Justice T.U.Mehta

Search for Responsibilty and Sramana Line

Man's search for fixing the responsibility for experiences like pleasures, pains, enjoyment, suffering, incongruences and incompatibilities, inequities and injustices suffered by human beings and other species of existence in this universe has never reached such sophisticated depths as found in Jaina philosophy. Easiest explanation available to man was God-either personal or impersonal. Early Aryans was a race possessing great intellectual potentially and dynamism. Even they in their Veda could not go beyond propitiating different Gods supposed to master different forces of nature to win their favour and to protect them against violence of nature and enemies. This propitiation naturally invited plenty of rituals in form of animal and sometimes even human sacrifices. All rituals give birth to a priestly class and theoretic specialisation. A priestly class of Brahmin's sprang up, and as has happened elsewhere in the world, this class acquired a good hold and influence even on the political forces with the result that the whole social and economic structure of the country came to be under the sway of politico-religious domination. Priestly class gradually began to lose faith, and there was a sort of intellectual revolt. ‘Brahmanas'-a literature prescribing in great details the ceremonies for different types of ‘Yajnas' to propitiate gods, came to be replaced by ‘Upanisadas' giving rational interpretations to Vedas and the science of sacrifices (Yajnas). Sramana line of thoughts, which was pre-Aryan and pre-Vedic, must have had a great deal of influence on the thinking of the Rsis of the time and they seem to have borrowed new ideas of the ‘Real Essence' and called it a ‘secret knowledge', as already seen in the famous dialogue between Svetaketu and his father Rsi Aruni in Chandogya Upanisad. However, as will be presently seen, even amongst Sramana thinkers who did not believe in God as the creator and sustainer of the universe, and who did not subsribe to the finality of Vedas, different and divergent theories explaining the universal order persisted, even at the time of Mahavira. Hence, some more rational and more convincing explanation about the universal scheme was required. Mahavira was not the founder of what is now known as ‘Jainism'. He was a follower of a great Sramanic tradition which is said to have been handed over to him by his twenty-three predecessors called ‘Tirthankaras' (makers of Tirtha- place of pilgrimage). Greatness of Mahavira, however, lies in bringing about a beautiful synthesis and giving a rational and logical orientation to the prevailing Sramanic thoughts.

It was Rousseau who said that the man is born free, but is everywhere bound in chains. Mahavira, however, says that the man is born in chains but he can be free, if he so wishes. Freedom is his birthright. When Mahavira says this, he talks of real freedom, not a mere political one. But achievement of freedom is a conscious attempt, and no attempt is conscious unless one has the liberty to choose between good and bad, liberty to exert, liberty to destroy the obstacles, found in the path to reach the goal.