Life is dear to all, even though it may contain misery
as well as happiness. Man's desire for an explanation of the existence of
misery, for its relief to extinction, and for a consequent increase of
happiness, is the ground of religion. The work of relieving misery,
explaining its existence, and of increasing the happiness of life, is the
function of religion.
The means that religions generally enjoy for the relief
of misery and the increase of happiness are to live and let live, be
truthful, honest, chaste, content, respectful to parents, reverent to the
spiritual teachers and obeisant to the Deity. But to follow these
injunctions is not the line of least resistance, and requires some
positive belief as to the necessity for such a course of conduct.
The religions of the world differ very widely in their
beliefs, faiths, and theories regarding good and evil, happiness and
misery, and account with different degrees of satisfaction for the
existence of the evil and the misery. An alternative to the doctrine of a
kind and almighty Creator governing the universe, is the theory of
soulless materialistic atheism which affirms that life and consciousness
are the outcome of the massing and activity of material atoms, to be
dissipated at death; but for those who find neither of these theories
satisfactory there is the theory roughly outlined in this book - a theory
which neither denies the existence of the soul, nor starts with the
presupposition of a Creator; but makes each individual the master of his
own destiny, holds out immortality for every living being, and insists
upon very highest rectitude of life up to final perfection, as a necessary
means to permanent happiness now and hereafter.
The belief into which we happen to be born is the one
which is generally adopted until, through questioning, criticism, and
reconstruction it is replaced by the development of a better
understanding. At the first disturbance of one's unquestioned beliefs
there arises the inquiry : Whom are we to believe? Of all the possible
living beings, visible or invisible, whose word can we trust to be the
truth ? If we answer : 'God's word' , it raises the question : What are
the characteristics possessed by the Deity by which we know or believe
that his word is the truth ? If we do not know these characteristics we
may believe the words of an arbitrary and tyrannical law-giver. The only
possible source of teaching, whether spoken, written, or inspired, is
knowledge. And whoever the authority may be, if he has not true knowledge
he cannot give true teaching. It is the opinion of Jainism that only that
knowledge is true which is purged of the infatuating elements of anger,
hatred, or other passions; that only he who is all-knowing is able to map
out the path of rectitude which shall lead to final beatitude in life
everlasting; and that omniscience is impossible in any in whom the
infatuating elements are found to exist.
It is claimed of the Jain spiritual leaders that they
were omniscient, and free from every weakness and passion. The Jain
scriptures are claimed to be the historical record of the lives and
teachings of those omniscient, spiritual leaders; and it is from these
scriptures that the Jain doctrines are taken. The Jain spiritual leaders
lived in the flesh of earth as men. Thus we have the source from which the
following views are taken.
Apart from any question as to whence the doctrines have
come, however, they stand on their own merits and are in themselves
comforting and satisfactory. They protect the soul from evil, they fulfill
the requirements of the heart, will bear the severest scrutiny of the
intellect, and they give freedom to the individual - there are no commands
to obey. Religion is the act of bringing one's own life up to an accepted
standard of excellence morally and spiritually, and these doctrines offer
such a standard; they are a serious concern to man in his relations with
his fellow beings, an in relation to his own future state of life in
eternity; and they show him how to relieve others and himself of misery,
and how to increase happiness in himself and in others. Thus the doctrines
are not only a philosophy but emphatically a religion. And first and
foremost they are the religion of the heart, their motto and golden rule
is non-injury (ahimsa); and the whole structure is built upon love
(daya) and "religion is the only thing that can afford true
consolation and peace of mind in the season of affliction and the hour of
death" . The truth of a religion is still true whether there are any who
follow it or not.
The subject of this book is the solution afforded by
Jainism to the problem of life; and, to make a general statement of the
subject, we may say : we and all other beings living on this earth are
from one point of view un-created, self-existent, immortal, individuals
souls, alive with feeling and consciousness, and never to loose our own
identity (jiva). We are each of us responsible to ourselves for our
own condition. In whatever degree we are ignorant, in pain, unhappy,
unkind cruel, or weak it is because since birth and ever previously in the
infinite past, we are and have been acquiring and incorporating into
ourselves (asrava, bndha) by the attraction and assimilation of
subtle, unseen though real physical matter (pudgal), - energies (karma)
which clog the natural wisdom, knowledge, blissful, love, compassion, and
strength of the soul, and which excite us to unnatural action.
Until we leave off (samvara, nirjara) this
unnatural kind of life, by refusing to obey impulses and prompting which
by our own conscience and understanding we believe to be wrong and which
are only the blind operation of those unnatural though sometimes powerful
energies in us (karma), the peace of mind which is said to be
inseparable from a life of rectitude, and the final pure natural state of
existence in everlasting blissfulness (moksa) must remain nothing
more than matters of faith and hearsay.
This is the teaching of the Jain Arhats,
according to the present understanding of the writer; and in any case it
is rational theory of good, evil, and immortality.
The idea that we have fallen from a state of purity is
not held; for it is possible to fall from a final state of purity, there
is no guarantee that the mental and moral discipline, austerity, and
rectitude of life will result in everlasting happiness; and, further, in a
pure state there are no impurities, and nothing else would move us to fall
into a state where we hurt and injure others.
This, then, is the presentation of the subject in a
vague general statement. We may now pass on to the analysis of the subject
into parts. The subject falls naturally into four parts, namely :
Man as he actually is.
Man as he may become.
Means to that end.
each of which is considered in some detail in the