close logo

Part 5: Jain Reform Movement

Acarya Bhiksu

Biographical Sketch

Acarya Bhiksu (aka Bhikhanji) was born in V.S. 1783 (A.D. 1726) to Shah Baluji and Dipabai. He became a Sthanakavasimuni in V.S. 1808 (A.D. 1751) and founded Terapantha sect in V.S. 1817 (A.D. 1760). He passed away at the age of 77 in V.S. 1860 (A.D. 1803).

Exposition of Bhiksu’s Views

(A) On Asrava, Punya and Nirjara

Religious life centers around doing meritorious or auspicious actions (nirvadya karma) and abstaining from sinful or inauspicious actions (savadya karma).

According to Acarya Bhiksu, subha yoga necessarily leads to nirjara (dhala 2.1) and what leads to nirjara is commanded by the Jina. Performance of an action, which leads to nirjara, naturally gives rise to merit. The action, which produces merit, would necessarily shed off sinful karma. For e.g. A person who renders service to the nuns and monks (vaiyyavrata) or does pure devotion to spiritual teachers etc. sheds off sinful karma and as a natural result acquires tirthankara nama karma. Thus according to Bhiksu, nirjara and punya bandha go together.

In this Nav Padartha, in Dhala 1 of punya, he understands punya as understood by agamas; punya is modification of matter attached to a soul when subha karma is done. Hence when this punya fructifies, a person has satavedniya karma – a long life of human being or celestial being etc. Everything is good for that human being on the basis of his earlier punya karma. Yet, doing punya that is meritorious deeds and bearing fruits of earlier punya karma, are both different.

Notably doing Punya for the sake of attaining good things, is actually attaching papa due to which one gets sorrow. One who craves for pleasures craves for satisfaction of basic desires like hunger, thirst, sex, luxuries which are short lasting. Due to this, one can even attain a place in hell and never get liberation.

According to Acarya Bhiksu when a jiva does auspicious action or action free from any defect, then there is destruction of karma that is nirjara. By doing actions enjoined by the Jina when nirjara takes place, the accumulated sin gets detached from the space occupied by the soul. At this time punya karma enters into the space occupied by the soul on its own. No separate or independent action is necessary for acquiring punya. Whenever there is shedding of the karma due to auspicious action, there are vibrations in the soul-space and as a result of that there is bondage of punya karma.

Thus whenever a person does an auspicious deed or an action enjoined by the Jina it has a twofold effect: 1) Shedding of the past accumulated sin and 2) Bondage of Punya karma due to the inflow which is caused by vibrations in soul-space.

Actions of body, speech and mind are of two types; auspicious and inauspicious. By inauspicious action there is inflow of sin and by auspicious action there is the wedding of merit. At that time of shedding of karma there are vibrations in the soul-space because of which meritorious karma is attached to the soul. Because the karma produced by auspicious action gives beneficial fruit at the time of its fructification, it is called meritorious karma.

Wherever there is merit, there will necessarily be shedding of karma. However, wherever there is shedding of karma incidentally the bondage of merit is there.

The Jina is enjoined to do auspicious action leading to punya. Svetambara acaryas hold that due to auspicious action there is bondage of punya and according to Digambara acaryas there is bondage of merit due to auspicious thought. If merit itself is seen as a form of bondage then what generates punya – auspicious actions or auspicious thoughts? Will it be worth acquiring or worth discarding?

Acarya Bhiksu says punya is not to be craved for. It is first attained by action that is free from selfish interest. Punya is attained by action free from defects and it is shedding of karma i.e. nirjara. One who does nirjara with intention of punya, wastes his human life.

One who gains good things through punya, but scarifies them undergoes nirjara while one who enjoys them attracts bondage of new karma. Punya signifies that which purifies the soul. With papa karma, the soul is impure, but with punya karma, the soul becomes purer and purer.

There are two meanings of punya.

1) That which purifies the soul, and therefore is nirjara.

2) That which produces worldly pleasures and therefore asrava.

Craving for punya, which is essentially craving for desires and worldly pleasures, leads one to become deeply attached. This attachment results in the bondage of papa karma, preventing liberation from the cycle of births and death, and even leads to suffering in hell.

It is only through nirjara that punya is attached. There is no other means to attain it.

A religious person liberates himself from karma. In Thanang sutta it is said that there are nine types of punyas – food, water, clothes, shelter, bed, mind, body, speech and namaskar punya.

However, in the Jaina tradition even auspicious actions (subha yoga) are regarded as asrava causing bondage. Tattvartha sutra asserts, “Good actions cause the inflow of beneficial karma and evil actions cause the inflow of sinful karma”.[1] Acarya Bhiksu, however, seems to differ from the above-mentioned view. He does not bring meritorious action under the category of asrava, which leads to bondage. It is only sinful actions, which leads to bondage. For Acarya Bhiksu the opposite of asrava is samvara and not nirjara. Punya differs from both asrava and samvara and goes along with nirjara. This perspective differs from the view that regards both samvara and nirjara as opposite of asrava and treats asrava as two fold, viz, papasrava and punyasrava. While Bhiksu’s contention is that all asrava is papasrava and punya is that which purifies the soul and hence not an asrava which defiles the soul.

According to Jainism, an action is called yoga. “The activity of body, speech and manas is yoga.” There are three types of action; physical action, mental action and speech action. Through the practice of yoga, the physical grouping constitutes the karma into a soul becoming associated with it in the form of karma. All the three yogas – namely, kaya yoga, vac yoga and manas yoga are auspicious as well as inauspicious. The distinction between auspicious and inauspicious character of yoga depends on the accompanying mental feeling which is either auspicious or inauspicious. Here, the intention behind the action is taken into consideration for determining whether it is auspicious or inauspicious. The auspicious yoga brings about bondage of good karmas; the inauspicious yoga brings about bondage of evil karmas.

Purification of the soul has two aspects: 1) Stopping of new influx (samvara) and 2) Shedding of the karmas by tapa-penance (nirjara). The tradition distinguishes six types of samvara (stoppage of inflow) from the austerities of twelve types (external and internal). While samvara only stops further defilement of the soul, it is only nirjara that sheds off the past defilement.

In order to understand and appreciate Acarya Bhiksu’s views on punya and nirjara, it is necessary to give the background of the traditional notion of “purification of soul”. Purification of the soul consists of two processes: 1) Stoppage of further inflow (samvara) and 2) Shedding of earlier karmasrava (nirjara). The former is of five types-“samitis, guptis, anupreksa, parisahajaya and caritra”.[2] The latter consists of following the twelve types of austerities or penances resulting into both stoppage and shedding off the karmas – “tapasanirjara ca”[3]

The tradition, therefore, seems to believe that these six external and six internal austerities automatically lead to nirjara. Acarya Bhiksu shows a rare insight when he questions whether austerities automatically lead to nirjara.

“The auspicious yoga is asrava or cause of bondage in the case of punya or goods karmas”.[4]

“Yoga on the part of a soul possessed of Kasaya or passion and yoga on the part of a soul devoid of Kasaya are respectively asrava or cause of bondage in the case of Samparayika karmas and iryapatha karma”.[5]

Acarya Bhiksu questions this on the following grounds. He says that it is not an action of body, mind and speech per se. He identifies action with the intention behind the action, and holds that subha yoga will lead to punyasrava bandha or nirjara on this intention. He broadly distinguishes between two types of intentions. 1) Intention to purify the soul and, 2) Intention to get merit or pleasurable consequences. It is only when nirvadya karma is done with the intention of purifying the soul and without the thought of acquiring merit and secondly without pleasurable consequences, then alone, it becomes nirjara dharma. In the absence of these intentions the same action leads to punyasrava bandha. Apparently subha karma with bad intention, may on the contrary lead to papasrava. Acarya Bhiksu says, the work of mind, body and speech without papa is called subha yoga or nirvadya yoga. He said, with nirvadya yoga, dharma lesya and subha effects, nirjara is done and papa karma gets destroyed. It is in this situation that Punya automatically attaches itself to the soul. For Punya karma one does not have to do separate work. With subha yoga when nirjara is done, vibrations in the soul take place and Punya is attached.

There is a problem as to how to decide the goodness or the badness of an action. There are two opposite views on this issue. According to one theory, which is known as consequentialism, the goodness and the badness of an action depend on the consequences of the action. This theory does not give importance to the intention. In western ethics this is called utilitarianism.

The other theory, on the contrary, holds that goodness and the badness of action solely depends on the motives or intentions of the agent. This is because the consequences of an action depend upon many circumstances, which are beyond the control of the agent for which he is not responsible. Bhiksu seems to be the exponent of the latter type, since he is emphasizing the motive.

Therefore doing auspicious actions (subha yoga) was regarded as that which leads to punya bandha and inauspicious actions leads to papa bandha.

The Samparayika karma is of two types – one is subha karma that leads to punyasvrava (P-1) and other asubha karma that leads to papasrava. Punyasrava leads to birth into higher categories –viz to better Manusya and Devagati. Papasrava leads to lower birth or Naraka gati or Tiryancagati (lower life).

Hence householders aim at least for a better life in the next birth. This motivates them to perform good actions like giving charity in the form of donations to temples, giving food to monks, to the poor and needy, etc.

Such a religious approach focused on earning punyas has been considered as an ideal way of life for the householders. It so happened that in due course of time, such activities of punya were formally followed with the intention of accumulating punyas. Therefore, donation to anybody regardless of their character and showing compassion to dying creatures, etc. became established as religious duties.

On the other hand, the Iriyapatha karma that leads to nirjara leads to such a type of Punya (P-2), which purifies the soul. This type of punya is different from the Punya – 1. This can be called suddha punya.

K. K. Dixit in his work on early Jainism points out that prior to Tattvartha sutra we do not find this distinction between subha and asubha division between the samparayika Karma.

“The doctrine of Karma – with the doctrine of rebirth and the doctrine of moksa as its corollary – is a most prominent feature of these texts. Thus, here it is frequently asserted or implied that a more or less inauspicious next birth is in store for the person – whether a householder or a monk – who leads an evil life. And similarly it is here frequently asserted or implied that the monk who leads an ideal life will be born no more. But noteworthy is that these texts are almost absolutely silent about the precise mechanism of rebirth and moksa, a specialty of latter-day Jaina speculation. Thus unlike in the later Jaina texts we are not here told how the Karmic physical particles get attached to a soul and how they get loose from it.

These texts never promise an auspicious next birth to the person leading a good life, the idea being that all next births are more or less inauspicious. This is in contrast to the practice of the later Jaina theoreticians who would promise a more or less auspicious next birth to a pious householder as also to a monk who is good, yet not good enough to deserve moksa at the end of this very life.

There is hardly ever a mention of births among gods. For, as is evident from the discussions of the latter-day Jaina theoreticians, birth among gods is a case of a particularly auspicious next birth. But these have no use for the concept of an auspicious next birth. The Sutrakrtanga does speak of certain bad monks being born among certain bad types of Gods, but here the emphasis obviously is not on the gods being gods but on their being bad. As a general rule, these texts promise moksa to an ideal monk and they threaten an evil person whether a householder or a monk with birth among hellish beings and the like.“[6]

Historically if one studies the Jaina community, it can be argued that right from the time of Mahavira, his followers were from royal families, that is, kings, ministers etc. and from merchant class. It was therefore a natural tendency to build temples and monasteries. These sources were looked upon as a means of charity and identified with punya karma. This belief gained significant traction within the lay community, a trend followed even today with charity being regarded as a virtue of great importance. Acarya Bhiksu, therefore, says that with the 12 forms of nirjara, that is, with the aim of self-purification only one can attain complete purification of soul that is, no asrava of good karmas, and secondly it may happen that while performing the tapa, earlier acquired asubha karma shed off and incidentally there is asrava of subha karma. It therefore follows that no separate actions are required for the asrava of good karmas, which lead the humans to either deva gati or at least a better next human gati.

It is generally observed that the human psyche compels a person to feel compassionate at the pain of others which then largely generates a feeling of generosity towards fellow beings, animals, etc.

Regarding the nature of nirjara, Acarya Bhiksu distinguishes between two types of nirjara. “1) Sahaja Nirjara where there is absence of intentions and efforts. Karmas when fructify on their own results in such feelings of thirst, hunger etc. 2) Anupama Nirjara where the aim is to purify the malign elements in the soul. This nirjara, according to Bhiksu, is the real nirjara. Bhiksu, therefore, further says that with this sole aim one attains punya karma or the acquired karmas are shed off. Therefore no separate actions to acquire merit are necessary.”[7] This led Bhiksu to critically evaluate those actions performed to acquire merit.

(B) On Daya and Dana

It is believed that charity and other good deeds per se produce meritorious results. It is argued by some that subha yoga necessarily produces meritorious results unconditionally, that is, without depending on any other condition. From this point of view, it follows that dana (charity) will produce meritorious results whether it is given to sacita (living) or to acita (non-living). Charity, giving food or water is punya; produces meritorious results. If no other qualification is added then it would follow that when a person gives plain water to a thirsty person he has done good action and will have a meritorious result. We are not making a distinction between what is given is sacita or acita.

Three things qualify action

1. Intention or motive of the agent.

2. Instrument or object to be given.

3. The person to whom the object is given.

Acarya Bhiksu holds that saving life out of compassion is not true religious act. Hence to save dying creatures out of compassion is not religion, since birth and death are not desirable or undesirable.

Jaina theory of karma requests that according to the fruition of the karmas, every soul will attain its body, family, material possessions etc. If everyone is bound by their own karma what is the need of charity to those Jivas who are enjoying their accumulated karmas?

Acarya Bhiksu’s critical understanding again generated a feeling of discontentment within the social circle. Acarya Bhiksu says that out of the suffering of others one should not come under the sway of compassion, because it is the cause of raga (attachment). He says “raga se raga ka bandha hota hai”

Dana (Charity) is considered an easy means because it is an outwardly act. It typically involves a person to first hoard or acquire possessions with attachment. Then they give away these with a feeling that it will give them a gati, possibly spiritually but most certainly materially, such as either Devaloka or better manusyagati in next birth. But Tattvartha sutra mentions;

“Benevolence towards all living beings, joy at the sight of the virtuous, compassion and sympathy for the afflicted and tolerance towards the insolent and ill – behaved”.[8]

Charity is not a universal or eternal virtue. It cannot be practiced by all and at all time. It can be practiced only by a few rich who can do certain types of donations.

Even though Acarya Tulsi regards it as a worldly benefaction, Acarya Bhiksu looked at it from the point of view of spirituality. (Since it is yoga and causes asrava, it is worth discarding).

The desire that others should be free from suffering and pain is benevolence. Fervent affection as well as veneration in the presence of the virtuous is joy. (Joy denotes fervent affection as well as esteem for the virtuous). The disposition to render assistance to the afflicted is compassion.

The cause of bondage in the case of Satavedaniya karma is related to harboring feelings of compassion towards all the living beings and experiencing empathy for their suffering. This includes having compassion for all beings as a whole and treating one’s own pains with compassion as well. A householder who observes the vows partially and a world–renounce who observes them completely – when a feeling of compassion is harbored towards both these, we have a case of compassion for those leading a disciplined life. Thus, offering one’s belonging to others with a sense of humanity is considered an act of donation.

“The influx of Tirthankara naam karma is caused by these sixteen observance, namely purity of right faith, reverence, observance of vows and supplementary vows without transgressions, ceaseless pursuit of knowledge, perpetual fear of the cycle of existence, giving gifts (Charity), practicing austerities according to one’s capacity, removal of obstacles that threaten the equanimity of ascetics, serving the meritorious by wording off evil or suffering, devotion to omniscient lords, chief preceptors, preceptors and the scriptures, practice of the six essential daily duties, propagation of the teachings of the omniscient, and servant affection for one’s brethren following the fame path”.[9] Bhiksu has not supported even such a naam karma.

Charity is of three kinds, namely giving pure foods, right knowledge and dispelling fear by infusing courage. The giving of these to others according to one’s capacity is charity, because here the intention is for the sake of nirjara. The object is giving acita food, imparting right knowledge (one kind of instrument by which there is a change of attitude in another person) and by enhancing the quality of fearlessness in another; and only if given to a restraint person will shed off the bondage of papa karma and acquire the good karmas and not otherwise, that is with the intention of earning good karmas.

The problem arises when encountering unrestrained individuals such as beggars who are in pain. If witnessing someone’s suffering fails to evoke compassion, then the feeling of compassion needed to observe the vratas like non-violence etc. may be lacking. Hence the bhavana of compassion is considered most essential. Its referential object is a miserable, poor, helpless person who stands in need of considerate regards and assistance.

To maintain a sorrowful behavior, to arouse a feeling of sorrow in others – these and similar acts are cause of bondage for the mohaniya karma.

When a worldly soul performs a good act like donation etc. or an evil act like violence etc., he does so as impelled by either anger or pride or some other kasaya. Even when impelled by a Kasaya he either performs it himself or causes someone else to perform it or gives consent to someone else performing it. Similarly, in connection with the performance of this act, he is engaged in either samrambha/samarambha or arambha – each pertaining to either body or speech or mind.

V.G. Nair says, “Whatever efforts have been made by him to establish the futility of daya and dana are against the law of nature. Human nature cannot tolerate pain and suffering of any life, the nature of man will appeal to render benevolent deeds of compassion and mercy from his inner conscience.”[10]

From the point of view of society the need of the hour is equality. Everybody should have the right to minimum requirements. Giving Dana to beggars is not religion, but this gives rise to beggary, which is a social crime

Bhiksu says that if the above of the three conditions (right intention, instrument and to whom it is given) are not fulfilled then that action is not worthy of nirjara. One is only moved by passions. If one gives food to its own child and to a poor child when hungry, how is it that giving food to a poor child becomes a cause of earning merit? It is only pity and such an action cannot be a cause of nirjara or even acquiring merit.

(C) On Ahimsa

In his `Anukamba Choppayi,’ a collection of his writings in Rajasthani on his new concept of Ahimsa he has stated the following: “Ahimsa is self-restraint, the total destruction of all the passions, which is the only path to salvation. Any person who made an attempt to save another life from suffering and death had to naturally generate his passions like raga and dvesa, compassionate love and hatred. To serve or save a suffering life, the first and foremost need is raga or Anukamba, pity for the life of the sufferer to save him from death. This pity, compassionate love cannot be fulfilled without developing dvesa, the feeling of bitterness and hatred against the killer or the bitterness and hatred against the killer or the oppressor. A righteous person of ahimsa in pursuit of salvation should destroy both the mental state of raga and dvesa. He must remain firmly as a passive onlooker towards the sufferings of all sentient life restraining from rendering any service to the sufferer. Both compassionate love and hatred are obstacles to the freedom of the fettered soul”.[11]

Bhiksu has held nonviolence as self restraint in the following terms: Non-violence is the observance of perfect restraint towards all creatures. Householder offers money to a poor person and makes him happy. This is worldly benefaction which is not praised by those who have transcended their passions. A man was being burnt but was saved by another. This is pity; this is also worldly benefaction. In nonviolence, preservation of creatures is secondary since the main thing is self-purification. Bhiksu says, religion is not related either to birth or death. It is related only to restraint. Religion does not depend and what happens to other beings whether others are benefited or harmed. Jivas dies of their own karmas so also they live or are protected by their own karmas (ayusya karma). A third person cannot do or undo their fate. Jainism does not choose between a friend and a foe. It does not give moral support to killing even for self-defense. Protection of others is also allied to the question of self-defense. Jainism lays greatest emphasis on non-cooperation with Himsa and the entire strength of Ahimsa lies in this spirit of non-cooperation. Virtue of non-violence should be demonstrated by utter calmness and complete fearlessness.

Non-violence is registered not by living or dying, it is expressed in the purity of heart. The way of non-violence is to persuade an evildoer to renounce improper conduct. Hence this change of heart means spiritual upliftment.

Spiritualist is always conscious and at every moment he is aware of staying away from violence in all situations. Acarya Bhiksu hence said that the end of the spiritual world is the purity of soul and the means of the present moment becomes the goal of the next moment and this new goal becomes the means for further growth thereafter. Acarya Bhiksu developed the concept of the identity of means and ends in a doctrinal form. He said that pure means alone could lead to a pure objective. He said salvation is end and its means is restraint.

Religion lies in restraint, not in authorization. He who does not take alternative to exceptions provided by the scriptures is to be congratulated, since restraint can have no limits set to it. Jainism asserts that mere deprivation of prana is not sin because it will not bind the chain of bad karmas. It is impossible for even the highest soul to live such a life without causing injury to any living beings. Factors responsible for bondage of karma are egoism, selfishness, want of vigilance and not merely the deprivation of pranas.

In the Dasavaikalika sutra Ahimsa, samyama and tapa are regarded as separate. Here Bhiksu equates Ahimsa as samyama. Samyama in ahimsa entails restraint from causing harm. There can be samyama in other vratas and ahimsa also.

Acarya Bhiksu said in respect to spiritualism that the highest goal of human life is freedom from the bondage of life and its means is restraint. Hence only restraint is desirable. A means is that which is in perfect harmony with the end. Hence there is no difference between action and intention. It is the intention which qualifies the action.

For Acarya Bhiksu if a creature lives it is neither non-violence nor pity. If he dies, this is not violence. The intention to kill is violence and to restrain this tendency is non-violence.

Acarya Bhiksu, like Lonka has stressed on samyaktva which is a precondition for liberation. Samyaktva, for him is faith in a tattvas prescribed by the Tirthankaras. For Lonka samyaktva is non-violence, which he interpreted as daya. For Acarya Bhiksu restraint is an important prerequisite to follow religion. Restraint and religion are one because the basis of religion is detachment and its culmination is revalidation.

[1]Tattvartha Sutra, 6. 3and 6.4

[2]Tattvartha sutra. 9.2

[3] Ibid. 9.3

[4]Ibid. , 6.3.

[5]Ibid. , 6. 5.

[6] K.K. Dixit, Early Jainism,. p. 9.

[7] Acarya Bhiksu Op. Cit., p. 910-911

[8]Tattvartha sutra, 7.2.

[9]Tattvarth Sutra. 6.24.

[10]Ibid. , p.

[11] V. G.Nair, Op. Cit., p. 73.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article belong to the author. Indic Today is neither responsible nor liable for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in the article.