Jainism - Atman is both a bondage and a source of Moksha
by Life Positive
According to Jainism, the physical body is the medium and not the root cause of suffering. The cause lies in the karma sarira, the coded record of one's past deeds.
How would you explain the basic principles of Jainism?
Jainism has a sacred book known as Saman Sutra. This contains scriptures written by Lord Mahavira and has been put together by Acharya Tulsi (one of Jainism's leading spiritual leaders and guru of Acharya Mahaprajna). Jainism is basically atman (soul)-oriented. The main tenet is that the atman is both bondage and a source of moksha (liberation). The individual has to fulfill his karma to achieve moksha: man is responsible for his own happiness and sorrow. God is just a natural part of the universe. Jainism, however, is better known for its principle of non-violence. Acharya Tulsi incorporated another tenetónon-pollution, of the mind, body, spirit and the environment. But the basic philosophy is truthfulness. Jainism has compiled an aachar samhita (code of right conduct), which is codified in the form of anuvrat.
Why hasn't Jainism attained the same international stature as Buddhism?
In northern parts of India, even in Karachi and Sind in Pakistan, Jainism is well known. But this faith does not have many followers abroad. The reason is simple. Jainism has tougher rules than Buddhism. Jain monks have to wear a white cloth on their mouths. We also do not touch most things, including money and electronic items.
But Acharya Tulsi did try to liberalize the rules. What are you doing to spread the religion?
To spread Jainism abroad, we have initiated a separate group of monks, called Saman, and nuns, called Samani. At the moment they are around 1,000 in number. According to traditional principles, Jain ascetics are supposed to travel only by foot and are not allowed to use modern technology. But this special group is allowed to travel by air and train. They are also allowed to use computers. As they travel in foreign countries, we have even kept more flexible diet rules for them. However, non-vegetarian food remains taboo. In India, we have begun featuring in religious programs on cable television. We are also planning a series of documentaries on all Jain acharyas, starting from Acharya Bhikshu. Representatives from the Jain community are handling all these projects. The monks do not come into the picture at all.
Are there more male monks than female in Jainism?
That's not true. In Jainism, there have always been more nuns than monks.
How do you relate to other religious traditions?
We hold regular inter-faith talks. We also organize peace seminars where we invite representatives from various religions to discuss social and moral problems of the world.
Is your vision any different from that of Acharya Tulsi?
Essentially I am working on the same tracks as him. But, of course, as you move along, you discover more avenues of growth.
What would you like to do for the people?
My emphasis is on inculcating strong moral values in our society. But isn't the concept of right and wrong extremely subjective and time-space specific? There are some absolutes. Take cruelty. We know that hurting someone, be it a human or an animal, is wrong.
What about corruption?
Bribery is definitely wrong. But what else can a person do in today's society? This is actually a social problem.
What role does religion play in politics?
In ancient times, the two were interlinked. Today, money is the pivot around which society moves. People no longer give religion and faith the same priority.
With few people opting for monkhood, will Jainism fade out?
No. I don't think it will ever completely vanish. Sacrifice, restraint, and truth are eternal values. Maybe only a handful possess these qualities but they will never be non-existent.
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