Spiritual Awakening, Devotion and Meditation: Jaina Perspective (1/2)

Published: 03.07.2008
Updated: 09.06.2015

1.0 Spiritual Awakening

The pronouncement of the Ācārańga1 that the ignorant are asleep and the wise are awake inspires us to be aware of the highest in us, which is our Real Nature. In Jaina terminology we may say that this is tantamount to achieving Samyagdarśana (Spiritual Awakening). When we are asleep we are in the state of spiritual perversion known as Mithyādarśana.

1.1 The Role of Samyagdarśana (Spiritual Awakening) in the life of an Individual

Jainism regards spiritual awakening (Samyagdarśana) as the beginning of the spiritual pilgrimage, and it is the foundation of the magnificent edifice of liberation.2 Even performing very severe austerities, persons devoid of spiritual awakening do not attain spiritual wisdom even in thousands and millions of years.3 Just as a leaf of the lotus plant because of its own nature and constitution is not defiled by water, so also an awakened person because of his spiritual nature is not sullied by passions and sensuous attractions.4 Value-knowledge and ethico-spiritual conduct is acquired through spiritual awakening. The spiritually awakened self considers his own self as his genuine abode and regards the outward dwelling places as artificial. He renounces all identification with the animate and inanimate objects of the world, and properly weighs them in the balance of his awakened spirit. Thus he develops a unique attitude towards himself and the world around him.

Without Samyagdarśana conduct is incapable of surpassing the province of morality. An ascetic who bases his asceticism on the mere moral concepts cannot be said to be superior to a householder whose interior has been illumined with the light of Samyagdarśana, inasmuch as the former is paving the way for the achievement of empyreal pleasures far away from the blissful state of existence, while the latter's face is turned in the right direction, which will in due course yield whatever is worthy of his inherent nature. The spiritually awakened persons regard the auspicious bhāvas as the temporary places of stay, when they find themselves incapable of staying at the pinnacle of truth and realization. These Bhāvas serve as a halting place for them and not as a permanent dwelling. Thus such individuals absolve themselves even from subconscious egoism in performing auspicious activities. On the contrary, those who are only morally converted regard the acquisition of auspicious mental states and performance of auspicious activities as ends in themselves, hence they are bound to endless mundane existence, which shall deprive them of spiritual bliss for all time before spiritual awakening.5 Besides, their profound learning and the austere penances performed by them even for thousands of years or more are spiritually unfruitful in the absence of Samyagdarśana.6

1.2 Function of Spiritual Perversion and Its Nullification

Spiritual perversion acts as a barricade to soul's true life. It is the root of all evils, the seed of the tree of Sańsāra.7 The person experiencing spiritual perversion becomes perverted in his attitude. It poisons all our activities, so as to check the realization of the Summum Bonum of life. Moreover, it is responsible for the perversity of knowledge and conduct alike. So long as spiritual perversion is operative, all our efforts to witness the sun of self's glory are bound to fail. Thus it is to be rooted out in the interest of rendering its unwholesome function null and void. In other words, spiritual awakening is to be attained, which in turn will make knowledge and conduct conducive to the attainment of Paramātman. It is only after the acquisition of spiritual awakening that the person attains the primary qualification for even marching towards emancipation from the wheel of misery. If spiritual perversion is at the root of worldly life and living, spiritual awakening is at the root of liberation.

1.2.1 Judgment of the occurrence of Samyagdarśana in the life of an Individual

Now the question is: Is there any way to Judge the occurrence of spiritual awakening in the life of an individual? The answer given is this that though spiritual awakening is a subjective phenomenon, yet the Jaina ācāryas have given certain individual and social characteristics that accompany Samyagdarśana (spiritual awakening).

Individual Characteristics

  1. The spiritually awakened regards, without any doubt, kindness to all creatures as Dharma and any injury to them as Adharma.8 Now the question is: How to acquire the state of doubtlessness? The answer can be given by saying that either the individual should stop thinking and resort to a sort of blind faith or he should employ himself in the task of vigorous thinking. Blind faith is the path of mental slavery, but vigorous thinking is the path of awakened mind. To my mind Jainism has subscribed to the latter view. Reason should be freely allowed to play upon kindness and cruelty to creatures, so as to arrive at rational decision, Mahāvīra never threatened the critical faculty in man, inasmuch as he seems to be aware of the fact that by paralyzing the critical faculty in man, he will be cut at its roots. For the spiritually awakened, kindness to creatures emerges from the very process of rational thinking. Thus the individual will be free from any doubt in observing kindness to creatures. This is known as the Niśańkita characteristic of the spiritually awakened.9 Along with this characteristic it may be said that the spiritually awakened self is without any iota of fear and pride.10 He is not frightened when worldly pleasures part company and troubles accompany him. Nor is he perturbed by the life hereafter. He has no fear of death, disease, accidents, and insecurity and of losing prosperity. Again he has comprehended the futility of pride and consequently he has forsaken pride of learning, honour, family, caste, power, opulence, penance and body.
  2. The spiritually awakened is required to impose upon him restraint in the realm of desires. Man is a bundle of desires. Desires do not arise in vacuum. They presuppose goods. Desires may admit of two kinds, namely, possessive and creative, corresponding to the two kinds of goods, namely, material and creative. The difference between the two kinds of goods is that the former admits of exclusive individual possession, while the latter can be shared by all alike. Thus the possessive impulses aim at acquiring private goods, whereas the creative ones aim at producing goods that can be enjoyed by all without any conflict. "Material possessions can be taken by force', but "creative possessions cannot be taken in this way'. The desire for material goods makes man's personality egocentric, which is the cause of social tensions and frustration. Creative desires lead the individual towards self-satisfaction and social progress. Thus the spiritually awakened is free from possessive desires and develop Nikāńkşita11 characteristic in his personality and makes himself free from the desire for material possessions.
  3. The spiritually awakened individual begins to comprehend that many religious superstitions, social paths of life and other forms of follies and falsities are derogatory to individual progress; therefore they are condemned in every age of history. But the change is met with great resistance. The reason for this is that individuals look at change with doubt and uncertainty. Besides love for conventionality and vested interests run counter to the acceptance of novelties in thought. All these obstacles mar individual dynamism. Thus the spiritually awakened individual becomes free from follies (Mūdhatās) and develops Amūdhadŗşŧi12 characteristic in his personality. It is only through such individuals that society progresses and a scientific outlook gains ground. Such individuals are forward looking, and are free from the pressures of narrow traditionalism. They are always open-minded and are ever eager to learn from history and experience. iv. The spiritually awakened individual develops virtuous dispositions of honesty, gratitude, forgiveness, modesty etc. This is known as Upagūhana characteristic.13 It may be noted here that though mere thought is important to bring about any individual transformation, it is only virtues in addition to thought that can effect transformation in the life of an individual and transmute existing state of affairs. It cannot be gainsaid that noble thoughts can be translated into action through the medium of virtuous dispositions.

Social characteristics

Besides, there are certain social characteristics that emanate from the spiritually awakened individual. It is true that there is nothing over and above the good of the individual men, women and children who compose the world. The proper adjustment of "I' and "thou' leads to the healthiest development of both "I' and "thou'. All individuals should live together in such a way that each individual may be able to acquire as much good as possible. Thus every individual, therefore, shall have certain responsibilities towards one another. This is the same as saying that an individual has certain social responsibilities.

  1. The spiritually awakened individual does not hate a meritorious being owing to certain diseased bodily conditions and the like. This is known as the Nirvicikitsā 14 characteristic. We may extend it by saying that to create differences between one individual and the other on the factors of religion, race, nationality etc. is derogatory, therefore, should be condemned ruthlessly. These are irrelevant inequalities.
  2. The negative conditions of not hating others are not sufficient, but the positive condition of loving them (Vātsalya) is very much necessary. To love is to see that every individual without any distinction, of race, religion, sex and nationality, receives equal opportunities of education, earning and the like. Where there is love there is no exploitation. To treat other individuals as mere means is decried and denied. Where there is Vātsalya, all our dealings with others will be inspired by reverence; the role of force and domination will be minimised. Thus the spiritually awakened develops Vātsalya characteristics.15
  3. It is likely that individuals may deviate from the path of righteousness. In dealing with persons, they may become so selfish as not to allow them their due share of liberty; they may become very possessive. Pride of power, use of force, and exploitation of the weak may look to them normal ways of life. To establish them in the good life is Sthitikaraņa.16 The spiritually awakened individual develops Sthitikaraņa characteristic. This is very much necessary in a society where the role of creative impulses is to be established.
  4. The good ways of life, of thinking and doing things should be made widely known to people at large, so that they may feel obliged to mould their lives in that pattern. For this, we need psychological methods of transmitting knowledge to be followed in all earnestness. The scientific techniques of radio, television and the like are to be utilized for propagating good ways of life. If the researches in the laboratories are not taken to and utilized in the fields, they will serve no significant purpose. They will be like doing things in seclusion. Similarly, if the findings in the human laboratory in the realm of values are not taken to human beings in general, things will deteriorate and conditions will not change. The spiritually awakened individual develops the characteristic known as Prabhāvanā 17 for propagating ethical-spiritual values by such means as are best suited to time and place.

In addition to these eight characteristics indicative of Samyagdarśana, there are other characteristics, which accompany the subsistence of spiritual awaking. These are

  1. Reduction of passions to the extent of acquiring mental peace;
  2. Turning away from the causes, which enhance worldly career;
  3. Expression of the non-skeptical attitude towards the spiritual nature of Reality and
  4. Manifestation of universal compassion.

These are respectively called 18

  1. Praśama,
  2. Sańvega, ii
  3. Āstikya  
  4. Anukampā.

1.2.2 Origination of Samyagdarśana (Spiritual Awakening)

The Occurrence of Samyagdarśana or spiritual Awakening is sometimes consequent upon the instruction of those who have realised the divine within themselves, or are on the path of Divine-realization, while at other times, the self is reminded of its spiritual heritage automatically without the help of any outside instruction.19 The importance of instruction is paramount, since the self in whom spiritual awakening has taken place without apparently any direct instruction must have received instructions, if not here, in some previous birth. In other words, he who has not got any instruction since beginningless past is incapable of being awakened spiritually; and he who has got such an opportunity in some previous birth may be so awakened without any instruction at present. Thus instruction is unavoidable. It shall not be contradictory to aver that ""the secret of knowing God, of realizing Him, is, whether we like it or not, in the hands of mystics.'' ""it is through them alone as spiritual teachers or Gurus that we shall have to bring about the spiritual conversion in us.''20

Spiritual awakening not to be confused with moral and intellectual accomplishments: There may be a tendency to confuse spiritual awakening with moral and intellectual accomplishments. One may say that he who is intellectually enlightened and morally converted is spiritually awakened. How can a man after attaining to the fair height of intellectual knowledge and moral uplift be spiritually barren? Though it is astonishing, yet it is regarded as a fact by the Jainas. The "Dravya-līńgi-Muni' is an instance of this sort of life. No doubt, intellectual learning and moral conversions may facilitate spiritual awakening in, certain selves, but this cannot as a rule bring about the latter. A spiritually unawakened man may be an astute intellectualist, a resolute moralist, but he will lack that spiritual quality by virtue of which he may be called a real saint, a seeker of spiritual truth, a person moving on the spiritual path. Thus spiritual awakening is to be sharply distinguished from moral and intellectual accomplishments.




References 1-10 are lost at the moment - investigations on the way....



Ratnakarańda śrāvakācāra of Samantabhadra, 12, (Vīra Sevā Mandira, Delhi)



Ibid 14



Puruşārthasiddhyupāya of Amŗtacandra, 26, (Rājacandra Āśrama, Āgāsa)



Ratnakarańda śrāvakācāra of Samantabhadra 13



Kārttikeyānuprekşā, 419-20, (Rājacandra Āśrama, Āgāsa).



 Ratnakarańda śrāvakācāra of Samantabhadra 16, Puruşārthasiddhyupāya of Amŗtacandra,, 28



Puruşārthasiddhyupāya of Amŗtacandra, 30, Ratnakarańda śrāvakācāra of Samantabhadra 18, Kārttikeyānuprekşā, 421-422



Rājavārtika of Akalańka, I. 2/30, (Bhāratīya Jňāna Pītha, New Delhi).



Tattvārthasutra of Umāsvāti, I. 3 (Bhāratīya Jňāna Pītha, New Delhi).



Yoga of the Saints P. 57, 58

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