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Who is a Jain Shravak: 14.1 Eligibility of a Shravak

Published: 23.02.2020

A scholar from Mumbai asked me through a letter - 'In spite of many religious people, why is there a constant increase in the rate of crime, violence and corruption?' I would like to share the answer I gave him which I have often repeated in my public discourses.

I raised a question in response to the above question, 'What is the population of India?'

Answer: 900 million (90 crores that time), which has increased even more today.

My question: How many amongst them are religious people? Answer: There should be about 850 million such people. My question: How many of so-called religious people are honest? There was pin drop silence.

The fourth question was, 'Aren't there at least four or five hundred million?' People denied even this number.

I again asked if there were a hundred million such people.

The answer was, 'If we find even a hundred million honest people, then it is very good.'

Amongst a population of 900 million, 850 million people are so-called religious but probably five hundred million of them are not leading an honest life. Isn't it ridiculous? In this situation how can we expect a crime and corruption free country? What is the reason behind this? The reason is people are just anuyayi (followers) of religion but are not true practitioners of the religion.

Believing and following the religion is one thing and being religious is an entirely different aspect. We need to understand the distinction between a follower of a religion and a religious person clearly. Shravak and anuyayi are two different words. Generally, they are regarded as synonymous though there is a great difference between the two. A follower means one who has faith and a shravak means one who observes vows and puts the religion into practice. In the age of Bhagawan Mahavira we find many shravaks observed twelve vows. People went to listen to Bhagawan Mahavira's sermon, accepted vows, and became shravak. There were 156,000 shravaks and 318,000 shravikas during his period. There is no estimation regarding the number of followers. People who had faith in him were his followers, and only those who properly observed the vows were counted as his shravaks and shravikas. Followers follow behind and shravaks walk together. One needs to become a co-walker. Acharya Tulsi said frequently, 'I don't want mere followers; instead I want you to become shravaks.'

Eligibility of a Shravak

Those, who believe in religion, relish it and have faith in it. They are just interested in religion but do not practice it. There is neither authenticity nor honesty, and neither self-restraint nor penance in their life. They only believe that religion is good, but do not apply in their life. Such people are merely followers of the religion. There are many religions in this world.

Followers of Christianity are the highest in number, and then come the Islam community followed by the Buddhists and then the Vedic tradition. If we analyse the numbers of followers and practitioners in all the religions, we will find that most of them are followers but not religious. If a Christian follower follows the ten commandments of Jesus Christ, then he is a real devotee of Christianity. One who is Jain and observes the twelve vows can be considered a shravak. Shravak and religious person are both synonymous. The eligibility for being a shravak is acceptance of the twelve vows. It can be said that one who accepts the twelve vows, is a shravak and one who does not is just a anuyaayi of Jainism. Shravak comes in a separate category. One who practices self-restraint is a shravak. How can a person with limitless violence and limitless possessions be called a shravak or religious?

The Value of Limit

This is an ancient illustration. Once, a traveller during his journey stopped by in a village for rest. During that period, there were neither hotels nor restaurants. An old lady used to run an eatery. The traveller had his meal and asked if he could stay overnight.

Lady: 'Yes, you can.'

Traveller: 'How much will it cost?'

Lady: 'There is a bed here. You can use to sleep and it will cost you 25 paisa only.'

The traveller wondered why to spend even 25 paisa. There was enough space in the courtyard and he decided to sleep on the floor.

Traveller: 'There is no need for a bed. I can sleep in the courtyard itself Lady: 'That will cost you 1 rupee.'

Traveller: 'What is this? You are charging 25 paisa for a bed and one rupee for the place on floor?'

Lady: 'There is limited space on the bed but the courtyard is large. You can use the entire place to sleep. Hence, it will cost one rupee.'

It's very true. When there is no limit, trust becomes very limited because the person can desire and move to any extent.

People find it easier to trust a person who has some self-control and limits. Self-control is the key to a happy life. Very few people understand its significance. Many people limit their consumption to five or ten food items a day. This is a significant concept of Jainism. The quantity of consumables and temptation of tongue will be reduced by limiting consumption. If a person resolves that he will not eat more than ten items a day, and after having eaten all ten items even if delicious food is served before him, he will not be tempted. Therefore, limit strengthens the will power. This resolution has a three-dimensional benefit. It increases mental power, power of restraint of taste, and physical health.

Restraint Makes Identity

Restraint defines one's personality. A person who is identified through his restraint, vow and renunciation is commendable in this world. On the other hand, a person who has no self-control, limits or renunciation cannot be an outstanding personality. According to Agams there are three types of personalities: superior, medium and lower. From a spiritual point of view, one who does not have self-control or restraint at all belongs to lower level. Self-restraint, limitation of wants and desires gives specific identity of a human being.

Attitude Makes Identity

In ancient literature, we find differentiating characteristics between noble and evil personalities. Both have diverse attitude and behavioural pattern. Therefore, attitude also defines personality.

Once, a miser person was going somewhere. His attention was diverted, and he fell into a deep pit. Crowd gathered and people said, 'Give us your hands!' He listened to them but still didn't raise his hands up. People could not understand the reason. Meanwhile, the miser's neighbour looking at the crowd stopped by and asked about the incidence. People told him, 'Look! How foolish he is! He has fallen in the pit. We are telling him to give his hands, he is not doing so.'

The neighbour said, 'You do not know his habit, but I am aware of it. I will show you a miracle.'

The neighbour went near the pit and extending his hand said, 'Take my hand! Take it! Take it!' The miser raised his hand immediately. People were surprised. In fact, miser was used to taking only and not the giving. So, he understood the language of taking rather than giving.

Therefore, attitude reflects the personality who you are.

Identity of a Shravak

Everybody has their own identity. What is the identity of a shravak? Who is a shravak? One, who observes the vows and keeps control in their life, is known as a shravak. A shravak's resolutions are:

  1. I will not commit unnecessary violence.
  2. I will not kill innocent living beings.
  3. I shall not tell a lie which hurts others.
  4. I will not indulge in big thefts.
  5. I will confine myself only to my spouse for my sexual satisfaction.
  6. I will practice controlling my desires.

The above characteristics identify a shravak. A shravak commands respect and value as long as he is endowed with these characteristics. Without these characteristics his value goes down.

Once, an incident took place in Udaipur. Two people were quarrelling with each other. On one side there was a trader, and on the other, a royal attendant. The trader said, 'You are nothing in front of me. I am sparing your life as you bear the royal sign (badge).'

Hearing this, the officer said, 'I will remove this royal insignia', and threw the belt on the ground. No sooner did he remove the belt, the trader hit him. The officer went to the king and complained, 'I am your employee and that trader hit me.' The king lost his temper, summoned the trader and asked, 'Did you beat my employee?' Trader: 'No, I did not.'

Pointing to his employee, the king said, 'Did you beat him up?' Trader: 'Yes, I did but he was not your employee.' King: 'What are you saying? He is my employee.' Trader: 'I beat him up, but he was not your employee.'

The trader described the entire incident to the king. The king asked his employee if that was true. The employee replied in the affirmative.

King responded, 'You are forgiven. The employee is the offender. The moment the belt was unfastened, identity was lost and he was no more a government employee.'

When he lost the identity of a royal worker, the king could not help him. Therefore, identity is precious and to safeguard oneself it is necessary to maintain it.

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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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acharya
  2. Acharya Tulsi
  3. Agams
  4. Christianity
  5. Islam
  6. Jainism
  7. Mahavira
  8. Mumbai
  9. Shravak
  10. Shravaks
  11. Shravikas
  12. Space
  13. Tulsi
  14. Udaipur
  15. Vedic
  16. Violence
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