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Kevala Jñāna ( Sanskrit : केवलज्ञान )or Kevala Ṇāṇa (Prakrit : केवल णाण) in Jainism, (also known as "absolute knowledge", "Enlightenment" and "Omniscience") is the highest form of knowledge that a soul can attain. A person who has attained Kevala Jñāna is called a Kevalin. He is also known as Jina (the victor) or Arhat (the worthy one). A Tirthankara is a kevali who preaches the Jain doctrine and establishes the Jaina order. It is derived from two words – Kevala, which means “absolute or perfect” and Jñāna, which means "knowledge". Kevala is the state of isolation of the jīva from the ajīva attained through ascetic practices which burn off one's karmic residues, releasing one from bondage to the cycle of death and rebirth. Kevala Jñāna thus means infinite knowledge of self and non-self, attained by a soul after annihilation of the all ghātiyā karmas. [1] The soul who has reached this stage achieves moksa or liberation at the end of his life span.


Jñāna – Knowledge

According to Jainism, pure and absolute knowledge is an intrinsic and indestructible quality of all souls. However, because of the accumulation of different types Jñānāvaraṇīya karmas, this quality of soul loses potency and becomes obscured. Following are the types of knowledge: [2]

Type of Knowledge Description Obscured by
Mati-Jñāna The knowledge through the medium of the five senses Mati Jñānāvaraṇīya karma
Sruta Jñāna The knowledge which is based on the interpretation of signs, the understanding of speech, words, writings, gestures, etc. Sruta Jñānāvaraṇīya karma
Avadhi Jñāna Clairvoyance, the transcendental knowledge of corporeal things, occurring without the medium of organs. Avadhi Jñānāvaraṇīya karma
Manahparyaya Jñāna Extrasensory perception, the transcendental knowledge of the thoughts of others, occurring without the medium of organs. Manahparyaya Jñānāvaraṇīya karma
Kevala Jñāna Unlimited, absolute, direct Omniscience, perfect and highest form of knowledge and perception Kevala Jñānāvaraṇīya karma

While other types of knowledge are prone to error on account of delusion, only Kevala Jñāna is perfect and free from all errors.

Two aspects of Kevala Jñāna

There are two aspects to Kevala Jñāna : complete realisation of self and omniscience, complete knowledge of non-self.

A person who attains Kevala Jñāna realises the true nature of his soul. He remains engrossed in his true self. He is free from all desires and detached from all worldly activities, as he has achieved the highest objective that can be achieved by the soul.

Secondly, Kevala Jñāna also means complete knowledge of all the activities and objects in the universe. Jain texts describe the omniscience of Mahavira in this way: [3]

When the Venerable Ascetic Mahavira had become a Jina and Arhat, he was a Kevali, omniscient and comprehending all objects; he knew and saw all conditions of the world, of gods, men, and demons: whence they come, whither they go, whether they are born as men or animals or become gods or hell-beings (upapada), the ideas, the thoughts of their minds, the food, doings, desires, the open and secret deeds of all the living beings in the whole world; he the Arhat, for whom there is no secret, knew and saw all conditions of all living beings in the world, what they thought, spoke, or did at any moment.(121)

The Kevala Jñāna of Mahavira

Kevala Jñāna of Mahavira

Mahavira is said to have practised rigorous austerities for 12 years before he attained enlightenment: [4]

"During the thirteenth year, in the second month of summer, in the fourth fortnight, the light (fortnight) of Vaisakha, on its tenth day, when the shadow had turned towards the east and the first wake was over, on the day called Suvrata, in the Muhurta called Vigaya, outside of the town Grimbhikagrama on the bank of the river Rjupalika, not far from an old temple, in the field of the householder Samaga, under a Sal tree, when the moon was in conjunction with the asterism Uttaraphalguni, (the Venerable One) in a squatting position with joined heels, exposing himself to the heat of the sun, after fasting two and a half days without drinking water, being engaged in deep meditation, reached the highest knowledge and intuition, called Kevala, which is infinite, supreme, unobstructed, unimpeded, complete, and full. (120)

Kevala Jñāna is one of the five major events in life of a Tirthankara and is known as Jñāna Kalyanaka and celebrated by all gods. Mahavira’s Kaivalya was celebrated by the demi-gods, who constructed the Samosarana or a grand preaching assembly for him.

Kevala Jñāna and Moksa

Kevala Jñāna and Moksa are intricately related. Moksa, or liberation, can only be attained by the enlightened beings who have attained Kevala Jñāna. After the death or nirvana of a Kevalin, he becomes a Siddha, a liberated soul in a state of infinite bliss, knowledge, perception and power. It is a permanent and irreversible state, free from sufferings, births and death. It is a state of permanent untrammeled bliss.

Supreme Non-attachment or Vītarāga

There is a direct relationship between Supreme Non-attachment and Omniscience. In the higher stages of meditation or dhyāna, one first attains the state of Vītarāga wherein one is completely freed of all feelings of attachment to all else other than one's soul. Once a permanent state of Vītarāga is achieved, omniscience follows. This is because omniscience is the basic nature of the soul and it is merely clogged by the presence of the 8 types of karmas in the soul. The attainment of Vītarāga ensures that the 4 types of destructive karmas known as ghatiya karmas are dissociated from the soul permanently. Hence, since the destructive karmas are not present in the soul any more, the soul attains omniscience, its natural attribute.


  1. ^ Ed. John Bowker (2000). "Kevala". The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2007-12-05.  
  2. ^ Glasenapp, Helmuth Von (1942) (in English. Trans. From German by G. Barry Gifford). The Doctrine of Karman in Jain Philosophy. Bombay: Vijibai Jivanlal Panalal Charity Fund.  
  3. ^ Jacobi, Hermann; Ed. F. Max Müller (1884). Kalpa Sutra, Jain Sutras Part I, Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 22. Oxford: The Clarendon Press.  
  4. ^ Jacobi, Hermann; Ed. F. Max Müller (1884). Kalpa Sutra, Jain Sutras Part I, Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 22. Oxford: The Clarendon Press.  

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