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The Quest for the Royal Road: Background of the Questions

Published: 08.03.2016

Question

What is the fundamental difference between Jainism and other religious according to you?

Answer

As far as the basic concepts of religions originated in India are concerned, all of them believe in nirvana. The ultimate goal of all of them is moksha, although their definitions, forms and the methods of sadhana are different. Nevertheless, truth, non-violence, etc. as means to attain the state of moksha have been accepted by all religions as a matter of principle. From that point of view, it can be said that there are no fundamental differences in them. This absence of dissimilarity becomes the basis of their harmony. But this also does not mean that there are no differences at all. Had there been no such differences, their ritual aspects would not have been so much at variance.

Jainism has its own special characteristics that set it apart from other religions. These characteristics can be described as follows:

  • The soul has its independent permanent existence and function.
  • Non-acceptance of any one power as a single controller.
  • Non-acceptance of any one power as the controller of the universe.
  • Free soul is not reborn in the world.
  • Pluralistic approach.
  • Rejection of communalism, casteism, etc.
  • Opposition to conventional religious rituals.

Jainism is a religion based on human endeavour. It has accepted the existence of God in a different sense. It does not believe in monism. It believes that God does not control the universe. According to Jainism, God (the Supreme Being) is the epitome of infinite knowledge, infinite vision, infinite power. God is not confined within any numbers. God does appear as reincarnation as a result of any situation in the universe. Every being, by developing his spiritual power, can become God. Soul is not merely a product of five basic material elements. It is an independent reality which is eternal, remaining existent at every moment. Every soul rises high only through its own function and is also responsible or its own downfall.

Anekantavada or many-sided approach to Truth is the most important contribution of Jainism. In human society, albngwith enlightenment, the importance of anekanta approach is also finding a natural expression. Anekanta implies accepting several mutually opposite properties in an object. From this point of view, it may be said that anekanta is a philosophical belief and it is backed by the multi-dimensional method of exposition called syadvada. Although other religions also recognise anekanta under certain situations, they have nothing original in this respect. Jainism has presented anekantavada inthe form of an independent and original thinking.

Question

What is your view about the usefulness of religion? What do you think about the people, who do not believe in religion?

Answer

Before talking about the usefulness of religion, we must first see if any religion exists in society, when we know about its existence, then there is the question of its usefulness. The word 'religion' has many implied meanings. It becomes a problem when for the purpose of usefulness, religion is linked with some sect. But the religion which is linked with purity of life and is based on righteous conduct and good character, was never without its usefulness and would never be.

As far as believing or not believing in religion is concerned, no one could have anything to say against the religion which lays stress on purity. I can say on the basis of the experiences I had during my long journeys that neither Charvaka of the ancient times nor the communists of to-day could live by rejecting religion. Is it possible for anyone to pass his whole life on the basis of violence and falsehood?

The ritualistic and sectarian form of religion which is at present before us, has only relative utility. To the extent that any sect and rituals lead to purify life, they have their own usefulness. But when they encourage blind faith or conventional attitude, no one can help having doubts about their usefulness. We should not have hostile feelings for those who are disregarding religious principles. At the same time, there is no ground to regard them as thinking persons.

Question

India has always been a country devoted to religion. Inspite of it, why has it remained a dependent country and even now, after independence, why is it still backward?

Answer

Political independence or dependence and economic and industrial development or backwardness have nothing to do with religiosity or piety. The reason for India's independence lies not in people's religionsity, but in their frustrations, inertia, betrayal and mutual rancour. As for India being a religious country, I think it is so with reference to Indian thought. When it comes to actual practice, both religion and irreligion are active forces within their own limits in every country. Progress and freedom of any country depend on people's hardworking nature, military strength, professional competence, patriotic feeling, etc.

Question

You talk about having a tolerant attitude towards all religions. But there are many religions that follow practices like animal sacrifices, permission to consume liquor and unrestrained epicureanism, which are opposed to your principles. Would you show tolerance for such religions as well? If so, what is the reason?

Answer

Religious tolerance means being tolerant of inharmonious ideas of the people following a different religion. Changing the heart of the other persons by maintaining a calm and kindly feeling in the face of difference of opinion, means adopting a religious attitude. But trying to compel people to abstain from wrongful practices by using force is highly debatable. What would we do with the people who behave contrary to religion if not be tolerant? Do you think we should quarrel with them? Let alone other religions, we should not approve any malpractice of a Jain follower. But it would not be at all proper to use force. The religions permitting animal sacrifice, liquor consumption and unrestrained epicureanism themselves give rise to doubts about their religious value. Such practices would never be considered desirable in any religion aiming at purity of life. However, if some people regard them as religious practices, we can protest against them non-violently. Tolerance does not in any way meant taking a sympathetic attitude with regard to such practices. It is not necessary to resort to making charges and counter-charges about wrong ideas and practices. Nor is it necessary to fight them with force. Protesting them in restrained language and using decent methods can never mean intolerance, because, when a person is intolerant, he forgets discretion. After that, whatever happens in the name of religion is nothing less than irreligion. That is why tolerance has its own value in every situation.

Question

Why did you find it necessary to launch the anuvrat movement? Were the five formulae that have been handed down to us from the past not sufficient?

Answer

The anuvrat movement was started with a view to make India aware about its spiritual independence and to arouse the keen desire among the people to reach that stage. The sole objective of anuvrat is to inspire man to take to the path of restraint by establishing moral values in the society. It was necessary for that purpose to raise a strong protest against the evil practices prevailing in society Of course, both the good and the bad are a permanent reality. They have existed in every age. No age has been so brilliant as to be absolutely free from the dark patches of evil. Of course, inspite of the constant presence of evil forces at work, they have been changing their forms from time to time. The evils that existed in ancient times have acquired new forms today. If we use the old remedies to fight them, the effect would not be widespread and quick. That is why our ways of protest are to be changed. The language, thinking and people's mentality are different in every age. How can every situation be judged by the same standard?

As for the five formulae of non-violence, truth, etc., are concerned, I wonder what is there in anuvrat except these formulae? All the rules of anuvrat have been based on these five formulae. The circumstances which have been instrumental in extending the scope of those vows and changing the language are as follows:

  • Mistaken idea about religiosity.
  • Importance given only to prayer, rituals and conventional practices.
  • Disregard for good conduct and moral values
  • Religious behaviour
  • Corrupt behaviour
  • Strong behaviour
  • Rise of inhuman feelings like untouchability.

It was necessary to establish forcefully human values in order to fight against such situations. That need would not be met so long as those values are not presented to suit the new environment. Keeping all these things in mind, I felt that we must present such values before the people that would be in conformity with all religions. Only those values can have a nationwide influence which are not opposed by any religion. In my view, the code of conduct in a manner that would suit the present day conditions and it is capable of shattering religious inertia.

Question

What would you say when it is pointed out that the anuvrat principle is far removed from the practical reality of life? How far are you satisfied with the progress of the anuvrat movement? Do you think that it is having the desired impact on society? If not, what steps would you like take to make it more effective?

Answer

If all the underlying principles of anuvrat are translated into practice, then there would be no need to continue the movement. The greatest difficulty with the Indian people is the contradiction between thought and action. Its ideals are lofty, but practice remains at the lowest level. Its words and deeds are clearly contradictory. No one is unfamiliar with the fact that ideals are not clearly reflected in the mirror of their lives.

As for the question of my satisfaction, I would say that I am not easily dissatisfied. Whatever work I have done in the field of anuvrat, I have done out of a sense of duty and do it in that spirit even now. We had never intended to eliminate all evils of the world. That is not our intention even now. It is not that we have failed completely in what we wished to achieve through anuvrat. A conducive atmosphere has been created for an ideological revolution with regard to moral values. The people of India were almost beginning to forget moral values. Today their moral sense has been reawakened. If dissatisfaction has cast a shadow over the growing interest in anuvrat, it tends to vanish on its own.

Now let us see if anuvrat has influenced the life of the people we had expected. This relates to the behaviour of the people. In this regard, there are no changes at the individual level to that desired extent, This is not merely due to the weaknesses in the individual. Political, social and legal factors have also played a particular role. Diminution of social standards and values have also been a very big factor. Behind all these, man's money-oriented attitude is at work. People also came to know about the conditions prevailing in other parts of the world through radio, television, etc. These are the factors that greatly interfere in influencing public consciousness through any moral movement.

All religious leaders and workers and workers of social organisations should work unitedly to make this movement more effective. By working separately more energy is expended and less work is done. This work also needs to be done on warfooting. In order to do this, alongwith group discussions, it is also necessary to have individual contacts, preparing literature to suit the purpose and raising social standards.

Question

The principles of non-violence etc. as preached by you are of universal character and are useful for the whole mankind then why do you confine it within the limits of Jainism?

Answer

In my view, no creed can restrict the propagation of the principle of non-violence. The creed is only symbolic. I personally have my faith in the principles of Jainism. That is why I have adopted the Jain creed. Even if I had not adopted this, I would have adopted something else. We cannot carry on our work without adopting the appropriate medium. Under this situation, the acceptance of the creed of any faith would create no problem in propagating universal principles. On the ground of reality, it is not possible to ignore the sectarian conventions. A person may stay within any religious order whatsoever, ' but there should a provision that he would be allowed to work with an outlook which goes beyond meanness. When one's outlook is narrow, he cannot work extensively even in the absence of confinement to a particular religious order.

Question

You do not accept the view that a secular policy can be of help in bringing about national unity. You say that secularism mentioned in the Constitution should mean irrespective of sect, not religion. Are the sects not rooted in religion?

Answer

By "dharma" I mean human behaviour and dealing with other people. But to common people, secular policy would mean a policy without any reference to spirituality or righteous conduct. How can any policy which lacks in spiritual power and strength of character, bring about national integration?

The Hindi version of the English word 'secular' is misleading. In the west, secularism means being above sectarism considerations. Although any sect is based on religion, in this particular context, religion should be seen primarily as a religious sect. It is not a good sign if any secular policy is devoid of religion or spirituality. In a democracy, when there are people following various religious sects, if the ruling party identified itself with any particular sect, the country cannot develop in all directions. When the politics of the legislature functions with close links with a particular sect, there is the possibility of everything going topsy-turvy in the country. The countries where only particular religion is being followed, can provide any system to their people. But in a country like India with its diversities, sectarianism cannot be given recognition.

If by secularism we mean irrespective of conduct on spirituality then there is no chance of avoiding the evil results of such a policy.

Question

Do you take active interest in politics? What is your opinion about the current political situation in the country? How can your principle of social revolution be correlated with political power?

Answer

We are all Jain monks. Our main objective is sadhana. While following the practices prescribed for Jain monks, we can certainly keep ourselves informed about political development's, but how can we take active part in politics? We cannot be active in politics, because asceticism is related to spirituality, not to politics.

India's present political system is democratic. Democracy has been accepted as a healthy system for ruling. This is because in that system, human policies concerning co-existence, non-violence, non-aggression and ideological freedom have been recognised. These policies are in conformity with the principles of Jainism. Not only that, Democracy is also good because it takes the people of India towards the path of progress by keeping them free from fear and terror. But this is all in principle. It is a debatable point how far these things have applied to the conduct of the public as well as the rulers.

I have no problem as far as the correlation between social revolution and power of the state is concerned. In my view, to bring about a revolution, both a change of heart and a change of the system are necessary. Social revolution cannot come merely through religion nor through legal measures. Religion has its own function and its own limitations. The same is true about law. If both function by remaining within their limits, their combined efforts can bring quicker success. I do not believe in imposing anything by law, but so far as society is concerned, indispensability of legal force alongwith change of heart cannot be disregarded. If the government takes upon itself the task of reforming the system the social revolution can come from either religious or social platform. Question What is your opinion about religious leaders like Rajneesh, Sai Baba and Mahesh Yogi, who have proclaimed to be Godmen? Antwer

It is not necessary to comment or criticise the actions of any individual. That is not my way either. Everyone does things in his own way. But one thing is certain: Only those individuals and principles that can raise the cultural consciousness of the people have any value in Indian culture. Sadhona is necessary for development in life. That sadhana has fulfilled its purpose which leads, the individual from attachment to detachment, in which the instincts are sublimated, which gives freedom from tension and the extrovert mind become introvert. It is from this point of view that we have started the practice of preksha-dhyan. Actually, this is a developed from of the process of Jain sadhana. This experiment has shown amazing results in the transformation of human instincts. Literature about preksha-dhyan sadhana has its own value among the systems of sadhana that inspire people to become dispassionate.

We cannot say how far people find true self-satisfaction when they believe only in external miracles or show such miracles for self-publicity or do it out of mercenary motives or for the satisfaction of their selfish interest. Such attitudes and activities have no value from the spiritual point of view.

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. Anekanta
  2. Anekantavada
  3. Anuvrat
  4. Anuvrat Movement
  5. Casteism
  6. Consciousness
  7. Dharma
  8. Environment
  9. Fear
  10. Jainism
  11. Moksha
  12. Monism
  13. Nirvana
  14. Non-violence
  15. Sadhana
  16. Soul
  17. Syadvada
  18. Tolerance
  19. Violence
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