Jain Philosophy (2) 15 – Nava_tattva (Nine Fundamentals)

Jain Philosophy (2) 15 – Nava_tattva (Nine Fundamentals)

Jain Philosophy (2) 15 – Nava_tattva (Nine Fundamentals)


Nava_tattva or nine fundamentals are the essence of Jain philosophy. People, who have understood Jainism correctly, reflect it in their conduct, behavior, thinking and day to day activities.  Once we understand and follow Jainism, we will see a positive transformation in our lifestyle.  If we have faith in Jainism, it must be mirrored in the lifestyle. Jainism is not about changing the world; it is about changing our own selves.  The objective of Nava_tattva is to change the self. If one understands the essence of Nava_tattva, he will understand the mystery behind the ups and the downs of life.  Once we understand Nava_tattva properly, we will be able to do proper Sädhanä.

One can do proper Sädhanä if he has proper knowledge of those Tattvas. If one does not have the knowledge of Nava_tattva, how will he be able to exercise self_restraint and compassion? Conventionally it can be said that one has Samyag_Darshan (right perception) if he has the faith in and knowledge of Nava_tattva.

Because of the good understanding of Nava_tattva, one’s life gets to a higher spiritual level. Mystery of happiness and unhappiness, good and bad, fame and disgrace, and similar contradictions (dualities) resolved are through the knowledge of Nava_tattva. Per Jain philosophy, one knows many things if he knows Nava_tattva and one does not know anything if he does not know Nava_tattva.  Nava_tattva are as follows:

  • Jiva (living beings)
  • Ajiva (non_living matter)
  • Punya (virtuous Karma)
  • Päp (non_virtuous Karma)
  • Äsrava (influx of Karma)
  • Bandha (bondage of Karma)
  • Samvar (stoppage of influx of Karma)
  • Nirjarä (eradication of Karma)
  • Moksha (liberation)

Jain philosophers states that there is no better destiny (Gati) than that of a human being in this world (Samsär). Samsär means material world where Jiva is subjected to birth and death. One can attain the right knowledge of Nava_tattva only in the life as human and heavenly beings and not in any other living form (hellish beings, and animals).  One can liberate oneself (attain Moksha) only as a human being and not in any other living form.

Nava_tattva are very simple and it is easy to remember their names. If you can remember one name, you will be able to identify other names automatically. If you know the first one – Jiva (living beings), then the second one is its antonym – Ajiva (non_living matter). If you remember Punya (virtuous Karma), then its opposite is Päp (non_virtuous Karma). If you recall Äsrava (influx of Karma) then its antithesis is Samvar (stoppage of influx of Karma). If you recall Bandha (bondage of Karma), then its contradiction is Nirjarä (eradication of Karma). Eradication of Karma is everyone’s objective and that is Moksha (liberation).

It should be noted that in several Jain canonical books including Tattvärtha Sutra, only seven fundamentals (Tattva) are mentioned.  In this case, Punya (virtuous Karma) and Päp (non_virtuous Karma) are included as parts of Äsrava (influx of Karma). Some Ächäryas have included these two fundamentals as Bandha (bondage of Karma).

Heya, Upädeya & Jneya

Nava_tattva can be divided in three groups:

Heya  Heya means worth abandoning – Pap, Asrava and Bandha are Heya
Upadeya Upadeya means worth attaining – Punya, Samvar, Nirjara and Moksha are Upadeya. (Punya is eventually worth abandoing ). 
Jneya Jneya means worth knowing – all nine fundamentals: jiva, Ajiva, Punya, Pap, Asrava, Bandha, Samvar, Nirjara, and Moksha are Jneya


Efficacy of Nava_tattva

Samyaktva or Samyag_darshan is attained when one fully understands and has true belief in the nine fundamentals of Jiva, Ajiva etc.  One who does not know what Jiva is and does not know what Ajiva is.  The individual who does not know Jiva and Ajiva; how will he be able to practice self_restraint (Sanyam)? Those who do not have a detailed knowledge of the Nava_tattva can, however, attain Samyaktva by ardently believing in the Nava_tattva. Everything said by the Tirthankars must be true because they have no reason to lie. Falsehood can be indulged only on account of attachment, hatred or ignorance. Since Tirthankars are free from such defilements, whatever is in there sermons are bound to be true.

The philosophy of Nava_tattva is very practical.  Omniscients have explained to us the existence of the living beings, and their relationship with Karma through these nine aspects. One stops the influx of Karma through Samvar and eradicates Karma through Nirjarä; and by these two processes, Samvar and Nirjarä, one liberates oneself from karmic bondage and attains the ultimate goal, liberation (Moksha).  One should therefore pursue the path of Samvar and Nirjarä to be successful in discovering the truth about one’s own self.

Note: First two Tattvas Jiva and Ajiva have been discussed in previous chapter. Remaining Tattvas will be discussed in the following chapters.




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