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Who is a Jain Shravak: 03 ►Significance of a Shravak

Published: 05.02.2020

How significant is a shravak? The following stanza has the answer -

jinashaasana ke avibhaajya anga hain shravak,
mati se gati se jinamat ka sada prabhaavak.
shaasan ki unnati mein nij unnati dekhein,
nij unnati mein shaasana unnati aalekhein

It means, a shravak is an inseparable part of Jain order and one who always enhances the dignity of tirthankara's philosophy.

A question is posed in Bhagavati Sutra - 'tittham bhante! tittham, titthagare tittham? Bhagawan! What is tirth? Is Tirthankar tirth?' Bhagawan answered - 'Goyama, araha tava niyamam titthakare. Tittham puna chauvanne samansanghe, tam jaha - samana, samanio, savaya, saviyao (Bhagavai20/74).'

Tirthankar is not tirth. The four-fold shraman sangh, comprised of sadhu (monk), sadhvi (nun), shravak (lay-man), and shravika (lay woman), and is called tirth.

Shraman sangh is like a four-wheeler. The front two wheels are monks and nuns and the rear ones are shravaks and shravikas. This vehicle of shraman sangh cannot move without any of its wheels. If the front ones exist and rear wheels do not then the vehicle is incomplete. Thus, it is said that shravak plays an important role in Jain-shaasan. He is an indispensable part of it.

What makes a shravak inseparable? Two qualities make him inseparable- mati(knowledge) and gati(conduct). Mati and gati are used by the shravakas promotional tools of Jinashaasan (Jain religion). Here, gati does not mean motion instead it denotes character, attitude, and conduct.

Householder and Shravak

There is a difference between a common householder and a shravak. The life of a shravak has two facets:

  1. Layman: He is a layman because he lives in a house, runs a business, earns a living, and nourishes his family.
  2. Shravak: The second facet is shravakatva. Along with performing all duties as a layman he practices religion and always tries to enhance the glory of Jinashaasan. One acquires the highly esteemed status of a shravak when he increases the dignity of the Jain community.

One should understand both the aspects - religious and worldly. From a worldly perspective, a shravak carries on the responsibility of his family and manages his family life. From a religious perspective, he practices religion and enhances the prabhaavana(dignity) of Jinashaasan. Prabhaavana is one of the aspects of right faith. Like monks and nuns, Jain shravaks and shravikas also enhance its dignity.

AcharyaBhikshu wrote - 'Oh Lord! What is going on? Today, Jinashaasan lacks influential shravaks'

This is a significant fact. If the shravaks are influential and powerful, then people accept Jinashaasan. If the shravaks are weak, they lose the influence in spreading the message of Bhagawan Mahavira.

Ram Kumarji was a tattvagya (scholar of ontology), virtuous and devoted shravak from Kolkata. His faith and devotion became shaky. During Gurudev Tulsi's chaaturmaas in Kolkata he came with a query, 'You give importance to those people who neither practice saamaayik (a spiritual practice for forty-eight minutes) nor chant mantras. I don't appreciate it.'

Due to discontentment, he got extremely frustrated and negative. I heard him patiently and then replied, 'Ram Kumarji, you are a scholar. Tell me! Who was given more importance, King Shrenik or shravak Puniya? Who would sit in the front row King Shrenik or shravak Puniya?'

He answered, 'Munishree! King Shrenik was respected with greater importance.'

Ram Kumarji, why was it so? Think upon it. In the context of enhancing the dignity, shravak Puniya was not as powerful as King Shrenik to spread the message of Bhagawan Mahavira amongst the masses. When Shrenik would visit Bhagawan Mahavira and bow down after alighting from his chariot, the public would be amazed to witness this. People would think, what a great saint Bhagawan Mahavira must be, for, the king himself is respecting him. When Vasudeva Krishna got down from his chariot and saluted (vandana) to Muni Dhandhan, people were stunned. Muni Dhandhan was praised everywhere and the esteem of Jinashaasan was elevated.

Ram Kumarji! Consider the other aspect also. Shrenik asked Mahavira, 'Oh Lord! How can I elude my birth in hell?' Bhagawan Mahavira explained some solutions. One of them was, 'If shravak Puniya gifts you the benefit of his one saamaayik, you can circumvent your birth in hell.'

King Shrenik went to Puniya and requested him to give his saamaayik. He promised, 'In return, I can offer money, land or anything you want, but please sell me your saamaayik.' Puniya said, 'Majesty, you are the king and I am your subject. I am ready to follow all your orders, but how can I give my saamaayik to you? Saamaayik cannot be exchanged under any terms. My soul is saamaayik and saamaayik is my soul. How and to whom should I give it? What should I ask for in return?' The king kept pleading and Puniya kept refusing. Who was more significant at that moment?

I said, 'Ram Kumarji, from social and practical perspective, Shrenik is praiseworthy, whereas in spiritual terms Puniya is more significant. Look at this incidence from a relative (anekant) viewpoint and not just from one outlook.'

Ram Kumarji was convinced and his mental agony was satiated.

Necessity of mati(Knowledge) and gati(Conduct)

There are various modes of prabhaavana(enhancing the dignity). Some practice saamaayik whilst others do penance. On the other hand, some people do not conduct either of the practices, but are very intelligent and learned. They always make efforts to enhance the esteem of Jinashaasan through their knowledge. They keep analysing, 'How to propagate or spread Jain religion? How can we elevate it? How to propagate it to the common mass?' Such people spread the message of Jinashaasan with their intellect.

In this way, some shravaks augment the influence of Jinashaasan through fasting, spiritual practices, conduct, behavior etc. and some through knowledge, while some are expert in both. Hence, mati and gati both are the important factors that enhance the significance of Jinashaasan.

Progress of Shaasan: Progress of the self

AcharyaTulsi has explicitly written that a shravak contributes to the growth of Jinashaasan with his mati and gati. By promoting the Jain philosophy, he realizes that it actually enriches his own growth. Whenever, our monks and nuns, samans and samanis travel, people get impressed by them. This impact makes the shravaks feel proud. They say, 'How great is our dharamsangh! How hard-working are our monks and nuns!' Why do they feel pride? It is because they are an indivisible part of the dharamsangh. Thus, they feel that their and dharamsangh's progress is directly related.

From another perspective, 'shravak thinks that his progress is the progress of Jinashaasan. When a shravak makes any progress, may it be material or spiritual, he should consider his contribution in serving Jinashaasan. Thus, he portrays himself in the mirror of shasan. The upswing of Jinashaasan is always before him.' In this way a shravak holds a significant place in Jinashaasan.

Authority of a Shravak

AcharyaBhikshu had articulated great value of a shravak. He had authorized him to expel a monk from the sangh when needed. Boradiaji's incident is relevant here.

Acharya Kalugani ordered Muni Nathrajji (in Gangapur) to spend chaaturmaas at Mokhanunda. However, due to his sickness, Nathrajji was staying at Devaria (a village near to Mokhanunda). Devaria was more conducive place with regard to food, water, place, etc., and his health also improved soon. Now Nathrajji didn't want to go to another place, leaving all the comforts and facilities. So, despite getting better, he didn't depart from there. The shravaks were in chaos. Some shravaks visited Muni Nathrajji and asked about his vihar (departure). Muni Nathrajji said, 'I am weak right now. I will go after some time.' After some days the shravaks contacted him once again.

Under the pressure by the shravaks, Muni Nathrajji left for Mokhanunda unwillingly. On the way, his legs started to stumble because of his unwillingness. Noticing his intention, distinguished shravak Juharmalji Boradia said, 'We are willing to be at your service throughout your stay at Mokhanunda. If you do not want to spend chaaturmaas there, return the books of the sangh and you will be free to go wherever you want.' This straightforward statement of Boradiaji compelled Nathrajji to reach Mokhanunda.

When Boradiaji visited Acharya Kalugani and narrated the incident, the Acharya praised him amidst the whole assembly and said, 'Our shravaks are very attentive. They do not hesitate to show the right path even to the monks who get distracted. They know all the disciplines of the sangh.'

The shravak plays an important role in our order. If a shravak evaluates his own self, he can be very useful to the dharamsangh.


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. Acharya
  2. Acharya Kalugani
  3. Anekant
  4. Anga
  5. Bhagavati Sutra
  6. Fasting
  7. Gangapur
  8. Gati
  9. Gurudev
  10. Jain Philosophy
  11. Kalugani
  12. Kolkata
  13. Krishna
  14. Mahavira
  15. Muni
  16. Pride
  17. Ram
  18. Sadhu
  19. Sadhvi
  20. Samanis
  21. Samans
  22. Sangh
  23. Shraman
  24. Shravak
  25. Shravakas
  26. Shravaks
  27. Shravika
  28. Shravikas
  29. Shrenik
  30. Soul
  31. Sutra
  32. Tirth
  33. Tirthankar
  34. Vandana
  35. Vihar
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