Unregistered Children In Jainism

Published: 10.05.2010
Updated: 02.07.2015

Who is considered unregistered?

There can be many considerations for being called as unregistered as registration can be with the civil authorities or with a religious organization (in case of such powers are bestowed on them by the state). There can be many reasons for not registering a child such as:

    1. Ignorance or difficulty experienced by the parents in registering.
    2. Illegal immigrants.
    3. Abandoned by mother for fear of social reprimand.
    4. Gender considerations e.g. girl child considered as a liability due to dowry and not considered as a potential earning member. Faith based priorities like having a son essential to go to heaven / family lineage / or to perform the last rites of the parents.
    5. Even though registered but society does not treat them as equal to other.
    6. Parents abandon due to their failure in rearing up the child etc.

Category

1

It is the responsibilities of the state to correct the situation and Jains whole-heartedly supports the rules and the government of the day.

2

Even though a responsibility of the government of the day yet it slightly different from category 1 as follows:

2 a

Children who enter a country illegally either by themselves or with family.

2 b

Children born to illegal immigrants in the host country.

 

2a

needs special measures by the host country to protect its sovereignty and interests of its citizens. Jains support the law of the country. Also their five minor vows, especially vows of non stealing and not speaking the lies consider it wrong (sinful) for people who undertake illegal activities or falsifying representation to others.

 

2b

is slightly different for children born to such illegal immigrants in the host country. There are many possibilities of both parents being illegal immigrants or one parent being illegal etc. Such children will be considered along with categories 3 to 6 and their treatment with special reference to category 2a where necessary.

3-6

are more or less social problems. The reasons for their miseries can be many but most of these reasons, like category 2 are due to no fault of their own except their bad karmas or past deeds in their previous lives to have been born to such parents and in such situation. These children have difficulty in being brought up in a normal family and social environment.

Jain view

In this paper we shall look at the plights of children falling under categories 2b and 3 to 6 with special reference to 2b wherever necessary and different. Most of their problems are similar but the problems of children under category 2b are even severer as they may or may not be accepted by the government. This paper will focus on Jain view on problems of unregistered children only from both doctrinal and practical viewpoints.

Doctrine

  • All souls are equal whether their birth is registered or not. Mahavira’s doctrine is called Sarvodaya by Samantabhadra (1st century AD) i.e. uplift of all living beings and not just human beings. So parentage, country of birth, sex etc really do not matter in their worldly and spiritual development.
  • A living being is born to enjoy his /her karmas (results of past actions).  However a lot of these karmas can be changed or even annihilated by strenuous efforts to achieve even the highest ideal i.e. Jina or Godhood.
  • ‘Live and let live’ based on the doctrine of Ahinsa or non-violence of Jains.
  • Living beings help each other (parasparopagraha jivanama) i.e. even though each soul is independent and has to make efforts to achieve its objectives, yet all souls help each other. This is based on their law of causation whereby two types of causes are identified for an event to take place. These are material cause (i.e. the actual entity which is affected or transformed) and the efficient cause (i.e. external causes which affect the transformation of the entity.
  • Mother’s (or parents) bad karmas and wrongs committed (lack of observance of the vow of celibacy) and/ or bad habits (e.g. pramada or laziness) should not become a deterrent in the development and treatment of unregistered children. The wrong doers i.e. mother or parents or family members who were instrumental in the current plight of the children shall be punished either in this life itself or later lives. Doctrine of karma of Jains holds each individual to be responsible for their actions.
  • Non possession (aparigraha) i.e. limiting attachment to the worldly possessions. Most of the illegal immigrants come to a new country primarily in search of more wealth and worldly comforts.
  • Charity of four types namely food, medical, shelter and education are considered as essential duty of each Jain.
  • Jains worship / venerate the virtues and not the individual. This is evident from the five auspicious beings venerated which are class representation of individuals who have attained or are committed to attain specific spiritual attainments.  On the same basis, Jains believe in getting rid of the vices / bad habits and not any individual affected. So they set up corrective institutes to provide assistance to such people for self correction.  

  • Anekantavada or the doctrine of Non absolutism.  This implies that the situation needs to be viewed from different viewpoints involving the victim, the parents, society and the country as a whole. Mahavira always answered queries about cosmos from at least four different viewpoints namely substance, modes, time and place. The last viewpoint is especially important for unregistered children accompanying or born to illegal immigrants

Discussions:

Jains are said to be realists i.e. they believe in the diversities of existences based on their doctrine of karma and duality of existences. From the doctrine viewpoint, Jains consider it immaterial as to how a human being particularly is born and whether that person is registered or not? He or she is similar to you or me and needs to be treated on same basis. Jain story literature is full of such examples (Householders becoming Jain monks by deserting their pregnant wives (Sayyambhava Swamy and his abandoned son Mayanka), rape of a daughter by the father (Agnideva) and the son (Kartikeya Swamy) growing up (to become a great monk) in the house of mother’s father i.e. the rapist, story of Anjana sati and her child who was considered as illegitimate and finally accepted as ok due to the profound penance by Anjana and the father returning to explain the cause of abandonment). In most of the cases we will observe mother accepts the child and brings up the child against all adversities by being an exemplary mother. Also such children turn out to be the torch bearers of the Jain doctrine (perhaps having realized the pains and sufferings of life early in their childhood and the rearing by the pious mother).

Similarly we find Jain literature full of stories of people (generally able individual adult males) venturing in other countries to make quick or lot of money. In the end they return to their home countries and families. These stories can convey the feeling that the problem of unregistered children as accompanying their parents or even wife accompanying the husband in the first instance to other countries was well recognized by Jains and the adults were discouraged from taking families overseas for settlement etc. This can be viewed as a preventive measure by Jains to solve the problems of creating unregistered children in other countries.

Having said so we look at the practical aspects as to how such children are treated by Jains in general.

Preventive Measures

Illegal immigration of children:

The problem of immigration is to be prevented through dialogue, cooperation, sharing wealth, education and law enforcement by both host and the country of origin of immigrants. Jain principles of Ahinsa (defensive violence), Aparigraha (sharing wealth) and Anekanta (non absolutism can come in very handy to find viable means by all governments concerned working together. Education by both host and default country of its people, enforcement of law and providing economic opportunities plus allowing certain categories of people to migrate are some of the measures supported by Jains.

The cause of birth: 

The fifth vow of Jains is called contentment with self married spouse or observing limited celibacy by limiting sexual activities to the married spouse and in a natural manner. Jain texts describe in great details the Dos and Donts of this vow of limited sexual activities with the religiously married spouse only. Observance of this vow can prevent to a large extent the occurrence of unregistered children. The parents of an unregistered child are highly frowned upon by the community for their sinful activity and a breach of this vow of limited celibacy. This is considered as a preventive measure by the community to minimize the incidences of child abandonment after birth or not getting the child registered for birth by the government.  

Education:

Jain path of spiritual purification is the trio of Right belief-knowledge-conduct practiced simultaneously. So Jains are firm believers of acquiring knowledge (be it for practice of religion or for leading the life of an ordinary householder). Parents encourage their children to learn Jain principles and practice them as much as they can. Giving up seven bad habits called sapt vyasanas (gambling, hunting, consuming intoxicants, company of evil persons, killing for food, prostitution), observing six essential duties (include visit to temples, veneration of holy teachers, study of religious texts, self restraint, practicing austerities, giving charity), observing the five minor vows called Anuvratas (Non violence, Not speaking lies, non stealing, non possessions and celibacy) are the simple principles which are taught to the children from a very early age. The essence of these principles is to make the youngsters aware of good and bad and their duties and ask them to start practicing them even in a very minimal manner and gradually enhance the limits.  Such Jain principles can create a feeling of acceptability and registering the unregistered children by the country, even though they are illegal immigrants or the children thereof.

Case of economic needs and moving illegally to other countries with children:

As indicated earlier, Jain story literature is full of stories about Jains going overseas to earn money but invariably returning back home. There are some exceptions also seen whereby the migrating Jain male, going alone, marries in the new country and settles there for long time or good. Such stories can be taken as conveying the principle of preventive measure taken and principles propagated by Jains for curing problems of unregistered children overseas. It can thus be concluded that education is very important to first caution illegal immigrants going to other countries with their families in the first instance. Further migrating people should be required (like in some countries) to first get them established in the host county, behave as good and law abiding citizens and contribute to the well being of the society they live in now, and then satisfy certain norms of the country before they invite their children. Those coming illegally with families in the first instance should be dealt with firmly.

Case of children born to illegal immigrant/s:

From the viewpoint of the child born, he has no say as to whom and where he / she is born. Thus being born in a country should get all benefits provided to any other child (including registration) by the state.  However as /she is dependent on his /her parents till he /she becomes independent, the case is complicated as her registration also involves registration of the parent/s Thus Jains will consider them (children only) similar to orphans or abandoned children and provide them education, shelter and food for development while the parents shall be treated according to the law of the land.

Punitive actions taken by Jains:  

Jains generally do not accept such children as a part of their family i.e. allow them to live in the home as a family member (like famous actress Madona goes out to adopt children of different races and creeds). Reasons can be many but primarily this can be to discourage future incidences of such children occurring. In case of childless couples, there is a preference to adopt a child from the family and then from a friend and finally from an orphanage.

Corrective actions of Jains

Jains believe in diversity of existences i.e. uneven distribution of wealth /physical features, education etc) as real. This is so due to the karmika veil that shrouds the real / pure nature of the self which is similar and with equal potential in all living beings to each living being to attain even the highest ideal of Godhood. This diversity is explained beautifully by the Karma doctrine of Jains which in the end assigns ‘responsibility to individuals to enjoy their state and its improvement’. Also their principle of non absolutism (anekanta), based on existence of opposites (good and bad) simultaneously, reconciliation and relativity supports these inequalities amongst living beings. Further their principle of parasparopgragaho jivahanam i.e. living beings help each other encourages each individual to contribute his might for the well being of other living beings.

Right belief-knowledge-conduct is the path of achieving liberation as practiced by Jains. So, right belief is the first requirement for a Jain to progress on the path of emancipation. A person with right belief is said to have eight characteristics as follows (besides kindness to all living beings):

Individual:

State of doubtlessness

Niśaṃkita

State of no desire (except for creative or spiritual attainments)

Nikāṃksṣita

Freedom from superstitions

Amūdhadṛṣṭi

Develops virtuous dispositions

Upagūhana

Social characteristics:

Not to hate a meritorious being

Nirvicikitsā

Develop positive condition of loving others 

Vātsalya

To re-establish the fallen on the right path 

Sthitikaraṇa

To propagate ethical-spiritual values

Prabhāvanā

So a right believer of Jain metaphysics will demonstrate the above characteristics in his personal and social interactions. The social characteristics are very important as they reflect how Jains interact with the society they live even though the doctrine suggests that one is responsible for his condition and emphasize self improvement. These characteristics, backed by their principle of aparigraha (limiting possessions) which encourages Jains to exercise self restraint and share their worldly possessions with others, are demonstrated by tremendous social contribution of Jains in the form of schools and colleges (more than 4800), institutes for destitute and homeless (over 1000), hospitals and dispensaries (over 1000) and innumerable private trusts to help such institutions and individuals. These figures need to be looked with reference to a very small population of Jains (less than.5% of India and less than 5 million).

Institutions created by Jains to support overall development of unregistered children:

  1. Setting up institutions to help rehabilitation of such children: Jains are known for philanthropy. They establish orphanages and similar institutions to take care of such children. They also support quality education of such children financially. There are over one thousand such institutions run by Jains all over India where the orphans or unwanted children are kept, provided shelter, food, education till they pass high school. Later on they are provided financial assistance to get higher education or support in finding a suitable placement.
  2. Setting up education institutions where certain percentage of seats is kept for needy persons. In such institutions, even additional financial support is provided to the needy child and his family.
  3. Setting up trusts / funds to provide financial support to those needy persons to pursue their professional education.
  4. To propagate ethical-spiritual values(Prabhāvanā), all the institutions mentioned above are required to impart such values so that they can become better citizens and avoid reoccurrence of such children in future. Here the main discriminating feature of Jain institutions is to provide such services without any personal or community or religion gain /propagation). There are no expectations from the attendees /beneficiaries imposed by these institutions.
  5. Another important feature of such institutions is their independence of finances (no contribution from Government expected) and run by honorary Jains who also contribute their financial resources and mobilize them from the community.
  6. A unique feature of Jain community (individuals and not a group activity) had been to help discretely (without making it public) the family or single parent financially to rehabilitate and to progress in life till the child /children become capable of running the household.

 
Conclusions:

Jains try to practice preventive means by educating their children ethico-spiritual values at early age, being a model family by practicing religious duties.  However in the society they live in, they cannot exercise such controls by others and hence undertake curative steps by setting up institutions to take care of such children and support the government in finding and implementing legal actions..


References:

Tattvarath Sutra by Uma Swami
Ratnakarandasravakacara by Samant Bhadra
Study Notes (72 papers) published by ISJS and available on www.jainstudies.org

Sources
International School for Jain Studies
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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Ahinsa
  2. Anekanta
  3. Anekantavada
  4. Anuvratas
  5. Aparigraha
  6. Bhadra
  7. Celibacy
  8. Cooperation
  9. Environment
  10. Fear
  11. ISJS
  12. International School for Jain Studies
  13. Jina
  14. Karma
  15. Karmas
  16. Mahavira
  17. Nirvicikitsā
  18. Non violence
  19. Non-violence
  20. Prabhāvanā
  21. Pramada
  22. Sarvodaya
  23. Soul
  24. Sutra
  25. Swami
  26. Violence
  27. Vātsalya
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