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Who is a Jain Shravak: 16.1 Awakening of the Consciousness of Vow

Published: 27.02.2020

Can non-violence? Are truth and non-violence completely different from one another or the same? The demarcation between them is simply due to utility and understanding. If we interchange truth and non-violence, it doesn't make any difference. Where does the distinction lie then? In fact, both are the same. They have two different perspectives but in essence are the same, two names but the same objective.

Non-violence and truth are both interrelated. Existence of one is impossible without the other. If someone says that they will not commit violence, but tell lies, how is this possible? Telling a lie is violence. Non-violence and truth cannot be separated from each other. Both are intimately intertwined. For instance, whilst sewing if someone takes a needle and starts to sew without putting thread through it, there will be holes in the fabric but no sewing. Despite working tirelessly throughout the day without thread, there will be no output. Similarly, in the absence of truth, one cannot lead a non-violent life. It is essential to practice truth for a non-violent life. Where there is truth, non-violence becomes feasible. The following verse describes it very well.

kya kabhi ahimsa saty bina jee sakati?
sui dhaage ke bina vastra si sakati?
ateva ahimsa ka satyanishtha hota hai,
vishvast svasth nija paap-pank dhota hai.

In the opinion of Mahatma Gandhi and Acharya Vinoba, truth is superior to non-violence. However, in Bhagawan Mahavira's doctrine, ahimsa has been given prime importance and vows of truth and others principles are an extension of non-violence.

Truth has two forms - existential and utilitarian. 'saccham loyammi saarbhuyam', 'sacchansi dhitim kuvvah' etc. are the guiding maxims which reflect the existence of magnanimous form of truth. Its utility is in the form of speech. In the present context, the utilitarian view of truth and non-violence is desirable.

Vow of Truth is Essential

Once, a monk came to a village, a youth visited him to listen to his discourse. The monk preached about five anuvrats (small vows) namely non-violence, truth, non-stealing, chastity, and control over desires. The youth was very impressed. He said to the monk, 'These vows are very good. I want to accept them.' The monk agreed and the youth accepted the vows. Later, when he reached home his father asked him about his whereabouts.

Father - 'Where did you go today?'

Son - 'I went to listen to the monk.'

Father - 'What did you do there?'

Son - 'I heard about religion and then accepted the five vows.'

Father - 'Why did you accept the vows without asking me? Whatever you have accepted, you will have to return.'

The father had never come into contact of the monks. He did not get any opportunity to hear or know about religion. Some people, in spite of being adults, do not understand the principles of religion due to lack of exposure to spirituality. Therefore, age does not matter in the domain of religion. After having the desire for knowledge, a person learns many things and is able to discern between right and wrong.

Father, along with his son, was visiting a monk to terminate son's vows. On the way, they saw a young man hitting another man. The father couldn't prevent himself and interfered, 'Why are you beating him? Have you no compassion? How foolish you are!' The father set the injured young man free. The son asked his father 'Is beating not good?' The father answered, 'Yes, to afflict others is not good.' The son then said, 'I have accepted this vow of ahimsa. It says don't kill others, and don't hurt others.' The father realised the benefit of the vow and told his son, 'This, is great. You need not give it up.'

They moved further along and came across a shopkeeper. Reminded of his old debt, the father spoke to the shopkeeper, 'You have not reimbursed my money yet.' The shopkeeper said, 'I have returned the money to you on such and such date. You are so old now that you have forgotten it.' The father scolded the shopkeeper, 'You are telling a lie.' The son then asked his father, 'Father, why did you scold the shopkeeper?' To this, the father replied, 'He was telling a lie.' Again, the son questioned, 'Is telling a lie not virtuous?' and the father replied, 'Indeed, it is not.' Then, the son said, 'Father! I have accepted this vow of satya (truth). It is the vow to not tell a lie.' The father said, 'Fantastic, truth is necessary in our lives.'

The father then understood the utility of all the five vows. He also took the vows and became an anuvrati with his son. He came to know that these five vows were so virtuous that there was no question of abandoning them. Anuvrats comprise virtues that are required for leading a good life.

Here is one more illustration in this context. A father once took his young son to a monk. The monk preached to the son to give up his bad habits. The son refused and said, 'I will not leave it.' The monk made him understand so lovingly that the son was ready to take the vow. He said to the monk, 'I will not tell a lie.' and he took the vow of satya from the monk.

After returning home, in the evening the son was going out to drink wine. The father asked, 'Where are you going?' He could neither tell a lie nor tell the truth to his father. He decided not to go out. The next day, he had the urge to gamble. Again, when his father asked him about his visit, he was in the same dilemma. He could not tell the truth, so he chose to just stay home. The third day, he was planning to go to a prostitute. Coincidently, his father questioned him again. He was again helpless and left with no choice but to stay silent, dropped his plan and stayed home. Slowly, as time passed, he gave up these vices. Hence, one single vow kept him away from evil and changed his life for the better.

A Truthful Person is Always Trustworthy

In fact, deceits or falsehood are the leading cause of evil. If one gives up the habit of telling a lie, many other bad habits are automatically discarded. Therefore, it is truly said, 'ateva ahimsak satya nishtha hota hai- Thus, a non-violent person is always truthful. If a shravak observes the anuvrat of non-violence, he will have to be truthful and renounce falsehood.

There are four main reasons of uttering lies - anger, greed, fear and fun. By controlling their intensity, practice of truth is possible.

'Not to tell a lie' is negation form of truth. Another form is in affirmation. According to this, truth can be classified into four parts:

  1. Kaayrijuta- Physical action expressing the true meaning
  2. Bhaasharijuta- Verbal activity expressing true meaning
  3. Bhaavarijuta- Thoughts expressing true meaning
  4. Avisamvaadan yoga - Non-hypocrisy or harmony between words and deed

A shravak observing the anuvrat of truth cannot blame anyone without any valid proof. He does not tell a harmful lie owing to greed, anger, fear and fun. He never discloses a hidden secret, does not misguide others, does not become a false witness and never writes illegal documents. A person becomes an offender by not following any one of the above.

Truth is the supreme bedrock for gaining trust. Everybody believes a person who is truthful, while a liar is never trustworthy. Falsity is the cause of distrust. An untruthful is never reliable may it is spouse, brother, parents, offspring, and friend. If a person is not true to his word, he can commit any flaw. A truthful person is always healthy and content with himself.

The Vow of Non-Stealing (Achaury)

The third anuvrat is that of non-stealing. Shraavakaachaar elucidates non-stealing anuvrat in a very detailed manner. Theft is defined as an action of taking things that belong to others with the intention of stealing. Stealing is the underlying instinct of immorality or dishonesty. Until the awareness of morality is awakened, it is challenging to refrain from committing economic crimes. To control such crimes, morality should not become part of laws. It should become part of the life through training.

Religion and morality advocate not behaving cruelly with other humans. Cruelty can be done at two levels i) physical level ii) economic level. Physical cruelty is violence. Economic cruelty is stealing. Therefore, instinct of protecting oneself from economic cruelty is related with the anuvrat of non-stealing.

People having faith in ethical values try to avoid all value-degrading activities, which plunge them towards the dark tunnel of immorality. Today, why are both lifestyle and religion devoid of morality? How can religion survive when there is no morality or honesty?

jo naitikata se shuny, shuny jeevan hai,
isaliye achaury anuvrat sanjeevan hai.
aarthik aparaadhikaran svayam chori hai,
praamaanikata shravak kis thir theory hai.

i.e. life becomes lifeless in the absence of morality. Therefore, achaury anuvrat is a panacea to bring the life back. Economic crime is a theft. Honesty is an eternal philosophy of a shravak.

It is astonishing that religious people do practice religion, but do not value morality. The heart of morality is 'how to behave with others'. Everyone wants to be treated fairly, but today this is rare. For example, when a person goes to the market and finds adulterated food such as ghee, spices etc., he detests this dishonesty, which is immoral. He feels conned to see duplicity in the things. Sometimes it becomes very difficult to distinguish between pure and adulterated.

Once, AcharyaTulsi was staying at Kathotia Bhavan situated near the vegetable market in Delhi. A monk brought some cloves for treatment and started to rub them. He was, however, finding it difficult to grind them. Eventually, he went to AcharyaTulsi and explained the problem. After examining the clove, AcharyaTulsi said with surprise, 'This is not a clove, it is something else.' He broke it and found out that it was a piece of wood, shaped as a clove.

Various food items such as black pepper, cloves, dried ginger etc. are adulterated. When the brain of a person is polluted, how can things remain pure? In fact, our brain is responsible for adulteration. If thinking is pure, everything remains pure, but as our thought becomes infected, everything else becomes contaminated.

Criminal Brain

The anuvrat of non-stealing promotes morality and denounces criminal tendencies. Today, criminalization has entered every field of life, whether it is business, politics, governance or even religion. Society is often afflicted with a series of scandals. Every now and then, newspapers highlight various scams. It seems as though the human brain itself is criminalised. Crime has become a passion. When the elite and affluent people are caught in such frauds, the entire society and nation gets adversely affected.

Though anuvrat is essential for everyone, it is even more essential for those who are in power. Generally, a person lives in his own house and performs his own tasks. His mistake can have a minimal effect, whereas when a person with power commits a crime, his repercussions can affect the society and the nation as well.

Once, the king of Jodhpur and the court minister were standing at the pinnacle of the fort. The king asked, 'What will happen if we both fall down?' The court minister answered, 'If we both fall, my bump will be limited to my family, while your bump will be felt throughout the state of Jodhpur.'

As the Leader, so is the Follower

Why does this occur? Why do people with power tend to misuse it? It happens because the consciousness of vow is not awakened. For appointment of coveted positions in India such as I.A.S. (Indian Administration Service), S.P. (Superintendent Police) etc., one needs to undergo intense training. Along with this certification, qualification of being an anuvrati should be mandatory for these high-level administrative positions. Unless the person is anuvrati, he should not be able to be nominated for any post. A question is often raised before us, 'Gurudev! What is the benefit of trying to transform the juniors, if the senior bureaucrats and administrators are not transformed? First, we need to transform the people in authority and all the subordinates will automatically get transformed.'

This logic is not futile. As it is nicely written in the Gita, 'yad yadacharati shreshthah tad tadevetaro janah' - The public will follow the footprints of the leader of the community. In ancient times, it had been said that, as is the King, so are the subjects. The ideas and policy applied by the leaders affect the common mass. If they are beneficial, the subjects feel good, but if they are malevolent, their impression on the public will be negative.

There is an illustration in the Mahabharat epic. A question was raised, 'Is time (era) the cause of the King or is the King the cause of time (era)?' Bhishma answered that the King is the cause of time.

The public follows the ruler. A good ruler spreads positivity amongst his masses, whereas a bad deed of the ruler spreads negativity. The current accelerating rate of crimes is an outcome of the moral deterioration of human beings. These economic crimes have increased corruption rate. The current situation of the whole world demands consideration of adopting anuvrat.

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. Acharya
  2. Ahimsa
  3. Anger
  4. Anuvrat
  5. Anuvrati
  6. Anuvrats
  7. Brain
  8. Consciousness
  9. Delhi
  10. Fear
  11. Gandhi
  12. Ghee
  13. Gita
  14. Greed
  15. Jodhpur
  16. Mahabharat
  17. Mahatma
  18. Mahatma Gandhi
  19. Naitikata
  20. Non-violence
  21. Satya
  22. Shravak
  23. Violence
  24. Yoga
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