DHARMA IN PRACTICE
The reader who has followed us thus far could not have failed to notice the correspondence between the injunctions of the Scripture and the divine attributes of pure spirit, which come into manifestation by their observance. The fact is that Dharma is the nature of the soul itself, so that its ten features-- forgiving, and the like, described on page 52 ante --only represent the natural and divine attributes, for traits of 'character', i.e., 'disposition,' of a pure, perfect soul.
This natural purity (Dharma) increases by practice, imparting fresh vigor and strength to the soul at every forward step. It is for this reason that Dharma is competent to support and sustain a soul in the moment of temptation and trial, and possesses sufficient energy to carry it to 'the other shore' --the 'land' of Perfection and Bliss. It has, however, to be adopted before its assistance can be availed of in the fullest degree, though the practicing of any of its injunctions --even in a second-hand* manner --is bound to bear appropriate fruit.
(*The natural correspondence between Dharma and the divine attributes of the soul is possible only where religion is placed on a scientific basis, and is not to be found in those cases where faith is tinged with superstition or error, except in so far as they embody the borrowed precepts of a scientific creed. Those who practice such borrowed injunctions are said to follow them in a second-hand manner.)
For this reason, it is possible for a soul on the Mithyatva Gunasthan to attain to human form, or even to a re-birth in one of the heavens, by performing virtuous deeds and Tapa respectively, though its ignorance of the nature of Dharma is even then sure to drag it into less agreeable and unpleasant surroundings. Moksha is, however, altogether out of the question for those who do not follow the true path, and the possibility of acquiring a human, or Deva, birth is also dependent on a rigid adherence to the rules of virtuous living and Tapa which are more liable to be disregarded by one involved in ignorance and falsehood than by him who knows the nature of Tattvas. It is to be born in mind that the nature of Hinsa and vice, the respective causes of life in hell and the Tiryanch kingdom, has to be properly understood before one can ever hope to avoid them altogether, so that in a general way it is true to say that only the follower of the right path can enjoy complete immunity from the liability to descend into hells or to be re-born in the animal or still lower kingdom.
If the reader has followed us thus far, he would have no further difficulty in agreeing with us as to the supreme necessity for the adoption of the true faith at as early a period in life as possible, for where the enemy to be overpowered is the formidable energy of karma which acquires additional strength with every false step, evil thought, and harmful, careless, action, where the forces of existence might come to an end in the most tragic and least expected manner, and where there is no security, or certainty, of life even in the very next moment, the least delay in turning to the true path is liable to have the most calamitous consequences for the soul. It should never be allowed to escape the mind that all evil traits of character, arising from the activity of speech, mind or body, have to be eradicated before the attainment of final emancipation can be brought within the pale of practicability, and that every action repeated a number of times becomes habitual and makes it all the more difficult activity. With the advance of age, habits become more firmly rooted and the tenacity with which old people stick to the notions imbedded in the earlier period old life is well known. Finally, when the powers of the body and mind have become too enfeebled by age to bear the severe strain of training required for the understanding and practicing of religion, blankness of despair alone remains staring one in the face. Add to this the fact that the human birth is very difficult to obtain, so that he who wastes his opportunity now may have, for ages to come, to wander in the lower grades of life where the soul is generally too much overburdened with karmic impurities to acquire the truth or to be benefited thereby. He who delays in respect of the ascertainment and adoption of truth, therefore, is the greatest enemy of himself.
It is also essential that our children should be imparted the truth and trained, in their very infancy, to a life of severe rigidity required by religion, for childhood is the age of impressionability, and the mind of infancy is like a green twig which may be bent as desired. The method which the ancients found most useful for the training of their children, aimed at (1) impressing the mind with the greater importance of obtaining spiritual emancipation over secular gain, and (2) the actual building up of character, so that by the time the pupil completed the course of study he became a perfect model of a gentleman and self-abnegation in the true sense of the words. He might be the son of a king or millionaire, but that made no difference to him; his conduct was always righteous and becoming for the subjugation of lust and greed, the two principal causes of all evil tendencies and traits, left his mind ever pure and tranquil and bent on the realization of the true ideal of the soul. While with the teacher --usually a man known as much for piety as learning --he was called upon to live in conformity with the strictest rules of the Brahma Acharya ashram (conduct prescribed for a pupil)--serving the master, refraining from marriage and lustful thoughts, studying Scripture and the like. This course of early training always stood him in good stead in the midst of the trials and temptations of youth, enabling him to bring under his control such powerful enemies of the soul as pride, deceit, anger and other similar passions and emotions. As he grew up, he found himself called upon to practice those virtues of self control, toleration, equanimity and love which, when perfected, mark the conduct of holy ascetics and saints. In due course he became the head of his family, relieving his elders of the duties of management of the estate, and enabling them to retire from active participation in the worldly concerns of life, and hoping to be similarly relieved by his juniors, in his own turn, in the fullness of time. At times he also had to provide for his destitute relations, but he never grumbled at the fruit of his labor being enjoyed by the less fit, or non-earning members of his household, and always considered it his good fortune to be able to help others. Wealth had lost all its blinding glamour for him in his infancy, and he knew full well how much easier it was for a camel to 'pass through the needle's eye' than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven, for the cares and worries consequent on the management of riches and the sense of attachment to the thing of the world have always been known to stand in the way of retirement from active life, preparatory to the adoption of the stage of homeless wandering which is necessary to attain Nirvana.
The proper training of children, thus, is a valuable asset, and of immense help to them in their after life. It is a legitimate deduction from this that early marriage is an institution, which must necessarily interfere with the proper training of the soul. Besides, it directly tends to introduce misery into the life of a family by:
(1) The union of people who have neither an idea of the sexual function, nor a voice in the selection of their nuptial partner,
(2) The procreation of the period of self-control,
(3) The procreation of unfit, ill- formed and ill- nourished children,
(4) The occasional death of the female parent during confinement,
(5) The increase of poverty, and
(6) The interruption of religious education generally.
It is not necessary to comment upon these six categories of misfortune resulting from early marriage at any great length, suffice it to say that where nuptial partners are forced on one another without consulting the feeling of the actual participants themselves, nothing but sexual impurity, discord and misery are likely to result from their living together under one roof. The shortening of the period of self-control also tends to engender sexual promiscuity, by exciting sex-passion which uncultured minds, not yet impressed with the necessity for its rigid control, are apt to regard as the greatest of earthly pleasures. The third form of evil, that is the procreation of unfit children, is a necessary consequence of early marriage, since in those cases where the father has no independent means of his own and is too young to be in a position to support a large and growing family, none but unhealthy paupers can be brought into existence. Health of a child, it should be observed, depends, to a large extent, on the development of the person of the mother, so that where a girl who is only fit to play with dolls is forced to develop a living baby in her womb, the growing embryo is necessarily deprived of the healthy nourishment which every child has a right to demand of its mother. In many cases where the pelvis is not sufficiently developed to form a suitable place for the physical growth of the embryo, inflammation and other unhealthy complications also set up in the womb, causing the death of the child or its mother or both. The main thing to be known in connection with sexual gratification is that excessive and early loss of semen directly leads to loss of bodily and mental vigor, and produces a kind of nervous paralysis which interferes materially with the concentration of mind and strength of will, the two necessary factors in the ascertainment and practicing of 'truth'. We thus observe that early marriage is equally condemnable from both the spiritual and secular points of view.
We now come to the principles governing the selection of one's associates in life --the nuptial partner, friends and the like. In this department also religion enjoins subordinating the worldly or sensual point of view to the spiritual, its aim being always to facilitate the onward progress of the soul toward the highest goal-- Nirvana. Obviously, if the husband and wife belong to two different persuasions, or entertain mutually hostile beliefs, nothing like spiritual harmony can possibly result from their union; and the situation is no wise improved even when they both try to pull on together in the most commendable spirit of toleration, for toleration cannot possibly take the place of co-operation which is altogether excluded by the opposition of private convictions. It follows, therefore, that the selection of a suitable spouse must be made from one's own community, so as to ensure perfect accord and co-operation in respect of all matters, spiritual and temporal. The same principal governs the selection of all other associates, as far as practicable; and even the caste system, which is so much denounced nowadays, is really the outcome of the rules laid down for satsanga (association).
A keen controversy has been recently raging round the caste question, and many persons have come forward to advocate a complete breaking down of its fast and rigid boundaries, but as the matter has not been approached from the spiritual side of the question, it is worthwhile to consider its bearing from that point of view s well. No one who has at all studied the human nature is likely to deny the fact that our beliefs are liable to be affected by the thoughts and actions of others-- receiving confirmation and strength from people of one's own faith, and direct or indirect discouragement from those who follow a different creed. Now, the generality of mankind of this age seldom possess that degree of faith which is capable of withstanding persistent temptation or sustained attacks of skepticism, especially when not directly made. The company of people given to gambling, debauchery, and the like is the most dangerous for this reason, and offers many temptations which even men of mature judgment, to say nothing of raw youths, at times succumb to. Besides, the true spirit of friendship demands that one should not perform any religious acts likely to offend one's companion in the least degree, and since all forms of worship are open to objection on the part of the opponents of the true faith, good companionship necessitates a total abstention from them in the company of those of a different persuasion. The effect of such forms of comradeship, thus, is quite pernicious to the aspirations of the soul, and requires the restriction of association with those outside one's own religious community to particular occasions at well selected times and places. This does not mean that one should be rude or intolerant to those who do not belong to one's faith, but only that one should avoid undue intimacy and constant companionship with them. As no one who values his peace of mind should associate with anarchists, sedition-mongers, robbers, murderers and the like, howsoever agreeable they be, so should one avoid, so far as possible, all those men whose association is likely to seduce one from the true path, and only mix with those of a holy and pious temperament. Such, briefly, is the nature of the reason of caste exclusiveness, and there is no reason to doubt that any one who realizes the importance of keeping the spiritual goal in view, in all forms of activity, would never range himself against its observance. This, however, furnishes no license for the absolute exclusiveness of different castes in the same community, beyond certain limits to be shortly pointed out.
There are two principles governing caste division, namely,
(1) The religious, and
(2) The secular.
The former of these recognizes only one community or caste of true believers, while the latter classifies men according to their occupations. The earliest legislator, Shri Rishabha Deva Bhagwan, divided men into Kshatryas, Vaishyas and Shudras*, with regard to their different avocations.
(*The Hindu idea that the Brahmans, Kshatryas, vaishyas, and Shudras issued from the mouth, arms, heart and thighs of Brahma is evidently a mythological metaphor, resting upon the personifications of 'manhood' as a being.)
The principle+ of division lay in the fact that the prosperity of a community depends on the defense of its territory, the development of its trade and the due performance of their work by the menials.
(+It will be generally seen to be the case that a man is more likely to excel in the calling of his ancestors than in an entirely strange occupation. It is, for instance, not to be expected that a Mahajan's son, who has spent all his life in comfort and luxury or in looking after the peaceful business of his own firm, would make as good a soldier as the young Rajaputa conscious of his descent from the royal Pratap. The glorious traditions of the Kshatryas Varna (warrior caste), stories of exciting adventures of brave Rajaputa warriors, memories of deeds of undying glory of his own ancestors, to say nothing of the thousand and one other items and incidents which invest the latter with an irrepressible psychic vigor which constitutes a great advantage over his rival, the majahan's son. Reverse the position, and you will find the brave warrior out of his element in the counting house. The same is the case with other Vargas.)
The Brahman class came into existence during the reign of Bharata, the son of the first Tirthankara. Later on, Hinduism fully accepted this classification of men into four Varna, and made it the basis of its yoga, making each caste correspond to a particular department of that system, --Jnana yoga for Brahmans, raja yoga for Kshatryas, karma yoga for vaishyas and Bhakti yoga for Shudras. It is, however, clear that the idea of caste exclusiveness had nothing to do with the classification of men, as originally conceived, so that all those who followed the true faith were entitled to the same rights and privileges in respect of religious worship. It was only when priesthood acquired considerable influence on the ruling body that Hindu legislators were forced to recognize the claim of Brahmans to a special sanctity as a class.
So far as inter dining is concerned, it does not seem to have ever been prohibited among the followers of one and the same religion, but it is essentially a question of conventional usage upon which depend the preservation, welfare and prosperity of society. There are certain considerations which necessarily debar one from being admitted into the higher circles of a community even in Christian and Muslim countries, where the intercourse of men is the least restricted, and there is nothing surprising in the fact that the Hindus and Jainas should not care to sit down at the same table with washer men, sweepers, and others of similar description whose professions and habits of life hardly render them suitable companions at a feast. The penalty for an infringement of these rules, it may be pointed out, is not the loss of religion, but only excommunication, which implies nothing more than exclusion from social circles in respect of inter- dining, and, consequently, also, inter- marriage, for a shorter or longer period according to the nature of transgression.
The basis of caste exclusiveness, then, is not wealth or worldly status, as it undoubtedly is in European society, but spiritual purity pure and simple, though people sometimes unreasonably extend its operation to cases not actually falling within its scope. Some excuse for the wider application of the caste rule among the Hindus is to be found in the fact that their religion has become the fold of so many different and divergent forms of belief that it is practically impossible to bring the followers of all of them on a common platform. So far, however, as Jainism is concerned, it is perfectly free from the rules of caste, those professing it forming only one community, notwithstanding the fact that several schisms have given rise to different sects and sub-sects among its followers. In this respect it resembles modern Christianity which includes Roman Catholics, Protestants and others who hold many more points of faith in common than otherwise. There can obviously be no question of losing caste, or religion, by intermarriage among the different sects of one and the same community, though it is not countenanced on the ground of its not being conducive to the peace of the family, as already shown.
We now come to a consideration of the principle of Ahimsa which is described as the highest form of Dharma (religion), and which must be observed if release from samsara be the ideal in view. Unfortunately this is one of those doctrines which has been grossly misunderstood by men-- by some on account of an inadequate acquaintance with the basic, truths of religion, and by others because of a fanciful notion that its observance interferes with the enjoyment of pleasures of taste and the realization of dreams of world-power. We shall consider both these objections one by one before explaining the actual practical application of this doctrine.
Firstly, as regards the pleasures of taste, it will be seen that taste is merely an acquired thing, and that it is not in the food, which tastes differently at different times and under different circumstances, but in the attitude of the soul towards it. This is evident from the fact that many of the things which one finds nauseating and disgusting at first become palatable after a time, with the perversion and defilement of the natural instincts of the soul.
This leads us to the conclusion that one can train his instincts in whichever direction one likes in respect of food. The testimony of vegetarians, especially of those who have given up animal-food by choice, is available to show that their meals are not any the less tasteful because not containing meat.
But the question for a rational mind is not whether the animal food is more tasty than a vegetarian diet, but whether it is wise to eat it? A proper regard for one's future welfare requires that one should control one's senses in all respects where they are in conflict with one's good. Uncontrolled sense-indulgence has been described by the wise as a sign of lurking 'cattle-dom'; and it would be certainly foolish to allow the tongue to eat up one's chances of salvation, or to mar the future prospects of the soul.
The object of life, it has been pointed out by every thinking man, is not living to eat, but eating to live. The Persian poet has it:
(Tr. 'Eating is to sustain life and meditation;
Thou holdest it to be the (sole) object living!'
The second considerations apply to political ambition for what shall a man profit if he gain of the goods of the world but lose his own soul? Accordingly the poet asks the shade of the Great Warrior who had filled the world with deeds of his renown:-
[Tr. How long didst thou live?--
To what purpose killedsxt thou Dara (Darius?]
When the redoubtable Mahmud of Ghazni was on his death- bed, it is said that he had all the plundered wealth of India brought before him to pass it in review for the last time. It was a touching sight to see this old warrior who had carried pillage and sword no less than eleven times to India, lying with the stamp of despair on his ghastly face. There he lay surrounded by his warrior hosts, his weapons still lying within reach and his riches in front, but conscious of the fast-approaching Foe, and of his utter helplessness against it-- a true picture of the final scene in the drama of world- power and its inevitable end! Can we doubt after this that Ahimsa is the highest religion, the Dharma which sustains and supports? Life is dear to all, and it is the recognition of the right to the joy of living in others that ensures our own joy. Sadi says:
[Tr. 'Do not injure the ant which is a carrier of grain;
For it has life, and life is dear to all;]
It is wrong to imagine that we can prosper in defiance of Dharma, or that Ahimsa is the cause of political downfall. Were the Hindus vanquished by Mohammedan because they observed Ahimsa? --or because their mutual feuds and jealousies prevented them from presenting a combined front to the invaders? Ahimsa does not forbid a king from fighting in defense of his kingdom; nor were the armies and kings that offered battle to the Musalman horde pure vegetarians. The fact is that Dharma is the true source of strength, even when practiced in a 'second-hand' manner; but it must be lived to be productive of good. Where it is not put into practice, it is bound to disappear, whether the books containing its teaching continue to exist or disappear in the bellies of moths. Those who practice Ahimsa become contented, thoughtful, self-centered and brave; and are respected by others with whom they may come in contact; for, as already observed, Dharma raises the rhythm of the soul, and Ahimsa is the highest Dharma.
Here again we conclude that those who put the accent on the spiritual side of life-- and it is the true side-- cannot but recognize Ahimsa to be the highest Dharma and the joy and glory of living.
In actual practice the operation of Ahimsa Parmao Dharma-- Ahimsa is the highest Dharma-- necessary varies with the circumstances of each individual soul, in as much as most of the Jivas are so circumstanced that it is impossible for them to avoid all forms of Hinsa at once. Jainism does not lose sight of this fact, but takes it fully into account in the formulation of the rules of conduct, which it lays down for the guidance of its followers. The layman, when he enters the path which leads to Perfection and Bliss, begins by avoiding the doing of unnecessary harm; he then applies himself to the restricting of his desires and wants, and, finally, when the powers of his soul are developed by the giving up of all kinds of desires, and he becomes qualified for the attainment of Nirvana, the practicing of absolute Ahimsa becomes easy and natural to him. There is no absurdity in this, for the development of the soul, under the influence of Tapa, brings into manifestation its latent occult and psychic forces which enable it to defy all sorts of adverse influences, such as hunger, thirst, sickness, old age and death, that lead on to the commission of all conceivable kinds of injury to others. The layman should try to refrain from all those pursuits and occupations, such as cutting down forests, working as a blacksmith and the like which involve a wholesale destruction of life, though he may not be able to avoid all forms of Hinsa at once. He need entertain no fear of the business of the world coming to a stand-still by his abstaining from these avocations, since there are a sufficient number of Abhavya Jivas* to carry them on and to insure the continuance of the world.
(*Those who may never attain emancipation.)
These are they who have not the potentiality to understand the truth. It is not that their souls are any different from those of the Bhavya (the antithesis of Abhavya), but their karmas are of such a malignant type that they can never long for the truth or grasp it when put before them. They shall never attain Nirvana, but always remain entangled in the samsara.
The man who longs for the joy of Gods must prepare himself for the practicing of absolute Ahimsa by a steady course of training. He should begin with abstaining from causing unnecessary injury to all kinds of beings having more than one sense. With respect to the evolution of sense, living beings all under the following five classes:--
(1) One-sensed beings who possess only the sense of touch, such as vegetables;
(2) Two-sensed beings, i.e., those which possess touch and taste both, such as protozoa and certain varieties of shell-fish;
(3) Three-sensed beings, who also enjoy the sense of smell in addition to touch and taste, such as lice, bugs and ants;
(4) Four-sensed beings who are endowed with all the senses except hearing, and
(5) Five-sensed beings.
In addition to their appropriate or specific senses, all living beings possess three kinds of forces of life, namely Ayuh, bodily strength and the power of breathing. The power of communicating with others, which in the higher grades of life assumes the form of speech, is enjoyed by the two-sensed and other higher types, while mind is a distinguishing feature of the five-sensed type alone, though all Jivas belonging to that class are not endowed with it. These ten kinds of forces-- five senses, Ayuh, bodily strength, breathing, speech and mind-- are called the ten pranas.
Now, all five kinds of living beings are souls capable of feeling pain though not always in anticipation of injury, for that kind of pain is felt only by those of the fifth class who evolve out a mind -- men, monkeys, dogs and the like. All kinds of living beings, however possess the Karma and the taijasa Shareers whose separation from the body of gross matter is called death --a painful process at all times, and more so when the bodies are separated by force of external violence. Pain is also felt by all kinds of living beings when their limbs are cut, pierced, torn asunder or otherwise mutilated.
Hinsa is the causing of pain to another and includes all kinds of acts calculated to interfere with one's enjoyment of life or freedom in respect of one's pranas.
The following table will enable the reader to form a general idea of its main types at a glance:--
injuring one-sensed beings injuring the remaining types of living beings
due to carelessness implied in the struggle for
necessary (E) Wanton (F)
| | | | |
in defiance of for the main- in the treat- in the em- |
(i) body, tenance of ment of ployment of |
(ii) property law and wounds etc. men and |
and order. animals for |
(iii) country. the purposes |
of trade, |
etc., etc. |
| | | | |
killing for sport slavery sacrifice vivisection
The layman very naturally, is not expected to avoid injuring the one-sensed beings, nor can he refrain from all other kinds of injury except wanton cruelty. He is, there fore required to practice Ahimsa in respect of class F. The Muni is, however able to avoid injuring others in all cases falling under classes D., E and F., and also to a great extent, under class C. The kevali who has conquered the twenty two forms of parisaha (see page 57 ante) does not cause any kind of Hinsa, and the same is the case with the Siddha who has no material impurities left in his soul.
Thus the practical observance of the principles of Hinsa varies with the circumstance of each soul, so that the least advanced begin with the renunciation of wanton cruelty, and gradually train themselves to observe the stricter vows of a Muni. As personal wants and desires become limited to bare food, once a day or so, the practicing of the higher forms of Ahimsa is not felt to be irksome or difficult; and finally, when the powers of the soul are developed to perfection and complete mastery over the lower nature is obtained, resulting in the manifestation of those subtle and powerful forces which enable the kevali to defy all kinds of adverse influences -- hunger, thirst, sickness, old age, death and the like-- the observance of absolute Ahimsa becomes perfectly easy and natural.
As Mr. Warren points out (see 'Jainism' by H. Warren), if we study the state of the mind of a person engaged in the act of killing, we shall notice that he is not only indifferent to the suffering and pain he is causing to his victim for his own selfish ends --sometimes he actually delights in it --but has also no idea of the subtle forces engendered by such an act in his own system. His three characteristics, therefore, are thoughtlessness, selfishness and heartlessness, which are the greatest obstacles the soul encounters on the path of spiritual unfolding. In the same way, the analysis of the mind of the victim discloses the presence, in addition to an intense feeling of pain, of such elements as horror, fear, hatred, resentment and despair of the worst possible type, each of which tends to produce a state of mental disquietude highly inimical to the progress of its soul. The result is that those who disregard the true teaching of religion and take on the path of Hinsa are not only the enemies of their own souls, but also of those of their helpless victims.
It would be interesting to work out the further and future consequences of Hinsa on the souls of the slayer and the victim both. Bearing in mind the fact that the future re-birth is always determined by the nature of the tendencies evolved out by the soul, it can be safely laid down that the being whose habitual mental attitude is characterized by heartlessness, selfishness and thoughtfulness must necessarily be drawn to a type of life marked by these mental traits. When we look out for the appropriate type for those who are habitually cruel, unfeeling and thoughtless, we discover it to be amongst the unthinking beasts of prey-- tigers, wolves, hawks, cats and the like-so that the future re-birth of him who has spent his life in developing these peculiarities of disposition must necessarily be in the tribe of some wild bird or beast, the actual type depending on the degree of cruelty evolved out in each individual case. In some cases where the soul is thoroughly steeped in Hinsa it directly descends into hells, as the scriptures show. The case with the victim of sporting lust, however, stands on a different footing, since the feelings of anger horror, pain and the like are not habitual with him. Hence its future re- birth would not necessarily be amongst the worst types of living beings, though the predominant feelings of the closing moments of life might impart their tinge to the character already formed, and bear fruit in the shape of nicha gotra and inauspicious surroundings.
Thus, no one who has studied the true nature of his soul and of the causes, which tend to prolong its bond would ever find fault with Ahimsa being the true path of liberation and the highest Dharma.