|The Jaina Ācāryas have stated that the mind is extremely subtle.
It does not reside in any one bodily part, but is allpervasive. Just as
butter resides in every drop of milk, as fragrance resides in every petal
of a flower, so also the mind pervades the entire body.
When a thorn pricks us, we instantly cry out in pain, our eyes
start watering and our thoughts get numbed for that moment.
If the mind were located in one particular place, then the entire
system would not vibrate with such a response. When one part
of the body experiences pleasure or pain, heat or cold, the body
responds in its totality.
This power to experience feelings as a whole proves that the
mind resides in the entire body. It is stated in the scriptures:
Where there is air, the mind is there too.
But the question does not end here. What is the form of the
mind? Is it inert matter or is it a conscious centre?
The Jaina studies have given a detailed analysis of the mind.
The mind is considered to be gross as well as subtle. The former
is known as the physical mind (dravya mana) and the latter as the
psychical mind (bhāva mana). This is the two-fold classifi cation
of the mind in Jaina philosophy.
The power to experience and to feel pertains to the psychical mind. Without
the psychical mind, the physical mind has no basis. All experiences and
thoughts emerging from desires and wants, resolves and conflicts, find
their substratum in the psychical mind. While describing the form of the
mind, the scriptures say that the mind is like a swing oscillating between
hopes and desires. And no single object is ever the cause of these endless
desires.3 The mind is in fact the birthplace of these wants, cravings
and ambitions which take birth and fade away only to be replaced by newer
The question is – will this cycle of desires and resolves that
emerge in the mind keep on churning without a beginning or an
end? Can the thought-waves of the mind be restrained by the
barriers of detachment? Can the waves of strange and restless
emotions ever reach a peaceful end? Is it possible to reach a state
which is free of desires and resolves? The scriptures describe
a state of complete cessation of desires, a state of absolute
detachment, but they also state that attaining such a state cannot
happen all at once. It is not possible to combat the mind so easily.
In the Bhagavad Gītā, Arjuna says:
Oh Kṛṣṇā! The mind is fickle, turbulent and unyielding.
To control it, I think, is as difficult as controlling the wind.
Truly, to control the mind is as enormous a challenge as climbing the
Himalayas. Before scaling the lofty Himalayas, it is essential to practice
scaling smaller mountains to gain confidence and strength. Similarly,
one can only reach the state of detachment after the mind has learnt to
resolve confl icts by analysis and clear thought. Before forsaking desires
completely, we have to set a limit on desires. Then we can move on to
the higher goal of complete renunciation.
Icchā parimāṇa is the segregation of desires and the marking
of their boundaries. What is essential for an aspirant is to acrue
the wisdom to know the difference between those wants that
are necessities and those that are whims of the restless mind.
There are many such hopes and wants which are in reality quite
useless, which neither have a direct bearing on life, nor any
utility for existence. These wants and the hope to acquire them
are as tempting as the elusive golden deer of the Rāmāyana.
Primarily, we have to take stock of our desires. Once we have prioritized
them, we have to forsake the ones that are unnecessary. This relinquishing
of the unnecessary is described as the vow of icchā parimāṇa
in the Jaina tradition. It clearly states that there are infinite desires
in the mind which have to be limited, which have to be controlled. Desires
are like an unbridled horse, like an elephant out of control. When you
harness desires, they will remain within a well-defined periphery. It
is desire that gives rise to possessiveness. Verily, desire is possessiveness.
When desires get limited, possessions will get limited.
Jainism does not believe that objects are the cause for possessiveness.
In the true sense, the desire to possess them is possessiveness. Lord
Mahāvīra calls this as ‘mucchā pariggaho’–
attachment is possessiveness. A similar vein can be seen in Ācārya
Umāsvāti’s Sanskrit verse – ‘mūrcchā
parigrahaḥ’. Mūrcchā means attachment, where ‘I’
and ‘mine’ dominate. The tendency to connect an object with
the mind, and induce the feeling of‘mine’ in it is possessiveness.
The Jaina philosophy describes desire as avirati (attachment), while virati
means disinterest and detachment.
Attachment resides within the tumultous gushing sea of
desires. The Ācāryas have explained attachment through a
comparison made between a worm and an emperor.
The worm spends its life crawling in filth and darkness. On the other
hand, an emperor rules over vast kingdoms and spends his life in the expansion
of his territory. Ponder a while and answer this – which among the
two is more possessive?
You might wonder at such a strange comparison. After
all, what does the worm possess? Neither material objects
nor a large body, not even longevity! To compare it with the
enormous kingdom and wealth of an emperor seems ridiculous,
does it not?
But herein lies the impartiality of Jainism. It places both of them on
the same platform. If you reflect, you will understand that both are equals
as far as their tendency of attachment goes. The wisdom to set a limit
on one’s desire is not exercized by either of them. Let me explain
Does a worm have the power to think? If it cannot think,
how can it have desires? I am sure these are the questions in your
mind. It is true that a worm has neither mind nor imagination.
But what if it did? If it could think like a human being, if it had
imagination and if you then asked it what it desires, what do
you think its answer would be? Let me assure you that its desires
would be no less than a king’s desires. But in its present form,
it does not possess the adequate mental faculties to so desire.
Therefore, its desires are dormant and inactive.
Would you call this sacrifice? Would you consider this as a victory over
desires? It is obvious that this is not an expression of inner strength
but a lack of power. Powerlessness to obtain or utilize something cannot
be considered as sacrifi ce or abstinence. It is a state of dependence
Non-usage or non-possession of objects cannot be considered as sacrifice
unless it is voluntary. How can helplessness be mistaken for abstinence?
Imagine that a person is sick, he has ulcers in his stomach and is suffering
from indigestion. He cannot digest fatty foods like sweets, milk or dry
fruits. The doctor has warned him that if he eats any of these things,
his ailments will only increase and it would be all the more difficult
to take care of his health. Therefore, he eats only simple food.
Tell me, would you call him a renouncer? Would it not be obvious to you
that this is no sacrifice? If he has given up eating certain foods it
is only because he is helpless due to his ill-health. Since he cannot
digest certain foods, he cannot eat them. This is restraint born from
fear of suffering. It is not renunciation. At the moment, he is helpless.
Circumstances have forced him to give up whatever he desires. His desire
to eat has not abated, but the desire for good health has made him give
up rich food temporarily. He is not joyous about giving up rich food,
in fact, it fi lls him with sorrow and craving.
Let us consider another example. A businessman goes abroad to earn money.
He leaves behind his family, the love and affection of his wife, children,
parents and relatives. In the new place far from home, he faces many problems.
He finds almost no time to eat or drink, nor does he get proper accommodation.
In this manner, he encounters innumerable difficulties, similar to those
a monk would face or may be more.
So what is this? Is this penance? Is it a step towards spiritual development?
Unfortunately it is nothing as lofty. All these difficulties are borne
with the aim of achieving a reward of pleasure. Sacrificing something
for material pleasure cannot be called renunciation.
Once, after spending the caturmāsa in Calcutta, we went to
Orissa. After crossing a vast mountain range, we reached a small
village at the base of the mountain. It was an area of dense forest
inhabited by tribals far removed from civilization, who hunted
their prey with bows and arrows.
Amidst such a scenario, we managed to unearth the address
of a Rajasthani brother and found our way to his home. He was
delighted to see us and welcomed us with much warmth. He
said, “Mahārāj, how fortunate I am that you have come to my
humble dwelling!” He gave us a place to stay and was very
respectful and hospitable.
As conversation began, we asked him, “How is it that you
have chosen to reside in such a strange place amidst forests and
jungle folk?” We were truly perplexed.
He was from Alwar, Rajasthan. He said, “How does a place matter?
What one needs is money. If I can earn in hell, I will start a shop there
too.” All of us burst into laughter at his answer - it was a strange
reply. He continued, “Mahārāj, the living conditions are
pathetic here. But I have to earn my livelihood. It is to fill this stomach
that I am staying away from home. Transport facilities are not good here,
tribal colonies are so close that anything can happen any time. Life is
quite unpredictable. Nevertheless, I earn well here. So I decided to live
amidst these insecurities, with my life in my fist, so to speak.”
What a strange state of life! How many sacrifices man is willing to make
for the sake of wealth! However, this sacrifice is not for renunciation,
but for the reward of enjoyment. The platform of renunciation and sacrifice
for a higher cause is not yet achieved.
Are you now beginning to comprehend why the platform of
renunciation is such a high and lofty one and why the control of
desires is considered such a profound thought? The message is
clear. We must learn to overcome desires rather than be enslaved
As long as desires are unrestrained, the state of the emperor and that
of the worm are one and the same. Therefore, Lord Mahāvīra says
that if you relinquish any object dear to you without expecting rewards
for it, only then is your sacrifice a true one.
When one has the will and the power to acquire whatever one desires and
yet exercises control over these desires, then such a person is considered
a true renouncer. Otherwise, as an ancient proverb states: Helplessness
creates many saints. Their sacrifices have no worth. Renunciation exists
in the control of desires.
The primary question before us is the control of desires. Imagine that
you are hungry. You eat a simple meal to satiate your hunger. Now you
go to the market and see a sweet shop. An array of sweets and savouries
are on display and your mouth begins to water. You wish to satisfy your
craving, but find yourself helpless – either because of ill health
or an empty pocket. Yet the desire remains and makes you restless.
This is the platform for the analysis of desires. What is a
desire and what is a necessity? Without eating bread, life cannot
be sustained. But what about sweets? While the desire for bread
is a necessity, the desire for sweets is an indulgence. Therefore,
the restlessness over sweets is unnecessary. We can protect
ourselves from this sorrow by the control of desires. This is the
path of austerity.
History repeatedly shows us how the greatest of emperors were not satisfied
with all their possessions and spent their lives in the pursuit of desires.
Rāvaṇa had such a big harem, so many queens, each one more
beautiful than the other. Yet his mind was not satisfied and he craved
for Sītā. What did he fi nd? Not Sītā, but his doom.
Another story that I like to recount from Jaina history is that of King
Kūṇika. The son of King Śreṇika, the maternal grandson
of King Ceṭaka of Vaiśālī, he was a devotee of Lord
Mahāvīra. He employed many people and paid them well to bring
news about Lord Mahāvīra’s well being. Unless he was assured
that his Lord was well, he would not partake of water or food. Such was
his ardent devotion. But he had many flaws in his character. He was extremely
self-indulgent, headstrong and greedy.
King Kūṇika had a younger brother who owned two
priceless possessions - an elephant and a necklace. Kūṇika’s
queen, Padmāvatī, had an eye on the necklace and the elephant.
For her, the entire kingdom was worthless without these two
possessions. The king loved her and was so blinded by his love
for her that he lost his sense of discrimination and duty. He
asked his brother for the necklace and the elephant although it
was an inappropriate demand.
How can anyone suddenly relinquish their rights over much-cherished objects?
Through eons of time, only one such as Bhīṣma or Rāma
is born, who can sacrifice their kingdomsand themselves for the happiness
of others. The prince was stunned by such a demand on the part of his
brother, the King. Realizing that the palace was unsafe for him after
refusing such a demand, he stealthily left his brother’s kingdom
and went to Vaiśālī which was under the rule of his maternal
Kūnika sent a messenger to king Cetaka, asking for the prince to
be returned to him along with the elephant and the necklace. Ceṭaka
responded fearlessly to such an unjust demand saying, “Is your greed
not fulfilled even with such an enormous kingdom that you are now attempting
to snatch away your brother’s rights? This is injustice of the highest
order. The republic of Vaiśālī has always supported justice
and protected those who have sought refuge within its walls.”
Well, the obvious outcome of this was war. Kūṇika plunged into
the battlefield with his army. On the other side, Ceṭaka prepared
for war with the eighteen democratic states of Kāśī Kauśala.
King Ceṭaka was a follower of non-violence, and abhorred
bloodshed. But if the call of duty led him to battle, he was
ready for that as well. He believed that to tolerate injustice is
an injustice in itself. He adhered to the rules of right and lawful
battle. He had vowed that he would attack only in defense or
to vanquish injustice and never to wage war on the innocent.
When such humane values are incorporated in war it makes it a
religious battle, that which is done for the sake of duty.
The land of Vaiśālī became drenched in gory bloodshed.
Within ten days Ceṭaka’s arrows became the death sentence of
the ten princes. The battlefi eld became a burial ground.
Kūṇika began to lose heart. His friends from his previous
incarnation, Śakrendra and Camarendra, gave him sound
advice, “It is diffi cult for you to win this battle with Ceṭaka;
particularly when right is not on your side. Please refrain from
this stubborn attitude”, they implored.
But Kūṇika was not prepared to listen to anyone. When the mind
has gone astray, the best of advice has only reverse effects. He said,
“I don’t want advice, I want only help. Help me in this battle
and victory will be mine.” Thus, he remained stubborn. It is a long
and terrible story, but what we must reflect on is this - what did Kūṇika
eventually gain after so much struggle? A defeated Vaiśālī
and heaps of dead soldiers. A victory which is much more dreadful than
defeat. You will not find another instance of human slaughter of such
magnitude in the history of ancient times, apart from the battle of the
What was the root of such a tragedy? One unrestrained, uncontrolled desire!
A thoughtless greed which had no necessity or importance in life. Just
think, did Kūṇika’s kingdom lack in elephants? Or necklaces?
So why was such a terrible battle waged? Just to satiate his blatant desires?
The battle of desires was not won even after the bloodshed of lakhs of
innocent people. The lust for wealth, woman and land has always sown the
seed for battle.
The message that resonates loud and clear is that desires
cannot nurture life, rather, they are the reason for destruction
and sorrow. Therefore, it is necessary to exercise control over
After the conquest of Vaiśālī, Kūṇika’s desires took greater
flight. He now aspired to become an emperor of many kingdoms.
When he expressed this desire to Lord Mahāvīra, the Lord
explained to him, ‘Kūṇika, this ambition is mere hopelessness,
an empty shell. There are already twelve cakravartīs. In this
avasarpiṇī kāla, there cannot be any more cakravartīs. Kindly close
your doors to such impractical dreams. Listen to me and accept
that the outcome of negative deeds will always be negative.”
But Kūṇika did not heed the good advice. You will now ask
me – if he was such an ardent devotee of the Lord, then why did
he not listen? When an evil spirit comes between God and man,
it steers man away from God. Kūṇika’s pride and ego became a
demon. His desire to become a cakravartī did not subside even
with Mahāvīra’s words of wisdom.
Kūṇika knew that Mahāvīra’s words held absolute truth.
No power in this world could alter that truth. But look at his
audacity – he refused to give up his negative resolve. The dark
clouds of desire had blanketed his mind and heart so that he
could no longer behold the rays of truth.
He resolved to make his dream of becoming a cakravartī
come true. He could not acquire the precious gems required for
the coronation of a cakravartī. So he duplicated fourteen gems.
Along with his powerful troops and allies, he set out to gain
victory over the six regions.
During this voyage of victory, he reached the entrance of
the Tamittrā cave in Vaitāḍhya mountain. The deity of the cave
questioned him, “Who are you and why have you come here?”
Kūṇika replied, “I am a cakravartī. I am on my way to attain
victory over the six regions. The deity laughed at Kūṇika’s
foolishness and took pity on him, “Oh king! Go back. In a wave
of false ambitions, you seem to have lost the discrimination
between what is appropriate and what is not. This era has
already seen twelve cakravartīs. Which cakravartī are you? To
which period do you belong?”
Kūṇika’s pride rose even higher. He said, “I am going to
become the next cakravartī. So what if there are already twelve,
why can’t there be a thirteenth one? If one has strength in his
arms, who can stop him? Look at me - I have the fourteen gems,
a large army, great and powerful kings as my allies. Who says
that I cannot become a cakravartī? I am already one. Step aside.
Do not hinder my path.”
The deity realized what a stubborn and over-ambitious
person Kūṇika was. He advised him yet again. But when a person
is lost in the storm of ambition, he cannot be redeemed easily.
Kūṇika crossed his limit and challenged the deity and as a
result, met his end. His soul left his body and found the path
to hell. With his own hands, he destroyed himself. Pride and
attachment – both are a hindrance in the path of self-purifi cation;
they lead to total destruction.
Kūnika is no more with us. So also have Rāvaṇa, Jarāsandha
and Duryodhana left this world. But what we need to examine
is this - do their negative impulses of desires, wants and pride
still reside within us?
A person works hard in life to gain pleasure and happiness.
But when will one fi nd that happiness? Just as an object is not
possessiveness, an object is not even happiness. Happiness
resides neither in a kingdom nor in wealth. These are inert. But
joy is a form of consciousness; it is dynamic. An Upaniṣadic sage
has proclaimed: Joy is Brahman.
This joy is the central purpose of life. It is consciousness.
This implies that it is not necessary to run after desires to attain
happiness. It is necessary to exert control over desires.
Do not allow yourself to get entangled in the web of
calculations wherein you will constantly be trapped in counting
what you have attained and what is still pending. Lord Mahāvīra
This thing is with me and this is not with me.
He who is trapped in the whirlpool of this calculation will be drowned
in its currents. The path of joy lies in contentment. You must try to
find joy in whatever you have acquired until now and whatever you can
acquire with your efforts and destiny. Let your desires be contained within
this framework. Make a conscious attempt to stop desiring that which cannot
be yours. Give up worrying about acquiring that which will be of little
or no use to your life.
Lord Mahāvīra describes this principle of life as the vow of
limiting desires. It demands setting a limit on endless desires. When
desires are limited, needs also get limited; when needs get limited, then
conflicts, tensions and contradictions in the journey of life also begin
to reduce. Moving beyond confl icts leads to peace, happiness and joy.
Finally, such pure joy is the ultimate truth of life.