Article: Karma-prakr̥ti

Contributed by Jean Arzoumanov

Glossary

Advaita Vedānta

The oldest school of Hindu philosophy found today. Usually translated as 'non-dualism', Advaita Vedānta emphasises the scriptures of the Upaniṣads as ways of understanding the relationship between Ātman – the pure self or soul – and Brāhman – pure, unchanging reality. To followers, these are identical but ignorance and errors of judgement cause deluded souls to believe in the world of physical and mental forms they experience, which is māyā. Knowledge frees the soul of these errors and allows liberation from the cycle of rebirth.

Agra

City in modern-day Uttar Pradesh. One of the capitals of the Mughal Empire, Agra contains many fine examples of Mughal architecture, including the Red Fort and the Taj Mahal.

Ahiṃsā

The principle of non-violence that is one of the five chief vows of Jainism.

Akbar the Great

Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar, third Mughal Emperor of India from 1556 to 1605. Akbar's long reign is often thought of as beginning the peak of the Mughal Empire, as it grew and became rich and powerful, witnessing a cultural and intellectual flowering, and degrees of religious tolerance.

Allah

Muslim term for God or Supreme Being, from the Arabic allāh.

Antarāya-karma

Third of the four 'destructive' types of karma, which dampens the soul's energy – vīrya – and:

  • hampers giving to others
  • hinders receiving things from others
  • reduces enjoyment of food and material items.

Avadhi-jñāna

Extra-sensory knowledge, clairvoyance. One of the five traditional types of knowledge, it is inborn in heavenly and hellish beings. Humans can attain it only through special yogic practices and it is linked to a high level of spirituality.

Āyu-karma

First of the four 'non-destructive' or 'neutral' – aghātīya – types of karma, which determines lifespan and condition of existence – gati – of the embodied soul.

Bandha

'Karmic bondage'. This refers to the period when the karma has entered the soul and lies dormant before producing its effect or coming to fruition.

Bhaṭṭāraka

Sankrit term meaning 'pontiff'. This title is given to a type of Digambara clergy who are not mendicants. Instead of practising the 'wandering life' – vihāra – of Jain monks and nuns, a bhaṭṭāraka stays in one place, living in a kind of monastery called a maṭha. There are several bhaṭṭārakas in south India, who lead the local Jain community.

Brāhmaṇa

A member of the highest caste in Hinduism, the priests or brahmins. 'Brahminical' means 'of or like brahmins'.

Braj Bhāṣā

A vernacular language used throughout northern India for centuries. It is still spoken but has disappeared as a literary language.

Buddhist

A follower of Buddhism. There are two main schools of Buddhism, namely:

  • Theravāda – 'the Teaching of the Elders' in Pali – is older and is found chiefly in Sri Lanka and continental South East Asia
  • Māhayana – 'Great Vehicle' in Sanskrit – is the larger sect and is followed mainly in East Asia and the Himalayan nations.

Both sects are practised in India.

Cakravartin

Sanskrit for 'universal monarch'. There are 12 in the continent of Bharata in each progressive and regressive half-cyle of time. They have 9 treasures and 14 jewels they can use to conquer their enemies and become 'universal monarchs'. The cakravartin form one of the five groups of '63 illustrious men' in Jain mythology.

Caste

Hindu society is traditionally divided into numerous jātis or classes, which are usually grouped into the four varṇas – often called 'castes' – of:

  • Brāhmaṇa – priest
  • Kṣatriya – warrior
  • Vaśya – merchant or farmer
  • Śūdra – labourer.

Relating to ritual purity, castes are hereditary and probably based on occupation. Members of different castes performed particular socio-economic roles and did not mix or eat the same food. People outside the caste system were usually looked down upon.

Clergy

Formally recognised leaders within a religion. The clergy often perform rituals, lead worship and instruct believers in religious principles. Lay men and women usually complete formal study before being initiated into the clergy. Clerics are active among lay believers, often living in society. They may have specific roles or ranks and may progress through a hierarchy to become top leaders of the religious organisation.

Commentary

An essay explaining a text. Commentaries on the scriptures are common in the Jain tradition and there are various types, including the:

  • bālāvabodha
  • bhāṣya
  • cūrṇi
  • niryukti
  • ṭīkā.

Darśana

Vision, insight or perception. It works with the quality of jñāna – knowledge in the soul – to gain deep, true understanding and is ever-changing.

Also one of the 14 'gateways' or categories of investigation of mārgaṇā or 'soul-quest'.

Deity

A god or divine figure, often with physical powers beyond those of a human and with superhuman abilities.

Devanāgarī

A script for writing in different Indian languages, still used today. In Devanāgarī each letter has a horizontal line above it. 

Digambara

'Sky-clad' in Sanskrit, used for one of the two main divisions of Jainism, in which monks are naked. There are some differences of doctrine or belief between these two sects and to some extent their followers consider themselves as belonging to distinct branches. Divisions can be fierce in practical matters, for example, over the ownership of pilgrimage places, but all sects see themselves as Jains.

Disciple

An active follower of a religion, especially one who passes on teachings to others.

Doctrine

A principle or system of teachings, especially religious philosophy.

East India Company

In 1600 Queen Elizabeth of England granted a royal charter for a company to carry out trade with the East Indies, a term Europeans used at that time for parts of Asia. Many European countries established similar companies in this period. Gradually, the British East India Company became the effective ruler of large parts of South Asia, with its own armies and administration.

Eschatology

Theological belief about death, the end of the world or the eventual destiny of humanity. Some religions have prophecies about the end of the world and related concepts such as the messiah.

Gaṇeśa

The elephant-headed Hindu god, who is popular among believers in many Indian religions. He is known as the remover of obstacles, a god of new beginnings and patron of arts and sciences, intellect and wisdom. He is commonly invoked by Jain authors and scribes.

Ghātīya

Four 'destructive' types of karma, which affect the innate qualities of the soul and thus hinder the path to liberation. They are:

  1. arśana-āvaraṇīya-karma – blocks the soul's perception – darśana
  2. jñāna-āvaraṇīya-karma – obscures the soul's knowledge – jñāna
  3. antarāya-karma – dampens the soul's energy – vīrya
  4. mohanīya-karma – clouds the soul's bliss – sukha.

Gloss

To explain or translate a word or phrase in a text. A glossary is a collection of such explanations. A gloss may be a short note in the margin or between the lines of a text or it may be an extended commentary.

Hindi

The most widely spoken group of languages in India, originating in the northern part of the subcontinent. Local dialects and Hindi languages are spoken all over northern India and in surrounding countries. Standard Hindi is used in administration by the central government of India, along with English.

Hindu

Follower of the majority faith in India and an adjective describing something belonging to Hinduism. Hindus have numerous gods and diverse beliefs and practices, though many believe in the soul, karma, the cycle of births and liberation. Roughly a billion Hindus comprise the third largest religion in the world.

Hinduism

The majority faith in India, often called Sanātana Dharma or Eternal Law. With no single named founder, Hinduism has a pantheon of gods and a range of different beliefs. Most Hindu traditions revere the Veda literature but there is no single system of salvation or belief, although many Hindus believe in the soul, karma, the cycle of births and liberation. Large Hindu communities exist in southern Asia, with smaller groups across the world.

Invocation

A formula or prayer calling upon a deity or authority to bring blessings and protection. Invocations are frequently found at the beginning of Jain texts.

Islam

The monotheistic religion founded by the Prophet Muhammad in the sixth century CE. A believer in Islam, which means ‘peace’, is a Muslim, ‘one who submits to God’ in Arabic. Islamic practices and beliefs are based on the Qu’ran and the hadiths or stories about the Prophet Muhammad. A diverse faith, most Muslim sects accept the Five Pillars of Islam:

  • stating that Allah is the only god and Muhammad his prophet
  • praying five times daily at fixed times
  • giving to the poor and needy
  • fasting
  • making a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca.

Jain

Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.

Jaina Śaurasenī

A variety of Prakrit. A spoken language, it became used primarily for drama in northern India during the medieval period and is the language used for the main Digambara scriptures.

Jina

A 'victor' in Sanskrit, a Jina is an enlightened human being who has triumphed over karma and teaches the way to achieve liberation. A synonym for Tīrthaṃkara, which means 'ford-maker' or one who has founded a community after reaching omniscience through asceticism. The most famous 24 – Ṛṣabha to Mahāvīra – were born in the Bharata-kṣetra of the middle world, but more are found in other continents. There have been Jinas in the past and there will be some in the future.

Jīva

Sanskrit for 'self', 'soul' or 'that which is sentient'. It makes up the universe along with ajīva, or non-sentient material substance. It is a material substance that changes in size according to the body it inhabits in each life. It is born in different bodies in various places in the Jain universe based on karma from earlier lives. The soul is liberated from the cycle of birth when it has achieved spiritual purity and omniscience. Also called ātma or ātman.

Karma

Action or act, thought of as physical in Jainism. Created by mental or physical action, karma enters the soul, which then needs religious restraints and practices to make it flow out. Karma can be both:

  • negative – deriving from harmful acts
  • positive – arising from beneficial actions.

Both types of karma trap a soul in continual rebirth. A pan-Indian concept, karma has extremely complex, detailed and technical divisions and subdivisions in Jainism.

Karnataka

State in south-west India.

Kaṣāya

'Passion' that causes activity, which results in new karma binding to the soul. It must be eliminated by restraints or austerities so the soul can be liberated. Passion may be attraction – rāga – or aversion – dveṣa – and has degrees of intensity. There are traditionally four passions:

  • anger – krodha
  • pride – māna
  • deceit – māyā
  • greed – lobha.

Also one of the 14 'gateways' or categories of investigation of mārgaṇā – 'soul-quest'.

Kevala-jñāna

Omniscience, enlightenment or perfect knowledge – the highest of the five types of knowledge, where one knows everything wherever and whenever it is. It is extremely difficult to attain, equivalent to the 13th stage of spiritual purity in the guṇa-sthāna. Digambaras believe only men can achieve it whereas Śvetāmbaras believe that both men and women can become enlightened.

Laity

Believers in a religion who are ordinary worshippers, not clergy or members of religious orders. In Jainism, lay people are often called 'householders', indicating that they live in houses and have domestic responsibilities, unlike ascetics.

Manaḥ-paryāya-jñāna

Telepathy. The fourth of the five types of knowledge - jñāna - by which one has direct access to others’ minds. Humans in advanced states of spiritual development gain this kind of knowledge.

Mati-jñāna

The first of the five types of knowledge, acquired through the five senses and the mind. Even elementary beings with only one sense – that of touch – have it. Also called ābhinibodhaka-jñāna.

Mokṣa

The 'liberation' of the soul from its body and thus from the cycle of rebirth because it has no karma and becomes omniscient. The ultimate aim of Jainism is to achieve mokṣa and become a liberated soul in siddha-śilā.

Mughal

The Mughal Empire lasted from 1526 to 1858, a period noted for its wealth, overall religious tolerance, and cultural and intellectual achievements, particularly in art and architecture. Originally Muslims who swept down from Central Asia, the Mughals' best-known ruler is probably Akbar the Great (1556–1605).

Muslim

A Muslim, or ‘one who submits to God’ in Arabic, follows the religion of Islam, which means ‘peace’. Muslims believe that Muhammad is the last in a line of prophets. The complete word of Allah or God was revealed to Muhammad in the sixth century CE and set down in the Arabic Qur’an or ‘recitation’. Nearly all Muslims belong to either the Shia or Sunni sects, with Sunni Muslims comprising around 90% of Islamic believers.

Mysticism

A system of contemplative prayer, meditation and complete detachment from worldly affairs in the hope of gaining direct spiritual experience of the divine. In Jainism those who practise mystical techniques hope to gain true self-realisation and thus destroy karma and be liberated.

Nāma-karma

Second of the four 'non-destructive' or 'neutral' types of karma, which forms the body and physical attributes.

Naraka

Hell. There are seven levels of hells in the lower world of Jain cosmology.

Nemi

The 22nd Jina of the present age, also called Ariṣṭanemi. His symbolic colour is blue or black and his emblem the conch. There is no historical evidence of his existence.

The Jains hold that Nemi is the cousin of the Hindu god Kṛṣna. The tale of his renunciation and jilting of his fiancée Princess Rājīmati are famous among the Jains.

No-kaṣāya

A subgroup of passions or emotions – kaṣāyas – that must be eliminated to reach liberation from the cycle of rebirths. Traditionally, there are nine:

  • hāsya – laughter
  • rati – sensual pleasure
  • arati – sensual displeasure
  • śoka – sorrow
  • bhaya – fear
  • jugupsā – disgust
  • veda – sexual craving
  • puṃ-veda – sexual desire for a woman
  • strī-veda – sexual desire fora man
  • napuṃsaka-veda – sexual desire for both men and women.

Paṇḍit

'Learned one' in Sanskrit and used originally for a Hindu brahmin scholar and teacher. Nowadays a Jain pandit is a scholar who has been educated traditionally and is expert in the sacred texts of at least one of the Jain sects.

Persian

A widely used language in northern India for hundreds of years, developed in modern south-western Iran. Used for administration and literary works in areas ruled by Islamic regimes across northern India, it became associated with culture, education and science, and was the official language of the Mughal Empire. Persian influenced other languages in India and was gradually supplanted by English and Hindustani – the forebear of modern Hindi – in the 19th century.

Polymath

Someone who is learned in many types of knowledge. For example, someone may demonstrate expertise in several languages and deep familiarity with physics, botany and philosophy.

Prākrit

A term for any of the dead vernacular languages of ancient and medieval India. It may be contrasted with classical Sanskrit, the language used by priests and the aristocracy. The Jains used a large variety of Prakrits, with the Jain canon written chiefly in Ardhamāgadhī Prākrit.

Pudgala

Matter. One of the five insentient material substances of dravya that make up the universe along with the sentient substance, jivastikaya.

Rāma

An avatar of Viṣṇu, the preserver or protector who is one of the three major Hindu gods. Rāma is a prince of Ayodhyā and is often shown with blue skin, holding a bow and arrow. The epic poem Rāmāyaṇa recounts his adventures as he searches for his wife Sītā, who has been kidnapped by Rāvaṇa. Blending Jain values into the story, the Jain Rāmāyaṇas cast him and other figures in the tale as some of the 'great men' of Jain Universal History.

Rite

A sequence of actions that must be followed to perform a religious ceremony. The set of actions is largely symbolic, for example offering food to statues symbolises sacrificing to a deity. The ritual actions are often accompanied by set phrases.

Saṃsāra

Cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth caused by karma binding to the soul as a result of activities. Only by destroying all karma can this perpetual cycle finish in mokṣa – liberation. The karma gained in life affects the next life, and even future lives, for example:

  • in which of the three worlds the life is lived out
  • which of four conditions – gati – the body takes, namely human, divine, hellish or as a plant or animal.

Samyak-darśana

'Right insight' or the proper view of reality, which means faith in the principles of Jainism taught by the Jinas. The first of the Three Jewels of Jainism and a necessary first step in spiritual progress.

Sanskrit

A classical language of India, originally used by priests and nobility. Sanskrit has a rich literary and religious tradition. With only a few thousand native speakers nowadays, it is predominantly used in Hindu religious ceremonies and by scholars.

Sapta-bhaṅgi-naya

The ‘sevenfold predication’, a series of seven statements describing the various angles from which reality can be viewed:

  • in some respects it is
  • in some respects it is not
  • in some respects it is and it is not
  • in some respects it is not able to be expressed
  • in some respects it is and it is not able to be expressed
  • in some respects it is not and is able to be expressed
  • in some respects, it is, it is not, it is not able to be expressed.

Śāstra

Scripture, book, treatise.

Scribe

Someone who copies manuscripts for a living. Scribes are common in societies where literacy is rare. In the past, however, scribes could not always read and write fluently.

Scripture

Set of sacred texts that believers accept as authoritative within a religion. Synonymous with canon.

Siddhānta

'Doctrine' in Sanskrit. Digambara Jains tend to use it to refer to their canon while Śvetāmbara Jains usually use Āgama for their holy scriptures.

Sin

Breaking a religious or moral principle, especially if this is done deliberately. Sinners commit sins or may sin by not doing something they are supposed to do.

Śrī

Hindu goddess of wealth, Śrī is the personification of spiritual energy and is closely associated with the lotus. Also a name for Lakṣmī, Hindu goddess of beauty, wisdom, fertility and wealth.

Sufism

Islamic mysticism. Sufis aim to gain direct personal experience of God by taking part in distinctive ritual prayers and meditation, and ascetic practices.

Śvetāmbara

'White-clad’ in Sanskrit, the title of one of the two main divisions of Jainism, in which both male and female mendicants wear white robes. There are some differences of doctrine or belief between these two sects and to some extent their followers consider themselves as belonging to distinct branches. Divisions can be fierce in practical matters, for example, over the ownership of pilgrimage places, but all sects see themselves as Jains.

The Enlightenment

An intellectual and cultural movement that arose around the mid-17th century in Western Europe. It stressed freedom of thought, reason, analysis and individualism as guides to behaviour and social development rather than the traditional authorities of church and state, which seemed to ask for uncritical acceptance. During the Enlightenment, new ways of thinking about the world – especially scientific approaches and radical philosophies – developed.

Theology

The systematic study of God or religion, including doctrine, practice and spirituality.

Transliteration

The conversion of words from one alphabet into the corresponding letters of another alphabet. The text is not necessarily translated into another language, just put into another alphabet.

Upaniṣads

A class of scripture in Hinduism, the Upaniṣads were first written down in the sixth century CE. Thirteen Upaniṣads form part of the sacred Vedas, although well over 100 Upaniṣads are known. Chiefly philosophical works on human existence and the universe, the Upaniṣads discuss topics such as the nature of reality and the definition of and path to the soul's liberation. They form the basis of key concepts in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, and thus are key to the development of Indian culture.

Ūrdhva-loka

The highest of the three worlds in Jain cosmology, the home of the various types of gods.

Veda

Earliest scriptures of the Hindu faith, which are divided into four collections, all written in verse:

  • Ṛg-veda, often known as the Rigveda in the West
  • Yajur-veda
  • Sāma-veda
  • Atharva-veda.

In tradition, the sage Vyāsa compiled the Vedas. The works were probably composed from roughly 1500 to 1000 BCE, though they were probably first written down around the fifth century of the Common Era. The Vedas and the large body of associated literature capture the mainstream of Indian thought over many centuries.

The term veda – knowledge – is also used for sexual desire or sexual preference. In this sense it is one of the 14 Jain 'gateways' or categories of investigation of mārgaṇā or 'soul-quest'.

Vernacular

The everyday or common language spoken by people in a particular country or region, often contrasting with the literary form or the national or official language. Similarly, vernacular architecture reflects local conditions and conventions more than other considerations, such as national or international design trends, and may be built by non-professional architects.

Viṣṇu

The chief protective god in Hinduism and one of the triad of major deities, along with Brahmā the creator and Śiva the destroyer or transformer. Viṣṇu is the preserver or protector, and is often shown as dark blue, with four arms, holding a lotus, mace, conch and wheel. He has a thousand names and ten avatārs, the best known being Rāma and blue-skinned Kṛṣṇa.

Yoga

Spiritual discipline. But Jains also use it to mean an ‘activity’ that produces vibrations.

Also one of the 14 'gateways' or categories of investigation of mārgaṇā or 'soul-quest'.

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Related Manuscripts

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    Bodleian Library. MS. Wilson 262. Nemicandra. 21 July 1796

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