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Who is a Jain Shravak: 24.1 Identity of a Shravak

Published: 12.03.2020

To be born as a human means, being blessed with a superior brain and having the power of reasoning. Man can think of self as well as the universe. Any rational being would think, 'Who am I? What is the universe?' These questions have been prevailing since time immemorial, whenever when human beings started to perceive through their inner self.

Who Am I?

The first and foremost question that arises in us- Who am I? For a shravak, from a spiritual perspective, this is the most fundamental question. A person who does not believe or have faith in religion thinks only of the present. On the other hand, a spiritual person thinks of the past, the present and the future - Who was I in the past? Who am I now? What will I be in the future? All three phases of time remain in his focus. A shravak should reflect upon this eternality.

shravak apane aap se, kare satat ahvaan,
main kya hoon, main kaun hoon, kya meri pahchaan?

i.e. a shravak should question himself - What am I? Who am I? What is my identity?

A philosopher as well as a spiritual person both has the same curiosity. The knowledge of anything cannot be true in the absence to the answer of the question 'who am I'? It is because if we believe only in the universe and not in its observer, our knowledge will remain incomplete and one-sided.

Perceiver and Perception

There are two realities - perceiver and perception, knower and knowable. Our outlook and perspective will be imperfect and perverse if only the object is considered and the knower and perceiver are ignored.

When the perceiver and perception (object) become one, it creates illusions and the perceiver considers the object as the only reality. When we are aware of the knower, then object and subject become two different entities. A person who does not believe in religion and soul, runs his life based on visual materialistic world. Therefore, his actions and thoughts never extend beyond wealth, matter, and material world. The concept of the soul is beyond his imagination. On the other hand, when the question 'Who am I?' arises, the mind begins to comprehend the truth such as - 'I am not merely a body, matter, object or unconscious. I am conscious, non-corporeal, knower and the observer. I have knowledge. I am the perceiver.' This experience develops understanding of two distinct worlds - the world of matter and the world of the soul. Many problems arise if we ignore the soul. The question 'Who am I?' is in fact an indication and thought of the soul. If we disregard the soul, a human and a non-living pillar will not have any difference. A pillar is devoid of consciousness. By ignoring the soul, in spite of having consciousness, a person will behave like an unconscious entity. Consequently, in spite of being a perceiver, he becomes like an object.

Albert Einstein, one of the great scientists of the modern times, was asked once, 'What would you like to be in the next life?' He replied, 'I have explored the objective world in this life. I would like to explore and study the world of the subject in my next life.'

It is important to know and to understand the soul. If a religious person is not concerned with the soul, it can thus be deduced that he has not understood religion in its entirety. A religious person must focus on the soul and ponder over - Who am I? What is my identity?

Existence and Personality

Humans are an important species in this universe. Human life fundamentally comprises two things: existence and personality. The word existence can be understood in two forms: being and nature. From the perspective of 'being', humans are existing equally amongst other living beings, but from the perspective of nature, humans are superior amongst other beings.

Human Characteristics

The distinguishing characteristics of human beings are an important subject of discussion. Several viewpoints such as human anatomy, brain, consciousness, and environment are considered to understand this subject. Human characteristics have been analyzed through multiple approaches in Jain Philosophy. Among them, birth, life span, anatomy, expression of consciousness, physical power, vital energy, micro and macro body, karmic body, values, spiritual development, modes of consciousness, perspective, flow of thoughts, and emotions are all important. Acharya Tulsi presented these fourteen characteristics to understand this subject. One cannot determine his core nature unless the primary knowledge of these characteristics is acquired. And without understanding them, development is also not possible.

Human nature cannot be predicted based on spiritual and emotional levels, because of the inconsistencies in their states. Yet, generally, based on the following characteristics a shravak can identify his existence.

What is My Identity?                  

A shravak must be curious to know his identifying characteristics. In ancient times, people used to memorize thokada[footer]1[/footer] based on elementary concepts of Jainism. They were taught to learn their identifying factors of life. A shravak should ask himself about his identifying characteristics which are mentioned in the following verse.

meri gati, jaati, kaay kya hai? kati indriy shakti samaaasrit hoon?
paryaapti, praan kitane shareer, kitane karmon se aavrit hoon?
kis gunasthaan mein main sthit hoon, kis aatma mein kin bhaavon mein?
drishti-tray dhyan-chatushk shatak leshya ke prabal prabhaavon mein.

In Jain Metaphysics, soul is the first identity of life. The second identity is gati (abodes of birth). There are four abodes of birth-hellish (narak), animal (tiryanch), human (manushy), and celestials (dev). The second identity for human being is manushy gati (human).

The third identity is jaati (class of organism). There are five classes of organisms. Class is determined based on the innate sense organs-one-sensed, two-sensed, three-sensed, four-sensed and five-sensed. A shravak is a five-sensed human being. This is the third characteristics.

The fourth identity is kaay (body). Living beings are categorized into six classes based on their type of the body: earth-bodied, water-bodied, fire-bodied, air-bodied, plant-bodied - these five are immobile and mobile-beings who having the ability to move. Humans come under the category of mobile beings according to this classification. This is the fourth identity.

The fifth identity is that we are complete with respect to bio-potentiality (paryaapti). We are endowed with praan and are fortunate enough to possess all six bio-potentials (ability to revitalize the body) - of food, body, sense-organs, respiration, speech, and mind. Having bio-potentiality implies that the living organism can intake of various life-sustaining substances (aahaar) and sustain the body. Our bio-potentiality keeps functioning until our body can regenerate the cells, and vice-versa. Our body is made of cells. They are microscopic. Around 50 million cells in human body die each second. One can thus imagine how the count grows exponentially within a day. If regeneration of cells does not occur, it can lead to death. With degeneration, regeneration also takes place. What is death? Cessation in regeneration of cells is death.

Other four life supporting bio-potentials are:

  1. Sensory bio-potential - It refers to be able to see, smell, listen etc.
  2. Respiratory bio-potential - It refers to be able to breathe.
  3. Speech bio-potential - It refers to be capable of speaking.
  4. Thought bio-potential - It refers to be endowed with thinking power.

The sixth identity is the body. It is classified into five types - the audaarik shareer (gross body), the vaikriy shareer (protean body), the aaharak shareer (communication body), the taijas shareer (luminous body) and the kaarman shareer (karmic body).

Gross body is made up of seven corporeal ingredients such as post-alimentary liquids, skin, flesh, fat, bones, marrow and sperm. It is stated in the Aagam Suyagado, 'dullahe khalu maanusviggahe'-it is rare to attain a human body. Human body possesses extraordinary power compared to all other life forms. This is the sixth identity.

Besides these, there are eight more queries regarding identity.

'How many karmas are circumscribing my soul? Which is my gunasthaan[footer]2[/footer]? Which state of the soul am I in? Which mode (bhaav) am I in? What is my perspective (drishti) and state of meditation? Which psychic state (leshya) is effective on me?' All these are the characteristics of human existence.

The above mentioned shravak's characteristics can be summarized as follows:

  1. Gati (Abode of birth) - human life.
  2. Jaati (Class of organism) - five-sensed being.
  3. Kaay (Class of body) - mobile beings.
  4. Indriy (sense organs) - five sense organs.
  5. Paryaapti - six bio-potentials.
  6. Praan - ten bio-energies.
  7. Shareer - three (Gross, Luminous and Karmic).
  8. Karmas - eight types of Karma.
  9. Gunasthaan (stage of spiritual development) - 5th (Right belief with partial abstinence).
  10. Atma (soul) - seven (except Charitra atma).
  11. Bhaav (states of soul) - rising state (audaayika), elimination cum subsidence (kshaayopashamika), intrinsic change (paarinaamika).
  12. Drishti - right perspective (samyak).
  13. Dhyan (Meditation) - three, concentration on worries (aarta) and misery due to anguish and anger (raudra dhyan), pertaining to nature of the soul (dharmya).
  14. Leshya (Psychic colour) - six types.

A person who thinks about all these components can appreciate the spiritual realities.

Singularities and Personality

Every person has a unique existence. A person's nature and behavior comprising such characteristics distinguish them from other people. That distinguishing characteristic is called personality. Body, mind and character all constitute personality. In other words, sensation, imaginations, memory, intellect, wisdom and mental prowess integrate to create the basis of personality. Psychology defines only a few parameters of personality. It is categorized into two types -extrovert and introvert. Introvert people prefer to be with themselves. Though they appear to be selfish, their inner self is always keen to help others. Extroverts tend to live a materialistic life. They gloat in praise. They chase deeds which can earn admiration.

All living beings including humans have their own personality traits. Even deities are not an exception to this. Sanat Kumar is the God of 3rd Heaven. Ganadhar Gautam wanted to know about the personality of Sanat Kumar. He asked Bhagawan Mahavira and the dialogue became a distinct doctrine of Jain Philosophy.

  • Bhavya - A person capable of attaining emancipation.
  • Abhavya - A person incapable of emancipation.
  • Samyag Drishti - A person having right faith in realities, truth and who is free from perverse perspectives.
  • Mithya Drishti - A person with perverse perspectives.
  • Pareet Sansaari - A person who has limited worldly cycles of life.
  • Apareet Sansaari - A person who has unlimited worldly lives.
  • Sulabh Bodhi - A person having the possibility of attaining samyaktv easily.
  • Durlabh Bodhi - A person who attains right perspective through hard effort.
  • Aaraadhak - A person who practices knowledge, faith and conduct without blemishes.
  • Viraadhak - A person who has not repented for misconduct during
  • Charam - Who does not take rebirth in the same form realm and who gets liberation in his current life.
  • Acharam - A person who does not get liberation in their current life.
  • Shukl Pakshi - A person who would attain liberation within a definite time (ardha pudgal paraavart)[footer]3[/footer])
  • Krishn Pakshi - A person who would remain in worldly life for more than ardha pudgal paraavart.

Addressing queries of Ganadhar Gautam, Bhagawan Mahavira said:

  1. The King of Gods, Sanat Kumar is bhavy, not abhavy
  2. He has right perspective, not perverse.
  3. He has limited his worldly life-cycle (pareet sansaari).
  4. He can easily attain samyaktv.
  5. He practices ascetic conducts without blemishes.
  6. He will attain liberation in his present birth.

In the third shatak of Bhagavati Sutra (3/72, 73), the above six questions have been mentioned in the form of dialogue between Bhagawan Mahavira and Ganadhar Gautam. Acharya Tulsi added one more question. This question is aligned with the remaining six.

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Footnotes:

1. collection of ontological knowledge

2.stages of spiritual development

3. Pudgal Paraavart - The time taken for a soul to utilize atoms (paramanu) of all the seven varganas (group of material aggregates such as audaarik etc.) in of sequence, with reference to substance, space, time, and modes is called Pudgal Paraavart.

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. Aagam
  2. Abhavya
  3. Acharya
  4. Acharya Tulsi
  5. Albert Einstein
  6. Anger
  7. Atma
  8. Bhaav
  9. Bhagavati Sutra
  10. Body
  11. Brain
  12. Charitra
  13. Concentration
  14. Consciousness
  15. Dharmya
  16. Dhyan
  17. Einstein
  18. Environment
  19. Ganadhar
  20. Gati
  21. Jain Philosophy
  22. Jainism
  23. Karma
  24. Karmas
  25. Karmic Body
  26. Leshya
  27. Mahavira
  28. Meditation
  29. Mithya Drishti
  30. Paramanu
  31. Praan
  32. Protean Body
  33. Pudgal
  34. Samyag Drishti
  35. Shravak
  36. Soul
  37. Space
  38. Sutra
  39. Tulsi
  40. Varganas
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