Ratna Trayi Moksha Marg (Three Fold Path of Liberation)

Threefold Path of Liberation

Samyag Darshan (Right Perception)

Samyag Jnän (Right Knowledge)

Samyag Chäritra (Right Conduct)

Threefold Path of Liberation

The association of the soul with karmic matter cripples the inherent powers of the soul.  Jain philosophy, therefore, asserts that a person obtains everlasting happiness only when karma is completely removed from the soul.  Jainism firmly believes that it is quite possible for one to rid oneself of the karma associated with the soul by one’s personal efforts, without any help from an outside source.  The highest happiness lies in securing emancipation from the cycle of birth and death, thus attaining liberation. 

The central theme of Jainism holds religion as a science of ethical practice.  The conduct of the present life should be aimed at attaining Moksha, the state of eternal bliss from which there is no return to the cycle of life and death.  Each soul can attain liberation, a supreme spiritual state, by realizing its intrinsic purity and perfection.

The question arises regarding the ways to achieve that objective.  Tattvärtha‑sutra, a sacred text of Jainism, emphatically states in its first aphoristic rule:

Samyag‑Darshan‑Jnän‑Chäriträni Mokshamärgah

Samyag Darshan (Right Belief or Perception), SamyagJnän (Right Knowledge) and Samyag Chäritra (Right Conduct) together constitute the path to liberation.  These three basic components are called RatnaTrayi, or the three jewels, in Jain works.

Since all three are emphasized equally, it is obvious that Jainism does not admit any one of these three, individually, is a means to Mokshamärga i.e. the path to liberation.  In fact, in Jain works, Mokshamärga, , is compared to a ladder with two side poles and central rungs.  The side poles of the ladder are Right Perception and Right Knowledge, and the rungs or steps of the ladder are the gradual stages of Right Conduct.  It is obvious that it is possible to ascend the ladder only when all three components, the two side poles and the rungs, are sound.  The absence of one makes the ascent impossible.

Right Perception creates an awareness of reality or truth, Right Knowledge impels the person to Right action, and Right Conduct leads him to the attainment of liberation .  They must coexist in a person if he is to make any progress on the path of liberation.

Furthermore, the ethical code prescribed by Jainism for both house‑holders and ascetics is based on this three‑fold path of liberation.  Hence, it is necessary to see the appropriate characteristics of these “Three Jewels" which constitute that path.

Samyag Darshan (Right Perception)

Ächärya Umäsväti has defined the term Right Perception in his authoritative Jain sacred text, Tattvärtha Adhigama‑sutra, as follows:

"Tattvärtha Sraddhänam Samyag‑Darshanam"

That is, Right Perception is the faith in the true nature of the substances as they are.  In other words, Right Perception means a true and firm conviction in the seven (or nine according to some) principles or Tattvas of Jainism as they are, without any perverse notions.

Right Perception consists of seeing the true nature of every substance in the universe.  Jainism advocates that one should first try to know, comprehend, and understand the nature of reality; one's own self, religious goal, and a path, to achieve that goal.  One should analyze, examine, test, verify, and then, if satisfied, be convinced of its truth.

From a practical point of view, perception in reality means to have total faith in the preaching of Tirthankars (Arihantas) and the scriptures, known as Ägams.

It is clear that out of these three jewels, Right Perception comes first and it forms the basis upon which the other two jewels, ., Right Knowledge and Right Conduct, rest.  The basic conviction in the fundamentals of Jainism has been asserted that only on the acquisition of Right Perception, Knowledge and Conduct can become Right Knowledge and Right Conduct

To make it more circumspect and practicable, Right Perception has been described in a restricted way as:

§         Belief in the twofold division of the universe, in distinctive living and nonliving elements

§         Belief in the interplay of soul and matter through the process of seven or nine fundamentals

§         Belief in Tirthankars, Jain Shästras, and Jain Sädhus

Right Perception not only requires the above mentioned beliefs but also requires rejection of untruth and skepticism.  One should also not believe in false deities, false scriptures, and false religious teachers.

Sometimes the soul may experience Right Perception as a natural process, due to its qualitative transformation on account of spiritual evolution.  However, more often it requires the aid of some external causes, such as a preceptor, or scriptures.  Noted below are five distinctive marks of an individual who possesses the Right Perception. 

·        Sama (Spiritual calmness)

·        Samvega (Desire for liberation)

·        Nirveda (Nonattachment to the world)

·        Anukampä (Kindness)

·        Ästikya (Belief in the fundamentals)

In short, Right Perception is given precedence over Right Knowledge and Right Conduct, because it acts as a pilot in guiding the soul towards Moksha, i.e., liberation.  Further, there can be no rise, stability, growth, and fulfillment of knowledge and character, unless they are founded on Right Perception.

Samyag Jnän (Right Knowledge)            

Relation between Right Perception and Right Knowledge

It is desirable that on attaining Right Perception one should strive for Right Knowledge.  Regarding the relationship between Right Perception and Right Knowledge, it has been specifically stated that although Right Perception and Right Knowledge attained simultaneously, there is yet a clear relation of cause and effect between them, just as it is between a lamp and its light.  It is true that lamp and light go together; still the lamp precedes the light, and light cannot be said to precede the lamp.  In the same way, there is the relation of cause and effect between Right Perception and Right Knowledge, though both are almost simultaneous.  Right Perception precedes Right Knowledge, and from this point of view, Right Perception is  the cause and Right Knowledge, the effect.

Nature of Right Knowledge

Right Knowledge is described in Jain scriptures as "that knowledge which reveals the nature of things neither insufficiently, nor with exaggeration, nor falsely, but exactly as it is and with certainty".  It has also been stated that Right Knowledge consists in having full comprehension of the real nature of soul and non‑soul (i.e., matter) and that such knowledge should be free from doubt, perversity, vagueness, or indefiniteness.

From the practical point of view, Right Knowledge means the proper knowledge of the six universal substances and nine principles or Nine Tattvas.

Six Universal Substances are: Jiv (living beings), Pudgalästikäya (Matter), Dharmästikäya (Medium of Motion), Adharmästikäya (Medium of Rest), Äkäshästikäya (Space), and Käl (Time).





Nine Tattvas are: Jiv (living beings), Ajiv (nonliving matter), Punya (wholesome Karmas), Päp (unwholesome Karma), Äsrava (influx of Karmas), Bandha (bondage of Karmas), Samvar (stoppage of influx of Karmas), Nirjarä (eradication of Karmas), and Moksha (liberation).

Moreover, Jain scriptures always assert that knowledge is perfect when it does not suffer from Mithyätva, i.e., wrong Perception.  Mithyätva is the enemy of Right Knowledge as it perverts both the understanding and the attitude.  That is why all Jain thinkers have insisted upon the elimination of wrong perception.  Right Knowledge can be acquired by pursuit with devotion by reading scriptures, understanding their full meaning in proper time, imbued with zeal, proper behavior, and an open mind.

The soul is a conscious being, and as such, is always in possession of some knowledge.  However, all knowledge is not Right Knowledge.  The knowledge realized by a soul with Right Perception; the knowledge revealing with certainty (without exaggeration or inadequacy) the exact nature of things; and the knowledge leading to its spiritual developments, together, make Right Knowledge.  Thus, Right Knowledge should satisfy the following criteria:

As mentioned above, the soul is never without knowledge as the soul’s essential quality is consciousness.  However, as soon as the soul acquires Right Perception by any of the two processes mentioned earlier, the knowledge becomes Right Knowledge.  The progress of the soul to realize these powers is possible by separating the shadow cast by Karma on the soul, just as a mirror, covered with dust, starts shining when the dust is removed.

Samyag Chäritra (Right Conduct)

Including Right Penance (Samyag Tapa)

After Right Perception and Right Knowledge, the third, but the most important part in the path to Moksha, is Right Conduct.  In Jainism, much importance is attached to Right Conduct, because Right Perception and Right Knowledge make an individual free from delusion.  Consequently, he is equipped with true knowledge of the fundamental principles clarifying what is worthy of abandonment and attainment, which ultimately leads to Right Conduct as an integral and crowning constituent of the path of liberation.  That is why conduct inconsistent with Right Knowledge, is considered wrong conduct.  Hence, conduct becomes perfect only when it is in tune with Right Perception and Right Knowledge.  The importance of Right Conduct in the process of selfrealization is because it is only when Right Knowledge based on Right Perception is translated into practical and spiritual discipline that the path of emancipation of the soul becomes possible.  Therefore, Jain scriptures have enjoined upon the persons who have secured Right Perception and Right Knowledge to observe the rules of Right Conduct, as the destruction of karmic matter associated with the soul can be accomplished only through the practice of Right Conduct.

Right Conduct includes the rules of discipline which

The main goal of a human life is freedom from attachment (Räga) and aversion (Dvesha), to attain the state of perfect equanimity.

From another angle, Right Conduct is related to the state of mind.  If there is equanimity in adversity as well as prosperity, and if one is free from attachment (Räga), infatuation (Moha), and aversion (Dvesha) or hatred (Ghrinä), all the conduct of such a person will be Right Conduct.  It is here that Right Perception and Knowledge come into play.  Perception gives confidence and knowledge clears the mind, thus helping in attainment of equanimity, nonattachment, and selfrestraint.

For practical purposes, Right Conduct comprises ethical codes, rules, and discipline, which a human being is required to pursue for ultimate freedom.

Broadly speaking, Right Conduct implies a life of selfdiscipline through selfrestraint as against life of selfindulgence.  It requires control over one’s desires, since human desires are insatiable.  In other words, leading a restrained and disciplined life by disciplining one’s mind, one’s speech, and one’s body is the way of Right Conduct.

These require effort and practice, which has been made easy by the prescription of precise rules of conduct in the form of vows (Vratas).  These rules and vows are logical, simple, and practicable for all types of people.  Ultimately, the aim is to lead life in such a way that no new karma bondage occurs and past karmas are separated from the soul.  Before proceeding further, it may be reiterated that Right Conduct also includes, within its fold, Right Penance (Samyag Tapa), which is a very important part of Jain codes of conduct.  Some schools consider it important enough to mention separately, thus declaring the path of liberation being four fold: Right Perception; Right Knowledge; Right Conduct and Right Penance.

The interesting aspect of Right Conduct is that on this path there is a place for everyone: from a beginner, called a pathfollower (Märgänusäri), to the most advanced seeker; the saints.  Furthermore, this disciplined approach encompasses all aspects of human life; social, personal, economic, and of course, spiritual, leading to the integrated development of the individual.

Again, this highway is open to all irrespective of caste, creed, or class, for Jains and non-Jains alike. 

Understanding Samyag Darshan, Samyag Jnän, and Samyag Chäritra itself is not good enough to take us anywhere unless we apply them in real practice to their fullest to get the actual results.  It should also be remembered that we would have to follow all three at the same time because if we follow only one or two of them, they will not take us very far on the road of spiritual pursuit.

The trinity is necessary for a successful life.  This threefold discipline helps us realize our own intrinsic purity.  The trinity must be cultivated collectively to ensure liberation.  Individually, they are incomplete and insufficient because they are mutually dependent.  Collectively, the three jewels produce harmony, contentment, and bliss with the progressive march of the soul to higher planes.