My Encounter With Jainism
By Mr. Leon Bensimon
I had read many years ago books on Gandhi, who had been inspired and influenced by Jainism as well as by the works of philosophers Thoreau, Tolstoy and Ruskin. But I did not pay too much attention to Jainism.
How did my self come into Jain field? It happened in 1953 in Bihar while I was with Acarya Vinoba Bhave, who was convalescing at Candil before going to the Sarvodaya Sainmelan.
One day the idea came to my mind to visit nearby small hilly town of Ran chi. While at Ranchi, I wandered the whole day till evening without any particular interest. At that time when peace starts to fall from heaven on earth, wandered involuntarily into a temple with no reason in my mind. When I stepped inside the temple, at once I witnessed the nice decorations and the whole atmosphere emanating from within the temple. Impressed by the surrounding environ, I made an enquiry about the temple. A gentleman informed me that it is a Jain temple. He also handed me, heeding to my request, some booklets. By turning over the pages of the booklet, I found out something about 'World Jain Mission' and the name of Kamta Prasad Jain. Following that, I requested whether I could get some literature about the philosophy of this religion which I never knew of.
My request soliciting some literature on Jain philosophy was filled by the World Jain Mission, Aliganj in Uttar Pradesh. I received some booklets on the subject.
From the reading of these literature I had received from the World Jain Mission, I came to the conclusion that Jainism is a philosophy that demands an individual approach to what it takes to practice, and that in this religion, the rely, [in the terms of metaphysics and the determinative mind], is not in other=s hand, but the rely is upon the self. It is a way of life enquiring the self of the self.
To know more about the Jain philosophical system and the path it charters, I was to require more thorough and deeper studies and a lot of thinking. There I noticed a strand of scientific aspect to it. Finally, I was satisfied with the little light I got of it.
Jainism is not only about nonviolence, which, after all, this aspect is included in every religion. But it is the sum total of nonviolence, la creme de la nonviolence, as I used 10 say in French. Because when a human being is not at all inclined to destroy even the smallest insect, and is mindful of that small living being is, like himself, breathes, sleeps, moves, eats, sees, feels, and is full of life, then, he cannot hann that creature. He comes to the conclusion that life which has been put in his self has also been put in that animal, may it be a fly, a cobra or a dog. He can only respect them, and have the rooted sense that both, the man and the animal, are together share the life environs along with each other. The Jain dictum 'Live and Let Live' thus truly reflects its commitment in enhancing the value of every life, humans and animals.
Therefore, the teaching of Jainism within the structural realm of religion and in the boundaries of philosophy, unlike any religion of ancient lndia or the present, brings home the message of ahimsa to the spiritual, mind you not to the fundamentalist religious bigotry, to respect the Nature, which it defines as uncreated and eternal, always undergoing paryaya (modifications). I also understand that there is (a theory of paryaya within the Jain system of metaphysics.)
My personal observations out of encounter with Jainism are many, and here I buck to say how many is many by restricting my selfto the ones that changed my knowinglessness of Jainism.
In Jainism, there is no base for quantitative arguments, but the base upon which its arguments are made in favor of its philosophical examinations and explanations, are justly deep in terms of quality. This strikes chord with my perspective: in the silent work of an individual, sooner or later, we see far reaching power of authority. (Each Tirthankara has left his mighty shadow by walking the walk in liberating the soul to its Blissful Life at last. This mighty shadow on the world, in general, is impeccably perfect however one counts 'how many is many, but this shadow of the bundled ideas and values has distinctly made the believers of His path as 'chosen people.)
This in similar way rings the bell to the view of French writer George Duhamel expressed about a chosen path: Alf you are only against thousand to lead that Pure Life estimate yourself happy to be already two, and never despair from you action.
Since my encounter with Jainism at Ranchi in Bihar, I know now more of Jainism and its philosophy. I have (prayed and meditated) in various Jain temples; and traveled from east to west and south to north; visited Samath, Rajgir, Calcutta, Malabar Hills, Ahmedabad, Indore (enchanted mirror and glass temple), and Parasnath, Palitana, where temples are nested on the hills and sanctified by the presence ofthe saints and ofthe pilgrims visits.
The first pilgrimage, the Parasnath hill, (the holiest hill of all of Jainism from historic, cultural and religiosity; is called Sammed Sikar (Mighty Mount, the sacred and sacrilege) since it was there twenty two Tirthanakaras (Omniscient Masters, except for Mahavira and Neminatha, have had their liberation) was accompanied by the good thoughts of my big friend, Vinoba Bhave. At the halting camp before starting to climb the mountain, revered Bhave, placing his hand on my shoulder, recited some words from where I heard the word Parasnath. Then I thought it was right for me to go up the Sammed Sikar.
I also made a pilgrimage visit to a Jain Gurkul at Bahubali in Kolhapur district, Maharashtra. It was a like a pilgrimage among Jain living people.
Source : Jinamanjari Journal ( Editor : Mr. Bhuvanendra Kumar)
Volume 29 Number. 1 April 2004, A Bi-annual Published of
Bramhi Jain Society ( Est 1989 ), United State of America and Canada.