THE PATH OF ARHAT
Life's Riddles and their Solution
What is the riddle of this Universe ? What is the role which a human being, the most developed and the most intelligent manifestation of the universe is expected to play in the world. Whence has it all proceeded and whither is it tending ? What is my role, my duty, my goal in this vast bewildering and breath-taking drama, going on around me ? Or, is it all has no purpose, no aim and no scheme. Or, is this all created, guided and controlled by some super power, beyond human comprehension ? If that is so, what is the nature of this power ? Where to find it ? Does that power work with a design ? If so, what is it ? Who created that power and why ? Can we comprehend that power ? If so, how ? If not, why ? Can we ask that power the explanation, if any, of various apparent incongruities, inequities and imbalances, noticed by us in our limited understanding of the scheme of nature, as it unfolds in our daily routine ?
I am born an innocent child, fresh from the womb of my mother. I entered the world of darkness in the womb of an unknown lady, apparently without any assurance of my safety and nourishment. Why I selected a mother who was capable of taking my tender care with ability to sustain my growth, and why such selection was not made by many other less fortunate souls whose mothers were not able to get nourishment even for themselves ? Or, was there no selection at all ? Was it all a mere accident ?
I grew up healthy, strong and of a fully balanced disposition. However, my brother, brought up in the same atmosphere and circumstances displayed totally contradictory qualities of head, heart and happiness why ? Could it be without reason ? If there is a reason, what is it ?
I entered the world, married, reared up children, encountered and fought many a life's battle, suffered pain, misery and sickness, overcame many hurdles, experienced success and failures, adopted various means to push through the dark, murky, misty and materialistic atmosphere of this worldly existence. But then suddenly a time is bound to come when I will have to say good-bye to it all - and all of it will be obliterated in the hands of time. All in vain. All without purpose, If so, why ? These and other questions of this type have always troubled the mind of the man.
To understand the secret which may answer these questions, to know how the whole mechanism of the Universe works, to apprehend the cosmic spell, and to break through the outward layers of the tangible and visible forces of cosmos, a pursuit of intelligent, intangible and emotional stratification of psyche is needed. That is the final goal of human life and that is the pursuit of an Indian philosophical school called Jainism.
It is necessary to study these questions as well as answers provided to them in the context of some basic principles, ontological concepts and metaphysical deductions of Jaina philosophy, purely analytical in character and logical in its approach, though not properly understood in the West.
Most of the basic principles, on which the whole edifice of Jaina Philosophy is constructed, are now corroborated by modern science and psychological analysis. Here is an attempt to find how this is true. Modern science has revealed that every substance is made of atoms and every atom, when split and analyzed, reveals the energetic interplay of electrons, protons and neutrons in its nucleus. It is this energy which can supply motion and can work wonders.
Jainism recognizes this fact while analyzing the Universe and maintains that the whole Universe can be broadly divided into two categories, viz., Jiva and Ajiva, meaning motivating consciousness and unconscious matter thus pervading everything noticed in this Universe. On the basis of this finding, about two thousand five hundred years ago, not with the help of any laboratory testings but by sheer analytical logic, the Jaina seers saw the life force not only in plants and vegetables but also in so called inanimate matter such as earth, water and air.
They went even further in their analysis and sub-categorized the above two categories, examined their characteristics and the role which they play in shaping different life currents and tried to answer almost every question posed above in a manner, not only rational but logical also.
They concluded that Jiva (spirit) and Ajiva (matter) are eternal, un-created, unending and perpetual. There is a constant interplay between the two, resulting in bewildering cosmic manifestations in material, psychic and emotional spheres around us. This led them to the theories of transmigration and rebirth. Changes, but not the total annihilation of the spirit and the matter, is the basic postulate of Jaina philosophy, and it is the same thing which science teaches us when it says that matter is indestructible.
Theory of Karma' came as a natural deduction from the theory of causation, just as science recognizes the fact that every effect is the result of some cause.
Thus the Jainism considers the whole universe as a great cosmic mechanism with its own self-propelling force, un-created and uncontrolled by any super-imposed outside force. Its unitary character can be properly identified only by recognizing and giving proper place to each of its parts. This leads a logical mind to the theory of total Non-violence - Ahimsa. For if you believe the universe to be a unitary whole, a self-propelling mechanism, wherein every part of that smallest to the biggest, has to play its role, you cannot do anything to destroy even a nut or bolt of that machine, without damaging it, as well as your own self. To know this mechanism, to understand and to explain its working is the task of a philosopher, but to live according to its rules, to play one's own role as a part of that mechanism so that the machine can work properly, is the task of a religious person. This is the philosophy and this is the religion. This philosophy and this religion cannot be carried out successfully without accepting the doctrine of total non-violence, i.e., non-violence in thought, speech and action. A weak person cannot practice such non-violence for the simple reason that the concept of total non-violence is not a negative one. It is not just doing nothing. True non-violence is not the product of merely an intellectual understanding. It is rather, a product of head and heart both. One cannot be non-violent unless one understands the real nature of irritating causes. But to understand the real nature of causes and events, surrounding us, two things are very necessarily required, namely, (1) love and (2) capacity to appreciate the totality of comprehensive aspects of these causes and events. As a matter of fact, both these requirements are inter-dependent, because without the love, capacity to have total comprehension is not developed and without the capacity to have total comprehension, the elements of love is not developed.
This has led the Jaina thinkers to put emphasis on the development of a broader outlook and open mindedness to understand the things as they are. Cultivation of mind was found to be the key to the Halls of Heaven. But they realized that mind cannot be cultivated and disciplined by force. The basic treatment of human mind should be through reason and logic, because the existence of reason and logic is the only feature which distinguishes human beings from the rest of the animal world.
To develop this reason and logic, the Jaina thinkers provided the theory of Syadvada, the theory of relativity, the greatest contribution made by Jainism in the thinking process of mankind but unfortunately, little known to the occidentals. This theory propounds that every judgment is relatively true, because its truth value depends in relation to other objects known and unknown, circumstances, mode of expression and reception and many other facts. After a period of the two thousand five hundred years, this theory has been recognized and proved by another great man -- Einstein along with other propounders of Quantum theory, on the plane of Physics.
How to comprehend the Reality ? Can any outside agency be of help to you ? No, says the Jaina tradition; your salvation is in your own hands. You are your own master, the shaper of your own destiny. If your pleasures and pains are the result of your own action -- Karma -- the way of salvation is also in your own hands because what you have made can be unmade only by you. This is a serious departure from the fatalistic approach of Ajivika philosophers of 6th century B.C. led by Gosala, who was once a disciple of Mahävira.
Theory of Karma teachers us how to attain freedom from the real bondage of all likes, dislikes and desires. It teaches us not to meekly surrender to human weaknesses, described as our real enemies. It says to a person, just as your savior is not outside you, your enemies are also not outside you. You have to seek them within. Once you do this, once you identify them within you, it is not very difficult to kill them. Jaina teachers have suggested a method by which they can be killed and annihilated. One who has succeeded in such annihilation is called Arihanta. Ari' in Samskrta means enemy and the root han' means to kill'. The expression Arihanta means one who has totally annihilated his internal enemies. Such an Arihanta is free from bondage and become Siddha, one who has achieved final salvation final salvation -- the real freedom. Many in this universe have achieved these positions of Arihantas and Siddhas and many will achieve the same in future. Since they have achieved that really ought to be achieved, they are entitled to our respect and homage. We, therefore, bow to them. There are learned sages, the path-seekers who show us the path. They are called Acaryas; we bow to them. There are those who preach and interpret these gospels of Truth. They are called Upadhyayas; we bow down to them. There are those who still are seriously striving to achieve the above goal. They are called sädhus (saints) we bow down to them also. Thus the Jainas bow down to all those who have attained, to those who are on the path of attainment and to those who are path-seekers. They bow down to them irrespective of their religious labels, because whatever be their outer label, if they have achieved of are on the path to achieve total salvation, they are entitled to our respect and homage. We pay homage to them not because we want any favor to be bestowed but because they are the source of inspiration to us for our own action.