In this world, every action of a human plays a major role in the dynamics of their personal life. As long as the soul is related to the body it indulges in both physical and mental activities. Even when a person is not indulging in any physical activity, their mind is working continuously. Each activity retains its mark of existence in the form of karmic particles and one has to bear the results of these karmic particles in the due course of time. According to the doctrine of karma , if one performs a good deed, one earns meritorious karmic particles and if one performs bad deeds, one earns demeritorious karmic particles.

Not only auspicious karma, which produces feelings of pleasure, is called punya, but also, anything that leads to the bondage of punya karmas is called punya. There are nine causes for the bondage of punya karmas. They include offering food, drink, shelter, bed and clothes to ascetics. In addition, meritorious thoughts, verbal actions, physical activities and offering of homage lead to the accumulation of punya karmas. Pious and right activity is the cause of the bondage of punya. If somebody helps ascetics in leading a life of non-violence and non-possession, it will lead to the accumulation of punya.

Until karmic particles are bound to the soul, they do not come to fruition and until that time, the jiva cannot feel the sensation of pleasure or pain. It is the effect of the fruition of bound karmas that produces the sensation of pleasure, also called punya.

There are four karmas which lead to the assimilation of punya karmas.

1) Nama Karma

According to Jain theory, the fruition of auspicious nama karma governs the personality of an individual and enables it to attain physical beauty and strength of body. By this karma one becomes popular and leaves a good impression on others without actually doing anything. This auspicious nama karma is responsible for the melodious voice which charms all those who hear it. It also makes a person's words respected. Due to this karma one acquires name and fame. Being born as a human, being born as a god, and being endowed with five senses are also the result of this auspicious karma. The greatest reward of this karma is Tirthankar nama karma, which helps in becoming a Tirthankar, i.e, an omniscient who establishes the tirtha, (sadhu, sadhvi, lay followers male and female)

2) Ayusya Karma

Because of auspicious ayushya karma, one acquires a long life. There are three ways through which one can acquire a long, auspicious life: (1) giving up violence, (2) giving up lying and (3) offering food, clothes and housing to those who lead a self-restrained and disciplined life.

3) Vedaniya Karma

On account of auspicious vedaniya karma, one experiences the sensation of pleasure. It occurs through eight media: (1) Pleasant words, (2) Pleasant form, (3) Pleasant smell, (4) Pleasant taste, (5) Pleasant touch, (6) Pleasing mind, (7) Pleasing speech and (8) pleasing body. All these pleasant things can be acquired due to this auspicious karma. Compassion for all living beings, self-restraint, blameless activity, forbearance and purity cause the inflow of pleasure.

4) Gotra Karma

Due to the rise of auspicious gotra karma, one comes to possess high or low status in society and in the family. Caste, family, physical power, profits and prosperity are caused by auspicious gotra karma. Those who avoid feeling pride while possessing prosperity, beauty and power, attract more auspicious gotra karma.

Punya and Dharma (righteousness)

The binding of merit is necessarily concomitant with dharma, as it is a necessary prerequisite. Dharma, in this case, represents spirituality (in particular penance) which is the sine qua non of all the activities that produce merit. The function of penance is primarily to produce purity by means of the elimination of karmic matter. Meritorious bondage is an incidental product that accompanies spiritual purity, exactly as chaff is an incidental growth accompanying the corn which is the essential product of the seed.

Without dharma, punya is not possible, yet both are different from each other. Dharma is related to jiva because it is the activity of jiva. Punya is ajiva because it is a form of karma, albeit auspicious karma. Karma is matter and matter is ajiva. Dharma is the cause of emancipation while punya is a form of bondage and thereby a cause of transmigration. Dharma is a mode of soul whereas punya is a mode of matter.

There are four types of karma in Sthananga Sutra:

a) Shubha - Shubha (auspicious-auspicious)

This type of karma is virtuous both in its fruition (udaya) and outcome (vipak). It paves the way for the emancipation of the Jiva. For example, a man obtains material prosperity and comfort as a result of auspicious karma. In his life he also performs good deeds, consequently he will acquire auspicious karmas and will get prosperity in his next birth. This is called 'punyanubanbhi punya'. King Bharat Chakravarti acquired auspicious karmas and as a result was born as a Chakravarti (great emperor). And as a king, he performed good deeds of penance, self-discipline, detachment and attained liberation.

b) Shubha - Ashubha (auspicious-inauspicious)

With this type of karma one has all means of happiness available, but leads a bad life and earns inauspicious karma as a result of bad activities. This kind of punya is known as papanubhandhi punya because it gives birth to new papa (inauspicious karma). Brahmadatta Chakravarti got prosperity due to his previously acquired auspicious karma, but later on he indulged in physical pleasure, which resulted in inauspicious results.

c) Ashubha-Shubha

With this type of karma one's present life becomes troublesome. but one realizes that one's miseries are the result of previous karmas. In realizing this, one endures the paap karmas with equanimity. This is known as punyanubandhi paap. Harikeshi was born into a chandal family as a result of his previous bad activities. But in this life he performed auspicious deeds and accepted the life of a monk.

d) Ashubha-Ashubha

With this type of karma one undergoes a miserable life in the present as well as in the next birth due to inauspicious karmas. On account of this papa, one experiences agonies in this life and alsoabsorbs oneself in sinful activities. Hence one acquires inauspicious karmas for his future. This is known as paapanubandhi papa. Kaalasaukarik's example can be mentioned here.

Once, Shrenik, the king of Magadha, forbade him from killing of buffaloes for one day. Kaalsaukarik's disobedience of the order enraged the king, who then forced him to discend into a deep pit (a dry well). Kaalsaukarik, who regarded the killing of buffaloes as a duty in conformity with his family tradition, was perplexed at this stage to annihilate it.


After a deep reflection over the problem, Kaalsaukarik at last found an outlet for the raging fire of violence that was burning him. He collected the mud in the well and shaped it into buffaloes and killed them and thus fulfilled his duty of killing those buffaloes. Such type of action becomes the cause of papanubandhi paap. 

Do you have any questions?

Watch Now