Chapter 4: SHRAMAN CULTURE
The message of Bhagwan Mahavir, the immortal deity of the Shraman culture is - win anger by forgiveness, pride by humility, delusion by straightforwardness and greed by satisfaction. Only when our love wins over hate, our inspiration over opposition, when our saintliness can bend villainy, can we be the real followers of Dharma and real human beings.
The serene voice of Shraman culture has been whispering in the minds of people for thousands of years. -- This priceless human life is not meant to wander into the dark lanes of the material world, or for squirming like worms in the dirty gutters of lusty pleasures. Oh man! The goal of life is you, your humanness, the humanness that is great and loftier than the lofty peaks of Himalayas. Are you going to go up and down the straying crooked path of desire for children, wealth and fame in this short-lived world? No! You are the traveller to that destination where, once you reach, no more walking remains.
The aim of this life is not to remain in a rest-house but to reach that border beyond which there is no road.
Today, people everywhere are giving victory calls for their own culture and society. This human world has in some way become crazy about the charming ideas of culture. There is a tug-of-war going on between various cultures and societies. But one question alone is enough to decide about which culture is superior provided it is answered honestly. The question is – “Is the basic idea of welfare and happiness of everybody being developed in your culture? Is an individual going from his attitude of his own survival to that of the world? Are the rays of hope going to shine in the darkness of frustration? Are efforts being made to raise the low level of physical and spiritual life of all creatures?” Your culture is undoubtedly superior if the answers to the questions, given from the bottom of your heart are in the affirmative. It is worthy by itself to gain the status of a world culture. Only the culture in this world that has great ideals, that supports a broad and liberal view in every aspect of life, and in which the progressive development of humanity actively reaches its highest limit can be crowned to occupy the golden throne of world culture.
The immortal ideal of Shraman culture is that happiness lies in giving and not in taking; what there is in sacrifice is not there in enjoyment.
Shraman culture believes in the sacred power of transforming a demon into a human being. Its ideal is not destruction but improvement. In its dictionary, penalty does not mean revenge but uplift. If the penalty is not backed by a feeling of compassion towards the offender, no intention of reforming him, in which there is only the cruel tendency to take revenge, that penalty is a sin but itself an offence. Should the cloth be destroyed if it becomes soiled? Soiled cloth is cleaned and made fit for wearing again. And man also becomes soiled by committing an offence. Therefore, he should be cleansed with a friendly attitude and turn him into a true man fit for serving people. Shraman culture behaves in a more kindly way towards an offender in the same way a sick person is treated. Offending is also a mental disease, therefore penalty should be such that it improves the offender, not destroy him.
There is no hand of any invisible power involved in the life of man. Man is not a toy in anybody's hands. He himself is a great independent power. He can transform himself, transform the society, transform the nation and transform even the universe. To turn hell into heaven is an ordinary play for man.
I am not afraid of socialism. My religion is the religion of the Shraman culture and its foundation is non-accumulation, which is another name for socialism.
The ideal of Shraman culture is to accept the minimum and give the maximum in exchange. In the Shraman culture, the basic perspective regarding the non-accumulation is: to reduce the scope of desire and needs, not to stock things beyond your needs, to pay attention to needs of food and clothing of others as you pay to your own, nay more than your own and to consider that the significance of life is not for yourself but for others.
Live and let live is the call given in the history of Shraman culture since millions of years. And that is exactly the call of today’s socialism. Yes, in today’s socialism horrible cries of violence, hate, use of force and class-wars are also included. It is our duty to remove the beastliness with which these cries are made and put forth the sweet sound of humanity with the strength of mutual cooperation and love. In today’s socialism where the sounds of hedonism are heard, where dictatorship raises its head under the name of the downtrodden, we will have to raise the voice of the principle of sacrifice and independent existence of man, and that will be the Indian version of socialism.
Sacrifice in the Jain religion is the sacrifice of desires. Jain religion does not demand that one should burn himself alive for the sake of sacrifice or drown himself in Ganga or Yamuna or jump from high mountain peaks or get frozen to death in snow. Tolerating hunger, thirst, cold, heat is not any sacrifice. Even convicts imprisoned in jail do that kind of sacrifice. But the real sacrifice is to get oneself freed from the trap of desires. For a sacrificer life and death are not important, but becoming free from desires is important.
Jain culture is a human culture. Reaching the extreme boundary of the development of humanity in all aspects is the timeless goal of the Jain culture. This is the reason why every word of the Jain literature is adorned and resounds with sanctity and superiority of human life.
Jainism is not the property of any particular individual caste or creed. It is the property of a person who adopts it with true feelings, no matter whether he is a Brahmin or a Shudra, a Hindu or a Muslim, a resident or India or of somewhere else. All people have equal right over Jainism.
Jain religion is a religion of humanity. It inspires one to follow the path of humanity. And what is that humanity? It is the art and worthiness in man to become a human being and to live as one.
Jain culture is an endeavour-oriented culture. Its message for hopeless, frustrated persons is, “Why are you singing the songs of destiny? What is destiny? Destiny is the present effect of past achievements. Get out of this involvement with destiny and do something, achieve something, or else it will be an unbearable burden that crush man to the dust.
Every man has equal share in all the means of enjoyment in this world. No single person, caste, community or nation can claim to own them. It is possible to create the heaven of continued peace on this earth only by proper and just distribution of everything. While distributing, we should consider every man to be our real brother, both in thought and in practice. It is a great sin, a great offence to eat alone. Bhagwan Mahavir has said, “Many may be liberated in this world, but one who does not distribute is never liberated.”
What kind of humanity and justice is it when our brother remains without food and clothes? We eat, wear and accumulate means of pleasure more than necessary and sit on it like a cobra with opened fangs. Accumulating beyond needs makes a demon out of man. And reducing our needs and sharing the means of pleasure with others whenever possible, is humanity of high standards. This humanity is the foundation of this world.
Non-violence in the Jain religion is so subtle and so great that some people think its practice to be impossible and impracticable. But is it really so? The Chinese professor Tan-yan-sen while refuting the above erroneous understanding of the path of Jain non-violence has said that this path appears unattainable because humanity has not been able to progress that much. When humanity progresses sufficiently and reach a very high level, then all people will consider non-violence to be practicable and respectable, and integrate it in their lifestyles. The voice of Bhagwan Mahavir, the icon of non-violence, is resounding in these words of the Chinese saint in which he said that – ‘See yourself as the soul present in all creatures.’
Jain religion is a religion of the attitude of detachment. Therefore where is the place for it in today’s sectarian prejudices and attitudes? How can one who is not attached even to his body, become attached to the sectarian signs and markings put on the body? Religion is related to the soul, it is neither in the body nor in the external markings on it. Then where is the relevance of a Mutt, temple or a mosque?
Jainism is another name for life’s endeavours. It advises us to endeavour in such a way that while you make efforts by spiritual exercise to remove the imperfections from the soul, you also make at the same time efforts to eradicate the shortcomings and maladies of the society, to stop injustice and oppression and to establish peace.
It is not a sin to strongly oppose oppression and destroy it. On the other hand it is the sacred duty. There is no sin when a sacred resolve exists at the base of every struggle.
In the Jain religion every creature has an equal right. There are no restrictions of any kind based on nationality, caste or lineage. What right have we got then to bind a religion of the people and of the world within the perimeter of particular nationality, caste or tradition? Religion, like the breeze, should touch everything.
Oh human being! Your truth is not outside but inside you. You are the living God. Examine yourself a little. Then whatever you wish will happen.
Who is that maker of destiny whose help you are seeking? Can anyone other than yourself make your destiny? Who can turn over the pages of your life as he likes? You stand on your own feet and you march ahead on your own feet. Only your own feet can take you to your goal. You will become what you think. Both heaven and hell are within you. In the language of philosophy, good thoughts are called heaven and low thoughts are called hell.
According to the Jain religion, soul is different from the body, the organs and even the mind and the intellect. Whatever it may be it is beyond the pile of this earth (i.e. the body). It is birthless even after taking birth, and immortal even after death.
Some people consider soul as a part of the Supreme Soul or God. But it is not part of anything, not any spark from the Supreme Soul. It is completely by itself the Supreme Soul, pure soul. Today, it is dependent, helpless, unconscious, but when it will cut through the blinds of temptations, delusion and ignorance, destroy them and be separate from them, it will shine in its complete form of the Supreme Soul. The infinite formless flame will sparkle within it.
Knowledge by itself does not have any meaning. Importance of knowledge lies in the development of the strength of character. An Indian sage has said that, “Those who worship knowledge only for the sake of knowledge reach darkness.”
You complain that nobody appreciates you, that nobody bothers about you. What is the use of quarrelling with people and complaining about them? First make yourself worthy. Then whatever you desire will happen. A precious stone has to prove its worth first, and then the shining throne in a gold ring automatically becomes ready for him.
In the deep abyss of mountain where nobody can reach, a rose bloomed. I asked, “Why did you bloom here? There is nobody to see or smell you. What is the use of your being here after all?”
It answered – “I bloom because that is my nature, not because somebody may come and see me and smell me. I am going to bloom whether somebody sees or not.”
I started thinking within myself, “Will man be able to learn from nature this lesson in action without desire for the fruit?”
Sun and moon shine for giving light to the world. Trees flower and give fruits for making others happy. Rivers flow with sweet water for quenching the thirst of others and make them feel cool. Will man learn to live for others?
There is a way of recognising if you can, whether or not the inner sentiments are becoming apparent and getting developed. You are in the light of inner sentiments when you are not in anger but in forgiveness, not in ego but in humility, not in illusion but in straightforwardness, not in greed but in satisfaction. That sacred moment is the moment of experience of Godliness for you.
Those who set fire are destined to receive fire. And those who wield the sword are destined to get only the sword. How can a person who spreads thorns in the path of others get a bed of flowers? Only he who spreads flowers will get the bed of flowers.
Principle of action is a principle of courage and adventure. When we suffer as a result of our own earlier bad deeds then we are able to bear them with great tolerance and courage. Whom can we blame for our own deeds? And the belief that if we do good deeds in this life then the rest of our life and the life in the next birth will be happy, gives us a new inspiration for doing good deeds. And in the same way, when we believe that other people also have to suffer because of their bad deeds in earlier life and fall prey to bad habits, then instead of feeling hate and enmity towards them, compassion naturally develops and we become enthused to do the good deed of removing the sorrows of others.
No one knows how many sinful deeds, how many crimes, injustices and oppressions man commits in the name of God or His messengers because he thinks he has a protector. But then why should he be fearful? Jesus has said –“I am suffering on the cross in order to uplift sinners of this earth.” Muslim religion says—“When God will judge all souls on the judgement day He will ask Mohammed sitting nearby, ‘Tell me, what is your opinion?’ And whoever Mohammed recommends will be free from his crimes.” And whom will he recommend? Him, who is faithful to God and Paigambar. Krishna has also said in Gita, “Do not worry in any way, I shall free you of all sins.”
Mahavir and Buddha, the proponents of the Shraman Culture, are the only great persons in the world who do not give any such improper promise. They have said that, “Neither God nor his messengers can free you from the sins. You must enjoy or suffer for whatever deeds you have done. Only your own untainted behaviour can protect you.”
This ideal of the principle of actions in the Shraman culture inspires a seeker, a sincere devotee, to save himself not from the fruits of sins but from sins themselves. Because, if you do bad deeds then you will surely get their fruits, and if you do not want the fruits to be bitter then do good deeds, not bad deeds.
Actually, everything is a binding for the soul as long as it looks outwards. When it looks for some friend outside, then along with a friend, he will get many enemies too. But there will be neither a friend nor an enemy outside when, by becoming introspective, it sees itself within itself in the form of a friend. All the outside friends and enemies will appear to be imaginary. The divine message of Shraman Bhagwan Mahavir is, “Oh man! You are only your own friend, why do you wish to go outside?”