The Vision Of A New Society ► 37 ►Basis of Balanced Life-Style

Posted: 11.11.2019

Times may change, but never Truth. It is an eternal Truth that wealth is the root cause of grievous wrongs. This popular expression, which was prominently in vogue in the past, is being proved right today and it is difficult to say it would not have any repercussions in the future. Wealth is a very great contradiction in human life. On the one hand, wealth has been considered the root cause of all the wrongs in the world, but on the other hand, no one can carry on in life without money. Where there is wealth, there is also violence. Violence is so closely related to acquiring wealth, enjoying wealth and accumulation of wealth that it cannot be separated from them. In this situation, any discussion about the economy emphasizing non-violence and peace is indeed amazing.

In terms of spiritualism, violence and accumulation of wealth are the two deadly sins. They may also be called negligence and attachment. Negligence is violence. Mahavira said to Gautama, "Do not be negligent even for a moment, Gautama.[1]” If one become negligent after accepting the vow of non-violence, it means repudiation of non-violence. Taking the life of any living creature is violence. But greater violence even than this is that moment of negligence, when the individuals, for getting the principle of the equality of all living beings and the self deprive someone of his life. The ideas which give rise to the feeling of violence are aroused only during the moments of negligence.

Does violence lead to the accumulation of wealth or accumulation to violence? This is a very serious question; most people connect accumulation of wealth to violence. Those who assume that "non-violence is the supreme religion [2]," consider violence the root cause of all evils. This is only one aspect of Truth. The other aspect is considering the accumulation of wealth as the cause of all problems of the world. Mahavira said,' "The individual given to accumulation of wealth has no desire for penance, he has no restraint and no self-discipline.[3]"

 

Do Jaina Sravaka Fight in War?

Even after realizing that wealth is the root of all wrongs, it is not possible to give it up, in social affairs, because wealth is necessary and useful for the society. When there is wealth, there is no escape from violence. How is it possible that there would be no violence where there is wealth?

There was a war between India and Pakistan in 1965. I was in Delhi at that time. Some university professors came to me and said, "Acharyaji, Pakistan has invaded our country. You are a non-violent person. It is a moment of crisis for you. What would happen now?" I said, "It is a moment of crisis for the whole country. How are we and you apart in this situation?" One professor said, "The Jains believe in non-violence. What role can they play during a war?"

Realizing what he meant by that question I said, "It is true that the Jains believe in non-violence. But are all the Jains ascetics? They live in this country along with their families and children. They possess land and property. They are in several professions. Would they not defend themselves and their country?" The next question from the professor's side was, "Can the Jains go to the front? Can they join the war?" I said, "What are you talking? It seems you are ignorant of history. There have been Jain rulers and Jain generals. They have fought in wars. But when they fought, they observed one limit: There should be no mindless violence, no unnecessary violence." They were convinced about my point.

 

Causes of War in the Past and in Modern Times

Relating violence to wealth is nothing new. Whenever and wherever there has been transgression of the limits of wealth, it has led to a flare up of violence. In ancient times, wealth or accumulation of wealth alone was regarded as the chief cause of war. This belief has been expressed in the following verse:

"According to Swaroop Das wealth, women and the land were the three main causes of war. More than these, it is the insistence about ideas that has led to war.[4]"
Brothers fight and kill each other for the sake of wealth. There is a long list of wars fought on account of women. And the greedy desire for expanding the kingdom has drenched the entire history with blood. Mahavira regarded wealth, women and the land as the causes of the desire to possess. Those who regard possession as a matter of the highest importance can never keep away from violence. More than all these, as long as violence does not find its way into the ideas of man, he cannot pick up the weapon.

Today, the form of war has changed. Its definitions have also changed. In the olden days when the armies faced each other on the battlefield with their weapons, skill in warfare had its importance. Among the defense measures, ramparts, forts, towers and moats were important. How useless have these become in the face of air-attacks: The whole world is in terror of the star wars. Today, if one person, seated in the armory just presses a switch, it can cause disaster. That is exactly why the big and powerful nations have now started believing in arms control, disarmament and avoidance of war.

The most terrible war of this century is the economic war, that is, business competition on the international scale. There are apprehensions about the entry of multinational companies in India. Some vague fear is growing in the country. The business community is interested in increasing production at any cost. If the needs do not increase correspondingly with the increased production, there would be no market for the goods produced. Desire for consumption is being aroused among the people through attractive advertisements. There would be more money to satisfy those desires and there would be more prosperity. With the growing prosperity, the desires would also grow. For the satisfaction of those desires, there would be more production. Then the cycle would go on and production of what? Of the war weapons, liquor, drugs and who can say what else? It is here that the sense of discretion and restraint are required. It is difficult to say where the business would take man if there is no sense of discretion and no restraint.

 

Limits of Business

Mahavira never prohibited business. But he did set some limits to it. He explained to the Sravakas the significance of the twelve vows. Among them the seventh vow is upabhoga-paribhoga-parimana. His thinking about this vow is very clear.

"There are plenty of things for consumption and the cravings of the mind unlimited. Violence for the gratification of those cravings is like an earthquake. Let her be restraint in consumption of food and dresses and other objects of daily use. With that, restraint in enjoyment and consumption is successfully exercised.[5]"

A sravaka has to follow a profession to make a living. But the profession in which there is no restriction of violence is to be avoided. There are fifteen kinds of activities including angarakarma [6], vanakarma [7], shakatakarma [8], bhatakakarma [9], which are prohibited for a sravaka beyond a certain limit. Even with regard to professions, many changes have been introduced. Hence fixing any definite standard appears to be difficult. Still it is certainly possible to keep out of business activities dealing with food items which are considered a taboo, intoxicating drinks and drugs or items produced after indulging in extreme violence.

In ancient times, most people were engaged in agricultural professions. Agriculture was said to be the best profession and trade came next to it. From that point of view, many business activities were prohibited. The main thing is that desires were limited in those days. Needs were also few. Hence, the field of business too was restricted. The aim of restricting business was to see that peace in life was not disturbed. What is the point at all of earning and accumulating wealth at the cost of peace?

 

Definition of Life

Man wants to live his life in the proper manner. Peace, contentment, purity and joy are the four criteria to determine if life is lived correctly or not. Life devoted to acquisition of money, luxury and ostentation, power and resulting in conflict has not been considered ideal in Indian culture. From this point of view, the only good definition would be:
"Indian Culture regards only that life proper which is quiet, contented, pure and full of joy.[10]"

Now the question is: How would one find peace and contentment? How would purity come in life? And what is the source of joy? For those who are keen, it is not difficult to find the answer. Only the one who can reach the destination. I read Mahavira's philosophy. I contemplated about life on that basis. The answer I found can be presented as follows:

From contentment comes peace, for contentment is needed freedom. Purity comes from pure intention and a person remaining in the self only is fit go get joy.[11]

If you desire peace, be contented. Otherwise, you would find no peace even if you have wealth worth millions and billions. If you wish to be contented, be free and exercise self-discipline. Otherwise, contentment would become impossible in the dependence, resulting from external control. If you aspire to be pure, be careful about keeping the means pure. Mangoes cannot grow on the dhatoora plant. In the same way, there can be no purity if the means are impure. If you desire to experience joy, remain in the self, i.e., practice remaining steady unto yourself. He who tries to find joy from externalities looses direction. Matter lies outside. It is the natural human tendency to seek joy through material objects. That joy is an illusion. That experience is momentary. If one experiences joy which comes through remaining steady unto oneself, triviality of the joy experienced through material objects would be realized.

 

Pure and Balanced Life

Mahavira's economics is against promotion of aspirations and needs. On the other hand, he referred to being content with the available means. Mahavira talked not about bearing poverty out of compulsion, but voluntarily keeping one's wealth within limits. He did not prohibit earning money, but laid great stress on purity of means. He not only considered stealing a taboo, but also did not regard helping someone else resort to stealing as proper. In his opinion, buying the stolen goods, indulging in export and import of the items forbidden by the state, adulterating, passing off fake items as genuine, cheating in weights and measurements, taking bribes, etc. are impure means to earn money. And money earned through such means cannot bring purity in life.

In Mahavira's view, what was important was not the immediate gain but gain in the long run. People, who go for immediate gains by mortgaging honesty and losing reputation in the business world, cannot be at peace. Disturbance, whether physical or mental, is a hindrance to peace. It is very important to study and assimilate Mahavira's economics in order to live a healthy and balanced life.

Footnotes:
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