| For the progress and evolution of mankind, faith and logic have
to co-exist. Faith without logic and logic without faith have no place
in Indian culture. Rather it believes that faith
finds its culmination in logic and logic meets its goal in faith. Faith
is the foundation for religion but logic is the primary basis for faith. So the heart and mind must function in unison together towards a holistic
culmination of an ideal life. The light of intelligence illuminates every
beat of the heart and the power of faith strengthens every logic of the
mind. If these two aspects do not synchronize, human beings cannot rise
above darkness. Speaking of an ideal life, let us look at how an aspirant
can enrich every aspect of his life? What is the path of an ideal life
for a householder and an ascetic? How can we lead a life of vigilance
|As long as a man is a householder, he is bound by his family, by society,
or by the nation. To live in harmony with his surroundings, to be able
to live comfortably, he needs certain material objects and spends his
time accumulating them.
The ascetic, on the other hand, is free of these constraints. Therefore,
some people believe that the path of the ascetic is different from that
of the layperson, but this is not true. Both are seekers on the spiritual
path. They tread the same path from within, only the ascetic’s journey
is faster while the layperson lags behind.
Having heard all along that they tread separate paths, you may wonder
what I am saying. I would like you to reflect on this – if the path
of the ascetic is that of non-violence and truth, then what is the path
of the layperson? Is it that of violence and untruth? To become a householder,
should one indulge in untruth, deceit or violence? Obviously the answer
is – “No”. This is the point I am making - that the
path of the ascetic is also the path of the layperson. The non-violence
of the ascetic is not different from the non-violence of the layperson.
Neither is the value of truth any different.
In fact, what is distinctly different is that the layman is bound by family
responsibilities, therefore his steps are not as swift. But the monk is
not bound by such responsibilities. He is answerable only to himself.
So his life is lighter and less burdened. Thus, although the manner and
pace of their steps may be different, the path is the same.
If the paths the monk and the layperson choose to travel are in fact different,
then it is cause for concern. The goal of the monk’s path is liberation.
So, if the layman’s path is different, then we have to ask ourselves,
“Is there a path which is different from the path of liberation
and yet a benefi cial one? For if it is not benefi cial, then why would
the layman adopt it?” If the layman’s path is not that of
liberation, is it merely that of accumulation of worldly wealth? Ultimately,
what is the use of performing the duties of a householder? Will his sādhanā
not benefi t his present life and his after-life? Is his way not the path
There are only two ways – the direct path to liberation and the
indirect worldly path. The worldly path is full of āśrava or
karmic influx. The path of liberation is saṁvara or blockage of
karmic influx. The road that leads to worldly wealth is also that which
leads to the increase of karmic burden. The direct path to liberation
is that which reduces karmic burden.
An ascetic in his life treads this path illuminated by the Three Jewels
of right vision, right knowledge and right practice. And this is the path
and the goal of the layperson as well. What is different is the levels
at which they follow their vows of truth and non-violence. When Ācārya
Umāsvāti was asked what was the path of liberation, he answered:
Right vision, right knowledge and right practice constitute the path to
The term ‘right’ refers to an enlightened state. Thus vision,
knowledge and practice in their enlightened state are the Three Jewels
which illumine the path of liberation. In other words, until the right
vision does not dawn in your heart, until you don’t become steadfast
in truthfulness, until your faith does not stop wavering, knowledge will
not arise. Merely reading books, endlessly battling with scriptures and
memorizing a few thousand verses will not get you anywhere. Right knowledge
can arise only when one becomes steadfast in truth. Lord Mahāvīra
has reiterated the same truth:
Without faith, there is no knowledge; without knowledge there is no virtuous
conduct; without virtues there is no annihilation of karmas and without
annihilation of karmas, there is no liberation.
The logical conclusion is that until the vision dawns, knowledge cannot
arise. When knowledge arises, the flame of truth will shine before us.
Only then can the difference between the worldly existence and the realm
of liberation be understood.
Until vision and knowledge are not crystallized, what practice can one
adopt? How can conduct ever be pure without knowledge? He who has not
followed the right practice cannot attain liberation and everlasting peace.
To attain liberation, one has to be steadfast in the path illuminated
by these Three Jewels.
The rule is the same whether one is a layperson or an ascetic. The ascetic’s
meditation may be absolute, while the layman may meditate just partially,
but both meditate on these Three Jewels. It is said that though the layman
treads the path of liberation, he gets entangled in the maze of worldly
attachments. Therefore, he may reach heaven, but not beyond. 4 He does
not reach the abode of liberation directly. This is because his sādhanā
is incomplete. He needs to endeavour a lot more to reach the abode of
liberation. The same holds true for the monk as well. In today’s
world so full of sin, it is not assured that even a monk can achieve liberation
in one lifetime. He has to go to heaven and then be reborn again. And
in this manner he has to go through many such cycles of birth and death
before his soul is free of its karmic bonds and ready for its
final journey to the abode of liberation which lies beyond the realms
A householder cannot escape the responsibilities of his family and society.
He cannot justify any act of irresponsibility by comparing himself to
the monk who he believes does not serve the society and nation in a practical
way. The monk severs his ties with society to enter a way of life with
a very special focus, but the householder does not do that. And moreover,
the monk does serve the society and nation, but in a very different manner.
The primary purpose of water whether in a pot or a river is to quench
thirst. Similarly, be it an ascetic or a layperson, the primary goal of
human life is to attain liberation by adopting the vows of non-violence
and truthfulness, thereby blocking the fl ow of karmic influx.
Until a person is operating within a family and has a reciprocal interaction
with the world, he cannot be absolutely free of possessiveness. He cannot
live his life by begging for alms like the ascetic. Thus there is a framework
within which a layperson must acquire his possessions. This framework
keeps his possessiveness in check. A householder must learn to mark his
limits and earn his livelihood accordingly. He must provide for himself
as well as for his family and community.
Given that certain possessions are necessary in life, you may ask –
is there any dictum for how these possessions must be acquired? Ācārya
Hemacandra and other great seers speak of wealth acquired through righteous
The source of earning should be just and righteous.
A householder acquires wealth as well as luxuries, but he must not gain
his wealth by unjust methods. His wealth must always reflect his honesty
and hardwork. Such wealth will not be tarnished by sin. On the contrary,
wealth that is acquired by injustice and exploitation is sinful and can
never have everlasting benefi t. Wherever such wealth travels, it causes
misery, hatred and jealousy.
How well our Ācāryas have explained this intangible difference!
They were indeed great idealists with a realistic approach to life. They
did not give impractical sermons that a person who stays in the framework
of a family should not acquire necessary possessions. Jainism does not
believe in such imaginary ideals. Those who live in the flights of imagination
can never attain great heights in life.
The conflicts of life cannot be battled in the darkness of ignorance.
The householder should exercise vigilance and always ask himself the question,
“Have I earned my money from a legitimate and justified source or
otherwise?” Even a monk needs food; life needs sustenance. Although
the monk does not earn his livelihood, he must be vigilant while accepting
alms from a householder. Before accepting anything, he must ask the question:
How was this food prepared? For whom was it prepared? How much quantity
has been prepared? Have I in any manner contributed to this preparation?
Has the householder made it as part of his daily routine, or has it been
specially prepared for me?
If he is dissatisfied by the answers, he must not accept the food. Thus
the monk should be vigilant about ‘production’ and ‘source’.
Likewise, the householder should also remain vigilant in such matters,
“Where has this food come from? In what form? Does it enrich my
life? Does it harmonize well within my framework?”
Jaina culture advocates abstinence from activities that involve violence
and trades and professions which breach the priniciple of non-violence.
Jainism propounds vigilance and careful scrutiny in whatever one does,
whether it is activities of domestic life which defy the principle of
non-violence in small
ways or setting up of factories and industries which involve destruction
of life-forms on a large scale. Although agriculture does infringe upon
the principle of non-violence because of the destruction it causes to
living organisms in the soil, it is not considered a sinfuldeed. Rather,
it has been advocated as a positive activity for a vegetarian way of life.
Indian culture has always given a seat of honour to agriculture. India
is primarily an agricultural country and even today, a majority of the
Indian population constitutes the rural farmer. Agriculture is the fi
rst step towards non-violence, since it can be a very influential medium
to steer one away from nonvegetarianism and to establish vegetarianism.
There cannot be a more domitable force than agricultural activity to counteract
the rising preference for non-vegetarianism. It is on this basis that
in India, agriculture is considered the divine spirit of non-violence.
In Vedic terminology, an agriculturist is known as the Son of the Earth.
According to Jaina tradition, Lord Rsabhadeva was the person who first
propagated agriculture as a way of life in India. He initiated the people
of his time into the art of agriculture. In that bygone period agriculture
was absolutely necessary for the development of the human race. The Jaina
tradition refers to agricultural activity as “ārya karma”
– the activity of the noble man.
The popular aspirants of Jaina tradition themselves indulged in agricultural
activity, thus giving it an important place in Jaina history and culture.
Of course there were those in the middle ages who labelled it as a violent
activity, but the chief propogators of Jaina tradition referred to agriculture
as “ārya karma”.
The middle ages were a time when moral values deteriorated and the very
meaning of the vows of non-violence and nonpossessiveness changed, allowing
man to commit acts that were hitherto considered sinful and violent. This
also had an effect on the role of agriculture and soon it was demoted
in the social context as the profession only meant for the lower strata
Thus, somewhere along the way, the zeal with which our forefathers began
this crusade against violence has become diluted with the long passage
of time. Many people gave up agriculture considering it to be a sinful
activity. To prove their point, they started looking for parallel reference
in the āgamas, but nowhere in the āgamas was there a reference
to agriculture being an activity of intense sin. It is stated in the āgamas
that the result of a sinful activity is the passage to hell. Now just
imagine, if agriculture is falsely propagated as a sinful activity, how
can one expect anyone to follow it as a way of life? The masses were discouraged
from considering it as a means of earning because what was the point of
hardwork if it took one to hell, they reasoned. And so it came to be that
such false arguments influenced the minds of the people and the Jains
steered away from agriculture.
Actually, the reason for propounding the production of food grains through
agriculture was a means to steer people away from non-violence and non-vegetarianism.
The aim was to grow fruits and vegetables so that we could work towards
a purer and more pious way of life. This is why Jaina culture advocates
agricultural activity as an ārya karma, a noble activity which does
not infringe severely on the vow of non-violence. Once, an aspirant posed
a question that if the source of wealth is justified, why is wealth still
I answered in keeping with our religious tradition that there are two
sources of wealth. One acquires wealth, success and a good birth on account
of auspiscious karmas. But based on one’s religious or irreligious
impulses, this wealth will either lead to the path of virtue or the path
of vice. If his religious practices are good, he will move from a good
birth to a better one. On the contrary, if he indulges in irreligious
activities, he will move from a good birth to a bad one.
In both the instances, the wealth is acquired from a meritorious source,
but while one leads to the path of sublime happiness and success (puṇyānubandhī
puṇya), the other leads to failure and frustration (pāpānubandhī
puṇya). When wealth arises from the former source, it gives rise
to positive impulses in the mind of the recipient. His feelings and thoughts
become pure, he spends his money for the welfare of humanity, he looks
for opportunities to make positive use of his wealth and when the opportunity
arises, he feeds the hungry and clothes the naked. Such actions fill him
with peace. Before giving, while giving and after giving he feels great
joy throughout. Grudge, regret and repentance do not touch him ever.
Such wealth that has come from the right source will later give rise to
further merits. This is that crop which will never fall short, for it
has been sown in the fields of merit and will harvest further merit.
Such a fortunate puṇyānubandhī person moves from joy to
joy, ecstasy to ecstasy, and thus traversing the journey of life in such
a befi tting manner, reaches the abode of liberation.
Papanubandhi punya has the opposite effect.before he acquires wealth,
the person makes many meritorious plans, but they vanish from his mind
once the wealth is acquired. Such wealth fills his mind with darkness,
erasing all positive thoughts. Experiencing pain and regret at the thought
of charity, he recoils from any such intentions. And despite this, if
he still performs charity due to unavoidable circumstances or societal
pressures, he experiences a deep sense of regret and loss. Thus, he is
full of negative emotions before as well as after undertaking the act
of charity. The loss of his wealth pains him like a scorpion’s sting.
Keeping these two descriptions in mind, you can decide whether the wealth
that you have acquired is from puṇyānubandhī puṇya
or from pāpānubandhī punya.
I am sure that every follower of Jainism must be familiar with the story
of Mammaṇ Seṭh. Let me state it in brief; it has a very interesting
Mammaṇ Seṭh of Rajagruhi was an extremely wealthy man. It
is said that he owned wealth amounting to ninety-nine crores. But he held
on to his wealth and never enjoyed it. In fact, he did not allow his own
sons to either wear decent clothes or even eat a sumptuous meal. Finally,
insult added to injury and one day his sons decided to confront him.
They felt that they could not go on living without proper food or clothes
despite their father being so wealthy. They reasoned with him that someday
his wealth would be inherited by them. In the meanwhile, he could protect
his wealth like a hen would her eggs, but that he should give away some
of it to them so that they could invest it in business and live their
lives as they chose.
The Seṭh said, “I am ready to give you some property, but
I will take it back with interest.”
“But we are your sons!” they exclaimed.
To which he responded, “You may be my sons, but how can I let you
squander away my hard-earned money? I do not ask you for your earnings,
but I insist upon taking an interest on the principal amount that I give
Finally, the sons agreed to his condition. They said, “Alright,
we will go to a bigger city and earn there.” So saying, each one
took his share and left. With his sons gone, the old Seṭh started
sculpting a bullock using his gold, silver and precious stones. He put
all his wealth into this venture. He then aspired to make another bull
using more wealth. “Of what use is a solitary bullock?” he
thought. Since he had no wealth left, he would go to the jungle much before
daybreak each day, collect wood and sell it to acquire the wealth to waste
in his venture. Such was his need to possess that it left him devoid of
any wisdom or peace. What a strange phenomenon possessiveness can be!
When King Śrenika heard about Mammaṇ Seṭh, he was perplexed
and approached Lord Mahāvīra. In response, Mahāvīra
narrated an account of Mammaṇ Seṭh’s previous life.
“Mammaṇ Seṭh was very poor in his previous life. Once
during a grand meal in the community, laḍḍūs were distributed
to the poor. He did not eat his laḍḍū, but kept it away.
He thought that he would eat it when he felt hungry. After a while, he
sat at the bank of a lake on the outskirts of the village and was about
to eat his laḍḍū when he saw a monk pass by. He thought,
‘What an auspiscious opportunity to offer alms to a pious person!
Let me give āhāradāna (the charity of food).’
With this noble intention, he invited the monk and pleaded with him to
partake of the laḍḍū. Finally, the monk relented and
sat down to eat with him. The laḍḍū was delicious. It
was so tasty that his charitable impulse was replaced with instant regret.
He started thinking – ‘Oh! Why did this monk have to come
just as I was about to eat? As a monk, his devotees must surely feed him
tasty laḍḍūs every day. Where do I ever get anything
as delicious? What a misfortune! I have never had any such visitor earlier.
Then why today? And why did I become so impulsive? Oh, why did I waste
Thus, he began to regret his decision. His karmic baggage increased with
pāpānubandhī puṇya. The consequences of this are
so extensive that they are carried forward to this lifetime of his. So,
although he has the blessings of Goddess Laksmī in abundance in this
birth, he is not able to spend his wealth wisely.”
Lord Mahāvīra explained that when a meritorious deed is accompanied
by a negative emotion, it is as though nectar has been poisoned. This
is a matter for introspection. When a person looks within, it will become
apparent that sometimes he is caught at the crossroad of contradictory
emotions. A high and noble thought can be accompanied with a negative
emotion. Thus, when merit and demerit interlock in our contemplations,
then pāpānubandhī punya is generated.
A person who has gathered pāpānubandhī punya will later
get trapped in wealth which can never be spent wisely.
The ancient Ācāryas have rendered prayers in this regard,“Oh
Lord! May I acquire wealth, but along with it the wisdom to use it well.
May I acquire property, but along with it the noble intention to put it
to good use. May I use it in a manner that it will benefit me as well
as the society at large. Oh Lord! Bless me with a good heart!”
We find many such references in Indian scriptures too. Their aim is always
to initiate in a wealthy person the impulse of noble intentions and righteous
actions. Acquiring wealth is meaningful for the person who can put it
to good use, who can broaden and brighten his path, illuminate his journey
and use that wealth to construct his life positively.
Such spiritual revolution, whenever it happens, is a cause for celebration.
In fact, whenever such a revolution has occurred as a phenomenon, it has
been celebrated by mankind in the form of festivals. Most festivals always
have a deeper signifi cance than just the pomp and ceremonies. They enrich
our lives by keeping great events in memory. They help us recapitulate
our spiritual beliefs and value systems. As I was telling you, the agricultural
revolution in the period of Lord Ṛṣabhadeva was a great milestone.
When an aspirant stands at the verge of a revolution and moves on a brighter
path by overcoming obstacles with his spiritual energy, then there is
cause for happiness and celebration. During the agricultural revolution,
celebration came to the masses in the form of the Holīkā festival.
This comes year after year as a representation of our tradition and culture.
On this auspiscious occasion, we greet each other and experience social
happiness and well being. During this Holīkā festival, the Brāhmaṇas,
Kṣatriyas, Vaiśyas and Śūdras shed their differences
and celebrate with each other. No discrimination remains on this festive
occasion. This is a pious symbol of our ancient culture. This festival
teaches each and every person the lesson of love and merges the boundaries
of high and low. In the present time, some corruptions have crept into
this festival. Bad words and bad actions are being considered an important
aspect of this festival. But this is not how it used to be. It is good
that we laugh and make others laugh with us, but how can we laugh at the
expense of others by ridiculing them and justify it as a tradition? There
should be laughter in life, but not one that causes hurt. We celebrate
festivals even today, but only as a celebration of the body. The soul
is forgotten. The need of the hour is to understand the soul of any festival,
not merely its materialistic pleasures. Only then joy and celebration
will take a true form. The festival of Holī will be worthwhile if
we find true happiness in togetherness.
The festival of Dīpāvalī is also a famous festival of India.
Just like Holī, this is also a social and national festival celebrated
by one and all with great splendour. This is a question I am often asked
– what is the aim of this festival? Among those who celebrate Dīpāvalī,
no distinctions of creed and caste are considered. This is the primary
reason why we celebrate this festival. When we question the reasons for
celebrating any festival, then its fundamental form appears before us.
Similarly, to understand the background of this festival, let us examine
its natural implications. During the monsoons the humidity in the atmosphere
rises making it an ideal time for insects and poisonous creatures to breed.
The sky is covered with dark clouds, and the whole atmosphere seems to
be shrouded in darkness. Due to the heavy downpour of rain it becomes
difficult for us to keep our homes clean and airy. Our homes become dreary
and dark and our surroundings are slushy as well. Even the infi nite stars
in the sky are not visible. The mind of man gets fatigued in such situations.
After the rainy season, when the sky clears and the slush dries up, we
clean up our homes thoroughly. When the countless stars bejewel the silvery
white night sky of śarada pūrṇimā, man’s mind
is again fi lled with joy. It is indeed time to celebrate. With great
gusto we clean our homes. We revive our homes inside and out with fresh
coats of paint. Then, with the advent of Dīpāvalī, we light
our homes with rows and rows of lamps, dispelling the gloom of the monsoons.
Our hearts dance once more with brightness and cheer. The light of love
spreads its arms to embrace all. Therefore this is called the festival
of lights. Dirt is the symbol of violence and cleanliness of non-violence.
Discarding dust and gloom from our homes and surroundings is symbolic
of discarding violence. Likewise, when we bring cleanliness and brightness
into our homes and outside, we affi rm non-violence. Today we have forgotten
these deeper implications of festivals and are caught up in shallow rituals
and mindless celebrations. The celebration of this festival is the celebration
of non-violence, of culture, of precious values.
The ethical values of every tradition are a consequence of their philosophy.
It is not possible that thoughts and conduct do not infl uence each other.
All Vedic and non-Vedic traditions have stressed the importance of conduct
along with thoughts. Even the Cārvāka philosophy, which is materialistic
and atheistic, has some rules of conduct. Afterlife or heaven are not
considered as rewards of an ethical life, however, they are considered
important for social order. This is the reason why in Indian culture,
emphasis is placed on a harmony of thoughts and action, knowledge and
conduct, logic and faith, philosophy and religion. No society can function
If we look beyond the the arguments and debates regarding violence and
agriculture in the middle ages, the only conclusion we can draw is that
the primary conduct of Jaina culture and Jaina tradition lies in non-violence
and non-possessiveness. There is violence when we violate our ethical
vows. We commit violence when we utter untruths, when we commit thefts,
when we shun chastity and when we hoard excessive possessions. Therefore,
these must be avoided at all cost. It is to do away with violence and
to establish non-violence that so many vows of abstinence and restraints
have been created. Non-violence in conduct and anekānta in thought,
this is the orginal face of Jainism. Ahiṁsā is religion and
anekānta is philosophy. Faith is religion and logic is philosophy.
Action is religion and knowledge is philosophy. Buddhism also has two
schools of thought – Hīnayāna and Mahāyāna.
Hīnayāna primarily focusses on the realm of conduct and Mahāyāna
that of knowledge. Even if we look into Sāṅkhya and Yoga, we
arrive at the same conclusions that Sāṅkhya is its philosophical
aspect and Yoga is its aspect of conduct. The same is true of Uttara Mīmānsā
and Pūrva Mīmānsā. The former is based on philosophy
and logic and the latter is based on action and conduct. What I am trying
to explain is that every tradition has its own philosophical position
and its own code of conduct. There is not a single tradition in this world
whose knowledge does not have a base in its conduct and vice versa. Not
just Indian culture, even foreign traditions will refl ect the same truth.
Prophet Mohammad of Islamic religion has also propounded these two facets
of life. Jesus Christ also stated the same in the Bible. The Taoist religious
leader Laotse and the Chinese religious leader Confucius have given equal
importance to knowledge and conduct.
I reiterate that human life is complete when knowledge is supported by
conduct. One is meaningless without the other. Each one gives value to
the other. If we want to tread the path of right conduct, we have to tread
the path of non-violence and non-possessiveness. All religions have directly
or indirectly propounded these ideals. They may be referred to differently.
Whether termed as policy or love, service or brotherhood, an ethical way
of life is what all religions propogate. It is the highest of all religions.