Tattvartha Sutra ► Conclusion

Posted: 14.08.2017

Since we have now finished the discussion of Tattvarthasutra, it is the time to review a few significant aspects of the book. As stated in the introduction, the book enjoys a unique position on two grounds. One is that it is the oniy important composition that is acceptable to all sects of Jainism. That is because the book was probably written before the sectarian tendencies took strong roots. Secondly it contains almost everything that Jainism has to convey. It can therefore serve as a source book for Jainism.

The emphasis of spiritual science is on misery and unhappiness lying inherent in the worldly life and on the existence of soul that has to bear the same. The worldly life arises on account of Karma, which the worldly soul happens to acquire continually. It can, however, be free from the bondage of Karma and the purpose of the spiritual science is to show the way for that. In other words, the spiritualism conveys that there is soul; it is everlasting, acquires Karma, bears the consequence and can be liberated by pursuing the right path.

The approach of spiritual science in dealing with such aspects is not different from that which we adopt for worldly projects. If, for instance, we want to undertake a manufacturing project, we would study the properties of the article to be produced, the articles that can compete with it, the required raw materials, how the article can be made, the ways to maintain its purity, cost of production, selling price etc. Since our objective is to make profit, the entire decision making apparatus would revolve around that objective.

The approach of Tattvartha Sutra is like that. Its objective is to point out the way for gaining the lasting happiness. Therefore, after specifying the types of knowledge in the first chapter, it proceeds towards the life that the worldly souls undergo in different states of existence. It states that such existence depends upon soul's interaction with the lifeless matter. It discusses the worldly state in terms of conscious soul, lifeless matter, incoming of Karma, its binding with soul, its prevention and eradication. If one prevents the acquisition of new Karma and eradicates the bondage, he can gain the Karmaless state. That is termed as liberation. These seven aspects arise by the soul's interaction or absence of interaction with the lifeless objects. It is therefore worth to restate here what Tattvartha Sutra has to say in that respect.

The interaction continues to take place among living beings, among lifeless particles and also between living beings and lifeless matter. We are concerned with the last one, because the worldly life consists of the conscious beings stimulating some activity and the rest of the objects reacting to the same. But at times the nature stimulates action in the form of earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunami waves, floods, famines etc., which radically change situations and conscious beings have to react in the form of readjustments to the changed situations.

The western world terms this action and reaction as a dichotomy prevailing between human beings and the rest of the nature. The essence of worldly life is interpreted as the endeavor to win bread, shelter and comforts from the nature. By virtue of the scientific development, the human society has virtually secured its requirements of bread and shelter and has also gained reasonable amount of comforts. Its fight for more comforts is still going on and for that purpose it is continually waging war against the nature. With scientific developments at its command, it is now in a position to make concerted efforts to win more comforts.

It is, however, a fact that despite the most careful and meticulous planning and putting in the best possible efforts to implement the same, we do not always get the desired results. Some unknown element happens to come in the way and that changes or spoils our plan. Which factor actually changes the direction of the course baffles the western mind. But for the eastern mind that is not a problem. It has identified that factor as Karma, which motivates and directs our emotions, desires etc. and molds the nature of our activities.

The concept of Karma, however, remains misunderstood and misinterpreted in the western world. It is considered abstract, volatile and unscientific. It is interpreted as an excuse for inadequate planning or as something mystical that stays beyond comprehension. Even those, who accept the concept of Karma, tend to identify it with fickleness of luck. Alternately, they treat it as a phenomenon, which punishes miscreants for their evil deeds. It is also thought that we must have been acquiring unwholesome Karma since eternity and might have accumulated a mountain thereof. As such, it would almost be impossible to get freed from that. īn a "way, the East itself is responsible for such a fatalistic outlook, because the people there have been stuck with that approach for more than a millennium.

But the theory of Karma is not fatalistic, because it also presents the concept of wholesome Karma. It specifically states that human life is acquired as a result of much wholesome Karma. We, as human beings, are therefore likely to have a positive balance instead of a negative one. Moreover, the theory does state that one can endeavor to be free from Karma during the human life. Thus instead of having a negative tune, the theory actually happens to play a positive one.

This aspect hardly comes to the notice of the western mind. It normally equates Karma with sinful activity and therefore tends to treat the concept of Karma as a canon of condemnation. It is accustomed to the concept of an Almighty, who judges the activities of every being and allots life in heaven or hell depending upon the activities in the present life. Those people are therefore prone to conceive of Karma as a tool in the hands of the Almighty. By wielding that weapon He condemns the wicked people to miserable lives. Since poor and miserable people ate thus considered to have obtained the hard life by virtue of their Karma, it is ridiculously held that Karma theory would forbid doing anything to ameliorate their misery.

This is not the right interpretation. The concept of Karma does not term it as a means in the hands of any supernatural judge. It is a mechanism that functions automatically. Take, for instance, the case of a person consuming ambrosia or poison. No almighty decides that he should gain a hale and hearty life by virtue of taking the ambrosia or that he should die by virtue of taking the poison. Similarly, neither the ambrosia nor the poison has any design to bring forth those results. The results follow on their own. They are simply the outcomes of the actions concerned.

The western mind is averse to thinking that such results should remain beyond control. Since it has successfully harnessed quite a few natural forces, it is not willing to accept that there is a phenomenon like Karma that would remain beyond the control. This happens despite the fact that science specifically states that the properties of a matter cannot be changed. They are inviolable; what science can do is merely to learn about the properties and use them advantageously.

It is the property of Karma to yield consequences. As such, how can one prevent it? Suppose that one takes some pungent food and then stands under the sun. Now if he thinks that thirst should not arise to him, how can that materialize? The pungent food is going to cause a burning sensation. That is its property. Similarly the sunlight leads to drying of the body's moisture. That is its property. Since the body loses its moisture by the sunlight, it is bound to generate demand for water in order to maintain the required percentage of moisture. Thus the requirement of water is an outcome of that situation, which is going to manifest in the form of thirst; no one can prevent it.

Similarly every Karma of ours is going to land us in some situation as a consequence of that Karma. Such landing may not occur immediately, because all Karmas do not fructify immediately. The landing of the consequence takes place when the Karma becomes operative. But the theory of Karma does lay that lots of Karma can be destroyed prior to their becoming operative. Similarly, there is also scope for modifying the impact of the operative Karma. That can be done by the present effort, which is termed as Vartamān Karma. If one's present

Karma is stronger than the previous one, the latter would give way. On the other hand, if the previous Karma is stronger, the present one may remain more or less unsuccessful.

The person who has taken poison, for instance, can take timely action like vomiting to reduce the effect of poison and then he can make himself free from the poison by appropriate measures. A physician can also help him by giving the treatment that removes the impact of poison. As such, the theory of Karma does not rule out the scope for rendering help to someone in overcoming the impact of his Karma. īn other words, bearing of the consequence may be a 'must', but its intensity can be reduced. That can be modified in proportion to the effort put in for the purpose.

Unfortunately, this aspect of the Vartaman (present) Karma escapes the attention of the protagonists of Karma theory. It is forgotten that Karma literally means activity and that denotes what is being presently done. There is, of course, the impact of wholesome or unwholesome past Karma. In our case, however, there should have been greater impact of the wholesome Karma. By virtue of that we have gained the human life with all its paraphernalia of better-equipped body, higher level of mental capabilities, family life etc. Now it is for us to act so as to attain further development. As such, more emphasis needs to be laid on the present Karma, instead of wallowing over the past one.

Tatrvdrt/ia Sutra presents that approach. Its 6th chapter is concerned with Asrav, which means incoming of Karma. The term 'incoming' obviously pertains to the present. It does not merely relate to our present activities, but also relates to an interactive field that the activities generate inside and outside.

That field is shaped by our own intentions, motives and desires together with the drive with which we conduct our activities. Our activities influence the field and that field influences us. Our present interactive field thus holds the key to our present status and can also help in molding the future.

In the East, however, emphasis has rested on the impact of previous Karma, almost to the exclusion of the present one. That needs to be changed and the attention should be drawn to the importance of the present Karma. It should be remembered that if the impact of previous Karma is termed as Prārabdha, the present Karma is termed as Purushārtha. Both these aspects have to go hand in hand. Jainism therefore lays emphasis on undertaking Purushārtha so as to get rid of Karma and to reach an increasingly higher state.

Thus, instead of being a fatalistic concept, the theory of Karma shows how to reach a higher and superior level by steadily removing the Karma. It confers the conviction that the human life is not meaningless. Soul is embedded with infinite bliss, which is not presently manifested on account of the impact of Karma. Tattvartha Sutra explains how to remove that impact. Its concept of Karma relates to the possibilities of liberating ourselves from all its limiting and restraining influences and thereby to attaining the blissful state.

ft, however, needs to be admitted that the theory of Karma does lay the concept of indelible Karma. That concept pertains to those cases in which a soul might have indulged in a wrong activity with utmost sense of cruelty or wickedness. Thereby one can acquire indelible Karma, which is termed as Nikāchit Karma. One cannot be freed from that without bearing the consequences.

Moreover, it is also possible that one might have irretrievably staked his wholesome Karma for a specific reward. In that case he has to undergo the rewarding situation that he had bargained for.

But these are the rare cases. In general, it can be said that the desire to manifest one's inherent capabilities lies deep within every soul. That stands concealed at present under the overburden of Karma. We can strive to remove the same, if we understand how we happen to acquire Karma. For this purpose Jainism, has dwelt deeper in the theory of Karma and has laid its various categories, how they are acquired and how they can be prevented. With that end in view Tattvartha Sutra points out the ways Karma is acquired and how that can be overcome.

It would be noticed that for removing the impact of Karma, Tattvartha Sutra specifies observance of restraints, austerities, inner reflections, meditation etc. But there is no mention of a temple or any mode of idol-worship. This is surprising, because idol worship is commended as a useful too! for redressing the rigors of unwholesome Karma. Both the major denominations of Jainism accept it as a wholesome activity. Not specifying such wholesome activity can therefore be attributed to the non-existence of temples, when Tattvartha Sutra was composed. This explanation, of course, goes against the belief that temples have always been there. The historical evidence, however, shows that there were no Jain temples in pre-Christian era. They might have come into existence sometime during the earlier part of


The exact time of the composition is not known, but it could have been composed during the first or second century CE prior to split between Shwetāmbars and Digambars.

Emphasis of spiritual science is on misery and unhappiness in worldly life, which arises from interaction of soul with lifeless matter. That relates to the present activities as well as to the interactive field that such activities generate. That field is shaped by our intentions, motives, desires and the drive with which we conduct our activities. That interactive field thus holds keys to our present status and molds the future. Objective of Tattvārtha Stttra is to show how to get free from it. For that purpose it defines every term and shows how the interaction takes place, how that can be prevented and worldly bondage can be eradicated.

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