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Who is a Jain Shravak: 2.2 Attributes of a Shravak

Published: 04.02.2020

Sanyama(restraint), ashrav(inflow of karma), tap (penance) and vyavadaan (nirjara, eradication of karma) - these are the principle causes of higher forms of life. In this context, AcharyaTulsi has explained the conversation between the sthavirs (scholarly monks), disciples of Bhagawan Parshvanath, and the shravaks belonging to the city of Tungiya. This conversation gives a glimpse of the shravaks of Aagamic age. Those shravaks had intense faith in religion, curiosity to have profound knowledge, and were socially established. Their code of conduct inspires one to lead a life of self-control and penance.

'Tungiya' nagari nivaasi shravakon ki sankatha,
'Bhagavati' ki vaachana se mite maanas ki vyatha.
gahan jigyaasa bhare var prashna shri Gautam kare,
samaadhaan pradhaan shri Bhagawan vachanaamrita jhare.

BhagawanMahavira, with his disciples, was sojourning in Magadh. At that time, some sthaviras of Parshvanath's tradition came to the famous city of Tungika. The shravaks of Tungika were well-versed with both social as well as religious aspects. They were prosperous. They did not just aspire to accumulate wealth but would donate actively. They were quite influential amongst the locals and were learned in metaphysics. Being trustworthy to everyone was one of their prominent qualities. They were endowed with unshakable faith in Nirgranth pravachana (the philosophy of tirthankar). They would observe the vows, practice penance and were devotee of the monks.

After knowing the arrival of sthaviras of the Parshvanath order, the shravaks of Tungika visited them. Those sthaviras preached the discipline of four great vows to their laymen. After listening to the discourse, they had some queries. They humbly asked, 'What is the result of self-restraint? What is the fruit of penance?'

The sthaviras replied, 'Self-restraint results in anaashrav (the inhibition of inflow of karma). Penance results in vyavadaan (eradication of the past karma).'

Shravaks: 'If self-restraint results in inhibition of inflow of karma, and penance results in the eradication of the past karma, then what causes one to take birth in heaven as god?'

Among them, a sthavira named Kalikaputra came forward and said, 'Gods are born in heaven on account of their past tap.'

Another sthavira Mehila answered, 'On account of their past sanyam (self-restraint), gods are born in heaven!

Then sthavira Anandarakshita addressed them and said, 'On account of the karma-satta (existence of past karma), gods take birth in heaven.' And sthavira Kashyap said, 'On account of aasakti (attachment) gods are born in heaven.'

Gods are born in heaven because of their past austerity, past self-restraint, effect of their karma and attachment. All four of them had different answers, but collectively they constitute the complete answer. [Bhagavai(2.102)]

When this conversation between the shravak of Tungika and the sthavira of Parshvanath was going on, some shravaks from Rajagrih were also present there. Those shravaks after returning to Rajagrih explained the entire conversation to the other shravaks. BhagawanMahavira was also in Rajagrih during that period. That very day Ganadhar Gautam was finishing his two-days fasting. So, in the afternoon he went to the city to have alms. He listened to the conversation going among the shravakas. It roused some questions in his mind and made him restless. After getting alms, he went back to his place and explained the entire discussion to BhagawanMahavira and asked him, 'O lord! Are those sthaviras of Bhagawan Parshvanath able to answer the questions asked by the people of Tungika city? Have they answered correctly?'

BhagawanMahavira affirmatively responded, 'Yes Gautam! They are capable of answering the questions. The answers are right. I also say that there are four reasons behind taking birth in heaven - self-restraint, penance, karma, and attachment.'

This incident indicates the religious and social qualities of the shravaks of Tungika. The sutra (verse) 120 of second shatak(chapter) of Bhagavati Sutra explains about those shravaks. They were curious, aware of their life, would know their goal and for this reason they were ideals for others. AcharyaTulsi has described the same characteristics of a shravak in the following verse:

shravak hain shraddhaashila vimal vishvaasi,
shravak jeevan jaagarana ke abhyaasi,
shravak ne apana sahi lakshya pahchaana,
maanavata ka pratimaan svayam ko maana.

A shravak is one, who is faithful and trustworthy. This is very important. One, who is devoid of these two attributes, cannot be a shravak. He must have faith in religion. A man without faith is dry, null, and worthless. Lack of faith makes life meaningless, but a life with faith is meaningful. With the power of faith, one can face difficult times with ease.

In Jain Vishwa Bharati, some elderly ladies would come to listen to the discourses every day. They were too feeble to step out of the house. It was because of the power of faith they would reach Jain Vishwa Bharati, using the support of walking sticks and by taking few halts on their way.

Who forced them to come? It was just the power of faith. If anyone would ask them, 'Do you feel any pain?' The answer would be a 'no'. It proves that a shravak is always faithful.

A shravak is always trustworthy. He does not deceive or cheat anybody. If we look at the history of past thousand years, we find Jain shravaks to be an embodiment of trust. In princely states of Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner and Udaipur, Jain shravaks have always been appointed with prime posts such as treasurer, commander of the army for almost thirty-five consecutive generations. The whole administration had been run by Jain shravaks. They earned strong trust and therefore the kings would always keep them in top posts. As per Aagam, a special title 'avanguyaduvare' was bestowed on these shravaks, which means there was no restriction on their visit even to the king's private harem (queen's palace).

An Illustration of Trust

Bhainsa Shah, a reputed shravak of Rajasthan, once went to Ahmedabad. He needed one lakh rupees which is almost equivalent to one billion today. In those days, grains purchased with 1 anna (6 paisa), could be consumed for one month. What is the current situation? One anna has no value. Even buying breakfast is not possible in one anna. Bhainsa Shah asked his employee to go to one of the businessmen (seth) and request a hundi (a kind of loan) of one lakh rupees. The employee went to get the loan, but was asked by the businessman to pledge against the loan. The employee took out a little container and giving it to the lender said, 'Here is the hair of moustache of Bhainsa Shah. Take it and lend me the money.' To his surprise, the seth kept the small box and contributed him one lakh rupees.

Isn't it a great illustration of trust? Is it possible today to get one lakh rupees against the hair of a moustache? Those were the days when there was a strong trust on Jain shravaks' word of honour. During that era, written contracts were not in vogue. The entire business and market would function on verbal agreements. Words once spoken were like an iron rod implying unchangeable. Today's scenario is totally different. People deny admitting their own writing. Often the writing goes for scientific examination to verify the writer.

The Significance of Reputation

The question is not of money, but of reputation. Money has no value before reputation. Character and reputation supersedes everything. AcharyaTulsi has explained it in the following stanza:

main jaini hun janata mein dhaak jamaaye,
kho kar bhi laakh na apani saakh gamaae.
shramanopaasak hona saubhaagya ghadi hai,
dhaarmik sanskriti ki sanjeevani jadi hai.

It means - 'I am blessed and proud to be a Jain and a shramanopaasak- this feeling is a matter of good fortune and pride, but along with this feeling, he is determined to live the Jain way of life and leaves an indelible impression on others of being a Jain shravak'

Seeing the growing influence of a shravak some people may become jealous and this can be a challenging period for him. In such a situation he may have to bear some harm but a shravak should always keep just one thought in his mind - loss of wealth doesn't matter, but his reputation should remain intact.

A person, who is more conscious about his wealth, puts his energy to secure his wealth even at the cost of his character and reputation. He can change his words. On the other hand, one, who gives value to his prestige and wants to secure it, can bear the loss of millions to protect his reputation or character.

There was a cloth merchant who was famous for his honest behaviour. He would never deceive anyone. Once, the king required some silk fabrics. He called for the merchant and asked, 'Do you have any silk fabric in your shop?'

The merchant was quite nervous as it was the first encounter with the king and the words slipped out as, 'I don't have any silk fabric.' And the merchant left.

A few people complained to the king, 'Majesty, we have seen piles of silk fabric at the merchant's shop. Perhaps he doesn't want to give it to you.' The king did not believe the people's words, but upon their insistence, he ordered his attendants to investigate the next morning.

After reaching home the merchant asked his son if there was any silk fabric in the shop. The son replied, 'We have one lakh worth of these goods.'

The merchant immediately said, 'Burn it all.' The son was astounded. The merchant explained, 'It doesn't matter if I lose one lakh, but my words must remain intact.' The son followed his father's instructions.

The next morning, the king's men reached the merchant's shop. They didn't find what they were looking for and accordingly reported back to the king. The king ordered the tongues to be cut of those who had complained falsely against the merchant. On hearing this news, the merchant rushed to the king and declared, 'Your Majesty! Those people are right. At that time, silk cloth was there in my shop, but because of nervousness I said that there wasn't any fabric.'

The king asked, 'Where have the goods gone?'

The merchant replied, 'In order to keep my words, I burnt all the fabric.'

Listening to this, the king was very pleased and ordered his treasurer to reimburse the merchant of his loss.

To earn the reputation of being trustworthy is a great accomplishment. Even today this trust exists.

Once, when we were in Chennai, I had a conversation with a reputed industrialist, Mr. Ramnath Goenka. He said, 'Acharya Shree, your Jain shravaks are very trustworthy. You kindly carry on the mission of producing such trustworthy shravaks. May you cultivate two or five hundred such personalities and I am willing to recruit them all in my industry.'

Even in present environment, it can be admitted that comparably Jain shravaks are more honest and in general does not deceive anyone. However, there may be exceptions. Generally, Jain shravaks can be trusted today due to good sanskaars (morals). The sanskaars always guide them and prevent them from engaging in immoral actions. Therefore, being trustworthy is a significant attribute of a shravak.

Practice to be Awake

Furthermore, AcharyaTulsi writes that shravak leads a life of awareness. There are three categories of shravaks-

  1. Awakened
  2. Dormant
  3. Dormant-Awakened
  1. Awakened: Mahaavrati monks are abstinent and therefore awakened. They observe five mahaavrats-
    • Non-violence
    • Truth
    • Non-stealing
    • Celibacy
    • Non-possession
  2. They remain aware round the clock. They are conscious of the self even while sleeping.

  3. Dormant: A non-abstinent person is oblivious to his actions and surroundings. He is not aware of his soul. That's why he is sleeping even while walking, eating, or working. Thus, avrati is dormant.
  4. Dormant-awakened: It means half awakened and half dormant. Shravaks come under this category because they are partial-abstinent. A aims to be aware at least for some time. He has conscience. For example, say a shravak took a vow not to eat a dessert rasagulla for one day. He follows it perfectly because he thinks there are many other things to eat. Not eating is not of essence, but the underlying consciousness of restraint or renouncing the item is great. It is the consciousness of awareness

End Goal: An Achievement

Until the consciousness of vow awakens, one cannot take resolutions. Awakening of the consciousness of vow is a big achievement. This awakening reflects that shravak has recognized his goal. Recognition of goal is again a great achievement. Is the goal of life only to earn, build a big house, and eat or do something else? If materialistic achievement is the only goal, then it's nothing but an illusion. After leaving the world, these things will end. These are just means to run the life. The goal of a shravak's life is to proceed towards spirituality. One, who realizes this specific goal, becomes an ideal or icon for humanity. A person who is recognized by his honesty and character becomes a figure of humanity.


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. Aagam
  2. Ahmedabad
  3. Ashrav
  4. Bhagavati Sutra
  5. Bikaner
  6. Celibacy
  7. Chennai
  8. Consciousness
  9. Discipline
  10. Environment
  11. Fasting
  12. Ganadhar
  13. Jain Vishwa Bharati
  14. Jaipur
  15. Jodhpur
  16. Karma
  17. Lakh
  18. Magadh
  19. Nagari
  20. Nirjara
  21. Non-violence
  22. Parshvanath
  23. Pride
  24. Rajasthan
  25. Sanyam
  26. Shravak
  27. Shravakas
  28. Shravaks
  29. Soul
  30. Sutra
  31. Tap
  32. Tirthankar
  33. Udaipur
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