The Quest for the Royal Road: The Basis of Democracy, Mahavira's Philosophy

Published: 21.01.2016

The twenty-fifth centenary of Mahavira's nirvana is being discussed all over the country today. Preparations have already begun to organise programmes in different fields, depending on their respective abilities and qualifications.

It may be asked why the centenary of Mahavira's nirvana is being observed. We are human beings and Mahavira was also a human being. Then what was go significant about Mahavira that the centenary of his nirvana should be observed? We are observing the centenary of his nirvana because the philosophy that he gave us and the values that he established and principles that he promulgated were in the best interest of all. In this lies the true solution for the problems of all ages.

The principles of non-violence, non-possession, pluralistic view, restraint and equanimity which he preached, are no doubt unique not only from the spiritual point of view, but their significance from the political point of view also cannot be denied. In fact, they are the basic formulae on which the democratic system of governance is based.

Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, who was not only the President of India, but also a scholar who understood the Indian as well as the Western philosophy, had said on one occasion, 'The democratic constitution of independent India is based entirely on non-aggression, co-existence, equality and restraint.' These are Mahavira's basic and practical principles. Hence, we can say that the Indian constitution is influenced by Mahavira's principles or Mahavira's principles have given basic and practical direction to Indian democracy.

The Indian Constitution has accepted the policy of non- aggression. Bhagwan Mahavira also said two thousand, five hundred years ago-"Do not be an aggressor. Do not rob anyone of his freedom by attacking him."

To-day, the people's consciousness all over the world has awakened in support of the policy of non-aggression. If someone attacks anyone, everyone points its finger at him as an aggressor. Hence, one does not easily dare attack anyone. The policy of non-aggression has proved to be successful and effective in the matter of solving the terrible and destructive problem of war. This can be described as Mahavira's valuable contribution towards world peace.

Co-existence is another of Mahavira's principle. Following this principle people holding extremely divergent views sit at one table and try to find solution to the world problems, and make combined efforts in that direction.

The result of Mahavira's principle of non-possession is socialism of the present age. He said: "Do not indulge in accumulating too much wealth. Do not earn wealth by unfair means." He gave the principle of dispersal alongwith earning, because the concentration of wealth gives rise to social disparities and disparity is the origin of class conflict.

Mahavira enshrined the principle of equality to combat these disparities that marked the social order of his times. He said, "Mankind is one. Dividing mankind on the basis of casteism, provincialism, nationalism, sectarianism and linguism is a terrible mistake and a curse for mankind." The Constitution of India also gives no place to distinctions on the basis of caste, religion, sex, colour, etc. Any individual can be installed in the highest national office on the strength of his own merits, personality and achievements, irrespective of his caste or religion. The ideal is not confined to the Constitution. In fact, India has evolved many practical forms from time to time. This liberal outlook is the implementation of Mahavira's principle of equality.

Restraint is the basic and significant formula given by Bhagwan Mahavira. This principle provides a solution for many complexities and difficulties. The problems of scarcity and inflation can be solved through restraint.

It has been decided to observe the coming year as the Year of Restraint, in the context of the nirvana celebrations of Bhagwan Mahavira. This would result in benefit to the individual as well as the nation.

In order to come out of the critical situations through which our country is passing today, not only the Jains, but all our countrymen should necessarily pursue the path of restraint. Restraint can be in many forms. Restraint can be exercised in a number of ways with regard to consumption of food, water, clothings, electricity transport, etc. A person would find solution and relief according to the restraint he exercises. In the present age, the fascination for power and wealth is continuously on the increase. They are such pleasing temptations that it is extremely difficult to save oneself from their influence and protect against it. As for the common people, only that person can be illustrious example who keeps himself away from them.

History always shows that the person who runs after power and wealth is never able to protect his honour and dignity.

Once there was a sannyasi who was constantly engaged in his penance and sadhana. The fame of his penance had spread far and wide. The currents of friendship, love and compassion that flowed from the depths of his heart had such a profound influence on the living creatures around him that even the creatures who had been living like enemies from birth forgot their natural animosity and started living in an atmosphere of friendliness.

The fame and the growing influence of the sannyasi even shook the throne of Indra (the King of Gods). Indra was in panic and feared that the sannyasi might deprive him of his throne. Indra thought that the only way to keep his own throne safe was to distract the sannyasi from his sadhana. He thought of a device. He assumed the form of a Brahmin. He picked up a sword and stopped by the hut of that sannyasi. Before proceeding further he said, "Oh, sannyasi, I wish to go further. What would I do with this sword? Let me leave it with you. I shall take it when I come back."

The sannyasi waited long for the Brahmin. But the Brahmin never returned. He never even intended to return. What could the sannyasi do with that sword? He just kept it with him, with the result that the animals living around him were frightened. Their feelings changed. The springs of love, compassion and non-violence started drying up. The feelings of violence and counter-violence rose in their hearts. The influence of the sannyasi also started wearing out. His penance and sadhana were disturbed. His mind strayed. With that, Indra's throne was again safe.

That sword was the symbol of power. He who gets entangled in it, loses everything he has. Indian culture has always laid stress on renunciation, penance and restraint as against possession of power and wealth. If the importance of this is realised in its totality and the basic tenets of Mahavira's philosophy are emphasised and are followed in practice, then only we can pay true tribute to Bhagwan Mahavira.


Title: The Quest for the Royal Road
Acharya Tulsi
Publisher: Adarsh Sahitya Sangh
Edition: 2013
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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Bhagwan Mahavira
  2. Brahmin
  3. Casteism
  4. Concentration
  5. Consciousness
  6. Equanimity
  7. Indra
  8. Mahavira
  9. Nirvana
  10. Non-violence
  11. Sadhana
  12. Violence
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