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Knowledge and Super Knowledge in Jainism

The Five Types of Knowledge

Jainism states that he who knows is the Atma (soul). The soul knows and knowledge is the means of knowing the soul. With reference to the agent and the cause, knowledge and soul are different. Still however, in reality, knowledge constitutes the very nature of the soul. Knowledge is an attrubute (=quality) of the soul.

The object of knowledge and knowledge are both independent. The substance, the attribute and the mode are knowledge, while the object is soul’s own quality. Mere knowing does not lead to knowledge. Knowing is an activity, an effort. The substance, the attribute and the mode can be known according to the capability of knowledge. The senses and the mind are the media of knowing. The ability of these two is limited and so, only one mode (part) can be known at a time. But all objects can be known simultaneously, all at a time, only by unobstructed knowledge (=absoulte knowledge).

Types of Knowledge

Kevalajnana (absoulte knowledge) is the only knowledge without any obstruction of Karma, i.e. unobstructed. On the other side there are four types of knowledge that have some obstruction of action.

1. Matijnana Senory Knowledge :
This is knowledge acquired through the five senses and the mind.

There are five senses-of touch, taste, smell-seeing and hearing. The senses grasp external objects and come to know them. The mind, however, experiences them. The mind thinks and ponders deeply. It performs the function of knowing, enjoying and thinking over the objects that are grasped by the sense-organs. Mind is all-pervasive, i.e. it pervades over the whole body.

The difference between knowing by the senses and by the mind is this. The senses come to know only the present mode of a substance, while the mind can know the manifold forms belonging to all the phases of time the present, the past and the future of material and non-material objects. The mind can come to know even without the help of the senses. The mind is endowed with the ability to think in manifold ways.

Matijnana has 28 principal divisions in accordance with thought processes. There are 340 divisions in all.

2. Srutajnana - (Vocal Knowledge) :

The Knowledge acquired through seeing or hearing is Srutajnana. Again, a particular word has a particular sense, this too is Srutajnana. It is of 14 types.

These two, Matijnana and Srutajnana are closely related like milk and water. All living beings in the wrold are endowed with these two types of knowledge.

Various types Matijnana also include the knowledge of Jatismarana (remembrance of the past life or lives). As many as 900 births can be visualised through this type of knowledge in its highest form.

3. Avadhijnana (Clairvoyance) :

When corporeal objects, lying in a certain limited field, can be known without the help of the senses, the knowledge is known is ‘avadhijnana’. It is of eight types. Thrthankaras, gods and helligh being have this knowledge from their very birth. Human beings, animals, etc. acquire this knowledge by annhilation and calming down of Karmas, their effects.

4. Manahparyayajnana (Telepathy) :

Shades of reflections of Pudgalas-material substances, that would motivate one are formed in the mind, in accordance with one’s throughts. Theses shades or reflections or modes are derived through this knowledge. In brief, that which directly knows the material objects, which would motivate or activate the mind, is known as Manahparyayajnana.

This knowledge is of two types : Rijumati and vipulmati manahparyayajnana. No doubt, the field of this knowledge is rather limited as compared to that of Avadhijnana, but there is greater purity in it.

The beings in the four different catagories of life namely gods, men etc., possess Avadhijnana, while only an ascetic is endowed with Manahparyayajnana. Those who are endowed with Avadhijnana are not in the know of subtle material modes, which he who possesses Manahparyayajnana knows.

5. Kevalajnana (Absolute Knowledge) :

This type of knowledge can be acquired by complete destruction and cessation of all Karmas. There is no need of the help of the senses or the mind after one has acquired this knowledge.

The man endowed with absolute knowledge, knows this world (loka) and also the world beyond (aloka).

For detailed information and study, please refer to - "Nandisutra". "Anuyogadvara", "Pravachana Saroddhara" etc.


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