Acharya Bhikshu - A Revolutionary Visionary ► The Motive Of Prosperity

Posted: 11.06.2013

Acharya Bhikshu's view is also endorsed by the exposition of Jamboodwip Pragyapti (a Jain canon). In the commentary(वृति) on the maxim "(पयाहियाए उवदिसइ)"[10], Shantyacharya has regarded occupations like agriculture as means to livelihood and prosperity and, therefore, salutary to wisdom (प्रज्ञा).[11] Earning a living leads to prosperity.
If employment is easy to get, crimes like theft will not proliferate in society. Lord Rishabh, in order to keep society free from crimes, promoted skills and crafts for livelihood.[12] Manusmritikar has also made a distinction between actions leading to prosperity and those leading to spiritual attainment.
Acharya Bhikshu wanted to decide on the definition of religion. Although several definitions of religion had been extant in the past, he felt the need for a new one. Words like service (सेवा), cooperation (सहयोग), sympathy सहानुभूति). charity (दान) and beneficence (परोपकार) were creating a misunderstanding about the concept of religion.

Take the use of the word 'service'. Irrespective of the form of service, being of service was considered religious. Acharya Bhikshu analysed this belief. He said 'service' can be understood at two levels: the social and the spiritual. To be of service at the social level is a social duty or social religion (समाज धर्म), while service which helps purify the soul is atmadharma or moksha-dharma (spiritual religion). It manifests through right knowledge, true spiritual insight and right conduct.

A man is working. Another man joins him. This is called cooperation. Cooperation is collective labour. Suppose a man is trying to lift a heavy log of wood. Another man comes and helps him lift it. This is cooperation, an activity which involves collaboration.

Sympathy - syn + pathos - is sharing another person's emotional state. You happen to see a miserable man and become miserable, or you happen to see a happy man and become happy. This is sympathy. In social psychology two kinds of sympathy have been recognised. One is active sympathy. An example of active sympathy is: you happen to come across a starving man, you feel pained and so you feed him. The other is passive sympathy. You happen to meet a starving man and you say to him, "I am sorry you are starving." What you have done is you have just expressed your sympathy in words. Pity, mercy and compassion are some of the realisations of sympathy.

Charity is donating food, clothes etc. to the poor.

Beneficence means doing good to others.

These five words have mixed up society and religion, and social duty and spiritual religion so much so that it is beyond the competence of a layman to determine what religion is. There are certain duties which are associated with a man as a social being. So in the context of society this is a matter of duty. It becomes a matter of religion when such a social individual works for self-realisation or salvation.

Acharya Bhikshu analysed these five words and made a distinction between social duty and (आत्म- धर्म) or spiritual duty. Do not make the statement "Service is religion^ as if it is complete in itself; let it be interpreted in relative terms. Service which nourishes the body is a social duty, while that which nourishes the soul is spiritual religion. Service is duty; it is also religion. Religion is duty but all duties are not religion. Acharya Bhikshu states:ए संसार तनो किरतब जानो. Worldly duty means social duty. Why has there been an erosion of the sense of duty towards society in the Indian psyche for the past ten to fifteen centuries? This can be a good subject for research. A social human being should be alive to his duty towards his society. But why is it that we are gradually losing this sense of duty? It is because we started measuring social duty in terms of religion; or rather every social duty came to be considered religious. Hasn't this belief blunted social awareness? Some people have faith in religion, while others do not have it. Now how can a person who does not believe in religion observe social obligations which are looked upon as religious obligations as every social obligation is a religious obligation. In this way religion has been so much associated with utility that it has lost its identity. Some ancient preceptors gave a deep thought to it and drew distinguishing lines between religion and duty. But it was Acharya Bhikshu who made those prominent.

Lord Rishabh initiated six occupations in order to earn a living. They are: defence, business, agriculture, education, commerce and craft. According to his best judgment he made arrangements for people to make a living. At that time Lord Rishabh was a king and so he initiated the said occupations.[13]

Acharya Hem Chandra was faced with the puzzle: Occupations like agriculture and commerce are sinful and lead to Karmic bondage. Why, then, did the Lord initiate them? The Acharya's answer was: "Yes, the Lord knew that occupations like agriculture are sinful. Even then he initiated them because he considered it His duty to look after the welfare of the people and to be compassionate towards them.[14]

The views of some modern Jain scholars on religion and duty are worth contemplating:

The word dharma (religion) is mainly used in two senses: one aimed at refinement and elevation of the individual, called Atma-Dharma, and the other as social duty. Manusmritikar has employed dharma in these two senses.[15]

In the eighth and ninth centuries this situation became so unbearable that the Buddhists had to leave this country, and the Jains were allowed to stay only when they almost surrendered to the Brahmins at the social level.[16]

The Varna system was propounded by King Rishabhdev and not by Lord Adinath. It is common knowledge that King Rishabhdev created the varnas of Kshitriya, Vaishya and Shudra on practical grounds and on the basis of profession. This was the social order of those days, not the religious order.

When King Rishabhdev attained omniscience (%q

In Vedic Smritis social structure was also ordained. The conventionally determined sections of society like Brahmanas, Kshatriyas were recognized on the basis of birth, and their rights and duties were fixed by the Smritis, Moreover, by giving Brahmanas and Kshatriyas boundless protection they strengthened the foundations of the state in the name of religion. It was, therefore, essential for the smritis to be amended from time to time as the need arose. And this did happen. On the other hand, in Jainism there is nothing like fixed religious rights and duties of a person on the basis of his varna. Everyone has been asked to keep himself away from the five unwholesome karmas and to abide by the five great vows irrespective of the varna he belongs to.[17]

The concept of charity encouraged begging. In reality no householder is entitled to charity. Ravishankar Maharaj, a great Gujarati saint, went to Bihar. At that time Bihar was in the grip of a terrible famine. Several people said: "Give us bread." Maharaj Ravishankar said: "You will get bread but not for nothing. Work and get bread in return." This is a healthy social obligation. Jaiprakash Narain has made a revealing distinction between the conceptions of a charitable person and a beggar. Ramrajya belongs to both, the king and the beggar. If there are no beggars, he says, how will charitable people having lofty thoughts be able to demonstrate their generosity and nobility and set up a record of Hindu ideals in human nature?[18]

Kaka Kalelkar has also succeeded in distinguishing between charity and parting with possession. His thinking comes very close to Acharya Bhikshu's thinking. True religion lies not in charity but in parting with possessions. Making money by indulging in anti-social activities and then spending a small portion of it to help miserable people and thereby calling oneself pious is nothing but deceiving oneself as well as society. True religion lies in controlling the senses for the purpose of social service, living a life of simplicity based on hardwork and feeling one not only with the whole society but the whole universe. This is real bliss.[19]

Explaining the principles of the Quran Maulana Masudi has made a statement which deserves serious thought. He says: "People and the government both should contribute in the Bhoodan movement. But if people who give away their land in this cause cherish the feeling that they are doing charity, the movement will not yield desirable results. The word daan (charity) should be interpreted in its original traditional sense. People should be clearly told that they are not giving charity but are giving the poor what is theirs.[20]

Acharya Bhikshu said two hundred years ago: To give alms to a beggar is not religion." At that time it created a stir. In the present age there is a strong feeling among thinking people that begging is a social crime. The very fact that there are beggars shows that there is something wrong with the system. A society in which some are beggars and some others are charitable persons cannot be considered a welfare society. And to encourage begging is worse. Engage a beggar in a job, and give him food to eat. This attitude can be included in the list of social duties.

It is impossible to understand the propriety of charity. In fact the practice of charity in India has encouraged the tendency among people to live as parasites.

Acharya Bhikshu has differentiated between the concepts of charity and parting with possessions. That person alone is entitled to charity who has self-restraint, who does not cook for himself, who owns nothing, who has totally given away all his wealth, who is immersed in self-realisation and who is unattached. To give charity to him is tantamount to parting with possessions (त्याग) and sharing food with a guest is enacting a vrata (vow). While expounding the concept of charity his argument was: Why is it that feeding a beggar by treating him as your brother is not thought religious, while feeding a beggar as a beggar is thought religious? Acharya Bhikshu demolished this misleading conception. Look at the paradox, he said, that first we turn a social being into a beggar, then give him something in charity and feel that we have earned religious merit. It is not only doubly wrong but three times wrong. It implies that the fabulously rich need not practise any austerities at all. All that they have to do is to accumulate wealth, give some of it in charity and be called pious. They just have to earn money by hook or by crook, feed some poor people, add a pious act to their account and go to heaven. Acharya Bhikshu vehemently attacked this misapprehension. People felt ill at ease. When we do not go deep into religion, what happens is that a great ideal of dogmatic thinking prevails, which gives rise to misapprehensions.

In olden times the word 'religion' was also used in the sense of procedure and system. On this basis even duty was called religion. Lord Mahavir has propounded ten types of religion:




code of conduct for village management




code of conduct for a municipality




national code of conduct




family code of conduct




code of conduct for a group of monks and nuns




code of conduct for a religious order




common code agreed upon by all sects




meant for the aspirants for salvation to purify their souls




The nature of panchastikaya (acceptance of five out of six elements)

In this classification gramdharma, nagardharma, etc., are different from atmadharma. India's tragedy has been that here social religion and national religion could not develop. If they had developed, society would have been conducted on the basis of social religion and the nation would have been governed on the basis of national religion. Spiritual religion is used for self-realisation. It is because of this confusion that neither society and the nation were properly managed nor atmadharma could grow commendably. Acharya Bhikshu illustrated the validity of this situation through an anecdote:

One morning a man came to a shop carrying a paisa and asked the shopkeeper if the latter could give him jaggery for one paisa. The shopkeeper saluted the paisa and took it. He felt happy that the trading had started in the morning with a copper coin. The next day the same person came with a rupee coin and asked for change. The shopkeeper saluted the rupee coin and gave the person the change. He was happy that the first thing he saw that day was a rupee coin.

The third day the person came with a false coin and asked the shopkeeper for change. The shopkeeper was happy to see the same customer again that day. He took the coin in his hand and found that it was a false coin, a copper coin plated with silver. He said to himself: "The first thing in the morning I have seen is a false coin."

Then the customer said: "Shahji, why have you got angry? The day before yesterday I came with a copper coin and you saluted it. Yesterday I came with a silver coin and you saluted it. Now this coin is made of copper and silver both, so you should salute it twice."

The shopkeeper replied: "You fool! The day before it was only copper, which was all right; yesterday it was only silver, which too was all right. Neither of them was false. But this one is false, a mixture of copper and silver. It is of no use."

Social duty has its own worth and so has spiritual religion. If each performs its role in its own sphere, their values will be revealed. But if they get mixed and indistinguishable, they will lose their value.

Mahatma Gandhi said, "For me there is no politics independent of religion. My religion is universal and tolerant; it is not a religion of superstitions and ostentation. Also it is not a religion that hates and fights. We should relinquish politics which is devoid of ethical principles.[21]

"For me politics without religion is crap and is always unacceptable. Politics is related to nations, and anything that is related to the welfare of nations is a subject in which people who are of religious bent of mind should take interest."[22]

According to Acharya Bhikshu social duty and religion should not be mixed. Mahatma Gandhi considered politics without religion crap. Do these two views not move into different directions? Many thinkers maintain that the social system and the state system should be conducted through religion so that they maintained their sanctity. We do not disagree with the element of truth of this line of thought but this is not the whole truth. The mixing of religion and social or state duty is not in reality a solution to the problem. The solution is this: Society should be conducted through social religion and the nation through national religion. It is not necessary that they are managed or administered through religion, but they should be influenced by it. Mahatma Gandhi has also accepted this point regarding the influence of religion: "I don't believe that spiritual principles have an independent domain. On the contrary, they manifest themselves through everyday activities of life. Thus they influence the economic, social and political fields."[23]

The following can be a list of national duties:

  1. to remove poverty
  2. to provide employment
  3. to provide education
  4. to provide medical facilities
  5. to provide economic development
  6. to provide basic amenities - a house, clothes and food
  7. to maintain law and order

These duties can be performed through the rules and regulations of the state religion and not through the principles of religion. In the absence of the full development of state religion, digging wells, setting up hospitals,dharmashalas etc., became religious activities and only the rich arrogated to themselves the right to conduct them. Performing a duty was linked to the prospect of getting to heaven and giVen the status of religion. Consequently, the fulfilment of needs depended upon the mercy of the rich. The consciousness of national duty could not be associated with it. It is of course expected that moral awareness be linked to every social and national duty, but these duties are not to be performed in the name of religion or in the hope of being religious so that the discreteness of the social and state objectives on the one hand and religious objectives on the other is not affected.

Social religion will be the same for every member of society. In the same way state religion will be the same for every citizen. But the religion that involves worship or devotion will not be the same for every one. When there are so many different sects and concepts, by which religion will society and the nation be governed? This poses a conundrum. History can bear witness to the fact that states governed by their own religion have treated inhumanly those who belonged to different religions or sects. Religious fanaticism coupled with the madness of power can prove more terrible than atomic weapons. Therefore society and the country should be governed by morality and a code of conduct. But even thisarrangement is not absolutely innocuous. Morality and a code of conduct are optional. They cannot be made obligatory like laws. If they are made binding, they will become laws and will cease to be manifestations of religion. Therefore, the best choice is that management of society and the nation is influenced by morality and a code of conduct, with a check on the infiltration of perversities and whims into them so that they may not become instruments of oppression and exploitation in the hands of people.

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Translation: A.L. Shah, Associate Professor Department of English University of Rajasthan Jaipur

Publisher: Jai Tulsi Foundation, JVB, Ladnun, India

Edition: 1st, 1994

HN4U Editon: 2013
Hindi & Sanskrit for web composed by Sushil Bafana