The Jaina Doctrine of Karma And The Science Of Genetics ► [1.1] The Science Of Karma ► ▪ Characteristics Of The Soul

Posted: 30.11.2008

To understand the doctrine of karma we must first know about the soul and its characteristics. The soul is different from body. It is the soul which is providing vitality and knowledge required to make the body functional. Some people don't believe in the existence of soul. They must be asked the question as to why a dead body which has all the physical parts and component does not function. The answer is because the soul has left the body. It is the soul which experiences the pleasure and pain, receives signals from outside world through the sense organs, thinks and takes decisions and provides vitality and knowledge for functioning of a machine or complex as the body. The life in the body is due to the soul.

According to Jaina Philosophy, the soul is one of the six realities that constitute this universe. The other important reality is the physical matter, both subtle and the aggregate. The Jainas declared energy also as matter (pudgala) - more than two and half thousand years back. Science came to the same conclusion only in the twentieth century.[59]

A reality of substance has three properties:

    1. It undergoes transformation and changes its form. Each form is called a paryāya.
    2. It has the property to destructions, i.e. one form is destroyed and other originates.
    3. In the process of transformation and destruction the intrinsic nature of the reality is preserved i.e. its basic characteristic is permanent and is not altered. Such properties are easily evident in physical matter. For example when a substance changes its form from solid to liquid and to gas, the chemical composition does not change.

So is the case with soul. The soul leaves one body on death and enters another body according to some well defined rules. Here 'death' only implies that the soul leaves the present body, the soul in fact does not die. The soul is immortal and only changes its form when it enters from one body to another. In this process karma of soul are carried forward to the next body and the soul leaves a life in accordance with these karma. The karmas are the impressions of the actions performed by the soul.

The soul according to Jainas has the following characteristics:

  1. It is beginningless and endless. Its origin cannot be known. It is immortal and cannot be destroyed by any means whatsoever, not even by a hydrogen bomb.
  2. It occupies body like oil in a seed i.e., why do people confuse body with the soul? Indeed they are different.
  3. The soul contracts or expands according to the size of the body. In this process of contraction and expansion the number of space points called pradeśas of soul remain unchanged.
  4. The soul is a non-physical entity, it is known only through its ability of knowing. The soul is the knower. All the knowledge that exist in the world today is due to the soul's power of knowing. For example, the discovery of law of relativity by Einstein was because of the power of knowing of his soul.
  5. The soul is the basis of knowledge, perception, bliss and power experienced by a living organism.
  6. The soul is a source of innumerable kinds of power. The main powers are power of knowledge, power of vitality or potential and power of determination.
  7. The invisible soul is known by its ability of knowing. The soul is also known by functions of body like laughter, dancing, pleasure and pain, speech, movement etc. Without the soul these functions cannot be performed by the body.
  8. The fine subtle matter, known as karma vargaṇās (variform) attracted by the soul from the surroundings is converted in karma.
  9. The thoughts and actions of a person leave impression on the soul. The impressions are recorded on the karma vargaṇās attracted by the soul. These karma vargaṇās constitute a material body known as karma śarīra or karma body. This karma body containing the impressions accompany the soul when it transcends from one body to other.
  10. The soul and karma body are always held together. The question as to who came first in existence is meaningless like the question of egg and hen.
  11. The soul is a non-physical entity but behaves somewhat like a physical body so long as the material karma body is attached to it. On liberation the karma body is dissociated and separated and the soul comes in its pure form.
  12. All souls are alike except for the karma body which differs. This means that every soul is at a different stage of development.

Full development means liberation or emancipation of the soul. The souls are of two kinds:

    1. The Mundane soul (jīva)
    2. The liberated soul

The mundane soul has karma body attached to it and takes rebirth. The liberated soul has no karma body and does not take rebirth, it is free from the cycle of birth and death. So by soul we shall mean the mundane soul (jīva).

In the absolute sense the soul has only characteristics cétanā or consciousness. The levels of development of consciousness of souls are different and so each individual in the world is different from other. The genetics says DNA of any two living beings of universe never resembles, so each individual in the world is different from other from the angle of genetics.

Consciousness is the exclusive property of the soul and is not found in any other substance. The liberated souls have the infinite power of knowledge and perception. Each liberated soul is omniscient, omnipotent and experiences infinite bliss. A liberated soul is perfect and independent and is not dependent on any other agency for any thing. The Jainas don't believe God as the creator of universe, in fact, each liberated soul is a God or parmātmā.[60]

Consciousness sentient or the conscious substance is called soul.[61] Such souls are infinite.[62] They exist independently.[63] They are not part of any other spirit or any supreme spirit. Every soul has infinite consciousness. They can know infinite universes. All spirits are same as regards consciousness but all don't have similar development of consciousness.[64] The cause of difference of development of individual soul is due to his karma.[65] Spirit itself is the doer of karma, when the spirit enjoys its own pure consciousness it is in tune with its pure nature. While it indulges in other emotions it is the doer of actions.[66] Spirit indulges in good as well as bad actions and as a result karmic matter enters into the spirit spaces and gets attached there. Thus spirit, is the doer of actions. That means, it is creator of its joy and sorrow. It is mentioned in Uttarādhyayana Sūtra "spirit itself is Vaitaraṇī river and it itself is the kūta śālmalī tree. Spirit itself is the desire fulfilling cow kāmadhenu and it itself is the Nañdana forest. Spirit is that creates as well as does not create sorrow and happiness."[67] The reason behind this is that it is the spirit that indulge either in righteousness or in evil, its karmas are binding according to its deeds. It is these karmas that result into good or bad consequences. Spirit is free in earning good or bad karma. Therefore, it is stated, Bañdhappamokkho Tujjha ajjhatheva, bondage or salvation depends upon the spirit itself.

Share this page on: