SUPREME SELF-RESTRAINT


(Uttam Sanyam Dharma)

 

 

      'Self-restraint is the key to eternal happiness'

 

     The word 'Sanyam' is derived from the root 'yam' with preposition 'sam' by the addition of suffix 'ap'.

 

     The word 'Sanyam' has various meanings like check, restraint, control, prevention and mental concentration. Uttama Sanyam i.e., Supreme self-restraint is one of the ten virtues to be cultivated by a man to counteract the four passions (Kashayas) i.e., anger, pride, deceit and greed.

 

     Therefore, an aspirant for happiness is advised, "Fight with your (own) self: what is good in fighting the external foe? By conquering one's 'self' by means of one's own self, one obtains true happiness."

 

     It has been rightly said, "The sensual temptations of life do not attract a monk's mind. He is firmly convinced that the pleasures secured by satisfying the senses are not only transitory but also futile. He, therefore, comes to the conclusion that man should aspire to attain the pleasure of eternal nature and for this purpose man should make strenuous efforts towards self-restraint or control of one's senses."

 

     The self alone should be subdued, for it is very difficult to subdue it. It is far better that a man should subdue his self-control and austerities; rather than be subdued by others with fetters and suffer corporal punishment.

 

     Self-restraint is the rudder of life. Just as for want of rudder a boat cannot sail across the river from one bank to the other safely and punctually. Likewise in the absence of self-restraint the boat of human life cannot sail across the ocean of the world from one seacoast to the other i.e., attain liberation or salvation. The following metaphoric statement also conveys similar ideas:

 

     "The body is said to be the boat and the soul is said to be the sailor. The samsara i.e., the worldly existence, is said to be the ocean which is crossed only by great sages."

 

     A man without self-restraint has been compared to an animal:

 

     Sanyamain bina pranri, pashuraiv na sanshay

     Yogayogayam Na janati, bhaidastra kuto bhavait

 

     Man devoid of self-restraint has been called an animal because without self-restraint a man cannot distinguish between right and wrong, just and unjust. So long as this living creature does not attend the school of self-restraint, he cannot develop a grand and lustrous personality. A great scholar says; 'Good nature can fulfill the lack of beauty, but beauty cannot fulfill the lack of good nature.'

 

     In the grand and illustrious book 'Dhawal' an absolute control or check on self has been termed sanyam (self- restraint) 'samyak yamo sanyam'. The holy soul Shraman, who observes five kinds of samitis - five regulations of walking; the mode of speech; the manner of eating food; actions of taking or using and of putting away anything. He answering the call of nature - practices Samvara - stops the inflow of karmic matter into the soul by keeping the five senses under control or moving about in the world with all his senses properly controlled. He follows the three guptis - regulations of mind, speech and bodily activity for self- control with reference to controlling one's inner nature. Finally he subdues the passions and is endowed Right Belief and Right Knowledge, is called self-restrained.

 

     To discard the external Parigrah - greed of worldly possessions, and internal Parigrah - freedom from evil actions in mind, speech and body; aversion for sensuous pleasures and destruction of passions have been proclaimed in general as the characteristics of a self-restrained person. Almost all scriptures define self-restraint as mentioned above.

 

     Two kinds of self-restraint viz. 'sagar' (with possessions) and niragar (without possession) have been stated in 'Charit Pahud':

 

     Diviham sanjamcharanram sayaram teh havai nrirayaram

     Sayaram saganthai parigaha rahiy khalu nrirayaram

 

     A householder, who feels attachment towards his own possessions, is gifted with 'sagar' (self-restraint with possessions). A monk who is gifted with supreme non- attachment is endowed with 'niragar' (non-possession self- restraint). Acharya Samant Bhadra Swamy has also stated the same thing in 'Ratankarand Shravakachar':

 

Saklam vikalam chararam, tatsaklam sarvsangviratanam

Angaranram viklam, sagaranram sasanganam

 

     Self-restraint is of two kinds based on 'sakal charitra’ Absolute in character, and 'vikal charitra' Partial in character. The monks, who are free from all types of attachments practice absolute self-restraint; and the house- holders, who are attached to worldly possessions practice partial self-restraint.

 

     In the sacred book entitled 'Rajvartika' Acharya Aklank Dev has put self-restraint in two categories with respect to aphrit (restricted) and upaiksha (detached). A monk who understands the logic of Time and Space; who is by nature averse towards the body; who observes the three Guptis - regulations for self-control; and who is free from the mental attitude of attachment or aversion, is holder of upeksha (detached self-restraint). 'Aphrit’ (restricted self- restraint) is of three kinds - superb, medium and lower type.

 

     The self-defense of a monk - that has independent external means viz. neat and clean shelter place, and carefully cooked restrained poor food; knowledge and character are whose main stay - from the outward beasts is superb 'Apharat' (restricted self-restraint). The scriptures describe the characteristics of a monk thus: 'A monk is without any possessions, without egotism, without attachment, without vanity or conceit; he is impartial towards all living beings whether mobile or immobile.'

 

     He, who has the desire to possess delicate, soft implements to sweep away the small beings, practices the lower type of restricted self-restraint. The same fact has been stated in the holy books like 'Niyam Saar' and 'Pravachan Saar'. Only the superb type of beings practice the two types of self-restraint - 'upaiksha sanyam' (detached self- restraint) and aphrit sanyam (restricted self-restraint). These are known as Non-attached self-restraint (vitrag sanyam) - free from all passions; and attached self-restraint (sarag sanyam) as well. Furthermore 'aphrit sanyam' (restricted self-restraint) has been divided into two categories:

 

1.      Restraint on senses (Indriya sanyam)

 

2.      Restraint in conduct towards animates beings (pranri sanyam).

 

     Restraint on senses - To check the five senses (sense of touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing.) and the mind from indulging in sensuous pleasures is restraint on senses.

 

     Restraint in conduct towards animate beings - To safeguard the sthavara - one sensed souls viz. earth, water, fire, wind and plants; and the trasa - many sensed souls i.e., having bodies with more than one sense organ, is known as restraint for animates.

 

     The sense organs are five in number. They are associated with five activities - sound, color, smell, taste and touch. From time immemorial this living being by getting indulged in these five-fold pleasant things, has forgotten the eternal bliss. He has taken the sensuous pleasures as the real happiness. Therefore, he has been undergoing the pangs of birth and death again and again since long. A sieve may be filled with water, but the thirst for sensuous pleasures can never be quenched. Even then the ignorant souls spoil their worldly existence by indulging in these sensuous pleasures, and ultimately meet their doom. It has been said:

 

     "One must always guard one's soul from all evils, by having all the sense organs properly controlled. In case the soul is not well guarded, it takes to the wrong path leading to birth and death; while if well-controlled, it becomes free from all worldly sorrows and misery."

 

     Kurangmatangpatdgbhringmina hata panchbhiraiv panch

     Aik pramadi sa kathamna haneytai yasaivate panchbhiraiv panch

 

     A deer, an elephant, a fire worm, a black bee and a fish - all these five types of living beings lose their lives by indulging in one sensed pleasure. Now the question arises - 'Will not then a man who remains indulged forever in five sensed pleasures lose his life likewise? He will certainly do so.'

 

     An elephant due to its lust for temporary pleasure of the sense of touch falls down into a deep pit allured by an artificial female elephant.

 

     A fish allured by bait is caught in the hook of a fisherman's catching rod being overpowered by the sense of taste and dies writhing and bearing untold agony.

 

     A black bee is imprisoned amidst the lotus petals at sunset on becoming a slave to the sense of smell and loses its life.

 

     A fire-worm (patanga) is drawn to the flame of a burning candle or an electric bulb being subservient to the sense of sight and meets its doom.

 

     A deer becomes fully charmed by the melody of the flute or rhythm of music inspired by the sense of hearing, and is a victim to the arrow of the hunter.

 

     Man is indulged in the sensuous pleasures provided to him by all the five senses day and night; therefore, he also cannot defend himself from the cruel clutches of death. The sensuous pleasures look extremely charming; but the life of a living being that is dependent on these transitory enjoyments is ultimately ruined. Those, who are drenched in lust, and engrossed in sensual pleasures blindly, will, for want of self-control be deluded. Therefore, the scriptures give us a wise counsel: "The five senses and the four passions - anger, pride, deception and greed, are all difficult to conquer; equally difficult it is to conquer one's own self. But one, who has conquered his self, has conquered everything else in the world."

 

     In fact, the creeper, which takes support of the poison tree, makes a man unconscious in spite of itself being sweet in taste.

 

     In 'Moolardhana' the two - restraint on senses, restraint in conduct towards animate beings have been described thus:

 

     Panchras panchvanr dogandhai athphas satsara

     Manrsa chaudasjiva indriyapanra ye sanjmo nraio

 

     In this infinite universe with unknown beginning a living being has suffered sorrow and misery times without number mainly due to his tongue and the spell of the five senses. Therefore, now it is high time to subdue all of them. Even if you fail to put a check on the other sense organs, at least put reins to your tongue; because an unbridled tongue causes great sorrow or when you give a long rope to your tongue, you suffer the most.

 

     Once a controversy arose between the tongue and the teeth. The tongue boasted saying, "O teeth! Accept my subordination; otherwise I shall vanquish you and bring all of you under my control by waging a war against you." Being highly enraged at the challenging words of the lone tongue all the thirty-two teeth spoke unitedly, "First, you are very tender; and secondly you are lone. Can you defeat us by fighting under these circumstances? It is quite impossible." The tongue at once retorted, "Nay! Today I shall give you a tough fight all alone." Ultimately a fight started between the tongue and teeth. The tongue uttered a reproachful word to a pedestrian passing by. At this the pedestrian struck such a blow of stick in the face of the ill-spoken tongued person that all his teeth cracked and fell to the ground. Therefore, if we put the tongue alone under restraint, all other senses will remain safe. During conversation we should speak with utmost restraint and care. It is good to be cautious while we speak. It is a well-known saying - 'Think before you speak'.

 

     The acharyas have compared mind with an unharnessed horse; because for want of proper training in self-restraint, an unbridled horse is killed in the battlefield along with its master. The main reason of its death is lack of self-restraint. Likewise, if we do not train the mind in self-restraint, it will lead us to the dark well of sensual pleasures and drop us there. Then it will be very difficult for us to come out of the well. Those who want to get rid of this situation should constantly reflect on the twelve religious topics (anuprakshain) to restrain their mind. They should remain engaged in self-study and invariably keep away from the sensuous pleasures. Only such persons will be capable of subduing the mind. To attain all these things; viz., a humanitarian outlook, a noble birth, a prolonged life and learning and listening to the Jain Tirthankara' divine voice preserved in the sacred scriptures which preach the principles of Jainism to all and sundry require diligence and self-restraint. Likewise, to become adept in Right belief, Right knowledge and Right conduct is more and more difficult for a living being of this universe. All these achievements are impossible without self-restraint. In the absence of self-restraint no living being can enter the kingdom of heaven or taste the matchless fruits of salvation. Hence a human being must observe self-restraint. Rightly has it been said: "A man may conquer thousands and thousands of invincible foes, but that is of no real consequence. His greatest victory is when he conquers only his own self."

 

     So long as all passions like a horde of wild sea animals exist in the clean and unfathomable pond of heart, the community of supreme virtues like supreme self-restraint cannot take shelter in that pond of crystal-clear heart. Therefore O Great souls! Try to subdue these passions taking help of the normal and severe methods of suppressing them, besides practicing the vows and perfect self-restraint. A learned person knows well the true nature of the self and the non-self. Therefore, he does not regard the worldly attachment, which are different from self as his real self; he renounces them from afar. This is known as the superb self- restraint of a wise man. He who meditates upon the enlightened souls, who are purified by self-restraint and gifted with Right faith, Right knowledge and Right conduct, is sure to annihilate all evil passions and thus he attains self-restraint.

 

     Until and unless a living being practices self-restraint in life, he indulges in passions and senses. The very day he attains the bounds of self-restraint, he begins to shun the sensuous pleasures. Self-restraint originates by taking a very sensible view of things in a systematized form based on the power of discrimination. When the living being begins to comprehend the fundamental distinction between right and wrong, just and unjust, even the pleasure-giving, charming objects begin to appear to him as deadly poison.

 

     One day the sovereign king (Chakarvarti) Vajar Dant sat in his royal court and his ministers, knights, nobles and military general stood at their proper places around him. Meanwhile the royal gardener brought a bunch of flowers and offered it to the king. No sooner did the sovereign king Vajar Dant holding the bunch of flowers in his hands begin to smell it, than he caught sight of a black bee crushed to death under the flower petals. Seeing this the king was filled with remorse. He began to ponder, "Alas! This black- bee has ruined its life overpowered by the sense of smell. Cursed be such sensuous pleasures." Thus ruminating, the king Vajar Dant developed a feeling of detachment for worldly allurements. Soon he summoned his sons and spoke, "My sons! Now take charge of the burden of the kingdom. I shall get initiated to Digamber Jain monkshood henceforth." The sons said, "O worthy father! O worthy father! Why are you discarding the pleasures of royal life so soon?" The sovereign king replied, "The administrative business of a kingdom is the root cause of sins. A king, who does not renounce the royal pomp and show and takes pride in scepter and crown goes to hell, in case he dies meanwhile." At this the sons said, "Dear father! How can we accept the kingdom which you are renouncing realizing it to be the gateway to hell? We shall also get initiated with you." The sovereign king Vajar Dant tried his utmost to change their mind, but they did not budge from their decision. At last the king got initiated into Jain monkshood together with his sons.

 

     There was a king. He was absorbed in sensuous pleasures day in and day out. The king owned a vast and beautiful orchard cum flower garden, in which multicolored flowers and fruits of the supreme variety grew and bloomed forever. The king was so lusty and led such a luxurious life that in order to satisfy his whimsical demand innumerous flowers of different varieties were brought daily to make a flowerbed for him. The king deemed himself very happy and delighted by sleeping in this bed.

 

     One evening, the royal gardener's wife brought flowers to adorn the king's bed. As soon as she had spread the bed with fragrant flowers, she began to think, 'how lovely the flowerbed looks! God knows what bliss the king experiences by sleeping on it.' While pondering thus in her mind, she decided to sleep for five minutes only in that charming flower bed and feel the pleasure of it. She knew that the king was likely to come into the palace after a long time. Thinking this she lay down in the bed. She was dead tired of the whole day's work. As soon as she lay in bed, she fell in sound sleep. When at nightfall the king came into his royal bedroom and found the gardener's wife sound slept in his flowerbed, his eyes became bloodshot with rage. The king instantly pulled her from the bed catching hold of her ponytail, hurled her violently on the ground and beat her black and blue with a stick. But there was no sign of pain and sorrow on her face; rather she began to laugh loudly. When the king ordered her to make clear the reason of her laughing, the lady gardener replied, "Your majesty! I am laughing at the idea that when I had to bear so many hunter strokes simply for sleeping in this flowerbed for five minutes only, what will be your fate, who sleeps in this flowerbed every night? Why not you discard all these transitory worldly enjoyments and observe self-restraint in life?"

 

     On hearing these eye opener words from the gardener's wife, the king thought in his mind what a great lesson this poor woman had taught him. Therefore, soon after this incident the king renounced all royal grandeur and got initiated to monkshood.

 

     A man should not wait for an appropriate time to observe self-restraint. He should not think that he would practice self-restraint at a later stage of life; because death keeps no calendar. It has been said:

 

     Ayu katat heh rat din jiyon kront kai kath

     Hit apna jaldi karo parha rahaiga thath

 

     I.e., Life goes on cut short day and night just as wood is cut down by a big 'saw' by and by. Be hasty in your spiritual uplift; otherwise you will die repenting, leaving all your grandeur and glory here.

 

     While describing the virtue of Supreme self-restraint the great poet Reidhu writes:

 

     Sanjam janri dulhun tam paviluhu jo chandeyi punru mudmeyi

     So bhamu bhavabali jar marnrabali kim pavaiseyi punru sugeyi

 

     Sanjmu panchidiye dandnrainr sanjamu ji kasaye vihandnrainr

     Sanjmu dudhar tav dharanrainr, sanjamu ras chaye viyarnrainr

 

     Sanjmu upvas vijanmnrainr sanjamu mnr pasrah thambhnrainr

     Sanjmu guru kaye kilaisnrainr sanjamu parigrehgah chaenrainr

 

     Sanjamu tas thayer rakhnrainr sanjamu stath parikhnrainr

     Sanjamu tanru joye nreyntnrainr sanjmu bhugamanr chyantinr

 

     Sanjamu anrukamp kunrntainr sanjamu parmath biyarnrainr

     Sanjamu poseyi dansnraham panthu sanjamu nrichhy nriru khokh panthu

 

     Sanjamu binru nrr bhav seylu sunru sanjamu vinru dugeyi ji ubvnru

     Sanjamu binru dhadeyi ma ith jau sanjamu binru vihliye athiau

 

     Drah bhavi parbhavi sanjamu sarnru hujau jinrvanhai bhanriu

     Dugeyi sar sosanr khar kirnrobam jainr bhavali visam hanriu

 

1.      The virtue of self-restraint is very rare in the universe. The block-headed person, who gives up self-restraint on attaining once this virtue, roams in the universe in various states in this cycle of old age and death.

 

2.      Self-restraint is achieved by subduing the five senses. Self-restraint is the outcome of freedom from passion. Self- restraint is the outcome of freedom from passions. Self- restraint is attained by performing severe penance and it is cultivated by giving up the craving for tastes and through constant meditation.

 

3.      Self-restraint is attained by keeping long fasts; it is obtained by controlling the mind from loitering and going astray; it is achieved by self imposed bodily torture; and it is attained by renouncing home and the worldly possessions.

 

4.      Self-restraint comes by defending the tras (five sensed living beings). Self-restraint is attained by examining carefully the seven 'tattvas' (realities). These tattvas

are termed as follows:

 

i)      Jiva - living substance.

 

ii)      Ajiva - matter or non-living substance.

 

iii) Asrava - the influx of karmic matter into the soul.

 

iv) Bandha - bondage of soul by karmic matter.

 

v)      Samvara - the stopping of Asrava.

 

vi) Nirjara - the gradual removal of karmic matter.

 

vii) Moksha - the attainment of perfect liberation of soul.

 

     Self-restraint is achieved by controlling the bodily activities, and by discarding too much walking.

 

5.      Practicing compassion attains self-restraint; it is achieved by nourishing the desire of salvation over and again. Self-restraint paves the way to Perfect Belief or Faith. Self-restraint is the sole path to salvation.

 

6.      Devoid of self-restraint human life is meaningless. In the absence of self-restraint this living being as a rule takes birth in a lower state of life. Do not waste even a single moment of your life for want of self-restraint.

 

7.      'Self-restraint can be the only shelter in this birth and the next birth' - says Lord Jinendra. It is just like the scorching rays of the sun to dry the pond of miserable existence. Self-restraint alone resolves the complex problem of migration from world to world.

 

     Hence, O Mortal Man! Practice self-restraint, practice self-restraint and practice self-restraint to obtain true bliss; for one 'who has subdued his self becomes happy in this world as well as in the next'. Always keep in mind: 'A man might give by way of charity, thousands and thousands of cows every month; but far better than him will be a man, who may give nothing in charity, but only observes perfect self- control.'

 

     Indeed, the self-restrained persons deserve all our reverence; for they are the torchbearers of humanity and lead mankind to pinnacle of glory.

 

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     Complexity of affairs does not perplex a man, who can keep his mind composed in all the possible combinations of untoward circumstances. The center of a wheel never moves with it; the self-centered man is always unmoved. No commotion, however violent, can stir him.      

 

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