Philosophical Foundations Of Jainism (An Introduction) ► [22] Truthful Living (Credo Of Jain Philosophy)

Posted: 30.08.2008

Philosophy is not an imaginary flight nor it is something like building the castles in the air or daydreaming of a nitwit ever living in a fool's paradise. It is something very real and has application in the practical life. In applied sense, it means—one should live truthfully. Lord Mahāvīra exemplified that in his life. What he preached was the real experience of his own life. Such a state is achieved through 'vītarāgatā' (freedom from all attachments), when there is no gap in what you preach and what you practice.

In fact, the eternal result of philosophy is the establishment of complete harmony between precepts and practice. This is possible only if one is entirely free from all kinds of attachment or infatuation and aversion. If one's life is fraught with impulses of attachment and hatred, there would be discrepancy between what he says and what he does. The more a person draws himself nearer to the state of vītarāgatā, the more the discrepancy is dissolved. Thus, the criterion of a true vitarāga person is the perfect agreement between what he professes and what he proctices.

Meaning and Significance of Faith

The first duty of those who profess faith in Jain philosophy should be move towards to vītarāgatā which means equanimity. Whether he is a 'muni' or a 'śrāvaka' (a lay follower), he has to introspect and see if he has made sufficient progress in the practice of vītarāgatā.

The more a person would live a truthful life, the more equanimous he would become. This is exactly the significance of faith in Jainism. The applied Jain philosophy means to lead a truthful living.

Ingenuousness and Truthfulness

When somebody asked Lord Mahāvīra, "O Lord! where does the dharma (in its true sene) reside?", Lord Mahāvīra said that the true dharma rests only in an unblemished soul, a soul which has ingenuousness and purity, and which is truthful to the core. He identified truthfulness with ingenuousness. He also said that one, who expressess ingenuousness through his physical, vocal and emotional activities, and whose action complies with his utterings, is in fact a truthful person.

Truth (Right View) should precede the Vow

Some critics have said that in Jainism, the vow of 'non-violence' has been given the foremost position, sidelining other virtues like truthfulness etc.. Perhaps this comment has been made looking at the dualism and hypocracy that certain people show in their lives today. They could be Jains or non-Jains. Intrinsically, it is not there in any religion. Lord Mahāvīra has prescribed the discipline of vrata, in which 'ahiṃsā' is also a 'vrata' (vow) in his philosophy.

But, at the same time, he has given truth, i.e., the right world-view, the first and foremost place in his philosophy. The place of vrata (including ahiṃsā) is second. According to Mahāvīra's philosophy, whatever is truth is right view, and vice-versa. Without truth or right world-view, the practice of the vow of ahiṃsā is not possible. It means that one cannot practice 'Ahiṃsā Vrata' unless he is truthful. So truth is naturally the super objective.

Right Knowledge should precede Right Conduct (Sajjñanaṃ Prathamo Dharmaḥ)

'Ācāraḥ prathamo dharmaḥ' (conduct is the first among religious virtues)—it is a well-established aphorism, found in the discourse of many religions. Lord Mahāvīra has put it little differently - "Paḍhamaṃ nāṇaṃ tao dayā" - Ācāra (conduct) should follow jñāna (knowledge) - "Nāṇassa sāra māyāro"—the quintessence of knowledge should reflect in the conduct.

According to Jain philosophy, such knowledge does not mean merely knowing the facts and happenings; the real knowledge is that which is guided by samyak darśana (right world-view).

Knowledge which emerges within the framework of perverse world-view is always tainted by some sort of attachment and aversion, and hence such knowledge is termed as ajñāna in the Jain philosophy. According to Jainism, the true knowledge is that which ultimately makes one unattached to material objects, and makes one's mind set in perfect equanimity and a sense of spiritual friendliness towards all is developed in him. That is why the Jain philosophy prescribes the trinity of right world-view (samyak darśana), knowledge (samyak jñāna) and conduct (samyak ācāra).

In this trinity, the first place is given to samyaka darśana, the second to samyaka jñāna and the third to samyaka cāritra. Hence, without samyaka darśana, one cannot have samyaka jñāna, and without samyaka jñāna, one cannot have samyaka cāritra. Now, if we take samyaka jñāna as identical with samyaka darśana, then we can frame a new aphorism—"sajjñanaṃ prathamo dharmaḥ". It believes in harmonizing various aspects of any issue with due consideration of their relativity.

Heresay Vs. Truth

The Jain philosophy is neither merely jñānavādī, i.e., one who believes that it is only through knowledge (jñāna) that one can attain the mukti, nor merely kriyāvādī, i.e., one who believes that it is only through conduct (kriyā) that one can attain the mukti. But it accepts the utility of combination of both - jñāna as well as kriyā. One without the other is incomplete. It is only the right confluence of both of them that can enable one to attain final emancipation.

Non-violence is a kind of conduct. Now, there is a heresay that Jainism gives more stress on ahiṃsā (i.e., kriyā). But reality is quite different from this. As Jainism is non-absolutistic philosophy, it gives relative value to each ingredient. It cannot emphasize only one. That is why it has given the same emphasis on both—jñāna and kriyā. It has maintained the balance between the two just like the two pans of the weighing machine.

Root of Detachment

When the right world-view is not developed, man identifies his 'self with the body and considers the material objects as his own. Such ego and possessiveness intensifies the attachment, which becomes the cause of the vicious circle of suffering. On the contrary, when the right world-view gets developed, first of all the illusion that I am body gets dissolved, and one comes to know the truth that, "I am soul, I am consciousness, I am not the body which is a physical substance devoid of consciousness." When such comprehension of distinction between the soul (self) and body becomes clear, then the roots of attachment get shakened.

Thus, the root of detachment is—bheda-vijñāna i.e., the real knowledge of the separation of soul from body. It is not merely a term, but it connotates the real (inner) experience. The more intense such experience is, the more intense the detachment becomes. The perverse belief that the material objects belong to me melts away when the real experience of bheda-vijñāna occurs. The body and the material objects become instrumental in augmentation of attachment, but when their separation from the self is internally experienced, it makes the gates to truth open.

Let the Bheda-vijñāna be Strengthened

One meaning of truth is to know any reality in its true form. The value of such truth is only in the field of epistemology, not in that of ethics. The complete truth however is that which has both values—epistemological as well as ethical. In absence of the right world-view, the development of the former truth is possible, but that of the complete truth is not possible.

A person who has attachment to some material object may be able to know a partial truth. For example, he knows that the thing to which he is attached so much is not salutary for him, yet he cannot become detached to him, for he is devoid of the experience of bheda-vijñāna. Therefore, inspite of knowing that something is harmful for him, he cannot renounce it.

The Jain philosophy, being an applied philosophy, can be actually observed or followed in life, only if the right world-view is strengthened and the knowledge of bheda-vijñāna is made very mature.

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This is an edited version of the author's work:
Jain I Darshan ke Mool Sutra
Translated by Prof. M. P. Lele under the guidance of Muni Mahendra Kumar ji and Muni Dulahraj ji, Senior disciples of Acharya Mahprajna.

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