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Who is a Jain Shravak: 27.3 Awakening of Discretion

Published: 19.03.2020

Work of Religion: Work of Society

Mahatma Gandhi's values resemble with those of a Jain shravak. Once, he was travelling by train, accompanied by two of his sec­retaries - Pyarelalbhai and Mahadevbhai. They were discussing their accounts of income and expenditure and during the process they came across a difference of two paisa (Indian penny). A discus­sion ensued for over an hour about the trivial difference. The other people sitting in the compartment said to Gandhi Ji, 'Bapu! Why are you scolding your companions for this negligible difference? We will pay this amount.' Gandhi Ji politely replied, 'It is not a question of the amount. The issue here is that the money belongs to the public and if this is wasted, it becomes debt. Be it a penny or a rupee.'

Indeed, the words of Mahatma Gandhi were poignant. It is the discretion of a shravak for not wasting even the smallest fraction of money when unnecessary. It is notable, that a small village like Charwas (Rajasthan) was rejuvenated by the contribution of generous people when there was a need. The Maryaada Mahotsav was celebrated in Charwas in 1997. The shravaks of Charwas contributed their money for the availability of facilities. This highlights the fact that the discretion in a shravak is important.

Regarding possessions, BhagawanMahavira has propounded his ideas clearly in the statement that do not accumulate the material possessions needlessly and do not consume unnecessarily. Hence, have limit on possession and consumption both.

Not having unnecessary possessions is a virtue of religion. Consuming as per need is the virtue of social life. These two concepts should be very clear.

The Context of Violence and Non-Violence

A Jain shravak is instructed not to commit any needless violence. He is not supposed to kill even an ant. But, if required he can fight in the battlefield. Jain shravaks have fought in a number of wars. Many people denounce Jain followers as cowards. But they are unaware of the bravery of many Jains in the wars they have fought in.

History of about two and a half millennia ago has witnessed a number of Jain commanders in the armies of Rajasthan and Gujarat. They have shown remarkable bravery during the war.

As an illustration, once in Gujarat, the King set out with his army to attack the enemy kingdom. Seizing the golden opportunity, another enemy king attacked in the absence of the first King. The queen became worried and ordered the commander of the army, who was a Jain follower, 'Make the arrangement for battle. I shall lead the fight. The commander humbly replied, 'Your Majesty! You need not fret. You need not battle.'

The commander led his army towards the battlefield. The two opposing battalions set up their respective camps and started preparing for the combat. In those times, wars were not fought at night. A ceasefire was imposed with the setting of the sun. Coincidentally, it was the semi-monthly day on which the pratikraman[footer]1/[footer] was recited. The commander spread his mat in the battlefield and started pratikraman. He recited, 'If I have hurt any being one-sensed (ekendriy), and two-sensed (dvindriy) etc. knowingly or unknowingly, then I apologize for my conduct – Michhaami Dukaddam.'

Hearing this, the other officers, who were standing nearby were dumbfounded. They immediately approached the queen and expressed their dismay, 'Our victory is not possible'. Queen was taken aback and asked for the reason behind their belief. They exclaimed that the commander is apologizing for the killing of even flies and ants etc. then during the war, a great number of people are certain to be killed. 'What will he do then? How can we win?'

The queen too got apprehensive and summoned the commander. She asked him respectfully, 'I have received a complaint regarding you, General. May I discuss this with you or not?'

The Commander replied, O Queen! Please speak without hesitation.'

The Queen elaborated, 'Our soldiers are confused. They are questioning your ability as a commander, as you proclaim the acceptance of your sins for killing even insignificant beings like ants. They doubt that you will kill any human beings to secure victory over the opposing army. How do we eliminate their doubts?'

The commander said, 'Your Majesty! It's true that I am a Jain shravak. I do not commit any violence unnecessarily. I have just completed my pratikraman on the battleground where I have shown repentance for any violence done in the last fifteen days. I stand by what I have said -1 will not hurt any being unnecessarily. I will atone for such deeds if done. But if it is indispensable and is the question of the security of our people and nation, you may observe in the battle tomorrow, what I do and my valor.'

Queen regained trust on her commander. The next day, war commenced at sunrise. The commander fought with such a commanding courage in the battlefield that the army of enemy had to escape even before sunset. The commander returned victorious.

AcharyaTulsi has articulated it in the couplet in Shravak Sambodh-

Chinti bhi kyon apane pramaad se maare,
anivaarya agar samaraangan main lalakaare.
shravak parivaar-samaaj-bhumika main  hai,
Duniyaadaari daayitva haath thaame hai.

Religion and Responsibility

The Oswaal community descended from the kshatriys. They got converted into Jainism through inspiration of Jain Acharyas. They continued to fight wars for hundreds of years, due to their inherent identity of being kshatriyas, for the defense of their nation even after accepting Jainism. They would believe that without purpose, killing of even an ant is a sin but when the protection of the nation and duties is at forefront, even war is not prohibited. On account of this belief, Jain shravaks became commander in the army and they did fight the battles. These deeds were done not as the part of religion but for the sake of duty.

Many people have a misconception that Jain shravaks cannot provide administrative services at state or social level because some rules of management go against the religion. It must be clear that such restrictions are applicable to only Jain monks, not to Jain shravaks. There are no such rules for a Jain shravak, which can hold them back from fulfilling their social or national duties. The outlook of Jainism is not unilateral. Religion which does not consider all aspects of life becomes unilateral. Jain shravaks, practitioner of the twelve vows, are householders and therefore their participation in the management of the society or state becomes essential. Fulfillment of mundane duties can run parallel to the practice of the religion defined for shravaks. This can be illustrated through the examples of King Chetak and Varun, the grandson of Pathik Nag as mentioned in the following verse:

Chetak samraat aur vah Varun kahaani,
naitik nishtha ki ran mein hui na haani.
the Shanti Kunthu Ara chakrishvar Tirthankar,
pahale laukik kartavya tatah lokottar.

King Chetak was an almighty ruler of Vaishali. There were nine constituencies each governed by the Mallavi and the Lichhavi clans in the state. King Chetak's influence surpassed that of the other rulers. Moreover, he was the maternal uncle of BhagawanMahavira, as well as a shravak who followed the twelve vows. He had to engage in a number of wars to protect his kingdom. He was efficient in archery and had undertaken an oath to shoot his arrow not more than once a day.

The war between Chetak and Kaunik, known as Mahaashilaakantak, is well-known in Indian history. During the course of the war, Kalik Kumar and his nine brothers were killed by Chetak, one by one, in ten days through only one arrow a day. King Kaunik attained victory over Chetak with the help of the Devendra (king of God). King Chetak was faced with defeat, yet he resolved not to break his promise. One and all were impressed by his morality.

Varun, the grandson of Rathik Naag was a devotee of BhagawanMahavira and was an observer of the twelve vows. He was the commander of the army of King Chetak. Being the commander-in-chief, he had to fight in many wars, but he took an oath of not initiating an attack and he stood by his words.

Once, a battle, named as Rathamushal, commenced between Chetak and Kaunik. Varun was instructed to go to the battlefield. He was on two days fasting and went to the battlefield after extending his vow by one more day. The commander of Kaunik challenged Varun to attack. Varun said, 'I shall respond if you attack me. I shall not initiate it.' The commander of Kaunik initiated the attack and injured Varun most severely. Varun, in reply fired a single shot arrow and the opposing commander passed away. Varun left the field and went to a place where he could find solitude. He properly accepted anashan or fast-unto-death. With pure emotions, he passed onto his next life and took birth in the first heaven.

Bhagawan Shantinath (the 16thTirthankar), Bhagawan Kunthunath (the 17thTirthankar) and Bhagawan Aranath (the 18thTirthankar) were born in royal families and became Chakravartis. They discharged their royal duties, fulfilling their laukik dharm(mundane duties) and living a life of luxury for thousands of years. They did not get stuck in worldly pleasure. At an appropriate time, they accepted life of asceticism and attained kevalgyaan(omniscient knowledge) after succeeding in their spiritual practices. Thereafter, they established the dharm-tirth and became tirthankars. Here starts the life of spiritual responsibilities. It becomes clear that both sides of life are equally important.

Hinsa ko sabane hinsa hi maana hai,
anivaary bhale aadey nahin jaana hai.
dasavidh mithyaatvdhrishti se bachane vaale,
samyagdarshan ke svastik rachane vaale

i.e. the occurrence of violence is acceptable while observing mundane duties, but violence will always be violence. Violence may be necessary in a layman's life, but no truth-seeker will rationalize it. Considering non-violence as violence or accepting it as beneficial is mithyaatv(perverse faith). Mithyaatv is categorized into ten types:

  1. To believe non-religion as religion.
  2. To believe religion as non-religion.
  3. To believe the erroneous path as the right path.
  4. To believe the right path as erroneous.
  5. To believe non-living being as living being.
  6. To believe living being as non-living.
  7. To believe the fake-monks as true monks.
  8. To believe true monks as the fake-monks.
  9. To believe the non-liberated souls as liberated.
  10. To believe the liberated souls as non-liberated.

The outlook of a shravak is right and hence he proceeds in the right direction, saving himself from ten types of mithyaatv.

Perfect Time Management

Shravaks live in society with their family. They are not ascetics. They shoulder the responsibilities of their families, society and the nation. Saints must guide them to lead a balanced life so that they can spend balance time for spiritual practices along with fulfilling his worldly duties. They should be inspired to manage and balance time for their soul, their family, society, their business and their nation. Along with filial and social duties, they must keep their soul in the center, otherwise their role as a shravak will be diminished.

Time management is an art. We often ask - do you chant mantras? People reply that they do not get the time as they are too busy. They clarify the reason, 'We go to sleep at 11 pm and wake up late around 10 am then immediately rush to our office. We do not get time for chanting.'

It is not a commendable lifestyle. If a person does not think about oneself or his soul, and focuses only on materialistic things, such life-style indirectly invites diseases and premature death. The reason is crystal clear -one who is busy, lives a stressful life and with the chronic stress he may end up with a heart attack. To avoid this, they must relax their body and mind which can be achieved by chanting mantras for at least half an hour, doing self-introspection, and practicing meditation on a daily basis.

Every shravak must manage his time. At least some part of his time must be devoted to the society and some must be invested on himself. Monks and nuns are also advised to divide their time in three parts:

  1. For his/ her spiritual practice.
  2. For interaction with the shravak.
  3. For the society/nation.

Time management can help accomplishing many projects in life. Similarly, a shravak must manage his time in such a way that he is able to provide sufficient time for himself, his family and the society. Such inspiration is given by AcharyaTulsi in Shravak Sambodh. If a shravak understands it and his consciousness is aware, he can successfully avoid diseases and untimely death. He can lead an extremely peaceful and happy life.


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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. Acharyas
  2. Anashan
  3. Ara
  4. Aranath
  5. Body
  6. Charwas
  7. Consciousness
  8. Devendra
  9. Dharm
  10. Fasting
  11. Gandhi
  12. Gujarat
  13. Hinsa
  14. Jainism
  15. Kshatriyas
  16. Kunthu
  17. Kunthunath
  18. Mahatma
  19. Mahatma Gandhi
  20. Meditation
  21. Non-violence
  22. Omniscient
  23. Pratikraman
  24. Rajasthan
  25. Shantinath
  26. Shravak
  27. Shravaks
  28. Soul
  29. Svastik
  30. Tirthankar
  31. Tirthankars
  32. Violence
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