Jainworld
Jain World
Sub-Categories of Passions
Foreword
I. JAINA TRADITION UPTO MAHAVIRA
II. PRINCE MAHAVIRA
IV. PRECEPTS OF MAHAVIRA
V. DOCTRINES OF MAHAVIRA
  VII. SIGNIFICANCE OF MAHAVIRA

Chapter V - DOCTRINES OF MAHAVIRA

 

Dr. V.A.Sangave

4. The Doctrine of Path to Liberation :

From the basic principles of Jaina philosophy, it is evident that the inherent powers of the soul are crippled by its association with karmic matter and that is why every person is found in an imperfect state. The Jaina philosophy also asserts that real and everlasting happiness will be obtained by a person only when the Karmas are completely removed from the soul and that eventhough man is imperfect at present, it is quite possible for him to rid himself of the Karmas by his own personal efforts without any help from an outside agency. The highest happiness is to escape from the Cycle of Births and Deaths and be a liberated soul, that is, to obtain Moksha. This word is full of sorrow and trouble and it is quite necessary to achieve the aim of transcendental bliss by a sure method. When the goal has been fixed the next question arises regarding the way how to achieve that objective. To this question Jainism has a definite answer. It emphatically states that Samyag-darshana, i.e. right belief, Samyag jnana, i.e. right knowledge, and Sam yag-Charitra, i.e. right conduct, together constitute the path to liberation. Right belief, right knowledge and right conduct are called Ratnatraya, or the three jewels, in Jaina philosophy. These three are not differentpaths but form together a single path. These three must be present together to constitute the path of liberation. Since all the three are emphasised equally, and since the Mokshamarga, i.e. the path of liberation, is impossible without the comprehension of all the three, it is obvious that the Jaina philosophy is not prepared to admit any one of these three in isolation as means of salvation. That is why it is emphatically laid down that for attaining liberation all the three must be simultaneously pursued. It is contended that just as to effect a cure of a malady, faith in the efficacy of a medicine, knowledge of its use, and actual taking of it, constitute the three essential things together, so also to secure emancipation of the soul, faith in the efficacy of Jainism, its knowledge and its actual observanco, from the three quite indispensable things together. The path of liberation is at times compared to a ladder with its two side poles and the central rungs forming the steps. The side poles are right belief and right knowledge and the rungs or steps are the gradual stages of right conduct. It is possible to ascend the ladder only when all the three are sound. The absence of one makes the ascent impossible. Thus a simultaneous pursuit of right belief, right knowledge and right conduct is enjoined upon the people. The ethical doctrines of Jainism, both for the householders and the monks, are based on this path of liberation comprising (I) right belief, (TI) right knowledge and (III) right conduct.

(I) Right Belief :

Of the three jewels, right belief comes first and forms the basis upon which the other two jewels rest. It is laid down that one must, by all possible means, first attain right belief or the basic conviction on the fundamentals; because only on its acquisition, knowledge and conduct become right. Right Belief means true and firm conviction in the seven tattras, i.e. principles of Jainism as they are and without any perverse notion. The belief that the Jaina Tirthankaras are the true Gods, the Jaina Sastras, i.e. the sacred books, the true scripture, and the Jaina Saints the true Preceptors, is called Right Belief.The possession of Right Belief or faith by a person is always considered most essential in his efforts to achieve libera tion. It is specifically asserted that asceticism without faith is definitely inferior to faith without asceticism and that even a low caste man possessing right faith can be considered as divine being. In this way the right belief is given procedence over right knowledge and right conduct because it acts as a pilot guiding the soul towards Moksha i.e. liberation.

(II) Right Knowledge :

On attaining right belief it is considered desirable to strive after right knowledge. Although right belief and right knowledge are contemporaneous, there is yet a clear relation of cause and effect between them, just as there is between a lamp and its light. Right knowledge is that knowledge which reveals the nature of things neither insufficiently, nor with exaggeration, nor falsely, but exactly as it is and that too with certainty. Such knowledge must be free from doubt, perversity and vague ness. Jainism insists that right knowledge cannot be attained, unless belief of any kind in its opposite, i.e. in wrong knowledge, is banished.

(III) Right Conduct :

Right Conduct includes the rules of discipline which restrain all censurable movements of speech, body and mind, weaken and destroy all passionate activity and lead to non-attachment and purity. Right nduct presupposes the presence of right knowledge which presupposes right belief. Therefore it is enjoined upon the persons who have secured right belief and right knowledge to observe the rules of right conduct as the destruction of Karmic matter can be accomplished only through the right conduct. Right Conduct is of two kinds, viz. SakalaCharitra, i.e. perfect or unqualified conduct and Vikala-Charitra, i.e. imperfect and qualified conduct, and of these two kinds the unqualified one is observed by ascetics who have renounced worldly ties and the qualified by laymen still entangled in the world.

 

5. The :Ethical Doctrines

Along with laying down the path to liberation, Jainism has lso prescribed the definite rules of conduct to be followed bothby the householders and the ascetics. All these rules are direa ted towards the main aim of achieving freedom of the soul from the Karmic matter, i.e. attaining liberation. The rules of conduct have been so designed that all persons would be in a position to follow them. Accordingly the rules of conduct have been divided into two categories, viz.

(I) Sagara-dharma, i.e. those prescribed for laymen, and

(II) Anagara-dharma, i.e. those prescribed for ascetics.

It i s obvious that the rules for the laity are less rigid than those for the saints because the laymen have not renounced worldly activities for eking out their livelihood.

(I) Rules of Conduct for Laymen :

The householders are expected to observe twelve vratas, i.e. consisting of (A) five Anuvratas, i.e. small vows and (B) seven Shilavratas, i.e. supplementary vows. These vows formthe central part of the ethical code and by their observance laymen can maintain constant progress in their spiritual career aimed at the attainment of final liberation.

(A) Anuvratas :

The five main vratas, i.e. vows, to be observed by all are : (i) Ahimsa, i.e. abstention from violence or injury to living beings,

(ii) Satya, i.e. abstention from false speech,

(iii) Asteya. i.e. abstention from theft,

(iv) Brahmacharya, i.e. abstention from sexuality or unchas-tity, and

(v) Aparigraha, i.e. abstention from greed for worldly possessions.

If these vows are very strictly observed they are known as Mahavratas, i.e., great vows and naturally these are meant for the ascetics. Laymen, however, cannot observe the vows so strictly and therefore they are allowed to practise them so far as their conditions permit. Therefore, the same vratas, i.e. vows, when partially observed are termed as Anuvratas, i.e. small vows. For the fixing of these five vows in the mind, there are five kinds of Bhavanas i.e., attendant meditations, for each of the vows and every person is expected to think over them again and again. Further, every person must meditate that the five faults meant to be avoided in the vows are pain personified and are of dangerous and censurable character in this world. Moreover, every person must meditate upon the following four virtues which are based upon the observance of these five vows : (i) Maitri, i.e. friendship with all living beings,

(ii) Pramoda, i.e., delight at the sight of beings better qualified or more advanced than ourselves on the path of liberation,

(iii) Karunya, i.e., compassion for the afflicted, and

(iv) Madhyastha, i.e., tolerance or indifference to those who are uncivil or illbehaved.

The observance of the five anuvratas and refraining from the use of wine, flesh and honey are regarded as eight Mulagunas, i.e., the basic or primary virtues of a house-holder. For minimizing injury to living beings, complete abstinence of wine, flesh and honey is advocated and every householder must necessarily possess these eight primary or fundamental virtues.

These five vows form the basis of Jaina ethics. They give a definite outlook on life and create a particular type of mental attitude. The very essence of Jaina philosophy is transformed into action in the shape of observance of these five vows. Though the vows on their face appear to be mere abstentions from injury, falsehood, theft, sexuality and greed for worldly attachments, their implications are really extensive and they permeate the entire social life of the followers of Jainism.