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Authors born between 1000 and 500 BCE

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The Principles

Goals In Life

Inflow Of Karmas

Stopping Karmic Inflow

Activities Of The Self 

The Physical World






Vardhamana (599-527 BCE) promulgated the religious and philosophical system of the Jains in India. It is believed that he was codifying and passing on the traditions of earlier thinkers, most notably his predecessor, Parshwa. The religious system does not accept the authority of the Veda. Rather it seeks to base its system on reason and observation of reality. As a result, it contains early speculative philosophy regarding perception and knowledge, and recognizes that different points of view lead to different versions of the truth.

As with other original thinkers in the early period of Indian history, the word of Vardhamma did not get written down until centuries after his death. The extracts presented here are taken from an exposition of Jainism by Umasvami (135-219 CE) known as the Tattvartha Sutra.

The concept of karma is central to many Indian philosophies and religions, although its meaning varies among them. In the earliest literature, the Vedas, there is a discussion in the Upanishads of how through good karma a person becomes good, and through bad karma, bad. This general idea has evolved in different ways through the centuries but remains essential to discussing humanistic aspects of subsequent Indian philosophy. A person’s actions have effects—the fruits of an action—and karma mediates the way these effects change a person’s condition. In Jainism, karmas are of two kinds: non-destructive and destructive. Non-destructive karmas arise from feeling, body, family, and age. They are considered not to affect the nature of the self. Destructive karmas are knowledge-obscuring, conation-obscuring, deluding (intoxicating the self), and obstructive. Pleasure and pain-bearing karmas are nondestructive, but pain and pleasure themselves may arise from feeling karmas combined with deluding karmas.

For the Hindu believing in reincarnation, accumulated karma governs the condition of the next life. For the Buddha, there was no next life and it was motives (cravings) rather than actions that changed a person’s karma and condition. For the Jainas, a person’s karma may be changed during this life by particular types of actions. And it is from the description of these actions that the moral values of early Jainism emerge. A primary goal in Jainism is liberation from the effects of karma, with ascetic disciplines seen as the way of achieving this. Nevertheless, it is recognized that many people cannot give up all worldly goods to become a wandering ascetic depending on alms, and so there is ample guidance given for success in a less extreme way of life.

The Tattvartha Sutra describes destructive karmic matter as flowing into the self and putting it in bondage. In physical terms, karmic matter would be part of the total inflow of information to the self, where abstraction, contextualization, and retention of significant events and actions influence future perceptions and conduct.

In the text below, the chapter and sutra number are given after each extract.


1 The Principles

Right belief, knowledge, and conduct—these are the path to liberation. 1-1

Right belief—belief or conviction in things ascertained to be as they are. 1-2

This is attained from internal intuition and from external sources. 1-3

The principles are the self, non-self, inflow, blocking, and shedding of karmic matter, and liberation of the self. 1-4

Aspects of these are attributes of names or representations, absent attributes, and present attributes. 1-5


2 Goals In Life

The five goals are to be free from injury, falsehood, thievery, unchasity, and worldly attachment. 7-1

The five steps towards the goal of freedom from injury are preservation of speech, preservation of mind, care in walking, care in lifting and laying down things, and properly preparing one’s food and drink. 7-4

The five steps towards the goal of freedom from falsehood are giving up anger, greed, fear, and frivolity, and speaking in accordance with the injunctions or texts. 7-5

The five steps towards for the goal of freedom from thievery are residence in a solitary place, residence in a deserted place, residence in a place without prohibitions, purity of alms, and not disputing about "mine" and "yours". 7-6

The five steps towards for the goal of freedom from unchastity are renouncing stories exciting attachment to women, seeing their beautiful bodies, contemplation of enjoyment of women, exciting and aphrodisiac drinks, and renouncing beautifying one’s own body. 7-7

The five steps towards for the goal of freedom from worldly attachment are giving up love and hatred towards pleasing and displeasing object of the five senses. 7-8

Meditate on the destructive or dangerous censurable character of injury, falsehood, theft, unchasity, and worldly attachment. 7-9

Meditate on benevolence for all living beings, delight at beings more advanced on the path to liberation, compassion for the afflicted, and on indifference to the uncivil or ill-behaved. 7-11


3 Inflow Of Karmas

Activity of body, speech or mind set up vibrations in the self that can cause destruction or subsiding of power-obstructive karmas with the support of material molecules of different kinds of bodies, of power-obstructive and knowledge-obscuring karmas with the support of vocal molecules, and knowledge-obscuring and obstructive karmas with the support of molecules of the mind. 6-1

Vibrations in the self (yoga) provide for inflow of karmic matter to the self. 6-2

Inflow can be of good or bad karmas. 6-3

Worldly inflows of karma are caused by the five senses, four passions, five kinds of lack of self-control. These are of twenty five kinds: (1) the kind that strengthens right belief, (2) the kind that strengthens wrong belief or superstition, (3) bodily movement, (4) a tendency to neglect promises, (5) walking carefully by looking on the ground, (6) tendency to accuse others in anger, (7) a wicked man’s readiness to hurt others, (8) having harmful weapons, (9) anything causing mental pain to oneself or others, (10) depriving another of vitalities of age, sense-organs, powers, and respiration, (11) desire to see a pleasing form, (12) frivolous indulgence in touching, (13) inventing new sensory enjoyments, (14) excreting in public places, (15) carelessness in dropping things to earth, (16) doing what should be done by others, (17) admiring hurtful things, (18) proclaiming the sins of others, (19) misinterpreting texts, (20) disrespect for texts, (21) delighting in others’ misdeeds, (22) persevering in attachment to worldly belongings, (23) deceitful undermining of another’s right knowledge, (24) praising actions arising from wrong belief, (25) not renouncing what ought to be renounced. 6-5

Differences in inflow of karma arise from differences in intensity of desire or thought, mildness, degree of intention, lack of intention, dependence, and in the power to act. 6-6

Dependence varies with determination, preparation, and commencement. 6-8

Inflow of knowledge-obscuring and conation-obscuring karmic matter is caused by depreciation of the learned, concealment of knowledge, envy or jealousy, obstruction of the progress of knowledge, denial of the truth, and appearing to refute the truth. 6-10

Inflow of pain-bringing karmic matter is caused by pain, sorrow, remorse, weeping, deprivation of vitality, or by pathetic moaning to attract compassion. 6-11

Inflow of pleasure-bearing karmic matter is caused by compassion for all living things, compassion for those who take vows, charity, self-control, restraint of some passions, equanimous submission to the fruition of karma, austerity, contemplation, forgiveness, and contentment. 6-12

Inflow of right-conduct-deluding karmic matter is caused by the intense thought activity produced by the rise in the passions. 6-14

Inflow of evil age karma is caused by too much worldly activity or by too much attachment to worldly objects. 6-15

Inflow of subhuman age karma is caused by deceit. 6-16

Inflow of human age karma is caused by slight worldly activity and by attachment to a few worldly objects or by slight attachment. 6-17

Inflow of bad body-making karma is caused by a mind, body, or speech that is not straight-forward, or by such things as tedious, unnecessary argument. 1-22

Inflow of good body-making karma is caused by the opposite of the above. 6-23

Inflow of obstructive karma is caused by disturbing others, gain, enjoyment of consumable things, enjoyment of non-consumable things, and making use of them. 6-27


4 Stopping Karmic Inflow

Stoppage of inflow of karmic matter into the self is produced by proper control over mind, speech and body, carefulness, observence, meditation, subduing suffering, and right conduct. 9-2

Carefulness is proper care in walking, speaking, eating, lifting or laying, and in excreting. 9-5

The observances are: forgiveness, humility, honesty, contentment, truth, restraint, austerity, renunciation, non-attachment, and chasity. 9-6

Things to be meditated on are: everything is subject to change; the self is unprotected from the fruition of karmas; the self moves in the cycle of existences and cannot attain true happiness until out of it; I alone initiate my actions and enjoy the fruits of them; the world, my relations and friends, my body and mind, are all distinct and separate from my true self; purity is of two kinds—of the self and of the body; inflow of karma determines my worldly existence and is the product of passions and other things; the inflow must be stopped; karmic matter must be shed from the self; the nature of the universe; the difficulty of finding the right path; the nature of truth. 9-7

Things that are suffered are hunger, thirst, cold, heat, insect bites, nakedness, ennui, distraction by women, walking too much, sitting too long, abuse, begging, failure to get alms, disrespect, conceit of knowledge, lack of knowledge, and lack of belief. 9-9

Suffering from hunger, thirst, cold, heat, insect bites, walking too much, hard earth bed, beating, disease, thorns, dirt arise from feeling karmas of the pain sort. 9-11

Suffering from conceit of knowledge, lack of knowledge arise from knowledge-obscuring karmas. 9-13

Suffering from lack of belief arises from right-belief deluding karmas; failure to get alms from obstructive karma. 9-14

Suffering from nakedness, ennui, distraction by women, sitting or posture, abuse, begging, respect and disrespect are due to right-conduct deluding karmas. 9-15

The five kinds of right conduct are equanimity, recovery of equanimity after loosing it, pure and absolute non-injury, all but entire freedom from passion, ideal and passionless conduct. 9-18

The four kinds of reverence are for right knowledge, right belief, right conduct, and for observing proper forms of respect. 9-23

Study is of five kinds: reading, questioning, reflection or meditation, memorizing and reciting, and lecturing. 9-25

Concentration is of four kinds: painful, wicked, righteous, pure. 9-28


5 Activities Of The Self

The self has its own natural activity independent of karmas, but in it karma can operate, subside, or be destroyed. Mixtures of these mental activities occur. 2-1

Right belief and conduct come with the subsiding of deluding karmas and of error-feeding passions: anger, pride, deceit, and grief. 2-3

Destruction of obstructing karmas leads to right knowledge, conation, charity, gain, enjoyment, power, belief, and conduct. 2-4

Right or wrong knowledge may be sensory, textual, visual, or mental. Conation may be ocular, sensory, mental, or visual. Attainment or acquisition may be charity—food, medicine, knowledge, or fearlessness. Gain may be enjoyment of consumables, re-enjoyment of non-consumables, and power. Belief, conduct, and self control may be imperfect due to incomplete removal of deluding or destructive karmas. 2-5

Natural thought activities include: consciousness, liberation, non-liberation. 2-7

Attention is of two kinds: knowledge attention and conation attention. 2-8

The different senses are touch, taste, smell, sight, hearing. 2-20


6 The Physical World

Objects in the sky are of five kinds: the sun, the moon, the planets, the constellations, the scattered stars. 4-12

Divisions of time come from these. 4-13

[Substances may have the attributes of indestructibility, functionality, changeability, knowability, individuality, spatiality.]

The four non-self extended substances: medium of motion for self and matter, medium of rest for self and matter, space, matter. 5-1

A self is also an extended substance. 5-3

The five extended substances are permanent in their nature, fixed, and devoid of touch, taste, smell, and color. 5-4

Matter has touch, taste, smell, and color. 5-5

The media of motion and rest and space are indivisible wholes. 5-6

The smallest units of space are infinite. 5-9

Matter has two forms: atoms and molecules. 5-25

Molecules are attained by division, fusion, or both. 5-26

Atoms are obtained by division. 5-27

Atoms of matter are numerable, innumerable, or infinite, according to their different types. 5-10

An atom occupies the smallest unit of space. 5-11

The media of motion and rest are the whole universe. 5-13

Matter provides for bodies, speech, mind, and the respiration of the self. 5-19

Matter also makes possible worldly enjoyment, pain, life, and death in the self. 5-20

Selves support each other. 5-21

Time provides for existence, modification, movement, long and short durations. 5-22

Materials are possessed of touch, taste, smell, and color. 5-23

Material substances may manifest sound, combination, fineness, grossness, figure, divisibility, darkness, shade, sunshine, moonlight. 5-24


7 Knowledge

Knowledge of external sources may be direct or partial. 1-6

Knowledge from external sources comes from description, inherent qualities, cause, place, age or duration, classification. 1-7

Such knowledge comes from existence, number, place, extent, time, interval, quality, quantity. 1-8

Right knowledge is of five kinds: sensory knowledge [touch, taste, smell, hearing], textual knowledge, visual knowledge [with reference to the subject, space, time, and quality], mental knowledge, and perfect knowledge. 1-9

Visual, mental, and perfect knowledge are direct knowledge; sensory and textual knowledge are indirect. 1-10

Sensory and textual knowledge are indirect or mediated. 1-11

Direct knowledge is unmediated. 1-12

Sensory knowledge includes remembering, recognition, induction, deduction. 1-13

Such knowledge is acquired by senses and the mind. 1-14

It comes from conation, concept formation, judgment, and retention. 1-15

Textual knowledge is preceded by sensory knowledge. 1-20

Mental knowledge includes elementary mental things and complex mental things. 1-23

These differ in their purity and infallibility. 1-24

Matter is the subject of visual knowledge. 1-27

Infinitesimal parts are the subject of mental knowledge. 1-28

All substance in all forms are the subject of perfect knowledge. 1-29

The first four kinds of knowledge can be found in one self. 1-30

Sensory, textual, and visual knowledge can err. 1-31

Wrong knowledge may come from lack of discrimination between the real and the unreal, like a lunatic following his hallucinations. 1-32

The different points of view are: figurative [perceiving in a non-literal or figurative way]; general [perceiving a class rather than an individual in the class]; distributive [perceiving individuals in a class rather than the class as a whole]; actual [perceiving according to time—a short interval or a long period]; descriptive [perceiving through a text]; specific [perceiving one meaning of a word with several meanings]; active [restricting a name to the activity connoted by the name]. 1-33



Adapted from The Sacred Books of the Jainas, Volume 2, Tattvarthadhigama Sutra, by Sri Umasvami Acharya, edited with introduction, translation, notes and commentary by J. L. Jaini. Kumar Devendra Prasada, The Central Jaina Publishing House, India, 1920.

The term "self" is used instead of "soul" in accordance with the recommendation of Charles A. Moore in A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy, edited by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Charles A. Moore. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1957.