Main Page
To Our Readers
What is possessiveness ?
Individual and society
The path to spiritual enhancement.
The flame of avarice
Non-possessiveness and charity.
Attachment is bondage, detachment liberation.
Life of an aspirant
Conflict Resolution
Religion in everyday life
The canvas of life is larger than the self
Non - possessiveness - a universal framework.
All lakes have shores, but the lake of desire is such that
it has no shore - no beginning, no end. It is limitless.

Mahāvīra’s disciple, Ānanda, adopted parigraha parimāṇa vrata - the vow of limiting possessions. The implication of adopting this vow is to take charge of a life that is unrestrained, where desires are endless and where greed knows no bounds. The aim is to bring order into such an existence by curtailing the flow of desires and wants.

Man, in his ignorance, prolongs his life cycles by falling under the spell of desires. In pursuit of these desires, he gets sucked into the quicksand of want and greed. Every time he goes through the ordeal of fulfilling one desire, another crops up and then yet another.

Thus, greed is the root of all conflicts, be it within a family, or one that involves an entire nation. Until this tendency is removed, passions are restrained, the inner strength to destroy desires is cultivated, and thereby, the vow of parigraha parimāṇa followed, conflict and disharmony will prevail. Without recognizing this root cause of conflicts, any hope of a harmonious and peaceful existence is but an illusion.

The greatest of thinkers have spread the light of knowledge, but the darkness caused by greed has not been dispelled. The world today is trapped in that very darkness. Yes, it is true that man has claimed stake even on electric power with which the world has been illuminated, but that light is just external. The inner self is wrapped in complete darkness. Spellbound by external glitter, man has given up all attempts to dispel that inner darkness. By listening to the discourses of great saints he has no doubt found the way to that inner light. But alas! His lack of sādhanā has not allowed that light to brighten his dark world.

Many great kings and emperors made efforts to establish peace, but did not succeed. Man has reached great heights in the world of science, he has built aeroplanes, rockets, even atom bombs, but peace has always deluded him. When explosives were invented in Europe, people assumed that fear of mass destruction would avert wars. Later, when tanks and jet planes were invented, the same hope was rekindled. Subsequently, every destructive invention was justified with the same empty reassurances of peace. But in reality, today we are in the midst of wars that are bigger and far more destructive than ever before.

Earlier battles were fair in as much as they involved only soldiers on both sides, but now there is no value for civilian life too! Weapons in the past had limited powers, today there is no limit. A small bomb is activated and many lives meet their end. So, where is the end to war?

Newer endeavours are made to destroy the world at large. In many countries, wars have become a way of life where, before one battle is resolved, the dark clouds of another loom large on the horizon. Before one battle ends, preparations for another begin. Violence perpetrates vengeance.

And so it is that today man has the power to destroy the whole of mankind. And in his vanity, he believes that war and subjugation are the means to achieving world peace. I ask you, is this the way to fi nd peace? No, never! But such is the situation today the world over.

A cloth stained with blood cannot be cleaned with blood. It is common knowledge that water and not blood washes away bloody stains. But this knowledge has not seeped into man’s actions and therefore he continues to try washing away blood with blood.

The vision of life is lost. Loot, conflict, agitation and war are the order of the day. The cause of all this is the plague of possessiveness which has afflicted both rich and poor countries alike. All wars today are a result of restlessness born from the urge to possess more and more. In earlier times, battles were fought for fame or marriage alliances. But not anymore. Today wars are neither fought for prestige nor are they the means to expand empires. The aim of modern day war is to create markets, so that super powers of the world may exert total control over third world nations thereby depriving them of their economic independence.

Caught in this web of possessiveness, a nation is not just bent upon taking advantage of another, but even within itself, it sets the stage for rivalry among different sections of society. Thus the endless conflict between labourers and employers, between the haves and the have-nots is becoming more vicious
with each passing day.

What is the reason for such bitter class confl icts? It is the avarice for possessions that makes one class fill up its coffers at the expense of another, ignoring the needs of those less fortunate. Where is the end to all this?

Until the tendency to possess is not diminished, the strife in today’s world will not end. Unless every nation adopts the policy of parigraha parimāṇa, this gory game will continue. Lord Mahāvīra and many other great seers have rightly said that possessiveness is the root cause of strife, and non- possessiveness the path of peace. The venerable Mahāvīra taught:

Anger spoils good relations, pride destroys humility, deceit destroys amity and greed destroys everything. When anger enters, love exits, eliminating all affection in a person. Such a person who is roused by pride loses all sense of humility, modesty and respect for elders. A stone might melt, but not such a person. Treachery and duplicity crushes the best of friendships. As long as simplicity exists in a family, each member of that family understands and nurtures the other. Their lives are like an open book. Bonds of friendship are strong and there is joy in abundance. But when treachery and deceit take over, friendships are splintered.

When avarice is roused, neither love remains, nor humility, nor modesty. A greedy person will misuse another for every single rupee. Thus it is man’s desire which shreds humanity into pieces, crushing all the goodness of life. In the presence of avarice, the larger vision of life never evolves. During one of his discourses on the topic of avarice, Lord Mahāvīra said:

Greed destroys everything. While other negative qualities eliminate positive qualities one by one, greed destroys all qualities.

The more lowly a man’s thoughts are, the sooner he moves towards self-destruction. The loftier his thoughts, the nearer he is to peace and harmony. It is in large-heartedness that happiness and contentment reside.

Can joy and peace be found in the realm of greed and possessiveness? The answer is again a big ‘No’. A greedy person can never experience peace. Yet, man has done nothing to sedate this avarice within himself. On the contrary, he has indulged his mind in further avarice. It is akin to cleaning a blood stained cloth with blood. But can that ever succeed?

When a pot of milk is kept over a flame, it has to boil over. That is its property. You may postpone the spilling of the milk by periodically sprinkling water over it, but ultimately it will boil over. The only way to avoid it is by putting off the flame.

In this context, I remember a story from Punjab. Once upon a time there was a group of nomads. Like any other day, they loaded their camelbacks with bundles of wares and set off. As evening fell, they pitched their tents in an open field and unloaded the bundles from the camelbacks. Now, among these nomads, one of them started thinking, “It is night time, and dark. If we fall asleep, someone may take away our bundles.” So he tied the bundles together with a rope and tied the rope to his legs and fell asleep.

Truly enough, a band of thieves came at midnight and coincidentally reached out for the bundles that he had tied to himself. As they started moving the bundles, he woke up and asked, “Hey, who is that?” His friends who were asleep beside him thought, as the popular belief goes, that he was muttering in his sleep because he must have had his hand on his chest. So with their eyes closed, they said to him, “Chant Rāma…Rāma… Rāma.” In other words, remember God and you will sleep well. To this he retorted, “If they stop dragging me, only then can I think of God. If they don’t stop, how can I sleep in peace?”

The point is the same. Unless the fire is put out, how can the milk be prevented from overflowing? Greed has to be curtailed for peace to prevail.

What is man doing today? The fire of greed burns his very existence out of control. If you try to calm it by talks of renunciation and detachment, it may subside for a while, but until it is not extinguished, how can everlasting peace be found? Even the fulfilment of desires cannot lead to lasting peace, because desires are endless.

The wealth in this world is limited, but man’s desires are unlimited. Can unlimited desires be satisfied by limited wealth? Can you ever fill a pond large enough to hold gallons of water with a few handfuls? Lord Mahāvīra has explained this beautifully:

The more you get, the more you want; desire increases with every gain. What starts as just two grams of gold has a tendency to end as millions of grams.

In this Sūtra, we find the essence of life. Herein lies the key to success. Profit and greed fuel each other. The more the profit, the more the greed for more profit. In such a scenario, where is peace, where is rest?

Take the example of Maharsi Kapila. In his piteous state of poverty, even two grams of gold was a lot. It was all he wished for. Let me tell you about it.

Once there was a king who had announced to his subjects that whoever arrived first at the palace gate every morning would receive two grams of gold. So every morning there would be countless subjects trying to reach the palace first, drawn by their greed for the grams of gold. The one who got his name written first was lucky for that day. The rest had to return disappointed.

Was this charity or a ridicule of charity? But let us not spend time on this analysis. True charity is in giving up attachment, not in such pretentious acts, which only kindle the fire of greed among people.

Coming back to the story, whenever Kapila went to the king’s court, he returned empty handed. But it is a universal truth that hope is eternal. Kapila struggled for months to get those two grams of gold.

One day his wife rebuked him for how lazy he was by saying, “If you don’t wake up early, how will you reach in time to get that gold? It is your laziness that keeps the gold out of your reach.”

Kapila agreed sheepishly, “You are right. Okay, wake me up early. Let me reach before the others.”

Saying this he went to bed, determined to rise early. But his sleep was a disturbed one. Somewhere around midnight, he awoke thinking it was daybreak and set out towards the palace. Seeing him wandering at that unearthly hour aroused the suspiscion of the guards and they arrested him.

Kapila pleaded repeatedly, “I am neither a thief, nor a dacoit. I have just come for the two grams of gold!” But none heeded his words. “Is this the time for gold?” they quizzed him with suspicion and locked him in prison.

In the morning, Kapila was brought into the king’s court. His clothes were tattered and his eyes were dark pools of despair. As soon as the king saw him, he realized that here was a poor man who must have come for the gold, but was caught inadvertently.

So the king asked Kapila, “Why were you wandering about in the night?”

Kapila answered, “Annadātā, I have been wandering for months, but have not got the gold. So today I came early hoping to get the gold, but these guards caught me. They have beaten me mercilessly.” Saying this, Kapila broke down.

The king asked kindly, “Two grams of gold is not much at all. Tell me brother, what do you actually need in life?”

This set Kapila thinking. “What shall I ask for? Two grams of gold. But will that be enough? Why not ask for a kilogram or two? But that too will get over soon enough! May be ten or twenty kilograms, so that I can make enough jewellery for my wife. Then our life will be peaceful. But does my hut befi t such wealth? Why not ask for a palace as well? But what is a palace without estates? Better to ask for a village. But just one village? If I have to ask, I’d might as well ask for a state!” And thus we see how man’s desires are endless.

Kapila’s desires kept increasing. At last, when a state also seemed less to him, he decided to ask the king for his kingdom. Look at the web of desires!

Suddenly he came to his senses. As soon as he thought about asking for the kingdom, light dawned within him. The contemplation on gold turned into self-contemplation.

Kapila started thinking, “Oh, what has become of me! A great man has shown kindness towards me and in return, I wish to possess his entire wealth. How can I stoop so low? It is not appropriate to misuse someone’s generosity.”

Thus, Kapila entered into a deep meditative contemplation. The delay in his reply fi lled the king’s mind with suspicion. He thought, “This man is thinking hard. I hope he is not considering asking for my throne!” So he ordered, “State quickly whatever it is that you wish for.”

As Kapila opened his eyes, he saw the king’s anxiety and realized that his greed had aroused suspiscion in the king’s heart. He was consumed by repentance and began to think, “Once there was no greed in me, and now that it has crept in, it fi lls every pore. All I wanted were two grams of gold. But the king said, ‘ask for whatever you desire’ and the desire became so strong that it was ready to take the entire kingdom from the king. Shame on a mind which cannot contain its desires!”

This desire is like a fire whose flames are fanned by the fuel of greed. Fat does not put out fire, it ignites it. Likewise, the fi re of desire can be extinguished not by greed, but only by contentment.

The wisdom that dawned to destroy this greed from its roots set the man on the path of aparigraha. Today he is known to the world as Mahaṛṣi Kapila.

One day Mahaṛṣi Kapila saw a band of five hundred bandits. Their lives spoke of violence and bloodshed. They had never experienced love, compassion and trust. The light of the Mahaṛṣi’s words engulfed them and they became his disciples. And one day, that same group of great saints started spreading the message of peace in the world.

Let me narrate an incident from China. Confucius, the wise one, was once approached by the king with a problem. “There is a lot of thievery in the kingdom. Kindly suggest a way to put an end to it”, the king implored.

Confuciu s said, “If you really wish to put an end to theft in the kingdom, then fi rst of all you must stop stealing yourself. Don’t let your greed grow. Because of your greed you extract money out of your people to fi ll your coffers. The day you set your mind free of deceit, thievery and greed, from that very day these thefts will stop too.”

I believe that the root cause of all evillies within us. In this world, wealth is limited and desires unlimited. Until we endeavour to rid ourselves of the venom of greed, we cannot find peace. Lord Mahāvīra said:

If there were innumerable mountains of gold and silver as vast as Mount Kailāśa, they would not satisfy an avaricious man; for avarice is boundless like the sky.

Take the case of a greedy man who propitiates a deity by worship. The deity is pleased and grants him a generous boon. He asks for wealth. So God creates for him heaps of gold and silver on earth. High and vast as the Himalayas and the Sumeru, not just one or two, but innumerable mountains of wealth. He could keep counting them till the end of his life, but not reach their end.

After creating so much wealth, if God were to ask him whether he was satisfi ed, do you know what the greedy man would reply? He would say, “I will be at peace if you can create one more mountain of gold in yet another corner.” One who nurtures greed is never satisfied by these heaps of gold and silver. Any amount of wealth is but miniscule for him. His desires will increase further, because desires are infinite. So, how can a pit of infinite desires be fi lled by limited wealth?

A saint during one of his wanderings met a man who was very greedy. He later put his disciple to test by saying, “Today I have seen a lake with neither a bank nor a shore. Tell me how that is possible.”

Immediately the devout disciple replied, “Master! What you have seen is possible. It is certainly not impossible.”

Testing him further, the Master asked, “How can this not be an impossibility? If there is a lake, there must be a shore. How can there be a lake without a shore?”

The disciple answered, “Master! All lakes have shores, but the lake of desire is such that it has no shore, no beginning. It is limitless.” The Master smiled contentedly, “You have reached the right understanding. You have grasped true knowledge.”

Verily, even on getting the wealth of the entire universe, the mind of a greedy man will not find contentment. This is the truth of life. It is the nature of desire that it can never be satisfi ed. One who attempts to satisfy every desir does not tread the right path. Satisfaction of desires is not the path of spirituality, it is the path of materialism and never begets peace.

Jainism states that desires cannot be satisfi ed by gaining wealth and objects. Possession of an object does not necessarily satisfy the desire for that object. When the fire of desire starts to kindle, sprinkle the waters of contentment on it. If your mind is content, even your desires will fold and fit into a corner. This is the way to eradicate desires.

If you move ahead in your life with such a view, then you will understand the vow of non-possessiveness. Imagine that a king or a millionaire voluntarily embraces poverty. In the presence of all means of wealth and comfort, he restrains his desires and adopts poverty and austerity as his way of life. Such a man has truly understood the vow of non-possessiveness. If poverty is not accepted voluntarily, but imposed by fate, it cannot bring about peace. Poverty which is self-imposed gives birth to true and absolute non-possessiveness.

Look at Lord Mahāvīra himself. He was born in a royal family and lived in the lap of luxury for thirty years of his life. Yet he found no peace. Had he found peace, he would never have left his home.

On the contrary, those who think that Mahāvīra left because of a sense of emptiness or śūnya, have not understood his inner calling in its completeness.

In this world, we always see two extremes - abundance of wealth on one side and empty pits on the other. While people fall sick due to gluttony, others often die of starvation. Some have so many clothes that they cannot bear their weight while others can barely afford to cover themselves. In the same vein, some live in palaces of gold while many do not have a roof over their heads.

One who enjoys the pleasures of material abundance is not justified to preach contentment and non-possessiveness. If you reside in a palace of gold and give lectures on
sacrifice and renunciation, it is nothing short of a joke. One who has eaten well cannot sermonize about the significance of fasting to those who have not seen food for days. It would only be a cruel joke and not the way to establish peace. There will be peace in the minds of people when they see their leader as one among them. It is then that the minds of people will experience an awakening, a transformation, and the need to follow in the footsteps of their leader.

This was Mahāvīra’s viewpoint. He renounced the palace of his own free will, adorned the sādhu’s garb and adopted the life of a mendicant. He did not even keep a thread to his name. Such renunciation is self-willed and great.

Buddha did the same. He also did not find peace as long as he was in the midst of luxuries. When he adorned the garb of a sādhu, he found peace in his heart. His voice then reverberated into the hearts of the masses and they followed his every footstep.

On the contrary, take the example of King Janaka of the Upaniṣadic period. He did not have a long-lasting effect on the masses. The flames of sacrifice and renunciation glow in his words in the Upaniṣads, but they are short-lived. The lamp burns, but is soon snuffed out. The reason for this is that he sat on the throne and spoke of non-dualism and the supreme soul. He preached about renunciation while he himself was seated on a luxurious throne of power.

Long before Mahāvīra uttered them, such pearls of wisdom have been mentioned in the Vedānta, that this world is momentary, perishing; but the Vedāntic preachers could not kindle the feelings of sacrifice within themselves. They entered the courts of the kings and emperors and left with thousands of golden-horned cows in exchange for their discourses. No wonder then, that they could not instill this great message into the hearts of those whom they taught. In this present corrupt age, the kaliyuga, words of renunciation and sacrifice from those who are entangled in desires seem ludicrous. One Ācārya of Vedānta has said:

In this kaliyuga, vedantins stand out conspicuously like cranes in the month of phalguna.

In phālguna, the white crane stands out conspicuously against the backdrop of dark clouds. In this month, the festival of holī is also a strange sight where children and adults alike, in their frenzy of enjoyment, do absurd things like riding a donkey and wearing bizarre clothes. Talks of renunciation sound as absurd in today’s world.

What the Ācārya meant is that one who does not practice what he preaches cannot reach out and touch the heart of the masses. As a learned scholar, he can make a detailed analysis, he may render others speechless with his powerful arguments, but he cannot bring about a transformation if he does not have the wisdom and compassion to support his knowledge. It is not knowledge alone that can bring about a spiritual revolution. Such transformation can be initiated only by wisdom.

Lord Mahāvīra placed his own example before the masses. He who lived in palaces, who was praised lavishly by the thousands who received bountiful arms from him every morning, decided to embrace renunciation. As he arrived at the decision, he gave away all his riches as charity, and thus weightless, appeared before the people. When this prince, now a mendicant, appeared amidst the crowds, thousands of people followed him in one single voice of faith.

What this means is that one who believes he can solve the problems of the world without giving up the desire for possessions is deluding himself. In truth, he will meet only defeat and pessimism, for life without sacrifi ce is śūnya, a void.

In saying so, I refer to both the ascetic and the householder. The ascetic who wishes to be true to himself will adopt the vow of non-possessiveness completely and not just at a superficial level. Having conquered his desire for possessions, he will see no difference between a king and a beggar, the rich and the poor. On the other hand, the one who feigns simplicity but favours the rich and is enamoured by their wealth has obviously not left behind his own possessive nature. For him, grass and gold are yet not the same. One who is detached is not impressed by the display of wealth. It is he who makes an impact on the world by his chaste actions and pure thoughts.

Unlike the ascetic, a householder who dwells within the confi nes of society cannot renounce all possessions. Yet, he must limit his desires, his actions and his needs to the
bare minimum. He must also learn to limit his habits of eating, dressing, owning property, even raising pets and such other worldly traits.

Complete renunciation is the framework of an ascetic’s existence and to set a limit on desires is that of the layperson’s. To set a limit means to give up excesses that cross the boundaries of necessities.

One who can give up possessions or even limit them is a true aspirant.

Published By " Sugal & Damani Family "