Upayoga is a particular term used in Jainism to describe functioning of the soul. Consciousness is the basic quality of a soul. A substance without qualities is not possible to exist. There is indestructible relation between a substance and its essential qualities. Knowing is the function of consciousness and is only possible in the conscious substance. Such conscious substance is the soul. Thus the quality of knowing is only possible in the soul. No matter how tasty is the sweet but its taste cannot be known by the dish or the spoon. No matter how scented is the flower, its fragrance cannot be smelled by the vase. The functioning conscious that comprehends the special attributes of a substance is Knowledge and the functioning conscious that comprehends the general attributes of a substance is Perception.
Such knowing and perceiving capability can be found only soul substance. That is only thing which differentiates the soul from matter. If we see from evolutionary aspect then Perception occurs first and knowledge occurs second. From the perspective of importance, it’s knowledge that comes first.
The Jain definition of Perception is similar to the word ‘Pereehtein’ used in Psychology. After general comprehension of an object, what the soul knows later about the object’s color etc is knowledge. In short, Perception of an object is like appearance without any kind of other information whereas knowledge brings the rest of information like its color, odor, constituents, its position in space etc. Knowledge is the superior thing in knowing and perceiving because it is knowledge only that brings the real thing, like learning about the scriptures, realizing about the soul.
By which the soul comprehends or acts to gain information about objects is called Upayoga or Cognitive Function. Acharya Umaswati has defined Upayoga as the soul’s basic attribute. Knowledge and Perception are two types of Upayoga. When the Upayoga is with shape then it is called Knowledge and when it is without any shape then it is called Perception.
Our soul’s cognitive function is always functioning since beginningless time and it is always variable, i.e., it never remains fixed or focused on a single object. Keeping it focused on a single object means we have mastered over meditation. The mundane souls (trapped in the four destructive karma) can focus their Upayoga on a single object for maximum 48 minutes. For Arihantas or the Omniscient (who are free from the four destructive karma or from all the eight types of karma) have Gnanopayoga (the functioning consciousness as knowledge) at first Samaya and Darshanopayoga (the functioning consciousness as perception) at second Samaya. Samaya, according to Jainism is the smallest amount of time and its value is 1 -800 second. Both Darshanopayoga and Gnanopayoga for omniscient is always active on any object. They don’t need to concentrate, whereas the non-omniscient souls have to give up concentration at least after 48 minutes.
The cognitive function of a soul can be fixed on a single object at a tme. The Upayoga working on two different objects at a same time is never possible. It is because of the infinite energy attribute of the soul that Upayog functions. To operate infinite gnanopayoga and darshanopayoga, it requires infinite energy, and it is one of the basic attributes of the soul.
Here, for the worldly souls, the knowledge obscuring karma obsures the absolute knowledge attribute of the soul, and the perception obscuring karma obscures the absolute perception attribute of the soul. There are many circumstances that makes the functioning of the soul impure and causes the karmic atoms to bind. Also in the functioning of the soul in its fully extent the power obstructing karma obstructs the power (infinite vigor or infinite energy) attribute of the soul. Because the infinite energy is required to fully function the gnanopayoga and darshanopayoga.
The more the functioning soul stays away from attachment-aversion and delusion the more it gets closer to pure upayoga. In order to get rid of endless misery and the cycle of rebirths and deaths, the worldly soul should try to keep its upayoga in learning the scriptures, paying homage to the spiritual masters and meditation. Attachment-aversion, and delusion are the results of the delusion karma and that adds more dirt to the pure upayoga.