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Acharanga Bhasyam: Preface

Published: 02.09.2010
Updated: 02.07.2015

People often ask about the relevance of Jainism in modern times. The answer is very simple. If the principles of equality, non-violence and non-possessiveness are relevant today, why not Jainism which so eminently stood for them. If the former were denied any relevance, the latter would have no chance to occupy the altar of relevance.

The religion preached by Mahāvῑra was purely spiritual, with self-knowledge as the starting point and self-realisation as the final end.

As an upholder of dualism of self and not-self, Jainism propounded non-absolutism. Knowledge of the self is not complete without the knowledge of the not self, nor is the latter achieved without the former. The knowledge of both in their completeness is therefore a vital necessity.

The first chapter of Ācārāṅga facilitates the understanding of different states of soul,, induced by karma, which are very important from the standpoint of environmentalism. The principle of equality and comparison of the weal and woe of others with those of oneself are powerful remedies for the pollution of environment. The denial of the existence of the six classes of beings, the five immobile (earth-bodied, etc) and the mobile (two-sensed, etc.) ones, will be tantamount to the denial of the existence of the self, said Mahāvῑra. One cannot safeguard one's own existence by obliterating the existence of others. One cannot be aware of one's own existence by denying the existence of others.

Violence itself is a sort of non-awareness, or the result of the latter. Non-violence consists in the awareness of one's own existence along with the existence of others. This awareness is developed by comparing the weal and woe of others with those of oneself. This is why Mahāvῑra preached the principle of comparison of self with others.

The principle of non-violence cannot be adequately comprehended without knowing the ways and means to violence. This is the reason for an elaborate description of possessiveness and non-possessiveness in the scripture under study.

The principal cause of violence is possessiveness. Modern economics encourages violence by prescribing attachment to wealth. Mahāvῑra on the contrary preached non-attachment to property. Attachment dominated enterprises are opined as the foundation of social development. Acceptance of this partial opinion as a complete truth has resulted in the spread of violence and terrorism. Detachment-dominated activities also can provide base for social welfare. Requisitioned for social welfare, this latter base gives rise to a new angle of vision. Whereas the exclusively attachment-dominated attitude promotes competition and violence, the exclusively detachment-dominated attitude falls short of fulfilling the social needs. The society therefore can be efficiently governed by what is the mean between the two extreme attitudes for fostering balanced harmony and peace and avoiding the devastation caused by violence.

The scientific age gave a new concept of development. The psyche of rejecting the old pattern of ideas grew up. The cycle of events also assisted the emergence of new concepts of development. The world of today cannot provide food, clothes and shelter to a rapidly growing population through the ideology that puts break on the free will of the people and their faculty of possessiveness. So the old ideology is now an antiquated museum of ideas. Fresh problems needed fresh thinking and emergence of new principles for their solution. Big industries and economic programmes are flourishing on the foundations of new ideology.

Mahāvῑra gave the philosophy of non-acquisition, which was not based on the needs of growing population. He propounded the philosophy of non-acquisition and restraining one's will keeping in view the human psyche and the results of accumulation of wealth. Mahāvῑra was not opposed to meeting the primary needs of the rapidly growing population, but his opposition was to the ideology of unrestrained ambition. The scripture under study proclaims the effects of ambitious mentality of modern society.

The seeker of happiness indulges in acquisition of wealth. In search of happiness he repeats indulgence, Deluded by suffering produced by himself, he gets bewildered on attaining suffering in place of happiness. He seeks pleasure but gets sufferings.

Modern society has largely succeeded in eliminating death by starvation, but accumulation of wealth by a handful of people has compelled a large majority to live in poverty. Excessively rich people also have their own problem in that they have to pass their time in perpetual mental tension, fear and terror. Humanity has not yet succeeded in finding a way of life that could satisfy the primary needs of all and simultaneously mitigate the inhuman cruelty, a by-product of excessive acquisition of wealth. It will perhaps never be feasible to find out the way without delimiting personal ownership. Availability of goods is limited. Consumers' demands are unlimited and their desires are vaster still. We have no arithmetic that can induce balance. This is why Mahāvῑra, keeping the truth in view, proclaimed that what is most dreadful is that man has focused his attention exclusively on acquisition of goods. Modern man equated his mental health with consumerism. The root cause of the problem of violence is of tying up the sense of mineness with things. The truth however is that things do not belong to anybody. The attempt at denying this truth breeds violence.

Declared Mahāvῑra: do not rest satisfied with striking only at foliage and flowers of violence but also strike hard at the very root of it. Violence varies proportionately with the sense of mineness. The deeper the sense of mineness, the intense the outburst of violence. This sūtra is a super-commentary on the concept of violence. The message of the Ācārāṅga is generally identified by the majority of scholars as the message of non­violence. This view has originated from the subject matter of the first chapter, which details abandonment of the weapons of violence. The subsequent chapters, however, deal with the doctrine of possessiveness 'and non-possessiveness, which have been relegated to a secondary position by those scholars. Our initial attention goes exclusively to the foliage, flowers and fruits ignoring the root. An issue cannot be finally decided without going to the very root of it. We wish to solve the problem of violence by concentrating on the pursuit of non-violence. But this is only an approach that focuses exclusively on outside surface. The approach that focuses on the root is quite different, which is embodied in the dictum: solve the problem of possessiveness, the problem of violence will then automatically find its own solution. The effect cannot be got rid of so long as the cause is in function. Violence is an effect, possessiveness is its cause. It was only in order to bring home this truth that Mahāvῑra again and again declared "know the truth. The supreme truth is: the souls are conscious entities, things are not conscious. The essence of soul is consciousness, not materiality." This philosophy of the Ācārāṅga gave a new turn to the science of ethics and advanced thought in the direction of peace, announcing "Be a seer. Look at every event and bring about a change in your attitude to sensual objects. Do not enjoy objects like the person who does not seek truth. But bring about a radical change in your attitude to sensual objects." In other words bring about a complete change in your life­style. The value of the realisation of this truth is in no way inferior to the realisation of the self.

The programme of editing the Jain Canonical Text was started in 1954 A.D. Annotations of the Daśavaikālika, Uttarādhyayana etc. were prepared in Hindi. His Holiness Shree Gurudeva once suggested, inter alia, the composition of a critical commentary on the Ācārāṅga in Sanskrit. His suggestion gave me a new direction. The Sanskrit commentary was prepared. The benign inspiration on Shree Gurudeva was my constant companion in the project. Mahashraman Muni Mudit Kumar (now Yuvacharya Mahashramana) and Muni Mahendra Kumar kept engaged in preparing the manuscript of the commentary. The work practically remained suspended for several years. Muni Dulaharaj took over the initiative. Many queries and suggestion came up from him. Consequently there was increase in the volume of Bhasya and change in the methodology of the work.

An English translation of the voluminous Bhāya - Sanskrit Commentary has been prepared by Dr. Nathmal Tatia, Director, Anekant Sodhpith, Jain Vishva Bharati, Ladnun, in collaboration with Muni Dulaharaj and Muni Mahendra Kumar. Muni Dharmesh assisted them.

Many hands collaborated to bring this publication to the present shape. To all of them I offer my blessings and good wishes. To His Holiness Shree Gurudeva I offer my grateful obeisance and seek his blessings all the time.

Acharya Mahaprajna


Jain Vishwa Bharati

Ladnun- 341 306 (Raj.) India © Jain Vishva Bharti

ISBNS 1-7195-74-4

First Edition:2001

Courtesy :
Shree Chhotulal Sethia Charitable Trust Sethia House, 23/24,
Radha Bazar Street, Kolkata-700 001 (INDIA)

Printed by:
Shree Vardhaman Press
Delhi (INDIA)

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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 Mahaprajna
  3. Anekant
  4. Bhāṣya
  5. Consciousness
  6. Consumerism
  7. Daśavaikālika
  8. Environment
  9. Fear
  10. Jain Vishva Bharati
  11. Jainism
  12. Karma
  13. Ladnun
  14. Mahashraman
  15. Muni
  16. Muni Dulaharaj
  17. Muni Mudit Kumar
  18. Nathmal Tatia
  19. Non-absolutism
  20. Non-violence
  21. Sanskrit
  22. Science
  23. Soul
  24. Sūtra
  25. Uttarādhyayana
  26. Violence
  27. Yuvacharya
  28. Yuvacharya Mahashramana
  29. Ācārāṅga
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