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Who is a Jain Shravak: 26 ►Stability is Essential

Published: 16.03.2020

Indian Philosophy acknowledges four kinds of purushaarth (purpose or effort) for people - kaam (pleasures, psychological values), arth (prosperity, economic values), dharm (righteousness, moral values), and moksha (emancipation, spiritual values). Out of these four, only righteousness and emancipation are desirable for a monk. A householder has a family and earning is essential for them to maintain their life. Therefore, they cannot lead their life with these two purposes only. The objectives of kaam and arth are pertinent for them. In this regard, a beautiful insight can be found in Jain Aagams. Guidelines for a balanced life are found in the code of conduct set forth for Jain shravaks. It is elaborated in Shravak Sambodh -

shravak sachet aniket-sant-samupaasak,
dhritidhaari svayam svayam ke hain anushaashak.
dhaarmik dharmaanug dharmaakhyaayi hote,
cheva vritti apani sanjote.

This verse mentions that a shravak is patient, righteous, self-disciplined, and spiritual and earns with morality.

Qualities of a Shravak

Monks in spite of living in a society are free from social responsibilities. Their primary goal is spiritual practices. A shravak is influenced from their spiritual practices and therefore, they seek spiritual guidance from them. Veneration (upaasana) towards monks (shraman) and the religion (dharm) endow unparalleled virtues in the life of a sharavak. In the aforesaid stanza, some of these qualities are mentioned. On this basis, Aagamic literature presents a list of qualities for a shravak enumerated below:

  1. Alpaarambh - A person who avoids purposeless and cruel violence.
  2. Alpaparigrah - A person who avoids excessive material accumulation and attachment.
  3. Dhaarmik - A person who practices scriptural knowledge and conduct.
  4. Dharmaanug - A person who follows the path of righteousness.
  5. Dharmishth - A person who is superior amongst righteous people.
  6. Dharmakhyaati - A person who preaches righteousness.
  7. Dharmapraloki - A person who considers righteousness worthy of acceptance.
  8. Dharm-vrittikar - A person who sustains his life without deviating from righteousness.
  9. Sushil - A person who is endowed with righteous character/ conduct.
  10. Suvrat - A person who practices vows.
  11. Paap-parihaari- A person who aims to refrain from committing sins, as far as possible.
  12. Shramanopaasak - A person who venerates monks.
  13. Tattvagya - A person who knows the nine realities i.e. living-beings and non-living things etc.
  14. Sahaayanapekshi - A person who does not seek help from deities in difficult situations.
  15. Dridhashraddhaalu - A person having deep faith in righteousness.
  16. Svachchh-hriday - A person who desists from deceit.
  17. Vishvast - A person who is trustworthy for all.
  18. Dharmaaraadhak - A person who adores religion.
  19. Atithisamvibhaagi - A person who assists the monks in practicing restraint by offering alms such as water and food to them as per their norms.
  20. Bahyaadambarvarjak - A person who abstains from external pomp and refrains from ostentatious display.
  21. Dhairyavaan - A person who is patient in every situation.

Problem of Economic Disparity

Today, making money is a universal phenomenon. The root of most of the current problems is that of chasing money. I have often read in the newspapers - There are millions of people in this world who do not get two meals a day, and in many cases not even a single meal.

Shree Jai Narayan Gaur, who is a retired administrative officer as well as a social worker of anuvrat, once narrated a story, 'I was the District Collector of Banswara. Once I had to visit a school. I observed that one of the students was very sad and depressed. I asked him the reason for his sadness. He said he was hungry. I asked again, did you not take your breakfast? He replied that it was not his turn that day. I was surprised and asked him what he meant. The student said that he was one of two brothers and it was the turn of his brother to eat that day, not his, so he had to remain hungry. Listening to this I was shocked that such young children come to school but remain hungry.'

The problem of economic disparity is worldwide which can be solved by earning and utilizing the money with morality.

The Problem of Flamboyance

Once, a child from a well-off family was kidnapped demanding ransom. After a few days, the child was released. He visited us with his family. The family said, 'This incident has taught us a lesson. We will lead a simple life without showing-off of wealth from now on.'

The flamboyance of prosperity, wealth or extreme luxury invites unfortunate incidents in the current social environment. The description of the kidnapping given by the family was heart-rending. Why do kidnappings occur? Why are such crimes committed? Terrorists and miscreants carry out such deeds to fulfill their financial needs. If a person is kidnapped, millions are extorted. This trend is increasing. Display of wealth has provided an atmosphere for its nourishment. In the present age, if one ignores this fact, then he is living in a dark illusion and inviting a number of problems for himself deliberately.

An ancient illustration goes as - women from well-to-do families used to wear bangles (chura) on their arms up to their elbows in those days.

A woman named Chandubai, who came from an ordinary background, had a keen desire to wear the chura. Somehow, she saved money and bought a set and wore it. As she belonged to an average family, she used to live on the outskirts of the village. She wore the precious bangles, but no one came to see her. If a lady wears new ornaments and others do not come to admire them, it is believed to be a disappointing response. A woman's happiness and satisfaction are based on the premise that others see her jewels and praise them. She thought, 'I spent all my money in buying and wearing the chura, but no one came to even look at them. What should I do?' She conjured a plan. She kindled a match and set her hut on fire. It started burning. People gathered. They tried to extinguish the fire by sprinkling water and sand on the hut. Chandubai sat on her bed wearing the chura. When the fire was put out, the ornaments drew the attention of people. They asked, 'Oh Chandubai! How did the fire catch? When did you get this chura?' Chandubai said, 'Foolish people! Had you asked me this before, the hut would not have been reduced to ashes.'

People can go to any extent to boast of their wealth. People who do not reflect upon the current problems and worry only about displaying their personal economic status are putting themselves at a major risk. Today economic disparity is very high in the world. A reality of terrible poverty and immeasurable affluence is present in the world today. Millions are being spent in organizing opulent wedding ceremonies. People strive to outshine each other's wedding arrangements. This is giving birth to many problems. It is necessary for life to be simple. Money is for utility and not for flaunting.

Two Directive Principles

Many adjectives are bestowed upon a shravak. A shravak is spiritual, a dharmaanug - a person who follows the path of righteousness, dharmajivi - a person whose livelihood is guided by righteousness i.e. dhammaanuya dhammajivi dhammenam cheva vittim kappemaane. This implies that a shravak follows morality in their profession and earns money with honesty.

Acharya Tulsi was in Delhi. Once national poet, Ramadhari Singh 'Dinkar' came to meet him. He said, 'You preach your shravaks to not earn more than a limit. This harms the nation. People, who have talent and are capable, if they do not aim high and earn as much as they can the nation will become poor.'

I said, 'We do not preach not to earn.'

Dinkar Ji enquired, 'What do you preach then?'

I said, 'Bhagawan Mahavira has given two guidelines to a shravak -

  1. The means of producing money should be pure. Earning should not be through dishonesty, deception, cruelty and exploitation.
  2. One should maintain control over their desires and consumption.

These are the two vows a shravak ought to follow - I will not earn the money dishonestly and, I will restrain my desires in personal life.'

Dinkar Ji replied with accord, 'Muni ji! There must be these two morals in the life - honesty in business and control over consumption.

A Healthy Tradition: Accumulation and Donation

Acharya Tulsi also emphasized the concept of 'visarjan' (relinquishment or donation) in relation to earning by a shravak. It means do not be mere consumer, give up what is worth abandoning. If we just keep eating and do not excrete, our body cannot remain healthy and we will surely fall ill. Visarjan is a beautiful solution for modern age problems. One should not accumulate excessively and have inordinate possessions but should develop a habit to donate. Do not elevate your mountains by digging ditches for others!

The principles recommended for earning and donations are pragmatic. We assimilate and eliminate infinite atoms every moment. No activity is possible without this discharge. When I give a discourse, people listen. How does a speaker speak? A speaker first attracts the speech atoms (bhaasha vargana) then emits them in the cosmos. Without discharging them one cannot speak. Speech or vocal sound is nothing but the emission of speech atoms. On the other hand, a listener in the beginning pulls the mano vargana (thought atoms) and relinquishing them one cannot think. Attraction, transformation and emission - these three activities go on to perform a task. Similarly, in a healthy tradition a person should earn, utilize his remuneration and donate. Earning and only stockpiling aggravates problems.

An insightful philosophy is presented - A shravak is a dharmajivi, who sustains life and earns with righteousness. This is a balanced way of life. A shravak is never prohibited to earn money. Poverty is a curse for a householder. No one likes begging. Even the greatest saint scholars have not supported poverty as a desirable trait. The saying goes - daaridrayam jagatapakarakamidam kenapi dagdham na hi i.e. why doesn't someone burn this poverty which is burning this world? To be affluent beyond comprehension is equally not desirable. Being extremely wealthy may also become a curse. Balanced state of affluence is worthwhile. Transformation of one's outlook is necessary to maintain this balance.

Transcendental Appraisal and Conventional Estimate

Bhagawan Mahavira explained two types of viewpoints - nishchay nay (transcendental appraisal) and vyavahaar nay (conventional appraisal). Nischay nay means to see an object in totality. In modern science, the word 'totality' is prevalent, whereas in Nyaya Shastra (science of logic), two words are prevalent - saakaly and vaikaly. Saakaly means 'totality' and vaikaly means to see the object from one angle. There may be innumerable angles to perceive a single object. If a thousand people are to see it then, it is viewed from thousand angles, and thousand notions. Bhagawan Mahavira propounded the viewpoint of nishchay nay - if you see anything entirely, with the outlook of totality, no attribute of an object will remain hidden. Suppose a booklet is in my hand having many colours. If asked about its colour, it can be answered as yellow. Is it not red, green or white? If you are to observe with concentration, it cannot be called yellow. Yellow is just manifested. What actually exists? All the colours are present. Moreover, the other attributes such as smell, taste, touch are also present. So, it may be true that the booklet may taste sweeter than some sweets. People take aspirin pills that are sweeter than sugar. Where does this sweetness come from? How much sugar can we get from petroleum refining? Petroleum has been found to be sweeter than sugar. Though, we usually only identify the smell of petroleum, it has taste as well. It can be understood from nishchay nay.

Colour, smell, taste and touch - all exist in each object. When an attribute of sweetness is expressed, we feel that it is sweet. The thing which is sweet also has bitterness hidden in it, and the thing which is bitter has concealed sweetness in it. Thus, to see an object with totality is nishchay nay and to see only the expressed attribute is vyavahaar nay.

A shravak perceives reality from both views - nishchay and vyavahaar. We live in a community with a religious order where there is a Guru, disciples and followers. Whenever there is an occasion, many people come, a big pravachan pandaal (a fabricated structure tent for the discourses) is set up. What is all this for? All this is explained from the viewpoint of vyavahaar nay. According to nishchay nay, there is no Guru and no follower, merely a soul. Where there is only a soul, there is no Guru, no disciple, no lecture, and no discourse, no need to listen nor to follow anyone. Nothing has to be done, except for perceiving your soul. It is arduous to reach nishchay. One has to work hard to reach at this level. By practicing vyavahaar nay, one can reach the stage of nishchay nay. Nobody can reach nishchay nay directly. It should not be misunderstood that we have to meditate upon the soul only. Why do we require anything else? Why should we have faith in Guru? Why do we have to accept discipline and follow regulations? One needs to understand, without churning curd, one cannot make butter. Nothing can be acquired simply. Labour is required to achieve anything.

The Pragmatic Life (Vyavahaar ka Jeevan)

Once, a thaakur (landlord) was riding a horse in Marwar (a region in Rajasthan). He passed by a well on the way. The thaakur stopped by, so that the horse could drink some water. The thaakur asked the owner of the well to give some water to the horse. The owner agreed and started drawing water with the help of a small water-wheel. It was making a lot of noise. Listening to the noise, the horse got frightened. The thaakur asked the owner to stop the noise. The owner stopped the water-wheel which was making the noise. The water stopped as well. The thaakur asked, 'Why have you stopped drawing the water?' The owner said, 'Sir! The water can be drawn only if the noisy water-wheel is used. If the noise stops, then will the water-wheel and water.'

We need to understand and accept the pragmatic aspect of the life.

There was once an acrobat. He was demonstrating his acrobatic skills. A ringleader of thieves was also watching. He observed that the acrobat was an expert. The artist walked on the rope up to the roof without any support. The thief thought that if this acrobat joins his gang, his trade would become very easy. His gang wouldn't need to bore any holes in walls to break into houses. The thief spoke to the acrobat and tempted him with money. Where there is a greed for money, people often fall for it. If someone doesn't, then it is indeed a matter of surprise. Because of greed, people do many wrong things.

The acrobat joined the gang of thieves. The next day, they planned to rob the house of a rich man. The acrobat accompanied them. They reached the house. The head of the thief said to the acrobat, 'Climb on top of the roof of the house.' The acrobat replied, 'I cannot do so.' The thief said, 'How can you not climb? How did you manage to climb on when you were displaying your skill?'

The acrobat said, 'My feet get activated only when I hear drumbeats. Beat the drum and I will climb up immediately.'

How could the thief beat drums? Without beating the drum, the acrobat cannot climb up.

According to vyavahaar nay, if you wish to climb up, you will have to beat the drum of practical life. If you can attain the state of nishchay nay, pragmatic behaviour is not necessary. However, we cannot reach this state directly.

The Necessity of Balancing Nishchay and Vyavahaar

In summary, it can be said that it is necessary to balance nishchay nay and vyavahaar nay. Do not accept just nishchay nay or merely vyavahaar nay. It is advisable to follow vyavahaar nay alongside nishchay nay. There is a religious order, certain requirements of discipline and regulations and if the soul is not cared for, then everything will languish. What should be the foundation? Self-realization is the basis. One has to see the soul and reach it. If one forgets this, he will stray from his goal.

All monks, nuns and laymen should focus their attention on keeping balance between nishchay and vyavahaar. Acharya Haribhadra wrote, 'Where vyavahaar nay is abandoned, the four-fold tirth disintegrates and consequently, so does nishchay nay. As a result, the soul itself will be destroyed.' After the departure of the soul, only the dead body remains. This is why we should evaluate both the nays. We should neither ignore the vyavahaar nay nor forget the nishchay nay. We should concentrate on the soul and realize it, but simultaneously, keep our behavior pure. A balanced life of this nature can give our life newer direction.


Title:  Who is a Jain Shravak?

Acharya MahaPragya


Sadhvi Vishrut Vibha

Publisher:  Adarsh Sahitya Vibhag, JVB
Digital Publishing: 
Amit Kumar Jain

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Aagams
  2. Acharya
  3. Acharya Haribhadra
  4. Acharya Tulsi
  5. Anuvrat
  6. Body
  7. Concentration
  8. Deceit
  9. Delhi
  10. Dharm
  11. Discipline
  12. Environment
  13. Greed
  14. Guru
  15. Haribhadra
  16. Kaam
  17. Mahavira
  18. Marwar
  19. Moksha
  20. Nyaya
  21. Pravachan
  22. Rajasthan
  23. Science
  24. Shastra
  25. Shraman
  26. Shravak
  27. Shravaks
  28. Soul
  29. Tirth
  30. Tulsi
  31. Vargana
  32. Violence
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