Narach Philosophy


We have observed that the Jaina religion is based on the theory of Nyaya and Sankhya systems of Philosophy, or the senses of knowledge and action, and so it is partly agnostic and partly atheistic in character. Corresponding to this we have its two schools, Svetambara and Digambara; and, if this theory be correct, they should have the following characteristics:

Svetambara: As the Svetambara school is based on Nyaya or the senses of knowledge, it should be agnostic in character and hold that, if God exists, he has either a very small share in the work of creation, or else is a mere spectator of Prakrti, who alone creates. Again, as we have the atomic theory of life in Nyaya, corresponding to the character of Ether on which it is based, we should get the same in this school as well. Then, as in Nyaya, we should be told that each substance has a Soul of its own. Necessary actions should be enjoined as a Sacrifice in this system, but knowledge should be regarded as the final goal; and finally, it should be identified with the Hinayana school of Buddhism, which too is based on the theory of Nyaya as we have explained.

Digambara: The Digambara School is based on the theory of pure Sankhya, the senses of action, or Prakrti, and so it should be atheistic in character and hold that there is no p1 ice for God in the scheme of the universe. Like the Sankhya it should hold that all life is created by Prakrti alone; that it is full of sorrow, misery, and death; that each substance has a Soul of its own; that all actions, even those performed as a Sacrifice, must be renounced; and that knowledge is the only end. But, as the Sankhya is unable to explain how the Soul can make itself free from the toils of Prakrti, the Digambara school should be equally silent on this pointy Further, as we have observed, the Sankhya is purely monistic in respect of the creative character of Prakrti, even as Vedanta is in respect of God; and this should be the point of view of this school as well.

The Basis of Jainism; the Senses and the Atom: We have observed that the whole theory of Jainism is based on the creative energy of the senses of knowledge and action, the latter being associated with Prakrti or food. We have also explained that Ether, which is the basis of the senses of knowledge and action, is closely allied to the Atom, which may be said to be matter situated in Ether. Hence we are told that, according to Jainism, "Matter is an eternal substance undetermined with regard to quantity and quality. ... It may assume any form and develop various qualities. ... It is the vehicle of energy which is essentially kinetic or of the nature of motion. The motion belongs to the substance and is of two kinds, simple motion, or parispanda, and evolution, or parinama. Pudgala (substance or matter) is the physical basis of the world. . . .The qualities of touch, taste, smell, colour and sound are associated with Pudgala. The Jainas argue that everything in the world except souls and space is produced from matter. There is also subtle matter beyond the reach of our senses and this is transformed into the different degrees, of Karma (action).

Again, "the Jaina physics has for its chief principle the atomic structure of the universe the physical objects apprehended by the senses consist of atoms. An atom is infinitesimal, eternal, ultimate. It is neither created nor destroyed ... The atoms are said to possess weight ... Each atom has a kind of taste, colour, smell, and contact ... Material things are produced by the combination of atoms which are subject to mutual attraction. Two atoms form a compound ... The attraction and repulsion of atoms are admitted by the Jainas ... It is said that the atom may develop a motion of its own so swift that it traverses in one moment the whole universe from one end to the other".

Then Karma or action itself is conceived of in terms of matter and so we are told that "Karma, according to Jainas, is of material nature. ... Karma is a substantive force, matter in a subtle form".

We have observed that Jainism conceives of all things, including the Soul, in terms of the senses, matter, or atom. Hence, though the Soul might be regarded as something different from matter, it is still understood in its light. Hence we are told that "the Soul by its commerce with the outer world becomes literally penetrated, with the particles of subtle matter. These become karma and build up a special body, called Karmanasarira, which does not leave the Soul till its final emancipation.

Except in final release the Soul is always in connection with matter, the link between the two being karma. Thus we see that Jainism conceives of all life in terms of the twofold character of Ether, the senses of knowledge and action, atom, and matter. As in Nyaya, the Mind itself is regarded as "a sixth internal organ"; and though the highest Soul may not be spoken of as material, every speck, every atom, every particle of matter has a soul of its own, and the two cannot be separated till the final emancipation of the soul. This is Jiva, "a combination of the two material-spiritual". Then, even as the pure Sankhya cannot explain how the two once free, came together in the beginning or how they can ever become separate again, Jainism too cannot tell us exactly how the Soul can be liberated and attain Nirvana, for "salvation is inconsistent with a separate personality that is throughout hampered by what is external and contingent, and is bound up with the bodily organism and nature itself".

Jainism in the Sacred Books: Corresponding to the pure Sankhya point of view, we are told that the Jainas hold that there is no God. They believe that everything is possessed of a soul; not only have plants their own souls, but particles of earth, cold water, fire, and wind too. They hold that the souls are of limited dimensions; that there are four kinds of bodies, of earth, water, fire, and air; and these elementary bodies are the elements or the most minute particles of them, inhabited by particular souls. But, as in the Sankhya, the soul is not to be identified with the body. Then, passing on from the pure Sankhya to Nyaya, Jainism holds that the individual Soul is characterised by knowledge and faith as well as by action, austerity, and energy, and realises all truth by experience. The Soul is fettered by its bad qualities, which are the cause of its worldly existence. Action (Karman) in its subdivision is infinite, and a wise man should know how to destroy it. Then we are told that perfection is attained by cutting off both love and hate, and that Right discipline rids us of worldly ties. Without Right faith there is no Right knowledge; without Right knowledge there is no virtuous conduct; without virtues there is no deliverance; and without deliverance there is no perfection (Nirvana); thus is it said.

Thus, while the pure atheist has no hope of escape from the bondage of Prakrti, Jainism, by rising from the pure Sankhya to Nyaya, allies itself with Buddhism and Saivism, and succeeds in providing means of freedom through knowledge and Righteous conduct.

Svetambara and Digambara Schools: We have observed that, corresponding to these two aspects of Jainism we have its two philosophical schools, the Svetambara and Digambara, the former being agnostic, and the latter atheistic. It is generally believed that the main difference between the two sects relates to a single point, viz., that the former hold that monks should wear white garments, and the latter that they should wear none. But we have pointed out that the former refer to Nyaya and the latter to the Sankhya and all that these systems imply. We have pointed out that the Hinayana school of Buddhism and the Svetambara school of Jainism are identified and both are agnostic of God; and though there is little difference in regard to the philosophical tents of the Svetambara and Digambara schools for, as we have explained, the radical idea of both is that it is Prakrti who creates we see that the two are regarded as distinct, and the Digambara were stigmatized as heretics, and referred to as atheists.

The question of wearing or not wearing clothes the chief point of difference between the two schools cannot be examined in a limited sense. It is inconceivable that a body of clear thinkers like the Jaina philosophers should have limited themselves in this way; and the whole problem is to be understood in the light of the ethics of Nyaya and Sankhya on which the two schools are based. We have observed that the chief difference between the two relates to the idea of action as a Sacrifice. The Sankhya holds that knowledge alone is the goal of life and that all actions of whatever kind must be renounced if salvation is to be achieved. Nyaya, on the other hand, while agreeing that knowledge is the final goal, holds that necessary actions must be performed as a Sacrifice, that is, unselfishly and for the good of all, and such actions have no effect of bondage on the Soul. Now the most necessary things of life are food, clothing, and shelter; and in civilized life clothes would probably be given the primary place. The Svetambara school, based on Nyaya, must, therefore, hold that we must perform these necessary duties, wear clothes, eat food, and find shelter or a dwelling place; while the Digambara school, based on the pure Sankhya, must insist that even these must be renounced if the ultimate goal is to be attained and so we are told that "the Digambara hold that the Kevalins or perfected saints live without food, that a monk who owns any property, such as wearing clothes, cannot reach Nirvana. Finally, the Nyaya associates Prakrti with Purusha, though as a spectator or with but a small share in the creation of life; whereas the pure Sankhya has no place for him. Hence, while the Svetambara are allowed to marry, they are advised to have as little association with woman as possible; whereas pure celibacy is the ideal of the Digambara, and they "think that Vardhamana (the founder of their school) never married".

Knowledge and Action as the Goals of Life: As Jainism corresponds to Sankhya and Nyaya, it should regard knowledge or action as the goal of life in the light of these systems; and we have shown that the Sankhya holds that all actions must be abandoned and knowledge is the only goal; while Nyaya is less uncompromising, and agrees that necessary acts should be performed as a Sacrifice, but holds that knowledge is the ultimate end.

Corresponding to this we are told that Karman (Action) binds all Souls, and it binds the whole Soul in all its parts in every possible way. The subdivision of Karman is infinite; and therefore a wise man should exert himself to prevent and destroy all actions. We cannot escape the effects of our actions; all beings reap the fruits of their actions; and, living in Samsara (world of life), we ever acquire new karman, and suffer for our misdeeds. Our sinful actions pursue, us in life beyond this earth, and bear us down to hell; and so a wise man, knowing the misery that results from action, should cease from bad actions, restrain himself, and lead a religious life, and so destroy all karman. All actions cannot be abandoned; and so a man should destroy the effect of actions by Righteous conduct, practice of austerities, self control, and freedom from passion, and so following the Law, he becomes virtuous and Righteous, acquires perfect knowledge, ceases from action, and crosses the great ocean of existence. This is true sacrifice, which saves ourselves and others.

Thus, the Jainas believe in the necessity of action as well its annihilation, and this corresponds to the twofold aspect of this religion related to Nyaya and the pure Sankhya. The characteristics of the Soul are knowledge, faith, conduct, austerities, energy, and realization of its development. But the highest of all is knowledge, and only a man of limited discrimination talks of its inefficiency.