The word Nirjara is made up of "Nir" and "Jara". Nir is prefix while
Jara means to fall off. Hence, in the Jain philosophy Nirjara means
falling off, destruction, or removal of karmas from the soul. In the
discussion of asrav and samvar, we gave the illustration of boating.
Let us again go over that example which also explains how nirjara
works. Let us pretend, as if you went boating. You were having a good
time and suddenly noticed the water rising on the floor of boat. You
immediately felt that the boat had a hole and if leak was not sealed
the boat would sink. So, the first thing you did was to find a hole
and then seal it so that new water would stop coming in. Then, you
started pouring out the collected water so that the boat would be dry
again. This removal of water is called a nirjara. Karmas are
accumulating in the soul through asrava. These karmas cover the
attributes of your soul, and the removal or destruction of these karmas
is called Nirjara.
The more effective the nirjara, the faster the attributes of the soul
will shine. Once all the karmas are shed, the soul will go to salvation
and then, it will be able to exhibit all its attributes in a full
capacity. In fact, as we are constantly accumulating and stopping
karmas, we are also to some extent shedding karmas too. In respect to
quantitative shedding, nirjara is grouped into two kinds:
1) Desh (limited) Nirjara, and
2) Sarva (total) Nirjara.
In Desh Nirjara there is limited shedding of karmas, this is experienced
by all while suffering from adversity or performing austerities, or
prayers etc. This shedding is done during all the stages of
Sarva Nirjara is the total shedding of karmas and occurs right before
the soul is liberated. Whenever the soul becomes a Kevali, it has shed
off all ghati karmas forever, but still has to shed aghati karmas. The
rest of the aghati karmas are shed off forever right before the soul is
liberated and achieves salvation. These souls are called Siddhas.
When karmas mature they give rise to their results and once these
results are experienced completely the karmas are considered shed off.
Nirjara can also be divided into two kinds by the process of shedding
karmas. They are:
1) Akam Nirjara,
2) Sakam Nirjara.
When karmas mature automatically at their due time they cause suffering
accordingly. Thus, we have no control on the timing of such suffering
and we have not put any special effort or shown special desire or
intention to suffer on our side. Once the supposed suffering is over
then those karmas which caused this suffering are considered shed off.
This natural process of maturity and shed off the karmas is called Akam
Nirjara. Example: When someone suffers from hunger not voluntarily or
willingly but due to unavailability of the food then those karmas which
caused these suffering will be shed off passively.
On the other side when karmas are brought to maturity ahead off their
due time by special efforts voluntarily or willingly to give their
results then those karmas will be shed off sooner then expected. Thus,
we have a control on to this process and this active process to shed
off the karmas prematurely is called Sakam Nirjara. Example: When we
perform fasting (not eating) voluntarily and willingly even though the
food was in abundance then we brought out suffering actively ahead of
the time which in turn will shed off the karmas prematurely.
Therefore in akam nirjara, conditions for shedding off karmas are ripe,
and karmas exhaust themselves after producing their results. When
karmas lose their bondage in this way, it is called swathaha,
self-destruction. In sakam nirjara, the destruction of karmas
occurring ahead of their natural time by special efforts, by means of
tapas (austerity), is called Upayanirjara, initiated destruction.
Our life is a live drama consisting of accumulating karmas and shedding
of karmas. This drama never stops until we reach salvation. Depending
upon what kind and with what intensity we commit sinful activities
(pap), nirjara may be easier or harder. In order to simulate the
process of nirjara, different examples are given to show how hard it
would be to remove dust or a stain from an article of clothing.
1) The easiest one is compared with how easily dust which becomes
stuck to dry clothes can be removed.
2) It becomes a bit harder to remove the dust if the dust is stuck to
clothes which are wet.
3) It becomes still harder to remove the dust if the dust is stuck to
clothes which are oily.
4) It would be ever more harder to remove a stain from the clothes of
those who work at a gas station.
5) It would be almost impossible to remove a stain when it is from
6) There are times when you can not remove a stain and just have to
through the cloth away.
>From these examples, you can imagine how simple a process or how
complicated a process nirjara can be. In some instances, one would have
no choice but to bear the results of one's karmas. This last kind of
karmas are called nikachit karmas. At this time, it would be wise to
remind us that nirjara is done most effectively by humans only, because
other destinies have their own limitations. But for humans, the
limitations are set by humans only.
The special efforts to destroy karma is done through Tapas or
austerities. Austerity means restraint, which is done willingly by
giving away some of the bodily comforts to discipline our mind from
passions and pleasures. Austerities are performed at various occasions
and in various different ways. All austerities have their own
uniqueness. Austerities may be performed at two levels:
1) Physical manner or
2) Psychic manner.
In the physical manner the person performs the austerity, but does not
have the inner desires to change his or her life and therefore, it is
just a physical act. While in the psychic austerity the person controls
his or her inner desires along with performing a physical act. Unless
the austerities are performed in psychic manner, they do not produce
the much needed results. After all, the whole purpose of austerities is
not just to simply make the body suffer, but to change our desires.
Once that happens the person will be on the path to spiritual uplift.
Austerity is part of right conduct.
Austerities are categorized into two groups:
1) External, and
1) External (Bahyantar): External austerities are noticed by others
because they have a greater component of physical than psychic manner.
2) Internal (Abhyantar): Internal austerities are not noticed by
others because they have a greater component of psychic than physical
Each of these two austerities are further divided in six types:
1) External (Bahyantar)
a) Fasting Completely (Anasan),
b) Partial Fasting (Unodari),
c) Limiting the number of items of food (Vruti Sankshep),
d) Limiting desired tasty food (Ras parityag),
e) Bodily Endurance (Kayakalesh),
f) Controlling of the Senses (Pratisanlinata).
2) Internal (Abhyantar)
a) Atonement (Prayaschit),
b) Politeness (Vinay),
c) Serving others (Vaiyavachch),
d) Giving away (Vyutsarg),
e) Spiritual study (Sajzaya),
f) Meditation (Dhyan).
1) External Austerity
a) Fasting Completely (Anasan):
Anasan means fasting, renouncing food and water, etc., for a day, for
many days or throughout one's life. One day of total fasting is called
upavas. Fasting completely until death is done when life is close to an
end. Such fasting is considered very auspicious and is called Physical
Bhav Anasan refers to the total control of our inner desires for a short
or a long time. If this austerity is cultivated then only will we be
able to strive for spiritual uplift.
b) Partial Fasting (Unodari):
Unodari means eating less than what one’s hunger is. The Jain dharma
prescribes thirty-two handfuls of food per day and in order to perform
this austerity, one may eat a few handfuls less than the prescribed
Bhav Unodari means to limit our desires to some extent. It may be more
difficult to do this than to control them totally, but once this starts
then we will limit our desires for things in our daily life.
c) Limiting the number of items of the food (Vruti Sankshep)
In Vruti Sankshep, we put a limit on the number of items we may eat
during a single sitting or throughout the day.
Bhav Vruti Sankshep means to limit our desires for some part of a day or
a whole day. This austerity will help us to control our desires so that
our mind will keep from wandering.
d) Limiting desired tasty food (Ras Parityag)
Ras Parityag means to renounce tasty foods which one likes very much. It
can be done partially or in total for short time or prolonged period of
Bhav Ras Parityag is more difficult to perform than the other
austerities because in this we limit our most desired thoughts. An
austerity of this nature will help us to control our passions even in
the most tempting situations.
e) Bodily Endurance (Kayakalesh)
Kayakalesh means to stand or sit in a particular posture for a long
period of time. This austerity may cause pain, but one should ignore
In Bhav Kayakalesh one stands firm in controlling passions even if
temptations are great.
f) Controlling of Senses (Pratisanlinata)
In Pratisanlinata one controls all types of senses in order to prevent
pleasant and unpleasant temptations. In order to perform this austerity
one may stay in isolation for one or more nights.
In Bhav Pratisanlinata one controls oneself from lying, telling the
distorted truth, or from participating in sensual activities. Thus this
austerity helps to control passions like anger, pride, deception, and
2) INTERNAL TAP
a) Atonement (Prayaschit)
In Prayaschit, one asks for forgiveness for the various errors of
commission and omission, the faults and sins committed knowingly or
unknowingly. This austerity may be performed in the presence of a monk
or nun or can be done alone. Prayaschit helps us to reflect upon
ourselves in a way that leads to self correction. Even for a small
fault we begin to say " Michchami Dukkadam."
b) Humility (Vinay)
One must cultivate humbleness towards everyone. This austerity leads to
tolerance and sympathy towards others and helps us to overcome ego and
There are four types of Vinay:
i) Jnan Vinay - One should be humble and respectful to those who are
superior in knowledge and wisdom.
ii) Darshan Vinay - One should be humble and respectful to those who
acquired the true insight of religious principles.
iii) Charitra Vinay - One should be humble and respectful to those who
have good morals and follow religious principles.
iv) Mana Vinay - One should pay respect and be humble to all saints who
others in their spiritual uplift.
c) Serving others (Vaiyavachch)
Vaiyavachch means serving religious teachers, ascetics, virtuous people,
sadhus, colleagues, and companions with devotion. One should especially
render services to the sick and weak. Though this austerity seems to be
external activity it makes a person humble and serves the purpose of
overcoming ego and hatred.
d) Giving away (Vyutsarg)
In Vyutsarg, not only one gives away sinful physical activities but also
gives away sixteen different inner passions.
e) Spiritual study (Svadhyay)
Svadhyay means to study scriptures or can also mean to understand the
self. Through study we try to answer the questions: who am I? Who
should I be? Through Svadhyay we realize that a soul is a pure thing.
This will lead us to contemplate on the question: what am I doing in
this body? Thus, study will lead you to be a pure soul. This study is
divided into five levels:
i) When one starts reading the scriptures it is called Vachana.
ii) While reading some doubts may arise and trying to resolve them is
iii) After understanding what is right and contemplating on it is called
iv) After realizing what is right, one should contemplate on it again
and again so one can stay in focus. This repetition is called Amnaya.
v) After learning what self is one should teach others the same. This
is known as Dharmopadesh.
All five of above are external svadhyay, but they will lead us to do
internal svadhyay about the self. Thus, one will acquire right
perception and right knowledge which will lead to right conduct and
will open up the path to ultimate liberation.
f) Meditation (Dhyan)
Dhyan means concentration of thought. This concentration could arise
from intense passions like attachment, lust, or animosity or from the
search for the truth and from absolute detachment towards worldly
Dhyan is divided into four categories:
i) Arta dhyan,
ii) Roudra dhyan,
iii) Dharma dhyan,
iv) Shukla dhyan.
In arta dhyan a person reflects on the i) loss of dear ones (Ishta
Viyog), ii) development of a new relationship with an undesirable or
unpleasant person (Anishta Samyog), iii) physical illness (Roga chinta)
and iv) future planning (Agrasocha or Nidanartha).
In roudra dhyan one is absorbed in taking total revenge for some damage
or loss caused by others. There are four types: i) Hisanubahndhi, ii)
Mrishanubadhi, iii) Steynubandhi, and iv) Samrakshanubandhi.
Both arta and roudra dhyan lead to accumulation of bad karmas and
therefore art and roudra dhyan should be avoided.
Dharma dhyan means reflecting on the ways and means towards realization
Shukla dhyan means reflecting on the purity of the soul.
Dharma dhyan and shukla dhyan lead to the removal of karmas. Therefore,
for the purpose of nirjara we shall contemplate on dharma dhyan and
shukla dhyan. If contemplation on dharma dhyan is at the highest level
then we can completely destroy Mohniya karma and within 48 minutes of
the destruction of Mohaniya Karma, Jnanavarniya, Darshanavarniya and
Antaräy Karmas are also destroyed and one becomes a Kevali.
Other Austerities (Tapasyas)
There are some other common external austerities. They are:
1) Navkarsi: One must take food and water forty minutes after
sunrise. Even the brushing of one’s teeth and rinsing of once mouth
must be done after sunrise.
2) Porsi: Taking food and water three hours after sunrise.
3) Sadh-porsi: Taking food and water four hours and thirty minutes
4) Purimuddh: Taking food and water six hours after sunrise.
5) Avadhdh: Taking food and water eight hours after sunrise.
6) Biyasan: Taking food twice a day sitting in one place.
7) Ekasan: Taking food only once sitting.
8) Ayambil: Taking food only once in one sitting. The food should not
have any taste and spices and should be boiled or cooked. Also, one
shall not take milk, curds, ghee, oil, and green or raw vegetables.
9) Upavas: One must not take any food for twenty four hours starting
from sunrise to sunrise the next day.
a) Tivihar upavas: One may drink only boiled water during upavas.
b) Chauvihar upavas: One does not even drink water during upavas.
10) Tivihar: After sunset no food or juice shall be taken, but one may
take only water until sunrise the next day.
11) Chauvihar: After sunset no food or water is taken until sunrise the
12) Attham: Upavas for three consecutive days.
13) Atthai: Upavas for eight consecutive days.
14) Masakshaman: Consecutive upavas for one month.
15) Navapad oli: During every year for 9 days starting from the 6/7th
day in the bright fortnight until the full moon day in Ashwin and
Chaitra months, one does Ayambil. This is repeated for the next four
and half years. These ayambils can also be restricted to only one kind
of food grain per day.
16) Other austerities are: varshitap, Vardhaman, and visasthanak tap,
In Ekasan, Biyasan, Ayambil, or upavas one drinks boiled water only and
that too only between sunrise and sunset. It is better if one can do a
chauvihar or tivihar day before starting these austerities. If any of
the austerities allow food, one shall not take raw vegetables,
underground roots, and raw grains while performing such austerities.
Back to Chapters List.
Back to the Home Page.