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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.
The remedy to suffering is to go beyond the limitation of the self and reach out to others.
You will fi nd that the moments of utmost happiness in your life have always been those in which
you uttered a word or performed an act of compassion or selfless love.


The root cause of conflict and restlessness is desire. When it creeps into the mind, it becomes an obsession - an obsession that has to be fulfilled at any cost. None are free of desire. All of us are consumed by desires and needs. They vary from one individual to another, even within a small unit, like a family. Each member strives to fulfil his own desire. And this desire sows the seeds of selfishness. So what does one do if his desire is in conflict with that of another? Consumed by his own desire, he attends to himself and does not hesitate to ignore others. Herein begins the endless vicious cycle of conflicts - within families, societies, states and nations. They all mirror the same phenomenon. Whether it is conflict within a small family or a world war, the root cause is always selfish motives and fulfi lment of desires. All misery, conflict and unhappiness in this world can be traced to selfi shness, endless greed and unfulfilled ambitions.

All of us realize that selfishness is the cause of all the unhappiness in the world, but are deluded by the thought that it is always somebody else’s selfishness and never our own. Even in an unthinking moment, one does not accept the truth that his selfishness is the reason for his sorrows. In trying to veil his own selfishness, he is trapped in a vicious cycle of self-destruction, born out of ignorance and delusion. Such ignorance and false ambition drag him down to the hell of discord and endless suffering.

What exactly are heaven and hell? Not realizing that the reasons for suffering are one’s own selfishness and desire, and instead blaming it on another – such ignorance is hell. Accepting this truth and expressing it in conduct – such wisdom is heaven. When you will admit without any pride that all your unhappiness is the result of your own selfishness, you will enter the path of wisdom.


The pursuit of selfishness is hell. The relinquishment of selfishness is heaven. When a person insists on fulfilling his desires, he becomes the cause of not just his own sufferings, but also of others who are linked to him and influenced by him. Blinded by his desires, he forgets that just like him, others too have their needs and desires, and attending to them is his duty as well. So the wise proclaim that the self blindly sinks into all its gratifications and yet never finds any contentment.

The only remedy is to go beyond the limitation of the self and reach out to others. As the wise proclaim:

Learn to desire for others what you desire for yourself and never desire for others what you do not desire for yourself. This is the essence of Jaina religion.

The message of non-violence that was taught by Lord Mahāvīra two thousand five hundred years ago stands untarnished even today. Even more so, because in today’s democratic context, where the world has become one unit, its importance has become more relevant. The Great Seer realized that no person can retain an identity alienated from society. He needs people around him to enjoy life and to experience the joys of interaction. So, if man cannot live apart from society, it is essential that he cultivate generosity and large-heartedness towards those who are in his vicinity and in his workplace. As members of society, it is our responsibility to inculcate within ourselves and others, a sense of togetherness and belonging. Distrust among fellowmen is the greatest cause for the downfall of societies. Thus this ideal of unity, of empathy among individuals in a society has to be reiterated over and over again.

The ever nagging question is, who is more important - the individual or the society? Is the individual the basis for society or is society the basis for an individual? Some thinkers say that individual is the larger issue because society is comprised of individuals. Others say that society is larger because an individual cannot have an identity without society. When the drop merges into the ocean, it is a drop no longer, it is only the ocean. The same is the state of individual and society, of one and many, of individual consciousness and collective consciousness. In my view, neither individualism nor socialism can stand alone. In some aspects, individual is important and in others, society. The individual is important because he is the foundation of society and society is important because it situates the individual. If we consider this seriously, we will realize that both are important in their spheres. Neither is smaller or bigger than the other. If an individual’s identity does not exist in the universe, can family, society and nation have an existence at all?

The worth of a nation depends on the worth of the individuals who make it. So also the worth of a society depends on the worth of the individuals who make it. The same holds good for families too. Even if an individual exists on his own, within the purview of his family, he is many, despite being an individual.

So the question is, when individuals and socieities are interdependant, how can the individual have a separate identity? How is it possible? It is possible on the basis of his individuality. Every individual has his own individuality, on the basis of which he is one, despite being among many. Individuality is like the fragrance of a fl ower. Fragrance is not visible, yet, it can be felt. In the same vein, we can always sense the ‘individual’. Society must also learn to respect, cherish and nurture his individuality. Only then can the individual nurture society.

There is an intimate relation between the individual and society. There are various contrary views regarding the relationship between the individual and society, but all thinkers agree that to create differences and divisions between the two is benefi cial to neither.

However, society is prior to the individual. Whenever we think of an individual, we automatically assume that he must have an existence in a larger framework or group. Individuals come and go, but the society remains. Society has a longer existence than the individual. It is the society which imparts culture and civilization to the individual. A child’s personality is formed and framed by his social structure. All that he learns, whether good or bad, is within the framework of the society to which he belongs. Only the capacity to learn is his own. The development of his ‘I’ or ego which makes him an ‘individual’ happens within his society.

Society has its own system by which it controls the individual. It has its own existence and form. Nevertheless, it is also true that in the absence of ‘individuals’, society cannot have an existence. Individuals influence the society. Although they seem to be two independent ‘realms’, neither can exist or develop without the other. Neither can an individual leave the society nor can the society exist without the individual.

Between the two it is easier to understand society as a whole rather than a person’s ‘individuality’. To understand an individual’s personality, we need to consider his psychological frame. Psychological theories state that people are of two kinds– introverts and extroverts. An introvert is one who arrives at conclusions by dwelling on his own thoughts rather than seeking the views of others whereas an extrovert is one who interacts and mingles with family and society as a cheerful part of a larger group.
He finds solutions within an interactive framework.

Why do these differences exist? This is because of each person’s individuality or personality. The personality is the foundation for a person’s behaviour. If a person is an introvert, we see a sense of isolation in his personality. An extrovert mingles with everyone without remaining focussed within himself all the time but an introvert, even in a social environment, remains aloof from all. That aspect of personality which relates to social structures, which is important for social harmony, is what we term as conduct. Good and noble character is a pre-requisite if one is to lead a fruitful and happy social life. A person who is not of good character cannot belong to any group. A person’s interactions with others in harmony or disharmony reflects his character and personality. Social environment is the litmus test of an individual’s personality.

Ācārya Sanghadāsa Ganī is a great religious commentator of our culture. His delightful commentaries full of in-depth analysis leave us spell bound. The commentaries have an abundance of analogies on the day-to-day problems of man and on how he should deal with life’s myriad situations. Let me narrate one
such interesting analogy.

There once ruled a great king who had three sons. As he became old he began to ask himself which of his three sons he would like to crown as heir-apparent to the throne. As a general rule, either the eldest offspring or the king’s favourite son is crowned successor to the throne. But the old king did not approve of both these options. All three were equally dear to him and he decided to put them to test to fi nd out who would befi t the throne.

After consultation with his ministers, the king invited the three princes to the palace for a banquet. When they were seated, three platters of exotic food were placed before them. But just as they began to eat, they saw three hunting dogs approaching each of them ferociously. The first prince was terrified and thought, “Today this hungry dog is going to make a meal out of me. Is this why we were called here?” So thinking, he ran for his life, and the dog ate his meal. The second prince was courageous and brave. He looked around and found a stick. He sprung forward and hit at the second dog, aiming for its head. This caused the dog to step away and the prince began to eat. But the dog did not give up. The prince kept lashing at him as he ate his meal. Thus the fight between the prince and the dog continued, while the prince continued to eat.

As the third dog hovered around the third prince, he was neither frightened nor did he turn aggressive. He simply emptied a little food from his plate in front of the dog. The dog started eating and the prince enjoyed his meal as well. On and off the dog would bark and the prince would give some more from his sumptuous platter. In this manner, the prince enjoyed his meal and the dog was satisfied as well. In a short while, not only did the dog calm down, he also became friendly and wagged his tail at the prince to express his love and gratitude.

The test of the princes was over. The king and his ministers held a meeting to discuss the outcome. The consensus was that the prince who had run away was not fit to be a king. Life often brings forth challenges and contrary situations that one cannot turn away from. Such a coward cannot do his subjects and the nation any good. Making him a successor would result in the disintegration of the empire.

Regarding the second prince, although they agreed that he was brave and courageous, they knew that decisions in this world are not taken by brute force alone. In him, they found a man who would protect himself and his belongings but did not have the quality of extending his compassion to others. He seemed ready to destroy anything on the strength of his sword and might. They reasoned that although he may never run away from difficulties, he would also not hesitate to resort to violence at the slightest provocation. Therefore they decided that he would also not be fit to rule. Since he did not possess the necessary compassion to be a good king, he would only end up creating restlessness in the nation.

It was therefore decided that the third prince was the one worthy of the throne. He had proved without doubt that he had the wisdom to live and let live. By feeding the dog from his plate he showed that it is always possible to look after one’s own needs as well as those of others. In this manner he was able to win the trust of his opponent, in this case, the dog. With his extra resources, he would extend help to others. Such an attitude is much needed in life. He who uses his wisdom in crisis takes care of himself as well as others. Such a man can be trusted with great responsibilities. Therefore the king appointed his third son
as his successor, and rightly so, don’t you think?

The idea behind Ācārya Sanghadāsa Ganī’s analogy is that communities and nations can evolve with those leaders who establish an ideal by their wise distribution of resources. The heart that has reached complete selfl essness in its love for others has not only gained immense joy, but has attained immortality You will find that the moments of utmost happiness in your life have always been those in which you uttered a word or performed an act of compassion or selfless love.

If you introspect, you will realize that the pain caused by natural calamities in the world is much less than the pain caused by fellow beings. Nature is bountiful and gives us happiness in abundance. If only we would stop hurting our fellow human beings by our ruthless and insensitive actions, this world which seems like a living hell can indeed become a heaven on earth!

One who does not kill nor asks another to kill, one who does not defeat another nor instigates others to do so, such a man befriends all. None are in conflict with him.

The Taoist religious leader Laotse spreads the message of peace thus stating, “Others will behave with you as you behave with them.”

Confucius propogated the ancient religion of China with the message, “Do not do unto others what you dislike for yourself.”

So, which is the religion that advocates killing, slaughter or violence? None. All of them give the same message of universal friendliness, tolerance towards all of humanity and protection to animals.

But it is disappointing that the world today has turned a blind eye towards violence. Innocent people are massacred, some blinded, some amputated; humanity seems to be in a shredding machine! News of people being burnt alive or buried alive, scenes of tens and thousands of people rendered homeless and inflicted with injury are mere stories in the news today. The screams of suffering humanity pierce the very core of our being and yet the violence continues! Rape, urder, terrorism in various forms - death dances in its naked form. Man is not human any more. He has become demoniac and sometimes even worse than a demon. Truly, shame has been put to shame!

So, are we saying that culture and non-violence are lost forever? One does not have to go far to see the demoniac crimes that are plaguing the world today. Everyday we receive news of how the more powerful nations wield brute force over less powerful nations. It seems as if there is no humanism left any more. And all this happens in the name of patriotism, culture and religion.

The need of the hour is a collective effort, an ethical approach. What is needed is non co-operation. As long as those bent upon ruling others gain military and financial help from the superpowers, this power game will continue. It is unfortunate that most of the countries interact only out of selfishness and not out of humanitarianism.

I have been explaining that an individual is important in himself, but he cannot survive by rebelling against society. Yes, individualists consider society as a group of individuals, but they undermine the role of society and stress on the importance of the individual. Among the principles of individualism the main question is the autonomy of the individual. Freedom is the most important and cherished gift which every individual must treat with responsibility. Without freedom he cannot evolve, his development is not possible. No nation can control that basic freedom. According to political principles, societies and nations are created to protect and nurture the freedom of individuals. An individual’s freedom is curtailed by the nation only when he interferes in the life and work of others. A nation can only be protective of an individual’s freedom. No nation has the right to interfere in the development of the individuality of a person. Nor does any society. Every human being has a right to his own individuality and personal growth.

I have been talking to you about the relationship between the individual and society. Whether an individual is part of a family, society or nation, his demand is the same - that of his autonomy and freedom. But the question is whether he can be allowed unconditional freedom. In my opinion, if a boundary is not established on personal freedom, a person becomes asocial, and sometimes antisocial as well. Then, how does one safeguard one’s society and nation from tyranny and oppression? How can peace and order prevail? This does not mean that I wish to curtail a person’s individuality and personality. What I am trying to assert is that freedom should not lead to recklessness. Neither should it lead to the splintering of society. An individual’s life has protection and order only if the nation functions in a smooth and orderly way.

In this context it is crucial to understand the importance of society and the individual’s role in it. As members of society, we cannot forfeit our duties for the sake of our freedom.

Indian tradition has always stressed upon the harmony between an individual and society. The great Masters, Mahāvīra and Buddha laid more emphasis on the sangha (congregation) than on the individual. In the Jaina culture, even the venerable Tīrthankaras bow to the congregation and the order. The greatest of Ācāryas are also bound to obey the sangha. The Jaina sangha has a four-fold order – monk, nun, layman and laywoman. The sangha is affirmed by the unity of all four. From a spiritual perspective, whatever rights are available to a monk are also available to the nun. Whatever rights the layman has, the laywoman also has.

According to Jainism, the sangha is created by one person, the Tīrthankara. Yet, the primary reason why prestige and glory is bestowed upon the strong pillars of the sangha and society is because an individual’s evolution and development is strongly linked to these two pillars. The sangha is above the individual. During the process of laying down the constitution of the sangha, the layperson and the ascetic are accorded equal rights.

If we deeply reflect on the great tradition of the Jaina history and its unique sangha formation, we will realize that the roots of Jaina culture do not thrive in the individual but the collective, the social. Its socialism however is not economic and political but a spiritual socialism. It is a socialism based on sarvodaya (collective evolution), where the evolution of all is equally accepted and nurtured. Here one’s progress does not depend on the deterioration of another. Rather, in the development of one lies the development of all, in the downfall of one lies the downfall of all, in the extinction of one lies the extinction of all. This is the spiritual socialism of Jaina culture.

Right now, ahimsā seems dormant, as if it has no role to play any more. Collapsing from all sides, it stands on the threshold of extinction. An ahimsā which is not pro-active does not have life-breath; it becomes lifeless. It has simply reduced itself to nonindulgence in violence. This narrow-minded approach to nonviolence makes it a facade, stripping it of its richness and logic.

There are many spheres of life which appear to be based on non-violence, but when you look at them closely, you will see the cruel play of violence even there. Non-violence has taken a backseat, helplessly looking on as violence wreaks havoc on humanity. In the face of inhumane tortures, should we hide behind a misinterpretation of ahiṁsā and call ourselves tolerant and forgiving?

The newspapers carry daily reports of national crimes, offenses and misdemeanors. Hundreds and thousands of people are being dislocated from their homes and countries only to become refugees in alien soils. But do the power brokers do anything about it?

It is unbelievable that beyond a feeble protest, the world at large simply retreats into silence after every dastardly act of violence. Where are our religious leaders who propogate nonviolence, compassion and kindness in times like this? Where is non-violence? Where is compassion? Where is the humanity that every religion claims as its own? Does religion not have an answer then? Is it impotent - watching helplessly while man transforms into a monster?

As the world stands torn apart, the greatly debated issue is whether the individual should come first or the society. According to me, an integration is what is needed. Both individual and society must be interdependent and of mutual help to each other. Neither can progress by negating the other. This is the anekānta of Jainism, a multipronged view. If we look at these two aspects from an anekānta point of view, we will see them in a new light. The individual and the ollective will merge. Manyin- one and one-in-many. Only then can mankind move ahead as a united force to face the challenges of a changing world.

Published By " Sugal & Damani Family "