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THE PATH OF ARHAT

Justice T.U.Mehta

Upadana-Nimitta
(Material and Efficient Cause)

The next requirement is the understanding that every phenomenon in life is governed by the doctrine of cause and effect and nothing which happens in this universe is accidental or miraculous. Once this understanding is ingrained, our attention would naturally be focussed on finding out the cause. Care should be taken to see that we go to the root cause instead of an immediate cause, which superficially strikes us, is mostly the effect of some other cause. For instance if some one has disturbed us by inflicting an insult, we at once conclude that the cause of our disturbance was that someone else. But if we think deeper and go to the root of the real cause of our disturbance, we will find that we are hypersensitive or that we were some how responsible for inciting the other one to insult us to that the other one who insulted us did not mean to insult us.

The Jaina philosophers have emphasized that whatever is the immediate cause, disturbing our soul, is foreign to us and merely provides an occasion or a situation. In Jaina philosophy it is a ‘Nimitta', a pretext, with the help of which the ‘self', which is the real cause, ‘Upadana' moves, and experiences the results. If the ‘self' tries to remain unmoved, i.e., tries to remain unaffected by the situation, the object which is foreign to it and which is a ‘Nimit' cannot produce any result.

To illustrate how our life actions in our spiritual journey take final shape, our attention is drawn to the process by which a potter gives a final shape to an earthen pot. In an earthen pot, the limp of clay is ‘Upadana', the potter is the doer (Karta) and the instruments are ‘Nimitta'. The lump of clay has to pass through different shapes before it assumes the final shape of a pot. Applying this analogy to the shaping of spiritual life, our ‘self' or ‘Atman' is both the Karta and Upadana because it combines in itself the qualities of a motivating force and the substratum which undergoes changes and the external objects are ‘Nimittas'. If the ‘Self', while coming into contact with worldly objects, allows itself to be influenced by them, it assumes the character of these objects and shape itself accordingly. If it allows itself to be influenced by anger, it looks angry; if by greed, it looks greedy; if by pride, it looks proud. But if it allows itself to be influenced by the thoughts and writings of spiritual leaders, it looks spiritualised, noble and benedictory. Thus the upward progress of the soul depends much upon the quality of the ‘Nimitta' which is permitted to influence it. Just as a lump of clay takes different shapes before attaining the final shape of a pot, the self also takes different shapes before attaining the ultimate stage of ‘Nirvana'. It is a common place truth that one is always influenced by the company he keeps. "Ilika bhramarijata dhyayanti bhramari yatha", means ‘just as a new born insect becomes a bee by contemplating on the bee itself'. That is why all the saints of different schools in India have put special emphasis on Satsanga, i.e., the company of saintly persons; studying and contemplating on the path shown by the great seers, constantly repeating the names and attributes of the great souls who have moved on earth, contemplating the virtues which have made them great, discussing and analysing the great doctrines handed over to us by them through selfless love for humanity. These are the surest ways to be influenced by good and beneficial ‘Nimittas'. Thus we should prefer the ‘Nimittas' which permanently remind us of the divine power of our spirit, which fill our daily life routine with the idea of total liberation and which make us repentant of all our moral lapses. It follows that we should avoid those ‘Nimittas' which becomes responsible for contrary effect. This process obviously requires a lively awareness from moment to moment. Any lapse in such an awareness is known in Jaina technicality as ‘Pramada', the literary meaning of which is negligence.