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Who is a Jain Shravak: 32 ►The Meaning of Being Jain

Published: 27.03.2020

It is fortunate to be spiritual. It is a rare phenomenon to search fortruth beyond physical matter in this materialistic world. Being spiritual means, the person wants to go beyond sensual awareness and lead a life at the level of higher consciousness. It is to believe that matter is neither his identity nor his aim. He engages himself in the pursuit of the soul. To search for the soul means to know the self. This is a rare and singular phenomenon.

The Search for Truth: A Scientific Outlook

To accept Jainism is important. It is a religion which aims on discovering and defining the truth. In this religion, there is no room for purposeless rituals or blind-followings. It emphasizes on the search and practice of truth alone. Bhagawan Mahavira's widely known saying is 'appana sachchamesejja' - search the truth by yourself. The path of searching the truth never ends.

'Since I am a Jain, my fundamental principle is - I will myself pursue the truth. I will not follow blindly believing in another's postulations of the truth' - This is a scientific outlook. Science stands for searching the truth continuously. What has been discovered to date is not the ultimate. There is much more to discover. The ultimate truth can be conceptualised but cannot be expressed fully as the truth is infinite. Our lifespan to discover it is short and expression through words is very limited. Nobody can advocate the absolute truth. It is beyond our capacity. What is known is just a drop in the ocean of knowledge.

The letter 'A' is the first letter of the alphabet, which has infinite forms. If one were to explain 'A' in all its modes and synonyms, it would take an eternity. When we observe the basic fundamentals of Jainism, we find that the whole truth can neither be expressed by Mahapragya or by Gurudev Tulsi; neither by Jai Acharya nor by AcharyaBhikshu. Even if BhagawanMahavira or any other omniscient tried to explain the infinite modes of 'A', they too would not be able to do so. Lifespan of a person is finite, whereas truth is infinite and cannot be completely explained within a limited time. How is it possible for one to convey the infinite modes? In fact, only a part of the truth can ever be expressed and understood. We should have a clear understanding of this fact.

Quest Results in the Discovery of New Gems

I am a Jain which means that I am not a blind follower; my fundamental principle and message is to continue the eternal search for truth. During my discovery process, new forms and meanings of the truth will transpire. Shree Jai Acharya, the 4thAcharya of Terapanth Order, was a rare scholar of Jain Scriptures. It takes centuries to produce such a scholar.

Once, whilst analysing a Jain scripture 'Uttaradhyayan,' a relatively easy to understand scripture, he came across a new interpretation. He was very excited on his new findings and said to his successor Maghava, 'Maghaji! Today I have found a new gem!' That gem was neither a diamond nor a ruby. It was a new finding, a new fact, a new angle of the truth. It's so astonishing that a great scholar who had composed the grand BhagavaiJoda' (kind of commentary on the exclusive and esoteric scripture Bhagavai, which is very tough) would be excited to find a new perception in Uttaradhyayan Sutra. This is an example of the continuous quest for truth.

Many times, people question - Why have things which have not been done until now, are being done now? Why are matters not propounded before, being propounded now? I tell them, 'What we know is a drop, what is new and unknown are an ocean and we should carry on our quest for the truth forever.'


The World of Mode

The process for searching truth, as laid down by Jain religion, is unique by itself. It describes two perspectives - transcendental (nishchay nay) and empirical (vyavhaar nay). Nishchay nay means to know the truth in totality and vyavahaar nay means to know partially. For example, you are a soul as per nischay nay whereas you are human or male or female according to vyavahaar nay. Without knowing the totality, if one tends to define the matter, it will not be the whole truth. If there is no means to know the totality which is infinite, how can one know the truth? Both appear to be problematic. Understanding this state of affairs, BhagawanMahavira laid out an easy path - to get to know the true nature of the matter, keep your quest burning towards the discovery of totality; keep analysing the matter until you reach its depth, keep practicing to know the existence. Through empirical world, the world of object, know the substantial world.

There are two worlds: subjective (substance) and objective (modes). We all are modes or states. Is human being a substance? No, human is a mode, animal is a mode, even deity is a mode, hellish being is a mode. The whole world of modes is before us. Where is the world of substance? Substance is beyond our perception. We do not see the substance, we don't visualise it; our whole discussion is the discussion of the world of modes. The nature of mode is to change. Today's mode will change tomorrow and a new mode will emerge. It's not just tomorrow, modes change at every instant. The world of mode is a state of flux; it is ever changing.

Goal and Path

We should understand this principle: we are living in the world of modes. We know the modes and visualise the modes. We are living in a transitory world.

The soul is the substance. To live in the form of animal or human is mode. We have to reach the pure soul by travelling through these lives.

We should think 'Being a Jain, what is my goal?' The goal is to reach the soul, the fundamental substance.

What is the path of reaching there? Right Knowledge, Right Faith and Right Conduct - This is the path. This is the path of emancipation, the path of realising the soul. In Uttaradhyayan this path is known as Moksha marg - the path of emancipation, as it is said,

naananm cha dansanamchev, chaarittam cha tavo taha
es maggotti pannatto jinehim varadansihim

That is, right knowledge, right faith, Right conduct and penance (tap) is the path propounded by tirthankar.

Knowledge, Devotion and Karma

Many people believe in bhakti-yog(devotion). They say, 'Just have complete devotion in god, nothing else is needed.' Some people believe in gyan-yog(knowledge). Their emphasis is on knowledge. Others believe in karma-yog(action) who believe that there is neither a need of devotion nor of knowledge. 'You need to work to fill your stomach, rather than sitting with a group of devotees or reading books in a library. Work, farming or productive effort will satisfy one's stomach.' Thus, there are three yog- gyaan yog, bhakti yog, and karma yog.

Supporters of bhakti yog say - 'All efforts are useless. Just practice devotion and remember The God.' Monks and Nuns go to the villages or cities to inspire people to worship God. Ever since I was initiated, I have been hearing a phrase. 'atthaavan ghadi paap ki, do ghadi aapaki', which means 'keep 58 ghadi(1 ghadi= 24 mins.) or 23 hours and 22 minutes for sin and 2 ghadi or 48 minutes for prayer or spiritual activities.' The question arises here that if you keep on committing sins for around 23 hours then how would it be possible to turn towards God for the remaining meagre 48 minutes? In bhakti-yog it has been postulated that whatever sins you commit, praying to god for two ghadi (48 minutes) can wash away all your sins. Similarly, gyaan yog and karma yog also have such unilateral views.

I am a Jain, which means that I am not a unilateral follower of devotion, knowledge or action only. I believe in combination of the triad. I practice devotion, knowledge and right actions. The collectiveness of the three clarifies the path, making it free from obstacles. In Uttradhyayan this path is called the path of emancipation. In Tattvartha Sutra, Acharya Umasvati wrote an aphorism - 'samyag darshan gyaan chaaritraani moksha maargh'- The path of right faith, right knowledge and right conduct is the path to emancipation.

The Relative Truth is rewarded

To be a Jain means not to accept any one doctrine unilaterally. Each pillar is accepted relatively rather than absolutely. Absolute acceptance creates adamant insistence. Where adamant insistence exists, there arises conflict and struggle. Insistence and struggle go hand in hand. When one feels proud of being Jain, it implies that he will not lead himself to adamant insistence, bias or struggles. He perceives each and every event with a relative point of view and their decision depends upon the prevalent context. The parable below illustrates this idea of relativity.

Ranjeet Singhji, the King of Punjab was single-eyed. One day he proclaimed that whoever would make his elegant portrait will be rewarded. Many painters came with their canvases, but only three pictures were shortlisted and presented before the King. The king saw the first painting and said, 'The picture is beautiful, but it is not factual. I have only one eye, but two eyes are depicted in this picture. A misrepresenting picture cannot be rewarded.'

The King then expressed his views regarding the second picture, 'This painting is also adorable, but I am explicitly portrayed with my one-eye. This is the bitter truth. One should tell the truth, but unpalatable truth is neither liked nor appreciated.'

On viewing the third painting the king stood spellbound. He duly praised, 'Look! The true art of the painter is observed in this painting!' The king was portrayed with a bow in his hand, hunting. The king was shown in such a pose that his blind eye was hidden behind the arrow. The king said, 'This is relative expression. Neither is it false nor is it the bitter truth.' Conclusively, the painter illustrating relative truth was rewarded.

Criteria Will Be Relative

In Jain philosophy, the doctrine of relativity is profoundly important. A person may say, 'I do the best work.' You accept his statement from his point of view. Why should we judge whether one has done right or wrong; whether one has done well or not? In fact, good or bad is a relative term. We should accept each mode in a relative perspective. There are thousands of beautiful pictures, but choices are different. Some may like one, others may like something else. There are millions of people in this world who can give their own suggestions. There are so many different opinions on any given subject - Which one should be considered good or bad; pure or impure? Our judgment should be relative. If we judge things from various angles and points of view, then there will not be any conflict. Disputes and struggles will end. If this doctrine of judging relatively is practiced daily, the behaviour of the person will clearly depict that they are Jain.

In Ramagadh, AcharyaTulsi was discussing on religious subject with Brahman pandits. The discussion was logical. At that time, one of them said, 'We don't want to hear much elaboration from you. Just tell us whether it is a merit (punya) or a sin (paap).' A complicated situation was created there. AcharyaTulsi said, 'It is both merit and demerit, depending on the perspective.' This answer put an end to the debate. All questions were therefore answered.

A Clear Outlook

A Jain's outlook is very clear. They do not get entangled in arguments. If they do, how can they be regarded as Jain? If they get entangled into conflict, it implies that they have not understood the fundamental principle of Jainism. They have not understood anekantvaad, syaadvaad or the doctrine of relativity. One, who has understood these doctrines deeply will never get entwined in arguments and become competent to solve all situations amicably.

AcharyaTulsi was in Jodhpur in 1953. One day, during his discourse he spoke about the fundamental doctrine of Terapanth. People from different sects were present there in great numbers. After the discourse, when AcharyaTulsi was simply walking, a man stepped forward and asked, 'Acharya Shree! I have a problem.'

AcharyaTulsi asked 'What is your problem'?

Person said 'Acharya Shree! My son is lost!'

AcharyaTulsi asked with sympathy, 'When and how?

The man, without responding, asked, 'Should I search for him or not? Will it be a merit (punya) or a sin (pap)?'

AcharyaTulsi replied, 'At the time of giving birth to your child you did not ask me, if it was a merit or sin to do so. Now why you raise this question when you need to search for him?' Hearing these words, the man left the place immediately.

Those who understand Jainism understand the doctrine of anekant and their perspective is clear. Their intelligence level is developed greatly that they can solve their crucial problems with ease. To them a problem is a challenge and not a curse.

The Meaning and Significance of Being Jain

There is a plethora of factors to portray a Jain, though I have discussed only some attitudinal features of being a Jain. If I am a Jain, what should be my way of thinking? What should be my lifestyle? How should my conduct and behaviour be? An example of an ideal life can be projected if one adopts the Jain way of life and follows the Jain conducts. One can conduct life with dignity and uphold the lofty principles of a Jain lifestyle if life is guided by Jain ideologies. Leading a Jain way of life means to feel blessed. One then realizes, 'I have benefitted by living Jain life. Of course, it will lead me to a bright future; even the quality of present life is also enhanced. There is nothing wrong in my life; life is moving without obstacles. Everything in my life is smoothly aligned.' Thus, the ease of living a joyful life will always be there.

Each monk, nun, shravak and shravika should realize - 'I am Jain. I am proud of being Jain. I am blessed to have this right faith. What a gracious life I am leading and can lead.'

What happens if one calls himself a Jain but doesn't know the fundamentals, the philosophy, the conduct and the behaviour of a Jain? If he doesn't lack the knowledge of these basics, then he is merely a follower of the Jain tradition, but not a true Jain. In fact, one should definitely ponder over why one is a Jain. If he contemplates deeply, then he will realise the importance of being a Jain.

AcharyaTulsi was staying in Sujangarh. A talented youth from the Kothari family visited him and said, 'Acharyaji! I wish to study Jainism.' He asked, 'Why do you wish to do so?' The boy replied, 'Gurudev! I went to Germany for further studies. When the university professors and students came to know that I am a Jain, they asked me to talk about Jainism. It was challenging for me. Then, I studied some of your books. Somehow, I managed to get more information, prepared some lectures, and introduced them to Jainism. Now I have a keen desire to study thoroughly the Jain religion.'

A person taking birth in a Jain family or accepting Jainism, must at least know the answer to the basic fundamental question, 'Why am I a Jain? What are the core principles of Jainism?' If one understands Jainism on this basis, his life would be exceptional and he can be justifiably happy for being a Jain.


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. Acharya
  2. Acharya Umasvati
  3. Anekant
  4. Bhakti
  5. Brahman
  6. Consciousness
  7. Darshan
  8. Gurudev
  9. Jain Philosophy
  10. Jainism
  11. Jodhpur
  12. Karma
  13. Mahapragya
  14. Moksha
  15. Moksha marg
  16. Omniscient
  17. Paap
  18. Pap
  19. Punjab
  20. Punya
  21. Samyag Darshan
  22. Science
  23. Shravak
  24. Shravika
  25. Soul
  26. Sujangarh
  27. Sutra
  28. Tap
  29. Tattvartha Sutra
  30. Terapanth
  31. Tirthankar
  32. Tulsi
  33. Uttaradhyayan
  34. Uttradhyayan
  35. Yog
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