30 August 2010

Essence of Jainism - 2 - Know thy Self

He who knows one (soul), also knows all; he who knows all, knows the one.

When one talks of religion, the question may arise, ‘Why do we bother about religion? Could we not be happy in this life without worrying about religion?’ One may be healthy, have a lovable spouse and children that they love, may have enough earning from job or profession and possess all the amenities that one needs. What more is religion going to offer? These are legitimate questions. Let us therefore examine them. The concept underlying these questions revolves round our body. Its health, its relations, its well being, comforts and luxuries it can indulge into, are supposed to bring forth happiness. Accordingly, when such situations are to our liking, we happen to consider ourselves happy. Unfortunately however the body with which we identify ourselves and also everything around it happen to be transitory. All the situations are ephemeral. The happiness that we might be experiencing from such situations, can disappear at any time. We do not know what is going to happen the next moment. As such our so called happiness happens to be unstable and short-lived.

Even if situations conducive to our interest were likely to continue indefinitely, peace and happiness may not result there from. As poet Shelley put it in one of his poems, we are prone to ‘look before and after and pine for what is nought.’ Hardly any one feels satisfied with what he has. We have the tendency to desire what we don’t have. Our desires are endless and as long as desires remain unsatisfied, no one can ever feel happy and experience real peace that can lead to blissful pleasure. We may strive hard for achieving that pleasure but hardly any one attains it any time during the life. This is because we hardly try to explore who we are and what is our true nature. Nothing against our nature is going to give us lasting happiness or real satisfaction.

Jain scriptures therefore define religion as ‘Vatthu Sahavo Dhammo’. It means that religion is the nature or property of matter. Without knowing ourselves and without realizing our own nature, we have been trying to gain happiness. No wonder that it eludes us, because we have been trying to gain it from extraneous circumstances. In a way, we have been dwelling, all the time, in a state of delusion about ourselves. We can as well say that we have been pursuing a mirage. Herein comes the role of religion.

A generally accepted definition of religion is ‘Dharayati Iti Dharmah’ It means that what holds (from falling) is religion. Our remaining in the deluded state constitutes a fall and religion tends to protect us therefrom. It teaches us that the physical body with which we identify ourselves is live on account of the soul that abides within it. That soul is our real self. We are the consciousness pervading the body and our association with body terminates at the end of life. The true nature of consciousness is to know whatever happens without any sense of craving or aversion. It is therefore futile to be pleased or displeased with different situations. Thus by revealing our true nature, the religion helps in extricating ourselves from the deluded state in which we have been entangled since the time without beginning. Religion teaches us to know ourselves. He who knows the soul, knows every thing else. This is so because knowledge of true Self as pure, enlightened, unaging, immortal and ever blissful soul can lead to the state of desirelessness. This, of course, does not mean that we should not try to change an undesirable situation; nor does it endorse inaction. As long as the soul is embodied, it would stay active. There are different types of activities that a monk or a layman should undertake . Religion however prescribes that every one should undertake activities destined for him, vigorously but without any degree of attachment. This would mean facing any situation dispassionately without reacting in terms of craving or aversion. In Jain term inology this is called Jnata-Drashta approach which is similar to Nishkam Karmayoga of Geeta. The common objective is to enable one to view every situation, comfortable or uncomfortable, with equanimity and without any way getting agitated. That would amount to knowing oneself and abiding in one’s own blissful nature.

Source: Essense of Jainism - By Manubhai Doshi

29 August 2010

Essence of Jainism - 1 - Search for Happiness


May the entire universe attain bliss, may all beings be oriented to the interest of others, let all faults be eliminated and may people be happy everywhere. May all persons be happy, may all be disease free, may all attain well being and let no one be overtaken by miseries. Every living being desires happiness and endeavours to avoid pain and suffering. The question arises how these objectives can materialize. Generally a person may feel happy if he gets whatever he desires and can avoid everything that he does not like. Situations however do occur which are not in his interest or do not conform to his likings. Even when situations occur according to one’s choice, it is not within his power to make sure that those very situations would continue to last as long as he likes. Every situation undergoes change and a person feels miserable when the changed one is not to his liking. Moreover desires and likes or dislikes of all beings are not identical. What one person loves may be of utter distaste to another. It is therefore impossible that everything can happen to every one’s taste. Viewed in this light it would seem that there cannot possibly be a way for making everyone happy. Fortunately however there is a way.

Two verses, one each from Jain and Hindu traditions quoted address to that way. It would be seen that they have the identical meaning. Both of them convey the same message of well-being for all, for the whole universe and of removal of all evils. Vaidic and Shraman(Jain and Buddhist) traditions have grown side by side; both have borrowed from and influenced each other. They happen to be two sisters having more or less identical and/or complementary approach. It is therefore not surprising that Jain scholars have time and again insisted on the study of not only Jainism but also on the six schools of thought prevalent in India and collectively known as Shaddarshan. Broadly classified, they are known as Vedic and Shraman traditions, both having origin from the same Indo Aryan culture. Both of them have addressed to the problem of universal happiness and have discovered that the way is to wish and act for happiness and well being of all. If every one acts accordingly , the world can turn into paradise and there would not be any misery; at least the man-made misery would come to an end.

Indian philosophies being spiritually oriented, they do not restrict themselves only to the happiness in this world. Almost all of them believe in existence of eternal soul and continually changing pattern of every thing else. Therefore they seek happines s that lasts beyond the present life. Their ultimate aim is to present path of salvation which is defined as termination of embodiment and end of birth and death. However, as long as embodiment continues, their approach is to seek continuing happiness. The two verses therefore exhort every one to look for the well being of all others, to stay meritorious in this life and to be sure of reaping fruits of their merits in subsequent life.

A wise man has rightly said that the place to be happy is ‘here’, the time to be happy is ‘present’ and the way to be happy is ‘to make others happy’.

Source: Essence of Jainism - (By Manubhai Doshi)