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Who is a Jain Shravak: 8.1 Nine Tattvas (Nine Fundamentals) – I

Published: 12.02.2020

Entire universe consists of two entities: living and non-living. They both co-exist. The expansion of the universe is an outcome of their combination. For example, what is a building made up of? Of course, it is constructed of both living beings and non­living material such as stone, sand, water etc. As per Jain philosophy, water is a living being. Thus, living and non-living entities are both utilised. Therefore, it is prudent to stipulate that not only conscious beings but also non-conscious things contribute in the creation and development of this universe.

Existence of Living (jiva) and Non-living (ajiva)

jiva chetanaavaan, chetana-shunya ajiva sada jad hai,
jad chetana ki shaashvat satta, jinashaasan akshay bad hai. 

i.e. our body is material, while soul is sentient. They are both eternal.

We are a combination of both material and conscious aggregates. Clothes, buildings etc. are all non-living or material objects. They are utilised by living beings. Sentient beings influence the visible materialistic world.

Both living and non-living entities have an eternal existence. They existed in the past, exist in the present and will continue to exist in the future. Neither of them is a new creation. There is no supernatural power called 'God' which creates them. There are nine real fundamentals according to Jain ontology- jiva(living being), ajiva(non-living being), punya(merits), paap(demerits), aashrav(inflow of karma), samvar(inhibition of inflow of karma), nirjara(eradication of karma), bandh(bondage) and moksha (emancipation).

In fact, all these nine fundamentals can be aggregated to two ultimate realities - jiva and ajiva. The others are all consequential outcomes, which occur as a result of interaction of these two realities. The understanding of the nine fundamental elements is essential to understand emancipation.

Punya and Paap

There are two elements- merits (punya) and demerits (paap) which cause pleasure and sorrow respectively. Merits itself do not give pleasure. Similarly, demerits also do not independently give sorrow. They are the instrumental causes of happiness and sorrow. Merits and demerits are both the effect of one's own actions and not of others.

Who is the Creator of Sorrow?

In 'Thanam Sutra' (3.336) we find a beautiful illustration where Bhagawan Mahavira asked the monks, 'ajjo kim bhaya paana- What scares living beings?' All the monks pondered over the question but none could answer. They thought there might be some secret behind this question. Eventually they requested Bhagawan to answer the question.

Bhagawan Mahavira said, 'ajjo! dukkhabhaya paanaa- All living beings fear sorrow.' This leads to the following question, 'duhkham ken kade - Who creates sorrow? Who is causing pain?'

Many people think that some supreme power can take our sorrow away. One day, Mulla Nasiruddin was praying, 'Oh God! Please protect me.' A few minutes later he said, 'Oh Devil! Please protect me.' The person sitting by him asked in a surprise, 'What are you doing? Pray to God, not to devil.'

Mulla Nasiruddin responded, 'I don't know who is ruling. If God is the ruler, he will protect me happily and if the devil is the ruler, let him be my protector. My concern is that I should be free from my sorrows'.

Bhagawan Mahavira said, 'attakade duhkhe'- sorrow is self-created. Self is the source of both joy and sorrow. No one else is responsible for joy or sorrow in one's life.

It is rightly said in Sanskrit, 'sukhasy dukhasy na kopi daata.' Others are not the creator of joy and sorrow. The soul itself creates joy and sorrow through its own deeds.

Now the question arises- If no one wants to be sorrowful, why does one create sorrow knowingly?

The answer is pamaayena- due to unawareness, a person creates a world of pain and themselves weave their web of sorrow.

'Oh Mahavira! How can we wipe out sorrow?' the disciple asked.

Lord replied, ' appamaayenam- one can be free from pain by developing awareness. This is the principle of atma-kartritva(self-creation).

There are two streams of beliefs in this context- one stream believes God as an absolute creator while the other believes soul as an architect. Some schools of philosophy accept that God is the creator of pain and pleasure. Jain philosophy does not believe in this principle. Jain philosophy believes that the soul is the originator of joy and sorrow. No other power or being can cause joy or sorrow. Merits and demerits are thus a result of one's own deeds.

As Acharya Tusli mentioned in Shravak Sambodh

punya paap sukh-dukh ke kaaran,
krit karani ke ye parinaam.
udayaavali pravishta subhaasubh,
karma vargana ke aayaam.

i.e pain and pleasure caused by punya and paap are the effect of auspicious and inauspicious karma attracted by self-action.

Joy and Sorrow: Effect of Karmic Matter

While embarking into any action, very few people think about the consequences of their actions. A person seldom thinks whether their action will lead to bondage of auspicious or inauspicious karma. They just keep on performing the activities. A specific karma is attached to the soul for each action performed. The performer will experience the results of karma when these karma particles come into udayaavalika. Udayaavalika means a state of rising karma or fruition. Auspicious or inauspicious karmas do not yield their effect immediately at the moment of bondage. As long as they are in the dormant state, the bondage of merit or demerit is not evident, i.e. joy and sorrow respectively will remain subdued in its dormant state. They will only be effective during the rising state.

There are eight types of vargana. Vargana means a group of material aggregates of the same nature. One of them is karma-vargana. Auspicious and inauspicious karma are an extension of karma-vargana.

Accumulated karma particles go through a specific process to become effective. They arrange themselves in a queue. Just as a trained soldier keep walking in a queue, in the same way karma particles align themselves in a queue. They arise and yield their result when their time is ripe. As they come into the fruition queue (udayaavalika), people experience joy and sorrow caused by them.

 Who Can Understand Restraint?

The context of living beings, non-living things, merit, and demerit can be studied in Dasvaikalik Sutra, A Jain canonical scripture.

Jo jive vi na yaanaai, ajive vi nayaanai,
jivaajive ayaananto, kaham so naahie sanjamam

Those who do not know living beings and non-living things, how can they know about restraint?

Jo jive vi viyaanaai, ajive vi viyaanai,
ivaajiveviyaananto, so hunaahiesanjamam

Only those who know about both living beings and non-living entities can be able to practise restraint.

jaya jive ajiveya, do vi e e viyaanai,
taya gaim bahuviham, savvajivaan jaanai.

When a person knows about both living beings and non-living things, he also gets to know about the various forms-of-life (gati) of living beings.

jaya gaim bahuviham, savvajivaan jaanai,
taya punnam cha paavam cha, bandham mokkham cha jaanai.

When he becomes aware of the various types of living beings, he can appreciate merit, demerit, bondage and emancipation.

The Relationship of Merit and Demerit with Life-Forms

Merits and demerits have a significant relationship with various forms-of-life. A person's form-of-life after his death is determined by his auspicious and inauspicious actions in his previous life. A strong inauspicious karma will cause narak (hell) or tiryanch (animal) life form in next birth. Moderate amount of accumulation of inauspicious karma may bring him life of manushy (human) or dev (deity) of a lower class. An immense accumulation of auspicious karma will lead him to a higher state of human or deva form. The next life forms according to the quality of karma can be categorized in three:



1.  Immense accumulation

Narak(hell) and Tiryanch

of inauspicious karmas


2.  Moderate amount of attracted inauspicious


Human / Dev life-form of lower class

3.  Immense accumulation

Human / Dev life-form of

of auspicious karma

higher class


Title:  Who is a Jain Shravak?

Acharya MahaPragya


Sadhvi Vishrut Vibha

Publisher:  Adarsh Sahitya Vibhag, JVB
Digital Publishing: 
Amit Kumar Jain

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acharya
  2. Ajiva
  3. Bandh
  4. Body
  5. Chetana
  6. Deva
  7. Fear
  8. Gati
  9. Jain Philosophy
  10. Jaya
  11. Jiva
  12. Karma
  13. Karma-vargana
  14. Karmas
  15. Karmic matter
  16. Mahavira
  17. Moksha
  18. Nirjara
  19. Paap
  20. Punya
  21. Samvar
  22. Sanskrit
  23. Satta
  24. Shravak
  25. Soul
  26. Sutra
  27. Vargana
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