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Abstract Thinking: [23.01] - Anupreksha Of The Unity Of Mankind

Published: 01.06.2007
Updated: 06.08.2008

A spiritual person does not divide; on the contrary he unites. There is in him no disintegrating element. This truth is reflected in the declaration: "mankind is one." Those who are caught in materialistic values can hardly utter such words. The pronouncement, "mankind is one" was made from a spiritual platform. Here there is no discrimination between man and man. All men are viewed as constituting a unity. There is only one human race; there is no other. A spiritual personality brings people together; a materialistic personality divides them.

A spiritual person consumes material goods. He will eat and drink, wear clothes, live in a house - he will do all this, but he will not cause any disintegration. Also he will never say: "My garment!", "my house!" Rather he would say: "Right now I am living in this house. At present I am wearing this garment." After all, to whom can the house really belong? The house can belong to nobody. Till today, this earth has not belonged to anyone. It is said that land and property are two eternal virgins, not married to anyone. Even after the passage of centuries, they remain the same, unchanged.

To make use of material things and to be attached to them, are two different things. In the case of a materialistic person, articles are used, and there is great attachment. In the case of a spiritual person also, articles are used, but there is no attachment. The article and the sense of "me and mine" stand apart; they are not united.

Lord Mahavira proclaimed the oneness of mankind. It is the caste system which has created the high and the low, and untouchability, violating thereby the principle of equality. In this situation, had there been no declaration of the unity of mankind, the concept of non-violence would have been rendered meaningless. Lord Mahavira said: "Man becomes a brahmin (A priest) by his actions. And it is by his actions that he becomes a kshatriya (a warrior) or a Vaish (a trader) or a shudra (a slave)." This division into classes is not intrinsic; only utilitarian. A man is just a man. If he acquires learning, he becomes a brahmana given to defence he becomes a kshatriya; engagement in business makes him a vaish and by serving others, he becomes a shudra. A system of readily changeable castes does not create the high and the low or raise a wall of untouchability between man and man.

Mahavira founded a world order on relativism. He said, "Unity and diversity flow together. In this confluence of coexistence, there is no room for 'mine and thine'. I cannot exist without you, nor can you exist without me. We can only exist together." Conflict is not natural, nor is hatred. What is natural is cooperation, synthesis - a mutual acceptance of each other's existence and individuality.

The acceptance of human unity is allied with that of human diversity. All men are equal, is a relative doctrine. Without unity - diversity, there can be no relativity. There are natural and social disparities. On that basis, it may be said that one man is different from another. This entails a factual acceptance of human unity and diversity.

Mahavira propounded the above doctrine from the viewpoint of religion. He said, "Elements of both similarity and dissimilarity are present in the human race. And they are both real. So they cannot form a basis for religion. If we love mankind on the basis of one man's similarity with another, shall we not indulge in hatred because of the dissimilarities found among men. Dissimilarity or diversity becomes the basis of malice, inasmuch as love is based upon similarity and unity. This love based upon duality cannot be a religious person's love. Self-realization which lies beyond unity and diversity is what constitutes religion. From this religious point-of-view, human unity means - the ending of hatred and conflict between man and man, Mahavira expounded the unity of mankind from the viewpoint of religion. According to him, what particular individual gets initiated into what particular sect is not very significant. What is of real importance is how pure, simple and free from passions a man is. One initiated in Jainism may yet be not free; one initiated in another religion may yet be free. Thus Mahavira presented before the public a view of religion which transcends sectarianism and all kinds of discrimination.

Religion is nothing but the inner purity of the soul. Therefore it is not a matter of belonging to any particular race, class or sect. However, the outer form of religion is manifested in the sect and it is thus related to race and class as well. Mahavira kept the doors of his religious Order open to all races and classes. He never imagined that his religious Order, identifying itsellf with a particular community or class, would shut its doors upon other people. But in the course of time, a series of events turned Mahavira's religious Order from being a crusader for human unity into a supporter of division and discord. We can present Mahavira's doctrine of human unity before the world, but not the present day religious order as a supporter of that unity. Non-possessiveness is the great principle of human unity. This can be presented as such before the world. But we cannot present the Jain community as an exemplar of that unity.

Anekanta is a great doctrine of human unity. It can be presented as offering a solution to the problems of the world. But the present-day Jain order cannot be presented as a great practise of the principle of relativity and synthesis.

Looking at the contradiction between theory and practice, the question arises as to whether these doctrines are merely attractive intellectual exercises or they are practical. If these are not practical, why are they not being practised by the Jain community? Certain events in the course of time influenced the Jain dispensation that it no longer remained the experimental ground of Mahavira's original doctrines. Today, we need a Jain order which would be representative of these great doctrines and a fit successor to Mahavira's religious order. It is open to any individual or group living today to attain this qualification.

  • Abstract Thinking
    by Acharya Mahaprajna, © 1988
  • Edited by  Muni Dulheraj
  • Translated by Muni Mahendra Kumar
  • Published by Jain Vishva Barati
  • Edition 1999 compiled by Samani Stith Pragya

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anekanta
  2. Brahmin
  3. Cooperation
  4. Jainism
  5. Mahavira
  6. Non-violence
  7. Soul
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