Article: Karma-prakr̥ti

Contributed by Jean Arzoumanov

Text details

The four types of existences for beings trapped in the world of rebirths, with the white crescent representing final liberation. From the 2004 'Illustrated Sthanang Sutra', in the Illustrated Agam series, overseen by Pravartak Shri Amar Muni.

Four types of existence
Image by Diwakar Prakashan / Padma Prakashan © Diwakar Prakashan / Padma Prakashan

The text begins with a triple invocation, as follows:

  • the first line is in Arabic to Allah, and is conventional at the start of an Indo-Persian text
  • the second line in Sanskrit, to Gaṇeśa, reflects Dilārām’s Hinduism
  • the third in Śaurasenī, to the 22nd Jina Neminātha or Lord Nemi, serves as the first verse of the Karma-prakṛti.


rabbi yassir; bismi ’llahi ’l-raḥmāni ’l-raḥīm; wa-tammim bi-l-khayr
O my Lord, give me ease; in the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful; and bring about a good end.


śrīganeśāya namaḥ
I salute Lord Ganeśa.


paṇamiya sirasā ṇemiṃ guṇa-rayaṇa-vihūsaṇam mahāvīraṃ
sammatta-rayaṇa-ṇilayaṃ payaḍi-samukkittaṇaṃ vocchaṃ[= Karma-kāṇḍa verse 1]
Having bowed my head to Nemi, adorned with the jewel-like qualities of soul, the great hero, shrine of the jewels of the right belief, I will proclaim the nature [of karman].

All translations by Jean Arzoumanov

Verses 2 to 5

The union between soul and body is described as eternal and unbreakable. Because of the soul’s activity, the 'soul body' vibrates and attracts karmic particles, called karman – 'action' – by the Jains. The number of karmic particles is defined through calculation and is added to those shed after they have been exhausted or because of the soul’s activity.

Verses 6 to 14

These verses explain that karma is twofold, being both material as well as spiritual. It is divided into eight classes and 148 subclasses, which fall in the two main categories of:

  • destructive – ghātīya
  • non-destructive – aghātīya.

Destructive karmans veil or stupefy the soul’s abilities. Karmans determine the soul's:

Verses 15 to 17

These verses define knowledge as threefold, consisting of:

  • knowledge – jñāna
  • vision or perception – darśana
  • right beliefsamyaktva here, although samyag-darśana is more common.

These are qualities of the soul along with energy – vīrya – which also relates to the physical body. Matter can be described according to sapta-bhaṅgi-naya – 'formulation of sevenfold predication' or 'formula of seven assertions'.

Verses 18 to 21

In these verses the eight classes of karma are specified and ordered.

For example the destructive – ghātīya – karmas are ranked before the non-destructive – aghātīya – karmas. However, the fourth destructive karma – antarāya – is ranked last, after the non-destructive types of karma. This is because Nemicandra states that it is caused by the last three non-destructive karmas, which chiefly affect the physical body.

Verses 22 to 26

Verses 24 and 25 are missing in both manuscripts.

These verses explain how the union between body and karma is 'compact and dense' because there is an infinity of karmic particle on each spatial point of the soul.

The text describes how, when karma comes to fruition – udaya – it produces an effect – bhāva – on the soul. This effect is either:

  • attraction – rāga
  • aversion – dveṣa.

These feelings of attraction or aversion are directed towards objects, people and emotions and take varying degrees of intensity.

Through this action of karma, other particles stick to the soul. The exception is the first non-destructive karma – ayus – which is the same throughout a single reincarnation.

Nemicandra further adds that karmic bondage must be distinguished according to its nature, duration, intensity and space.

In turn, the soul responds and attracts other karmans.

Verses 27 to 36

These verses define further the classes and subclasses of karma.

The author gives a simile for the eight types of karma – mūla-prakṛtis. For example, he describes darśana-āvaraṇīya-karma as being like a veil.

Verses 37 to 42

These verses divide the concept of knowledge into:

Verses 43 to 46

Verse 45 is missing in both manuscripts.

These verses categorise vision or perception – darśana – into:

  • perception through the eyes – cakṣuṣ-darśana
  • awareness of objects to the minutest atom – avadhi-darśana
  • absolute perception – kevala-darśana – found in a soul that has achieved omniscience.

Verses 47 to 51

These verses describe how the four 'destructive' – ghātīya – karmans hinder true perception.

Verses 52 to 54

These verses explain how 'destructive' karmans can also dull correct perception because they involve wrong belief. Such incorrect beliefs are countered with spiritual peace.

Verses 55 to 65

These verses recount how the 'destructive' karmans can stupefy behaviour. They provoke passionskaṣāyas – that lead the soul to be reborn. The four grades of passions determine where the soul is next reborn or embodied, which is in one of the four main places in the Jain universe.

The karmans can also raise no-kaṣāyas – a subgroup of passions or emotions. Nemicandra counts nine no-kaṣāyas, including the three vedas in this category.This type of karma determines the sex of the person, whether feminine, masculine or neuter.

Verses 66 to 67

These two verses describe how karmans determine the soul's rebirth as a:

  • divine being – deva-gati
  • demonic being – naraka-gati
  • human being – manuṣya-gati
  • animal or plant being – tiryag-gati.

Verses 68 to 69

These two verses detail how the nāma-karmans determine which of the five bodies will be attached to the soul in its next birth. The five bodies are the:

  • physical body – audārika-śarīra
  • protean body – vaikriyika-śarīra
  • translocation body – āhāraka-śarīra
  • fiery body – taijasa-śarīra
  • karmic body – kārmaṇa-śarīra.

Verses 70 to 82

Some karmans influence the physical body in which the imperfect soul is embodied during a 'birth'. These verses describe how the nāma-karmans determine the body, which in Jain belief is made of atoms of matterpudgala.

Effect of nāma-karmans on the body

Type of nāma-karman

Influence on the physical body


affects the coherence of the body and the integration of new matter


enables the atoms of pudgala to bind together


determines the body's shape, for example whether it is:

  • symmetrical
  • asymmetrical
  • partly symmetrical.


defines the body's:

  • main parts, such as arms, legs and head
  • secondary parts, such as fingers and toes.


establishes the union between the bones, making the body more or less firm and strong.

Verses 83 to 86

Saṃhanana-karma – which influences the body's joints – also determines where the soul will be reborn, whether within the paradises or the hells. There is a complex correlation between the nature of the joints and the number of heavens and hells in which the soul can be born.

Verse 87

The saṃhanana-karma also determines the spiritual stage – guṇa-sthāna – which the soul is able to attain in a given lifetime.

The translation stops here although the original text comprises 161 verses. The translator, Dilārām, ends his work when the text starts to become extremely technical.

Commentary on the 'Karma-prakr̥ti'

The 17th-century commentary by the Digambara scholar Hemrāj is fairly conventional in form. Primarily in Braj Bhāṣā, a vernacular language of northern India, the commentary contains numerous Sanskrit terms and phrases for technical concepts.


The commentary loosely follows the traditional two-part form of the padārtha and bhāvārtha.

In the first stage, the padārtha, a short gloss of the words in the text gives their Sanskrit form, not their original Prakrit form, and their meaning. In the second stage – called the bhāvārtha – the subject matter is explained further. The commentator sometimes provides more detailed explanation of the gāthās, which are very succinct, on the whole.

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Related Manuscripts

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    Bodleian Library. MS. Wilson 262. Nemicandra. 21 July 1796 - All text is © JAINpedia / Institute of Jainology 2021 under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 licence The Jain universe online at

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