Omniscience

Posted: 16.10.2008
Updated on: 30.07.2015

Benediction:
Mokṣa mārgasya netāram, bhettāram karm bhubhrutām.
Jñātāram viśva tattvānam, vande tadgūṇa labdhaye.

(I bow to him who is the true guide - worthy counselor for the path to liberation, the destroyer of mountains of ‘Karma’ and the knower of the principles of the universe, so that I may attain these qualities belonging to him.)

 

1.0 Introduction

According to Jaina metaphysics, our universe is an amalgam of six kinds of substances, namely soul (Jīva), matter (Pudgala), principle of motion (Dharma), principle of rest (Adharma), space (Ākāśa) and time (kāla). Except soul, all the other five substances are non-souls (Ajīva). Thus the whole universe consists of souls and non- souls. Souls are infinite in number, matter (Pudgalas) are infinite times more, principle of motion (Dharma), principle of rest (Adharma), space (Ākāśa) are each one in number and omnipresent while time (kāla) is innumerable. The soul’s distinguishing quality is consciousness, which manifests itself as knowledge and perception. Distinguishing qualities of matter are touch, taste smell & colour. All that is visible in universe is matter. Soul and mater are both active i.e. have the capability to act and move while the other substances are inactive and just support the actives of both souls and matter. Except matter, remaining all the five substances are non-material (Arupi). Space provides accommodation to all the other five substances.

Here the term ‘Dharma’ (religion) should not be confused with principle of motion (Dharma). “Samantabhadra” has said in Ratna Karaṅdaka śrāvakācāra verse 2:

Deśyāmi samicinam, dharmam karma nivarhaṇam. Saṅsāra dhukhatah sattavaṅ, yo dhartyuttame sukhe //2//

Meaning: Religion is something that takes the mundane beings out of the worldly misery and establishes them in the highest bliss. I will preach that true religion.

All the living beings in the universe want pleasure and are afraid of the pain and pangs of transmigration. Jain Tīrthaṅkaras have shown the path to remove miseries and attain true happiness.

Here, one should know that everything in this universe is independent and eternal. This universe is without a beginning and end. No one has created it, no one can destroy it, it is there on its own merit, it simply changes every movement because “permanency with a change” is its inherent nature. Each soul, in mundane existence, is having bondage of karma. Due to this bondage, the soul is suffering from different miseries in the four states of existence. It is continuously trying to ward off misery but without finding the right means misery does not end. The root cause of all miseries and bondage are, the wrong belief about the self and non-self, perverse knowledge and ill conduct. Complete release from karmic bondage is liberation and it is attainable through adopting the right means.

Umā Svāmī writes in ‘Tattvārtha-sūtra’:

Samyag darśana jñāna cāritrāṇi mokṣamārgaħ.

I.e., Right Faith (true insight), Right Knowledge and Right Conduct, the three together are the road to liberation.

Declaring this to be the true religion Samantbhadra wrote in Ratna Karaṇdaka Śrāvakācāra as under:
The Lord of Dharma (religion) has said - Right Faith, Right Knowledge and Right Conduct are True Religion and reverse to these wrong faith, wrong knowledge and wrong conduct augment miseries of worldly life and are “adharma”.

In the absence of true knowledge of self and non-self the whole of mankind is groping for happiness in the darkness of uncertainly and doubt. If knowledge is false, the belief or faith will definitely be false and vice versa. A true aspirant for liberation has to understand the nature of these substances and realities as the knowledge of which is condition precedent to right belief (insight).

As per Jainism, religion which is the essence and pure never changes. Kārtikeya has defined the religion in Kārtikeya Anuprekṣā verse 476 as under:

Dhammo vatthu sahāvo, khamadi bhavo ya dasviho dhammo.
Rayaṇattāyam ca dhammo, jīvāṇam rakkhāṇam dhammo. //476//

Meaning: The intrinsic inherent nature of substance is ‘Dharma.’ Supreme forbearance, modesty etc, ten types of pure disposition of the soul are ‘Dharma’. The triple jewels (right faith, right knowledge and right conduct) are ‘Dharma’ and protecting the life of all living beings is ‘Dharma’, i.e., “Non-violence is the highest religion”. This is as propounded by omniscient Lord Mahāvīra 2500 years ago along with the tradition of complete detachment.

 

2.0 Characteristics of Omniscience

As per Jainism the omniscient monks with super natural corporeal body are called ‘Arihaṅtas’. The omniscient souls without corporeal body are called ‘Siddhas. Both classes of souls are termed as true spiritual leaders (sacce deva) The adjective “true” has been used to differentiate them from celestial beings that are also termed as gods but they are not omniscient.

The main adjectives or characteristics of Arihaṅtas are:

  1. Vītarāga, i.e., totally detached from the worldly things and affairs, free from delusion, illusion, attachment- aversion, all sorts of passions, birth and death and 18 types of blemishes, viz. hunger, thirst etc.
  2. Omniscient, i.e., perfect knowledge by which the whole of the universe (all substances with their attributes and modifications) and non- universe are reflected/ known.
  3. Āpta, i.e., true counselor or guide. This adjective has some specialty of its own. One who is wholly detached and omniscient is a kevali. All kevalis are not wise counselors or guides and the siddhas have no use of words, so only Tīrthaṅkaras whose divine sermons/ sounds (letter less speech or words) show the true path to liberation to auspicious beings (Bhavya Jīvas), are called true ‘Āpta’. Literally ‘Āpta’ means “He who has attained/achieved worth attaining/achieving”.

 

2.1 Scriptural Proof with Respect to Omniscience

Defining omniscience, Umā Svāmi in Tattvārtha Sutra has written the aphorism Sarva-dravya paryāyeṣū Kevalsya, i.e., the subject of omniscience is all the attributes and modifications of three tenses (past, present, and future) and its owner knows then all simultaneously in one unit of time (samaya) without any instrumentality of senses and mind. In the annotation of this aphorism Pujyapāda in Sarvārtha Siddhi says that “the past, present and future modifications of all the substances are infinite and omniscience operates in all these. These are no substances or mass of modifications, which are beyond the all-pervading omniscience. The splendor of omniscience is without any limits”.

Kundakunda in his ‘Pravacanasāra’ verse no. 39 says that

‘If the unborn modifications of future and the dead ones of the past are not present (not known) in the sentience of the all knowing Lord (sarvajña) omniscient, who will call this sentience as divine’.

Also Vīrasena mentions in Dhavalā Part 6 as under -

Question: How can the sentience of the omniscience is without the need of any accompaniment, there is no difficulty in the origination of the knowledge of the destroyed and the unborn modifications of the substances?

Amṛtacandra in Tattva Pradīpikā annotation verse no. 200 has written clearly:

“That sentient consciousness being in the nature of knowing all the objects, sequence operated, infinite and wonderful modifications of the past, present and future and the deep and infinite mass of substances are so exquisite to the pure soul as if those substances have been engraved in, painted, entered deep, nailed inside, drowned wholly or merged completely and reflected in all their glory”. Further he has written in verse 47 annotations.

Amitgati has also expressed the same thing in Yogasāra:

I.e., All the past and future substances remain present in their various modifications and the consciousness of the omniscient knows them exactly in the same forms and variations.

Samantbhadra in “Āpta-Mimansā”, Akalaṅka in “Aṣṭaśati” and Vidyānandi in “Aṣtasahasri” have established the principles of omniscience at large. As a matter of fact the existence of “omniscient being” is the main topic of Jaina logic and the whole logical thought is dedicated to the establishment of the concept of an omniscient.

The people with preserve attitude think that the independence of substances is deprived by fixing futurity as definite, but they forget that if further is taken for granted as take uncertain, the astrology, astronomy will be proved imaginary, when solar-eclipse, lunar-eclipse etc. will take place this can not be foretold the Jaina philosophy is full of definite declarations of further events which will happen lacs of years afterwards. All those declarations are very emphatic in their assertions of futurity. In words, they are like this - “Things will happen like this only and not otherwise. If we deny the certainly of futurity in the omniscient being we will have to deny whole of the Jaina Scriptures?! But before things any such wrong step, I would like to request the eager seekers of truth to ponder over coolly, calmly as it is a great principal of sequence bound modifications of all the substances. They may have a natural cause-and-effect-relationship in between them, yet the omniscient knows simultaneously all the events of futurity as well as all the events of the past.

Once a true aspirant of liberation attains omniscience, he never loses it again. It is the fullest form of manifestation knowledge attribute of soul. There are no different degrees of omniscience. It is not caused by any eternal means. It is the complete enfoldment of our consciousness by itself. In the state of omniscience the consciousness ceases to be influenced by time etc. eternal causes whereas in the first twelve stages of spiritual development, i.e., is the state of non- omniscient the consciousness gets influenced by time etc. The omniscience is regarded as “All comprehensive Channel” of knowledge because it is characterized by the absence of Karmic bonds. In case of non-omniscient beings there are many different degrees of knowledge (knowing-activity) varying from minimum two types to maximum four types of imperfect knowledge.

Some scholars may argue to how great Kundakunda has written in Niyamsāra that the omniscient god knows and sees all (the substances with their all modifications) from the conventional (vyavahāra) point of view and from the realistic (Niścaya) point of view he knows and sees his soul only? Here one should not get confused with the earlier statement but he should know that all the prepositions are based on the principal -prepositions depending on the self and congruous to the self are real, while those depending on non-self and not congruous to the self are conventional. This is made clear in the ‘Sanskrit commentary’ on the above verse.

In short, whatever depends on others is conventional. As such omniscient knows, sees his own soul is real assertion while that he knows and sees other is conventional assertion. This is the sum and substance of the above statement. But, that “He knows & sees non-self entities from conventional aspect” does not mean that He does not know them actually.

Further in the above context a question has been raised and answered well in ParmātmāPrakāśa chapter 1 verse No. 52 commentary as under:

Question: If the omniscient knows non-self substances from the conventional aspect only, then his omniscience should also be deemed to be so from conventional aspect, not real one?

Answer: It has been called conventional, because just as omniscient knows the self - soul as part and parcel of his own being, He does not know non-self substances similar & identical to that of the self, but not that He lacks the knowledge of non-self substances. If He knew the non-self substances with the same oneness affinity as with his own self, he would have been happy - unhappy by knowing the pleasures and miseries of others and would have himself become attached or aversions which, in fact would have been a great fault.

“One who knows the omniscient Lord in respect of his substance, attributes and modifications knows his own soul also and his delusion disappears.” The remedy of conquering delusion has been shown in this verse; i.e., one who knows his own soul (true nature of soul), his delusion is eliminated. Thus, the understanding about the characteristics of Arihantas has been made compulsory for the annihilation of perverted belief.

The substance and the attributes of our own soul and those of the Arihantas are exactly similar, difference lies only in the present modification over modification is completely developed and the same is our ideal and aim. This is the reason that along with the realization of the self, the recognition of true God Arihantas, true scripture (His divine discourses) and true monks is absolutely necessary for the achievement of right faith.

Omniscience is the basic foundation of Jaina philosophy, so we need to know its nature and the process of achieving it. Without faith of true God, true scriptures and true monks is not possible because the difference of true faith of true God, true scripture and true monks is not possible because the differentiate of true God is omniscience and passionlessness (complete detachment). The origin of scriptures lies in the divine voice of the omniscient Arihantas. The true monks are followers of the path shown by the omniscient God.

One who is going on wrong path cannot reach his destination. Likewise one who is having wrong concept about the self and non-self, yet thinks that he is on right path of liberation, he will never attain liberation. Samantbhadra in his ‘Ratnakarand Śrāvakācāra’ (a sacred book on householder’s religion) has written the following verses:

    • The belief in the true God, scripture and preceptor (monk) by fulfilling the eight requirements of true belief and without three kinds of follies* & eight kinds of pride** is called Right Faith.
    • The belief that the Jaina Tirthaṅkaras are the true Gods, the Jaina canons are the true scriptures and the Jaina saints the true preceptors is called ‘Right Faith’. The three kinds of follies are:
      • Folly of senseless deeds in the name of religion, viz. bathing in so called scared rivers & oceans, setting up heaps of sand & stones, immolating oneself by falling from a precipice or being burned up in fire etc.
      • Folly of devotion, viz. worshipping with desire to obtain favour, of worldly false deities who themselves are full of passions, likes-dislikes etc.
      • Folly of devotion of hypocrites consists in the worshipping of false ascetics who have attachment-aversion with worldly things. The eight types of pride boasting for:
        • Learning
        • Worship
        • Family
        • Tribe
        • Power
        • Affluence
        • Religious Austerity and
        • Person having strong or comely body.

 

2.2 The Eight Kinds of Limbs of Right Faith

The eight kinds of limbs of Right Faith are:

    1. Unshakable faith in the nature of substances
    2. Entertaining no desire for sensual enjoyment
    3. Loving the virtuous persons and monks for their excellent qualities without feeling disgust to see their soiled impure bodies.
    4. Non-recognition of the authority of false creeds and senseless acts at the name of religion.
    5. To remove the ridicule raised by ignorant and incompetent persons on the naturally pure path of Jainism. And also not to expose publicly the weaknesses of a layman or of a monk who is trying his best to be free from all faults & weaknesses.
    6. To help and re-establish therein them who, due to whatsoever reason, are wavering in right faith or conduct
    7. Entertaining love and proper respect for one’s co religionists with pure heart and by crooked motives
    8. To establish the glory of the Jaina doctrines by removing in all suitable ways, the dense clouds of ignorance

Now, coming back to our main topic of omniscient, we must know the true characteristics of an omniscient God. Samantbhadra in his ‘Ratnakarand Śrāvakācāra’ has described as per below:

Naturally, in the nature of substances, the true God must be

    • Free from all sorts blemishes/faults and weaknesses which are found in all mundane beings;
    • The knower of all things (omniscient) and the revealer/expounder of Dharma (true religion/path of liberation); else in no other way can Godhood/divinity be constituted. He alone who is free from hunger, thirst, senility, disease, birth, death, fear, pride, attachment, aversions, infatuation, worry, conceit, hatred, uneasiness, sweat, sleep, and surprise (18 blemishes) is called a God.

He who is the enjoyer of the highest status, who is of unsurpassed splendor, who is free from all kinds desires and impurities of sin, who is endowed with omniscience and devoid of beginning, middle & end and who is a friend savior of all kinds of living beings - such a Teacher is called ‘Hitopdeśi’ (who gives useful discourses showing the path of liberation).

Just as a drum gives you out sound in consequence of the contact of the drummer’s hand, but without any desire on its own part, so does the teacher reveal the truth without any personal motives of his own.

That one is true scripture which is the word (revelation) of omniscient Tirthaṅkara, which cannot be over-ridden in disruption, nor falsified by perception, reason or testimony, which reveals the nature of things, which is helpful to men, animals and all other kinds of beings and which is potent enough to destroy all forms of falsehood.

That preceptor (monk) is praiseworthy who has no desires for sensual pleasures, who has renounced all worldly occupations and possessions and who is always absorbed in study, meditation and self-contemplation.(Only such a capable soul-monk with right faith knowledge & conduct can attain omniscience and none else).

Also Samantbhadra has described the characteristics of Right Knowledge as under:

That which reveals the nature of things/substances/elements neither insufficiently, nor with aggression nor perversely but exactly as it is / as they are and with certainty, that the knower of scriptures call Right Knowledge. Based on this definition the adage –“Be wise, do not be over wise, do not be under wise and do not be otherwise”, is prevalent in ethics.

The Third Jewel of the right path to liberation is observing of Right Conduct and it has been described by Samantbhadra as under:

To whom Right Knowledge has accrued by virtue of the acquisition of right faith on the destruction of Right Faith on the destruction of the darkness of faith - obstructing infatuation that excellent soul begins to practice the rules of Right Conduct to get rid of personal likes-dislikes (attachment-aversion) that is to attain to the state of desirelessness.

From above discussion it is very clear that the attainment of perfection is the culmination of a gradual course of self-absorption, which needs to be followed step by step. The preceptors have therefore, divided the pathway into fourteen stages each of which represents a particular state of development, partial elimination of natural traits and qualities. These fourteen stages of spiritual purification are called “Guṇasthānas” and are as under:

1.

Mithyātva

Perverse belief, wrong faith, gross ignorance

2.

Sāsādana

A momentary psychic state of soul in the process of falling from the right faith prior to touching false faith

3.

Miśra

Mixed feeling, hovering between certainty & doubt

4.

Avirat Samyagdṛṣti

Vow less true believer. This stage arises when faith deluding and the interest type of conduct deluding karmas are wholly or partially subdued or destroyed.

5. 

Deśa- Virata

A true believer observing Aṇuvratas, small vows. This arises when the intense passion (conduct deluding) is also subdued or destroyed. This is a votary householder’s stage.

6.

Pramatta Virat

A stage of possession less, occupation less and homeless naked monk observing complete conduct with slightly imperfect vows. This arises when the Pratyākhyānāvaraṇa Prakriti is also subdued partially. The mild passion ‘Samjwalan’ is in operation.

7.

Apramatta virata

A stage of perfect observance of vows of a true monk with real right conducts of self absorption but with slow rate.

8.

Apūrva Karaṇa

A true monk with excessively increasing purity of thoughts with ascending ladder of perfect conduct and pure meditation. The ‘Samjwalana’ mild passion being in subduing or vanishing state.

9.

Anivritti Karaṇa

A true monk in highly advanced state of pure thought activity than the preceding one.

10.

Sukśma Samparaya 

A true monk in a very high spirituality advanced state than the preceding one with the slightest ‘Samjwalana’ greed passion which is also fully under control and remains to be eradicated in this stage.

11.

Upaśānta Moha

Subsidence of delusion. A true monk touches this stage then only when he ascends by ‘upaśamaśreni ’(subsided ladder or flight of step) after 7th guṇasthāna This stage arises from the total subsidence of ‘Mohaniya Karma, for a while and he falls back
certainly due to rise of deluding karma.

12.

Kṣīṇa-Moha

Destruction of delusion, i.e., complete eradication of the ‘Mohaniya Karma’. A true monk reaches this stage if he ascends by ‘Kṣapaka Śreni’ eradicative ladder after 7th guṇasthāna and he certainly goes up and attains the omniscience in 13th guṇasthāna.

13.

Sayoga Kevali

Sa=with, yoga=three channels of activity, i.e., mind, speech & body and Kevali / Jina means omniscient. This is the stage of Jīvana Mukti characterized by the total destruction of the four kinds of Ghāti- Karmas (destructive Karmas) and possessing omni perception, omniscience, infinite bliss, infinite power etc. natural traits, but indicating the association with the physical body due to operation of “Aghāti Karmas”(non-destructive Karmas). Those who evolve out the Tirthaṅkaras Name Karma become the Tirthaṅkaras who reveals the true ‘Dharma’(religion). Surrounded by celestial beings (gods & goddesses) and human beings who offer him devotion, the omniscient Tirthankara explains the truth in “Om” voice called divine speech and it is interpreted into popular speech for the benefit of masses by the highly advanced disciple monks called “Gaṇadharas”. The truth thus known is called “Śruti” (revelation) and its perfect accuracy is guaranteed by the omniscience, which does not manifest until and unless the ‘Mohaniya Karma’ is totally annihilated. He (the omniscient) is totally free from partisan feeling because he has no trace of any attachment-aversion. He has conquered delusion so he is called “Jina”. He is absolutely passionless; hence his revelation is cent percent true.

14.

Ayogya-Kevali or Ayogya Jina

Ayogya=without mind, speech & body and Kevali=omniscient. This is the last stage on the path to liberation and is followed by the soul’s ascent to “Nirvana” on the exhaustion of the ‘Aghāti karmas’. The soul who passes this stage is called “Siddha” A perfectly successful accomplished soul free from Karmic matter & body & body possessed of omni perception, omniscience, infinite bliss, and infinite power etc. natural traits in fully blossomed state. He is now no longer subject to any depressing influence of matter. He rises up immediately to the top most part of the universe to reside there for ever in the enjoyment of all those divine attributes which we may have never dreamt of. He the “Siddha” being the ideal of absolute perfection becomes the object of meditation and worship for we all the “Bhavyas”(souls capable to attain Nirvāṇa) in the three worlds. The words fall short; rather have no power to describe his glory & attributes.

Above discussion reveals that the arrangement of ‘Guṇasthānas’ is not based on any artificial path but it is based upon the natural effects observable in the being who takes himself scientifically in hand to control his destiny.

Jainism is nothing but the path of purification of soul and the science of attaining Godhood. Jainism is the illuminator of the path to liberation and also encourages the mundane beings to follow that path and assures that those who follow this path will definitely attain all blissful state of Godhood. Therefore, knowing and experiencing our souls is utmost necessary for the destruction of delusion and knowing the Arihantas (embodied omniscient God) in respect of their substance, attributes and modification is very essential to know our own souls.

KundaKunda in his ‘Pravacanasāra’ verse No. 82 declares:

All the Arihantas attained ‘Nirvana’ by destroying the ‘Karmas’ in the same pathway of attaining Godhood- our salutations to them.

In annotation of this verse Amritacandra says:

“Let there be no more exposition and discussion. My understanding is settled well”.”

In the introduction of this verse he has written that “This is the only path of spiritual advancement as experienced and revealed by the omniscient Beings. Thus I have corrected/systematized my own understanding”.

From above discussion it is clear that omniscience or omniscient is the knower of events only, not the door of those events. The modifications or events are all without any sequence, not otherwise; i.e., a substance is sequence bound in respect of its modifications and without any sequence in respect of its attributes. This way the theory of relativity applies in a substance, which is a mass of attributes & modifications.

Amritcandra in ‘Ātmakhyāti’ annotation on verse 2 of ‘Samayasāra’ writes as:

The soul or any substance, being possessed of multifaceted nature in such as has admitted sequence bound modifications and attributes without any sequence, both of which constitute its very existence. In short we can generalize as follows:

  • Each soul is independent and not under any other substance.
  • Substantially all souls are equal none is higher or lower.
  • Each soul possesses the seed power of infinite Knowledge and bliss. Happiness does not come from outside.
  • Not only soul but all substances are possessed of the nature of “Permanency with a change”, i.e., they on their own continue changing/modifying without quitting their inherent intrinsic nature/qualities.
  • Mundane beings are unhappy & miserable because of their perverse faith, false knowledge and false conduct. They can be happy by abandoning perversity and attaining Right Faith (insight) - Knowledge - Conduct.
  • There is no imaginary so called creator God. Every soul may become a God by discriminating the self from non-self.
  • The omniscient God is only the knower & seer of the universe and not the creator-destroyer-protector.
  • Jaina philosophy is basically that of non-doing/non-doership as this principle is established with omniscience and the sequence bound modifications.
  • Every soul (mundane being) is potentially omniscient, that is to say, the consciousness of every living being is endowed with the capacity to know all things, unlimited by time or space or distance.
  • All things, whatever exists in this universe possess the basic quality of knowableness; hence they are known by perfect knowledge (omniscience) on annihilation of knowledge obscuring karma, perception obscuring karma & power obstructing karma and proceed by the annihilation of deluding karma.