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Who is a Jain Shravak: 2.3 Attributes of a Shravak

Published: 04.02.2020

Training is Important

Through proper training, even impossible can become possible. On the other hand, without training the easiest task also seems difficult to complete. Training plays a very important role in our life. Here is an inspiring illustration.

One day in the king's assembly, an interesting discussion was going on: Is it possible that a goat refuses to eat the hay if it is kept before him? Is there any such trainer, who can train it to do so?

One of the assembly members stood up and said, 'My Lord! I can do it.' He got two weeks to train the goat.

Two weeks later, the man came with the goat in the assembly of the king. Hay was offered to the goat. Goat turned his face as soon as he saw the hay. Everyone was surprised. The king said, 'How can this be?' Wherever the goat turned its face to, hay was served there and each time it refused.

The king asked with surprise, 'How did you make this impossible task possible?'

The man replied, 'My Lord, I took the goat into the forest and put hay before it. No sooner did it start to eat, I would beat it with an iron rod. Within three or four days, whenever hay was served it would turn its face away. The goat thinks that if he starts to eat hay, it will be beaten. Now it is completely trained. Whenever you put hay before it, it will not eat it.'

This story is related to desires and ambitions. Desires rise constantly and even in sleep too. During his sleep man does so many things. He dreams and sometimes speaks too. Desires are constantly active during day and night. The cycle of non-abstinence never ceases. As soon as desire emerges, one needs to hammer it with a rod. He should be determined to refuse enticing desires and decide not to fulfil them. The consciousness of rejection can be awakened in the form of - 'I will not accept it; I will not eat this today; I will not speak ill-words; I will not do this work.' Through frequent resolutions, our brain can be trained and the consciousness of abstinence can be awakened. This is the process of training or awakening the consciousness of abstinence.

Continuous Practice Strengthens the Abstinence

Suppose a man decides - Padhame bhante! Paanaaivaayam pachhakkhaami! - I will not kill any living being. Merely by saying this resolution, the consciousness of abstinence is not strengthened. It is reinforced only through regular practice. A shravak known as vrataavrati (partially abstinent) should try to develop the consciousness of more abstinence. Acharya Haribhadra elaborated this topic in his book 'DharamBindu'.

He illustrated a story from the Jain canon Nayadhammakahao about four daughter-in-laws Ujjhita, Bhogavati, Rakshita and Rohini.

A father-in-law gave five grains of rice to each of his daughter-in-laws and said, 'I may ask you to return these rice grains at any moment.' Ujjhita threw her grains away. Bhogavati ate them. Rakshita kept them safely in a box and Rohini sowed her grains in the farm. After five years, suddenly, the father-in-law asked his daughter-in-laws to return the grains. The first two were unable to produce the grains; Rakshita brought the grains from the cupboard, while Rohini asked for several carts to carry the grains as the quantity had multiplied enormously.

What should a shravak do after accepting the vows? He should not behave as Ujjhita. The vow once taken should not be discarded. It should be followed the way it was accepted, regularly. Consistency will strengthen the vow. A shravak should not be like Bhogavati either, as she wasted her grains by eating them. It means a shravak should not do spiritual practices like penance just to show off. He should not disrespect or misuse the accepted vows by boasting of it. A shravak who wants to strengthen the vows should become like Rakshita and Rohini. He should at least secure them by regular practice and if possible try to increase the vows and restraint.

Vows Make a Man Righteous

A person without any vow is not righteous. Aagams clearly define that life of a pandit (learned person) and a righteous person begins with the vow. Aviraim paduchchha baletti ahijai- a person with non-abstinence is known as baal (ignorant) or unrighteous.

Even in the fourth gunasthaana person despite having the right perspective (samyak drishti) is not considered as vrati. In this state, a person has the right perspective, but lacks righteousness because of the absence of vows. Only after one starts practising the vows, does he become righteous and is categorized as vrataavrati. A shravak comes under the category of vrataavrati.

Shramanopaasak and Shravak

A person who is vrataavrati is also recognized as shramanopaasak and shravak.

The one who stays close to shraman(monk) is known as shramanopaasak. One who listens to the religious preaching is a shravak. From this perspective, a monk is also a shravak but not shramanopaasak. Only a householder becomes shramanopaasak.

shramanon ki samupaasana, shramnopaasak naam,
shaastron ka shrota sajag, shravak naam lalaam.
phal upaasana ka shravan, mile shravan se gyaan,
phir vigyaan vivechana, usase pratyaakhyan.
sanyam pratyaakhyaan se, ho aashrava avarodh,
tap vodaane nirjara, usase antahsodha.
tatah atul ekaagrata, akriya bane ayoga,
shaashvata siddhi, upaasana se das bol amogh.

Four words are used in the Aagams for a householder following the religion:

  1. Shramanopaasak- the one who is devoted to monks and nuns.
  2. Upaasak- the one who remains close to the soul or religion.
  3. Shraddha- the one who has keen faith in religion.
  4. Shravak- the one who listens to the preaching of scriptures or monks.

What Leads to Higher Forms of Life?

In ancient times, there was no facility of writing and printing. Knowledge was transferred verbally. One, who would stay close to his guru, would get the opportunity to listen to the unprecedented knowledge. In Bhagavati sutra, we find a very beautiful delineation of ten stages of the spiritual development achieved by staying close to a scholar shraman or maahan, which is described in the following order:

  1. By staying close to shraman, one gets the opportunity of shravan (listening) dharm or spirituality.
  2. By listening, one gets gyaan(spiritual knowledge). The consciousness of knowledge is awakened.
  3. By knowledge, one develops the vivek(discrimination) i.e. the power to discriminate between dos and don'ts.
  4. Conscience means analytical knowledge. After knowing the right distinction between acceptable and unacceptable, one does pratyaakhyaan(renunciation) of unacceptable.
  5. Renunciation leads to sanyam(self-restraint). One can control the senses and the mind only when the conscience of renunciation awakens.
  6. Consciousness of self-restraint, when developed, samvar(inhibition of karma) begins i.e. the inflow of new karma is inhibited.
  7. Having samvar in action, the consciousness of tap (penance) is awakened and special auspicious activity takes place.
  8. By penance there is nirjara(eradication) of past karmas and the karmic system becomes less effective.
  9. The more the nirjara the greater will be the inhibition of the mental, vocal, and physical activities. Such inhibition leads one towards the state of akriya(non-action).
  10. Non-action leads to moksha (emancipation). In this state, all activities or fickleness end. Emancipation is not possible till action exists. The state of complete non-action is must for emancipation. Emancipation is the ultimate stage of spiritual development.

These ten stages have their independent existence. Each stage is important and accounts for a relation between cause and effect. This can be understood through the following chart -

The Gita mentions a process of hearing, contemplating and self-realizing. This leads a person to renunciation. At first, one listens, then he contemplates, awakens the consciousness of knowledge, and then renounces. However, the journey of anuvrat and mahaavrat is nothing but renunciation of the unwanted action to reach the ultimate destination moksha. Without rejecting the unacceptable, emancipation is impossible.


Title:  Who is a Jain Shravak?

Acharya MahaPragya


Sadhvi Vishrut Vibha

Publisher:  Adarsh Sahitya Vibhag, JVB
Digital Publishing: 
Amit Kumar Jain

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Aagams
  2. Acharya
  3. Acharya Haribhadra
  4. Anuvrat
  5. Bhagavati Sutra
  6. Brain
  7. Consciousness
  8. Das
  9. Dharm
  10. Gita
  11. Guru
  12. Haribhadra
  13. Karma
  14. Karmas
  15. Moksha
  16. Nirjara
  17. Pandit
  18. Rohini
  19. Samvar
  20. Sanyam
  21. Shraman
  22. Shravak
  23. Shravan
  24. Siddhi
  25. Soul
  26. Sutra
  27. Tap
  28. Vrati
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