Pearls of Wisdom
By Upadhyaya Amar Muni
Often in moments of divine revelation, quite spontaneously and without effort, words are uttered by the Realised Ones that become precious gems in the treasure-trave of spiritual life. These axiams are brilliant stars in the firmament of wisdom; they are like pillars of radiance awakening others to the inner life. A few of them are presented in the following pages:-
People often ask me, "Sir, how does one envisage God? How can one gain and audience with hime?" Scholars and Pundits pose the same questions. In cases like this I would say, "Why don't you have the same strong urge to know yourself as you do to see God?" You have a desire to envisage God, but before that you must learn how to see yourself . Get to know your elders, your neighbour who is grieving. Get to know the man who is groaning with pain or distressed because he is hungry. When you start doing this, The vision of God will come of its own accord.
Family problems are big issue in society today. They are like a poison destroying all the joys in life. I was talking to the head of a large, prosperous family . All his complaints were about friction between, and discontent amongst, family members. Lack of tolerance and patience is the cause of the destruction of family unity and the root of family misery. I told him a story from seventeenth century Japan about an old Minister called O-Cho-San. It was said that there were over a thousand people in his family. They were famous throughout Japan for their benevolence and mutual harmony. It was said that even the dog from O-Cho-San's house would not steal a bone from another dog. One day the Emperor went to the home of his former Minister to find out the secret of his family's harmony and benevolence. After exchanging greetings, the Emperor asked the old man, "What is the great spell by which you bind your enormous family together with such unbreakable ties of mutual tenderness and affection?" The old Minister took up parchment and ink and wrote down a hundred words with trembling brush strokes, and then placed it before the Emperor. When the Emperor read it, he found it consisted of the same word written out a hundred times:
"Tolerance, tolerance, tolerance………………."The Emperor was dumbstruck. The old man said, "Your Majesty, this is the spell that binds my family together with hoops of stee1." If in today's society fathers and sons, daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law, wives and husbands learnt the magic of tolerance and forbearance, then countless social problems would be easily resolved.
A gentleman who, though very spiritually minded, is rather dry and doctrinaire, sometimes comes to visit me. One day in the course of our conversation, he suddenly said, "In life both evil and good deeds create bondage. Surely, both should be avoided!" I replied, "Good deeds do certainly carry karmic consequences and can be considered as binding to the soul; however, until one has been purged of all karmic particles and reached the fourteenth gunasthanak - the stage of purity, the bondage of good deeds will continue. There is no need to follow any othe7r independent method to rid yourself of it." He replied, "Yet it is a sort of bondage, and one should strive to free the soul from all types of bondage. That is why to do too much good is undesirable. It too makes the soul heavy and binds it to the wheel of re-birth." I said, 'There was once a prosperous merchant who sent his servant to the post office with an urgent letter. He said to the man, " I am -afraid that the letter might be too heavy and may require more stamps. Check at the post office counter and put on as many extra stamps as are needed." The servant heard him out in silence, but secretly he thought to himself, "Surely my master is getting senile! If I put on more stamps the letter will only weigh more! Since my master is worried about the envelope being too heavy, let me remove the stamps that have already been affixed, for then the letter is bound to become light enough to be delivered quickly!" From his point of view the servant was being conscientious and helpful. It is true that good deeds create bondage, but they are like the stamps on the envelope - without them, life is meaningless and futile because it cannot reach its destination.'
Sometimes I wonder whether true socialism can ever be brought into a country by its constitution. Can the needle and thread of politics really be used to 'stitch' men's hearts together? Can power and authority actually create empathy and fellow-feeling amongst the people? Even after much deliberation on this point, the answer is always the same. Never! Never! Social betterment, mutual tolerance, co-operation, fellow-feeling and empathy, all these can never be imposed on the people from above. Rather they should come from within and flow out into the world. Social well-being requires co-operation, and co-operation requires empathy and fellow-feeling.
There is a difference between reform or repair and root and branch change, just as there is a difference between revolution and evolution, or improvement and the creation of something new. Some desire reform and others want root and branch change, some want improvements and others to create anew, some want evolution, others revolution. All these things are necessary in life but all have their limitations.
If a piece of cloth gets torn it can be sewn up; if it gets dirty, it can be washed. In this way, it can still be used. It has been repaired. However, when it gets so threadbare and torn that it ceases to be a piece of cloth and becomes a rag, then we should throw it away. Continue to wear it and the world will conclude that you are either a fool or a pauper. Here is an old house. When cracks appear they are repaired with cement, when tiles fall off, they are replaced. However, a day will finally come when the foundations are so eroded, the walls so weak that far from being a sturdy building the house stands in imminent danger of becoming a ruin, with the caving-in of the roof likely to cost ten or fifteen lives. Once this stage is reached, the sensible course is to have the building demolished and a new house built on the site. When we buy a new cloth, or put up a new building, then we face a new atmosphere, a new appearance and new circumstances. This is what we call a root & branch change.
The same arguments apply to Issues regarding family, society, nation and religion. So long as reform or repair is possible, let it continue; but when things come to such a pass that institutions and traditions are mere ruins of their former selves, then it is better to demolish them and build new ones. This we call a revolution, a new creation, or a root and branch change. If we don't learn to discriminate between the limits of both reform and revolution then it is possible we will be in conflict with the coming age.
When I see the throng of devotees in temples and places of pilgrimage, all oblivious to the climate or the jostling of the crowd, immersed in the intensity of their prayer or their chanting, I am led to believe these people must be the great heroes of our religion. However, when I see these same people being deceitful and cruel at home and in the workplace, then I just shudder. I believe that these are the people who have brought about the world's apathy towards religion and spread hatred and contempt for it throughout society. It is as clear as daylight that as long as religion is not practised as part of everyday life, then all this worship in temples and mosques and pilgrimage sites will remain an empty ritual. Only when religion is established as an active force in daily life is God truly worshipped.
Life's development is in ebb and flow. You may have seen how a village pond collects waters from here and there and then remains stagnant. There is no movement and no flow. What is the future of a pond like this? To be fouled up, stagnant, breed countless flies, become the home for all sorts of filth, spread diseases and, ultimately, to be depleted of everything and eventually vanish - such is its destiny. The same applies to life. Our life should be like a swift flowing stream. Stand on the banks of any such stream and the purity and brilliance of its waters will impress you. Because it flows swiftly, it is constantly changing and taking on new forms. Movement is life and life is movement. It is not like an inert substance that will stand in one place without moving. That which stops developing stops existing, whether it be an individual or a whole society. Each day brings renewed life to those who get things moving. We must move forward in every moment of our lives.
It is true that as an individual you are a single and separate entity but as part of a family, a society, a nation or the world, your existence is vast and imposing. Your thoughts and feelings, deeds and reflections are without limits. The ideals of Tirthankar Mahavir, as well as those of Indian culture in general, are that we should not restrict ourselves to our own interests; we should think of the welfare of all. To help each other is life's purpose. Religion teaches us that all life is one. Religion lies in reuniting scattered humanity, awakening the inner selves of those around you and living with all on a basis of friendship and brotherhood.
To realise the ultimate truth, you have to have a thirst for it. Truth cannot be found until this thirst is awakened in you. After having knocked on the doors of many gurus, a wandering aspirant found that not one of them was yet past thinking in terms of heaven and hell, or of attaining an exalted position in the 'next-world'. Finally he knocked on the door of a guru who had come to the realisation of the truth. From inside the house he heard the question, "Who are you?" The searcher replied, "It is to find the answer to that question that I have worn out my shoes visiting countless gurus till finally I have come to you!" On noting the man's real thirst for the truth, the guru showed him the path of true knowledge. Without the key of the thirst for knowledge, the padlock of ignorance remains locked, and no ray of light can penetrate the gloom surrounding the soul. Thirst for knowledge is a prerequisite for gaining the truth.
Ahimsa in vritti means the uninterrupted flow of ahimsa from the depths of one's inner being. One who has an attitude of ahimsa from within can never hurt, distress or kill anyone or anything. This means that when our inner-being is suffused with ahimsa the espousal of himsa ceases to exist. This assimilation of ahimsa is not for the sake of gaining heaven, securing prestige and comfort in society or for the family. One whose consciousness is imbued with ahimsa simply cannot commit a violent or harmful act, even if he forfeits his life in the process. For him ahimsa has become part of his nature. 'I should love my enemies,' no longer needs to remain a principle for him; it has actually been realised as he has no enemies left. He does not need to say that we should all love one another because he has nothing but love for others within him. This is ahimsa in vritti in its all-pervading and eternal form.
You say, "How long should we continue doing good for others? Kindness too has its limits. For our part we go on helping people, but they keep on returning evil for good. Therefore we too have given up doing good. "Then I say, "As the others have not yet put a limit on their doing evil, why do you put a limit on your doing good? If evil can be without limits, the same must hold true for good." In actual fact evil does have limits but goodness knows no bounds!
Time is eternally fresh because it moves forward every moment; every instant something new appears. Man, however, stays as he is; he seems reluctant to move forward. This is what is called going towards death. On the contrary, life means going onwards together with Time. There should not be the slightest gap between life and Time. This involves being able to catch the fleeting moment, an ability given only to a few enlightened individuals. One who lets Time slip by, allows death to take over. Only when the individual keeps pace with Time does he realise what life is.
From time to time situations arise in life that appear small and insignificant, but in reality they are very important. People should be careful to examine events properly. There is no individual who is worthless or insignificant in the entire universe. Things may seem petty but pettiness is only perceived, not real. The person who appears ordinary and less effective in doing things today, may turn out to be of use to others and even extraordinary tomorrow. Don't neglect anyone or treat them with contempt. Be affectionate and helpful to as many people as you can. It is possible that a small service performed by you today might be a big help to others and what is more, it might turn out to be an important event in years to come.
Source : "The Jains Through Time"
Veerayatan's Silver Jubilee A Commemoration-An English Translation of' Samay Ki Parto Mein' published to celebrate the Twenty-sixth Centenary of the birth of Tirthankara Mahavira
English Translation by Sadhvi Shilapiji
Published By : Veerayatan U. K. The Wentworth, Pinewood Close, Oxhey Drive South
Northwood, Middlesex HA63ET