Justice T.U.Mehta


Jainism is a way of life , Root question , Importance of Bheda-Jnana , Practical steps, Nicrtti in the midst of Pravrtti, All pervasive doctrine of Ahimsa, Importance of celibacy, Relevance to modern times .

The principles stated in the foregoing chapters are the bare outlines of The Path-way of Life which was preached by Arhats and now known as Jainism. It is wrong to call Jainism a religion. It is rather a way of thinking which shows a path of life, a life without tension, a life of positive thinking and attitude, a life of understanding, a life which is not a living death.

Root Question

The question at the root of all questions is : whether we are living a life of realities, a life full of consciousness and intelligent awareness, or, we are aimlessly dragged on in this existence, always open to the push and pull of the outside forces having no will of our own and hankering after one object to another in search of ever-eluding happiness ? Whether we are the persons without personality, men without manliness, knowing nothing about our own self, though pretending to know much about all that is not our own self ? In our conceit, and in our ignorance, we may put aside these pertinent questions as mere philosophical flourishes, but if we have patience to delve deep into our day to day problems, and if we genuinely try to understand their root causes, we are bound to notice that inspite of our worldly success in gathering power and pelf, we seriously lack something which leaves in the deeper recesses of our sub-conscience, a streak of unhappiness and dissatisfaction- What is the cause of all these sufferings and discontentment. We have always tried to find out their cause from outside us. We are always ready to blame others - some outside forces to explain our pleasures and pains - Jainism says this is our ignorance. It goes to the root of the problem and this is our ignorance. It goes to the root of the problem and points out to us that we are our own friend and foe, and all the things, good as well as bad, which we get in life, are of our own making. It admonishes us :

Appa katta vikatta ya, duhanna ya suhana ya.

Appa mittamamittam ca, dupatthiya supatthio.

"It is your own self which is the doer as well as enjoyer of your pleasures and pains. Your friend and foe is also your own self, engaged in good and bad activities respectively."

Importance of Bheda-jnana

The concept of Bheda-jnana involves the firm belief in the existence of soul and non-soul as the constituents of the world. A little analysis and logical approach to the constitution of the Universe can easily convince us about the existence and efficacy of the both. The Jaina approach towards the constitution of world is altogether scientific and logical. There is nothing religious or sectarian in the proposition that there are two basic constituents of this phenomenal world - Jiva and Ajiva, that is, the things which are sentient and non-sentient. If this conviction is heeded by discerning human mind, there would be little difficulty in concluding that our true self is purely a knower, the permanent conscious element which knows and motivates all our activities in life, and that the rest is only an object of our knowledge and thus foreign to us. If this is so, should I not concentrate on that which is permanent, that which is my own self ? For, to devote our attention to the things which are foreign to ‘Self' is to seek satisfaction from the objects which do not belong to us. This is bound to result in despair, dejection and tension. Jaina seers, therefore, emphasize that the realisation of the distinction between self and non-self is the first essential condition for a blissful life. This however does not mean that as house-holders we should shun all the activities of material life. In fact, all the Tirthankaras and leading Jaina-sravakas (house-holders) were successfully engrossed in activities of life, but the key of their attainment of spiritual bliss was their awareness that real happiness resides in own self and can never be obtained through the enjoyment of worldly activities and their results do not ‘touch' us, and if they do not touch us, all our doubts, dejections and despairs vanish and one begins to get the taste of real happiness and bliss. Without such an awareness or conviction one easily identifies himself with worldly objects of enjoyment which are foreign to the self and transitory in their nature. The fickle character of these objects when identified with our self does bring in its strain all the tensions and turmoils which affect us in our to day existence.

So the first and foremost postulate of a happy and blissful life is the discrimination of self and non-self, and the conviction that the self's indulgence in non-self is bound to result in suffering due to the transitoriness of worldly objects as well as pleasures and pains created by them. Such a realisation and conviction would greatly reduce our usual tensions and would enable us to face the realities of life with calm and fortitude, never experienced before. We would then be no more pulled and pushed by outside factors, because the exigencies generated by these force are not able to touch our ‘self'. We, and not the outside forces, become masters of our own ‘self'.

Practical Steps

To give a practical shape to the above realised a discrimination and conviction, the Jaina masters have prescribed some practical and workable methods to train our psyche. They have asked us to bear constantly in our mind the twelve Bhavanas, i.e., reflection of Anityatva, Asaranatva, etc., as described in the chapter on ‘Modus Operandi'. All these twelve Bhavanas, i.e., reflections are the logical conclusions derived from the behavioural pattern of the human mind in it interaction with material objects of the universe. Just try any of these reflections or Bhavanas consciously, constantly and honestly for one month and you will find a world of difference in your attitude towards life and its problems.

Jaina insistence on austerities, daily repentance and meditations (discussed in the chapter on Modus Operandi) greatly helps in shaping our personality to a life of peace, tranquility and contentment which are in so much demand in modern life.

Nivrtti in the midst of Pravrtti

As we have already noted, the fundamental and basic postulate of the Sramapa tradition, to which Jainism belongs, is ‘Nivrtti' (retirement). What is this ‘Nivrtti' ? Does it mean cessation of all activities ? Certainly not. Jainism recognises that so long as the soul is attached to Karmic forces such as body, mind and various types of passions (Kasayas) physical activities are bound to remain. If, however, we go to the root of all these worldly activities, we find that at the root, is the psychic element of ‘attachment'. Our attachment to our family, to our society, our nation, our mental pre-possessions, that is, ideologies, our attachment to worldly objects such as wealth, power, position, urge for the domination over others - all this is at the root of our activities and lend colour as well as dynamism to them. In other words, motivation is ‘attachment', known as ‘Bhava Karma' in Jaina terminology (vide chapter on ‘Ethics of Responsibility'). It is this attachment, the cause of Karmic forces which binds the soul. It follows that if this attachment is destroyed or, at least, mitigated while doing a particular worldly activity, the binding force of the Karmic bondage is either nullified or lessened. How this is achieved is shown while discussing the process of fourteen ‘Gunasthanas' and the theory of ‘Ksapaka Sreni' in Chapter in ‘Journey to Freedom'. This is the path of ‘Nirvtti', not meaning cessation of human activities, but destruction or taming of the element of ‘attachment'. This is the key of the spiritual success of all Tirthankaras and Sravakas who either ruled the earth or indulged in various types of household and worldly activities and this was also the key to the spiritual heights reached by great souls like Sri Rama, Sri Krishna and King Janaka who were engaged in worldly activities all through their lives. Thus ‘Nivrtti' in the midst of ‘Pravrtti' is found to be the key to the spiritual progress.

Then the question is how this is possible ? The argument would be that Tirthankaras and the personalities like Rama, Krsna or Janaka were divine, and as some say, they were ‘Avataras' and hence could adopt the attitude of ‘Nivrtti' in the midst of ‘Pravrtti'. It would, however, be difficult, on would argue, for lay persons like us to develop such an attitude of non-attachment while performing our worldly activities.

Jaina thinkers say that any such argument suffers from two basic misconceptions about the theory of Divine descent and the ultimate power and capacity of each soul to achieve the highest. We have seen in the foregoing chapters how and why the Jaina doctrine summarily and positively rejects the theory of Divine descent. According to it all Tirthankaras and other great souls like Sri Rama, Krishna and Janaka were human beings and achieved god-hood by their own exertions spread through many lives. The concept of attributing good-hood through Divine descent is greatly harmful to spiritual development of every soul because that does not inspire a layman to develop his own latent capacity to achieve god-hood. From this misconception of ‘Divine Descent', the second misconception about the capacity of every soul to achieve the highest is generated and prevents the soul from making further progress. The Jaina thinkers, therefore, repeatedly emphasize, the idea that each soul has the potentiality to develop god-hood which Mahavira and others obtained. What is necessary is to realize that God-hood is not the monopoly of a few chosen individuals and it can be achieved by proper faith, knowledge and action called ‘Samyag Darsana', Samyag Jnana and Samyag Caritra' (vide Chapter ‘Journey to Freedom'). Once a soul realizes and is convinced that out of the duality of Jiva and Ajiva, it is Jiva which is eternal, permanent and worth pursuing, it starts treading the path of ‘Samyag Darsana' (Right perspective). This, if sincerely followed, generates in it a desire to go deep into all the live problems of life, and it enters into the field of ‘Samyag Jnana' (Right knowledge), and the development of this second stage, if properly directed, is bound to take him to the third stage of ‘Samyag Caritra’ (Right conduct). These ‘Ratna-trayi’ (three jewels) of Darsana. Jnana and Caritra, is the starting point of spiritual journey which, with proper efforts leads the soul to ascend the ladder of ‘Guna-sthanas'.

All-pervasive doctrine of Ahimsa

The doctrine of Ahimsa to be practiced in mind, speech and action is yet another factor of practical utility in soothing, softening and harmonising the international, national and individual relationship. The Jaina thinkers have touched the new heights of philosophical refinement by introducing the doctrine of Ahimsa even in the process of thinking. Their evolution of the theories of Naya and Syadvada, is an attempt to recognise even the partial truth, wherever evident, so that reality can be comprehended in its fullest possible extent. Adoption of this method of establishing truth positively leads to the development of toleration of every view-point however contrary in may be to the current and traditional view. If the theories of Naya and Syadvada are extended to every sphere of human activity, individual and social life on this planet would be revolutionised completely. Softness and love are the qualities of heart which are developed by the practice of Ahimsa (non-violence). All hatred and cruelty automatically stop once these qualities are developed and applied.

The doctrine of Ahimsa is the natural corollary of the Jaina view which regards universe as one integrated cosmic mechanism wherein the continuing consciousness of even a microscopic atom has a recognised role to play. Vegetarianism of Jainas is thus a rational recognition of the universal scheme of life and its development.

Importance of Celibacy

It seems that it was Mahavira who first developed the concept of celibacy in the ethical life of spiritual seekers in India. Caturyama of Parsva, the 23rd Tirthankara, was found by him quite deficient, which included celibacy within the concept of Aparigraha (limitation of possession), and the Vedic Rsis had not extended their concept of Brahmacarya (movement in Brahma, the cosmic soul) to comprehend even celibacy, as all of them were married persons and even their concept of Visnu, the universal Lord, was not devoid of a consort. It is of course true that celibacy was not unknown to the spiritual seekers in India before the advent of Mahavira, but its place in spiritual development of the soul was systematically recognised for the first time by Mahavira. Ethical justification of celibacy does not lie only in saving millions of Spermatozoa, as some Jainas, in their simplicity, believe, but it lies in restraining excessive emotional outburst, having a violent passion to possess which results invariably in attachments and aversions of various types, as also in total waste of energy which can be utilised for achieving great spiritual heights. The Jaina insistence on celibacy, therefore, helps one to develop his personality and manliness.

Relevance to Modern Times

Thus the Jaina doctrines are the doctrines, helpful to any one in living a vibrant and purposeful life, conducive to the development of social, ethical and national as well international harmony. As they are based on scientific analysis of universal components and human psychology, their appeal is universal and confined only to logic and reasoning, containing nothing sectarian. It is a process of thinking and a way of life which are as much relevant today as they were two thousand five hundred years ago in times of Mahavira.