Jain World
Sub-Categories of Passions
  THE NATURE OF KARMA (Karma ka swroop)
  Vairagya Bhavana




     So far as inter dining is concerned, it does not seem to have ever been prohibited among the followers of one and the same religion, but it is essentially a question of conventional usage upon which depend the preservation, welfare and prosperity of society. There are certain considerations which necessarily debar one from being admitted into the higher circles of a community even in Christian and Muslim countries, where the intercourse of men is the least restricted, and there is nothing surprising in the fact that the Hindus and Jainas should not care to sit down at the same table with washer men, sweepers, and others of similar description whose professions and habits of life hardly render them suitable companions at a feast. The penalty for an infringement of these rules, it may be pointed out, is not the loss of religion, but only excommunication, which implies nothing more than exclusion from social circles in respect of inter- dining, and, consequently, also, inter- marriage, for a shorter or longer period according to the nature of transgression.


     The basis of caste exclusiveness, then, is not wealth or worldly status, as it undoubtedly is in European society, but spiritual purity pure and simple, though people sometimes unreasonably extend its operation to cases not actually falling within its scope. Some excuse for the wider application of the caste rule among the Hindus is to be found in the fact that their religion has become the fold of so many different and divergent forms of belief that it is practically impossible to bring the followers of all of them on a common platform. So far, however, as Jainism is concerned, it is perfectly free from the rules of caste, those professing it forming only one community, notwithstanding the fact that several schisms have given rise to different sects and sub-sects among its followers. In this respect it resembles modern Christianity which includes Roman Catholics, Protestants and others who hold many more points of faith in common than otherwise. There can obviously be no question of losing caste, or religion, by intermarriage among the different sects of one and the same community, though it is not countenanced on the ground of its not being conducive to the peace of the family, as already shown.


     We now come to a consideration of the principle of Ahimsa which is described as the highest form of Dharma (religion), and which must be observed if release from samsara be the ideal in view. Unfortunately this is one of those doctrines which has been grossly misunderstood by men-- by some on account of an inadequate acquaintance with the basic, truths of religion, and by others because of a fanciful notion that its observance interferes with the enjoyment of pleasures of taste and the realization of dreams of world-power. We shall consider both these objections one by one before explaining the actual practical application of this doctrine.


     Firstly, as regards the pleasures of taste, it will be seen that taste is merely an acquired thing, and that it is not in the food, which tastes differently at different times and under different circumstances, but in the attitude of the soul towards it. This is evident from the fact that many of the things which one finds nauseating and disgusting at first become palatable after a time, with the perversion and defilement of the natural instincts of the soul.

     This leads us to the conclusion that one can train his instincts in whichever direction one likes in respect of food. The testimony of vegetarians, especially of those who have given up animal-food by choice, is available to show that their meals are not any the less tasteful because not containing meat.


     But the question for a rational mind is not whether the animal food is more tasty than a vegetarian diet, but whether it is wise to eat it? A proper regard for one's future welfare requires that one should control one's senses in all respects where they are in conflict with one's good. Uncontrolled sense-indulgence has been described by the wise as a sign of lurking 'cattle-dom'; and it would be certainly foolish to allow the tongue to eat up one's chances of salvation, or to mar the future prospects of the soul.


     The object of life, it has been pointed out by every thinking man, is not living to eat, but eating to live. The Persian poet has it:


(Tr. 'Eating is to sustain life and meditation;

 Thou holdest it to be the (sole) object living!'


The second considerations apply to political ambition for what shall a man profit if he gain of the goods of the world but lose his own soul? Accordingly the poet asks the shade of the Great Warrior who had filled the world with deeds of his renown:-


     [Tr. How long didst thou live?--

       To what purpose killedsxt thou Dara (Darius?]


     When the redoubtable Mahmud of Ghazni was on his death- bed, it is said that he had all the plundered wealth of India brought before him to pass it in review for the last time. It was a touching sight to see this old warrior who had carried pillage and sword no less than eleven times to India, lying with the stamp of despair on his ghastly face. There he lay surrounded by his warrior hosts, his weapons still lying within reach and his riches in front, but conscious of the fast-approaching Foe, and of his utter helplessness against it-- a true picture of the final scene in the drama of world- power and its inevitable end! Can we doubt after this that Ahimsa is the highest religion, the Dharma which sustains and supports? Life is dear to all, and it is the recognition of the right to the joy of living in others that ensures our own joy. Sadi says:


     [Tr. 'Do not injure the ant which is a carrier of grain;

           For it has life, and life is dear to all;]


     It is wrong to imagine that we can prosper in defiance of Dharma, or that Ahimsa is the cause of political downfall. Were the Hindus vanquished by Mohammedan because they observed Ahimsa? --or because their mutual feuds and jealousies prevented them from presenting a combined front to the invaders? Ahimsa does not forbid a king from fighting in defense of his kingdom; nor were the armies and kings that offered battle to the Musalman horde pure vegetarians. The fact is that Dharma is the true source of strength, even when practiced in a 'second-hand' manner; but it must be lived to be productive of good. Where it is not put into practice, it is bound to disappear, whether the books containing its teaching continue to exist or disappear in the bellies of moths. Those who practice Ahimsa become contented, thoughtful, self-centered and brave; and are respected by others with whom they may come in contact; for, as already observed, Dharma raises the rhythm of the soul, and Ahimsa is the highest Dharma.


     Here again we conclude that those who put the accent on the spiritual side of life-- and it is the true side-- cannot but recognize Ahimsa to be the highest Dharma and the joy and glory of living.


     In actual practice the operation of Ahimsa Parmao Dharma-- Ahimsa is the highest Dharma-- necessary varies with the circumstances of each individual soul, in as much as most of the Jivas are so circumstanced that it is impossible for them to avoid all forms of Hinsa at once. Jainism does not lose sight of this fact, but takes it fully into account in the formulation of the rules of conduct, which it lays down for the guidance of its followers. The layman, when he enters the path which leads to Perfection and Bliss, begins by avoiding the doing of unnecessary harm; he then applies himself to the restricting of his desires and wants, and, finally, when the powers of his soul are developed by the giving up of all kinds of desires, and he becomes qualified for the attainment of Nirvana, the practicing of absolute Ahimsa becomes easy and natural to him. There is no absurdity in this, for the development of the soul, under the influence of Tapa, brings into manifestation its latent occult and psychic forces which enable it to defy all sorts of adverse influences, such as hunger, thirst, sickness, old age and death, that lead on to the commission of all conceivable kinds of injury to others. The layman should try to refrain from all those pursuits and occupations, such as cutting down forests, working as a blacksmith and the like which involve a wholesale destruction of life, though he may not be able to avoid all forms of Hinsa at once. He need entertain no fear of the business of the world coming to a stand-still by his abstaining from these avocations, since there are a sufficient number of Abhavya Jivas* to carry them on and to insure the continuance of the world.

     (*Those who may never attain emancipation.)

 These are they who have not the potentiality to understand the truth. It is not that their souls are any different from those of the Bhavya (the antithesis of Abhavya), but their karmas are of such a malignant type that they can never long for the truth or grasp it when put before them. They shall never attain Nirvana, but always remain entangled in the samsara.