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Who is a Jain Shravak: 04 ►The Initiation Point of Shravakatva

Published: 06.02.2020

What is the beginning point of shravakatva or shravak's life? It is a common belief that the life of a shravak or shravakatva begins when the child is born in a Jain family. The account of a child as a family member is created with the birth. Similarly, the title of a shravak is labelled with birth in a Jain family. This is a general conception; Jain philosophy believes otherwise. There are three valuable gems according to Jainism - right faith, right knowledge, and right conduct. Shravakatva begins only when a person nurtures these gems and incorporates them in their life. AcharyaTulsi writes in Shravak Sambodh as:

Samyakdarsangyaanachaaritraani ratnatrayi moksha path hai,
Umasvati ke shabdon mein, shravakjeevan ka yah ath hai.

i.e. three gems - right faith, right knowledge and right conduct constitutes the path of moksha. According to Acharya Umasvati this is the beginning of shravakatva.

Let us understand the starting point of shravakatva clearly.

Redefining Value

In the words of a Sanskrit poet:

Prithvyamtriniratnaani, jalamannamsubhaashitam,
mudhaihpaashaanakhandeshu, ratnasangyaabhidhiyate.

i.e. Water, grains, and virtuous words - these three are the only pearls and gems on this earth. Only ignorant people consider stones as gems. Generally, gems like diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds are considered as the most precious jewels. If there is no water to drink then what would be considered more precious - a gemstone or water?

Once, wandering in a forest, a king met a hermit.

Hermit: 'Who are you?'

King: 'I am the king of this country.'

Hermit: 'What do you do?'

King: 'I rule over my kingdom.'

Hermit: 'Do you do something for your life?'

King: 'No, I do nothing.'

Hermit: 'Take a moment and evaluate your life.'

The king responded with pride, 'Why should I evaluate my life? Look at the prosperity of my kingdom. My kingdom is prosperous from all perspectives luxury, army and the wealth.'

Hermit: 'That is fine, but is your life worth more than your prosperous kingdom.'

King: 'So what is the value of my kingdom in your eyes?' Hermit: 'It equals to two glasses of water.'

The king was astonished by these words and said, 'No way! Explain yourself!'

'O king! Imagine for a moment that you are sleeping at night. Suddenly, you feel urine blockage. You are restless and uneasy. The medicine did not work. You panic like a fish out of water. In such a critical situation, an experienced doctor gives you a medicine and you start to feel better. Tell me what will you do?'

The king answered, 'In such a situation, where someone saves my life, I will reward him with half of my kingdom.'

Hermit: 'O king! Now imagine that you are going on a sightseeing visit to a jungle with your family and army. Suddenly you notice that you are all alone and off the beaten path. On an extremely hot day in the month of May, scorching heat makes you thirsty. Your throat is dehydrated and you begin to worry for your survival. At this moment, having noticed your thirst, a stranger comes to you with a glass of water and thus saves your life. What will be his reward?'

King: 'In such a life-saving situation, I will reward him with half of my kingdom.'

Hermit: 'You are a wise man. You gave half your kingdom to the experienced doctor who cured your urine retention and the other half to the person who gave you a glass of water when you needed it the most. So, what is the value of your kingdom - Is it not just two glasses of water?'

Hence you do not know the value of your life which is precious. This is the value of your kingdom, but your life is priceless and more valuable than precious stones. A person who does not evaluate his life can never succeed and thus cannot experience peace and happiness.

Preliminary value of Shravak's Life

One must evaluate the true value of shravak's life and understand where it begins.

To elucidate the initiation point of shravak's life AcharyaTulsi mentioned the name of Umasvati, the author of 'Tattvartha Sutra'. Tattvartha Sutra (the original name, Moksha Sutra) starts with the aphorism:

'Samyakdarshangyaanachaaritraani ratnatrya mokshamaargaha'

Right faith, right knowledge and right conduct altogether lead to the path of emancipation.

These are not three different paths, but one comprised of the three. In the words of Umasvati, these three gems are the starting point of a shravak's life. It is a prerequisite to have faith and follow this path for shravak's life. One should contemplate on right faith, right knowledge, right conduct. A person, who does not understand and adopt the practices of these three gems, does not qualify to be called a shravak. He can just be a follower. Therefore, it can be concluded that a shravak's life does not start just by birth or lineage. It begins from the moment he starts practising right faith, right knowledge, and right conduct.

Samayak Darshan (Right Faith)

Right faith, in general, is understood as right perspective. But in fact, it is far beyond this practical definition. Acharya Tulsi explains right faith ontologically. He explains how a soul can achieve this state?

darshan-saptak aur apratyaakhyaanaavara nvilay paaye
tab sanyamvrat me praveshkar, deshvrati ve kahlaaye.

A layman becomes shravak when he attains right faith (samayakdarshan). When does he attain right faith? Right faith emerges when the seven types of karma, collectively called 'Darshan Saptak', are either eliminated (kshay), or subsided (upsham) or destruction-cum-subsided (kshayopasham). Darshansaptak means seven types of mohaniya (deluding) karma:

(1). Four types of anantaanubandhi (endless or severe) kashay (passions): anger, pride, deceit, and greed, (2). Three types of darshan mohaniya (faith deluding) karma: mithyatva (perverse faith) mohaniya, samyaktva (right faith) mohaniya and mishr (mixed or unstable faith) mohaniya. When these seven karmas subside samyakdarshan is attained.

Naishchayika Samyak Darshan

There are two types of right faith:

  1. Pragmatic right faith (Vyavhaarika)
  2. Realistic right faith (Naishchayika)

The kshayopasham of darshansaptak is realistic right faith. Until darshansaptak is conquered partially or completely, right faith does not appear. Anantaanubandhi (infinite intensity of passion) is the most dangerous. For example, if a person has grudges against someone and resolves not to maintain any relation with that person forever including all the future reincarnations. It is the state of anantaanubandhi anger. Another state of anger occurs when at times a person gets angry, but eventually cools down. Of course, there is anger, but it is not anantaanubandhi.

Abhichi Kumar was the son of Udrayan, the valorous king of Sindhusauveer. When Udrayan grew old he thought of getting initiated into monkhood. He was scrutinizing, 'Who should I hand over my kingdom to? Tradition demands that I entrust it to my eldest son. Since, I know the fact that a ruler ends up in hell (rajeshvari - narkeshwari). I do not want my son to go hell in the next life. Therefore, I shall not crown him.' Thus, his nephew Keshi Kumar became his successor. The intention of the king was spiritual, but the expectations of external world are different. Consequently, the outcome became adverse. Without understanding the reason behind the king's decision, his son, Abhichi Kumar was filled with anger and resolved, 'my father is my enemy and has snatched away my birth right and enthroned my cousin instead of me.'

Udrayan's entire family was devotees of Bhagawan Mahavir. On Samvatsari, they fasted and did pratikraman in the evening. During khamatkhaamana (process of forgiving and forgetting), Abhichi Kumar said, 'I apologize humbly to the eighty-four-lakh species of life except my father Udrayan!

This is the state of anantaanubandhi, where anger is infinitely intense. In such a state, right faith never appears and those who possess it lose it.

The First Ray of Spirituality

Every shravak should strive to rid himself of darshansaptak. An unresolved knot of emotions should not exist. If it forms, then the emotions become anantaanubandhi. When darshansaptak is conquered, only then right faith appears. The emergence of right faith is the first ray of spirituality.


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 Tulsi
  3. Acharya Umasvati
  4. Anger
  5. Darshan
  6. Darshan Mohaniya
  7. Deceit
  8. Greed
  9. Jain Philosophy
  10. Jainism
  11. Karma
  12. Karmas
  13. Kashay
  14. Kshayopasham
  15. Mahavir
  16. Mithyatva
  17. Mohaniya
  18. Moksha
  19. Pratikraman
  20. Pride
  21. Ratnatrayi
  22. Samvatsari
  23. Samyak Darshan
  24. Samyaktva
  25. Sanskrit
  26. Shravak
  27. Soul
  28. Sutra
  29. Tattvartha Sutra
  30. Tulsi
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