Jainism In The Third Millennium

 

 

By Mr. Vinod Kapashi, U. K.

 

We live in a society where everyone asks question about almost everything. Our values have changed, our ideas have changed, the structure of society has change. Science and technology has changed our lives. Our thinking process, our life-style and how we behave towards each other has gone through radical changes. The last millennium has seen many empires rise from the dust and many fall into oblivion. We are standing on the threshold of the next millennium the third one. No doubt, in the forthcoming years, we will see a lot more changes too. Some will be for the better and some will undoubtedly erode and undermine the basic structures of family life and society. Values would perhaps change to the extent that many wrong doings will be looked upon from different angles and many of our religious principles will be further scrutinised.

When one asks whether the Jain faith is a science of living or not, whether it can be considered a way of life or not or whether it has the potential and strength to guide man or not, one has only to consider the relevance of the Jain faith in the context of out past, present and future.

Ahimsa, aparigraha and anekantvada are not mere words in the holy book. They are not some 'religious' principles which are to be observed at certain times of the day or week, but these principles offer a great deal to individuals, society and nations. Ahimsa or non-violence is important to preserve the very fabric of our foundation. Without this we would perish. Conflicts in many countries have tome and again taught us this lesson...and Jain ahimsa is not merely non-killing or non-harming; it has to be practiced upon the lowest living entities on the planer. All physical and mental violence has to be avoided.

Aparigraja or non-possessiveness is another point one should also bear in mind. This is not only in the sole interests of religious purity but also for the survival of mankind. The hoarding of food by an individual or by a nation is a 'sin'. It not only creates an unjust balance in life-style, but it is a greed which attracts innumerable other vices too. Greed in one's life-style leads to all sorts of activities which may be inhuman and unethical.

Anekantavada, this unique principle in the Jain system of philosophy, is perfect in itself. The root cause of all arguments and enmity lies in intolerance and failure to or unwillingness to understand other's viewpoints. Anekantvada simply explains that no two persons are equal, as far as their mind, thinking process, likes and dislikes are concerned and therefore one has to make an extra effort to understand each other. One has to accept that there are different kinds of people with different ideologies and that acceptance and tolerance are the keys to peaceful co- existence. Anekantavada is as important on a family level as it is on an international level.

The greatest need today is to accept that the whole world is one family. We have no choice but to broaden our horizons, to make sure that our age-old wisdom prevails and to accept that greed, hatred and violence has no place if we want to achieve true peace in third millennium.

The message lf Jainism is a message for human survival-survival with dignity. It is an answer to man's search for eternal truth and eternal bliss.

As we move into the next century, we will see more and more scientific discoveries taking place. But science which includes matter and not mind is not a true science. If we think that matter can only be explained by science and mind, soul or consciousness as the subject of religion, then science and religion will always stay apart. But this should not be the case. By linking the philosophies of matter and soul, by linking science and religion we would not only understand human nature but we would find a proper and considered answer which will bring about inner light.

Scientists like Albert Einstein and philosophers like Bertand Russell or Krishnamoorti or Carl Jung have tried to discover this inner light. Our great philosophers and enlightened souls like Gautam Buddha and Mahavir had seen that inner light and hap preached the way to discover it. Buddha left his royal household in search of an answer to the end of the suffering of mankind Mahavir similarly left his kingdom behind to achieve true salvation. Mahavir too gave a message of love and kindness. However, Mahavir said that all species on this globe are interdependent and one's welfare depends on the welfare of another (Tattvartha Sutra 5/21 Parasparopgraho jivanam). He said trees, plants and vegetation are also living beings. Our love should be boundless and should reach every corner of the earth. The key to this love is through the observance of goodness and goodness in everyone. Let the life energy be love energy. Let us accept and recognise that all cognisible and noncognisible living entities have the right to existence.

Bhagvan Mahavir preached the principles of Jainism as we know them now. He said ...Everyone wants pleasure and happiness, no one wants misery but those who are ignorant and attached to worldly pleasure suffer again and again. One who knows other people's misery does not pursue worldly pleasures and avoids sinful acts. Those who can avoid the bondage of sinful acts can obtain liberation. His message is simple "No one should try to obtain happiness at the expense of others". Mahavir recognised this fact (or rather he was the first one in human history to say) that plants have life and that they feel pain when cut.

He said- 'O Man ! The one you are thinking of killing is no one but yourself. The one you are thinking of putting in misery is yourself... With this sort of understanding you will have equality with all living beings. '(Acharanga Sutra)

This was his message of living in harmony with nature, all birds, animals and fellow human beings.

Jains also say that it is the benefit of all mankind to be vegetarian. Vegetarianism is an ethic for ecology and physical and mental health.

Jainism is a path which leads one to achieve freedom from the shackles of attachment and aversion. Jain scholars have always maintained that attachment to worldly things is the cause of karma bondage. This path explains and shows the way of true freedom and this is why it is a way of life, and ideology which transcends arguments and logic- an ideology which makes sense.

The path we are shown purifies our soul and kindles a light of knowledge, dispersing the darkness of ignorance. This is a complete system which provides day to day guidelines for practical life and which takes man towards a highest goal.

Jainism is not therefore a 'religion'. It is a way of life. It has answers, full of logic and perception, for our entire life. It has transcended the boundaries of time and space as it is a path for mankind. Its code of conduct is based on age-old wisdom, yet it is beyond ritual. Jainism is a dharma or a true nature of our inner consciousness which mainifests itself in practical life. It is not dog gmatic and does not believe in an almighty creator but believes in the potential to become an enlightened soul. It is the path of right perception, right knowledge and right conduct leading towards 'the ultimate'. (Tattvartha Sutra 1/1 Samyakdarshan gyan charitrani mokshamagrah).

 

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Source : Article From 'Sixth World Jain Conference' ( 1995) Souvenir

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