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Who is a Jain Shravak: 12.1 Shadjivanikaay (Six Categories of Jivas)

Published: 19.02.2020

The entire analysis of nine tattvas is a process of sadhana. The path of emancipation and spirituality is imbibed in the nine tattvas. Five real substances or six substances are the benchmark to know the universe. The principle of shadjivanikaay, i.e. six types of jivas, has also been propounded by Bhagawan Mahavira. All worldly living beings can be classified in two divisions - tras (mobile) and sthaavar (immobile). Tras are beings who are capable of movement to get rid of pain and to get the pleasure. Sthavaars are beings who cannot move whatsoever. The knowledge that tras jiva can move is very well known. However, very few people even in the past knew about the five sthaavars. Perhaps for this reason, most of the philosophical and religious schools have not accepted life form in them.

Mahavira acknowledged their consciousness through keval-gyaan (omniscience). Today, with the support of instruments such as microscopes etc., many scientists are constantly trying to discover the microscopic form of life. Do you know how many living organisms are there in your human skin? Current scientific discoveries mention that up to one billion living organisms can be found on the skin of a person who has taken a bath eight hours ago. Innumerable living beings are present on our skin and no one knows about them. One who bathes daily, feels very hygienic, yet remain unaware of the millions of living beings still present on every part of their body.

Jiva and Parasite

There are again two types of jivas- jiva and jiva-nishritjiva (parasite). Parasite is an organism that lives in or on another organism (its host) and benefits itself by deriving nutrients at the host's expense. Our body consists of one soul, which is the fundamental jiva and the owner of the body, but innumerable parasites are there. Doctors find germs and bacteria everywhere in the body. As long as our immune system is strong, germs can do no harm; however as soon as it becomes weak, germs start attacking our body and cause disease. Therefore, jivas are everywhere. That's why the question was raised:

jale jivaah sthale jivaah, jivaah parvatmastake,
asmin jivaakule loke, katham bhikshurahimsakah.

i.e. 'How can a monk be completely non-violent, when there are jivas everywhere - in water, on land, and even on top of the hills?'

Six Categories of Jivas

Bhagawan Mahavira propounded six kinds of jiva - prithvikaay (earth-bodied), apkaay (water-bodied), tejaskaay (fire-bodied), vaayukaay (air-bodied), vanaspatikaay (plants) and trasakaay (mobile creatures). Amongst them, the first five are sthaavar, having one sense only. The following verse from Shravak Sambodh elucidates these six categories of jiva.

prithvi ap taijas tatha, vaayu vanaspatikaay,
tras jainaagam mein vidit, ye sadjivanikaay.

Jain philosophy has a unique conception about living beings -

  1. There are living beings in Earth.
  2. There are living beings in Water.
  3. Earth itself is a jiva
  4. Water itself is a jiva.

Generally, it is believed that there are living beings in soil or earth and in water etc. According to scientists, a spoonful of soil may contain more than billions of living beings. The soil ordinarily looks lifeless, but when examined through a microscope, it proves the existence of living beings. Jain philosophy explains it very well. According to Jain Aagams, earth, water, fire, air, vegetation and mobile creatures are jivas. There are innumerable living beings in a handful soil or a drop of water.

The defining characteristics of tras jiva are described in Dasavealyam (4/9) -

Se je pun ime anege bahave tasa paana, tam jaha - andaya poyaya jaraauya rasaya sanseima sammuchhima ubbhiya uvavaaiya.

Jesim kesinchi paananam abhikkantam padikkantam sankuchiyam pasaariyam ruyam bhantam tasiyam palaaiyam aagai-gaivinnaaya- je ya kidapayanga, ja ya kunthupiviliya savve beindiya savve teindiya savve chaurindiya savve panchindiya savve tirikkhajoniya savve neraiya savve manuya savve deva... eso khalu chattho jivanikaao tasakaao ti pavuchchai.

i.e. there are many types of mobile beings according to their birth, such as - andaj (born from eggs), potaj (born as fully formed infants), jaraayuj (placental), rasaj (born out of liquid), samsvedaj (born out of sweat), sammurchchhanaj (produced asexually through excreta), udbhij (through breaking open the earth), aupapaatik (born spontaneously on bed or pit).

Living organisms which have actions such as, forward movement, backward movement, contraction, expansion, making sound, moving here and there, being frightened, running, etc. and can move are called mobile beings.

All insects, moths, worms, and ants, having two, three, four or five senses, all animals, all hellish beings, all human beings, and all celestial beings - all these forms of life fall under the sixth category of the living beings known as mobile beings (trasakaays).

Knowledge of Living Beings is Essential

There are living beings all around us and therefore it becomes difficult to be non-violent.

In VS 2005 we were in Chadavas before chaaturmas in Chhapar, a naturopathic doctor suggested to us clay treatment on the belly. He also advised that the soil of the uppermost surface level of the earth is not useful. It must be from under the surface. I confronted him saying, 'Jain monks cannot use the soil taken about one foot deep under the ground because it contains life. Therefore, a monk himself also cannot dig the earth deep. Moreover, it is said, suddha pudhavie na nisie- a monk is not allowed to sit on bare ground without spreading a piece of woollen cloth on it. For, body heat may harm the life forms living in the sitting place on the earth, which may cause violence.' Not only is there living organism on the earth, but earth itself is a living being. Therefore, in scriptures we find two words - pudhavi jiva pudhavinissiya jiva- earth-bodied beings and the parasites, living organism are dependent on the earth for survival.

Why is the knowledge of jiva emphasized in Jainism? Bhagawan Mahavira propounded three gems - right faith, right knowledge, and right conduct. Non-violence is the basis of right conduct, and the knowledge of shadjivanikaay is the basis of non-violence. This is a unique contribution of Bhagawan Mahavira. Without understanding it thoroughly, the principle of non-violence is beyond anyone's comprehension. It has been given a great deal of importance from a spiritual as well as an ecological point of view. Non-violence has become an integral part of life because of the credence it has received from science.

The knowledge of shadjivanikaay is essential for a shravakas he accepts the minor vows (anuvrat) of non-violence. Until and unless one knows about the living organisms, how can they practice non­violence? As such the concept of shadjivanikaay is very significant. Furthermore, the prevalent critical problem is that of ecological protection. It can be solved by understanding these life-forms and applying the philosophy of minimising violence.

Lifestyle and Environment of a Jain Shravak

Since the last two decades of twentieth century, focus has been shifted to environmental cleanliness. What is the environment? Earth, water, air, plants and living beings are the main constituents of the environment. The environment remains healthy in an ecologically balanced state. Their imbalance creates pollution. This is why BhagawanMahavira has put emphasis on self-restraint in the consumption of these constituents.

Once, I came across a newspaper where the headline read - 'Indian government has prohibited excavating. No stones and minerals can be dug out as it pollutes the environment.' It is a praiseworthy step in favour of environment. The whole universe is worried about the security of the environment. The principle of shadjivanikaay and care for the environment go hand in hand.

Jain Vishva Bharati held an international conference on 'Training in Non-violence and the Environment'. The Chief Secretary John Varner Reed of the U.N.O. and environmentalists from all over the world participated in it. They knew that Jain shravak's lifestyle is related to the principle of environment. Some directives given to them were -

  1. Not to excavate the earth more than required.
  2. Not to misuse water.

They agreed with this idea that adoption of such principles comprehensively, will help in restoration of the resources related to environmental degradation.

In ancient times, water was considered precious and advised to use it as cautiously as a poor person uses ghee. During those days, there was good awareness for it. Rupchandji Sethia would use only 52 tola (606.5 gm) water for bathing is often cited as an example of self-discipline.

Jain Values in Mahatma Gandhi

Jain values were very strongly embedded in Mahatma Gandhi. He would use minimal water to bathe. As a matter of fact, people don't really understand the reason of taking bath. The real purpose of bath is to unclog the blocked pores of the skin. Bath can be taken by massaging with a wet towel, with the use of as little water as possible. The use of excessive water, in fact does not result in the proper cleansing of the skin. We also undertake dry baths. During our exercises, we massage our skin with a dry towel. This leads to opening up of the skin pores, which is similar to having a bath and aids in maintaining good health.

The Virtue of Self-restraint and Compassion

Scientists of WHO (World Health Organization) proclaim - 'One day, the problem of water scarcity will become so acute that one would have to re-cycle drain water and drink it.' At present, in many countries that is occurring.

In this context, one should study the Jain Aagam Gyatasutra. We find an illustration that minister Subuddhi served recycled water to king Jitashatru. Even today, shortage of water is a pressing problem. Therefore, it is advised to use water wisely, not to misuse electricity, and not to pollute the air. Vehicles are essential to use and it is noteworthy that hybrid and electric cars are becoming popular to promote a pollution-free environment.

Jain Aagams have always been suggesting - don't cut forests, don't chop the trees. There is a word in Prakrit language, Bachho. It has two meanings - tree and boy. It has been said that a tree is your son. The Bishnoi community is very firm in this aspect. They do not allow the cutting of trees. In fact, there must be a feeling of compassion while felling them. How generous the trees are! There are some empathetic people who ask permission from trees before snapping the twigs even to use as toothbrushes. They request to the tree, 'Look tree! I am obliged to do it. I cannot survive without brushing my teeth. Therefore, I am cutting one twig. I know it will pain you. Please forgive me in advance.' In the western world, there have been many such compassionate people. This compassion reflects that we do not have right to make the trees endure pain.

Does only man have the right to live? Do plant kingdom and small creatures not have the right to survive? Everybody has the right to live. Man, out of his arrogance or ignorance, has created such an atmosphere that are indifferent to others pain at the expense of their own comforts.

Not only plants, but animals are also the victims of human devastation. Man has become so cruel that he does not hesitate in killing living beings for his luxurious cosmetics, perfumes and other decorative articles. A large number of animals are killed for their fine skin and fur. Women use cosmetics, probably because most of them don't know what these cosmetics are made of. Surely, if they know the truth, they will refrain from using them.

Living beings are also decimated in the pharmaceutical industry. Scientists kill innumerable rats, monkeys, frogs, etc. for their research hoping to find solutions for various human diseases.

In an International meditation camp in Delhi, we met a Canadian lady, Irena, who was a very firm Jain shravika. She would not use any medicines. I asked her the reason. Irena replied, 'I do not use medicines made by hurting and killing animals.' I asked, 'What is the harm to take medicines which are free from alcohol, non-veg, etc.' She said, 'Even if there are no non-veg in the medicines, yet many animals are being killed during the experiments for the invention of the medicines. The medicines are the outcome of violent experiments. That is why I do not like to use any allopathic medicines. I once fractured my leg as I met with an accident. I cured myself through my will power.'

 This is an example of strong will power.

 Some people have become so cruel, that animals and infants are killed just for their entertainment. In some countries, infants aged around two are tied up to a camel's back for camel races. The screaming of the children becomes their entertainment. This is amusement for them. Similarly, at some places people set the rabbits free and dogs chasing them. Watching rabbits run to save their life and the dogs chasing them is entertaining for them. Is this not cruelty and purposeless barbarism?

For non-vegetarian diets, many animals get butchered. When it comes to their survival, man does not care for others. Some countries have started pondering that if they don't restrict the excessive slaughtering of animals, they might face a scarcity of animals.


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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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Aagam
  2. Aagams
  3. Anuvrat
  4. Body
  5. Chhapar
  6. Consciousness
  7. Delhi
  8. Deva
  9. Environment
  10. Gandhi
  11. Ghee
  12. Jain Philosophy
  13. Jain Vishva Bharati
  14. Jainism
  15. Jiva
  16. Mahatma
  17. Mahatma Gandhi
  18. Mahavira
  19. Meditation
  20. Nine Tattvas
  21. Non-violence
  22. Prakrit
  23. Sadhana
  24. Science
  25. Shravak
  26. Shravakas
  27. Shravika
  28. Soul
  29. Tattvas
  30. Violence
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