2.07 The Spirit of Compassion and the Role of Instrumentality

Published: 21.06.2010
Updated: 30.07.2015

Non-violence, Compassion and Instrumentality

A Jaina Perspective

Seminar organized by the Department of Jainology of the University of Madras,

13 and 14 February 2009

Chennai, India



2.07 The Spirit of Compassion and the Role of Instrumentality

Introduction - Non-Violence and Compassion

From ancient times in India, there has been an indigenous concern for respecting life and all life forms found both at the micro and macro level. This concern for life is the foundation stone of all civilized societies. In fact society is a group of persons who are bound by common goals to achieve them through insight, far-sight and foresight. Our self-realized, enlightened forefathers, the spiritual scientists who saw that all life is inter-dependent and intertwined first practiced and then propounded the great principle of non-violence which undoubtedly springs from compassion of the self and all other life. They revealed that all souls are potentially divine and godlike[1], they are qualitatively one[2] and quantitatively many.[3] They said that:

Jīva vaho appavaho, jīva dayā appaśo dayā hoi
Bhaktaparijñā (93)

i.e., killing any jīva is killing oneself and compassion of any jīva is compassion of oneself. The Sūtrakrtāṅga says that those who are not compassionate but injure others move from darkness to more darkness[4]. It is also said that a person who takes to violence can never be compassionate[5] and the vice versa holds true i.e., a person who is compassionate does not take to violence. Thus we see that non-violence and compassion are two facets of the same coin. Non-violence signifies the don’ts of a life where as compassion signifies the do’s of a noble life.

Meaning of compassion

The Oxford dictionary meaning of compassion is sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings of others. But in few Indian traditions it is observed that those who have becoming enlightened and liberated alone can practice the highest degree of compassion. Inner emotions associated with ahiṁsā are sahānubhuti, samvedanā, prema, vātsalya, ātmopamya, samatva, ātmiyatā, etc. and the external social activities associated with Ahiṁsā are karuṇā, dayā, sevā, maitri, kṣamā, namratā, muditā, mādhyasthā, sahayoga, sah-astitva (mutual co-existence), dāna (charity) paropakāra, etc. and you have the words like love, compassion, sympathy, pity etc. in English for the above terms occurring in Sanskrit / Hindi languages.

Although the heart of Jaina Scriptures is self-realization and themanifestation of pure potentiality and this indeed is the compassion of one’s own soul caught in the maze of birth and death. And this compassion for oneself should not be limited to one’s own self alone, and the knowledge of the same should be shared with all others so that they too are inspired to get rid of all their sufferings. The root cause of all sufferings is ignorance and hence imparting the knowledge to get rid of the suffering by striking at its roots is indeed the compassion of the enlightened Jinas. It is from this feeling of oneness that springs the following teachings of all religions:

  • People must live in harmony without harming others
  • Help the needy, the suffering and the downtrodden
  • ove others as you love one-self
  • Share whatever you get
  • Show love and compassion towards all beings

In Jaina faith, injury, abuse, insult, terror, violence, killing, etc. are thus not permitted in the name of God, Guru or Dharma. At any cost one ought to be instrumental in making others fearless of oneself and hence it is said that of all the gifts and charities the gift of fearlessness is the supreme one[6]. The Daśavaikalika Sūtra reveals that all living beings desire to live, none wants to die[7]. The Ācārāṅga Sūtra reveals that life is dear to all hence none should kill at any cost[8]. The seven sins according to Mahatma Gandhi are[9]:

  • Politics without principle
  • Wealth without work
  • Pleasure without conscience
  • Knowledge without character
  • Commerce without morality
  • Science without humanity
  • Worship without sacrifice

Hence the wise and the compassionate ones exert to lead a balanced and awakened life by maintaining harmony between body and life, wisdom and habits, self and society, purpose and method of life, and above all will and nature. It is said:

As irrigators lead the water where they want,
As archers make their arrows straight,
As carpenters carve the wood,
The wise shape their minds with a heart filled of compassion.

Essence of living and three A’s of Jainism

It is said that the essence of human birth is knowledge. [10] The essence of knowledge is righteous conduct and the essence of righteous conduct is nirvāṇa i.e., emancipation. [11] This righteous conduct or rational life-style which is governed by rational knowledge (samyak-jñāna) is a pre-requisite for realizing eternal bliss and happiness. By rational world-vision it is meant that you view all life forms as yourself and what you desire for yourself desire for them and what you do not desire for yourself do not desire for them. [12] Thus the key elements of the Jaina life-style are universal love for all beings, respecting all viewpoints and minimizing wants and possessions, and all these go to promote the spirit of compassion at various levels, be it at the spiritual, intellectual or environmental level. Universal love for all beings enables you to check attachment and hatred and inspires you to lead a life of equanimity with a detached attachment thus enabling you to be spiritual and also to unburden yourself of all the karmic conditioning caused by ignorance, delusion and perversion. When we respect the viewpoints of others and give them a patient hearing we master the art of listening and also promote social harmony and compassion at the intellectual level. When we minimize our wants and possessions we easily conquer our desires which are at the root of all other evils. We do not end up exploiting men and materials for our mundane pursuits as the highest pursuit of self-realization, self-purification and self-conquest has become vibrant in us.

Purpose of compassion

Compassion which springs from loving kindness enables us to realize ourselves and sustain the environment at large,it is said:

Dharmo rakṣati rakṣithaḥ [13]

I.e., dharma protects the one who protects dharma. In other words one who is compassionate towards all life forms will remain protected now and forever. The theory of cause and effect reveals that as you sow so you reap; what you give you are bound to get back. To liberate the soul from this law of cause and effect and to realize eternal bliss and happiness in liberation is the spiritual purpose of compassion of oneself. Permanent happiness or infinite bliss is the basic quality of the liberated soul, and every soul longs to be liberated to regain bliss. Until then, saṁsāra (the cycle of birth and death) is an unhappy and painful state. Jainas believe that liberation should be the ultimate goal of human life, and the goal is achievable through the Jaina path of self-purification, remarks Vastupal Parekh [14]. This path of purification begins with awareness followed by compassion of the highest order, reveals the Daśavaikālika Sūtra [15] (pahamam ṇāṇam tao dayā). It further says that the wise exert in a compassionate way after realizing that all souls are like his own-self.

How can an ignorant soul know which is the right path and the wrong one? Only after listening i.e., knowing the path of compassion and also that of violence terror and sin, does one choose according to his mundane conditioning and mindset. When we don’t look upon our lives critically and fail to tap our potential to control our destiny we continue to remain trapped in our own ignorance, perverted attitude and eternal suffering in the cycle of transmigration. In other words we become the cause of our downfall when we fail to love ourselves in the true spiritual way. True compassion is being happy and continuously experiencing the variety and infinity of qualities that make up our self. True compassion is the rich feeling of self-worth besides enjoying a creative and fulfilling life. This sprit of compassion enables to live with a sense of dignity and awareness with or without the external rewards that our culture touts as happiness. Material bounty may well be the byproduct of your spiritual bounty, but it won’t be your focus. [16] You’ll be better able to cope with the eventuality of change and loss of money, possession, employment relationships, appearance, and health for you have fine-tuned yourself (bahirātman) with your true self (antrātman) realizing the higher self (paramātman) vibrant in you and in all life forms. Thus through compassion of your self you master the art of right living and become an embodiment of all noble virtues that shall erase your animal instincts of eating, terrorizing, fighting; you then, nurture humanity and support humanistic way of life imbibing tolerance, forgiveness, humility, etc. and you simultaneously live in resonance with the highest goal of divinity.

Compassion and the Environment

The outward aspect of environment may be pollution, environmental degradation, climate change, global warming, natural disasters, etc. but the inward aspect which causes all these is a mind devoid of compassion. It is ideas in the minds of people that cause distractions and destruction of the world. A compassionate mind is spiritual, eco-friendly, humane, selfless, truthful, and pure in thought, word and deed and is devoid of lust and greed. On the other hand a polluted mind which is devoid of wisdom and compassion is materialistic, greedy, lustful, untruthful, and selfish and it ruthlessly takes to exploitation of natural resources for its own benefits. Man alone in responsible for sustaining himself as well as all others as sustainability has two major aspects - ecological and psychological. The ecological imbalances spring from false psychological and philosophical perceptions of the true compassionate self and not realizing it and tapping its true potential have made man tunnel-visioned, non-holistic, immoral, short-sighted and cruel. In the west people are trying to solve the problem of how much a man can possess and we are trying to solve the problem on how little a man can live, remarked Swāmī Vivekānanda. But history reveals that those who train themselves to live on the least and control themselves well, will in the end gain the battle. [17] Sustainable development which is the need of the hour can be realized only when compassion of the spiritual self is executed at the microcosmic level as well as at the macro-social level. Social life should be viewed holistically and spiritually for man to lead a compassionate life in the larger interest of mankind as well as the environment. When man fails to be compassionate he has an unsustainable relationship with the natural environment, becomes ethically bankrupt, he systematically marginalizes the culture of liberty, equality and fraternity, faces perilous levels of militarization and terrorism. There is growing instability at various levels and modern customs clash with millennia-old traditions. Mahatma Gandhi has rightly remarked, “I wholeheartedly detest this mad desire to destroy distance and time, to increase animal appetites and go to the ends of the earth in search of their satisfaction. If modern civilization stands for all this, and if I have understood it to be so, I call it satanic.” [18] He further observes, “Western nations are today groaning under the heel of the monster-god materialism. Their moral growth has become stunted. They measure their progress in dollars. American wealth has become the standard.” [19]

Compassion and modern political ideas

Today’s ideas of different countries whole-heartedly support the humanistic ways of life. We may mention here the Constitutions of America and India, which are the highest embodiments of humanistic ideals. The preamble to the American Constitution says: “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” In similar way, the preamble to the Indian Constitution states: “We the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign Democratic Republic and to secure to all its citizens: justice, social, economic and political liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; equality of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all: Fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity of the Nation; … do hereby adopt, enact and give to ourselves this Constitution.” These political ideas reflect an advanced humanist idea of culture. In other words compassion, rationality, humanity, spirituality as a way of life matches the political and human ideals of one world community. [20]

Science and spirituality

Science, morality and spirituality are intimately intertwined and they should be viewed as antagonistic to each other. The survival of human race at the present critical juncture of human history will depend upon the pursuit of ethical and spiritual values such as compassion, forgiveness, mindfulness, humility, and concern for animals, plants, fellow brethren and all that constitutes our nearest and farthest environments. Spirituality is premised on universal consciousness, which can serve as the basis of the unity of humankind, and ethical systems derive their force and sustaining power from spiritual consciousness. [21] In the field of education, ethical and spiritual values need to be encouraged, since they are directly related to the character development of students. In the latest reports of UNESCO, Learning to be and Learning: Treasure within, the highest ideals have been put forward. The concept of “To Be” is so defined as to mean development of the fullness of personality in all richness. And this fullness of personality involves fullness of ethical and spiritual development. The ideal of “To Be” is distinct from the ideal of “To Acquire” and “To Possess.” The ideal of “To Be” refers to that direction of effort which leads the individual to look deeply within oneself and to find in his or her inner being the source and treasure of his or her potentialities and actualities, the source of a harmony of the complexity of personality, and the source of fulfillment in some kind of perfection that transcends egoism and which rests in a vast and integrated self-hood. [22]

Do we love ourselves?

This question may sound an odd one; for all of us believe that we do love ourselves and all religions advocate to love others as we love ourselves. Even though it may appear that we love ourselves the fact remains that we love only our physical body, ego, pride, arrogance and above all our ignorance of our true selves. We smoke, drink, take drugs, complain, gossip, lie, waste time, terrorize, lack direction, get angry, fall sick, and cultivate umpteen types and numbers of vices, bad habits and thus condition ourselves. This indeed is the violence of the self and it is in this context that we need to understand the spirit of compassion. The self which is an embodiment of the ananta chatuḥtaya or the four bhāva prāṇas viz., infinite knowledge, vision, bliss and power needs to be loved, cared and meditated upon. Love here does not mean either indulgence or attachment, but it connotes detached attachment for the higher, inner, pure self that is qualitatively the same in all beings. This kind of compassionate, detached loving kindness springs form Vitarāgatā i.e., when both attachment and aversion have been conquered and the soul has accomplished equanimity towards happiness and misery, pleasure and pain, gain and loss, birth and death, fame and ill fame. Obviously this compassion of the highest order will manifest in physical, mental and spiritual realms of our existence and then we will ensure that our physique is healthy, mind is alert, intellect is sharp and the spirit is joyous. Thus a compassionate soul will exercise compassion in all possible ways. He will:

  1. Follow a self-imposed life of self-discipline for physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health

  2. Limit his possessions and minimize his needs in every possible way

  3. Whole-heartedly embrace a life of self-restraint thus exercising his compassion for his higher self and all others.

  4. Think and act with care and concern for all life forms.

  5. Not exploit the natural resources and will minimize the use of all external resources be it natural or man-made.

  6. Not commit suicide or terrorize anybody by thought, word and deed.

  7. Have mastered the art of listening and learnt the significance of noble silence of not only words, but even that of thoughts.

  8. Slowly and steadily progress on the path of purification.

  9. Forgive and let go the wrongdoers understanding them to be only external causes.

  10. Take responsibility for all his shortcomings.

  11. Do his best and remain balanced even in worst situations.

  12. Not consider anything good or bad, favorable or unfavorable.

  13. Neither exploits nor allows others to exploit.

  14. Pursue the higher spiritual goals and balance spirituality with his domestic material commitments.

  15. Use the faculties of head, heart, and intellect wisely.

  16. Not take credit for all the good deeds done by him as he knows that he is only an instrumental cause.

  17. Not only throw away his vices but plant virtues in their place.

  18. Not desire anything other than enlightenment which is his birth-right.

  19. Not make this world ugly with strife, hatred, bloodshed, fear and wars.

  20. Be sincere in his spiritual and other noble pursuits and thus shall be trustworthy.

  21. Sow flower saplings and not thorny bushes.

  22. Give everybody their due respect.

  23. Not hog like a glutton, but take to occasional fasting.

  24. Volunteer for all good causes.

  25. Take the green pledge for an eco-friendly lifestyle.

  26. Discard his duties with a detached spirit and with the right attitude.

  27. Not have an ownership attitude, but nurtures the attitude of trusteeship.

  28. Not burden his soul with karma and kaṣāya, i.e., passion

  29. Not impose his views on others and gives a patient ear to all concerned.

  30. Be straight forward in all his dealings and there will not be dichotomy in his thoughts and actions.

Thus we see that a compassionate soul is a harmless being who lends purpose to his existence. He develops a logical, intuitive and rational vision (dṛṣṭi) of himself and all others through scriptural (self) study, meditation, renunciation and detachment.

Compassion and the Bodhisattva

With the Buddhas as his ideal the Bodhisattva aims at bodhi, and undertakes the discipline for it. Śūnyatā and Karuṇā are the two principal features of the bodhicitta [i.e. the wish to attain enlightenment for the wellbeing of all beings - ed.]. Śūnyatā is prajñā, intellectual intuition, and is identical with the Absolute. Karuṇā is the active principle of compassion that gives concrete expression to śūnyatā in [the world of] phenomena. If the first is transcendent and looks to the Absolute, the second is fully immanent and looks down towards phenomena. The first is the abstract universal reality of which no determinations can be predicated; it is beyond the duality of good and evil, love and hatred, virtue and vice; the second is goodness, love and pure act; śūnyatā is potential, karuṇā is the actualized state. A Buddha, and the Bodhisattva, who models himself on him, are thus ‘amphibious’ beings with one foot in the Absolute and the other in phenomena. They are virtuous and good and the source of all goodness in the world. Bodhicitta is a unique blend of Intellect and Will [23].

Compassion of the Jinas

It is said ‘Savva jjaga jīva rakhana dayatthaye pāvayaśam bhagavaya sukahiyam,’ [24] i.e., “motivated by compassion and protection of all living beings the great omniscient Lords have delivered their divine sermons.” The Jinas are not the creator Gods, but are perfected, self-realized, emancipated souls in Godhood who have manifested their pure self and shine in transcendental knowledge, vision and bliss. They serve as silent role models in inspiring man to tap their true potential of Godhood and this indeed can be understood as their benevolence and compassion. When you understand the true nature of Jinas you understand your true nature and this indeed is their compassion. As it is said:

Siddhā jaiso jīva hai, jīva sohi siddha hoi
Karma mail ka āntrā, bujhe virtā koi [25]

i.e., “all souls are essentially like the pure Siddhas, it is only the jīvātman who becomes a siddha.” Very few people realize this difference between the siddhas and oneself and fall short of exerting to get rid of the karmic veil. Thus the self is at the centre of everything be it for the self-realized Jinas or for the yet to realize bondaged souls. To move away from the center of one’s higher self and seek happiness in the circumference of the mundane world is to cause injury to oneself and not to really love oneself and all others. The Jinas are embodiments of inspiration as they inspire mankind to exert to get rid of their sufferings as they have done in their past and this indeed in their noble compassion. Let us understand the compassion of the Jinas through a small illustration.

There are two kings, one who showers his grace on all those who come to him and grants them the ephemeral gifts of life only when he is asked and begged to do so; the other showers his grace silently when you just present yourself before him and get everything unasked. The first king makes you dependent on him for grace whereas the second king not only enables you to get everything unasked but inspires you to become a king yourself in awakening your upādāna i.e., your inner resources and this is their kṛpā, karuṇā, upakāra, dayā, etc. Thus in Jainism the commandments of the Tīrthaṁkaras Arihanta Jinas are more important than the Jinas themselves. They never said, “Follow me or ‘pray to me’ or be devoted to me,” instead they stressed that all follow what they have followed. They inspire us to do what they have done i.e., master the art of self-management by leading a life of awareness, compassion, contentment and detachment.

Compassion and awakening

The Jinas have taught with loving kindness and with a detached spirit that the pathway of eternal happiness begins with realization of the inner self and that we alone are responsible for what we are. We are the masters of our spiritual selves and responsible for our material conditioning, there is no point in blaming the external causes (nimitta kāraṇa) who appear in our lives due to our ignorance and karmic conditioning. (More on this further on in this paper). When we realize this basic fact we become aware of other factors and realities that affect and influence our soul. This awareness changes our focus from physical pleasures to the knowledge of innate and pure qualities of the soul. This shift away from external objects brings about a change in our attitude whereby we realize that materialism is not the basis for our happiness. Disenchanted with such objects, we begin to control our passions. We experience peace of mind, tranquility, and extraordinary internal happiness. This experience has another wonderful effect on us. We begin to develop compassion and empathy for all souls that have been suffering because of their entrapment in this painful cycle of birth and death. We resolve to refrain from inflicting any pain on other living beings. [26]

Compassion and passion management

Passions are called kṣāyas and they are the bhava karma or the material cause for the dravya karma which in turn become instrumental in conditioning the soul in the mundane web of saṁsāra. The root cause of birth and death is karma and passions are the cause of this karmic bondage. [27] Only when the passions are checked can the soul be compassionate and vice versa. The Jaina scriptures are replete with references, quotes and narratives on the art of passion management. Life is eternal but the dreadful momentary emotional outbursts of individual selves are triggered by ignorance and delusion, resulting in sorrow and misery, birth and death. The Tīrthaṁkaras have revealed that passions are the emotional out bursts, which cause havoc in an individual’s life and need to be checked immediately. It is said:

Aśathovaṁ, vaśathovaṁ, aggitthovaṁ, kasāyathovaṁ ca
Na hu bhe visasiyavvaṁ, tthovaṁ pi hu bahu hoi [28]

i.e., even a iota of debt, wound, fire and passions should not be left unchecked, for even if they are less, they tend to grow to great magnitude in no time. Hence do not trust them and fall a prey to them, but if you have, then immediately check them. The first three may dampen your material existence, but the passions dispirit you and condition you in many births. Hence all great saints and seers have practiced, advised, instructed and preached to subdue or conquer the passions and save the soul and experience inner peace which is the best gift you can give to mankind. The four-fold passions are anger, conceit, deceit, and greed, and one ought to conquer them by forgiveness, humility, straightforwardness and contentment respectively. When someone conquers anger he humbly declares that he forgives all, when he has given up conceit he can ask for forgiveness from all, when deceit is checked he can pledge friendship towards all and when greed is unplugged he cherishes enmity towards none.[29 ] The same can be understood through a chart as follows:



Conquer by





I forgive all




May all forgive me




I cherish friendship towards all




Enmity towards none

Thus we see that mind is a seat of mental dispositions (bhavanas), thoughts and emotions, and it plays a vital role in integrating our spiritual and moral life. It is said, “Mana eva manuṣyānaṁ kāranaṁ bandha mokṣyoḥ,” i.e. mind is instrumental to beget bondage or to effect liberation. It is up to each one of us to make use of it and create a good destiny or misuse it and repent later. Jaina scriptures reveal that due to auspicious and inauspicious activities of mind, body and speech, karmic material comes in association with the soul and conditions it. It is due to these ignorant activities of passions, perversion, delusion, etc. that the soul is subject to transmigration. Although the soul is an infinite foundation of knowledge, joy and bliss, these traits remain unsurpassed and it suffers in the cycle of births and deaths, in 84 lakh life-forms. This is the price a soul pays for not mastering the art of loving oneself, the root being compassionate towards one-self.

Compassion and the five factors

There are several theories that go to explain the structure and operation of the happenings in the cosmos. One of them is the universal law of cause and effect which operates on all things. As you saw so you reap goes the adage. The Jaina tradition accepts the following five factors that determine the activities in the world. [30] They are to be understood relatively and are as follows:

i) Svabhāva means nature. This concept states that things happen because of the nature of the things. Every entity is its own cause (upādāna or material cause). Things originate or change because of their own nature. Each entity is solely responsible for its progress or regress; nimitta, the instrumental cause is only a catalyst. [31] If it were not the nature of things, no catalyst can be instrumental in acting on it. This is the power of the substance be it living or non-living, which the wise realize. This concept tells us that the basis for the cause and effect phenomenon is the nature i.e., svabhāva of a thing. It is the svabhāva of all things to be mutually and beneficially instrumental. [32] It is the nature of all substances to be the material cause (upādāna) for themselves and instrumental cause (nimitta) for others. [33]

ii) Puruṣārtha means endeavor of effort. This is the competent effort taken by individuals to attain their desired goals. In Jaina āgamas, uthana, karma, bāla, vīrya, puruṣakāra parākrama are used for endeavor frequently. Lord Mahāvīra said, “Bondage and emancipation - both are in your hands, you are your own friend and enemy!” Endeavor to do a task is relative and not independent, uninterrupted and without obstacle. If the freedom to endeavor were independent then man would have changed this world according to his wish and if it were not independent then nothing would have changed in the world. These two realities are a clear reflection of capability and incapability of puruṣārtha, hence, although great souls have endeavored with divine compassion they have not been successful in making the world free from suffering, misery and pain. At the most all souls ought to endeavor to understand the nature of the self and suffering and exert with wisdom for oneself and with compassion for others.

iii) Kāla means time: It is one of the important factors of an activity. In spite of the presence of the above two factors time has to ripen for the activity to take place. The time factor operates on all substances - animate or inanimate. When kālalabdhi brings forth fruit, i.e., when the pertinent time comes, a soul, deluded since time immemorial, attains a rational vision of the self and reality and then progresses on the path of spirituality with wisdom and compassion (ṇāṇam and dayā). Prior to this he may or may not exert in compassion but that compassion would serve the social and religious but not the spiritual purpose.

iv) Niyati, nimitta, karma mean destiny, instrumental cause and the law of cause and effect respectively. All these are to be examined and understood relatively. Niyativāda [the doctrine of determinism - ed.] implies pre-destiny and it is relatively powerful; those who propound absolute niyati are ignorant. All the three stages of origin, change and permanence are predestined in all objects. For example one who is born will certainly die although he is essentially immortal: this is niyati. How, when where and why he takes birth and dies are predetermined according to the karmas. In Jainism niyati or destiny is close to the universal law of cause and effect (karma). The dravya karmas which are material are also an instrumental cause (nimitta) and the bhava karmas which are the psychic dispositions of the ignorant soul are the material cause. To liberate oneself from this law of cause and effect and to recognize ourselves as knowers and seers and not as doers and enjoyers is the way to be spiritually healthy, wealthy and wise. We ought to exert in awakening our upādāna i.e., inner potentiality and not blame the nimitta i.e., the external cause be it karmas or anybody else for the ups and downs in our life. Thus we can truly end our sufferings and become instrumental for others too. But never ever should we be arrogant to take the credit of doing something or saving somebody for this will only boost our ego and take us away from your pure self for our role is only that of a nimitta. Thus we can save ourselves from conceit and spiritual downfall.

A reflection on the role of instrumentality

Thus we see from the above discussion that the spirit of compassion is the very nature of all souls, but a wrong understanding of the role instrumentality makes us indulge in all worldly matters with conceit as if we are truly the doers, and secondly if we do not enact our role of being instrumental our true upādāna śakti too remains latent. It is said in the Bible, ‘Knock and it shall be opened to you!’ So also the doors of mokṣa are opened for all, but not all are enlightened to knock within and realize it. The ignorant ones cry and wait for the nimitta where as the wise exert to awaken their inner, pure potential and will find that an instrumental agency in the form of Deva, Guru, Śāstra will be present by all means. The soul then gives up indulgence (ekatva), attachment (mamatva), arrogance of being a doer (kartṛtva) and that of being an enjoyer (bhogatṛtva) [34]. So for determined upādāna (material cause) to climb the ladder of progress, a nimitta (instrumental agency), auxiliary factors and favorable circumstance ought to present themselves. [35]

Compassion and health

Ill health of body, mind and that of spirit is indeed defeat. It is said, pahala sukha nirogi kāyā, i.e., the first joy is a disease free body. But we ought to remember that the body falls sick due to spiritual negligence and also by not abiding by the laws of nature. So lets us learn to be compassionate towards our ephemeral physical body which houses the eternal soul in this present incarnation. According to Jainism when the physical body is emaciated with the right attitude the ātman is thickened. In fact the body of karma, passions, (bhavakarma) and the physical body (kāyā) have to be first made feather-light and then they shall be annihilated for the pure soul to shine in all its glory. Only then the soul becomes free of sufferings - which is the resultant of the practice of compassion towards oneself. All the other factors are only a nimitta to cause the innumerable and dreadful diseases that exist. It is ignorance that makes us fall sick and suffer. When we provide so many comforts and facilities to our physical body, is it not our duty to take care of the soul within our body? The soul lives in the body which in turn lives in the house made of bricks and sand. If the soul lives peacefully, so can the body live peacefully. But the irony is, we ignore the body that houses the soul, we worry more about the house where the body lives in. [36]

Why to eat, when to eat, how to eat, how much to eat, the knowledge of all these and more will enable us to live a long, healthy, violence free life for then we will not be spending on medicine which are developed after being tested on animals, thus becoming instrumental in causing violence towards these meek creatures. The tragedy of our modern times is that we eat like men and live like animals whereas our forefathers had taught us to eat like animals and live like men. Fast food, fast cars and a fast life style have robbed man of good health and peace of mind. It is rightly said he who has health has hope, and he who has hope has everything. [37]


As charity begins at home, let compassion of the divine nature and physical nature begin with us and this shall indeed serve as a nimitta to accentuate great benefits at the social and environmental level. Let us learn the art of being spiritually selfish and materially selfless thus imbibing the spirit of compassion for self-realization and to save the earth of further degradation before it is too late.


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Jump to occurrence in text


Jump to occurrence in text


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Dr. Rudi Jansma

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acārāṅga
  2. Ahiṁsā
  3. Ananta
  4. Anger
  5. Arihanta
  6. Bandha
  7. Bhava
  8. Bhavanas
  9. Bhāva
  10. Bhāṣya
  11. Body
  12. Buddha
  13. Buddhism
  14. Chennai
  15. Conceit
  16. Consciousness
  17. Darśana
  18. Daśavaikālika
  19. Daśavaikālika Sūtra
  20. Deceit
  21. Deva
  22. Dharma
  23. Discipline
  24. Dravya
  25. Dravya karma
  26. Dāna
  27. Dṛṣṭi
  28. Ekatva
  29. Environment
  30. Equanimity
  31. Fasting
  32. Fear
  33. Fearlessness
  34. Greed
  35. Guru
  36. JAINA
  37. Jaina
  38. Jainism
  39. Jīva
  40. Karma
  41. Karmas
  42. Karuṇā
  43. Kaṣāya
  44. Kāla
  45. Kṣamā
  46. Lakh
  47. Madras
  48. Mahatma
  49. Mahatma Gandhi
  50. Mahavira
  51. Mahāvīra
  52. Maitri
  53. Meditation
  54. Mokṣa
  55. Nimitta
  56. Nirvāṇa
  57. Niryukti
  58. Niyati
  59. Non-violence
  60. Omniscient
  61. Pahala
  62. Parākrama
  63. Pride
  64. Puruṣakāra
  65. Puruṣārtha
  66. Rudi Jansma
  67. Samatva
  68. Samayasāra
  69. Sanskrit
  70. Saṁsāra
  71. Science
  72. Siddha
  73. Soul
  74. Sukha
  75. Sustainability
  76. Sustainable Development
  77. Svabhāva
  78. Swami
  79. Swami Vivekananda
  80. Sūtra
  81. Sūtrakṛtaṅga
  82. Tap
  83. Tolerance
  84. University of Madras
  85. Upādāna
  86. Violence
  87. Vivekananda
  88. Vātsalya
  89. Vīrya
  90. siddhas
  91. Ācārāṅga
  92. Ācārāṅga Sūtra
  93. Āvaśyaka
  94. Śāstra
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