Asian Philosophy Lecture 3

Asian Philosophy
Lecture 3
The Jain Vision
Jains do not look to a God to understand how to conquer suffering.
Jains look to humans that have conquered human suffering.
Those that have conquered human suffering are called Ford-Makers,
because they show others how to cross over the river of human
suffering caused by bondage.
The fundamental cause of human suffering is bondage of the soul by
karmic matter.
Escape from human suffering comes through releasing built up
karmic matter and blocking the attainment of more karmic matter.
The Mahavira
Is the 24th ford-maker.
Born 599BCE.
Renounced all worldly ties by
age 30.
12 years of austere life.
Age 40 became omniscient.
For 30 years after he led his
people through teachings
His teachings are present in
the Angas, Jain scriptures.
The Uniqueness of the Jain Vision
Jains accept the moral, psychological, and metaphysical dimensions
of karma.
Jains go further by claiming that karma has a material force
Jainism holds that there are tiny bits of karmic matter floating
around everywhere.
Soul ≠ Mind
Mind is constituted by karmic matter that blocks the soul from its
natural state of being in pure bliss with omniscience and unlimited
Jain Dualism
The essence of the soul (jiva) is life.
In the pure state: knowledge is
omniscience, energy is unlimited,
and bliss is pure.
The soul can expand and contract
depending on the size of the body it
The Essence of Matter (pudgala)
Smallest matter is anu
Aggregates are skandha
Atoms can come together.
Atoms can come apart.
Space is infinite
(i) There is a space for lived things.
(ii) There is a space that is beyond
this world.
(iii) Space provides room for
extended things.
Jains on the Organization of Matter
Thesis: There must be forces or principles governing matter.
1. There are atoms and there is space that atoms occupy.
2. If there were no principles governing atoms in space, then they
would always scatter to fill the space.
3. There are stable objects that are aggregates of atoms.
4. So, there must be principles governing the atoms.
Dharma = the principle that governs the movement of atoms.
Adharma = the principle that governs stability of aggregate matter.
Jain Metaphysics
Realism – There is an external
reality that exists independently of
the human mind.
Pluralism – There is a plurality of
fundamental entities.
Reality is constituted by
innumerable material and spiritual
Each substance is constituted by
innumerable qualities.
Being a table
Being a chair
Each quality can undergo an
infinite number of modifications.
Being a clock
Nature is many-sided. Anekānta.
There are infinite aspects
Some essential
The Jain Epistemology
Ordinary human cognition cannot grasp reality, since it is too
complex. Because reality is many-sided and complex our ordinary
human knowledge of reality is always perspectival.
The Parable of the Five Blind Men: A king asks five blind men to
touch an elephant and tell him what it is.
First touches the trunk, thinks it is a snake.
Second touches the tail, thinks it is a rope.
Third touches the leg, thinks it is a tree trunk.
Fourth touches the ear, thinks it is a fan.
Fifth touches the side, thinks it is a wall.
Jain Theory of Seven Fold Judgment (Syadvāda)
Given a judgment P, the Jains hold that
There is a perspective from which P is true.
There is a perspective from which P is false.
There is a perspective from which P is both true and false.
There is a perspective from which P is inexpressible,
5. There is a perspective from which P is true, and is also
inexpressible / indescribable.
6. There is a perspective from which P is false, and is also in
expressible / indescribable.
7. There is a perspective from which P is both true and false, and
inexpressible / indescribable.
Naya vs. Pramana
Naya = provide an ordinary human with knowledge from a given
standpoint or point of view. Perspectival knowledge is acquired.
Pramāna = total knowledge of a thing.
The underlying self that is omniscient is the subject of pramāna
because the underlying self is omniscient and can know everything.
The ordinary self is subject only to naya, perspectival knowledge,
since there are infinite aspects that cannot be grasped all at once
through the senses that one uses in acquiring ordinary human
Jain Ethics
Five Principles:
Ahimsa: non-violence or non-hurting through speech, thought, and
Satya: truthfulness in speech.
Asteyam: not taking what is not given.
Brahmacaryam: sexual purity.
Aparigraha: abstinence from all attachment.
Ahimsa as a fundamental principle
Buddhist and Hindus also accept Ahimsa as an important ethical
idea. However, for Jains it is fundamental.
Negative aspect:
Don’t be the cause of harm.
Avoid harm in speech and thought.
Positive aspect:
Provide aid to others.
Serve others.
Jainism and Sallekhana
Sallekhana is the Jain religious practice of producing death by fasting. The goal of
fasting is to help produce the lowest amount of negative karma. Although many
other religions do not allow for one to take their own life, Jainism does allow it.
(a) Must be voluntary.
(b) Must have no responsibilities remaining in life.
(c) Done under community supervision.
1. Old age or terminal disease.
2. One’s inability to perform normal bodily functions.
3. The condition is so bad that life’s pleasures are non-existent.
4. The person must be fully conscious and in good mental and emotional health.
5. Strong desire to burn karmas by fasting.
6. Permission from family members.
7. Strong desire for release from the cycle of rebirth.
Mahatma Gandhi
Born October 2, 1869
Died January 30, 1948
Educated in England
Fought for the
independence of India
from the British empire.
Used non-violent civil
disobedience as a way to
fight unjust rule.
The Jain theory of Ahimsa
is a foundation for his