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.

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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 cosmos everlastingly.

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.

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