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Who is a Jain Shravak: 11.2 Panchaastikaay (Five Substances)

Published: 18.02.2020

What is 'To know?

Invisible does not exist - if this is true, then the whole world will disappear. Suppose you are in a closed room. Does everything out of the room cease its existence? It is not justified. If you cannot see any object, it does not mean that it does not exist. Many people say, 'How can we accept that the soul exists when we cannot see it.' Sometimes, even monks may think - 'We are accepting what is invisible and escaping what we see.' Why do we practice spirituality? It is done simply for the sake of realizing the soul. Has anybody visualized the soul?

I once wrote, 'I accept the soul, but do not know it.' It became a big issue amongst enlightened scholars. People began to say that Muni Nathmalji has become an atheist. One who does not know the soul, how can he be a true monk? Many known shravak started complaining to AcharyaTulsi through letters. AcharyaTulsi called me and asked, 'What have you written? Look at the number of letters coming in.'

Shortly after, some prominent shravaks came. AcharyaTulsi asked me (the then Muni Nathmal), to talk with them. I sat there with the visiting shravaks and the local officials of the organization Mahaasabha. They asked me, 'You have written - 'I accept the soul, but do not actually know it.' Without knowing the soul, how can you have the right faith and without knowing the soul, how can one be a shravak or a monk? We don't understand it.'

I raised a counter question - 'Do you know the soul?' Shravaks: 'Yes, we do.'

Muni Nathmal: 'If you know, kindly tell me so I can also know'

Shravaks - 'Look into our Aagams like Uttaradhyana etc, you will find the description of the soul.'

I said, 'You will give the reference of the Aagams, I can refer you to many more, but all these are only for acceptance. 'Mahavira has said so and so'- it means, I accept it. Should we accept any of the scriptures? The process of knowing means to realize directly. I have a book in my hand, but do I know it? Even though I have this book in my hand, I do not know it fully. We do not know about the past modes of the atoms of this book and the future also. Complete knowledge needs keval-gyaan (omniscience). Whatever is mentioned in the Aagams, we believe and accept it. Truly knowing it will only be possible when we realize the soul.'

They politely apologized, 'Munishree! We could not understand the difference between acceptance and realization.'

The Difference between Acceptance and Realization

Accepting and knowing (realizing) are two different states. I would like to share one illustration.

There was a servant at the house of a prostitute. He was humble and obedient. Once, there was no electricity and an unexpected guest arrived in the night. The prostitute ordered her servant to get clarified butter (ghee) to cook the food for the guest. The servant replied - 'I am scared of darkness and hence cannot go out in the dark.'

Prostitute: 'Do not worry, assume that there is no fear, it's just an imagination.'

At her insistence, the servant went out, but immediately after going just a few steps he ran back after encountering the darkness. He said, 'I am really nervous. I cannot go.'

The prostitute tried repeatedly to encourage her servant to presume that there was no such thing as fear. The poor boy went again but could not go and he returned. She forced him once more.

Eventually, to satisfy her, he came back with the bowl filled with yellow urine. The prostitute smelt and tasted it, and spontaneously she spat it and was disgusted. In fact, the servant had just found a donkey and got its urine. Furiously she asked the servant why he brought this and he told her to presume that it was ghee. She said, 'How can I imagine when I know it is not clarified butter?' The servant said, 'How can I assume that there is no fear, when I know there is?'

Acceptance is not enough. One must strive for realizing the truth. 'To know' is the most important. We must not simply accept what we are told or do what we are taught, but also endeavour to search for and realize the truth, i.e. the soul. This is the ultimate aim of a shravak.

Centre and Circumference

Matter and soul - these are the two principle substances of panchaastikaay. Body is matter and the conscious soul resides in it. Body is visible, whereas the soul is invisible. We recognize an effect by its cause. The body itself does not have the capability of knowing, but the soul does. Just as the core of an atom is nucleus and everything else revolves around it, similarly, the soul must remain in the centre and all other things should move around it. Without nucleus, there is nothing. Without soul, there is nothing. A spiritual person who does not keep the soul as a nucleus can get astray.

There is an illustration from Jain and Buddha literature.

A disciple once went to his guru and asked for permission to go out to propagate the religion.

Guru: 'If you do so, be prepared to face many difficulties. People will curse you. How will you feel and respond?'

Disciple: 'I will think how great they are. They are just abusing only with words and not hitting me physically.'

Guru: 'What if they do physical violence?'

Disciple: 'I will think at least they did not kill me.'

Guru: 'Suppose they do kill you, then?'

Disciple: 'I will think, at least they did not take away my beliefs and religion. I will always look on the bright side.'

Guru: 'With this positive attitude, you may go forth with my blessings.'

Positivity in attitude and thinking is only possible when the soul becomes the prime entity.

Observe the Soul, not the Skin

Few years ago, AcharyaTulsi was in Ludhiana. One day, he was scheduled to deliver a speech in a college. After seeing the monk's appearance with cloth covering his mouth, the students mocked at him. One commented, 'These are doctors. They have come here to operate. Only doctors keep their mouth covered.' Another said, 'No, they have got operated.' Everyone doubted whether AcharyaTulsi would be able to deliver his speech or not to such an unruly crowd. On the contrary, he was confident and unperturbed. 500 students and professors gathered there. AcharyaTulsi addressed them, 'You are all observing the skin, not the soul. You only see the exterior not the interior. If you would have learnt how to see inside, you would never laugh at me.' The entire atmosphere changed. When we focus on the soul, everything else seems trivial.

We find an incident of Ashtavakra in Upanishad. His body was malformed and ugly at eight places. Once, king Janaka invited him in his assembly. As he entered the hall, the members burst out into laughter. Ashtavakra took his seat and the king requested him to commence his speech. Ashtavakra said, 'I was under the impression that I have been invited to address seers, who visualize inner beauty, but I find myself among those who give importance to external appearances, not the soul.'

The audience was left stunned. Despite his crooked body, he had extraordinary spiritual knowledge.

Why is There Conflict?

If the soul is not in the center of thoughts, one's life is only based on matter desirous of fascinating sights, pleasant fragrances, delicious foods, attractive houses and eye-catching attires which leads to getting entangled in various problems.

Why do brothers have dispute? How can brothers fight with each other? Money is the root cause of such conflicts. Money becomes more important than relationships. One loves wealth and material things more than his brothers or relatives.

It is very common for brothers to fight for land or inheritance. Why does this happen? It happens when the soul is not in the center. At this stage, people lose conscience of what is important. Conflicts, fights, jealousy, criticism, and backbiting are common when matter is in the nucleus and important. The thinking pattern shifts if the soul becomes the focus. A soul-centred person before doing any action will analyse - will it be good or bad for my soul? Will this action make my soul heavier or lighter? Will it stop and solve many problems? Such contemplations will resolve many conflicts and problems.

If soul becomes the focus, then we will think - 'I am not immortal, and no one is immortal. Everybody has to die leaving all material things behind. Only the soul is immortal.' The things like wealth, house or land etc. go in the hands of others after death. Sometimes man loses these assets during his life also. Materialistic asset is not stable. Only the soul is stable asset. People generally focus on material things instead of immortal soul. That takes away their peace.

Utilitarianism and Spiritualism

It is essential for a shravak to know panchaastikaay and especially the soul. If there is no soul, there would be no need to strive for good deeds. In today's world, only utility becomes the prime motive. If the object is useful, keep it, otherwise throw it away. Even old people, if not useful, are ignored. In the same way, if a girl child is considered a burden, she is killed in the womb. When focus is on utilitarianism only, spiritualism has no place.

Today, every man is busy in his own life. He spends most of his time in office, factory, shop, etc. He has no time for spiritual pursuits. One day, two responsible shravaks from Malaysia came to me. I asked, 'Do you study any religious literature?' They said, 'We are too busy to devote time for that.' I said, 'That's alright but why is the more important work (spiritual pursuit) in life being ignored.' Now days, 'unimportant' jobs are in priority and the 'important' are omitted.

If even a couple of pages of spiritual literatures are read every day, negative thoughts do not enter the mind and you will never face any kind of conflict. Therefore, it is essential for a shravak to have faith in the soul and accomplish all tasks keeping the soul in mind. If you encounter any problem, contemplate -

'I am the soul, not the body.'
'I am the soul, not the house.'
'I am the soul, not the wealth.'

This attitude of 'I am the soul' - will transform your entire world and vision. Consequently, an individual and the society will both benefit.

Sources

Title:  Who is a Jain Shravak?
Author: 

Acharya MahaPragya

Translator: 

Sadhvi Vishrut Vibha

Publisher:  Adarsh Sahitya Vibhag, JVB
Edition: 
2019
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. Body
  3. Buddha
  4. Fear
  5. Ghee
  6. Guru
  7. Ludhiana
  8. Muni
  9. Muni Nathmal
  10. Shravak
  11. Shravaks
  12. Soul
  13. Violence
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