Chapter 19 – Nav Tattva Part I : Jiv, Ajiva, Punya, Päp, Äsrava, and Bandha

Chapter 19 – Nav Tattva Part I : Jiv, Ajiva, Punya, Päp, Äsrava, and Bandha

Chapter 19 – Nav Tattva Part I : Jiv, Ajiva, Punya, Päp, Äsrava, and Bandha

Jiv, Ajiv, Punya, Päp, Äsrava, Bandha, Samvar, Nirjarä and Moksha are the nine fundamentals or Nav Tattva.

The nine tattvas or principles are the single most important subjects of Jain philosophy.  They deal with the theory of karma, which provides the basis for the path of liberation.   Without proper knowledge of these tattvas, a person cannot progress spiritually.

The Nine Tattvas (Principles) are as follows:

Name                                Meaning

1       Jiv                           Soul or living being (Consciousness)

2       Ajiv                          Non-living substances

3       Äsrava                     Influx of karma

4       Bandha                    Bondage of karma

5       Punya*                     Virtue

6       Päp*                        Sin

7       Samvar                   Stoppage of the influx of karma

8       Nirjarä                     Partial exhaustion of the accumulated karma

9       Moksha                   Total liberation from karma

*Some scriptures define Punya (virtue) and Päp (sin) not as separate tattvas. They include them in Äsrava and Bandha.  In reality Punya and Papa are the result of Äsrava and Bandha. Hence truly there exist only seven tattvas.

Samyaktva or Samyag-Darshan (Right Faith) is attained when one fully understands the six universal substances and nine fundamentals.

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

Jain philosophy views nine fundamentals or Nav Tattva in 3 categories:

Jneya meaning those to be known

Heya meaning those to be avoided

Upädeya meaning those to be adopted 

Of the nine fundamentals,

  • Jiv and Ajivs are Jneya (to be known)
  • Äsrava and Bandha are Heya (to be avoided)
  • Samvar, Nirjarä and Moksha are Upädeya (to be adopted)
  • Päp is Heya and
  • Punya is Upädeya for the beginners and Heya for spiritually advanced person

Punya is a meritorious deed done with a feeling of self-satisfaction and accomplishment (in other words with ego).  However if the same deed done without the feeling of accomplishment and attachment (with our ego) is not Punya but the action or deed is considered the true nature of a person (Shuddha Bhäv).   Hence Punya activity is considered Upädeya in the beginning stages of spiritual development to progress towards liberation (for laymen).     For those who are active aspirants of liberation it is considered Heya, because such aspirants should not have  the  feeling  of  accomplishments  and  attachments  to  even  meritorious  deeds.    Their activities or deeds are always be meritorious without the feeling of attachments to the activities. No karma can attach to a person if his/her action is done without any attachments or feeling of  accomplishments.

Some description of Jiv has been given in the earlier chapter while dealing with Shad-dravya. It should however be clear from the discussion thus far that the knowledge of these fundamentals or of anything else is meant for knowing the Self.   This Self is variously known as Jiv, Ätmä, Paramätmä, Chaitanya, Brahma, consciousness, etc., Thus soul being the focal point and ultimate objective of all knowledge,  it  would be useful to discuss it here at some length.

Jiv (Living Beings)

‘What is this soul after all?’ No one has ever seen it.   Therefore atheists (people who do not believe in God), who refuse to believe in anything that cannot be perceived or grasped by senses, deny the existence of the soul.   Most scientists contribute to this view.   They think that the body is a biochemical composition and is made from a peculiar combination of genes from the parents.   As long as the composition is active, it is said to be a living organism; and when the activity comes to an end, it is considered to be dead.   But science does not clarify what exactly makes it active and why does the activity come to an end.   It is a fact that when a person dies, his heart, kidneys and other limbs may still be active but the body is unable to use them and therefore they cease to function.   If however, they are removed from that body in time, they can be transplanted in another body and function effectively in the  new  body.    Does  it  not  mean  that  there  was  some  sort  of  invisible  energy  that  was activating different limbs of the body while it was alive? That energy happens to disappear at the time of death and the presence or loss of that energy is the difference between life and death.   Spiritual science calls that energy soul.

There exist an infinite number of souls and every living body has a soul. (Sädhäran Vanaspatikäya has infinite number of souls in the one body). The soul is invisible and has no form or shape.   It cannot therefore be experienced by the senses.   It is an element of its own  and  cannot  be  created  by  any  sort  of  combination  or  composition  and  can  never  be

decomposed.  It is eternal and lasts forever.  From time to time, worldly soul resides in different organisms through, which it manifests itself.   This type of transmigration and new embodiment birth after birth has been going on since the time without beginning.   Even though a particular body happens to be its temporary residence, soul tends to take it as its permanent abode and  gets  happy  or  unhappy  depending  upon  the  type  of  that  body  and  its  environment. Forgetful of its true nature, it aspires to get maximum happiness within the framework of its given embodiment and surrounding situations.   This attachment results from the delusion of the  soul  about  its  true  nature.    Attachment  gives  rise  to  the  disposition  of  craving  for  the desirable and of aversion for the undesirable.   These craving and aversion are the causes of the bondage of Karmas.

Every living being wants to be happy.  The deluded sense of being one with the body however causes the soul to feel happy or unhappy depending upon the prevailing situation, as a consequence of its previous Karmas.   Our ancient seers have dwelt deeply in search of true happiness.  They tried to explore the Self by raising the question, ‘Koham’, which means ‘Who am I’.   The appropriate answer that they obtained was ‘Soham’, which means that I am that (soul).   They also perceived that the ‘I’ or the true Self is the source of true happiness and the abode of perfect bliss.   They realized that lifeless matter does not have the property to make any one happy or unhappy and that happiness is the inherent property of the soul.

We however do not experience lasting happiness, because we do not realize the true properties of the soul.   After thoroughly exploring the nature of the soul, the  seers have concluded that the principal property of th e soul that distinguishes it from lifeless matter is the capability to know  or  capability  of  bei ng  aware.    None  of  the  five  lifeless substances  possesses  that property.   The scriptures have described this as

                                                                            Upayoga Lakshano Jivah

It means the capability to know is the characteristic of the soul.   This attribute is inseparable from consciousness and therefore it is its basic characteristic.  As such, the soul should simply stay  aware  of  any  given  situation  without  in  any  way  reacting  to  it  because  none  of  the situations really belong to it.   This would result in a sense of detachment to any extraneous influence,  which  will  ultimately  enable  the  soul  to  exist  forever  in  ultimate  bliss.  It  is  not surprising that the seers have called this bliss as indescribable.

To sum up, the soul is pure consciousness.  Infinite awareness and eternal bliss are its principal characteristics.   Sanskrit words for eternity, consciousness and bliss are respectively Sat, Chit and Änand.   Therefore a perfect soul is variously known as Sachchidänanda, Chidänand or Sahajänand.   It is intangible, invisible, colorless, odorless, tasteless, formless, and shapeless. It is therefore described by Neti, Neti (Not this, not that).   It can however be experienced by dwelling deep within oneself.

Ajiv (Non-living Substances)

The description of Ajiv and its five categories has been discussed earlier.   Jiv and the five categories of Ajivs are not in any way dependent on one another.  Each of these six substances has potential to undergo changes in its own states.   Other substances play the role of being  instrumental in effecting the changes.   For instance, Dharmästikäya, Adharmästikäya, Äkäsha and Käl play the role of being instrumental in the change of location and time.   Worldly soul does not try to identify itself with these four substances.   The role of Pudgal on Jiv and of Jiv on Pudgal has been the source of a lot of confusion.   Worldly soul does not realize that its embodiment and all its surroundings have resulted from its past Karmas.   It tends to identify with all those situations ignoring the fact that they are momentary.   This has been the root cause of continued bondage of Karma to the soul and resulting transmigration.  The discussion of Nav Tattvas will analyze the state of worldly soul and the factors that prevent or help in attaining liberation.  Therefore Pudgal and particularly Karma Pudgal, will be discussed in detail.

Punya and Päp (Good Deeds and Bad Deeds)

Punya  is acquired by meritorious or virtuous deeds and Päp  is acquired by evil or vicious acts.

As long as the soul is embodied with karma, it indulges in one or the other activity.   This activity  may  be  physical  or  mental  or  both.    It  is  possible  that  a  person  may  refrain  from physical activity for some time.   His mental apparatus however never rests.   It functions even when he rests or sleeps.  Every activity involves Karma and one has to bear the consequences sooner or later.   If one undertakes meritorious activity with the feeling of attachment, he earns Punya  or  Shubha  (wholesome)  Karmas;  if  he  indulges  in  evil  activity,  he  acquires  Päp  or Ashubha  (unwholesome) Karmas.    Depending  upon  the  intensity  and  accumulation  of wholesome Karmas, one may be blessed with happy and comfortable situations like, handsome and strong or beautiful and graceful body, good health etc.   Unwholesome Karmas on the other hand result in unhappy and miserable situations like ugliness, illness, poverty etc.   It is therefore generally accept ed that everyone should try to undertake meritorious activities and refrain from evil ones.

Many physical activities may be called either good or bad.   Organized societies endeavor to encourage beneficial or virtuous activities and to discourage the wicked or vicious ones.  There may also be legal provisions to forbid some of the manifestly wicked activities so as to maintain peace and order within society.   Some of the activities however cannot be clearly labeled as good or bad.   In the spiritual sense, the intention behind performing them, and the disposition in which an activity is performed, play an important role in deciding whether it would attract wholesome or unwholesome Karmas.   Let us examine this aspect with the help of examples.

Doctor and Burglar

A burglar, for instance, comes across a person who he wants to rob.   He fatally stabs the person.   On the other hand, a patient with tumor in stomach is advised to undergo surgery. He goes to a surgeon who opens his belly with the surgical knife.  Unfortunately for the patient, the tumor is in a very advanced stage or there are other complications.   Consequently, the patient dies during surgery.   In both these cases a person hurts other person with a knife and the other person dies.   Does it mean that the burglar and the surgeon would attract the same type of Karma? This is not true.   The burglar’s activity is evidently sinful, while that of the surgeon is meritorious.

Two Buddhist Monks

The two Buddhist monks named Suresh muni and Raman muni, who have taken a vow of celibacy including not to touch opposite sex person, were traveling from one place to another. On the way they come across a river that is flooded.   On the bank of the river, there was a beautiful young girl intending to go across but she was scared of so much water.   Realizing her anxiety, Suresh muni offers his hand and leads her into water.   Watching this, Raman muni objected the action of Suresh muni, but Suresh muni ignored his objection and went ahead. The flow of the river got swifter causing the girl to drift.   Suresh muni therefore holds her waist and leads her ahead.   For Raman muni, this act of Suresh muni was beyond imagination and he severely reproached Suresh muni for his audacity.   Suresh muni again ignored his objection.  Water gets deeper ahead.  The girl did not know how to swim.  Suresh muni  therefore  carried  her  on  his  back  and  swims  across  the  river.   This  is  too  much  for Raman muni who cursed Suresh muni for gross violation of the vow.   Suresh muni did not respond in any way.   He leaved the girl on the other bank and quietly proceeded with Raman muni.   On the way, Raman muni rebuked him again and again for what he had done and warned him of the dire consequences when they confront Guru Maharaj.   Suresh muni maintained his silence while reproaches of his friend continue unabated.   After listening for one hour Suresh muni pointed out that he left the girl one-hour back while Raman muni was still holding her in his head.

It is evident that in this example that Suresh muni had no intention other than helping a girl cross the river.   While holding her hand or while carrying her on his back, he had no other thoughts.   Therefore, he left her as soon as he reached the other bank.   He even did not look at her beauty.  For him, she was simply a person who was in need of help.  He rendered it without any passionate thoughts throughout.   Raman muni’s attitude on the other hand was totally  different.   Though  he  did  not  even  touch  the  girl,  he  was  thrilled  by  the  imaginary sensation of close contact of a beautiful girl.   In his heart he longed to have the feel of her touch.   He did not actually do so simply because it was forbidden.   In the spiritual sense he therefore, committed the sin of indulging in undesirable activity while Suresh muni earned the Punya of helping a person in need.   Thus Päp and Punya are to be viewed in relative terms and they depend upon one’s mental attitude in a given situation.

Punyänubandhi Punya

Concepts of Punya and Päp are more or less identical with most religions.  The latter concept is however more subtly treated by Indian philosophies.   They take into consideration not only the actual act but also the intention behind it.   They are unanimous in adoring the meritorious intentions and activities and in condemning the sinful ones.   As explained above, one may obtain  material  happiness  and  comforts  as  a  result of  wholesome  Karmas,  but  then  what? Material happiness does come to an end and comfortable situations do not last forever.  And then one has to undergo miseries unless one has in the meantime earned other Punya Karmas. This earning of new Punya Karma while enjoying the fruits of earlier ones is known in Jain terminology  as  Punyänubandhi  Punya. In  summary,  while  enjoying  the  fruits  of  wholesome Karmas one acquires further wholesome Karmas.

Päpänubandhi Punya

While enjoying the fruits of Punya or wholesome Karmas, one may acquire Päp Karmas is called Päpänubandhi Punya.  Very few people endeavor to earn Punyänubandhi Punya, because most of the people are infatuated by happiness and comforts.   By virtue of infatuation they indulge in unwholesome activities.   This type of action is known as Päpänubandhi Punya or wholesome Karmas leading to unwholesome activities.   Misery is thus destined for them in the end.

Punyänubandhi Päp

While suffering the consequences of Päp or unwholesome Karmas, one may acquire Punya Karmas is called  Punyänubandhi Päp.   As a consequence of Päp Karmas, a person does undergo varying degrees of miseries.   If however that person realizes that his miseries are the consequence of his previous Karmas, he will bear the miseries calmly and with a sense of detachment and objectivity.   He will tolerate pain and misery with equanimity. This attitude will  earn  him  Punyas.    This  action  is  known  as  Punyänubandhi  Päp.    In  Summary,  while suffering for unwholesome Karmas one acquires wholesome Karmas.

Päpänubandhi Päp

While suffering the consequences of Päp or unwholesome Karmas, one may acquire Päp Karmas is called Päpänubandhi Päp.  Most of the people who suffer miseries blame some one else or some extraneous factors for causing miseries.  They indulge in anger, jealousy, animosity etc., and react violently or wron gly to the pain and miseries. Thus, they  acquire new unwholesome Karmas or Päp.  This type of action of such people are therefore known as Päpänubandhi Päp or unwholesome Karmas leading to further accumulation of unwholesome Karmas.

The  wholesome  as  well  as  unwholesome  Karmas  cause  bondage  to  which  the  soul  gets chained.   If unwholesome Karmas are shackles of iron, wholesome ones are those of gold. Both  of  them  gets  in  the  way  of  the  soul’s  liberation  and  eventually  even  the  wholesome Karmas  must  be  avoided  to  attain  liberation.  However,  wholesome  karmas  are  needed  to proceed on to the path of liberation.

One should understand that the wholesome karma (Punya) is a meritorious deed done with a feeling of self-satisfaction and accomplishment.   However if the same deed done without the feeling of accomplishment and attachment, then it is not a Punya but the action or deed is considered the true nature of a person.   No karma can attach to a person if his/her action is done without any attachments or feeling of accomplishments.   This can be done by cultivating a sense of detachment in all situations, favorable as well as unfavorable.

No  situation  lasts  forever  and  every  conceivable  situation  come  to  an  end  sooner  or  later. Why get infatuated or feel miserable in a situation, which is ephemeral? If a person stays tuned to such a detached attitude and maintains equanimity, he does not attract new Karmas. His earlier Karmas would steadily drip off as he bears their consequences.   In due course he will shake off all Karmas and proceed on the path of liberation.   Unfortunately, however, it is not possible for a worldly soul to stay continuously tuned to its true nature for very long.   The seers  have  stated  that  no  one  can  continuously  concentrate  on  any  object  more  than  two Ghadis or 48 minutes.   Beyond that time the attention of the aspirant gets diverted.   Thus after staying tuned to true nature, attention reverts to other aspects.   During periods of such reversals it is better to be involved in wholesome activities rather than indulging in unwholesome ones.   Therein lies the preference of Punya Karmas over Päp Karmas.

Äsrava and Bandha (Inflow of Karmas and Bondage of Karmas)

The next two fundamentals which are Äsrava and Bandha, are closely related.  In a way these two fundamentals are two aspects of the same phenomenon pertaining to bondage of Karma. The term Äsrava is made up of two words, ‘Aa, meaning from all sides and ‘Srav’ meaning dripping in.   So Äsrava, which is also spelled as Äshrava, means inflow of Karma.   Bandha means bondage of incoming Karma with the soul.

As explained earlier, every activity involves Karma.   Whether one indulges in activity by mind, words or physical action, he does acquire Karma.  Since worldly soul continually stays involved in one or another activity, the resulting Karmas continue to flow towards it.   Its involvement with activities, serve as Äsrava or doors through which Karmas enter.  Thus Äsrava of Karma continues to occur more or less incessantly.   If the soul gets involved in virtuous activities, Äsrava  happens  to  be  of  wholesome  Karmas.    If  it  is  involved  in  unwholesome  activities, Äsrava happens to be of unwholesome Karmas.   This involvement mainly occurs because of defilements or Kashäyas that exist in soul.

None of such situations really belong to the pure soul.   They are not and in no case can become part and parcel of    the pure soul.   If one understands it correctly, one can remain unaffected by any given situation and stay in equanimity.   The term correctly is very pertinent in this context, because the true nature of the soul happens to be pure, enlightened and full of blessed consciousness.  In  its pure state it is devoid of any defilement or Kashäyas.   As such,  the  soul  is  supposed  to  simply  observe  whatever  happens  as  a  result  of  operative Karmas and stay aware of any given situation without reacting to it in any way.   Since time without beginning, worldly soul has stayed deluded about its true nature and has been conditioned to react to any situation with a sense of craving or aversion.   If it does not react that  way  and  views  all  possible  situations  with  equanimity,  it  does  not  attract  new  Karmas and can avoid Äsrava or incoming of Karmas and the resulting Bandha.

Thus Äsrava and Bandha mainly occur on account of ignorance of the soul about its true nature. One may, however, question how any conscious person can be ignorant about one’s self.  The ignorance of the soul regarding its true nature, happens to be on account of its delusion.   Its perception remains deluded, just as a drunken person stays deluded about himself.  This wrong perception is known as Mithyätva.   On account of this delusion and ignorance, the soul views any given situation as the cause of its own happiness or unhappiness.   If the situation is pleasing to the senses, the soul identifies itself with that feeling and craves for continuance of such situations.   If it is unpleasing, soul identifies with the resulting unhappiness and tries to avoid it.  Thus it continues to react to different situations with the sense of craving or aversion.

These cravings and aversions are the defilements of the soul because they defile its true nature of staying in equanimity.  These defilements are expressed in the form of Krodha (Anger, enmity etc.), Mäna (Ego and arrogance), Mäyä (Deception) and Lobha (attachment and greed).  These are known as the four Kashäyas or four passions, which drag the soul downwards.  In addition to  these,  there  are  No-kashäyas  or  semi  defilements  like  joy,  gloom,  affection,  disaffection, fear, disgust and certain sensual impulses.   On account of these Kashäyas and No-kashäyas, the soul indulges in arrogance, greed, joy, affection, love etc. when it views any given situation as favorable.   If it views the situation as unfavorable, it indulges in anger, deception, gloom, disaffection, fear, disgust etc.


Äsrava is the cause, which leads to the influx of good and evil karma and which leads to the bondage of the soul.

Äsrava may be described as attraction in the soul toward sense objects.   The following are causes of Äsrava or influx of good and evil karma:

Mithyatva         – Ignorance

Avirati              – Lack of self restraint

Pramada*        – Unawareness or unmindfulness

Kashäya          – Passions like anger, conceit, deceit, and lust

Yoga                – Activities of mind, speech, and body

*Some Jain literatures mention only four causes of Äsrava.   They include Pramäda in the category of Kasäya.


The detail of Bandha is described in the chapter – Theory of Karma and Reincarnation


















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