It is when man merges with the universe, when he transcends
from the limited to the limitless, when the waves of love and
non-violence rise from his soul to embrace all, that godliness
awakens in him. He who attains this godliness is worshipped
as God or Arhan. This is the supreme Jaina ideal which aims at
uprooting the corruptions of one’s past.
This religion of the arhans is not plain idealism, it is realistic as
well. Idealism has the power to inspire, but not to progress. How can
one survive in this world with idealistic imaginations? Better off is
the one who treads gently on earth than he who flies in the sky of imagination.
He may walk less, but at least he has walked. It is important to have
an ideal, since without it, a journey has no destination. Likewise the
ideal needs a journey to reach fulfilment, otherwise it is an empty shell.
Dazed by the realm of idealism, do not forget the ground
on which man rests his feet. The eyes may reach distances afar,
but not the feet. They both cannot traverse the same distance.
The eyes may embrace the distant mountain peak within the
span of a second and the mind may be tempted to reach there as
well, but the feet cannot keep up with their swift companions.
This chasm between the eyes and the feet is the dichotomy
between idealism and realism. Jainism teaches us beautifully
and effectively how to strike this fi ne balance. As long as a
person is rooted in worldly life, family and community are part
of his reality, as is the nation to which he belongs. He cannot
consider himself an autonomous entity removed from these.
Since he cannot separate himself from these, he cannot ignore
their needs, nor forget them. If he did, he would lose himself as
well. Such is the reality of responsibility, of life itself.
So it is that the scriptures speak of the vow of limiting one’s
desires (icchā parimāṇa), but not of limiting one’s needs (āvaśyakatā
parimāṇa). Necessities are a reality, not to be forgotten, not to be
ignored. Verily, if something can be ignored, or forgotten, it is not
a necessity, it is a desire. It is only desire which can be given up.
You must remain vigilant, because flights of imagination and ambition
can lead you to believe that your desires are a necessary part of your
existence. And thus a web of desires is woven, each craving to be fulfilled.
You become enslaved by your desires and create a negative energy in your
life. Jainism teaches us to nip in the bud those desires which grow wildly
beyond our necessities. He who is content with the fulfi lment of his
necessities is a worthy aspirant indeed. He enriches his own life as well
as that of others. On the contrary, he who is discontent and desires endlessly
treats his life like a vehicle without a brake - a dangerous vehicle that
will crush him as well as others.
Jainism says that the vehicle of life has to be driven, but
within limits. Vigilance and control are a must if you want your
journey to be peaceful and productive. Do not drive recklessly
over others. If your self-interest clashes with another’s, then stop
to consider. Drive within your boundaries so that thousands of
vehicles can move in harmony. Or else, there will be chaos.
Where there is control, there is vigilance, there is discrimination
and therein lies the dictum of non-possessiveness.
This was Ānanda’s solution to his conflict. The control of
desires. He accumulated wealth, but did not expand it further. He put
an end to his desires and attachment by adopting a simple practice. He
told himself, “I will not increase my wealth nor will I keep any
more than this.” In this manner, his life was blessed by contentment,
by icchā parimāṇa.
The conflict prevalent in today’s world is not just of today –
it has existed since time immemorial. Try to get to its roots, and you
will see for yourself that its primary reason is the prevalence of desires.
The world wars that have shaken the world may have had other reasons as
well, but the primary reasons were the unlimited desires of man.
The bloodshed of millions has been caused due to this bottomless pit of
desires. When man tried to expand his desires beyond the scope of where
his feet could reach, he sowed the seeds of conflict. As his feet trespassed
on what was not his, conflict began. For those who have limited facilities
and power, their confl ict is on a limited scale, their boundary is limited
as well. But for those who are powerful, conflicts cross limits and often
take on an all-pervading form. Why did the battle of Mahābhārata
happen? It was a battle that killed great warriors of India like moths
in a fl ame, a flame that engulfed the culture, civilization, bravery
and glory of the country. It was a war that spread darkness and converted
a religious land into a graveyard. Destruction of such magnitude only
because of unlimited desires!
Let me narrate an analogy. Imagine that two brothers live
their entire life from inherited property. In such a situation, how
can they teach their children lessons of independence and self
worth since they have never earned a living for themselves?
Considering they do give those lessons to their children, then
if at the end of their lives, they bequeath their large mansions
to them, how can they justify what they have taught? I ask this
because by bequeathing their wealth to the hildren, are they
not in reality confusing them by causing an upheaval of the
ideals taught to them?
When the wealth was divided between the Pāṇḍavas and
Kauravas, jealousy and greed crept in Duryodhana’s mind,“Why do my cousins have mansions of gold? All they had was
a small kingdom. How have they progressed so much while my
kingdom continues to remain as it is, without expanding even
by an inch!”
Those who have not mastered the art of expanding their
wealth and property resort to cunning manipulations and
thievery. “Let me seize my brother’s property and make it mine”,
they think. But this is not right, it is perverted thinking. Even if a
person has a genuine need he should not resort to such actions.
A man who has no clothes steals from another to clothe
himself. Is this a solution to poverty? No! Because although he
has clothed himself, he has stripped another.
A naked man cannot make another naked by stealing his
clothes nor can a hungry man steal another’s bread. So the wise
option is to innovate methods to multiply resources. After all, in
a world where the population is ever-increasing, if innovations
in production are not implemented, how will the problem of
haves and have-nots be solved?
Unfortunately, in India, not much attention is paid to production. Conflicts
are never dealt with, always brushed aside under the carpet, and therefore,
the vision of the self as part of a larger canvas is never created.
But imagine! If you learn that your life is made by none
other than yourself, then you will learn the mantra of growth.
You will then automatically transform the wealth that you have
amassed into the larger resource pool, be it of the family, society
Since Duryodhana neither knew the art of production, nor endeavored to
learn it, he was caught in the web of possessiveness from where arose
gambling, injustice and torture. And what a nemesis it reached! He seized
the kingdom of his brothers through deceit and treachery finally leading
to a gory war. And history will tell us that the tragic outcome of war
is always destruction.
Kṛṣṇā approaches Duryodhana and stands before him as a
messenger. He who was no ordinary mortal, whose mere frown
could cause deluges, sets aside his power and like an ordinary
man, he stands as a messenger and begs Duryodhana for a pact
There have been many great politicians and many great
speeches, but that rendering by the Blue God was exceptional.
Preserved in history for posterity, it is something to be read and
contemplated upon by all politicians and leaders.
In that speech of wisdom, Kṛṣṇā sheds light on how one
must live one’s life and what one must make of one’s life.
He pleads with Duryodhana, “It is my deepest wish that the
Pāṇḍavas remain safe. It is also my earnest wish that the lives
of the Kauravas achieve greatness. These palaces of gold are not
meant to be razed down to ashes. If my words are not heeded,
rivers of blood will fl ow; if you brothers begin to slay each
other, then remember what I say today – my eyes shall shed
more tears than all the blood you will spill on the battlefi eld. So
Duryodhana, even if you cannot give the Pāṇḍavas their due, at
least give them fi ve small villages. The five Pāṇḍavas will listen
to me and live their lives peacefully.”
Such are the great moments in history. The Pāṇḍavas were
ready to accept just fi ve villages out of that dynasty for whose
expansion they had once battled and won over the world. With
just so little, they would manage their lives, not aspiring for
In this manner, a limit is set on desires. Those Pāṇḍavas
who had lived in palaces of gold were now willing to reside in
a hut. On the other hand stands Duryodhana entangled in his
web of desires, not content with his own dynasty, not content
after coveting the dynasty of another.
It is true that whoever is possessed by the demon of
possessiveness becomes a madman. Once possessed, the demon
takes control. There is no respite from it. Can a person possessed
by such a strong power dare utter a word or do anything against
it? Totally controlled, his life becomes not his to lead.
Duryodhana was completely possessed by this demon. To
that humble request from Kṛṣṇā, he retorted, “Oh Keśava! You talk
about giving away fi ve villages. I don’t know how large they may
be, but I am not even willing to give away a needlepoint of land to
the Pāṇḍavas. Nothing without war! I will part with nothing.”
Be it an emperor owning palaces of gold, or a snake coiled
over a treasure, they echo the same insecurity, stemming from
their obsessive desire to hold on to their possessions. Duryodhana
stated the same, “I will not give away anything in my lifetime.”
Attachment is always the cause of destruction.
It was this flaw in Duryodhana’s character that lead to the great
battle of Mahābhārata where rivers of blood flowed. This tendency
to possess, the wish to part with nothing, to guard all possessions like
a snake has been the web in which man has been caught since time out of
Remember the story of Śreṇika and Kūṇika. What a
wonderful relationship a father and son can share! How many
aspirations and hopes a father builds for his son! The scriptures
One would wish for defeat at the hands of his son i.e. he
would feel pride if his son outshines him. So also does the
teacher feel towards his student.
In the whole world, there are two spheres where one steps
back happily to make place for another. One is the sphere of
family, and the other that of religion. Father and son stand in the
sphere of family and master and disciple stand in the sphere of
religion. A master aspires to see his disciple move ahead, beyond
what he has learnt from him and seeing the disciple thus, fi lls him
with joy. In his disciple’s increasing fame, the teacher fi nds his
own fame, feels honoured and sees the success of his own life.
In the family sphere, between the father and son, this emotion
is even more intensified. Why does a man earn? Ask him and he
will answer, “Whatever I do is for my family, for my children.”
What this means is that he has erased his identity and merged
it with that of his children. Thus he sets his mind to enhance
the life of his children. He directs all his energies towards that
goal, forgetting himself in the process. The father may live in a
hut, but if his son makes a palace of gold, he feels no sorrow, no
jealousy. He may not be able to bear his neighbour’s success, he
may even try to put a spoke in that wheel, but his son’s success
gives him immense joy.
And the same goes for his son. He is secure in the knowledge
that his father would only aspire for him and not any stranger.
After all, whatever the father begets today, the son is bound to
In this manner, much intimacy is seen between a father and
son. But alas! the web of possessiveness. It has changed this nectar
into poison. Wherever the tendency of possessiveness increases
and desires spread without any limit, there even nectar becomes
poison, and bitterness creeps into the intimacy. Destruction
laughs out loud. Possessiveness is the core of all sins.
King Śreṇika is becoming old, and his son Kūṇika, who is
now a young man, feels restless. The desire to rule the kingdom
slowly creeps into his mind – he is now waiting to see the empty
throne. He thinks, “What a misfortune that my father is not
dying! It is time for him to die and for me to rule the kingdom.”
Selfi shness distorts the vision of life and makes a man blind.
King Śreṇika is counting the last hours of his life. Even if
longevity favours him, he can barely survive a year or two. And
then Kūṇika will get the throne. There is no doubt about that. He
is the heir-apparent. But Kūṇika wants the throne much before
his time; he dreams of being seated on it day and night.
Why is Kūṇika so restless? It is not as though he is dying
of hunger or cold. The grandeur of the empire lies at his feet,
for him to use as he pleases, as much as he wishes. There are no
limits set upon him. All his needs and wants are taken care of.
It is not as if the old Śreṇika is tight-fi sted and gives nothing to
his son. The empire is under the control of the son; Śreṇika is
just the namesake ruler and sits upon the throne for an hour or
But Kūṇika is caught in the web of desires. Restless for the
throne, his thoughts turn ugly, “Oh! What do I do with Father?
He neither embraces renunciation nor death! He has heard the
teachings of the Tīrthaṅkaras long enough, but is yet not ready
to relinquish the throne. If he does not renounce voluntarily,
should he be made to do so? If death does not come to him,
should he not be made to die?”
Thus, enslaved by his desires, Kūṇika plots against his
father and locks him in the dungeons. What other choice exists
for one so completely blinded by greed? Violence is born from
The great ruler of Magadha is thus counting the last days
of his life in prison. Gone are those days when he used to give
away diamonds and pearls on the streets enroute the abode of
Lord Mahāvīra where he went to hear discourses. Today, that
great ruler is a mere prisoner and his days are meaningless.
Meanwhile the son has seated himself on the throne. But
what is the result of all this? Have his desires been fulfi lled? Has
he found contentment? The answer is - No. Unrestrained desires
never reach their end. The splendour of this world acts like fuel
to the fi re of avarice. It only kindles the fl ame, never putting it
out. So the religious scholars proclaim:
The more you get, the more you want; desire increases with
As one achieves more wealth and fame, avarice increases.
Profit does not restrain greed, it only enhances it. Why is this so?
The scriptures answer this question thus:
Just as the sky has no end and is infinite, so also are desires limitless.
A person who has thousands desires lakhs, and he who has lakhs desires
crores. The king wants to become a monarch, the monarch wants to become
an emperor. And an emperor wants other emperors to accept his sovereignty.
Where is the peace? Contentment lies not in satiating desires, but in
nipping them in the bud. One cannot find contentment outside. It lies
within the core of a person. It lies not in the treasury, it is a treasure
But like other mortals, Kūṇika too had not grasped this noble
truth. Having imprisoned his old father, having conquered the throne,
he was still restless. Now his eyes were fixed upon his brothers. What
did they have? A jewel and an elephant. A vast empire on one hand and
just a piece of jewellery and an elephant on the other. Can the two really
One can say that the greed for the elephant and the jewel did not emerge
in Kūṇika’s mind. It was instigated by his queen. Whether
a person jumps into fi re of his own free will or at the instigation of
another, is there a difference? The effect is the same. The cause is of
no consequence. Either way, he has to suffer in the flames. The point
is that when greed crept into Kūṇika’s heart, he ordered
his brothers to hand over their possessions to him.
The brothers disagreed, “We have got no share of the empire.
If you want even the jewel and the elephant from us, then give
us a share of the throne.”
Kūṇika retorted, “I have not received the empire in charity. I
have achieved it by myself. Therefore, you have no share in it.”
When such tendencies arise, when one wants to give
nothing but take everything, then sharp daggers of avarice
twist the mind. The brothers sought refuge with their maternal
grandfather and this further angered Kūṇika. Now he made his
grandfather an enemy too. Flames of war and violence always
erupt from such negative tendencies.
There are many such people in this world who do not hesitate to trample
over thousands of people to achieve their selfish goals. Their conscience
remains unperturbed. What is this power that destroys one’s discrimination?
Why does man become such a demon?
The question is - can this demon redeem itself? The answer
to this question is an obvious ‘Yes’. By exercizing control over his
desires, man can transform the demon within. He is then truly
considered a saint. Such astonishing incidents exist in history.
There are many who shed the blood of their own kin and
later become devotees to redeem themselves and regain lost
respect. Kūṇika did the same. After committing numerous sins,
he turned to Lord Mahāvīra for redemption. In fact, it is said
that he would not drink even a sip of water until he got news of
his master’s well being everyday.
Witness this scene. Thousands have gathered to hear the
discourse of Lord Mahāvīra. Kūṇika aspires to end his life
before the Lord so that he may go to heaven. “May my devotion
cleanse my sins”, he prays ardently.
Yes, sins can be cleansed with devotion that is pure, but
devotion does not reside along with a desire for fame and
So it came to be that Kūṇika asked, “Lord, where will I go
after my death?”
Mahāvīra answered, “Instead of asking this of me, ask
yourself and hear the answer from within. The one who can
answer your query resides within you. You have been given
the knowledge about heaven and hell. Now ask your inner self
where you will go next?”
One who sows wheat will reap only wheat, it cannot be that
his harvest will reap millets instead. This is the law of nature.
There has never been an exception to this rule, never any
change. And through the passage of time, this truth will remain
unchanged that good deeds procure good results and bad deeds
procure bad results.
Whether this life is to be a demoniac one or a life divine has
to be decided here, within the span of this very lifetime. One who
realizes this truth clearly and truly will judge for himself which
way to go. If a person has led a saintly life, then his next lifetime
will be a blessed one. But if he has brought tears and grief to
others around him and laughed at their pain, then such a person
far from being a saint, is a demon. And what can be the destiny
of such a person? He will be bereft of blessings and ridiculed in
the moments of his suffering. Tell me, does he deserve better?
The desire is for heaven but if deeds are fi endish, then can
one attain heaven? Wherever a person may be in this world, if
his thoughts are pure, if he has diligently plucked out the thorns
that have fallen in his path, if empathy has blossomed in his heart
over the tears of another, then he will surely attain heaven.
Therefore, look at your life and introspect, and you will know
what is going to become of your next life. Many persons who meet
me ask, “What are we going to become in our next life?” I answer,“You don’t need a seer to know your next three lives.” But they
are not convinced and believe that if they asked Sīmandhara
Svāmī, they would get an answer. And I explain, “Why do you
even need to go to Sīmandhara Svāmī? Whatever he says is based
on the karmas. He will only reiterate what Lord Mahāvīra has
expounded. And you have to invest your faith in that.”
Lord Mahāvīra has expounded the theory of why a soul takes birth
as a human, animal, celestial or hellish being. There is no new knowledge
to be gained there. Therefore, a person can have no difficulty in knowing
about his next three lives.
Scan your life until now and you will see that you have reaped
as you have sown. He who has not done anything earlier will not
get anything now, and he who does nothing in this moment gets
nothing in the future. In this manner, the accounts of sins and
virtues of three lifetimes are obvious right away. We don’t need
a seer to know them. Through time immemorial, good deeds
have procured good results and bad deeds, bad results.
Thus King Kūṇika inquired about his afterlife from Lord
Mahāvīra and the Lord replied, “the answer to this query lies
within yourself.” But when Kūṇika persisted on having his
query answered, the Lord said, “Oh king, when you leave this
body, you will go to the sixth hell.”
Kūṇika was devastated when he heard this. All his hopes
were shattered. He was hoping that the Lord would mention a
higher heaven. But the Lord whom he had asked the question
was not one to humour a king. He wanted to buy the heavens
from Mahāvīra, but heavens cannot be bought with coins nor
with external religious pretence.
Kūṇika was astonished. He exclaimed, “Lord! I am such an
ardent devotee of yours! Then why will I go to hell?”
But the question is - when did he become a devotee? Did he
think about that? He who held his father captive, in whose flame
the entire family was engulfed, who did not set any limit upon
his desires and remained trapped in the fetters of possessiveness,
where else can he go but to hell?
So, the most important thing is that a man who desires
heaven and liberation must set a limit upon his earthly desires,
conquer his passions and lead a life of contentment. Then his
spirit is free from the fear of the future – he need ask no one
about it. Lord Mahāvīra said:
Examine your duties and see what you have done, what you
are doing and what you ought to be doing?
Remember, your wrong doings will not change the map of your life; only
good deeds can bring about a change in your life. The God of one’s
life is within. The enlightened ones have always taught that if you want
to love God, then first find out whether you love his children or not?
If you cannot love his children, then how can you ever love him?
Someone once said, “Lord! I aspire neither for country nor
kingdom, not even fame or worldly respect. All I desire is that
even if I go to hell, I may remember your name.” He whose heart
is overfl owing with devotion becomes so intense in it that even
if someone tells him that he will go to hell, his only response
will be, “Let me go to hell a thousand times, but may my love
for the Lord never leave my heart. If my heart is alight with the
eternal fl ame of God’s love, then even the dungeons of hell will
But Kūṇika’s devotion was not a true one. It was born out of
the need to revive his image and to fi nd a place in heaven. Can
heaven be attained thus?
What this means is that the desire for possessions results in the downfall
of man. Wherever man is overcome by possessiveness, his life is filled
with darkness. He may think that he is bringing wealth under his control.
But actually, he is falling prey to his desire. He neither belongs to
himself nor to his family nor to anyone else. Neither can he redeem himself
nor another. Defeated from all spheres, he loves no one and is loved by
none. He becomes the object of universal hatred.
Thus we see that trapped in the web of possessiveness, a person loses
his sanity. Like a plague, it ravages him. Like a drug, it enslaves him.
He is obsessed with his bank balances and account books. His desires keep
on multiplying. Neither his family gets anything from him nor the community
or nation. He is unable to attend to the needs and problems of those around
him. His sole aim is to fill his coffers. The scriptures call such a person
a dummy. The farmer places a scarecrow in the centre of the field to scare
away birds and animals. After all, it just has the face of a man, it is
not human. As the proverb goes:
The scarecrow of the field neither feeds others nor himself.
Similarly, what kind of a person is he who neither enjoys his own wealth,
nor lets others benefit from it? He has the face of man, but not the heart
of man. Humane qualities have deserted him, he is inert.
When the empathy towards one’s fellow beings awakens, then inertia
will disappear. As long as there is greed and loot in the world, the soul
of humanity becomes dulled and sullied. The tendency of possessiveness
ruins lives. Hence, do not ruin your lives by chasing possessions, do
not confuse your desires for needs. He who adopts the Jaina ideal of icchā
parimāṇa or parigraha parimāṇa finds the pathway
to infinite joy.