Jain Path To Liberation

Published: 25.06.2005
Updated: 23.07.2011

The ultimate purpose of all life and activity in Jainism is to realize the free and blissful state of our true being. True philosophy should result in removing all bondages (karmas) in the process of purifying the soul.

The central theme of Jainism considers religion as a science of ethical practice. The conduct of the present life should be aimed to attain total freedom from which there is no return to the birth and death cycle. Every soul can attain liberation and supreme spiritual state by realizing its intrinsic purity and perfection.

Jainism lays down a definitive course of practical moral discipline, contemplation of the highest truth, and reorientation of life in light of these for attaining ultimate reality or truth.

The principle features of Jainism ar

religious tolerance

ethical purity

harmony between self and one's environment

spiritual contentment

Jainism prescribes a path to liberation (Moksha), consists of the following trinity (ratna-traya):


right perception

samyak darsana


right knowledge

samyak jnana


right conduct

samyak charitrya

Right perception creates an awareness of reality or truth,
right knowledge impels the person to proper action,
and proper conduct leads him to the attainment of the total freedom.

They must coexist in a person if one is to make any progress on the path of liberation.

1. Right Perception (Samyak Darsana):

The first step in the process of self-realization is to discard superstitious beliefs and to adopt a rational attitude in life.
    • Right perception consists in seeing the true nature of every substances of the universe.
      Jainism advocates that one should first try to know, comprehend, and understand the nature of reality, one's own self, religious goal, and the path.
      One should analyze it, examine it, test it, verify it, and then, if satisfied, be convinced of its truth and efficacy.
    • From the practical point of view, perception in the nature of the reality means to have a total faith in the preachings of Tirthankars (Arihantas or Jain "Gods"), and their scriptures known as agams.
2. Right Knowledge (Samyak Jnana):

Right perception or faith makes us realize the reality of life, and the seriousness of our purpose in life.
Right knowledge is the true, correct, proper, and relevant knowledge of the reality.
To understand reality, one should know the constituent elements of universe and their relationship.

  • From the practical point of view, right knowledge means the proper knowledge of the six universal substances and nine principles or tattvas
Six Universal Substances:
  1. soul
  2. matter
  3. motion
  4. rest
  5. space
  6. time
Nine Tattvas:
  1. soul
  2. matter
  3. asrava
  4. bandh
  5. punya
  6. papa
  7. samvara
  8. nirjara
  9. moksha

Philosophically, the knowledge of reality is known as the theory of non-abslutism (Anekanvada) and calls for an attitude of openness.
Our limitations of knowledge dictate a style of relativity.
The style of Syadvada allows no room for assertions.

This Jain theory of knowledge, incorporating the two principles of non-absolutism and relativity, has made an esteemed contribution toward liberalizing the mind of human being.

Right knowledge makes us examine in detail the matter brought into the mind by right perception or conviction. Both are mental processes.

Right knowledge must be free from three main defects:

  1. doubt
  2. delusion
  3. indefiniteness.
3. Right Conduct (Samyak Charitrya):

Proper, correct, appropriate, and truly natural conduct of the living being (soul) is known as right conduct.

The main purpose for a human being is to free himself from  

That is to be free from all impure activities of thought, word, and deed. This will attain the state of perfect equanimity.

For practical purposes, right conduct comprises ethical codes, rules, and disciplines, which a human being is required to pursue for the ultimate freedom.

This resolves into taking the five great vows of an ascetic or five limited vows of householder.
















Right faith and right knowledge are required for right conduct, and all are interdependent.

Jains dedicate themselves to proper conduct through vows and subvows. Vows are at the heart of Jain morality and are undertaken with a full knowledge of their nature and a determination to carry them through.

right knowledge

right perception

right conduct

samyak darsana

samyak jnana

samyak charitrya

The trinity is necessary for a successful life.
This threefold discipline helps us realize our own intrinsic purity.
The trinity must be cultivated collectively to ensure liberation.

Individually, they are incomplete and insufficient because they are mutually dependent.

An individual, in his conduct can be guided by the examples of five benevolent personalities (panch parameshthi). They are:

Supreme human beings


Pure or perfect souls


Master teachers


Scholarly monks


Ascetics (monks)


Both arihantas and siddhas are the "Gods" of Jain religions. At present in the absence of arihantas, ascetics (acharyas, upadhyayas, and sadhus) provide the spiritual guidance.

Jain Study Center of North Carolina
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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acharyas
  2. Achaurya
  3. Agams
  4. Ahimsa
  5. Aparigraha
  6. Arihantas
  7. Arihants
  8. Asrava
  9. Bandh
  10. Brahmacharya
  11. Contemplation
  12. Darsana
  13. Discipline
  14. Dvesha
  15. Environment
  16. Equanimity
  17. Jainism
  18. Jnana
  19. Karmas
  20. Lokakash
  21. Moksha
  22. Nine Tattvas
  23. Nirjara
  24. Non-absolutism
  25. Non-violence
  26. Papa
  27. Punya
  28. Raga
  29. Sadhus
  30. Samvara
  31. Satya
  32. Science
  33. Soul
  34. Space
  35. Syadvada
  36. Tattvas
  37. Three Jewels
  38. Tirthankars
  39. Tolerance
  40. Upadhyayas
  41. siddhas
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