Ashrav – the inflow of karma

Ashrav – the inflow of karma

Man in rowboat, battling with the incoming water

The timeless Jain tradition highlights the nine tattvas as the mechanics of how we are caught up in the ups and downs of worldly life, and how to free ourselves from this suffering, thereby attaining true peace and happiness.

These foundational truths consist of: Jeev, Ajeev, Ashrav, Bandha, Paap, Punya, Samvar, Nirjara and Moksha.

Ashrav is about identifying how our engagement with the world causes karmic clusters to flow in and obscure our true pure state.

It’s about what rocks our peace when all we want is to attain our effortlessly blissful inner state, just like how the storm batters the boat that wants nothing but to calmly drift towards it’s destination.

Only by looking closely at our behaviours can we loosen the grip that keeps us bound to the suffering that we all face throughout our lives.

Causes of the inflow of karma

The wisdom of the timeless Jain tradition presents us with a classification system to help us inspect the causes in detail. It may help to look at it as

3 actions by operation of mind, speech and body

The inflow of karma is caused by the threefold action of body, speech and mind. {TS6.1 & TS6.2}

Good actions cause the inflow of beneficial karma. {TS6.3}

Evil actions cause the inflow of harmful karma. {TS6.4}

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5 senses through with the outer world is experienced

Having feelings of attraction (raag) and repulsion (dwesh) towards anything experienced by the five senses, leads to the inflow of karma.

The five senses are:

  • skin / touch
  • tongue / taste
  • nose / smell
  • eye /sight
  • ear / hearing

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4 harmful passions

The arising of passions, typically as a reaction to an external situation that takes place or a thought the spontaneously arises in the mind, leads to the inflow of karma.

The four passions are:

  • anger (krodha)
  • pride / ego (maan)
  • deceit (maya)
  • greed (lobha)

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5 indulgences caused by infraction of the vows

The five indulgences are:

  • causing injury (himsa)
  • lying (asatya)
  • stealing
  • sensual indulgence
  • possessiveness (parigraha)

As a side note, the five vows for an ascetic or a householder are there to act as a protective fence, shielding one’s self from the above five indulgences. These vows are non-violence (ahimsa), truth (satya), non-stealing (asteya), celibacy (brahmacharya = conducting one’s self close to the soul) and non-possessiveness (aparigraha).

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25 alluring urges

The twenty-five urges are:

  1. urges that lead to enlightened world-view
  2. urges that lead to deluded world-view
  3. evil urges of body, speech and mind
  4. the inclination of the ascetic to abstain
  5. urges that produce instantaneous inflow
  6. physical enthusiasm
  7. using instruments of destruction
  8. malicious activity
  9. torturous activity
  10. murderous activity
  11. urges for visual gratification
  12. urges for tactile gratification
  13. inventing and manufacturing lethal weapons
  14. evacuating bowels or vomiting at gatherings of men and women
  15. occupying uninspected and unswept places and leaving things there
  16. undertaking others’ duties out of anger or conceit
  17. approving of an evil act
  18. divulging the sins of others
  19. arbitrary interpretation of scriptural teachings
  20. disrespect for the scriptural teachings
  21. damage to the environment such as digging earth, tearing leaves, etc.
  22. possessive clinging
  23. deceitful actions
  24. promotion of deluded views
  25. harbouring passions and possessiveness.

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Additional resources

Overview of the tattvas

Read a general overview of the nine tattvas – the mechanics of karma.

> The nine tattvas

Book: Tattvarth sutra

Written by Acharya Umasvati (a Jain spiritual leader who is said to have lived around the 2nd century BC), Tattvarth sutra is a Jain spiritual text (sutra) which is both succinct yet comprehensive, wherein each line in it is independently true and expanded just the right amount.

From the entry on wikipedia: The Tattvartha Sutra is regarded as the most authoritative book on Jainism, and the only text authoritative in both the Svetambara and Digambara sects.

The first verse, “सम्यग्दर्शनज्ञानचारित्राणिमोक्षमार्ग: | samyag-darshan-gnaan-charitrani mokshamargaha” summarises Jainism by saying that right view, right knowledge and right conduct collectively are the path of liberation or moksha.

The first chapter deals with the process of cognition and details about different types of knowledge.

The next three chapters deal with the soul, lower worlds, naraka, and celestial abodes, deva.

The fifth chapter discusses Non-soul (Ajiva).

The next three chapters deal with the karmas and their manifestations and the inflow, ahsrava, good and bad karma, shubha-ashubha karma and the bondage of the karmas.

The ninth chapter describes the blocking, samvara and shedding of the karmas, nirjara.

The final chapter discusses moksha or the liberation of the soul.

Tattvarth sutra may be available from Young Jains or you could order it from Amazon:

Book: Twelve facets of reality

Based on talks by Pujya shree Chritrabhanuji, this book gives a contemplative view on the twelve reflections for cultivating detachment. It includes a chapter on ashrav bhavana.

  • Chapter 7: observing the inflow of vibrations (read online)

Events: Raj Saubhag sessions for students and young professionals

Raj Saubhag introductory sessions for students and young professionals take place every 6 to 8 weeks in the NW London area.

They are run in a welcoming environment for students and young professionals who are thinking about questions, such as, “Who am I at my core?” and “What is the meaning and purpose of my life?”

Learn about upcoming sessions at

For further questions about these sessions or this topic, please contact Suraj.

(image credit: Thomas Lohre fine arts)