The Jaina theory of knowledge.

In the fields of both Knowledge and metaphysics, Jaina philosophy is pluralistic and relativistic. Metaphysics is based on knowledge. So it is necessary to understand epistemology as a prelude to understand metaphysics. Consciousness is the essence of the soul (Jiva). It was fold manifestation, viz., philosophy (Darshan) and knowledge (Jnana). Philosophy does not contain exhaustive knowledge. Knowledge, on the other hand, admits expansion. Philosophy is based on natural perception. Jnana is a matter of concepts. Philosophy deals with the generals not with particular.


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Knowledge and its categories:

Like other philosophy schools, the Jainas have also critically examined the valid sources of knowledge. But Naya is a distinctive feature of the Jain system. According to Jain philosophers knowledge is of two kinds viz., Pramana and Naya. Pramana refers to the knowledge of a thing as it is. Naya is the knowledge of a thing in a particular context or relationship of the knower. Naya in other words, is that particular stand point from which we deliver our judgment about a particular thing. Naya also differ with difference of stand points. Thus every Naya gives us relative knowledge. According to the Jainas, everything possession infinite number of qualities. When we affirm a thing by one of these manifold qualities we apprehend Naya. But when we know a thing in different ways by different qualities, this knowledge comes through Pramana. Thus both Pramana and Naya are essential for the full and true knowledge of a thing.


Kinds of Pramana:

Like other philosophers, the Jainas also divide knowledge gained through Pramana in two categories viz., indirect (Paroksa) and direct (Aparoksa). But there is only relative difference between the two. These are only relative terms. Indirect is only relatively indirect and direct is relatively direct. According to Siddhasena Diwakar Pramana is that knowledge which illuminates itself and others without any hindrance. Therefore, Pramana both direct and indirect enlighten themselves as well as others. Obviously, direct knowledge is the correct knowledge of a thing. It is gained by the soul (Jiva) unaided by manas or the sense organs (Indriyas). For Umaswami ‘Pratyaksa’ is that knowledge which the soul attains without any help. So Pratyaksa is valid in its own right.

Kinds of Direct Knowledge:

Direct knowledge is either practical (Vyavaharika) or other worldly (Parmarthika). Parmarthika Pratyaksa is immune from the effect of actions (Karma), and illuminates independently without the help of mind or sense-organs (Indriyas). In it exists a direct connection between the knower and known. Unless one is free from the shackles of action one cannot have this kind of knowledge, so the destruction of action is a sine quanon for the attainment of Parmarthika Pratyaksa. This is the genuine Pratyaksa and it is this which sheds light on all the objects of the universe. Vyavaharika or Laukika (mundane) Pratyaksa is to be distinguished from Parmarthika in as much as the former is achieved through mind and sense organs.


Mati and Sruta Jnana:

Direct knowledge is of two kinds- Mati and Sruta. Following are the difference between Mati Jnana and Sruta Jnana-

  • In the former the object of perception is present, but in the latter the objects may belong to past, present and future.
  • The latter is related to Jainagama. So it is superior to the former.
  • The latter, being the utterance of the great (Apta-vachana) is pure and beyond Parinama, while the former is subject to the effect or Parinama.

Kinds of Mati Jnana:

According to the Jaina philosophy, Mati Jnana springs in the following order-

  1. Avagraha: It is the first stage of knowledge production from the contact of sense organs with the objects. It is also known as Sammugdha, Alohana, Grahana and Avadharana which again subdivided into Vijnanavagraha and Arthavagraha.
  2. Iha: This stage follows that of Avagraha. In it the soul is able to appreciate the qualities of the visible object. For example, on hearing some noise, we do not in the beginning know whose voice it is. This is the stage of Avagraha. Iha comes when we feel the curiosity of knowing the source from which the noise is coming forth.
  3. Avaya: In it we come to know definitely about the object. To pursue the above mentioned example, we enter the stage of Avaya, when we are able to locate definitely the source of the noise.
  4. Dharma: This stage comes when the full knowledge about the object leaves an impression (Samskara) upon the heart (Antahkarana) of the man. This is the final stage of direct knowledge Recollection (Smrti), Pratyaksa and inference (Anumana) are all included in this stage.


Kinds of Sruta Jnana:

It is knowledge derived through words. It is produced by the words which we hear. It is to be gained from authoritative books and words of great stages. Perusal of authoritative books and listening to the sermons of saints are essential for this kind of knowledge. Knowledge of the sense-organs is, a prerequisite for Sruta Jnana. Mati Jnana precedes Sruta Jnana. The preaching of the Tirthankaras fall in the latter category. Sruta Jnana is divided into two categories viz., Angavahya and Angapravista. The former is mentioned in the Jaina Scriptures while the Sruta Jnana, outside the pale of the religious books of the Jainas, falls in the latter category. Angapravista is regarded superior to Angavahya.

Indirect knowledge:

Indirect knowledge is of five kinds: such as -Smriti, Partyabhijna, Tarka, Anumana and Agama. It is necessary to study these five kinds in detail.


To reminisce something known directly in the past as a result of the awakening of some Samskara is known as sruti. Samskara is a peculiar capacity of the soul. Not only direct perception of the past, but recollection, recognition, logic and inference of the past also leave impression (Samskara) upon the soul. So these can also a rouse smriti. For the Jainas, Smriti is valid knowledge because it is the correct form of things perceived in the past.

Recognition (Partyabhijna):

It is the synthetic knowledge contributed by direct perception and recollection (Smriti), In it we know resemblance (Samanata), identity (tadatmya), differences (bheda), comparison (Tulana) etc. In it we know the general in the form of similar change of different Jivas and Ajiva. Recognition is valid knowledge of a special kind.

Logic (Tarka):

It is the knowledge of Vyapti between Paksa and Sadhya. It depends upon the perception whether two things exist together or not in past, present and future. Vyapti is of two kinds, viz., Anvaya Vyapti and Vyaptireka Vyapti. In the former the concomitance of two things is established. In the latter Vyapti is shown in the absence, where there is fire, there is smoke is an illustration of Anvaya Vyapti. On the other hand, where there is no fire, there is no smoke, accompaniment- gradual or concurrent exists in Vyapti. This relationship is ascertained by logic (Tarka).

Anumana or Inference is the knowledge of Sadhya with the help of hetu. This inference is either Svarthanumana or pararthanumana. The former is to grasp for one’s own self. Hence it needs no amplification. For example, the frequent visibility of fire and smoke together suffices to convince us of their concomitance. Afterwards, when we see smoke, we infer the existence of fire also with the help of Vyapti, which is already known to us. It is Svarthanumana. In it the place of smoke is Paksa, smoke is Paksa dharma. In Svarthanumana both Vyapti and Paksa are essential.


It is the knowledge of a thing through the words of reliable people. A person who knows things in their true form and expresses his views correctly, is reliable and Apta. He is free from prejudice. His words be fit the object which they are seeking to express. Agama is of two kinds: such as Laukika and Alaukika. The words of Janaka etc. are Laukika. The words of the Tirthankaras are alaukika. The Janis do into believe in the Vedas. They have faith only in the Tirthankaras, who have attained perfection and have realized all knowledge. Just as a lamp illuminates a thing so words also manifest a thing by its inherent power. But it depends upon customs and traditions. Its truth or falsehood is determined by the virtues or defects of the speaker.

Some Jainas believe in eight kinds of knowledge out of which Mati, Sruta, Avadhi, Manah-paryaya and Kevala are regards as true or authentic knowledge. On the other hand, fallacious knowledge includes Samasya, Viparayya and Anadhgavya. According to the Jainas, perfect knowledge suffers from no loopholes whatsoever.

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