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Types of Karma

In Jainism, the principle of karma relates morality to the soul's cycle through life, death and rebirth. Moral actions accrue karma, which remain in the soul throughout the cycle, until liberation is achieved.

Jains recognise eight main types of karma (Prakriti) which are categorized as either ‘harming’ or ‘non-harming’, with each category further divided into four types. The harming karmas (ghātiyā karmas) directly affect the soul powers by impeding its perception, knowledge and energy, and also bring about delusion. These harming karmas are: darśhanāvarniya (perception obscuring karma), gyanavarniya (knowledge obscuring karma), antarāay (obstacles creating karma) and mohanīya (deluding karma). The non-harming category (aghātiyā karmas) is responsible for the reborn soul's physical and mental circumstances (nāam), longevity (āayu), spiritual potential (gotra) and experience of pleasant and unpleasant sensations (vedanīya). In other terms these non-harming karmas are: nāam (body determining karma), āayu (life span determining karma), gotra (status determining karma) and vedanīya (feeling producing karma) respectively.[1][2] Different types of karmas thus affect the soul in different ways, with each types having various sub-types. Tattvārthasūtra generally speaks of 148 sub-types of karmas in all. These are: 5 of gyanavaraṇa, 9 of darśhanavaraṇa, 2 of vedanīya, 28 of mohanīya 4 of āayu, 93 of naam, 2 of gotra, and 5 of antarāay.[3]

Ghatiya karmas

Ghātiyā karmas (harming karmas) directly affect the attributes of the soul. These are:[4]

  1. Knowledge-obscuring karma (Jñānāvaraṇīya karma) – These karmas obscure the knowledge attribute of the soul.
  2. Perception-obscuring karma (Darśhanāvaraṇīya karma) – These karmas diminish the powers of Perception of a soul.
  3. Deluding karma (Mohanīya karma) – These karmas are an instrumental cause of destruction the soul's right belief and right conduct. Of all karmas, deluding karma is the most difficult to overcome. Once this is eradicated, liberation is ensured within a few lifetimes.
  4. Obstructing karma (Antarāya karma) – The fruition of these karmas creates obstructions to giving donations, obtaining gains, and enjoying things.

When ghātiyā karmas are totally destroyed, the soul attains kevala Jnana or omniscience. Liberation is guaranteed for such souls in the same lifetime as soon the aghātiyā karmas are exhausted in the due course.[5]

gyanaverniya karma or the knowledge-obscuring karma are of five types:[6]

  1. Mati jnanavarana-karma which causes the obscuration of the knowledge, transmitted through the senses,
  2. Shruta jnanavarana-karma which produces the obscuration of knowledge acquired by interpreting signs (i.e.words, writings, gestures),
  3. Avadhi jnanavarana-karma which hinders transcendental knowledge of material things,
  4. Manahparyaya jnanavarana-karma which hinders transcendental knowledge of the thoughts of others,
  5. Kevala jnanavarana-karma which obscures the omniscience inherent in the jiva by natural disposition.

Of these, the last mentioned karma hinders omniscience altogether; the four others do not result in complete destruction of the corresponding faculties of knowledge, but often produce only greater or less disturbances.

Darshanavaraniya karma

There are four types of Darshanavarana karma (the perception-obscuring karma):[7]

  1. Chakshur darshanavarana-karma which produces the obscuration of the darsana conditional upon the eye,
  2. Achakshur darshanavarana-karma which causes the obscuration of the undifferentiated cognition, conditional upon the other senses and the organ of thinking,
  3. Avadhi darshanavarana-karma which causes the obscuration of the transcendental undifferentiated cognition of material things,
  4. Kevala darshanavarana-karma which hinder the absolute undifferentiated cognition (the counterpart of the omniscience).

The last mentioned karma hinders completely; the three others produce under certain circumstances only a disturbance of the respective cognition faculties.

In addition to these four darshanavarana karmas there are five others which produce physio-psychological conditions in which the sense organs are not active, and which, therefore, exclude all possibility of perception. These are the five nidra karmas, (sleep karmas), namely:[7]

  1. Nidra-karma which produces a light, pleasant slumber, out of which the sleeper is already aroused by the clicking of finger nails.
  2. Nidranidra-karma which produces a deep slumber, out of which the sleeper can only be awakened by being shaken violently,
  3. Prachala-karma which sitting or standing upright
  4. Prachalaprachala-karma which produces an exceedingly intensive sleep, that overcomes a person while walking,
  5. Styanagriddhi (styanariddhi) karma which causes somnambulism, acting an unconscious state.

Mohaniya karman

Mohaniya is derived from Moha which means attachment. Mohaniya karma (deluding karma) is considered the most dangerous out of all the eight karmas since `moha' (attachment) is believed to be the root cause of all Kasayas (passions). It is also most difficult karma to destroy. If mohaniya karma is destroyed fully, the self becomes free from all Kasayas and liberation is assured.[8] Two main categories of Mohaniya karman are—darshana mohaniya and charitra mohaniya karma. With their subtypes there are 28 sub-types of mohaniya karman.[9]

Darshana mohaniya karman

Further information: Ratnatraya

The darshana mahonia-karma causes a disturbance of the knowledge of the religious truth inherent in the jiva by natural disposition. These are further divided into three types according as to whether the disturbance is an absolute or a partial one:[10]

  1. Mithyatva karma: This causes complete unbelief or heterodoxy. If it realize itself, the jiva does not believe in the truths as proclaimed by Mahavira; he believes false prophets to be saints and enjoins false doctrines.
  2. Samyagmithyatva (misra) karma: This produces a mixed belief, i.e., if it operates the soul waves to and for betwixt true and false; it is indifferent to the religion of the Jina and has no predilection for, nor hatred against it.
  3. Samyaktva karma: This induces the correct belief. This samyaktva is not the correct faith in its completeness, but only in a preliminary degree; it is a mithyatva free from poison.

Charitra mohaniya karman

Further information: Kashaya (Jainism)

The charitra mohaniya-karma disturbs the right conduct possessed innately by the jiva; it hinders the soul from acting according to the religious prescriptions. The disturbance of the conduct is produced through the sixteen passions (kasaya), the six emotions with are categorised as non-passions (nokasaya) and the three genders (veda).[11]

The four main passions are krodha (anger), maya (deceitfulness), mana (pride) and lobha (greed). The karmas are literally bound on account of the stickiness of the soul due to existence of various passions or mental dispositions [12] Each of these is separated into 4 sub divisions, according to the intensity of their manifestation. The first one is anantanubandhin (of lifelong duration) which completely hinders belief and conduct. The second one is apratyakhyanavarana (hindering and non-renunciation) It makes impossible every reninciation, but allows the existence of true belief and lasts for one year. The third one of still milder intensity is pratyakhyanavarana (hindering with renunciation). It hinders the beginning of complete self-discipline, but does not prevent the existence of true belief and partial self-discipline (desavirati). Its effect lasts for 4 months. The last one is samjvalana (flaming up). It allows complete self-discipline, yet works against the attainment of complete right conduct (yathakhyata charitra). It lasts a fortnight.

The Nokasayas or the six non-passions are: hasya (laughing, joking or making fun of), rati (prejudicial liking or impartiality), arati (improper conduct) soka (sorrow), bhaya (fear), and jugupsa (disgust). All these six emotions are charitra mohaniyas, because the soul which is subjected to them, is hindered through them in the practice of right conduct.[13]

The Vedas or the gender passion hinders the jiva from obeying the laws and from practicing self-discipline. It is of threefold variety, according to the three species of sexes:[13]

Antaraya karma

The antaraya-karma hinders the energy (virya) of the jiva in a fivefold manner:[14]

  1. Dana antaraya-karma hinders dispensing alms. When it operates a person who knows the merit in giving and who has something to give away, is not capable to give it, although there is someone worthy of the gift.
  2. Labha antaraya-karma hinders receiving. When it operates, a person is not capable of receiving a present, although a friendly giver and a suitable present are present.
  3. Bhoga antaraya-karma hinders the enjoyment of something which can only be taken once (such as eating drinking).
  4. Upabhoga antaraya-karma hinders the enjoyment of something which can be repeatedly used (such as a dwelling, clothing, women).
  5. virya antaraya-karma hinders the will power. When it operates, even a strong, full grown man is incapable of bending a blade of grass.

Aghatiya karmas

These do not affect the soul directly; rather, they have an effect on the body that houses the soul. These are:[15]

  1. Lifespan-determining karma (Āyu karma) – These karmas determine the subsequent states of existence and lifespan therein after death. The soul gets locked either into animal (tiryañca), infernal (nāraki), human (manuṣya), or celestial (deva) bodies for its next birth.
  2. Body-determining karma (Nāma karma) – These karmas determine the type of body occupied by the soul.
  3. Status-determining karma (Gotra karma) - The fruition of these karmas gives one high status or low status in society.
  4. Feeling-producing karma (Vedanīya karma) - These karmas become an instrumental cause of the interruption of the soul's uninterrupted happiness. As a result of this, the soul remains agitated.

As soon as the Aghātiyā karmas gets exhausted soul attains Moksa (liberation).[16]

Ayu Karma

The ayus-karma confers on a being a certain quantum of life in one of the four states of existence. Therefore, there are four types of ayu karmas: deva ayu (the celestial lifespan), manusya ayus (the human lifespan), tiryancha ayu (the animal lifespan), and naraka ayu (the infernal lifespan).[17] The ayu-karma bestows a certain quantity of life, but not a definite number of years of life. For, as with a sponge, the quantity of water that it absorbs is determined, but not the time it takes to leave it, so also the quantum of life is determined, but not the time occupied in its consumption. The word ayu would, therefore, be approximately interpreted by "quantity of life" or "quantity of vitality").[17] The ayu of the new existence is always bound during the life immediately preceding it, especially in the 3rd, 9th, or 27th part or within the last 48 minutes of life.

Nama Karma

The nama-karma causes the individual diversities of the jivas. It is divided into 93 uttara prakrtis (sub-types), which are mostly quoted in a definitely fixed succession in 4 groups (pinda prakrtis, pratyeka prakrtis, trasadasaka, sthavara dasaka). They are the following:

Of these 5 bodies each succeeding one is finer than the one preceding it, but contains more material points than it; it is therefore denser. Every worldly soul (that is, soul not yet liberated) is always connected with a fiery and a karman body, but can, in addition, still possess one or two other bodies. At any given point of time four bodies can co-exist with a soul. For example, humans normally have three bodies simultaneously—audarika sarira (normal visible gross physical body), taijasa sarira (fiery body), and karmana sarira (karmic body). Some higher spiritual ascetics may possess vaikriya sarira (transformational body).
The samhananas play a great role in Jain doctrine. Only the first four make a meditation possible and only the best structure, the 1st joining of the joints, permits the highest kind of concentration which precedes salvation.
The conception of symmetry is explained in the following way: One imagines a man sitting in the paryanka posture, i.e. crossing the legs and placing the hands over the navel. If one imagines that the two knees are joined by a line, and from the right shoulder to the left knee, and from the left shoulder to the right knee, and from the forehead to the hands, a straight line is drawn, one gets four lines. If these are equal to one another, symmetry is apparent; if they are not so, one of the other 5 samsthanas results. Gods have only the first symmetry, infernal beings and jivas who have been produced through coagulation only the 6th figure; in the case of animals and men (also of kevalins) all six samsthanas are to be found.
Heavy, hard, dry, cold are considered to be unpleasant touches, the others pleasant.

Gotra Karma

The gotra karma or the status determining karma destines the rank occupied by a person through his birth. They are of two types:[25]

Vedaniya Karma

Vediniya karma: Pain and Pleasure is induced on account of licking honey from the sword

The vedaniya karma or feeling producing karmas are of two types:[10]

With gods and men the sata vedaniya is predominant, although, also with the former at the time of the downfall from the celestial world, and with the latter through cold and heat, death and accident, pain can be produced. Animals and infernal beings experience chiefly the asata vedaniya, although, also, at the birth of a Jina or on a similar occasion, they can experience a feeling of pleasure.

Duration of Karmas

The maximum duration of attachment of karma is 7 Quadrillion Sagaropama or 7 x 10^225 Years. A Sagaropama or "ocean measured year"equals 10^210 Years. It is derived from Sanskrit word sagara or ocean. The minimum amount of time is less than one muharta.[note 1] The maximum and minimum time for which the karmas remain bound to our consciousness depends on the type of karma which is as follows:[26]

Type of Karma Maximum duration Minimum duration
Jñānavaraṇa Karma 3 x 10225 Years <1 muhūrta (less than 48 minutes)
Darsanavarniya Karma 3 x 10225 Years <1 muhūrta (less than 48 minutes)
Mohaniya Karma 7 x 10225 Years <1 muhūrta (less than 48 minutes)
Antraya Karma 3 x 10226 Years <1 muhūrta (less than 48 minutes)
Ayu Karma 3.3 x 10221 Years <1 muhūrta (less than 48 minutes)
Nama Karma 2 x 10225 Years 8 muhūrta (6 hrs and 24 min)
Gotra Karma 2 x 10225 Years 8 muhūrta (6 hrs and 24 min)
Vedniya Karma 3 x 10225 Years 12 muhūrta (9 hrs and 36 min)

See also


  1. ^ 1 muharta = 48 minutes


  1. ^ Sanghvi, Sukhlal (1974). Commentary on Tattvārthasūtra of Vācaka Umāsvāti. trans. by K. K. Dixit. Ahmedabad: L. D. Institute of Indology. p. 303
  2. ^ New Dictionary of Religions (1995)
  3. ^ Sanghvi, Sukhlal (1974) pp. 302
  4. ^ Jaini, Padmanabh (1998). The Jaina Path of Purification. New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 81-208-1578-5. pp. 131-32
  5. ^ Jaini, Padmanabh (2000). Collected Papers on Jaina Studies. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publ. ISBN 81-208-1691-9. p.51
  6. ^ Glasenapp, Helmuth Von (2003) [1942]. H. R. Kapadia (ed.). The Doctrine of Karman in Jain Philosophy. Translated by G. Barry Gifford. Fremont, CA: Asian Humanities Press. ISBN 0-89581-971-6. p.6
  7. ^ a b Glasenapp, Helmuth Von (2003) [1942] pp.7-8
  8. ^ Mehta, T. U. (1993). Ashok Kumar Singh (ed.). The path of Arhat : a religious democracy. Varanasi: Pujya Sohanlal Smaraka Parsvanatha Sodhapitha. OCLC 29703055. p.104
  9. ^ Glasenapp, Helmuth Von (2003) [1942] pp.8-10
  10. ^ a b Glasenapp, Helmuth Von (2003) [1942] p.8
  11. ^ Glasenapp, Helmuth Von (2003) [1942] pp.9-10
  12. ^ Jaini, Padmanabh (1998): pp. 112
  13. ^ a b Glasenapp, Helmuth Von (2003) [1942] p.10
  14. ^ Glasenapp, Helmuth Von (2003) [1942] p.20
  15. ^ Jaini, Padmanabh (1998): pp. 132
  16. ^ Jaini, Padmanabh (1998): pp. 133
  17. ^ a b Glasenapp, Helmuth Von (2003) [1942] p.11
  18. ^ a b c Glasenapp, Helmuth Von (2003) [1942] p.12
  19. ^ a b Glasenapp, Helmuth Von (2003) [1942] p.13
  20. ^ a b Glasenapp, Helmuth Von (2003) [1942] p.14
  21. ^ a b c Glasenapp, Helmuth Von (2003) [1942] p.15
  22. ^ a b c Glasenapp, Helmuth Von (2003) [1942] p.16
  23. ^ Glasenapp, Helmuth Von (2003) [1942] pp.16-17
  24. ^ a b Glasenapp, Helmuth Von (2003) [1942] p.17
  25. ^ Glasenapp, Helmuth Von (2003) [1942] p.18
  26. ^ Sanghvi, Sukhlal (1974) p. 312