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Who is a Jain Shravak: 27.2 Awakening of Discretion

Published: 18.03.2020

Usage of the Word Dharma (Righteousness)

The word 'dharm' can be used in various contexts and each context gives a new connotation. Therefore, a shravak should understand the meaning of dharm as per the context and with his conscience. There are two forms of dharm- spiritual and mundane (laukik). Mundane dharm is related with the duties for family, society and the nation. Spiritual dharm is associated with the soul. Two definitions of spiritual dharm are found on the basis of general or Aagamic norms.

  1. General: 'aatmashuddhisaadhanam dharmah' - all means to purify the soul are dharm.
  2. Aagamic- 'yatra jinaagya tatra dharmah- the commandments of the Tirthankara (BhagawanMahavira) are dharm.

BhagawanMahavira said, aanaae maamagam dhammam - my religion lies in my commandment'. In this statement expresses the reality not the ego, because a veetaraag cannot give permission for an action which is not spiritual in nature.

It can be concluded as,

  1. The commandment of tirthankar is religion.
  2. The action which is not allowed by tirthankar is neither religion nor spirituality.

Considering the Aagamic definition, AcharyaBhikshu explained the nature of dharm. On the same basis, AcharyaTulsi described the understanding of religion in Shravak Sambodh. Such clear demarcation of religion and non-religion is rare to find anywhere else. Accordingly, religion can be defined in three ways -

  1. Restraint is where there is religion. Where there is no restraint, there is no religion.
  2. Abstinence is where there is religion. Where there is no abstinence, there is no religion.
  3. Non-violence is where there is religion. Where there is no non-violence, there is no religion.

Any action related to non-restraint, non-abstinence and violence is not under the commandment of tirthankar. These cannot be considered as religion or righteousness at any cost as they are beyond the tenets.

Violence Can Never be Non-violence

A shravak is not like a monk who renounces his home. He lives with his family in his house. For survival, violence becomes necessary. Though he may believe in non-violence and may practice also, but he cannot survive in the society without violence. It is important to understand that violence, though it may be inevitable, cannot be justified as non-violence under any situations. AcharyaTulsi explained it through an illustration.

Hinsa kya kabhi ahimsa ho sakati hai?
Kaakaali kabhi kaalima dho sakati hai?
Shravak grihasth grihatyaagi sant nahin hai,
karana hi hoga ankan sahi-sahi hai.

The crow is black in colour and will always remain so. It cannot convert its colour into white even if hundreds or thousands of crows attempt to. Likewise, if one kills a living being unknowingly or under some obligation, it cannot be considered as non-violence. To interpret violence as non-violence is mithyaatv(perverse belief). Violence committed by a shravak is not a matter of surprise. To accept necessary violence as non-violence is indeed surprising.

Therefore, shravak must evaluate the true value of both violence and non-violence.

A Beautiful Depiction of Insight

Shravak lives a worldly life. Is it possible for him to not commit any violence? Can he live without wealth? It is not possible. Shravak keeps his insight awakened. He is conscious and aware of his doings and non-doings. He does not believe in wasting an iota of money on anything unnecessary but can spend his entire savings for purposes he deems worthy.

AcharyaTulsi has depicted it beautifully through an illustration in his treatise, Shravak Sambodh as-

Anapekshit ek bund bhi ghee kyun jaaye,
ho agar apeksha man tan svayam bahaaye.
Paayi bhivyarth gamaae hui hataasha,
Hit nihit saamane to shravak Bhaamaasha

A man wished to build a house. He called a contractor and discussed with him. The contractor recommended the quantity of ghee required to build a strong house. In ancient times, ghee was used to provide the house a strong foundation. Cement was not invented then. The material used for cementing would be so solid that even cement fails before it. In Rajsamand, four or five hundred years old gateway at Nauchowki is very famous. Its concrete material is extremely strong even today and looks as though it's built of stone. The composition of concrete used then was known as vajralepa (diamond concrete) and ghee was being used in preparing it. History reveals that for constructing the temple in Ranakpur a fair amount of ghee was used.

The merchant listened to the words of contractor attentively. Soon after, a customer came. He purchased some ghee. A few drops of ghee fell on the ground while container was being filled. The merchant, thinking that the ghee would go waste, wiped the ghee off from the ground and licked it off from his fingers. The contractor was startled thinking that the merchant was miserly and would not agree to use ghee. For, he had licked the meager drops on the ground, that too, along with the soil. How can the merchant spend money on ghee for building a house!

The merchant grasped the facial expression of the contractor and asked, 'How much ghee will be required?'

The contractor said, 'I'm sorry sir! I cannot work for you.'

The merchant probed, 'Why? What's wrong with you?'

The contractor requested the merchant, 'Whatever happened, just leave it. Do not pursue the matter.'

The merchant persisted and said, 'Tell me. After all what happened?

The contractor said with hesitation, 'I had believed you to be a benevolent person. I thought that you wanted to make a good, strong house with strong foundations and hence, I suggested using ghee but...'

The merchant asked curiously, 'But what? Please speak without hesitation.'

The contractor continued, 'Sir! I am sorry but when I saw you licking those few drops of ghee, I understood that how can you use ghee to build your house.'

The merchant explained, 'See! I am a Jain shravak. I do not believe in wasting a single drop of ghee. But if necessary, I am ready to use even tons. Here are the containers. You may take them and use as much ghee as required.'

It is important to have such prudence in a shravak that they do not waste a single penny, but if deemed necessary they should be benevolent to donate their assets as willingly as Bhamashah.

Once, emperor Akbar attacked Mewar. During that time, Mahaaraana Pratap was ruling the region. He along with his army fought the armies of Akbar but failed to secure victory over the gargantuan army of Akbar. Later, he fought war again at Haldighati. There, the army of Mahaaraana displayed their great valor, but Mahaaraana Pratap suffered a great loss and was advised to withdraw from the battlefield and to collect all the necessary material for war. Consequently, he left the battle and Akbar took over Mewar. Mahaaraana left Mewar with his family and took shelter in safe place located in the forests and mountains. They did not get sufficient food and started to starve. Akbar kept sending messages to Mahaaraana to accept his subjection and in return the whole kingdom would be handed over to him, but Mahaaraana did not agree.

One day, the Queen gave roti to her hungry children. Even that was snatched away from them by a wild cat. The children started crying due to extreme hunger. Mahaaraana Pratap could not bear to see his children in this state and decided to leave the forests of Mewar. The news soon spreads like wildfire. When they were about to leave, a bhila (forest man) came running towards them and informed Mahaaraana that Bhamashah was visiting him.

Bhamashah came and requested, 'My Lord! Kindly reconsider your decision. Mewar will be orphaned without you.' But Mahaaraana was helpless. He said, 'I have no option. What should be done if a king does not have army to protect the kingdom, grain to feed them and salary to offer?' Filled with empathy, Bhamashah replied, 'It is unbearable for me that you are leaving Mewar due to lack of funds. Kindly wait for a while, my camels are on their way with hordes of wealth, which is sufficient to feed twenty thousand soldiers to fight the war for twelve years continuously.' The generosity of Bhamashah encouraged Mahaaraana to re-assemble his army and soon he declared war against the Mughals. The Mughal did not expect the uprising and were not ready. Bhamashah was with Mahaaraana during the war. The armies of Mewar were victorious. Mewar once again became an independent territory. According to historians, the credit for the victory goes to Bhamashah.

After all who was this Bhamashah? He was the son of Bharmalji, the chief of the famous fort of Ranthambhore, during the reign of Mahaaraana Sangram Singh. Bharmalji was born in a Jain family (Kavadiagotra) of

Mewar. He had two sons - Tarachand and Bhamashah. After the demise of Bharmalji, Mahaaraana Pratap appointed Bhamashah as his minister.

Illustration of Discerning Consciousness

Jagadushah was a reputed shravak of Gujarat. Famine once gripped the land of Gujarat. The King was worried, as the treasury was severely depleted. People started starving. The King commanded his officials to contact the affluent people of Gujarat and ask for their contributions. The officers reached Saurashtra. Jagadushah, looking simple in his appearance, was going towards the forest with a pot. On the way he met the officers and asked for their introduction and the purpose of their visit. They said, 'We are government officers. Gujarat is gripped with famine. People are starving and we wish to help them. We have come here to collect donations from well-off people, so that we can make food available for the public.'

Hearing this Jagadushah said, 'Would you accept my favour.'

The officers hesitated, looking at his simple attire, said, 'We were seeking the assistance of the affluent people. Please, let's know the names of such people, so that we can get good amount of wealth at once.

Jagadushah replied, 'I am not a great man. But at least visit my home. I will definitely give you something.'

The officers refused the offer and were insisting to know about the wealthy people. Jagadushah forced them to follow him. They reluctantly agreed. Jagadushah welcomed them with delicious meals. He then took them to his basement. The officers were astounded when they saw bountiful diamonds and other gems. It was beyond their imagination that a simple looking man like Jagadushah could possess such treasures. Jagadushah requested them, 'Sir, please! Take as much you require and distribute the food among the people of Gujarat on my behalf. The officers received such a huge donation that they did not have to seek help from anyone else.

There have been many renowned Jain shravaks, like Bhamashah, Jagadushah, Vastupaal, etc. who generously contributed to the society. They, living a simple life, restrained their individual life. They did not waste unnecessarily but donated openheartedly wherever required. These are some illustrations of discerning consciousness.


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. Ahimsa
  2. Akbar
  3. Bharmalji
  4. Consciousness
  5. Dharm
  6. Dharma
  7. Ghee
  8. Gujarat
  9. Haldighati
  10. Hinsa
  11. Mewar
  12. Non-violence
  13. Rajsamand
  14. Ranakpur
  15. Sant
  16. Shravak
  17. Shravaks
  18. Soul
  19. Tirthankar
  20. Tirthankara
  21. Veetaraag
  22. Violence
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