True Story - Jains Without Knowing It

Posted: 25.12.2004
Updated on: 15.07.2016


Karuna Jain and Aparigraha Jain from Berlin share their true story of discovering Jainism

Born two years after the end of World War II as Protestant Christians in West-Germany, we were brought up in a time when our parents were just happy having survived the chaos of war. Everybody was looking straight ahead into a 'better future' and was working damned hard for it. During our adolescence the rebuilding of the material world was phenomenally successful. So we tried to follow the principles we were taught and to develop rationally together with responsibility signifying the ability to foresee the consequences of actions and to become well-educated members of the society. A society dominated by the three dimensional mental consciousness of the logic world based on the truth of materialism.

As an inherent consequence, this world of rationality and logic neither leaves place nor time for the inner values of a human being. Value is given only to what can be measured and counted. All those values finally are named in terms of money. Who am I? What am I doing here? What am I living for? Around us, people were deeply immersed in this ‘modernity’ and self-gratification. They seemed to have no such questions, no such problems… In short, we became strangers in our own homes! Detecting the lack of knowledge of our inner world, our self and soul, we found ourselves really lonely in the midst of millions. From our youth we were looking for an integral way of living without being separated from the values of the inner world.

Aparigraha: “When I was 12 years old, I realised that something was going wrong in the world around me. In my twenties I retrieved in eastern philosophies and religions what I had started to miss. I opened my mind for the non-dualistic systems coming to the west by books and persons I met. Consequently I had visited the east looking for answers to the questions “Who am I?” and “What am I in?” Archaic, magic and mystic experiences of those years did not really ease my life, but I had started to find the truth and I learned about the warnings when it was too late … So life became my guru. Back in Germany I studied The Ever Present Origin by Jean Marie Gebser, a cultural philosopher. This book made me understand what we are in and going through - and how to get out of it. It’s like Janis Joplin said: “Freedom is just another word for - nothing left to loose.” The ‘Love & Peace’ message of the Hippies is possibly a positive definition of Lord Mahavir’s ahimsa. ‘All You Need Is Love’ (The Beatles) was a global message for this planet in the seventies of the 20th century. Perhaps I already was a Jain without knowing it at that time.”

Karuna: “My first encounter with Jainism was in Berlin, Germany, where I attended courses of Hatha Yoga due to some medical prescription. Two nuns (Samanijis), one of them was Samani Madhur Pragyaji, gave a short introduction to Jainism followed by a session of Preksha Meditation. From the first moment my inner being responded to the meditation and I knew all of a sudden that practising Preksha Meditation would be very beneficial for me. But the time to go deep into it had not come yet. Before meeting the Samanijis I was in a desperate situation, none of my questions concerning the sense of life and the reality of existence had been responded properly. People were more interested in finding monetary benefits than looking for answers to those questions. The hedonistic, ego-based western lifestyle made me feel a stranger in my own country and culture.

As a consequence problems emerged in my life. My inner world became my refuge, very often I was in opposition to the general attitude towards life. I felt the responsibility to support people when they were treated with violence in words and deeds. The way people treated each other such as gossiping and adversarial attitudes when the back was turned, caused big grief in me and I felt hurt witnessing it. Nobody seemed to care for anyone but themselves, people seemed to live exclusively for realising the dreams money could buy.

Already born as an enthusiastic teacher, I got my licence at the age of 23 and worked in this job successfully for twenty years. But as a deputy director I experienced some ugly truth behind it. My soul revolted - there was no answer to the question how to prepare young people for life in such a society. I stopped teaching. I sent my SOS around and seeked for help. At this time, the Samanijis came into my life. They were the friendliest, gentlest and most detached highly educated women I had ever met. They brought their subjects in a very kind way near to the people. When I asked them how they became like they are, they answered that it was by the guidance of their guru. They left some books authored by him and the advice to practise Preksha Meditation.

Very soon after starting to practise Preksha Meditation I reached a point where I felt a need for further instruction. In a full moon night I had a vision. The sky was illumined by the moon when a cloud took the form of an Indian landscape which I recognised as Rajasthan. My husband encouraged me to travel to the destination of my vision. So I went on my own to the Delhi Adhyatma Sadhna Kendra and felt at home immediately by the overwhelming reception. When later I saw Acharyashree Mahaprajnaji for the first time, something happened to my knees: they moved me down and I fell on my knees with hitherto unknown feelings of bliss and joy - at last, my soul was calmed.

Back in Berlin, Aparigraha was also moved by my experiences. One year later both of us visited India at the time of the Maryada Mahotsav. Both of us knew immediately that we had reached our spiritual destination. Becoming vegetarians, quitting smoking and alcohol became very natural. In our view, many Germans are attracted by non-violence. Since times immemorial Jainism cultivates the tradition of ahimsa on the planet encouraging people to search the truth of life for themselves and to connect themselves with their own Self. To make this tradition known in Germany, we are working full time and voluntarily on our online magazine HereNow4U. A choice of Jain texts and information on Jainism are available there in German and English. This is no easy task for us - we are only two people with the modest capacities two people can bring along. But we will keep on sharing Jainism with the western world.”

Karuna and Aparigraha Jain live and write in Berlin. Their Jainism website is: www.herenow4u.de

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Jain Spirit, Issue 21, p.36. [Online version no longer available]