Jaina path of Purification

  • By Munisri Nyayavijayaji
  • September 2003

Six Obligatory Duties      

The six obligatory duties for a Jaina layman are as follows, 1) devapuja, worship of the supreme soul. 2) guru-upasti, venerating & serving the elders. 3) svadhyaya, study of the spiritually elevating works. 4) samyama, self-control. 5) tapa, austerities. 6)Dana, charity.

1. Devapuja (Worship of Supreme Soul) - it means reverential recalling to mind the supreme soul & its spiritual qualities, devotionally praising them & offering prayers to the supreme soul. This is the best way to remove internal defilements, to purify thoughts, to cultivate good mental states and to rouse & develop spiritual powers. There are two types of devapuja: external worship (dravyapuja) & internal worship (bhavapuja).

Reverential constant recalling to mind the supreme soul & its qualities is bhavapuja. It consists on meditation on the supreme soul and internal efforts for being one with it. External formal ritual of worship is useful in rousing such feelings as may make the path of bhavapuja easy. A person who cannot directly reach bhavapuja directly is enabled with the assistance of dravapuja to attain the benefits of bhavapuja. Bhavapuja has power to change the mental attitude from the spiritually unwholesome to the wholesome, to make mind like good qualities & virtuous activities and to urge it to think over good thoughts & perform virtuous acts. As the spiritual light of bhavapuja manifests itself more & more, the desire for the good & the spiritual increases. And at last the worshipper attains the highest goal, the supreme spiritual good.

In case dravyapuja i.e. external worship does not create an atmosphere conducive to bhavyapuja it is of no use. The object of dravyapuja is a symbol or an image of the supreme soul, whereas the object of bhavapuja is the supreme soul itself whereof it is a symbol or an image. Dravyapuja is performed for a limited time while bhavapuja (constantly recalling to mind the pure qualities of the supreme soul) has no limitations of space & time. When a man vigilantly observes in his worldly dealings non-violence, truthfulness, honesty he is to be regarded as performing bhavapuja, rather suddhapuja.

The devotee worships the attachment-free embodied soul who destroyed the mountains of karma, attained omniscience, revealed & preached the highest truth & led the living beings on the path of liberation, in order that he may attain similar qualities. Again, so long as he does not attain the state of absolute non-attachment, he continues to pray. The state of complete non-attachment should be accepted as the ultimate goal & hence the highest object of our meditation in order that we ourselves attain that state. Many means are required to reach the ultimate stage of non-attachment. And it is necessary to accept them as intermediary ends at different stages & to acquire them in an honest & just manner so that our journey becomes easy. But they are to be accepted as means & not as an ultimate end.

The Jainas are worshippers not of any individual supreme soul, but of his pure qualities. All souls which manifests these pure qualities are equally regarded by the Jainas as supreme souls & hence worthy of man’s worship. Thus these pure qualities themselves constitute the supreme idea or the highest goal. The first sentence of the most sacred Jaina formula called ‘Namokkara’ (Namaskara, Navakara) is ‘namo arihamtanam’ (I bow before the Destroyer of (internal) enemies like attachment, aversion).

2. Guru-upasti (Venerating & Serving the Elders) - guru means an elder. The following verse from Acarya Haribhadra’s Yogabindu informs us as to who are regarded as guru. In the class of gurus Acarya includes mother, father, teachers of arts & sciences, family elders, those advanced in learning & good conduct, and saints who preach dharma.

Venerating & serving them is guru-upasti. By our reverence & service we should win their hearts & secure from them the knowledge & culture that ennoble our life.

3. Svadhyaya (study of spiritually elevating works) - svadhyaya means study of one’s own self, i.e., one’s own life. Reading, listening to & reflecting on the life-elevating teachings are useful in keeping the mind healthy. They inspire man to peep into the innermost recesses of the Self. As a result of it, man’s journey on the path of progress & enlightenment becomes easy. Svadhyaya is a form of austerity. By including it in the species of austerity of high order, the Jaina dharma has lent glory to austerity, not only that but it has nicely and convincingly demonstrated the universality of austerity & direct experience of its fruits.

4. Samyama (restraint & discipline) - samyama means control over sense-organs, mind, speech, thoughts, desire anger greed (bhagavad geeta XVI.21). How greatly we need samyama to make our life, happy, peaceful and blissful. Idleness & spiritual lethargy cause man’s downfall and land him in a miserable state. Samyama is the perennial fountain of mental peace & inner happiness. Without it none can derive true pleasure from the enjoyment of the worldly objects.

The following verse from the famous Buddhist work Dhammapada declares that spiritual diligence & wakefulness are the state of immortality, while the opposite are an abode of death. A man in the former state never dies because he ever lives through his good deeds whereas the spiritually lethargic & negligent man, though living is dead.

5.  Tapa (Austerity) - The importance & glory of austerities like fasting (upavasa) depend on the noble purpose behind their observance as also on the purity of mental states. It is only on account of these two elements that fasting secure the glory of austerity. The noble-minded learned persons practice austerity as a pure spiritual effort to serve the masses & to bring to light the reality & truth covered under the veils of delusion, untruth, injustice & immorality. Thus their austerity becomes worthy of people’s adoration & bestower of spiritual good.

All attempts to purify soul & mind of the defilements (passions & vices), & pure zeal for rendering services to others come under the category of austerity. Truthfulness of the veracious, service of the servant, yogic practices of a yogi, devotion of the devotee, teaching of the teacher etc – all these when done with a pure heart are austerity.

Fast of a right measure observed properly is beneficial to bodily health. For the wise fasting becomes useful in purifying mind & thereby deriving spiritual benefits. It cultivates endurance. By observing ‘ambela’ (is also a vow of taking food only once a day but cannot take curd, oil, ghee, chilli powder, etc, can take food prepared from grains like wheat, moong, black beans etc) we can achieve the purpose of controlling our desire for relishing various sweet juices. Again its observance is useful in keeping our body healthy (controls diabetes & cholestrol). It keeps our body light & agile.

External austerity is visible & attracts attention of people. People look at Lord Mahavir’s external but not internal austerity. That great sage practiced internal more than external austerity. His external austerity was meant to undergo expiation through finding out & destroying impressions left behind on the soul by evil acts performed in past births. Again, it was meant to give concrete form to his strong resolve of rousing righteous indignation among the masses against killing of animals in various Vedic sacrifices, establishing non-violence in place of violence. When Lord Mahavir was a Jaina monk possessed cognitive powers of four types before the attainment of omniscience, he was well known as dirgha-tapasvi (practicer of austerities of very long duration). We believe that these austerities was for the purpose of achieving universal good & not for causing harm to his body.

External austerity must be practiced to achieve the following auscipicious purpose – for preventing diseases, for cultivating power of endurance, for averting evil influences of the vicious act committed by a person who loves us, for doing good to others, for getting time for learning etc.

With a view to developing the spiritual power adequate for reducing passions, whatever means are adopted for placing under burning hardship one’s body, organs & mind – they are called tapas or austerity.

External austerity is of six types ie 1. Anasana – to give up food for one or more days. 2. Avamaudarya to eat less than what hunger demands. 3. Vrttisamksepa to reduce greed in relation to various sorts of things. 4. Rasaparityaga to give up delicacies like ghee, butter. 5. Viviktasayyasanasamli-nata – to reside (for spiritual benefit) in a lonely place free from all disturbances. 6. Kayaklesa – to place one’s body under stress through cold or heat, or adopting diverse postures and the like. The purpose behind this austerity is to cultivate the power of endurance. If austerity is undertaken to obtain something or the pity of others, then is springing from ignorance.

Internal austerity is also of six types i.e. 1. Prayascitta (atonement) – that through which it is possible to make clean sweep of the defects born of negligence arises in connection with a vow that has been accepted. 2. Vinaya (veneration) – to hold in great regard the virtuous qualifications like knowledge i.e. vinaya. 3. Vaiyvrttya (service) – to render service to somebody either through providing him with necessary means or through personally acting for his sake. 4. Svadhyaya (study) – to undertake various studies with a view to acquiring knowledge. 5. Vyutsarga (renunciation) – to renounce the feeling of I & my is called vyutsarga. 6. Dhyana (concentration) – is removing the distractions of mind to cultivate its power of concentration.

Vinaya (respect) is divided into four categories i.e. jnanavinaya (respect for right knowledge), darsanavinaya (respect for right faith), caritravinaya (respect for right conduct), and upacaravinaya (formal respect). Vinaya suggests renunciation of the mental states of pride & contempt. We should bear in mind the salutary advice of the Dharmasastra (the science of good conduct) that our behaviour towards all should be polite & friendly.

Dhyana (mental concentration) is of four types ie arta (mournful), raudra (cruel), dharma (moral & sukla (pure). Types one & two are cause of an evil rebirth while types three & four are a cause of spiritual good & liberation. We describe in brief –

a) Arta-dhyana is that concentration of mind, which is produced owing to some pain or misery either real or imaginary.
b) Raudra-dhyana means cruel and dhyana performed with such a mind is called raudra-shyana. It arises from a tendency to commit violence, to speak untruth, to commit theft and seek security of things acquired.
c) Dharma-dhyana is mental concentration that leads to spiritual good.
d) Sukla-dhyana (pure concentration) is very subtle auspicious mental concentration. It is attained at a very high spiritual stage, where the deluding karmas are completely subsided or are subjected to continuous process of destruction.

6. Donation (Dana) - donation means offering to someone a thing or money come in one’s possession through legitimate means. The things offered by way of donation must be such as proves beneficial in the life-journey of the recipient. The donor should have either respect or compassion towards the donee, and must not feel regret for the act of donation.

Donation is renunciation to the extent things or money are given in donation. Having renounced all possessions, to devote oneself completely to the service of others is the acme of donation. A man who continuously offers the benefits of spiritual experiences & developing powers & faculties to the masses out of pure affection, then his donation of services is highly superior to the donation of uncountable wealth by the richest of the rich. Donation given for the sake of reputation & praise is of no value.

Just as offering money to the deserving is donation, so also showing the good & righteous path to someone through one’s speech, giving wholesome advice to others, doing good through one’s speech are also forms of donation.

Which donation is great, money or good deeds. The simple answer is that which is needed at a particular time is great for that time. For the thirsty donation of water is great and so on. The donation must prove beneficial both to the person-offering donation & to the person receiving it. Service is the best form of donation. The mental state free from any ill will towards any being & full of compassion & friendliness towards all beings itself is the perennial fount of the virtue of donation. Such a mental state keeps constantly flowing the righteous activity of donation through speech & body.

Donation, whether performed through bodily or mental labor, whether in the form of imparting knowledge or in the form of compassion, whether of money or other useful things, is included in renunciation. There are three possible objectives of renunciation as will be clear from the three types of renunciation.

a) Renunciation rooted in self-control is that which helps in the practice of five-vows, the forms of self-control. Renunciation of unwholesome objects of pleasure, which instead of giving pure bliss, do harm to the body, pervert the mind, lead to waste of money & increase the feeling of attachment is the renunciation rooted in self-control. E.g. renunciation of attractive & fine cloth whose production in mills involves large-scale violence. One remains satisfied with hand-spun & hand-woven khaddar whose production involves very little violence OR make-up materials like talcum powder. 
b) Renunciation rooted in love & compassion is renouncing in times of scarcity those things, which one does not have but can, have or is offered, in favor of those who really need them for their livelihood.
c) Renunciation rooted in donation – an e.g. of a Jaina layman who earned enough to for two persons only but still invited one guest everyday, fed him and he or wife renounced one meal everyday.

A person who acquires money through honest & righteous means & gives it generously in donation is a good donor. An ascetic who uses all his knowledge & power for the benefit of others too is a donor.

EATING RULES - Jaina works dealing with rules of conduct devote considerable place to the devotion on what is fit to be eaten & what is not fit. Their ban on eating by night is also well known.

Prohibition of eating by Night - one can understand this ban if one recalls the number of flying insects that multiply the household esp Indian with the advancement of darkness at dusk. At night nos of insects are attracted by the light of a lantern, hover around it & fall dead. So also they must be settling on food also. And these tiny insects can barely be seen at night even when a lamp is lit. Thus at night, food may be infested with minute infestible organisms. Eating insects is bad for health. Food eaten before sunset gets mostly digested through bodily movement and thus does not cause any uneasiness in sleep. But if we eat by night & go to bed after some time food does not get digested. Indian science of health has formulated that after having taken food one should drink water in small quantity many times. Those who eat by night cannot observe this rule, because they do not have time to drink water in small quantity after taking food. Thus, they suffer from indigestion.

Nighttime eating results in violence against insects and is bad for health. Eating before sunset gives rest to the digestive system too. This facilitates proper sleep & observance of continence resulting in better health. However, in these days of struggle & competition, men are engaged in professions & businesses that they cannot renounce nighttime eating. In such cases eating by night is pardonable.

Discrimination of what to be eaten from what not to be eaten - Body is the foremost means of instruments of righteous conduct, dharmic practice & spiritual development & thereby ultimately of liberation. So it is necessary that it maintains its efficiency all right & remains healthy. It is better to form such habits of food & drink by which the body may remain healthy & gains the required strength to resist the attacks of diseases. For this purpose one must have proper eating habits.

One must abandon the food & drink which involve killing of mobile creatures, cause intoxication & unconsciousness leading to deviation from duty & bad behavior. Instead of increasing nutritive juices & helping proper secretion of fluids it excites nerves thereby causing fatigue, weakness & deterioration of body. So also from a religious standpoint one must not take medicines or tonics that are prepared from liver etc of mobile creatures after killing them, because their use encourages the business of killing animals. Meat eating is a very reprehensible & contemptible act.

Even though plants do have subtle life, we cannot live without depending on them for food. Again, vegetable substances form natural food & do not contains filthy things like blood. So by eating such pure & natural food one is not guilty of violence. Nature has itself allowed him to use the immobile-sensed beings (earth, water, light, air, plants) for his bare necessities of life. His use of them is natural & unsullied. He should not use living beings having more sense organs than one. The destruction of two-sensed beings is forbidden to all Jainas.

Health - for proper health & moderate food, pure water, fresh unpolluted air, sunlight, cleanliness, sufficient manual labor, sufficient rest & sleep are essential. Neglecting all or any of them invites bodily disorders & diseases.

Reprehensible Vicious Activities (Durvyasanas) - There are those activities which are not necessary for living or livelihood, make man such an addict to them that he experiences uneasiness without taking recourse to them. (there are seven such activities i.e. gambling, drinking, meat-eating, whoring, hunting, thieving and adultery).

Jaina dharma commands one to maintain cleanliness & purity. One should not pollute anything. Bacteriology informs us that excreta & urine remaining undisposed for long generate poisonous germs which spread diseases. Jaina teachings says that one should perform excretory functions in open places in such a manner as would cause no harm to others is very ancient. Cleaniless is important & healthy, conducive to mental delight.

At the end we must remember that dharmic or righteous conduct & good behavior, self-control, compassion & love, service, brotherhood, truthfulness, wisdom, tolerance, diligence, sincerity, bravery, generosity, vigilance, justness, courage, power of endurance, kindness, uprightness, self-sacrifice – all these constitute the essence of all dharmic works that comprise the supreme health of human life. Man can build up character by building up these good qualities. In it lies the fulfillment of human life. It is the right means to achieve mental, physical & spiritual progress. It is the life permeated with spiritual good. It is the path of purification leading to liberation.

Friends I sincerely hope you enjoyed reading the above as much as I enjoyed compiling it.

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