Journal of Indian Philosophy

, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 119-176

First online:

Sacred Matter: Reflections on the Relationship of Karmic and Natural Causality in Jaina Philosophy

  • Peter FlügelAffiliated withDepartment of the Study of Religions, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London Email author 

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


The article examines a fundamental problem in classical Jaina philosophy, namely, the ontological status of dead matter in the hylozoistic and at the same time dualistic Jaina worldview. This question is of particular interest in view of the widespread contemporary Jaina practice of venerating bone relics and stūpas of prominent saints. The main argument proposed in this article is, that, from a classical doctrinal point of view, bone relics of renowned ascetics are valuable for Jainas, if at all, because of their unique physical attributes, rather than the presumed presence of the deceased in the remains as posited in much of the extant literature on relic worship across cultures. The specific focus of the article are Jaina and non-Jaina explanations of the qualities of special matter in terms of karmic and natural processes of transformation.


Ascetic body Power Sacred matter Relics Stūpas Jaina karman theory Theory of pariṇāma Theory of multiple causation Principle of the excluded third do-kiriyiyā-vāya terāsiyā-vāya cattara-bhaṃgā