Overcoming Kashāyas: A Path to Inner Peace and Spiritual Growth

June, 2024 by Dr. Arihant Kumar Jain
Kashāyas, or passions, are powerful emotions that can hinder our spiritual progress and peace of mind. The word ‘Kashāyas‘ is very widely used in Jain philosophy and is related to the basic karma theory of Jain philosophy. In simple language, the word ‘Kashāyas‘ means the disorders or the toxic emotions arising in one’s mind which keep distorting the mind. According to Jain philosophy, there are innumerable disorders which are concluded basically in four primary types of Kashāyas: anger (krodha), pride (mana), deceit (maya), and greed (lobha). These Kashāyas are found in almost all living beings and are the root cause of the bondage of karma and its resultant revolving in the materialistic world. But the important thing to be noted is that these passions are not the swabhāva (nature) of the Human Being, they are the consequences of their vibhāva (non-nature).

Understanding Kashāyas and its sub-categories:

Kashāyas is made up of two words, kasha and aya. Kasha means the Saṁsara or worldly life. Aya means gain. Kashāyas literally means getting the samsara again and again, that is, if we have Kashāyas, the cycle of birth and death will continue. Anger, ego, deceit, and greed make us drown in the Saṁsara. Depending on the intensity of these Kashāyas, one gets bondage of longer or shorter duration. Based on this duration, each of the four Kashāyas is further divided into four sub-categories. The most persistent Kaśaya is termed Anaṅtānubandhi (extremely severe), which results in the bondage of endless duration and binds the soul to the cycle of birth and death (saṁsara) for an infinite number of lifetimes, and it is comparable to the line engraved in the stone. The next three Kashāyas are of progressively lesser intensity and have lesser ill effects. A somewhat less intense Kashāya is known as Apratyākhyāṇāvaraṇīya (severe), meaning that it cannot be removed, even by taking a vow to control it. It can be compared to a line drawn on wood, which remains for a very long time. Even less intense Kashāyas are called Pratyākhyāṇāvaraṇīya (moderate), which means these can be overcome by observing fasts etc. It can be compared to a line drawn on sand, which disappears with the wind or water. The least intense Kashāyas is called Saṅjwalana (slight) Kashāyas, which is very subtle and lasts for a moment. This can be compared to a line drawn on water, which disappears as soon as it is drawn.

Applications to Overcome Each of the Kashāyas:

Overcoming these Kashāyas (passions) is crucial for anyone seeking spiritual enlightenment and a balanced life. Here are some practical steps to overcome these Kashāyas in the contemporary world:

  1. Anger (Krodha) – In anger, first, one’s own mind becomes restless, discretion is lost, emotions become impure, and thoughts become violent. The angry person first gets scorched in the fire of his own anger and later burns others with his reaction. Under the influence of anger, a person commits heinous crimes. To reduce krodha, we can apply these measures in our lives.
  • Anger often stems from unmet expectations or perceived injustices. By identifying the root cause of your anger, you can address it more effectively.
  • Cultivate patience by reminding yourself that anger harms you more than anyone else. Practice Uttama Kshamā Dharma (forgiveness) to release the hold that anger has on you.
  • Kshamā is enabling both the forgiver and the forgiven, therefore embrace forgiveness in your life, to observe tolerance wholeheartedly, shunning anger.
  • Empathy and compassion can dissolve anger. Try to understand the perspective of the person who has triggered your anger.
  • Engage in mindfulness practices to become aware of your anger as it arises. Meditation can help calm your mind and reduce the intensity of your anger.
  1. Pride (Māna) – Pride means arrogance or ego. Pride thinks that I am superior, and the rest of the world is inferior. Whereas all souls are equal, no one is superior or inferior. To reduce Māna, we can apply these measures in our lives.
  • Embrace Uttama Mārdava Dharma (humility) in your life and follow the virtue of humility to overcome ego and passions. Humility overcomes feelings of hostility, vengeance, anger, and exploitation.
  • Recognize that everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Accepting your limitations can help you stay humble.
  • Appreciate the qualities and contributions of others. Acknowledging the worth of others can diminish your sense of superiority.
  • Engage in acts of service without expecting anything in return. Serving others with humility can help you overcome pride.
  • Regularly reflect on your thoughts and actions. Self-reflection can reveal areas where pride is influencing your behaviour and help you make necessary changes.
  1. Deceit (Māyā) – There is no consistency in the thoughts, words, and deeds of a deceitful person. He has something else in his mind, he says something else and does something else. Such a person loses his credibility everywhere. To reduce yā, we can apply these measures in our lives:
  • Embrace Uttama Ārjava Dharma (Straight-forwardness or Honesty) in your life, to practice deceit-free conduct in life by vanquishing the passion of deception.
  • Straightforwardness and transparency in thought, conduct, and expression promote a tremendous amount of energy for mutual trust and confidence, reconciliation, and clearing of doubts, suspicions, and reservations.
  • Make a conscious decision to be honest in all your dealings. Honesty builds trust and integrity.
  • Regularly examine your motives. Ensure that your actions align with your values and ethical standards.
  • Cultivate a genuine desire to seek and uphold the truth. This can guide you away from deceitful behaviour. Surround yourself with people who value honesty. Authentic relationships can inspire you to remain truthful.
  1. Greed (Lobha) – Greed is a very dangerous passion. It is called the father of sins. A greedy person is never satisfied with whatever he has. To get more, one can use all kinds of deceits, without caring for others. Greed is the root of all evil and is the mine of all vices like violence. To reduce Lobha, we can apply these measures in our lives:
  • Practice Uttama Śaucha Dharma (contentment or purity) in your life by renouncing greed and keeping the body, mind, and speech pure.
  • Uttama Śaucha Dharma refers to both internal and external purity in dealing with others without being bound by false attachments, possessive attitudes, and endless desires. Purity is achieved through self-restraint and self-discipline.
  • Cultivate a sense of contentment with what you have. Gratitude exercises can help you appreciate the abundance in your life.
  • Practice generosity by giving to others. Acts of giving can diminish your attachment to material possessions. Minimize your material desires and focus on what truly matters. Simplifying your life can reduce greed.
  • Be mindful of your consumption habits. Consider whether your purchases are necessary or driven by greed.

Understanding the types and sub-categories of Kashāyas is essential for anyone on a spiritual path. Overcoming Kashāyas is a lifelong journey that requires dedication, self-awareness, and practice. By overcoming these passions, you can achieve greater inner peace, spiritual growth, and a more harmonious life. Remember, the path to overcoming Kashāyas is not about perfection but about progress and sincere effort. By diligently working to overcome each type, one can progress toward a state of purity, inner peace, and ultimately, liberation (moksha).

About Author

drarihantpj@gmail.com

Dr. Arihant Kumar Jain is an Assistant Professor at the Centre for Studies in Jainism, K. J. Somaiya Institute of Dharma Studies, Somaiya Vidyavihar University, Mumbai. He is the founding Editor of ‘The Prakrit Times International eNewsletter’ for the promotion and propagation of the oldest Prakrit language and literature globally, as well as he is also an Associate Editor of Jain Avenue Web Magazine (jainavenue.org). He has five books to his credit so far, out of which he is the author of three and editor of two. He has represented Jainism at an International Conference held in Colombo (Srilanka). He has directed a documentary film depicting the historical and archaeological importance of Sravanabelagola (Karnataka), which has been screened in a couple of National and International film festivals. He was honored with the ‘National Gaurav Award 2023’ and ‘Charukeerthi Bhattaraka Swami Shriphal Patrakarita Award 2024’ for his innovative contributions.

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