Whenever I saw the column for religion in the application forms for institutions and examinations, a thought often came to my mind – is it necessary for a person to be a Jain, a Buddhist, an orthodox, a Muslim or a Christian? Can it not happen that we are none of these and yet we remain human beings? In order to delineate humanity, man has defined certain frames of reference and tried to fit the entire humanity in them. But one really notices that the stream of humanity has never been bound within any frames. Humanity cannot survive with the help of any frames. On the contrary, the frames survive with the help of humanity. It has been said in the Upanishads that Brahman, even after occupying the earth and the sky, extends ten fingers up and above them. This is also true for humanity and truth.
It also holds true for literature. When any new composition is put before us we try to classify it within the framework of philosophy, scripture, poetry, history etc. We forget the drops that show their independent existence by not flowing along any particular stream, and therefore remain purer than all the streams. We think that by counting the branches of a tree we have understood the whole tree. We forget the root from where the branches sprout continuously.
Amarvani is that scriptural composition which cannot be separated from the traditions like Jain and Buddhist etc. It is that divine message of humanity that cannot fit into any particular frame. It is that literature which cannot be counted as belonging to any of the current streams. It is that drop which does not like to flow with any stream. It is that branch of the tree from which many other branches sprout.
Amarvani is a complete collection of the thoughts constantly occurring in the mind of a saint. People who like to reach the end of the path holding somebody else’s finger all along, who cannot use their own eyes, may find shortcomings in Amarvani. But those who expect only guidance, who hope only for a lamp to help them tread in the dark, will find everything in it.
When a thinker rises above the role of learning to reach that of experience, such immortal sentences are born. In the first part of the book, there are a large number of such isolated sentences but they touch life in such a way that they can be considered to be greater than large volumes. They are complete in themselves. Even the biggest books appear small in comparison. Even if the branches, leaves etc. of a large banyan tree are gathered together, the seed has always a more important position. Amarvani is a collection of such seeds.
Upadhyaya Amarmuni is a saint, poet and a mature critic. He is not only a creator of arrangement of words, but a creator of society and religion too. Whatever truth he has experienced using his fine insight, has been presented in this collection.
He says – “There is a fundamental question before man as to how, in the history of the universe, he can make this short transient life span of his to be full of Truth, Purity and Beauty.” Will man who endeavours madly to satisfy his arrogant lust, try to understand this question? The day he tries to understand this, it will be the first dawn of the welfare of the universe.
From ancient times two methods have been used to establish world peace. One is to quieten the strong by showing them the attraction of money, wealth, and lusty pleasures and to quieten the weak by showing them the sword. But this never led to peace. The real remedy for peace is to reduce your own needs and satisfy those of the others. If a mound of earth uses itself to fill the nearby pit then it need not fear the storms. This is the true path of peace.
“Man has searched the profound depth of the ocean, has climbed the highest peak of the Himalayas, measured the boundaries of the sky and the underground, dissected the atom, but he could not observe himself. He could not observe his neighbour. He who sees new stars through the telescope could not notice the crumbling huts of his neighbour. He who travelled to the moon could not step into the dark lanes hidden behind his mansions. Should this be called a progress or decay”? The darkness is asking for a reply for this from man.
“Today’s temple is not a place of worship of God but his prison. Today’s mosque is not a place of prayer to Allah but his prison. Break the walls of these prisons. Let God and Allah breathe freely. Worship them by making them seat on the seat of your heart.” What an appropriate blow on sectarianism!
While the author criticises the scientists, he does not also leave the philosophers entangled in the web of the dry problems of logic. Listen – “Oh philosophers! Read also the book of these hungry people filled with chapters of hunger, poverty and want. Before solving the riddle of God and the universe, try to solve the riddles of this book first”
While showing the path of the welfare of the world, Upadhyayaji brings forth a new proclamation - “Therefore, every man and woman of India must seriously think every morning and evening that there is no difference between man and man, every man has equal right to develop his own life. The basic proclamation of humanity is to live and let live. End the “I” and make “we” so large that the whole world is included in that.” Then he says – “Become an ocean, not a drop.” The life of a drop is most ordinary, but by being one with the ocean the same drop becomes eternal. From time immemorial sun’s rays have been trying to dry it but the ocean is as full as it was in the beginning.
The basic mantra of the Jain spiritual practice is “Samaic” or the worship of equality. Using its different definitions Munishri has commented about all aspects of advancement of life. Equality in inner and outer life is everything for a religion; and the basic mantra for success is to maintain the balance of mind in both favourable and unfavourable circumstances; the mantra for duty is to advance towards your goal while maintaining the sense of equality towards both friend and enemy, as has been extensively presented through Bhagwan Krishna in Gita. It is more difficult to maintain the balance in misery than in happiness. A person may acquire, through sacrifice and penance, strength and accumulate power. But examples are seen in history, of how the same person loses balance after gaining a high position of power and as result of which he becomes dull and incapable. The fall of Ravana to the fall of Congress today are the manifestations of this historical truth.
Upadhyayaji says in plain words, -- “Our beautiful future depends upon mutual brotherhood. Peace and benefit will develop on this vast earth to the extent the brotherly feeling develops among human groups living in different corners of the world.”
The tradition of India is to be realistic. Here truth is not a matter of idealism but is a shining pillar of reality. It is auspicious as well as inauspicious. Merit is also truth and sin is also truth. The divine wealth is also truth and demoniacal wealth is also truth. Thus, only truth cannot be acceptable. Therefore Munishri tells that truth is acceptable only when it is accompanied with purity.
While explaining about the nature of non-violence he says – “Non-violence is the heart of spiritual practices. If that is working than spiritual practice is alive, otherwise it is dead.” His non-violence is not inert but active – “A sword can force a man to bend his body but not his mind. If you want to bend the mind and gain control over it then use the weapon of love.” While quoting this sentence of Jesus Christ Munishri has expressed in a single sentence the essence of both Christian and Jain religions.
While interpreting what life is he says, - “Life is nothing but a march.” It may be an individual or a society, a religion or nation, whoever is marches ahead keeping pace with time is the one who is alive. When it stops, it is death. If one has to be successful in life then take faith, love and intellect with you then you will find pleasure in every task. The whole world will become interesting. You will get pleasure in fighting against difficulties. Then the question of failure will not arise. This is the basic mantra of success.
Man wishes fame before becoming successful and that is his mistake. Fame is the fruit associated of success, just as husk is with wheat. If one grows wheat then he will automatically get husk too. But if you want to get only husk then all efforts will be unsuccessful.
Man experiences difficulties after having been defeated by inequalities and struggles of life. If you wish to experience oneness with all of them then you must set yourself the habit of looking from a higher position. By climbing the Kutubminar of spiritual life Munishri has experienced this very thing. That is the basic mantra of the experience of unity – to witness from a distance with neutral attitude.
Grass is always afraid of fire but gold has no such fear. It becomes brighter after going through fire. After a lot of hammering and melting, it takes the most beautiful form. What an appropriate message for human life! Resolution is a necessary part of the progress of life, but only when it is completely observed. By making resolution and breaking it in the face of slightest unfavourable circumstances suggests hollowness. To make a resolution and to stick with it is the great principle of life.
The affairs of life go on give-and-take basis. Taking without giving is exploitation, giving without exploitation is godliness. In humanity, both are in balance. It is business to serve the cow and get milk from it. Taking without giving is atrocity.
There are two tunes of the music of life – “Hardness and softness. He who knows how to use these two properly can only bring out sweet sounds.”
He announces from the bottom of his heart, -- “If you are not able to make anybody laugh do not make him or her cry at least! If you cannot bless anybody, at least do not curse anybody.”
To those who run away considering the worldly affairs to be a poison, he tells, – “Running away is not the art of life, it is cowardice. Art converts poison into nectar. Turning poison into nectar is art. If the poison in arsenic is eliminated then the same becomes a lifesaving medicine8 ”
In the language of Munishri, the meaning of life is not just breathing, the meaning of life is to let others experience your existence. This experience cannot be given by erecting piles of bricks and stones or by exploitation. The remedy for this is to learn to breathe for others. Everybody breathes for himself but one who breathes for others is the one who is alive.
“One who is a slave to passions is a beast. One who is in the process of conquering passions is a human being. One who has conquered passions to a large extent is a god and one who has conquered passions completely and permanently is the God of Gods.” How clear and inspiring is the above order of the development of life?
Addressing man he says- “Oh human being! Your right extends only up to doing your duty - not to its fruits. Why don’t you worry as much about duty as you worry for fruits? ” Man will be free of difficulties the day understands this.
While indicating the goal of human life he drumbeats the immortal truth — “The aim of human life is sacrifice and not enjoyment, benevolence not pleasure. The ideal of lust and enjoyment is always dangerous and will continue to remain so.” The advice is old but when has man heard it so far?
Munishri is completely confident -- “Oceans flow below ground, streams spring out below the boulders; in the same way the vast ocean of humanity is hidden below the selfish human mind. What is needed is to only dig a little and see.”
If a drop quenches the thirst of even a dust particle then it is successful and fortunate. The secret of success is not owning but in renouncing. Renunciation is not big or small.
What is the difference between an inferior and a superior man? While giving an answer to this question, he states a criterion. Inferior man is given to talking, he talks more and works less. Superior man has more of action; he works more and talks less.
Superior man While showing the path of greatness, he says – “The path of greatness does not pass through the garden filled with flowers and fruits. It passes through thorny shrubbery, over the hills and through storms. It is that path where death, failures and horrible torture challenge every moment. And when you reach your goal, may be what you get is only thorns. A philosopher has said that every great man is meant to be stoned. That is what is written in his destiny.”
Ordinary men are moulded by the environment. But a superior man moulds the environment. He is not created by the time and circumstances, on the other hand, it is he that creates the time and circumstances. A superior man means “The creator of an era”.
In the Jain tradition, superior persons do not descend from above. It is only the man who becomes a superior person through labour and spiritual exercise. It is only the soul that becomes a superior soul by bringing out his own form. He expresses this by saying, “ A complete, healthy development of humanness is the highest level of God.”
How deep is the interpretation of the term superior person – “Great man is he for whom public service without expectations of any returns is the soul of his life. Public is the deity he worships. The foundation of his life is to live as a servant. History of his life is brightened by nothing but the righteous practice of non-violence and truth. Such a great man is that glowing pillar of truth that illuminates the humanity gone astray wandering in the dark even after thousands of years of his death. He is the greatest sculptor of people.”
Now listen to the ideal of Mahadeo. – “All people are worried about drinking nectar. But I wish to have eternal youth and become immortal by taking a sip of poison. I don’t want bed of flowers but a path of thorns.”
People who come in the way of advancement of the individual and the society are those who have no capability to make others follow them and who themselves do not like to follow others. He has this message for them – “Either follow others or let others follow you. You have to do one of the two.”
Opportunity does not make an individual great, but the individual makes the opportunity great. It is the task of a shellfish to make a pearl out of a drop of water. The same drop fallen somewhere else is purely water and nothing else. The moment becomes a great moment when some bright person has caught it and turned it into an auspicious moment for blooming his life, otherwise it is merely a negligible part of the infinite flow of time. While placing the essence of the above principle before the non-doers, who sit waiting for an opportunity, he writes, --
“Ordinary men remain in search of an opportunity to show their own importance. Their whole life passes thus but they do not get that opportunity to do and show some important work.
But in the case of great people opportunities come to them by themselves. Not only that, they use even the smallest, unimportant opportunity turning it into a big one. Every moment of life is an important opportunity if you are able to use it for some important work.”
People think that youth and old age are related to the body. But in reality, one sees that this understanding of theirs is wrong. – Weakness of mind is more horrible than that of the body. Youth is nothing but the ever-new waves of joy and that occur in the mind and not in the body.
While giving inspiration to accomplishers, he says that, “If you awaken the forces within you then the whole world is within one step. If you want you can change hate into love, darkness into light, death into life, in other words you can transform hell into heaven.”
Spiritual Efforts --- Inspiring a seeker to progress on a proper path, he says, “Attaining Supreme Brahman is your birthright. There is no power in this world that can take away that sacrosanct right.”
Spiritual efforts are lifeless without faith. Whatever difference there is between Shiva (holy) and Shava (corpse) the same difference is between spiritual efforts with faith and without faith. The first is Shiva and the second is Shava. In Jain tradition, the beginning of spiritual efforts starts with a complete faith.
The manner in which the survival of the body depends upon breath is, life continues as long as there is breath and if breath stops it is death. In the same way, spiritual life depends upon faith. “Confidence is life while lack of confidence is death. Confidence is the greatest force in human life. A very confident person never loses, never tires, never fails, and never dies. Confidence by itself is a timeless medicine.” … “To keep confidence in self is to keep confidence in God. One who has no confidence in himself is weak, a coward and does not find refuge anywhere. Even the innumerable gods in heaven cannot make a weak minded person stand on his feet.”
While interpreting ideals, he writes, -- “Ideal person is he who descends into depths of life and behaves with tough determination.” The ideal, which becomes only a dogma, does not come down into practice in life. It does not matter whether it is there or not.
While discussing the lack of faith, -- “The mind of a faithless mistrustful person is like a dark well where snakes, scorpions and God knows how many poisonous insects continue to breed.” In reality faith is that lamp which drives all these poisonous insects away. They thrive only on lack of faith.
While speaking about faith, Munishri does not forget logic. He says that --“Where faith is without logic it pushes one into the dark well of ignorance while logic without faith makes one wander into the desert of meaningless doubts and counter doubts. Therefore limit of faith must be set on logic and limit of logic on faith.”
From time immemorial, man has been worshiping outside deities. He has not learnt to worship the deity of soul, which is present within himself. Musk deer wanders in the jungle searching for its own fragrance and gets tired but it does not find the source of the fragrance. In the same way, man–deer also searches outside for the power and fragrance in his soul, searches the jungle, breaks his head on the stones, prays in madness and even then remains dissatisfied and disappointed. Munishri addresses with message of worship of the soul deity. How pertinent the message is, should be read in the Amarvani itself.
“Devotion does not mean servility or slavery. The meaning of devotion means the experience of unity and inseparability with the deity of worship”.
Meaning of study is not just study of books. Its real meaning is studying oneself; man should leave the books and try to understand himself. For the present day scientists he tells, “Real knowledge is not the discovering of the secrets of nature, but in analysing the secrets of own life, scrutinising and judging them.”
Shraman Culture -- All nations, religions and societies are busy singing the songs of their own culture. But it is worth thinking whether the gentlemen who blow the trumpets of their own theism should be called decent or indecent, civilised or uncivilised. The foundation of culture is, “For the good and happiness of all.” Culture is the means for the happiness and welfare of the largest number of people. If this feeling is not there then there is no meaning in blowing the trumpet. The immortal idea of culture is – Expressing happiness by giving rather than taking.
Shraman culture does not desire anybody’s destruction. In fact, it desires to make man out of a demon and God out of man. This is what has been called external soul and supreme soul in Jain spiritual practice.
Munishri, in “Jainism and Shraman Culture” has explained the secret of Jain tradition and religion. Jain religion does not believe in casteism. Here the door of advancement is open for every man. Not only that, it is open even for animals. It has never given importance to sectarianism. Every person, whatever may be his dress, whatever name he may called by, whatever kind of ritual he may be performing and whoever he may be bowing to, if he conquers desire, evil thoughts, anger and enmity then he is a Jain
The main inspiration of Jain religion is in achieving identification of his soul with God (i.e. becoming Soul-God or “Atma-deva”). Of course, the soul of every individual is full of infinite knowledge, infinite philosophy, infinite bliss and infinite strength. That is what is the Supreme Soul (Paramatma). Every individual should worship only this Soul-God. You get everything once you know Him and expose His real form by removing the external dirt settled on it. Then there is no more need to wander here and there.
While telling about the inevitable flow of karma, he says that –“Those who set fire are destined to receive only fire. And those who wield the sword are destined to get only sword. How can a person who spreads thorns in the path of others get a bed of flowers?” Will the politicians who make atom bomb and hydrogen bomb learn this moral?
The religion was established on this earth for the welfare of every creature. But in the name of the very same creatures, man has shed the blood of not only animals and of men also. Not only that, calling the despicable killing of man as religious war he caused rives of blood to flow. The ideals of the religious establishment are full of high feelings, but history is bloody and pages of that history are being written even today. Munishri is saying, -- “To realise oneself in all creatures of the world is the greatest of all the religions.” Will leaders of all religions of the world accept this interpretation? Not by ideals or by preaching but by actual practice?
What is religious practice? To give the form of ocean to the drop of love in the mind of man. He says in clear words, --“Religion that spreads with the help of sword cannot be a religion. And the religion that grows in the blinding temptation for the glitter of gold and silver is also not religion. Real religion is that which rises above fear and temptation and touches the loftiest feelings of sacrifice, friendship and love in all aspects.” But the Jain followers of Mahavir are also trying to nurture the religion in the glitter of gold and silver. Will they hear the above call?
There is only one slogan for religion -- “We are extinguishers of fires, what do we know about setting fires?” The religion, which does not have this slogan, is not a religion.
While explaining the meaning of religion, he asks man, “Oh man! What does your religion teach you? Does it teach you to show the way to people who have gone astray? Does it teach you to behave with everybody with equality, brotherhood and love? Does it teach you to set yourself in the service of and for the welfare of the poor and the distressed? Does it teach you extinguish the fire of hate and enmity? If it is so then you install such religion on the throne of your heart! Worship it! It is only this kind of religion that can benefit the world. If you have to give even your life for spreading such a religion then do so! And do so with a smile!!”
Sin gives a warning before coming. One experiences a kind of fear or shame in the mind. If we learn to listen to that warning then we can be saved from sin to a great extent.
While telling about the basic cause for social conflicts he says, “The basic cause of today’s sorrows, trouble and conflicts is that man wishes to put his own burden on others instead of taking it upon himself.”
He explains the secret of the interlinks within the society as follows. --- “The entire human race is sailing in the same boat. Here everybody has the same advantage and disadvantage. Either everybody reaches across or everybody drowns. … Human race will get ruined if it bows to individual selfishness. There is no alternative to rising above individual selfishness.” The situation at present is that the individual sitting in one corner of the boat wants that the person sitting in the other corner should drown and for this he tries to put a hole in that other corner. He should understand that wherever the hole may be, the entire boat would sink, not one corner alone. The entire human society is a body. Irrespective of which of its part has the disease, it is the whole body that has to suffer.
He tells the jewellers of the sangh, “Oh jewellers! You have been wandering like madmen for many days thinking the stones and pebbles to be really jewels. Now appraise these living diamonds in human forms a little. It is sad that you remained busy appraising the lifeless stones and pebbles. Who knows during that time how many priceless jewels went to dust.”
“To take active part in making a leader is better than to become a leader and it is very dignified.”
While drawing attention to the current advancement in science –“What did man achieve by cutting open the chest of nature with the sharp knife of science? Nothing but poison. He went in search of nectar but returned with poison.”
Drawing attention to Indian woman, the statement made by Munishri is so apt, “Indian woman is an attractive idol of tapas and sacrifice, the living image of peace and restraint. She is the shining star of humanity in the world surrounded by darkness. She goes around carrying the deep ocean of forgiveness, kindness, compassion, tolerance and love in every atom of her heart. She gives away nectar in return for poison. She spreads flowers in return for thorns.”
I wish that I could take every string of Amarvani and explain it in detail. Coming from heart, its every sentence touches life. But the danger in explaining is that it can reach a limit somewhere. When man tried to explain the inner principles such as the soul, religion, life, love etc., what was the result? They were buried within the wails of tradition and sect. Efforts to limit the limitless take it towards death. One can really see that explanations are for those people who do not wish to understand but only to debate. The basic statement itself is sufficient for those who have the desire to understand. How does a raindrop falling in the mouth of a shellfish at the time of Swati star develop into a pearl? For this it is not sufficient to understand only the drop but it is equally necessary to understand Swati also. In the same way the strings of life become by themselves commentaries when heart is pure. Commentaries have no effect on impure heart. I think that the effort to understand these strings should be through actual thinking and contemplation, not through commentaries and notes. The tradition of commentaries and notes will create a flood of sectarianism on all sides and it will suffocate in it.
Some repetitions may be noted at a few places in Amarvani and in some places some small contradictions too. But one thinks by keeping the various aspects of life before him then their presence will be seen to be necessary.
The Tajmahal made from patchwork is beautiful but the streams filled automatically by the Himalayas are far more beautiful. One is lifeless and the other has life in it. Artificial literature and literature that has come out like a natural exhalation have also the same difference between them. According to the standards laid down by the pundits, the second type of literature is not fault-free. But meaning of life itself is imperfection. Perfection occurs in ideals, not in real life. Life will end as soon as perfection comes in it. Life is synonymous with motion and perfection is the end of motion.
It is said that when Shiva performed Tandava dance, fourteen principles automatically came out of his Damaru. These are the fourteen principles which became the original roots of etymology. It is said about Mahavir and Buddha that they did not speak after thinking, but words flowed by themselves from their mouth. Same thing has been said about the origin of the Vedas. That is Vedas are His breath. In this way we see that in every tradition, the origin of all branches of knowledge is the spark of inspiration. The same kind of inspirational flash is seen in Amarvani. The expression of a saint with heart of a poet coming in the field of literature is welcome.
Even the innumerable gods in heaven cannot make a weak minded person stand on his feet.
Those who set fire are destined to receive fire. And those who wield the sword are destined to get only sword. How can a person who spreads thorns in the path of others get a bed of flowers?
The basic cause of today’s sorrows, trouble and conflicts is that man wishes to put his own burden on others instead of taking it upon himself.
What did man achieve by cutting open the chest of nature with the sharp knife of science? Nothing but poison. He went in search of nectar but brought back poison.
The religion that has deviated from life is irreligion and its practice is a bad practice. Every tune of religion and its practice must resonate on the string of every breath of the veena of life.
Thinking is human and not thinking is beastliness. Thinking is the only thing that differentiates a man from a beast.
What is life? It is the conflict between mutually opposing typhoons. He, who remains firm in this conflict and marches ahead without going astray, is a tiger. All others are vultures.
A swan picks up pearls and a crow picks up spit. You decide what you want to be, a swan or a crow.