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Guṇasthāna (Sanskrit : गुणस्थान, “levels of virtue”) are the fourteen stages of spiritual development and growth through which a soul gradually passes before it attains moksa (liberation).[1] According to Jainism, it is a state of soul from a complete dependence on karma to the state of complete dissociation from it. Here the word virtue does not mean an ordinary moral quality, but it stands for the nature of soul — knowledge, belief and conduct.

Fourteen stages of development[edit]

Through these fourteen stages of development, the soul gradually frees itself, firstly from the worst, then from the less bad and finally from all kinds of karma, and manifests the innate qualities of knowledge, belief and conduct in a more and more perfect form.[2] Following are the stages of spiritual development:[3][4]

  1. The stage of wrong believer (mithyadristi)
  2. The stage of one who has a slight taste of right belief (sasvadanasamyagdrsti).
  3. The stage of mixed belief (misradrsti)
  4. The stage of one who has true belief but has not yet self-discipline (avirata samyagdrsti).
  5. The stage of partial self-control (desavirata)
  6. The stage of complete self-discipline, although sometimes brought into wavering through negligence (pramattasamyata).
  7. The stage of self-control without negligence (apramatta samyata)
  8. The stage of one in whom the passions are still occurring in a gross form (nivrtti badra samparaya)
  9. The stage of one who practices the process called anivratti karana and in whom however the passions are still occurring (annivrtti badara samparaya)
  10. The stage of one in whom the passions occur in a subtle form (suksama samparaya)
  11. The stage of one who has suppressed every passion but still does not possess omniscience (upasana kasaya vitaraga chadmasta)
  12. The stage of who has annihilated every passion but does not yet possess omniscience (ksina kasay vitaraga chadmasta).
  13. The stage of omniscience with activity (sayogi kevalin)
  14. The stage of omniscience without any activity (ayogi kevalin)

The first four gunasthana are related to belief or rationality in perception. As and when the soul acquires rationality in perception it moves on to 4th gunasthana. Stages 5 to 14 relate to conduct. The purity in conduct determines the gunasthana from 5th stage onwards. Those who have taken the anuvratas {minor vows} may reach up to the 5th Gunasthana. The 6th to 14th Gunasthanas can only be attained by those who have taken the Mahavratas (major vows) of Jain ascetic.

The destruction of causes of bondage[edit]

The whole scheme of gunasthana in Jain philosophy is devised in a logical order according to the principle of decreasing sinfulness and increasing purity. At the first stage, all the five causes of bondage — Irrational beliefs (mithyatva), non-restraint (avirati), carelessness (pramada), passions (kashaya) and activities of mind, speech and body (yoga) — are in full operation.[5] Irrational beliefs (mithyatva) are partially suppressed in the second and third stages, and are fully eliminated in the fourth stage. In stages five and six, non-restraint (avirati) is gradually eliminated in stages. From the seventh stage onwards, carelessness is removed and only passions and activity exercise their influence. From the eleventh to the thirteenth all the passions are eliminated and only activity is present. On the last stage, there is no activity, hence no binding of karma.[5]

The destruction of karmas[edit]

Out of the four ghatiya karmas, darsana mohiniya karma (perception deluding karma) is destroyed first in the fourth stage of gunasthana. Caritra mohiniya karma (conduct deluding karma) is destroyed next in the twelfth gunasthana. The remaining three ghatiya karmas (knowledge obstructing karma, perception obstrcuting karma and energy obstructing karma) are destroyed in the 13th stage and the rest four aghatiya karmas (life-span determining, body determining, status determining and feeling producing karmas) are destroyed in the 14th or the last stage of gunasthana.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jaini, Padmanabh (1998) p. 141
  2. ^ Kuhn, Hermann (2001) p. 186–219
  3. ^ Jaini, Padmanabh (1998) p. 272–273
  4. ^ Tatia, Nathmal (1994) p. 274–85
  5. ^ a b Kuhn, Hermann (2001) p. 87–88
  6. ^ Jaini, Padmanabh (1998) p. 133


  • Jaini, Padmanabh (1998). The Jaina Path of Purification. New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 81-208-1578-5. 
  • Kuhn, Hermann (2001). Karma, The Mechanism : Create Your Own Fate. Wunstorf, Germany: Crosswind Publishing. ISBN 3-9806211-4-6. 
  • Tatia, Nathmal (tr.) (1994). Tattvārtha Sūtra: That which Is of Vācaka Umāsvāti (in Sanskrit - English). Lanham, MD: Rowman Altamira. ISBN 0-7619-8993-5.