Acharanga Bhasyam ► Chapter I — Comprehension And Abandonment Of Weapons Of Injury ► Section — 1 ► Sūtra 1-4 : Existence of Soul

Posted: 28.09.2010

1.1 suyaṃ me āusaṃ! teṇaṃ bhagavayā evamakkhāyaṃ - ihamegesiṃ no saṇṇā bhavai, taṃ jahā - puratthimāo vā disāo āgao ahamaṃsi, dāhiṇāo vā disāo āgao ahamaṃsi, paccatthimāo vā disāo āgao ahamaṃsi, uttarāo va disāo āgao ahamaṃsi, uḍḍhāo vā disāo āgao ahamaṃsi, ahe vā disāo āgao ahamaṃsi, aṇṇayatῑo vā disāo āgao ahamaṃsi, aṇudisāo vā āgao ahamaṃsi?

O Longlived (Jambūsvāmin)! I (Sudharmā) have heard the following discourse from Lord Mahāvῑra: Here many do not have the experience (that is memory of the place from where they have transmigrated) such as—

"Have I transmigrated (to this world) from the eastern direction, or from the southern direction, or from the western direction, or from the northern direction, or from the direction above, or from the direction below, or from any other direction, or from any intermediate direction?"

1.2 evamegesiṃ ṇo ṇātaṃ bhavati - atthi me āyā ovavāie, ṇatthi me āyā ovavāie? ke ahaṃ āsῑ? ke vā io cuo iha peccā bhavissāmi?

Similarly many do not know - "Is my soul subject to birth, or is my soul not subject to birth? Who was I (in my previous life), or after departure from here what shall I become in my next birth?"

1.3 sejjaṃ puṇa jāṇejjā - sahasammuiyāe, paravāgaraṇeṇaṃ, aṇṇesiṃ vā aṃtie soccā, taṃ jahā—puratthimāo vā disāo āgao ahamaṃsi, dakkhiṇāo vā disāo āgao ahamaṃsi, paccatthimāo vā disāo āgao ahamaṃsi, uttarāo vā disāo āgao ahamaṃsi, uḍḍhāo vā disāo āgao ahamaṃsi, ahe vā disāo āgao ahamaṃsi, aṇṇayarῑo vā disāo āgao ahamaṃsi, aṇudisāo vā disāo āgao ahamaṃsi.

By one's own power of recollection; from exposition advanced by an authority having the power of direct knowledge; and on hearing from someone (who had learnt about it from one who commanded direct knowledge), some (people) acquire knowledge such as - "I have transmigrated (to this world) from the eastern direction, or from the southern direction, or from the western direction, or from the northern direction, or from the direction above, or from the direction below, or from any other direction, or from any intermediate direction."

1.4 evamegesiṃ jaṃ ṇātaṃ bhavai—atthi me āyā ovavāie. jo imāo disāo aṇudisāo vā anusaṃcarai, savvāo disāo savvāo aṇudisāo jo āgao aṇusaṃcarai sohaṃ.

In the same way some may know—"my soul, being subject to birth, transmigrates in these cardinal directions or intermediate directions, that (soul) is 'I' myself."

Commentator's Auspicious Invocation

visūddhaṃ viśadātmānaṃ,


sannidhiṃ sahajaṃ nῑtvā,


With inborn devotion, I surrender myself to the pure, manifest, great soul and propose elaborately to explain the excellent Āyāro (Spiritual discipline).

Bhāṣyaṃ Sūtras 1- 4

One of the chief disciples of Lord Mahāvῑra, Sudharmā, spoke thus to Jambū: O, long-lived! I have directly heard this from Lord Mahāvῑra; whatever I am saying is not the imagination of my own mind, but has been told by Lord Mahāvῑra himself.

There is birth. There is death. There cannot be any doubt about them in the mind of anybody. These obviously happen to everybody. The person who takes birth had of necessity experienced death in the past, and will be reborn again. This is, of course, not directly perceived by the common man. There is cause for doubt on objects not perceived directly. Owing to such doubt, the believers in direct perception alone as the valid source of knowledge consider birth and death as without any precedence. In other words, according to them, there was no birth before, and in the absence of birth, the pre-incidence of death is utterly impossible.

Some philosophers attempted at realising the events of birth and death by their constant endeavour to attain the state of direct intuition of those events. They realised the eternal cycle of birth and death, that is, transmigration of the soul from birth to birth. At the end of such realisation, they declared that there were people who had intuition of past and future lives and that there were also people who were bereft of such intuition.

It has been explained in the Vṛtti that such experience of transmigration is not possible for beings not endowed with mind. And among beings, endowed with mind, only some have the experience of transmigration from particular direction, while others have not. The Sūtra makes such experience as the starting point of its disquisition:

" I have migrated from the eastern direction,
or from the southern direction,
or from the western direction,
or from the northern direction,
or from the direction above,
or from the direction below,
or from any other direction,
or from any intermediate direction."

This question of life before and life hereafter is of supreme importance not only for those who believe in the existence of the soul, but for all living beings endowed with reason. To ignore this question is to deny the truth about birth and death. In the absence of such query the birth of philosophy itself would be impossible. Is it possible to disentangle the soul from the body? If it is not possible, the issue of birth and rebirth will be only imaginary and unreal. Only if it was possible to disentangle the soul from the body, it would be feasible to comprehend that the body and the soul are not identical entities.

This is expressed in the sūtra"I have the soul that is subject to birth or I have none that is so.” All people have no intuition as to  “what I was in the past or what I shall be in the future after departing from here." We find two investigating sūtras in this context: 'what I was in the past' - this is concerned with the Past life; 'what shall I be in the future' - this is concerned with the future life.

Is such intuition possible? To this query, Lord Mahāvῑra says that it is possible to have intuition of the past life as well as the future birth There are three sources that prove such possibility: one's own power of recollection; exposition by the Jina having the power of direct knowledge-and hearsay, i.e., heard from some one who had learnt about it from one who commanded direct knowledge.

One's own power of recollection

This is the first source. Some children in their childhood, get the memory of the past life spontaneously. With modern psychologists many events of spontaneous memory of past occurrences are found registered. In Jaina literature also, there are records of such incidents.

In the Suśruta Saṃhitā, it is pointed out that the persons with their mind, cultivated in the past life by the study of spiritual lore, are capable of the memory of the past life.[1]

Exposition by the Jina

This is the second source. The exposition is ascribed to the supreme authority namely the Jina. This is confirmed in the Niryukti (commentary) where it is said that there is no higher authority than Jina who had expounded the doctrine of transmigration.[2]

In this connection, Meghakumāra's memory of previous life deserves mention. In the commentaries, the example of Gautama Svāmῑ is also mentioned.

Lord Mahāvῑra was asked by Gautama Svāmi, "O Lord! how is it that omniscience is not arising in me?"

The Lord explained, "O Gautama! this is so because you have deep attachment to me."

Gautama Svāmῑ, " O Lord! this is exactly so, but what is the reason of my excessive attachment towards you?"

Then the Lord mentioned that there was mutual relation between them in many past lives. In this connection, the Lord said, "You had been attached to me for a long time. You had been acquainted with me for a long time."[3]

On hearing this explanation of the Lord, Gautama Svāmi came to possess the knowledge (memory) of the specific direction from which he came to the present state of existence, and the like.[4]


This is the third source. It is not direct revelation by the Jina, but it is something heard as propounded by a person with his power of extra-sensory perception. Such hearing is conducive to intuitive knowledge in the istener. In ancient commentaries, such source was indicative of all people, other than the Jinas, who were possessed of special knowledge.[5]

The mory of the past life is inborn in some souls, while in others it is an acquired faculty due to some auxiliary causes, which are: the special subsidence of deluding karma; purity of perception (purity of aura); the process of speculation, elimination (of doubt), investigation, intensive search. [6]

The special subsidence of deluding karma is illustrated in Namipawajjā in the Uttarādhyayana. There it is said that Nami remembered the past life on account of the subsidence of deluding karma.[7]

On account of his purity of perception, Mṛgāputra got the memory of his past life simply at the sight of a monk. Here the cause is mentioned to be the subsidence of the deluding karma and purification of the perceptive faculty simultaneously.[8] Similarly, Harikeśabala also had the memory of past life while engrossed in reflection.[9] In the introduction to the chapter on Citrasambhūti also, there is mention of the memory of the past life.[10] Both the sons of Bhṛgupurohita, simply at the sight of a monk, acquired the memory of their past life, and also recollected their practice of penance and self-restraint.[11]

Realising that the faith in religion and desire for liberation are easily nourished by the memory of the past life, Lord Mahāvῑra led many people recollect their past life. When Meghakumāra was in the point of reverting to the householder's life, the Lord reminded him of the third life in the past,[12] which produced in him the memory of his past rational lives due to beneficial psychical processes, auspicious perception with aura gradually purified. This was the result of speculation, elimination, investigation and intensive search due to the elimination-cum-subsidence of relevant karmic veils.[13] The memory of the past life arose in Sudarśana Śreśṭhi too in the same manner.[14]

The third auxiliary cause consisting of speculation, elimination, investigation and intensive search is illustrated by the memory that occurred to Meghakumāra as soon as he heard the name of Meruprabha elephant, here started 'speculation' in his mind about that elephant. As a result, ere was some agitation in his mind to know the elephant. Thereafter the Process of elimination started with the query - "Had I been an elephant in the past?” In the process of ratiocination, he entered the state of ‘investigation’. In other words, he entered the area of past experience in order to search out the event in his past life. While reflecting on the past, he embarked upon the state of ‘intensive research’. Even as a cow reaches the grazing posture visited earlier, while engaged in search of fodder, Meghakumāra gained the memory of his elephant-life by investigating through concentrated investigation.

The memory of the past life arises on account of some specific event, or without such event. The memory that arises simply on account of the elimination-cum-subsidence of the relevant karmic veils is without the occurrence of any specific event. Sometimes, on the other hand, such memory takes place due to the presentation of some external event.

The memory of the past life is a variety of empirical knowledge. Maximally, one can recollect nine rational lives by means of this memory.[15] According to the Ācārāṅga commentary, however, the possessor of the power of recollection can remember any number of past lives, not only nine.[16]

'Rational life' means life of a being who is possessed of mind which has the power of reasoning. Ordinarily, it is not possible to remember the past lives that were not endowed with mind.

It is not possible for all beings to have this memory. The reason for this is given in the Taṇḍulaveyālia [17] which says that the intense suffering at the time of birth and death stupefies the person so deeply that he is incapable of remembering his past life. The supine remnants of past experiences need specific events for their revival. This is the reason for the non-occurrence of memory in ordinary persons.


It is the act of experiencing, which is twofold: feeling and knowing. Knowing includes five kinds of knowledge, i.e., empirical, articulate, clairvoyant, mind-reading and omniscient. The feeling is a kind of sensation. The Niryukti explicitly says that the feeling is due to the rise of one's karma. It is not the subject matter in the present context. Only the knowledge aspect of experience is relevant here.

That (soul) is ‘I’  myself - this phrase refers to the person who recollects his past life and acquires a deep faith in his external existence through past, present and future. The person endowed with the memory of the past life is convinced of his own existence in the past. Such person has been directly referred to in the Sūtra (1.4) - "the person who transmigrates from the cardinal and intermediate directions and subdirections is identical with myself."

The Cūrṇi has defined ātman with reference to the aforesaid phrase. The query is made, "Although there is ātman, its defining characteristics have not been indicated." To this query, the preceptor answers thus: "experience of 'I'ness in the body which is not the ‘I’ in judgements 'I am doing', 'It is done by me', 'I shall do this', defines the character of the soul identified as 'I'.[18]

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Jain Vishwa Bharati

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First Edition:2001

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