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I And Mine: [02.03] - A Religious Revolution - The Soul Of Religion - Unity Or Equality

Published: 04.11.2005
Updated: 06.08.2008

I see on the one hand the enormous universe and on the other hand a minuscule man. I also find that present-day thinking is inclined towards the enormous, the aggregate. All things are conceived on a large and comprehensive scale. But despite it, problems have not mitigated. The problems of the gigantic universe are the same as those of the individual. What is there in the human body is there in the universe too and vice versa. I see no reason to doubt its veracity. We become partial and one-sided by being concerned with either the individual or the group. This disease of one-sidedness is rampant everywhere. A comprehensive or many-sided viewpoint dictates that we do not forget the individual while being concerned with the group and be aware of the group while being concerned with the individual.

One of Lord Mahavira's principles is; 'He who knows one, knows all; and he who knows all, alone knows one.' We are at a loss to find solutions to the problems because we do not know even one. It becomes essential to know all other things in order to be able to know an atom. Full knowledge of an atom is not possible without understanding its similarities and dissimilarities and presence or absence of relatedness with all other things. That is why in analysing an atom one comes to know of countless laws of the universe.

These days we have got obsessed with extension. We have no liking for concision. The Upanishads declare; 'He who sees manyness is heading for a condition worse than death.' Any attempt to know manyness, that is, society, without trying to know the one (individual) is truly disastrous.

The problems of the individual can be divided into three classes;

  1. physical,
  2. social
  3. mental or spiritual.

Economic power or the power of money came to the fore ever since the beginning of civilization in order to fulfil the physical problems relating to the basic needs of life. But the advent of economic - or money power gave rise to another problem: robbery, plunder, snatching and looting. The strong started terrorising the weak. State power came into being in order to solve the above problem.

Even State power, which flourished to resolve problems arising out of economic power, could not remain untainted. A need for moral or religious power was felt to curb the arbitrariness of state power. Besides, religious power is also an answer to the inherent anxiety and uneasiness of human beings.

However, despite the emergence of all these authorities or power-centres, individual problems remained unsolved. The individual is even today poor and deprived. He is bereft of social cooperation. His awareness is blunted. What is the cause?
According to me it is not hard to find. The power centres created for solving individual problems have themselves turned into problems. I recall a tale contained in the puranas. By performing penance a mouse earned the blessings of Lord Shiva and turned into a cat. He did so out of the fear of cats but still the fear of dogs continued. Through successive course of penance he kept changing from cat to dog to leopard to tiger and finally to man. One day Lord Shiva asked him, ‘Are you now free from all fears?' He replied, 'Even by becoming man my problems are not over, for I am suffering from tear of death I may, therefore, be favoured and turned into a mouse again.' Lord Shiva once again blessed him and he returned to the original form of mouse.

Modern man should also be thinking of reverting to his primitive state, because in his case too all new solutions turn into problems. Take the case of money. It was intended to solve a major problem but today it has become one of the greatest problems. At one place we find tons of money, and at the same time at another place people are crying in agonizing penury. Money is less a means of fulfilling human needs and more a status symbol. State power, originally intended to provide order and security, find itself incapable of doing it, since it has lost internal discipline. Religious power capable of inspiring State power to practist internal discipline is itself embroiled in its own affairs. Religion no longer has internal strength. It has become an instrument of State power. There could be no greater contrast than that between the illustrious character of religion in the past and its lacklustre present-day form. It has all come about because people have reduced religion to mere rituals. Is it graceful that religion should seek the protection of State power? It is truly a case of glowing fire having been covered with ashes.

In its radiant form religion stands for the experience of unity and harmony. We are witnessing a new thinking at present, which can even root out religion. People wonder whether religious worship practised for thousands of years has succeeded in solving the human problems. They have in fact come to believe that there has been no success at all. I am afraid I cannot agree with them; Even then I shall not try to evade their question. Anyone who uses their language of thinking can say that religion has failed to solve human problems. People want religion to help you accumulate wealth, cure diseases and win legal suits. They do not use religion to solve problems, which it is meant to solve. They would do well to seek the help of a skilled businessman, doctor or lawyer. The solutions of the problems they seek have no direct relation with religion and yet most people are pursuing the above course.

We have cared only for the form and the name of religion. It is one of our weaknesses that our eyes and ears see and hear only external objects. No wonder we give importance only to names and forms.

We do not know how to respect the holy life of an ascetic. We only know how to respect the formal appearance. A Vaishnava does not revere a Jain ascetic and a Jain does not revere a Vaishnava ascetic, the simple reason being our reverence for form and ignorance of type or content. The content gets lost in the blaze of appearance. Our sight is fixed on names and forms; we cannot look beyond them.

It is said that religion was responsible for wars. I have always refuted this contention. The main proposition of my argument is that wars were caused not by religion but by its form and name. The soul of religion is unity. No wars can be fought without destroying the spirit of religion. The Vedanta propounds the principle that all sentient beings originate from the same source. Jain philosophy also asserts that all sentient beings are alike. Could human beings have fought each other if the above feeling of unity and harmony had been practised by the people? Could one individual have exploited another individual? Could one man have hated another? Fighting, exploitation and hatred are thriving on the basis of manyness and discord. One person works tirelessly the whole day and earns some money. The entire family shares it, but no one complains. A cultured husband does not castigate his wife by telling her that he earns while she sits back at home. There is a feeling of unity in the family and so no occasion for complaint arises. Complaining is the outcome of disunity. Does any government employee receive kickbacks from his son? Does a shopkeeper deceive his son? Bribes and deceit are found only where there is no unity.

Feeling unity and harmony with everyone is the spirit of religion. The greater the identity one feels with others, the more the religiosity one imbibes. Thinking on these lines convinces me that we have merely touched the veneer of religion but have never felt its inner core. What we have seen are the crabs, shells and oysters in the sands of the sea beach, not the pearls lying at the bottom of the waters. What should we do then? This was precisely the question raised by Tolstoy.

Vigorous efforts are needed to wriggle out of the complex situation, for they can change the circumstances. But Indians have come to posit too much faith in fatalism. Millions of people are leading a life totally dependent upon fate. Countless people are getting trapped. No fierce earthquake or terrible thunder has done greater harm to Indian life than the twin beliefs that things are predetermined and that what is predestined cannot be avoided. Who can support a person devoid of belief in the efficacy of his own efforts? Let me recount a story, at once vital and heart-rending.

A thief was busy stealing. People in the house woke up and raised an alarm. The neighbours too woke up. The thief took to heels. He was running hotly pursued by the people. The police too began chasing him. He got tired but there was no place for hiding. Right then he saw a temple of a female deity in the jungle and he got into it.

The deity was greatly revered in that region. Thousands of people used to worship her. There was a widespread rumour that no one returned unsatisfied from the temple. Having reached the courtyard of the temple, the thief felt a bit assured.

He folded his hands before the deity and spoke in a devotional voice,

'0 Mother! I seek your protection. Please save me.'

The deity was pleased by his humility and said to him,

Shout when people come to arrest you and no one would be able to come in front of you.'

The thief:

'Mother, my throat is parched out of fear and I can't shout.'

The deity:

'Look straight into the eyes of your captors and they will not be able to arrest you.'

The thief:

'Mother, fear has petrified my eyes, I can't see straight at anybody.'

The diety:

'All right, close the doors of the temple and you will escape apprehension.'

The thief:

'Mother, what you say is fine, but due to fear my hands refuse to work and l can't close the door.'

The deity:

'Then go and hide yourself behind my idol.'

The thief:

'That is fine too but fear has rendered me motionless and I can't walk.'

The deity said angrily:

'Then I can't help such an impotent and useless fellow.'

We need renewed and vigorous effort for achieving success. Let us embark on one such effort and first of all refine our concepts relating to religion and form new relations and bonds.

The end-result of economic power is glory and opulence. Along with it one should be sensitive and sympathetic. It will curb both exploitation and accumulation.

The end-result of state power is authority. Along with it one should have self-discipline. It will prevent irresponsible exercise of authority.

The end-result of religious power is purity. It should be coupled with morality.

A religious person has his gaze fixed only on the hereafter and rarely on the now and the here. One is afraid of spoiling the hereafter in the absence of religion, but there is no fear that unethical behaviour is bound to spoil the hereafter. People feel remorse and consider the day waste if they are not able on that day to count the beads on a rosary, but they neither have remorse nor consider the day wasted if they indulge in unethical behaviour. This is because they have convinced themselves that a few minutes' religious ritual will purge them of thousands of sins. Today people are suspicious of a religious person because there is no compatibility between his inner being and external behaviour. His fragmented personality is unable to instil goodwill towards religion in the mind of the people. The dividing line between the religious and the irreligious, between a believer and a non-believer has disappeared. This should urge the religious people to give serious thought to the matter. I see only one way of strengthening the power of religion - developing a feeling of unity or equality and creating a bond between religion and morality.

  • I And Mine by Acharya Mahaprajna
  • Edited by Muni Dulahraj ji
  • Translated by R.P. Bhatnagar, formerly Prof. Dept. of English at Jaipur University
  • Published by Jain Vishva Bharati Institute, Ladnun, India, 1st Edition, 1995

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Body
  2. Cooperation
  3. Deceit
  4. Discipline
  5. Fear
  6. Jain Philosophy
  7. Puranas
  8. Soul
  9. Upanishads
  10. Vedanta
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