal of karmic
7 moksa the attainment of perfect freedom from the karmas


In addition to above Some scriptures define Punya (virtue) and Ppa (sin) as separate tattvas while others include them in srava.  In reality Punya and Ppa are the result of Asrava.  Hence truly there exist only seven tattvas.


It is clear that the first two tattvas deal with the nature and enumeration of the eternal substances of the nature, and the remaining five tattvas are concerned with interaction between and separation of these two eternal substances, viz., jva and ajva, sprit and matter. In jaina religion much importance has been given to these seven tattvas as every soul would be aspirant for moksa, i.e., salvation. To achieve the ultimate goal a person has to understand the nature of these tattvas. These seven tattvas point to two groups of substances: soul and non-soul. Non-soul. Non -soul is all that is not soul, devoid of sentience             ( capable of feeling). Hence the really sentient object is the soul.

A recognition of these two entities-- soul and non- soul-- at once marks out the Jaina philosophy as dualistic and quite distinguishable from the monistic Vedanta philosophy which accepts only one reality without a second.

In view of the distinguishing feature of Jainism it is necessary to have proper conception of these seven tattvas of Jaina philosophy.

The Jain Reality  (Six Universal Substances)-Dravya

Jainism states that the universe is without a beginning or an end, and is everlasting and eternal. Six fundamental entities (known as Dravya) constitute the universe.


The Six Universal Substances or Entities (Dravyas) are as follows:


sn Scriptural Name English Name Characteristics
1 jva Soul or Consciousness Living substance
2 Pudgal Ajva/matter Non-living substance
3 Dharma Medium of motion Non-living substance
4 Adharma Medium of rest Non-living substance
5 ksh Space Non-living substance
6 Kla Time Non-living substance


A brief description about these substances (Dravyas) is given as under:-


jva:- The jvameans soul or spirit / atman. The jva is essentially an undivided base of consciousness and there is an infinity of them. The whole world is literally filled with them. The souls are substances and as such they are eternal. Their characteristics  mark is consciousness that can never be destroyed. Basically the soul is all perfect and all powerful. But by ignorance soul identifies itself with matter and hence all its trouble and degradation start. 


Ajva-As we have seen Jaina philosophy starts with a perfect division of the universe into living and non-living substances, jva and ajva. The ajva, i.e. non-living or non-soul substances are of five kinds, namely, (i) Pudgala, i.e. matter, (ii) dharma i.e. medium of motion, (iii) adharma , i.e. medium of rest,  (iv) akash i.e., space and (v) Kla, i.e. time. The following is the description of each of these substances as follows:-


(i) Pudgala, i.e. matter:- Whatever is perceived by the senses, the sense organs themselves, the various kinds of bodies of jvas, the mind, the karmas, and the other material objects- all of these are known as pudgala or matter.


(ii) Dharma i.e. medium of motion:-  Dharma is the principal of motion, the accompanying circumstances or cause which makes motion possible. Just as water itself, being indifferent or neutral, is the condition of movement of fishes, so dharma, itself non-motive, is the sine qua non of motion of jvas and pudgalas. Hence the dharma is co-terminus with the universe, and is one substance unlike jva and pudgala which are infinite in number.


(iii) Adharma , i.e. medium of rest:- Adharma or the principle of the rest has all the characteristics associated with dharma. But it is like the earth the sine qua non of rest for things in motion.


(iv) Akash i.e., space:- What contains or accommodates completely all jvas and pudgalas and the remaining dravyas in the universe is termed as akash or space. It is very pertinent to note that in Jaina philosophy the term akash means space and not ether as it is very often interpreted in other systems of Indian philosophy.


(v) Kla, i.e. time:- That which is the cause or circumstances of the modification of the soul and other dravyas is Kla, that is, time. It is immaterial and it has the peculiar attribute of helping the modification of other substances.


It is thus clear that dharma, adharma and akasha are each a single dravya, whereas jva, pudgala and Kla are held to be manifold dravyas.


Further, it must be remembered that the doctrines of Jainism firmly emphasize that these six jva and ajva dravyas, i.e., living and non-living substances, are externally existing, uncreated and with no beginning in time. As substances they are eternal and unchanging but their modifications are passing through a flux of changes. Their mutual co-operation and interaction explain all that we imply by the term 'creation'. Hence the doctrine of Jainism do not admit of any 'Creator' of this universe.



Note:-For details about  Nav-tattavs refer relevant pages on this web site.

The contents of this article are the extract from the book 'Aspects of Jaina Religion' written by Dr Vilas A. Sangave.

The words shown in Italic are from Prakrit Language.



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