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Jain concept of karma

The Self is a conscious entity. Its essence is pure consciousness, which is never destroyed.

india Updated: Jul 17, 2006 11:35 IST

In response to Robert Zydenbos’ Inner Voice extract on Friday, July 14, I’d like to add that the concept of karma theory is very peculiar in Jain philosophy.

Karma here is not a deed of action but subtle matters, called pudagala in Jain philosophy, which etymologically means “that which is liable to integration and disintegration.” What is this Karmic matter and how and why is it attracted towards the Self ? But before we can understand that, let us try to understand what the Jainas mean by the concept of Self.

According to Jains, the Self is a conscious entity different from the body. It is not the body. Its essence is pure consciousness, which is never destroyed. It possesses infinite knowledge, infinite wisdom, infinite power and infinite bliss. These are the essential qualities of the Self, which is pure and perfect in itself.

What is other than the Self may be called matter, which is the cause of an un clean veil on the Self, due to which the Self cannot shine in its natural conditions.

Matter or pudagala  that attracts the Self is invisible to our eyes. It belongs to the whole atmosphere or the universe and due to actions by body, mind and speech it is attracted towards the Self. This is the functioning of an unhealthy relationship. The old matter already accumulated with the Self affect its present activity and present activities determine the future of the Self. But the relation of Self and matter is not permanent.

When the Self gets hold of the bhedjnana  or viveka  or samyak darshana, that is, the Self realises that matter and Self are different, it tries to seek the causes of the relation and avoid these causes. In Jain scriptures, the passions (kashays) are said to be the causes of the unclean link. Therefore when the Self gives up passions with the help of mental and bodily discipline and through proper, regular meditation, it becomes pure and attains infinite knowledge. This pure self may be called Jina arhat or paramatma.