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The Mirror Of The Self: [04] Reactionary Mentality

Published: 20.01.2009
Updated: 20.01.2009

Reactionary Mentality

There are three words - action, response, and reaction. Wherever there is action, there is bound to be reaction. There is action, there is response and there is reaction. Not only man, but every living creature reacts. Reaction may be deliberate or natural, but it is there in every man.

New Dispensation And Reaction

According to the old dispensation in the Terapantha Religious Order, priority was given to the monks over the nuns in the distribution of food collected through alms. The monks took first whatever they wanted, and the remaining food was distributed among the nuns.   The provision continued for a long time. Jayacharya changed this dispensation regarding the sharing of food. He said, "Food items received as alms will be equally shared by all, without anyone enjoying priority over another."   This elicited two reactions. Some monks welcomed the new provision. They said it was good that food would, thenceforth, be equally shared. Some other monks thought, "We have been divested of our right; it's not good!"

The Culture Of Equal Distribution

A ruling has to be honoured, whether it is agreeable or not. The monks expressed their reservations. "Why this new provision? Why change an established tradition? What was wrong with it?" Countering these reactions, Jayacharya wrote a small book, entitled "Tahuka". When the monks sat down to a meal, "Tahuka" was recited. Just as a morsel of food was pushed down the throat, the culture of equal sharing too was made to permeate the entire organism.

Jayacharya wrote: "A true monk is he who takes joy and satisfaction in sharing with his fellow-monks. He who does not relish being with his group, reacts unnecessarily with increasing tension".

Human Nature

Reaction has become man's second nature. Whether one is a householder or a monk, unless one becomes a veetarag or enters the kshapak stage, it seems impossible to be totally free from reaction. To one action there are many reactions. By creating a new provision for equal distribution, Jayacharya performed a kind of action. This action, however, elicited different reactions. There is first action, then reaction, followed by further reaction, ad infinitum.

What Does Reaction Connote?

Every man wants to live in freedom. No one likes to be dependent upon another. The question arises as to who can be real independent. Only that man who has started living a life of freedom from reaction, can be truly independent. He, who lives a life of reaction, can never be free. Take the case of a man taking his meals. Someone says to him, "Is that the way to eat? You are not eating properly. Look at the bits of food you have scattered around!" On hearing this, the other person is filled with anger. This is reaction. There was no need for him to flare up. Why was the man afflicted with anger? Why did he grow excited? Let us understand it thus. A man takes a drug and suffers from reaction. Such events are not uncommon. A man takes a pill and dies. People ask, "How did it happen? He was full of vitality - a young man of twenty-five! And he expired all of a sudden!" They are told, "It was a case of ordinary fever. The doctor gave an injection. Thus caused a reaction and he died." Reaction is a very dangerous thing. Someone talks flatteringly and one is pulled up with pride. Someone says something bitter and unpleasant and one is filled with anger.

To react means to become a puppet. To be a puppet means to become a toy in the hands of another. That is what reaction means. One dances to another's tune. Such living is not good. Only he is free who lives his own life, without becoming a machine, a toy or a puppet in the hands of another. This is possible only when we practise freedom from reaction. That - freedom from reaction is an important principle of the philosophy of life.

An Equation

There are two maxims of initiation into preksha medita­tion - freedom from reaction, and friendliness. Both are linked with each other. If one reacts to an action out of provocation and excitement, it is bound to end in enmity. If, on the other hand, one responds to an action peaceably, it is bound to consummate in friendliness.

Psychology looks upon reaction as an adjustment between outer and inner personality. There is the outward life; also an inner life. Because of provocations, there is a flaring up within. One man is able to adjust himself intelligently; the other cannot. Where strong passions predominate, such as anger, pride, hypocrisy, etc., it leads to a chain of reaction. Where passions lie low, some kind of reaction takes place but no chain is formed. Reaction there changes into non-reaction.
Let us consider these equations:






Absence of






Reaction or response occupies the middle position. A reac­tion caused by strong passions will lead to enmity. But a response, where passions are still, conduces to friendliness.

Reaction: Assessment Of Personality

A man took some medicine. He was asked if the medicine had proved effective. He said that it had had no effect. If a drug is administered and it is totally ineffective, it must be considered to be utterly useless. After all, a drug should show some result. A man called another names. The other person kept quiet even after hearing himself abused. Someone asked the traducer if his abuse had had any effect. He said, "None, whatsoever!" If you hurl abuse at another and it elicits no response, it means that your slandering has been utterly useless. Your insult should have had some effect! Some kind of response is bound to be there. It is on the basis of one's reaction or response that one's personality is adjudged.

Response Is Linked With Conduct

Our reaction or response becomes apparent through our conduct. The doctrine of reaction explains our conduct. Every individual in every situation exhibits his reaction and thus reveals his inner feelings. One may express one's response through speech, through one's features or through gestures. But one cannot help reacting. No one is free from reaction.

The question arises if reaction or response is necessary and inevitable, why need we talk about freedom from reaction at all?

This is the point we must grasp. Reaction is inevitable. A cold wind blows and there is a reaction. The extreme heat of the sun elicits an immediate response. All provocations cannot but lead to some reaction. The inward state and the outer provocation  - the moment they meet, some sort of reaction would burst forth.

The Inward Cause, Provocation And Its Consummation

We must now consider the inward cause of reaction, provocation for reaction and its consummation. Where does reaction originate? What is its inward cause? What is the immediate provocation? And what is going to be its consummation? About this, we must be very vigilant and alert. If our psyche is disturbed by passions, if the current of strong emotions is continually flowing from within, our reaction would be endless; it would go on and on. It was keeping this fact in view that Upadhhyaya Vinayvijayji wrote - "Someone does ill to you and your mind reacts. Allow this reaction no extension. Do not let it continue any further. Do some introspection. You might even justify your reaction by saying that the other person has hurt you and that he stands in the way of your progress. But there is another side to it as well. The man you take for your enemy is not your enemy at all. Life is very short. Why make yourself unhappy by harbouring ill-will against anybody?"

Freedom From Reaction: An Important Consideration

Outer provocation and virulent passions within - a reaction born of this union is bound to create animosity. There is a whole section of Bhagwati Sutra, devoted to achieving freedom from reaction. In forestalling reaction, that section can perhaps play an important role such as that of turning poison into nectar, or making sweet the brackish water of the sea.

Gautam put this query before Lord Mahavir, "O Illustrious One! Does a soul take birth as mother, father, brother, near-relatives, etc.?"
Mahavir said, "Yes, Gautam!"
Gautam said, "O Lord! Has a soul born many times or endlessly?"
Mahavir said, "A soul has born many times, also infinite times."

The World Constitutes A Family

It means that the whole world constitutes a family. Every thing or person in this world is linked with every other person or thing. I have a piece of cloth in my hand. So this piece of cloth is connected with my hand. Is this also linked with the hands of other people? From the Anekantic viewpoint, this piece of cloth is allied with all material objects in the world. There is not a single atom or soul which is not connected with it. That is the principle of Anekant, It has been said - An infinite number of souls hover around this piece of cloth. Subtle living creatures possessed of five bodies fill the entire universe. This piece of cloth is linked with them all. There are living beings inside this cloth; also outside it. There abide living beings to the right and to the left. These abide on all sides and this piece of cloth is linked with them all.

Let us consider it from the viewpoint of atoms. Take one fibre of this piece of cloth. It is linked with the entire world of atoms. There is not a region in the entire universe devoid of atoms or the aggregated compounds of atoms. All the atoms and the aggregated compounds of atoms are linked with this piece of cloth.

Let us grasp this truth well - we are alone; also we are not alone. If one comprehends the philosophy of Anekant, and comes to have an insight into the relationship between one life and another since the beginning of time, one will certainly make progress in the direction of freedom from reaction.


3rd Edition 1995

Jain Vishva Bharati Institute
Ladnun -341 306 (Rajasthan)

Muni Dhananjay Kumar (Hindi)
Muni Mahendra Kumar (English)

Translated by:
Late Prof. R.K. Seth

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anekant
  2. Anekantic
  3. Anger
  4. Bhagwati Sutra
  5. Jayacharya
  6. Mahavir
  7. Preksha
  8. Pride
  9. Soul
  10. Sutra
  11. Terapantha
  12. Veetarag
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