The Vision Of A New Society: 39 ►Purity of Means and Self-Restraint

Published: 13.11.2019

Society has two forms: uncontrolled and controlled. In an uncontrolled society, there are no limits to desires. Such a society aims at fulfilling those desires at any cost. No limit, restriction, taboo or consideration of propriety is acceptable with regard to those desires.

A few decades ago, the Hippies and the Beatles formed their own groups in the West. It may even be said that breaking away from the traditional social environ­ment, they chose a free life-style. They felt that any kind of restriction hampered development. Prohibiting some­thing leads to more attraction for it. Traditions make a person conventional. Life of carefree enjoyment is pos­sible in openness, which should allow a person to live according to his wishes. But those people are not familiar, with the fact that all desires cannot be fulfilled. AcharyaSomaprabha has expounded this point as follows:

"Fire can never be extinguished by fuel. The sea cannot be satisfied by water. In the same way, man who is caught in the web of attachment cannot be satisfied even after acquiring immense wealth. He does not realize that the Soul migrates to the next birth; leaving all wealth behind. If I would not be taking anything with me, why should I be bound unnecessarily by so many sins? Unless man does not acquire a proper outlook, he cannot think correctly.[1]"

Murder of Honesty and Good Will

In a controlled society, criteria of social values are respected. In such a society, no person is found behaving arbitrarily. He is conscious that he is not alone in society. Many individuals combine together to make the society. And the society does not function according to an individual's wish. Everything happens in accordance to rules. Breaking those rules is an invitation to social conflict. The individual has his own desires and aspira­tions. Their root lies in greed, which increases when there is some benefit. The life of a greedy person is full of so many incongruities. He just cannot imagine the harm done to him by his greed. AcharyaSomaprabha exhorts us to conquer our greed in the following words:

Conquer your greed which is like the root of the poison tree of attachment, or like the sage Agastya to dry the ocean of good deeds, like the arani, wood for the fire of anger, like the cloud to cover the lustre of the sun of glory, like the Rahu eclipsing the moon, like the sea containing in itself all rivers of affection, like an infant elephant uprooting the creepers of fame.[2]

The fire of greed spreads very fast. It reduces to ashes a person's happiness and peace, his health and freedom from anxiety, love, etc. A greedy person not only mortgages his honesty, he also ruins his goodwill. It is only the craze for acquiring more and more wealth. The person caught in that mad race, is ruined in no time.

Craze for Acquiring earth

Two families lived opposite each other in a village. One family was economically very well off. It owned a big bungalow with all amenities for a comfortable life. That family lived in a great style. It had a thriving business. It was a small family which afforded good food and fruits, milk, etc. were aplenty. But the head of that family was lean and weak. He did not have a good appetite and did not sleep well at night.

Right opposite lived the other family in an ordinary house. It lived modestly with its little income. There were no modern means of comfort in that house and there was also no desire either to acquire them. All the members of the family were, hardworking. They worked the whole day, ate three meals a day and slept comfortably at night. They were happy and cheerful. They had no worry and no competition of any kind. They were contented with what they earned every day.

One day, the wife of that wealthy man was seated on the terrace of her house. The husband was also by her side. She glanced at the opposite house and noticed that the people in that house were sturdy and healthy. She was curious. She said to her husband.

"Listen, there is nothing lacking in our house. There is so much wealth that even if you freely distribute it, there would still be no shortage. There is plenty to eat in the house; still your body is so lean! These days, our son too is not keeping very well. Look at our neighbours. All of them are so healthy!"

That wealthy man replied, "You cannot understand the difference between our house and theirs. They have still not been possessed by the mad craze. That is why they earn and live cheerfully."

The wife did not quite understand what her husband meant by mad craze. The husband said, "You just wait and see. I am going to play a trick with them."

That wealthy man put ninety-nine rupees in a bag. At night, when all were asleep, he threw that bag into the house of those neighbours. In the morning, when the head of that family woke up, he found that bag full of money at his doorstep. The bag contained silver rupee coins, exactly ninety-nine. He thanked his stars and prayed to God in gratitude. He called his sons and informed them about that money. It was all right so far. But suddenly an idea flashed in his mind, "God has given us so much money! Only one rupee less than a hundred. Why not add one rupee and keep away this bag with a hundred rupees safely? We are such a big family. Who can say when the money can become useful!

That man conveyed his idea to his sons and they approved of it. From that very day they, started economizing in their food, etc. In four days they saved one rupee which they put in that bag and kept the bag aside. But now they were greedy to save more money. To earn more money, they worked harder. Now they were possessed by the desire to accumulate money. They were obsessed with money. They were no longer free from care. They thought only about money day and night. Even six months did not pass by the time all members of that family fell ill. The head of the family became a mere bundle of bones.

The wealthy man reminded his wife of their earlier talk and said, "Now do you see the condition of that family?" The wife looked in that direction and was stunned. She could hardly recognize those neighbours. When she asked the reason, her husband replied, "Nothing. It is only that mad craze. Anyone who is possessed by that craze is always reduced to this state."

Should Ideals be shelved?

Today's economics is about this craze for augmenting wealth. It talks of more production and more returns. Earning more and more, from hundreds to thousands, from thousands to lakhs, from lakhs to cores, from cores to billions, to trillions and so on. At no point the desires are restrained. Looking at it from the point of view of reality, what does man really need? He needs food, clothes and a house. If a poor man lives by eating roti, does a rich man live by eating gold and silver? If a poor man manages with ordinary clothes, does a rich man get divine dresses to wear? If a poor man sleeps in a small hut, does a rich man sleep sprawling himself in his entire mansion? Food, clothes and a house are the basic human needs. Man cannot live unless these needs are met. But one is not convinced about the propriety of shelving the ideals and get into the mad race for acquiring the maximum prosperity.
These things are for the consideration by the society, not by the animals. There is no need to explain such thing to the animals, because their desires are limited. They do not have the desire to accumulate. No matter how much food is placed before them, they would stop eating once their hunger is satisfied. They do not think about saving some food for the next day. It seems that restraint is natural to them. It is man who has lost the sense of restraint. Is there restraint in the food he eats and the clothes he wears? There are innumerable items in a single feast. Can anyone ever taste so many things at the same time? One needs clothes no doubt. And the dress changes according to the occasion and the season. From that point of view, the need for ten or twenty dresses is understandable. But what is the sense of a person having a hundred types of dresses? It is merely the mentality of blind imitation or exhibitionism or lack of restraint. There are many other similar things which demand our attention and they need to be changed and also the need is felt for restricting one's desires or exercising restraint.

Small but Important Things

Mahavira's economics has emphasised the need for limiting consumption as it lays stress on the purity of the means. Both these points are sufficiently looked after by the sravaka community devoted to Mahavira. Some occupations were a taboo from the point of view of purity of the means. Similarly, the limitations with regard to the things, and activities concerning their daily routine also remained in practice. In this connection, they are recognized in the form of 14 vows some of which are mentioned below:

  • Sachitta[3]: Limiting the use of animate things such as grains, water, fruits, etc.
  • Dravya[4]:  Limiting the number of things used for eating and drinking
  • Vigaya[5]: Limiting the consumption of the six vigaya (viz. milk, curd, ghee, oil, sweets and fried things)
  • Panni[6]:Limiting the use of shoes, socks, wooden sandals, chappals etc
  • Clothes:   Limiting the clothes to be used
  • Vehicles: Limiting the use of means of transpor­tation like cars, trains, scooters, rick­shaws, etc.
  • Bath: Limiting baths and consumption of water.

The resolves are made daily, keeping in mind small things. This is the pursuit of sadhana. This is limiting consumption. If the modern economists can link the important points like purity of the means and restraint with economic theories, then it is possible to bring, obvious change in man's life-style.


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Title:  The Vision Of New Society
Author:  Acharya Tulsi
Publisher:  Adarsh Sahitya Sangh
Digital Publishing: 
Amit Kumar Jain

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anger
  2. Body
  3. Ghee
  4. Greed
  5. Mahavira
  6. Sadhana
  7. Soul
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