9 Tattva

Entire Sädhanä (spiritual undertaking) of an aspirant can be presented in 9 Tattva. The article simplifies the Basic concepts of Jainism. Do see the Video on "9 Tattva".
Entire Sädhanä (spiritual undertaking) of an aspirant can be presented in 9 Tattva. The article simplifies the Basic concepts of Jainism. Do see the Video on "9 Tattva".

Entire Sädhanä (spiritual undertaking) of an aspirant can be presented in 9 Tattva.

First fortunate thing is that we are born as  human being. Second fortunate thing will be if we are exposed to the right religion. Third fortunate thing will be if we get an opportunity to listen to the discourses on the right religion. Fourth and the most fortunate thing will be if we practice the right religion.

People who have understood the Jainism correctly, reflect it in their conduct, behavior, thinking and day to day activities. The strength of Jainism is that you listen to it once, and it will cause the positive change.

Once we adopt Jainism, we will see a positive transformation in our lifestyle. If we have faith in Jainism, it must be mirrored in the lifestyle. Jainism is not about changing the world, it is about changing our own selves. The objective of Nav Tattva is to change the self. If one understands the essence of Nav Tattva, he will understand the mystery behind the ups and the downs of his life. Once he understands Nav Tattva properly, he will be able to do proper Sädhanä.

Before we begin the Sädhanä of Nav Tattva, let’s understand the Nav Tattva conventionally. One can do proper Sädhanä of Nav Tattva if he has proper knowledge of those Tattvas. It is said in a Jain Ägam (canonical book), “padhamam nänam tao dayä” – first knowledge then compassion – first knowledge then conduct – first knowledge then practice of Ahimsä (non-violence). One can have true reflections (Bhävanä – it is difficult to find a good meaning of Bhävanä in English, may be understood as the reflections of the inner aspects) for practicing Ahimsä and for displaying  compassion to all living beings, only if he has the right knowledge. If one does not have the knowledge of Nav Tattva, how will he be able to exercise self-restraint?  Conventionally it can be said that one has SamyagDarshan (right perception) if he has the faith in and knowledge of Nav Tattva.

Because of the good understanding of Nav Tattva; sometimes one’s life gets to a higher spiritual level and, because of the ignorance of Nav Tattva; sometimes it gets to a lower  level.

Mystery of happiness-unhappiness, good-bad, fame-disgrace and similar contradictions (dualities) is resolved in Nav Tattva.  Anything that happens in our life can be explained through Nav Tattva. Per Jain philosophy, one knows many things if he knows Nav Tattva, and one does not know anything if he does not know Nav Tattva.

Nav Tattva begins with Jiva (living beings) and ends with Moksha (liberation). Nav Tattvas are: 1) Jiva (living beings), 2) Ajiva (non-living matter), 3) Punya (wholesome Karmas), 4) Päp (unwholesome Karma), 5) Äsrav (influx of Karmas), 6) Samvar (stoppage of influx of Karmas), 7) Nirjarä(eradication of Karmas), 8) Bandh (bondage of Karmas) and 9) Moksha (liberation). We were born as human being innumerable times.

Check out the Video below, to get glimpse on the 9 Tattvas :

All philosophers agree that there is no better destiny (gati) than that of the human being in this Sansär. Sansär means material world where Jiva is subjected to birth and death. One can attain the right knowledge of Nav Tattva only in his life as a human being, not in any other living forms (hellish beings, tiryancha and heavenly beings). One can liberate himself (attain Moksha) only as a human being, not in any other living form.

Nav Tattvas are very simple and it is easy to remember their names. If you can remember one name, you will be able to identify other names automatically. If you know the first one – Jiva (living beings), then the second one is its antonym – Ajiva (non-living matter). If you remember the third one – Punya (wholesome Karmas), then its opposite is the fourth one – Päp (unwholesome Karma). If you recall the fifth one – Äsrav (influx of Karmas) then the next one is its antithesis – Samvar (stoppage of influx of Karmas).  If you recall the seventh one – Nirjarä (eradication of Karmas) then the eight one is its contradiction – Bandh (bondage of Karmas) and when one remembers Bandh (bondage of Karmas) then its nullification is everyone’s objective and that is Moksha (liberation).


Nav Tattvas can be divided in three groups: HeyaJneya and Upädeya.

Heya means worth abandoning – PÄP, Äsrav  and Bandha are Heya.

Jneya means worth knowing – all nine fundamentals: Jiva, Ajiva, Punya, PÄP, ÄsravSamvar, Nirjarä, Bandh and Moksha are Jneya.

Upädeya means worth attaining – Punya, Samvar, Nirjarä and Moksha are Upädeya. (Punya is eventually worth abandoning).

One who does not know what Jiva is, he does not know what Ajiva is. The individual who does not know Jiva and Ajiva, how will he be able to practice self-restraint (Sanyam)?

We have earlier discussed about certain aspects of Jiva, Ajiva, Punya, Päp etc. It. would, however be helpful to say about them at some length even at the cost of some repetition.

  1. Jiva (Soul): All living beings are called Jivas. Jivas have consciousness known as the soul, which is also called the atma (soul – chetan). The soul and body are two different entities. The soul can not be reproduced. It is described as a sort of energy which is indestructible, invisible, and shapeless. Jainism divides jivas into five categories ranging from one-sensed beings to five-sensed beings. The body is merely a home for the soul. At the time of death, the soul leaves the body to occupy a new one. Tirthankaras have said that the soul has an infinite capacity to know and perceive. This capacity of the soul is not experienced in its present state, because of accumulated karmas.
  2. Ajiva (non‑living matter): Anything that is not a soul is called ajiva. Ajiva does not have consciousness. Jainism divides ajiva in five broad categories: dharmastikay (medium of motion), adharmastikay (medium of rest), akashastikay (space), pudgalastikay (matter), and kala (time).
  3. Punya (results of good deeds): By undertaking these wholesome activities, we acquire punya or good karmas. Such activities are: providing food or other items to the needy people, doing charity work, propagating religion, etc. When punya matures, it brings forth worldly comfort and happiness. Digambar consider “Punya” as part of Asrava.
  4. Pap (results of bad deeds): By undertaking bad activities, we acquire pap or bad karmas. Such activities are: being cruel or violent, showing disrespect to parents or teachers, being angry or greedy and showing arrogance or indulging in deceit. When pap matures, it brings forth worldly suffering, misery, and unhappiness. Digambar consider “Pap” as part of Asrava.
  5. Asrava (influx of karmas): The influx of karman particles to the soul is known as asrav. It is caused by wrong belief, vowlessness (observing no vows), passions, negligence, and psychophysical activities. Such an influx of karmas is facilitated by mental, verbal, or physical activities.
  6. Bandh (bondage of karmas): This refers to the actual binding of karman particles to the soul. Bandh occurs, when we react to any situation with a sense of attachment or aversion.
  7. Samvar (stoppage of karmas): This is the process by which the influx of karman particles is stopped. This is achieved by observing samiti (carefulness), gupti (control), ten fold yati‑dharma (monkshood), contemplating the twelve bhavanas (mental reflections), and parishaha (suffering).
  8. Nirjara (eradication of karmas): The process by which we shed off karmas is called nirjara. Karmas can be shed off either by passive or active efforts. When we passively wait for karmas to mature and give their results in due time, it is called Akam Nirjara. On the other hand, if we put active efforts for karmas to mature earlier than due time, it is called Sakam Nirjara. Sakam Nirjara can be achieved by performing penance, repentance, asking for forgiveness for the discomfort or injury we might have caused to someone, meditation, etc.
  9. Moksha (liberation): When we get rid of all the karmas, we attain liberation or moksha.

Now, let us use a simple analogy to illustrate these Tattvas. There lived a family in a farm house. They were enjoying the fresh cool breeze coming through the open doors and windows. The weather suddenly changed, and a terrible dust storm set in. Realizing it was a bad storm, they got up to close the doors and windows. By the time they could close all the doors and windows, much dust had entered the house. After closing all of the doors and windows, they started cleaning away the dust that had come into the house.

We can interpret this simple illustration in terms of Nav‑Tattvas as follows:

  1. Jivas are represented by the people.
  2. Ajiva is represented by the house.
  3. Punya is represented by worldly enjoyment resulting from the nice cool breeze.
  4. Pap is represented by worldly discomfort resulting from the sand storm, which brought dust into the house.
  5. Asrava is represented by the influx of dust through the doors and windows of the house which is similar to the influx of karman particles to the soul.
  6. Bandh is represented by the accumulation of dust in the house, which is similar to bondage of karman particles to the soul.
  7. Samvar is represented by the closing of the doors and windows to stop the dust from coming into the house, which is similar to the stoppage of influx of karman particles to the soul.
  8. Nirjara is represented by the cleaning up of accumulated dust from the house, which is similar to shedding off accumulated karmic particles from the soul.
  9. Moksha is represented by the clean house, which is similar to the shedding of all karmic particles from the soul.

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