Jainism does not support belief in a creator deity. According to Jain
doctrine, the universe and its constituents—soul, matter, space,
time, and principles of motion—have always existed. All the
constituents and actions are governed by universal natural laws. It is
not possible to create matter out of nothing and hence the sum total
of matter in the universe remains the same (similar to law of
conservation of mass). Jain text claims that the universe consists of
jiva (life force or souls) and ajiva (lifeless objects). The soul of
each living being is unique and uncreated and has existed since
The Jain theory of causation holds that a cause and its effect are
always identical in nature and hence a conscious and immaterial entity
like God cannot create a material entity like the universe.
Furthermore, according to the Jain concept of divinity, any soul who
destroys its karmas and desires achieves liberation (nirvana). A soul
who destroys all its passions and desires has no desire to interfere
in the working of the universe. Moral rewards and sufferings are not
the work of a divine being, but a result of an innate moral order in
the cosmos; a self-regulating mechanism whereby the individual reaps
the fruits of his own actions through the workings of the karmas.
Through the ages, Jain philosophers have rejected and opposed the
concept of creator and omnipotent God and this has resulted in Jainism
being labeled as nastika darsana or atheist philosophy by the rival
religious philosophies. The theme of non-creationism and absence of
omnipotent God and divine grace runs strongly in all the philosophical
dimensions of Jainism, including its cosmology, karma, moksa and its
moral code of conduct.
Jainism asserts a religious and virtuous life
is possible without the idea of a creator god.
1 Jaina conception of the Universe
1.1 Wheel of time
1.2 Concept of reality
1.3 Material cause and effect
1.4 The soul
2 Jaina conception of divinity
2.4 Heavenly beings – Demi-gods and demi-goddesses
3 Nature of Karmas
4 Jain opposition to creationism
5 Criticisms of Jain non-creationist theory
6 See also
Jaina conception of the Universe
Jain cosmology in form of a lokapurusa
or cosmic man.
See also: Jain cosmology
Universe as per the Jain Scriptures.
Jain scriptures reject God as the creator of universe.
an elaborate cosmology, including Heavenly beings/Devas. These
Heavenly beings are not viewed as creators, they are subject to
suffering and change like all other living beings, and must eventually
die. If godliness is defined as the state of having freed one's soul
from karmas and the attainment of enlightenment/Nirvana and a God as
one who exists in such a state, then those who have achieved such a
state can be termed Gods/Tirthankara. Thus,
According to Jains, this loka or universe is an entity, always
existing in varying forms with no beginning or end. Jain texts
describe the shape of the universe as similar to a man standing with
legs apart and arms resting on his waist. Thus, the universe is narrow
at top, widens above the middle, narrows towards the middle, and once
again becomes broad at the bottom. [b]
Wheel of time
Jain Cosmic Wheel of Time
According to Jainism, time is beginningless and eternal. The cosmic
wheel of time rotates ceaselessly. This cyclic nature eliminates
the need for a creator, destroyer or external deity to maintain the
The wheel of time is divided into two half-rotations, Utsarpiṇī or
ascending time cycle and Avasarpiṇī, the descending time cycle,
occurring continuously after each other. Utsarpiṇī is a period of
progressive prosperity and happiness where the time spans and ages are
at an increasing scale, while Avsarpiṇī is a period of increasing
sorrow and immorality.
Concept of reality
This universe is made up of what Jainas call the six dravyas or
substances classified as follows –
Jīva - The living substances
Jains believe that souls (Jīva) exist as a reality, with a separate
existence from the body that houses it. It is characterised by cetana
(consciousness) and upayoga (knowledge and perception). Though the
soul experiences both birth and death, it is neither destroyed nor
created. Decay and origin refer respectively to the disappearance of
one state of soul and appearance of another, both merely various modes
of the soul.
Ajīva - Non-Living Substances
Matter is solid, liquid, gas, energy, fine karmic
materials and extra-fine matter or ultimate particles. Paramānu or
ultimate particles are the basic building block of matter. One quality
of paramānu and pudgala is permanence and indestructibility. It
combines and changes its modes but its qualities remain the same.
According to Jainism, it cannot be created nor destroyed.
Dharma-tattva or Medium of Motion and Adharma-tattva or Medium of Rest
- Also known as Dharmāstikāya and Adharmāstikāya, they are
distinct to Jain thought depicting motion and rest. They pervade the
entire universe. Dharma-tattva and Adharma-tattva are by itself not
motion or rest but mediate motion and rest in other bodies. Without
dharmāstikāya motion is impossible and without adharmāstikāya rest
is impossible in the Universe.
Space is a substance that accommodates living
souls, matter, the principles of motion and rest, and time. It is
all-pervading, infinite and made of infinite space-points.
Time is a real entity according to
Jainism and all
activities, changes or modifications are achieved only in time. Time
is like a wheel with twelve spokes divided into descending and
ascending: half with six stages of immense durations, each estimated
at billions of "ocean years" (sagaropama). In each descending
stage, sorrow increases and at each ascending stage, happiness and
These uncreated constituents of the universe impart dynamics upon the
universe by interacting with each other. These constituents behave
according to natural laws without interference from external entities.
Dharma or true religion according to
Jainism is vatthu sahāvo dhammo
translated as "the intrinsic nature of a substance is its true
Material cause and effect
According to Jainism, causes are of two types – Upādanā kārana
(substantial or material cause) and Nimitta kārana (instrumental
cause). Upādanā kārana is always identical with its effect. For
example, out of clay, you can only produce a clay pot; hence the clay
is the upādanā kārana or material cause and clay pot its effect.
Wherever the effect is present, the cause is present and vice versa.
The effect is always present in latent form in the material cause. For
transforming the clay to pot, the potter, the wheel, the stick and
other operating agents are required that are merely nimitta or
instrumental cause or catalysts in transformation. The material cause
always remains the clay. Hence the cause and effect are always
entirely identical in nature. [g] Potter cannot be the material cause
of pot. If this were the case, then Potter might as well prepare the
pot without any clay. But this is not so. Thus a clay pot can only be
made from clay; gold ornaments can be made only from gold. Similarly
the different modes of existence of a soul are a result of activities
of soul itself. There cannot be any contradiction or exceptions.
In such a scenario, Jains argue that the material cause of a living
soul with cetana (conscious entity) is always the soul itself and
cause of dead inert matter (non-cetana i.e. without any consciousness)
is always the matter itself. If God is indeed the creator, then
this is an impossible predication as the same cause will be
responsible for two contradictory effects of cetana (life) and acetana
(matter). This logically precludes an immaterial God (a conscious
entity) from creating this Universe, which is made up of material
According to Jainism,
Soul is the master of its own destiny. One of
the qualities of the soul is complete lordship of its own destiny.
The soul alone chooses its actions and soul alone reaps its
consequences. No God or prophet or angel can interfere in the actions
or the destiny of the soul. Furthermore, it is the soul alone who
makes the necessary efforts to achieve liberation without any divine
Jains frequently assert that “we are alone” in this world.
Twelve Contemplations (anupreksas) of Jains, one of
them is the loneliness of one's soul and nature of the universe and
transmigration. Hence only by cleansing our soul by our own actions
can we help ourselves.
Jainism thus lays a strong emphasis on the efforts and the freewill of
the soul to achieve the desired goal of liberation.
Jaina conception of divinity
Main article: God in Jainism
Image of a Siddha: the soul who attains Moksa; although the Siddhas
(the liberated beings) are formless and without a body, this is how
the Jain temples often depict the Siddhas.
According to Jainism, gods can be categorized into Tīrthankaras,
Arihants or ordinary Kevalins and Siddhas.
Jainism considers the
Devīs and Devas to be celestial beings who dwell in heavens owing to
meritorious deeds in their past lives.
Arihants, also known as Kevalins, are "Gods" (supreme souls) in
embodied states who ultimately become Siddhas, or liberated souls, at
the time of their nirvana. An Arihant is a soul who has destroyed all
passions, is totally unattached and without any desire and hence has
destroyed the four ghātiyā karmas and attain kevala Jñāna, or
omniscience. Such a soul still has a body and four aghātiyā karmas.
An Arhata, at the end of his lifespan, destroys his remaining
aghātiyā karma and becomes a Siddha.
Tīrthankaras (also known as "Jinas") are Arihants who are teachers
and revivers of the Jain philosophy. There are 24 Tīrthankaras in
each time cycle; Mahāvīra was the 24th and last Tīrthankara of the
current time cycle. Tīrthankaras are literally the ford makers who
have shown the way to cross the ocean of rebirth and transmigration
and hence have become a focus of reverence and worship amongst Jains.
However it would be a mistake to regard the Tīrthankaras as gods
analogous to the gods of
Hindu pantheon despite the superficial
resemblances in Jain and
Hindu way of worship. Tīrthankaras like
Arhatas ultimately become Siddhas on liberation. Tīrthankaras, being
liberated, are beyond any kind of transactions with the rest of the
universe. They are not the beings who exercise any sort of creative
activity or who have the capacity or ability to intervene in answers
Siddhashila as per the Jain cosmology
Ultimately all Arihants and Tīrthankaras become Siddhas. A
a soul who is permanently liberated from the transmigratory cycle of
birth and death. Such a soul, having realized its true self, is free
from all the Karmas and embodiment. They are formless and dwell in
Siddhashila (the realm of the liberated beings) at the apex of the
universe in infinite bliss, infinite perception, infinite knowledge
and infinite energy. Siddhahood is the ultimate goal of all souls.
Jains pray to these passionless Gods not for any favours or rewards
but rather pray to the qualities of the God with the objective of
destroying the karmas and achieving the Godhood. This is best
understood by the term – vandetadgunalabhdhaye i.e. we pray to the
attributes of such Gods to acquire such attributes” [f]
Heavenly beings – Demi-gods and demi-goddesses
Main article: God in
Jainism § Heavenly Beings
Jainism describes existence of śāsanadevatās and śāsanadevīs,
the attendant Gods and Goddesses of Tīrthankaras, who create the
samavasarana or the divine preaching assembly of a Tīrthankara.
These Gods tainted with attachment and passion;
having women and weapons by their side, favour some and disfavour
some; such Gods should not be worshipped by those who desire
Worship of such gods is considered as mithyātva or wrong belief
leading to bondage of karmas. However, many Jains are known to worship
to such gods for material gains.
Nature of Karmas
Main article: Karma in Jainism
According to Robert Zydendos, karma in
Jainism can be considered a
kind of system of laws, but natural rather than moral laws. In
Jainism, actions that carry moral significance are considered to cause
certain consequences in just the same way as, for instance, physical
actions that do not carry any special moral significance. When one
holds an apple in one's hand and then let go of the apple, the apple
will fall: this is only natural. There is no judge, and no moral
judgment involved, since this is a mechanical consequence of the
Hence in accordance with the natural karmic laws, consequences occur
when one utters a lie, steals something, commits acts of senseless
violence or leads the life of a debauchee. Rather than assume that
moral rewards and retribution are the work of a divine judge, the
Jains believe that there is an innate moral order to the cosmos,
self-regulating through the workings of karma. Morality and ethics are
important, not because of the personal whim of a fictional god, but
because a life that is led in agreement with moral and ethical
principles is beneficial: it leads to a decrease and finally to the
total loss of karma, which means: to ever increasing happiness.
Karmas are often wrongly interpreted as a method for reward and
punishment of a soul for its good and bad deeds. In Jainism, there is
no question of there being any reward or punishment, as each soul is
the master of its own destiny. The karmas can be said to represent a
sum total of all unfulfilled desires of a soul. They enable the soul
to experience the various themes of the lives that it desires to
experience. They ultimately mature when the necessary supportive
conditions required for maturity are fulfilled. Hence a soul may
transmigrate from one life form to another for countless of years,
taking with it the karmas that it has earned, until it finds
conditions that bring about the fruits.
Hence whatever suffering or pleasure that a soul may be experiencing
now is on account of choices that it has made in past. That is why
Jainism stresses pure thinking and moral behavior. Apart from
Jainism is the only religion that does not invoke
the fear of God as a reason for moral behavior.
The karmic theory in
Jainism operates endogenously. Tirthankaras are
not attributed "absolute godhood" under Jainism. Thus, even the
Tirthankaras themselves have to go through the stages of
emanicipation, for attaining that state. While
Buddhism does give a
similar and to some extent a matching account for Shri Gautama Buddha,
Hinduism maintains a totally different theory where "divine grace" is
needed for emanicipation.
The following quote in Bhagavatī Ārādhanā (1616) sums up the
predominance of karmas in Jain doctrine:-
There is nothing mightier in the world than karma;
karma tramples down all powers, as an elephant a clump of lotuses.
Thus it is not the so-called all embracing omnipotent God, but the law
of karma that is the all governing force responsible for the manifest
differences in the status, attainments and happiness of all life
forms. It operates as a self-sustaining mechanism as natural universal
law, without any need of an external entity to manage them.
Jain opposition to creationism
Jain scriptures reject God as the creator of universe. 12th century
Ācārya Hemacandra puts forth the Jain view of universe in the
Yogaśāstra as thus [i] –
This universe is not created nor sustained by anyone;
It is self sustaining, without any base or support
Besides scriptural authority, Jains also resorted to syllogism and
deductive reasoning to refute the creationist theories. Various views
on divinity and universe held by the vedics, sāmkhyas, mimimsas,
Buddhists and other school of thoughts were analysed, debated and
repudiated by the various Jain Ācāryas. However the most eloquent
refutation of this view is provided by Ācārya
Mahāpurāna as thus [j] –
Some foolish men declare that creator made the world. The doctrine
that the world was created is ill advised and should be rejected.
If God created the world, where was he before the creation? If you say
he was transcendent then and needed no support, where is he now?
How could God have made this world without any raw material? If you
say that he made this first, and then the world, you are faced with an
If you declare that this raw material arose naturally you fall into
another fallacy, For the whole universe might thus have been its own
creator, and have arisen quite naturally.
If God created the world by an act of his own will, without any raw
material, then it is just his will and nothing else — and who will
believe this silly nonsense?
If he is ever perfect and complete, how could the will to create have
arisen in him? If, on the other hand, he is not perfect, he could no
more create the universe than a potter could.
If he is form-less, action-less and all-embracing, how could he have
created the world? Such a soul, devoid of all modality, would have no
desire to create anything.
If he is perfect, he does not strive for the three aims of man, so
what advantage would he gain by creating the universe?
If you say that he created to no purpose because it was his nature to
do so, then God is pointless. If he created in some kind of sport, it
was the sport of a foolish child, leading to trouble.
If he created because of the karma of embodied beings [acquired in a
previous creation] He is not the Almighty Lord, but subordinate to
If out of love for living beings and need of them he made the world,
why did he not make creation wholly blissful free from misfortune?
If he were transcendent he would not create, for he would be free: Nor
if involved in transmigration, for then he would not be almighty. Thus
the doctrine that the world was created by God makes no sense at all,
And God commits great sin in slaying the children whom he himself
created. If you say that he slays only to destroy evil beings, why did
he create such beings in the first place?
Good men should combat the believer in divine creation, maddened by an
evil doctrine. Know that the world is uncreated, as time itself is,
without beginning or end, and is based on the principles, life and
rest. Uncreated and indestructible, it endures under the compulsion of
its own nature.
Criticisms of Jain non-creationist theory
Jainism along with
Buddhism has been categorized as atheist philosophy
i.e. Nāstika darśana by the followers of Vedic religion. However,
the word Nāstika corresponds more to heterodox rather than atheism.
Accordingly, those who did not believe in Vedas and rejected
the creator of
Universe were labeled as Nāstika.
Mrs. Sinclair Stevenson, an Irish missionary, declared that “the
Jainism is empty” since it does not depend on beseeching an
omnipotent God for salvation. While fervently appealing to accept
Christianity, she says Jains believe strongly in forgiving others, and
yet have no hope of forgiveness by a higher power. Jains believe that
liberation is by personal effort not an appeal for divine
intervention. “The Heart of Jainism” was written from her
missionary point of view without respecting Jain sensibilities.
If atheism is defined as disbelief in existence of a God, then Jainism
cannot be labeled as atheistic, as it not only believes in existence
of gods but also of the soul which can attain godhood. As Paul Dundas
puts it – “while
Jainism is, as we have seen, atheist in a limited
sense of rejection of both the existence of a creator God and the
possibility of intervention of such a being in human affairs, it
nonetheless must be regarded as a theist religion in the more profound
sense that it accepts the existence of divine principle, the
paramātmā i.e. God, existing in potential state within all
The Jaina position on God and religion from a perspective of a
non-Jain can be summed up in the words of Anne Vallely.
Jainism is the most difficult religion. We get no help from any gods,
or from anyone. We just have to cleanse our souls. In fact other
religions are easy, but they are not very ambitious. In all other
religions when you are in difficulty, you can pray to God for help and
maybe, God comes down to help. But
Jainism is not a religion of coming
Jainism it is we who must go up. We only have to help
Jainism we have to become God. That is the only
Hindu views on evolution
History of creationism
a. ^ Self is not an effect as it is not produced by anything nor it is
a cause as it does not produce anything.
Samayasāra Gāthā 10.310
See Nayanara (2005b)
b. ^ See Vācaka Umāsvāti's description of the
Universe in his
Tattvārthasutra and Ācārya Hemacandras description of the universe
Yogaśāstra “…Picture a man standing with his arms akimbo -
This is how Jainas believe the Loka looks like. 4.103-6
c. ^ See Kārtikeyānupreksā, 478 - Dharma is nothing but the real
nature of an object. Just as the nature of fire is to burn and the
nature of water is to produce a cooling effect, in the same manner,
the essential nature of the soul is to seek self-realization and
spiritual elevation .
d. ^ Vamdittu savvasiddhe .... [Samaysara 1.1] See Samaysara of
Ācārya Kundakunda, Tr. By Prof A. Chakaravarti, page 1 of main text
Jainism recognizes plurality of selves not only in world of
samsara but also in the liberated state or siddhahood which is a sort
of a divine republic of perfect souls where each soul retains its
individual personality and does not empty its contents into the
cauldron of the absolute as is maintained by other systems of
e. ^ See Tattvārthasūtra 1.1
"samyagdarśanajñānacāritrānimoksamārgah" - Translated as
"Rational Perception, Rational Knowledge and Rational Conduct
constitutes the path to liberation."
f. ^ See Sarvārthasiddhi "Moksa mārgasya netāram bhettāram
karmabhubrutām jnātāram vishva tatvānām vande tadguna labhdhaye."
Translated as "We pray to those who have led the path to salvation,who
have destroyed the mountains of karma, and who know the reality of the
universe. We pray to them to acquire their attributes."
g. ^ See
Samayasāra 3.99-100] "If soul were indeed the producer of
alien substances, then he must be of that nature; as it is not so, he
cannot be their creator"
h. ^ See Hemcandrācārya, Yogaśāstra. "eik utpadyate janturek eiv
vipadyate" Translated as "each one is born alone and dies alone."
i. ^ "Nishpaadito Na Kenaapi Na Dhritah Kenachichch Sah Swayamsiddho
Niradhaaro Gagane Kimtvavasthitah". see Ācārya Hemacandra, (1989).
In: S. Bothara (ed.),Dr. A. S. Gopani (Tr.), Yogaśāstra(Sanskrit).
Jaipur: Prakrit Bharti Academy. Sutra 4.106
j. ^ This quote from Mahapurana finds a mention in “Salters Horners
Advanced Physics” by Jonathan Allda, which contains various
scientific theories on Universe. The author quotes this extract from
Mahapurana to show that Cosmology (the study of Universe) is an
ancient science, which today is still probing some of the deepest
questions about the origins and future of the Universe. (P 268)
^ Nayanar (2005b), p.190, Gāthā 10.310
^ Soni, Jayandra (1998). E. Craig, ed. "Jain Philosophy". Routledge
Encyclopedia of Philosophy. London: Routledge. Archived from the
original on 5 July 2008.
^ Gopani (1989), Gāthā 4.103-6
^ Schubring, Walther (1995), pp. 204–246
^ Jaini (1998)
^ Nayanar (2005a), Gāthā 16
^ Nayanar(2005a), Gāthā 18
^ James (1969) p. 45
^ Nayanar (2005b), p.107
^ Nayanar (2005b), p. 189, Gāthā 10.308-9
^ Nayanar (2005b), p. 73, Gāthā 2.85
^ Nayanar (2005a), Gatha 27
^ Nayanar (2005a), Gāthā 29
^ Ācārya Amrtacandra Sūri, Laghutattvasphota, Sūtra 156
^ Vallely (1980), p.182
^ Thrower (1980), p.93
^ Nayanar (2005b), p.35 Gāthā 1.29
^ Gopani (1989), emended
^ a b Zydenbos (2006)
^ Kuhn (2001)
^ Acharya Umasvati, Tattvartha Sutra, Ch VIII, Sutra 21
^ Stevenson (1999) (Original 1915) p. 289
^ Dundas (2002) p.111
^ Vallely, Anne (1980). In: Guardians of the Transcendent: An
Ethnology of a Jain Ascetic Community. University of Toronto Press:
Dundas, Paul; John Hinnels ed. (2002). The Jains. London: Routledge.
ISBN 0-415-26606-8. CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list
Gopani, A. S.; Surendra Bothara ed. (1989).
Yogaśāstra (Sanskrit) of
Ācārya Hemacandra. Jaipur: Prakrit Bharti Academy. CS1 maint:
Extra text: authors list (link)
Jacobi, Hermann (1884). "Ācāranga Sūtra, Jain Sutras Part I".
Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 22.
James, Edwin Oliver (1969). Creation and Cosmology: A Historical and
Comparative Inquiry. Netherlands: Brill Publishers.
Kuhn, Hermann (2001). Karma, The Mechanism : Create Your Own
Fate. Wunstorf, Germany: Crosswind Publishing.
Nayanar, Prof. A. Chakravarti (2005). Pañcāstikāyasāra of Ācārya
Kundakunda. New Delhi: Today & Tomorrows Printer and Publisher.
Nayanar, Prof. A. Chakravarti (2005).
Samayasāra of Ācārya
Kundakunda. New Delhi: Today & Tomorrows Printer and Publisher.
Stevenson, M.Sinclair (1999). Heart of Jainism. Munshiram Manoharial
Publishers Private, Limited. ISBN 81-215-0122-9.
Thrower, James (1980). Alternative Tradition: religion and the
rejection of religion in the Ancient World. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
Vallely, Anne (2002). Guardians of the Transcendent: An Ethnography of
a Jain Ascetic Community. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Zydenbos, Rober J. (2006).
Jainism Today and Its Future. Manya Verlag:
Jaini, Padmanabh (1998). The Jaina Path of Purification. New Delhi:
Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 81-208-1578-5.
John E. Cort
Champat Rai Jain
Jeffery D. Long
Digambar Jain Mahasabha
Vishwa Jain Sangathan
Dynasties and empires
Statue of Ahimsa
Jain terms and concepts
List of Jains
List of Jain temples
List of Jain ascetics
List of Digambar Jain ascetics
Topics List (index)
Monks & nuns