WHAT IS THE JAIN APPROACH TO LIFE
ORIGINS AND EVOLUTION?
Jain masters hold that in each living
being there is a partnership between the energy of matter which
has no consciousness and that of soul, which is conscious.
Without the latter, the former would be inanimate. Because of the
dynamic impact of soul force in body, it grows and evolves. Both
energies attam (atom) and atma (soul) are considered to be the
permanent constituents of the universe, without beginning or end
in the sense that matter continually changes, regroups its
molecules, and decomposes but never disappears, and soul keeps on
evolving until it reveals its true identity and becomes fully
liberated from the gravitational pull of matter and mind. The
idea of creation is not a question here. Matter is, was and will
be, dwelling in a body until its ultimate release.
* * *
When Jains speak of evolution, it is
primarily of consciousness, an unfolding of the divine potential
through loving-kindness and awareness. It is experienced as am
ascension to merge with those who have already reached the
pinnacle and whole fragrance of universality perfumes the entire
Our physical evolution follows
according to this inner refinement. Just as milk and water
becomes indistinguishable in a mixed form, so soul and matter seem
to be inseparable while they are participating mutually in a
continuous process. When we become aware that we have been
journeying from beginning less time from one form of life to
another, from one lifetime to another, our life’s purpose becomes
clearer. Also, our compassion for less developed life forms is
increased. We realize that we too, had to pass through those
stages. Once we were among them; one day they will be among us.
When we discover that as humans, we
are now at the highest rung of the evolutionary ladder, a new
gratitude overwhelms us. We are no longer helpless. We can take
charge of our lives and take the last step of evolution
consciously. For that, we work toward freeing ourselves from
remnants of previous instinctive stages—ignorance, anger, greed,
fear, competitiveness. We stop generating pain and start
regarding each other with reverence and respect.
Prosperity-consciousness replaces and respect.
Prosperity-consciousness replaces emotional aridity, and an
appreciation of the universe’s bountry erases the feeling of
poverty and lack.