Put You Energy Into Good Deeds
By Acharya Chandanaji
On this earth man is the centre of knowledge and action. When he moves forward on the path of knowledge, he can attain unparalleled heights. The soul that takes this journey enlightens itself and shows the way to thousands of other souls. What use is enlightenment that does not enlighten others? What use is a lamp or even a sun that does not illuminate others? The sun is full of light and the splendour of its rays lights up everything it touches.
We can only feel the light of the sun when we are in its presence, whereas the light of knowledge once kindled can continue to enlighten other souls for thousands of years. Action alone, however, remains limited. It can only inspire others at the time of its doing and in the presence of the doer, but if actions are supported by knowledge, they become powerful and influential. Though the realm of knowledge is autonomous, knowledge can't remain without karma. However, a person who attains final knowledge is not required to take any action as his final aim has already been achieved. This is when liberation is attained and the soul reveals its pure knowledge. But in the normal course of events, our actions should never remain unguided by knowledge. Actions without knowledge can be dangerous. It is like putting a gun or a stick in the hands of a blind man. He could use it to protect himself or it could be used to kill somebody. In fact both deeds and knowledge in the right balance are needed for life.
If you walk with your eyes open, you can walk steadily and reach your destination easily, but if you shut your eyes and then try to walk you might trip and fall. So whilst walking, it is important to keep your eyes open. Similarly, in our spiritual life and workaday world, we must have the same eye-limb co-ordination, we must have the right combination of knowledge and action in everything we do. Only then can we create the extraordinary in our lives.
The realm of our knowledge has still to be developed. We are not yet perfect and so the possibility of error arises. This incomplete knowledge can be dangerous. People who follow the path of attaining the final truth sometimes lose their way, and they think that they should abandon all action. They believe that because every action taken involves karmic consequences, their liberation will be prevented. Therefore, to do nothing seems much more attractive and to take action seems counter-productive. They say that since every action brings about karmic consequences that increase the cycle of birth and death, they feel that we should not take any action at all. People believe that they should do nothing, and that they should stay aloof from taking action whilst still remaining in the world. But one has to remember that without attaining perfect knowledge, even the 'inactive' commit deeds with karmic consequences; even thought brings karmic consequences. No one can live in this world without taking action. Tirthankar Mahavir says that so long as there is life, one has to engage in taking action.
To take action is to be alive! Life itself means action. To think otherwise is a denial of life itself. The Bhagavad Gita says no living thing in this world can continue to exist without taking action. It's a great mistake to ignore something as essential as this. Under the pretence of religion and in the pursuit of final knowledge, the belief that one's actions bind one to karmic consequences has flourished. Some people decide to do nothing, hoping that this will prevent them being 'bound' in any way. And this inaction has become a religion in itself. It obscures the light of true religion. Though this sort of thing happens all the time in the name of religion, in actual fact it reduces the status of religion.
How are we going to carry out the simple tasks of life if we decide to do nothing. Where there is life, there are things to do, such as building a house, preparing food and looking after other bodily necessities. In doing these tasks some act of violence or hurt of some kind is bound to happen. Some people feel that since these actions involve violence, they destroy the purity of our souls and bind us with negative karma. This misinterpretation confuses people about religion.
How will we live if we stop taking action or cease to do things for ourselves? Generally the answer to this question is that we must not do anything ourselves or we will be committing a violent act. Someone else should prepare food for us, sew our clothes, build our houses, publish our books, arrange for our security, commit acts of violence for us. I would then ask: Do we escape from sin if another person does everything for us? Will the doer alone reap the guilt of sin while the beneficiary of the deed remains free from karmic consequences? No. We cannot place the rifle on someone else's shoulder, take aim ourselves, pull the trigger and then let them take the blame. This type of specious argument has given rise to many ridiculous observances or so-called traditions within the fold of religion.
This one-sided view shows a complete lack of understanding. It has brought us into disrepute. How can we expect others to do things we won't do ourselves. What is wrong is wrong, whether you do it or someone else does for you. It is against morality and the teachings of Tirthankar Mahavir to get someone else to do on your behalf any action that you don't want to do yourself. One does not escape the karmic consequences of the actions in that way. In fact, the karmic consequences will be compounded.
Those who are on the path of knowledge, are respected in society, and behave decently, should remain more active in their lives and do good deeds. When Tirthankar Mahavir was asked whether it is better to be active or to do nothing, he replied, "Those who are good and pure should be active. They should arm themselves with knowledge and experience in order to fight evil in society." If the good do not do something, the bad certainly will, and their actions will make society suffer. Power will pass into the hands of those who are not guided by compassion or discretion. Individuals, society and finally the nation will suffer if the power is handed over to these people.
It is not right for people to strive to do nothing. The good should do more. Pure hands should be powerful hands. Decent people should enhance their capacity to do good. Those who seek the truth should further develop their capacity for doing things for others. They must serve society and spread the light of their knowledge. By battling against the evils that afflict society, they can purify it and raise it to a higher plane. Seers have shown us this through the ages:
Asangihiya Parijanassa Sanginhanayee
Gilanassa Agilanayae Veyavacca Karanayae
Always be ready to give relief or protection to those who are oppressed and afflicted. Always be ready to serve the sick and suffering. In this way knowledge enters the realm of action and creates a very special path to liberation called 'karma-yoga'. The truly knowledgeable will never stay inactive or be passive bystanders while society remains plagued by evils.
The biographies of the Tirthankars are vividly depicted in the Jain Agamas. The chronicles of their lives dramatically illustrate the fact that they were, all 'karmayogis' in the true sense of the word. They were detached from the results of their actions, but they were certainly not indifferent to the actions themselves. They were not motivated by the slightest personal consideration, yet they continuously performed great humanitarian deeds. Having attained Keval-gyan (the final knowledge), there was nothing more for them to achieve. Once they gained the thirteenth level of gunasthanak (the ladder of spiritual development), they achieved liberation from the chain of cause and effect - the cycle of birth and death. They had reached the heights of their spiritual purification, yet they continued to teach, to practice asceticism, to establish religious orders, to initiate aspirants, to instruct them and speak on doctrinal matters. They were ready to travel hundreds of miles to counsel people in need of instruction. These great sages and seers are an example of dynamic action and good works. They are role models for society, the Jain congregation in particular, of how to do good for others in a natural way. If there is a decline in doing good, evil will prevail. If the good do not act, the bad will. If the religious isolate themselves, the irreligious will proliferate. Society will be plagued by violence, viciousness, corruption and injustice.
Nowadays thousands of people have taken to the cloister, preferring a contemplative existence. They are doing nothing and they are dependent on others. To live on the labour of others is to impose an unwarranted burden on society. In the name of religion and sacrifice, thousands of monks and nuns are choosing this way of life. People are repulsed by the very name of sacrifice. Suspicion replaces trust, disillusion replaces inspiration, and disapprobation replaces respect for religion.
In this scientific age people will not accept religious teachings without question. They want to approach religion in a logical and respectful manner. They want to test things with their own reasoning faculties, rather than simply taking them on trust. They say: 'If you're a seer, a religious person, why don't you teach us by your own example? You know the right path but instead of going down it yourself, you keep urging us to take it. Why don't you perform seva, or do the good deeds that you keep telling us to do? Wouldn't the good deeds be that much more holy, effective and inspirational if undertaken by you? Your countless scriptures will remain useless until you yourself do something to show their effectiveness. The impact of one good deed performed by your own hands will be able to create the effect that many hours of preaching from the scriptures will not. Thousands of hands will then join you in your good works. Why don't you do something practical as well as preaching to us? Why do you stop there? Is it because you are a shraman and your code of conduct does not allow it? What is the meaning of the word shraman? Does it mean someone who works hard or does it mean someone who only preaches? If the practice of ahimsa is a good thing, if service to humanity is a good thing, giving knowledge to others is a good thing, and promoting vegetarianism is a good thing, then what is stopping you from doing all these good things?'
Today people are logical and independent thinkers. They want answers to these questions. Jainism promotes detachment from the actions you take. It does not preach the abandoning of those actions themselves. Tirthankar Mahavir said, Asam Ca Chandam Ca Gigince Dhire' - Wise people give up their desires and attachments yet continue to do good.
Jainism is about taking action. It is about finding fulfilment through one's good deeds. Tirthankar Rishabhdev, in this avsarpini kal (regressive half cycle), was the first promoter of purusharth - taking action. He first taught people how to work and then he instructed them in religion. In other words, work is essential. Deeds are indissolubly linked with life and creation. If along with the doing of deeds the mind is awakened by religious teachings, then those deeds become pure because they are being performed without any desire for reward in return. That alone makes them effective and inspirational. They become good deeds. As such deeds are emulated, goodwill spreads like a chain reaction. Actions performed with detachment do not bind, rather they open the door for liberation. If abstaining from action were sufficient to extinguish karmic consequences, then why were we asked to practice actions like fasting, meditation, rituals, charity and other such cardinal virtues? Why did we need to establish religious orders at all? At one time you could just go into the jungle and gain liberation through solitary meditation there, but Jainism has not accepted the abnegation of action as religion, rather it has asked us to keep a taste for doing things, whilst remaining detached from the results of our actions. Inaction must be given up and selfless work towards the good should be wholeheartedly embraced.
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
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