The word Arihanta is made up of two words: 1) Ari, meaning enemies, and 2) hanta, meaning destroyer. Therefore, Arihanta means a destroyer of the enemies. These enemies are inner desires known as passions. These include anger, ego, deception, and greed. These are the internal enemies within us. Until we control our passions, the real nature or the power of our soul will not be realized or manifested. Some passions are called as ghati karmas because they directly affect the true nature of the soul. Ghati karmas are categorized into four. They are as following:
- Gyanavarniya (knowledge blocking)
- Karma Darshanavarniya (perception blocking)
- Karma Mohniya (passion causing)
- Karma Antaraya (obstacle causing) Karma
When a person wins over these four ghati karmas he/she is called Arihanta. Arihanta attains:
- Kevalgyan, perfect knowledge due to the destruction of all Gyanavarniya Karmas.
- Kevaldarshan, perfect perception due to the destruction of all Darshanavarniya Karmas.
- Becomes passionless due to the destruction of all Mohniya Karmas.
- Gains infinite power due to the destruction of all Antaraya Karmas.
Complete knowledge and perception means they know and see everything everywhere that is happening now, that has happened in the past, and that will happen in the future. Arihantas are divided into two categories:
Tirthankaras are special Arihants because they revitalize the Jain Sangh (four-fold Jain Order) consisting of Sadhus (male saints), Sadhvis (female saints), Shravaks (male householders), and Shravikas (female householders). During every half time cycle, twenty-four persons like us rise to the level of Tirthankar. The first Tirthankar of our time period was Lord Rishabhdev, and the twenty-fourth and last Tirthankar was Lord Mahaveera, who lived from 599 BCE to 527 BCE. A Tirthankar is also called a Jina. Jina means conqueror of passions. At the time of nirvana (liberated from the worldly existence), Arihanta sheds off the remaining four aghati karmas namely:
- Nam (physical structure forming) Karma
- Gotra (status forming) Karma
- Vedniya (pain and pleasure causing) Karma
- Ayushya (life span determining) Karma
These four karmas do not affect the true nature of the soul; therefore, they are called Aghati karmas. After attaining salvation these Arihants are called Siddhas.
It is very interesting to note that in Namokar Mantra we pray to the Arihants first and then to the Siddhas, even though the Siddhas are perfected souls who have destroyed all (both Ghati and Aghati) Karmas, and at a higher spiritual stage than Arihants. Since Siddhas have attained ultimate liberation, we do not have access to them. On the other hand, Arihants are still human beings and offer us spiritual guidance during their lifetime. It would not have been possible for us to know about Siddhas or liberation without them. In order to show our special reverence for their teachings, we salute Arihants first and then Siddhas.
Siddhas are the liberated souls. They have completely ended the cycle of birth and death. They have reached the ultimate highest state, salvation. They do not have any karma, and they do not collect any new karma. This state of true freedom is called Moksha. Siddhas experience unobstructed bliss (eternal happiness). They have complete knowledge and perception and infinite power. They are formless and have no passions and therefore are free from all temptations.
Siddhas have eight specific characteristics or qualities (8 guñas) namely:
- Ananta gyana (infinite knowledge)
- Ananta darshana (infinite power)
- Ananta labdhi (infinite vision)
- Ananta sukha (infinite discipline)
- Akshaya sthiti (permanence – without any change)
- Being vitaraga (impartial)
- Being arupa (having no name or form)
The message of Jina is carried on by the Acharyas. They are our spiritual leaders. The responsibility of the spiritual welfare, but not social or economical welfare of the entire Jain Sangh, rests on the shoulders of the Acharyas. Before reaching this state, one has to do in-depth study and achieve mastery of the Jain scriptures (Agamas). In addition to acquiring a high level of spiritual excellence, they have the ability to lead the monks and nuns. They know various languages with a sound knowledge of other philosophies and religions of the area and the world.
This title is given to those Sadhus who have acquired a special knowledge of the Agams and philosophical systems. They teach Jain scriptures to sadhus and sadhvis.
Sadhus and Sadhvis
When householders become detached from the worldly aspects of life and get the desire for spiritual uplift (and not worldly uplift), they give up their worldly lives and become sadhus (monk) or sadhvis (nun). A male person is called sadhu, and a female person is called sadhvi. Before becoming sadhus or sadhvis, a lay person must observe sadhus to understand their life style and do religious studies. When they feel confident that they will be able to live the life of a monk or a nun, then they inform the Acharya that they are ready to become sadhu or sadhvi. If the Acharya is convinced that they are ready and are capable of following the vows of sadhu or sadhvi, then he gives them Deeksha. Deeksha is the initiation ceremony when a householder becomes a monk or a nun. In Deeksha, the sadhu or sadhvi makes the following commitments:
- Commitment of Total Non-violence (Ahimsa) - not to commit any type of violence. Non-violence is the greatest of all virtues, the core of all sacred texts, and the sum and substance of all vows and virtues.
- Commitment of Total Truth (Satya) - not to indulge in any type of lie or falsehood. A person who speaks the truth becomes trustworthy like a mother, venerable like a preceptor and dear to everyone like a kinsman. Truthfulness is the abode of austerity.
- Commitment of Total Non-Stealing (Asteya) - not to take anything unless it is given. One should desist from buying stolen goods, inciting another to commit theft, avoiding the laws of the State, use of false weights and measures, adulteration and counterfeit currency.
- Commitment of Total Continence (Brahmacharya) - not to indulge in any sensual activities. The soul is Brahman. So the activity regarding the self of a person who is free from body consciousness is called Brahmacharya or Continence.
- Commitment of Total Non-possessiveness (Aparigraha) - not to acquire more than what is needed to maintain day to day life. One should refrain from accumulation of unlimited property due to insatiable greed as it becomes pathway to misery and results in numerous faults. Lord Mahaveera has said that the ownership of object itself is not possessiveness; however attachment to an object is possessiveness.
A person becomes a Jain monk by equanimity, a Brahmana by celebacy, a sage by knowledge and an ascetic by austerities. The true monks are free from attachment, self-conceit, companionship and egotism. They treat all living beings, whether mobile or immobile impartially and equally. A monk maintains equanimity in success and failure, happiness and misery, censure and praise and honour and dishonour. In other words, a monk remains completely unaffected by honour, passions, punishment, affliction and fear. He or she is undisturbed and unbound and is free from laughter and sorrow. A monk should bear hunger, thirst, an uncomfortable bed, cold, heat, fear and anguish with an unperturbed mind. An enlightened and self-restrained monk should go to towns and villages with equanimity and preach the path of peace.
Some other things they observe are:
- They do not accept the food cooked specially for them; and accept vegetarian food only.
- They do not eat before sunrise or after sunset.
- They drink boiled water.
- They walk bare footed carefully so as not to harm even small insects and therefore do not use vehicles for transportation.
- They do not stay in one place for a longer time.
- They do not touch any person of the opposite sex.
- They do not get involved in social or society affairs.
- Some monks wear no clothes while others wear white clothes.
- All nuns wear white clothes.
- They offer spiritual guidance.
- Self-discipline and purity.