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Liberation Ethics

Liberation Ethics

  • Since karma is that which binds the soul, so, the cause of liberation will be dissociation of the soul from matter. According to Jainism, this can be attained by stopping the influx of new matter into the soul as well as by the complete elimination of the matter with which the soul has already mingled.
  • Jainism maintains that the passions or cravings of the soul lead to the association of the soul with matter. Further, the passions ultimately spring from our ignorance; therefore, ignorance is the real cause of bondage.
  • Ignorance can be removed only by knowledge. So, right knowledge is the cause of liberation. The Jainas stress on the necessity of right knowledge (samyak-jnana). But this right knowledge is produced by faith in the teachings of the omniscient Tirthankaras. Hence, right faith (samyak darshan) is necessary.
  • Again, mere knowledge is useless unless it is put to practice. So, right conduct (samyak charitra) is the third indispensable condition of liberation.
  • Hence, the path to liberation lies through right faith (samyak-darshan), right knowledge (samyak-jnana) and right conduct (samyak charitra). Liberation is the joint effect of these three. These three are described as the three gems (tri-ratna) of Jainism.

Right faith (Samyak-darsana):

  • Right faith is explained as the attitude of respect (sraddha) towards truth. This faith may come to one either naturally or through the instruction of a teacher. It should not be thought that Jainism wants its followers to accept blindly what is taught by the tirthankaras.
  • The Jaina claims that if the beginner finds their teachings reasonable then his faith increases and the more one studies the greater would the faith grow. Hence, perfect knowledge would cause perfect faith.                      Liberation Ethics

Right knowledge (Samvak-jnana):

  • Right knowledge is the proper understanding of the real nature of jiva and ajiva, and is free from doubt, error and uncertainty.
  • In the case of faith as well as in the case of knowledge, the existence of certain innate tendencies (karmas) stands in the way of correct knowledge.
  • For the attainment of perfect knowledge the removal of these karmas should be attempted. Perfection of this process ends in the attainment of absolute omniscience (kevala jnana).

Right conduct (Samyak caritra):

  • Right conduct becomes possible for one who has right faith and right knowledge. Right conduct is refraining from doing wrong and performing what is right. This helps the self to get rid of the karmas that lead to bondage and suffering.
  • The five vows (panca-vrata) is recognized by the Upanishadic thinkers as well as the Buddhists, who teach the pancasila. These are also recognized in the commandments of the Bible.
  • These vows are meant for the ascetics in their extreme form, whereas for the lay disciples they are prescribed in a modified form. The vows in their extreme form are known as the ‘great vows’ (maha-vrata) and in their modified form the ‘lesser/small vows’ (anuvrata).

The five vows are: 1. Ahimsa 2. Satya 3. Asteya 4. Brahmacharya and 5. Aparigraha.

  1. Ahimsa (Non-violence): Abstinence from all injury to life. The ideal of the Jaina is to avoid injuring life, not only of the moving creature (trasa) but also of the non-moving ones (sthavara). It is based on the idea of potential equality of all souls. Ahimsa must be practiced in thought, word and deed. Ahimsa does not merely signify the negative principle of refraining from causing injury. Positively, it stands for the practice of active love towards all beings.
  2. Satya (Truth): Abstinence from falsehood. It is derived from ahimsa. The ideal of this vow is also called Sunrta, to suggest that speaking truth also means speaking what is pleasant and good. The speech that harms another is not truthful. So, Satya must be practiced in thought, word and deed.
  3. Asteya (Non-stealing): Abstinence from stealing. Asteya means not taking what is not given. That is, not to take by thought, word or action, anything to which one is not entitled. This view may be said to be logically inseparable from the vow of ahimsa. Since by depriving another person of what belongs to him, one inflicts injury on him. So, one should not covet another’s property.                                                    Liberation Ethics
  1. Brahmacharya (Non-indulgence): Abstinence from self-indulgence by thought, word and deed. For the ascetic, this virtue means absolute celibacy. For the lay person it means chastity. For the complete maintenance of this vow one must desist from all forms of self-indulgence.
  2. Aparigraha (Renunciation): Abstinence from all attachment to sense-objects. It must be practiced by thought, word and deed. In the case of ascetic, these are to be followed very rigorously. The ascetic should renounce all personal property. He should not consider even his body as his own. He considers the entire world to be his family. For the lay person, aparigraha means contentment, that is, to reduce wants to the minimum.                              Liberation Ethics

The practice of the five virtues paves for the liberation of the soul from the bondage of karma. The great vows lead one to the imperishable state. Being free from the obstacles of matter, the soul realizes its inherent potentiality. It attains the four fold perfection (ananta-catusataya).




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