The Quest for the Royal Road: A Unique Shop

Published: 03.03.2016

Such a big gathering of people and such a quiet atmosphere! It seems they have all come as customers. If they are customers, then I too have opened my shop. People present there can ask me if I am a trader. Tell me yourself, what am I if not a trader? Even otherwise, the majority of our monks have come from the business community. And our business has continued uninterrupted. It continues day and night. In the case of business you people do, there are also holidays, but for us there is no scope for holidays. Today is Sunday, still look at the crowd gathered here!

If someone enters a trader's shop merely for window- shopping, neither the shop-keeper nor the visitor gains anything. There is some purpose only when one goes there is a customer. The trader knows very well how to seduce the customer. We are also clever in that sense. That is because we are seasoned tradesman. You would ask about our business. Let me tell you that we do not store only one item in our shop. A number of rare items are available here. Let me introduce some of them to you:

We are fruit-sellers. We have got a tree which bears various types of fruits. You too have that tree, but you cannot get its fruits unless you tend it well. These fruits are more important even then amrit-phal[1]. By now, you are probably tempted to see and get those fruits. But before seeing the fruits, it is necessary to know about the tree. That tree is called the 'human birth', which bears countless fruits, each having its own particular taste, its own shape and colour, its own sweetness and propertied. The first among them is the worship of Jinendra, that is the Tirthankara.[2] This worship is never done by bringing incense, lamps, etc. Some people do worship in this way, but I do not favour it. The meaning of worshipping the arhata or the Tirthankaras is praying to them, experience their proximity and establish a link with them. It is not only my view. Adya Shankaracharya also said the same. According to Dr. Sampurnand, he was a terrific scholar who respected rituals and worship: Devotion is the most important means to attain moksha. But devotion does not mean that one should bathe his object of worship, apply sandalwood, offer flower, etc. Devotion means merging yourself with your object of worship.[3]

This is true devotion and true worship. By worshipping the arhat I mean linking myself with him, through which one realises his own-self and it is desirable for every religious person.

The second fruit of the human birth is worshipping the guru. One acquires knowledge by worshipping the guru. One may ask how the guru and knowledge are related, because knowledge is acquired through books and through one's own efforts. This may be true in the gross sense, but essentially, the key to acquiring knowledge lies only with the guru. Knowledge without the guru is like a mirror in darkness. One can see his face in the mirror only when there is light. He would see nothing even if he collects a large number of mirror in darkness. Similarly, one may read any number of scriptures and treatises, he cannot learn with his own efforts what he can with the help of the guru. Gurus are repositories of knowledge, and knowledge is the excellent means to attain moksha. Anything done in the absence of knowledge cannot be effective to yield that result.

Compassion is the third fruit of that tree. One who has acquired that fruit, can never be cruel. He protects himself as well as others against sinful actions. He cherishes goodwill for all living creatures.

Giving to those who are worthy of receiving is yet another fruit through which one experiences instant joy. In this case, the purity and worthiness of the giver, the giving and the beneficiary is absolutely necessary.

Respect for other people's merits is such a good fruit that it is sweet both internally and externally. That sweetness is expressed in the feeling of immense joy.

Listening to the Agamas is a rare fruit from the tree of the human birth. One who has tasted that luscious fruit, is able to develop the unknown and undeveloped power of his life.

There are so many other sweet fruits with relish that if all of them are separately introduced, they would form an endless chain. That is why I would name them by a single word, dharma. Now you should have understood that we have dharma in our shop.

One thing people have to say with regard to religion is that there are countless religions in the world and innumerable religious people. Priests, saints, maulvis, granthis, etc. preach so much religion, but it brings no results. People listen about religion but their minds do not remain steady. The question is not new. It has been troubling the mind since ancient times. But no answer to this question would be found till man goes to the bottom of religion.

Some disciples came to Guru Gobind Singh Saheb and said, "Gurudev, we repeat the sacred words from scripture everyday, but to no purpose. Our wandering minds do not become steady. What is the reason?" Guru Gobind Singh asked those disciples to leave, saying that he would answer their question later. The disciples left.

A few days later he called those disciples and said, "Go and bring a pot filled with liquor and empty the pot by gargling with that liquor." The disciples did what they were told. They went back to Guru Gobind Singh again after the pot was empty. He asked the disciples, "Have you finished all the liquor in the pot?"

They answered in the affirmative.

Then Guru Gobind Singh asked, "Did none of you feel intoxicated?" They all answered in a single voice, "How could that happen? We never let that liquor go down our throats." Guru Gobind Singh said, "Now have you got the answer to your question?" The disciples started wide-eyed at Guru Gobind Singh. He said, "If the liquor does not affect you unless it goes down your throats, how would the recitation of God's name have its effect when you are doing it superficially? Your minds would not change till you do not recite God's name with your heart in it, do not sink in it, do not become engrossed in it."

The disciples found their answer.

Bhagwan Mahavira had to face such a question too. His disciples also had doubts about the influence of religion of life. Bhagwan Mahavira explained: "The true meaning of religion lies in shravana. People do come to listen to the religious discourse. But very few people know how to listen. You are all seated before me as listeners. But what would you listen if you are drowsy?"[4]

One day, Acharya Bhikshu was giving a discourse. It was a very big congregation. There was a man called Asoji in that crowd. He was seated right in front, dozing. Acharya Bhikshu pulled him up, "So you are dozing, Asoji!" That man said, "Oh, no, revered one!" and again he started dozing. Acharya Bhikshu asked the same question twice or thrice. Every time the same answer. "No... no." Then Acharya Bhikshu asked, "Asoji, are you alive?" That man replied in sleep, "No... No." The whole congregation burst into a loud laughter. With that Asoji came back to his senses and realised in what state he had been.

I too feel that there are very few who can listen in the real sense and grasp the meaning of what they are listening. Bhagwan Mahavira had mentioned faith as the next step to follow after listening to the discourse on dharma. If one has no faith in what he listens, that listening cannot have any particular meaning. What one has listened with deep faith, touches the heart. Alongwith faith, practice is needed. The food may be lying in front of you. You know fully well that your hunger would be satisfied. But how would your hunger be satisfied unless you eat that food? Religion too cannot bring any transformation in one's life unless it is put into practice. It is not possible that religion should not have its beneficial influence if listening, faith and practice are combined. I can give "a firm guarantee about the beneficial influence of religion if there is appropriate practice alongwith listening and faith.

Today the situation is different. People have faith not in religion but in miracles. If after having the darshan of saints, listening to their auspicious recitations, children are born in the family, business thrives, long delayed task is accomplished, then those saints are good; otherwise, people do not feel like going to them. But my brethren, I want to make it clear that I have no faith at all in such miracles. I have with me quite a number of monks and nuns by touching whose feet a person may become healthy and the dust on whose feet may bring some benefit. But no monk or nun is able to show any such miracle. If anyone does it, he has to expiate, because Bhagwan Mahavira did not give sanction to monks and nuns to show any miracles.

Nothing has probably done as much harm to religion and spiritualism as much as miracles. The sadhaka who thinks that his sadhana has been successful on account of miracles can never be qualified for sadhana. You must have heard about Ramakrishna Paramhansa. He was on the lookout for a disciple who could properly develop his spiritual outlook. Ultimately, he found a young man whose name was Narendra. He was eager to acquire knowledge and was also dedicated. He called Narendra one day to put him to test and judge how qualified he was. He said, "Narendra, I have some miraculous powers. The world would be stunned by them. I wish to pass on their secrets to you. Are you ready?" After a moment's thought, Narendra asked, "Gurudev, would those miraculous powers bring me close to my liberation? Would I acquire any knowledge by astounding the world?" Ramakrishna replied, "No such thing would happen, Narendra. But you would shine in the world. You would earn name, prestige and also money."

Narendra did not sway even for a moment. He said firmly, "No Gurudev, I want none of those things. Kindly give me that knowledge which would take me close to my liberation."

Now Ramakrishna was fully confident about Narendra's qualifications. In later years, this Narendra become famous as Vivekananda whose enlightened knowledge had a beneficial influence on innumerable persons.

Since I do not believe in miracles, I cannot claim to give you any vibhuti with divine power. I do not also indulge in wild imagination that every human being should develop divine qualities. I would only wish every man to be a 'human being'. I would like to see the animal instinct that is nourished in human bodies to disappear and human qualities develop. What is the value of man without humanism? Anuvrat is the infallible formula to make man humane. It is the basic strength of society. Just as the body keeps its balance with the support of the spine, so society maintains its balance with the help of those vows. Social imbalance and aggressiveness, exploitation and strife, intolerance and dishonesty and avarice and all other undesirable things are rampant because society has not developed devotion to those vows. If those vows have a firm ground to persist, all these tendencies not only would not grow in society, they would not even enter social life. I wish that you should definitely become true human being, even if you do not become anything else. Only by becoming true human beings, you would be able to enjoy the fruits that grow on the tree of the human birth. Anuvrat too is one of its fruits. You should take that fruit, taste it, feel its good nourishing effect.

Let me remind you once again that since you have come to our shop, you should not be mere spectators or listeners, but be like the customers and grasp the meanings of what is said according to your ability We would benefit through it and you too would not benefit less. From that point of view, give us your full cooperation and derive as much benefit from us as you can.

Footnotes
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Sources

Title: The Quest for the Royal Road
Authors:
Acharya Tulsi
Publisher: Adarsh Sahitya Sangh
Edition: 2013
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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acharya
  2. Acharya Bhikshu
  3. Agamas
  4. Anuvrat
  5. Arhat
  6. Bhagwan Mahavira
  7. Bhikshu
  8. Body
  9. Cooperation
  10. Darshan
  11. Dharma
  12. Enlightened Knowledge
  13. Guru
  14. Gurudev
  15. Jainism
  16. Jinendra
  17. Mahavira
  18. Moksha
  19. Sadhaka
  20. Sadhana
  21. Shankaracharya
  22. Shravana
  23. Tirthankara
  24. Tirthankaras
  25. Vivekananda
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