Eternal Values for Divine Society

Published: 24.12.2007
Updated: 02.07.2015

JAIN VISHVA BHARATI UNIVERSITY


Dr. Anil Dhar

The nature of man is such as to urge him to participate in the fullness of life, to be receptive of the significant and to lie open to whatever has meaning and value. Fortunately, our country has a cultural heritage which is at least five thousands years old and quite a few of its elements have been widely appreciated and acclaimed. There is a common belief, that Indian tradition is out and out spiritual in nature. And, the history of India would remain enigmatic, particularly, the remarkable phenomenon of the continuity of Indian culture through the millennia would remain a mystery, if we do not take into account the role that spirituality has played not only in determining the direction of her philosophical and cultural effort but also in replenishing the springs of creativity at every crucial hour in the long and often many journey. It is true that spirituality has played a role in every civilization and that no culture can claim a monopoly for spirituality. And yet, it can safely be affirmed that the unique greatness and continuity of Indian culture can be traced to her unparalleled experimentation, discovery and achievement in the vast field of spirituality. Indian culture has recognised spirituality not only as the supreme occupation of man but also as his all-integrating occupation. Ancient visionary seers and saints have expounded the universal and eternal values playing a role of beacon in the midst of darkness and helps one to perform his worldly duties in harmony and attain the highest goal prescribed for human being.

Thus, quest after values and the attainment of these constitute the very core of human life. There is an innate necessity in man, caused by his finitude and imperfection to participate in the process of value-realisation. That is why consciously or unconsciously value - concepts, value discrimination and value judgement feature prominently in his life. In-fact, values occupy a pivotal role in human life. Values are described as the socially defined desires and goals that are internalised through the process of conditioning, learning and socialization. Values are goals set for achievements and they motivate, define and color all our activities cognitive and affective. Eternal ideals and values propounded ages ago like of non-violence, truth, non-stealing, chastity, non-possession, love, compassion, purity, simplicity etc. etc. Out of these the first five one are the basic of the foundation of morality and value realization and, in fact, are more relevant to the present times.

The principle of non-violence is existent all over in Vedic, Jaina and Buddhist scriptures. Religious exponents, social reformers and political leaders, have stressed it and above all it has been accepted as important from the point of view of one's own self. Thus, it is religiously, ethically, socially, politically and psychologically important and necessary. The instinct of love, sympathy or "Karuna”(compassion) furnishes the basis of non-violence. In-fact, it is essential for an individual as a member of a family, as a member of the society, as a member of a nation and as a member of the whole universe.

Schopenhauer has laid that non-violence is non-hate or absence of hatred that is in positive sense sympathy or love. Absence of hatred promotes love, which is the source of unification of different individuals. Further, it is a fact of common experience that hatred retards the common development of both the mind and the body of the individual, while love makes them bloom forth in their natural splendor in the lover. And to this culture of hatred there is no antidote except the practice of love, compassion, equanimity etc.

There are certain peaks of development of the concept of non-violence, and can be traced from the vedic times down to the times of Buddha, Mahavira and Gandhi, and its extreme can be noticed in Jainism. The entire Jaina religious and philosophical system is found on non-violence. The essence of knowledge, lies in non-killing which is the supreme principle laid by the omniscient. The principle of non-violence is the principle of equality, of "samta' as has been pointed out, "samta' is the basis of all morality, philosophy and logic of Jaina thought and prevails all over system. Samta is that no one is inferior or superior, everybody has the potentiality to develop himself and can achieve the highest goal. One's behaviour should be such that it does not retard the development or injure the physical, mental, or intellectual vitality of life of others. 

In the intellectual or the philosophical field too, Jainism propound the theory of "Anekant', which means that every judgement is relative. This theory in brief, expresses the view that every judgement reveals only one aspect of reality, and therefore every judgement is relative and subject to certain conditions. It is because one forgets this limitation and regards his own judgements as unconditionally true, that he indulges in number of quarrels and disagreements and thus hurts the feelings of those who have a different view of reality. "Anekant' purifies the thinking. It invites to do away evil thoughts and to cultivate good thoughts. The importance of this comprehensive synthesis of "Anekant' in day to day life is immense in as much as these doctrines supply a rational unification and synthesis of the manifold and rejects the assertions of bare absolutes. The moment one begins to consider the angle from which a contrary viewpoint is put forward, one begins to develop tolerance, which is the basic requirement of the practice of non-violence. Origin of all bloody war fought on the surface of this earth can be traced to the war of ideas and beliefs. "Anekant' puts healing touch at the root of human psyche and tries to stop the war of bloodshed. It makes all absolutes in the field of the thought quite irrelevant and naive, imports maturity to the thought process and supplies flexibility and originality to human mind, which in return helps the individual, society nation to become conflict-free. And, only in this type of environment and atmosphere a person can use his potentiality to attain the supreme goal.

The term "truth' has got varied implications. It is derived from "sat' and "sat' is more often understood in the sense of ultimate Reality. It is that which is never destroyed or destroyable. But some time "sat' also means a general adjective goodness, virtue and chastity; beside this, it means genuine, honest, sincere and faithful etc. It is considered the true essence of the whole universe is even more profound than the ocean and more stable than Mt. Meru. This, as is apparent in the metaphysical truth and understood as highly important in the Jaina scriptures. As a moral principle also it is considered very significant.

Truth, it is said, does not only pertain to our faculty of speech but to mind and body as well. Only that truth in speech is called truth which is coherent with body and mind, as it is sometimes said that the origin of truth lies not in the mouth but in the heart. Truth, in the systems of Indian philosophy is one of the top ranking tenets of morality. Its validity and universality can be realized as a basic principle of life.

In the modern era, Gandhiji is one of the biggest exponents of truth. The remarkable thing about him is his application of truth, not only in his personal life, but in political life too with remarkable success, which is his unique contribution. The concept of "satyagraha' is Gandhi's contribution to international politics, which means nothing but holding to or sticking to the principle of truth. About the results of this programme of "satyagraha', which Gandhi applied against the untruthful regime of British, nothing is needed to be said as every thing is known. Today even, this application of the principle of truth has an extreme potentiality in itself. For the cultivation of which certain basic defects such as fear, selfishness greed and cowardice are needed to be checked.

The ethical principle of non-stealing is actually based on the first and foremost principle of non-violence. Whether stealing is understood in the sense of a crime or in the sense of a sin, the virtue of non-stealing fundamentally originates in non-violence either in the positive sense of maintenance of social order or in the negative sense of abstinence from hurting others by way of depriving them of their property or other necessary belongings. But it is only limited or restricted non-violence pertaining to human beings and not to all living creatures. One who observes this precept has a very strong or healthy feeling of social welfare, (which is rooted in non-violence, love and sympathy) it is therefore not only negative but positive as well.

Its importance has been pronounced by all major schools of thoughts for the all aspects of life, in this life and the lives beyond. In Jainism the principle of non-stealing is a moral principle only because it indicates the principle of non-violence. Stealing is also violence, because it hurts both apparent and real vitalities of the person whose wealth is stolen, which maintains the mental as well as physical equipoise of him. Any thing taken ungricess with attachment or inadvertence is stealing. Abstinence from this is non-stealing. It has been laid down that, if you really want to obtain spiritual happiness and to preserve your moral life, fame and character, and above all want to attain the supreme happiness in this life, and the life after, never get entangled in the net of stealing. One, who really desires riddance from this embroilment, never takes anything ungiven.

For understanding properly the precept of non-stealing in practical conditions, five major transgressions are mentioned in the scriptures. These are:

  1. Buying a stolen article or property,
  2. imparting instruction on the method of committing a theft, or engaging theives,
  3. evading the civil laws and political laws,
  4. adulteration and selling impure commodities and deceiving the customer and
  5. keeping false weights and measures.

In these five heads come all the modern businessmen's tact’s, of wrong sampling, reducing the quality of the product, getting involved in smuggling markets, buying smuggled goods, helping the smugglers etc. It can be said that non-stealing (stealing either taken in the sense of a crime or a sin) has been regarded important virtue in Indian tradition ever since the time of Vedas, and is one of the most accepted moral tenets of all civilizations, in a certain sense it is made more important than non-violence because it directly deals with social morality.

One of the significant moral precept is sexual or sensual restraint. This value of divine deed is prevalent in entire Indian religious system. The term "brahmacarya' however, is most popular. The reason for its popularity lies in its very connotation and literal meaning which is comprehensive enough to include in itself all allied moral principles, primary and secondary. "Brahmacarya', as it is known, means control or complete renunciation of sexual or sensual desires but this is only what it conventionally means. It is a combination of two terms "Brahman' and "carya'. "Brahman' in brief means the ultimate reality, the supreme being, the ultimate or the final truth in the sense of the highest good or ideal and "carya' means code of conduct or way of living. The combined term "brahmacarya' thus means code of conduct, actions, or movement in quest of true "Brhman' or the ultimate truth. The ideal of "brahmacarya' is therefore, the attainment of the final goal of ultimate truth by eradicating wrong and superficial notions or ideas and airiding wrong actions. In this sense, it has a close relationship with the principle of truth as a moral and metaphysical principle as sexual or sensual desire becomes a hindrance to the achievement of final goal. It is an established fact that sex restraint would give power and energy to a person which can be applied to various other projects.

In Jainism, the term of "brahmacarya' indicates all relevant virtues which are auxiliary to liberation. In general, therefore, it means the means of liberation, but as a precept its field has been restricted to abstention from sexual indulgence, since sex is considered a major hindrance to liberation because like other vows, this vow of "brahmacarya' too is dependent on the vow of non-violence. It is asserted in various texts that the vow is rooted in the vow of non-violence, and sex desire and sex indulgence are also explained as an act of violence. The vow is therefore a corollary of the vow of non-violence; though the value of "brahmacarya' is much emphasized because the very institution of asceticism is dependent on it, asceticism is futile in itself without the implementation of celibacy. Actually there are only two strong tenets of asceticism, viz. non-violence and celibacy. With this concept of ‘brahmacarya’ based on non-violence, its glory is pronounced in the scriptures in various places. It is said that all gods, demons and satans, etc., show respect for him who observes "brahmacarya', which is very severe and painstaking.

However, the institution of marriage occupies an important place in the whole of Indian culture and religion, though it may appear as contrary to the principle of "brahmacarya'. But, an historical account of the institution of marriage, its aim and development, is very necessary and important in the sense that it gives an idea of relative social habits in different times and cultures, and also an idea of different ethical standards in different times. Marriage in itself is not an instinct, but an institution based on the instinct or the need. It is a symbol of development of the advanced human make up, which manifests the fulfillment of the basic desire of sex in a controlled and channelized form and stoppage of anti-social outburst of this desire. A person is supposed to be faithful to his own wife both physically and mentally, he should not think of any other women, It is said that if you speak to a woman, do it with pureness of heart say to yourself, placed in this sinful world, let me be a spotless lily, unsoiled by the more in which it grows, is she old, regard her as your mother, is she honourable as your sister, is she of small account as your younger sister; is she a child, treat her with reverence and politeness. In this age of free-sex the demographical problems, several diseases like AIDS etc., etc. this concept of chastity or controlled chastity plays a role of light tower to the passionate and lustful persons and restless world.

The fifth significant value of "non-possession' is one of the basic values propounded in the traditional Indian system and has the equal importance in the different schools of thought. "Non-possession' which is usually translated as "aprigraha'. The term "prigraha' is the opposite of the "aparigraha', and is constituted of two terms, i.e. "pari' and "graha'. "Graha' is rooted in "grahana' which means to take hold of, taking or accepting or receiving something. "Pari' means round or round about abundantly, richly, but it is usually used to express fullness of high degree. Thus, parigraha means acceptance, or taking or receiving gifts or other worldly possessions, "Aparigraha' means abstention from taking possession, or refusal to master or overpower. The concept relates to renunciation and refers to the absence of desire to keep possessions. Basically, real parigraha arouses from within, it pertains more to thoughts and attitude than to objects and thus is inseparably associated with violence. It is said that one who has attachment to land and other objects, money, gold and silver, cattle and horses, servants, wife and other relatives, and is obstructed by such desires is to face the dangerous calamities just as a boat with a small hole in it is ultimately to face disorders.

But it is non-practical for one to abstain himself from the possessions, as he has to make sure of his maintenances, for the maintenance of his family and for a normal living in the society. Even though, it is very much possible for him to observe this value in part in his daily life. The duty of the householder lies in limiting all his possessions and consequently controlling his limitless desire to possess more and more. It is in this sense of limitation of possessions that it is called the vow of partial limitation of possession or abstention from major possessions, which are endless, as the desires are endless. The laity's vow of "aparigraha' thus can be referred such as smaller vow of non-possession. Limitation of possessions, abstention from major kinds of possession and as Gandhi said, limitation of desires which implies both a limitation of desires as well as a spirit of generosity.

To conclude, it is necessary to say that behind the limitation of desires the essential quality of aparigraha - there works a self-imposed socialistic spirit. Though it makes room for the fulfillment of the needs, it requires desires to be controlled. Here an apparent resemblance can be discovered between "aprigraha' and the communist belief that every one should be equal economically, and that one should be given according to ones needs and not according to one's desires; for the staunch communists this ideal of economic equality is to be achieved by bloody revolution. However, the two ideologies (least "parigraha' and a economic equality, cannot be assimilated to a great extent, but it can be said at the outset that the former would function in a definitely better way than the latter if applied at all, because voluntaries always works better than force. But at the same time one can very well imagine the picture of the new society, which would certainly be different from that of the present society. Here, as the precept declares, the ideal of the householder is to curtail his desires, limit his possessions and try to remain satisfied with what he has and not always to strike for newer and newer achievement in terms of physical, social, economic and industrial development. For the moral way of living in society, partial vow of non-possession of the laity is inevitably necessary. Even from social point of view in the modern world partial non-possession or limited possession would be great blessing, specially in developing or under-developed countries like India. These moral principles, which have been guiding human behaviour for thousands of years, may still remain potential for establishing the "Divine Society'.

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anil Dhar
  2. Aparigraha
  3. Body
  4. Brahmacarya
  5. Buddha
  6. Celibacy
  7. Environment
  8. Equanimity
  9. Fear
  10. Gandhiji
  11. Greed
  12. JAINA
  13. Jain Vishva Bharati
  14. Jain Vishva Bharati University
  15. Jaina
  16. Jainism
  17. Karuna
  18. Mahavira
  19. Meru
  20. Non-violence
  21. Omniscient
  22. Parigraha
  23. Tolerance
  24. Vedas
  25. Vedic
  26. Violence
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