Between Master and Disciples
From Jainism's Holy Akaranga Sutra,Book II - Uttarâdhyayana:Lectures 3-6      
One of the oldest religions in the world is Jainism, or traditionally known as Jain Dharma. Originating from ancient India, this philosophy centers around concepts such as right perception, right knowledge and right conduct in the attainment of moksha, or realization of the soul’s true nature. The concept of ahimsa, or non-violence, is of equally great importance.

Thus, with compassion for all life, practitioners of Jainism follow a pure vegetarian (vegan) diet. Jains follow the ancient wisdom of the 24 Tirthakaras, or prophets, whose teachings comprise the Agam sutras, the religion’s holy scriptures. Lord Mahavira, who is considered to be the last Tirthakara, was born around 5-6th century BCE, as a prince of the ancient kingdom of Vaishali. He later forsook his royal status to pursue the spiritual path. After attaining keval jnan, or all-knowing intuitive vision, he spent the rest of his life giving discourses on spiritual truths, which form the present-day tenets of Jainism. We present to you today excerpts of Uttarâdhyayan: Lectures 3-6 from the second book of Jainism’s Akaranga Sutra.

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THIRD LECTURE: THE FOUR REQUISITES Four things of paramount value are difficult to obtain here by a living being: human birth, instruction in the Law, belief in it, and energy in self-control. I. The universe is peopled by manifold creatures, who are, in this Samsara (migration and transmigration), born in different families and castes for having done various actions. Sometimes they go to the world of the gods, sometimes to the hells, sometimes they become Asuras (supernatural beings) in accordance with their actions.

Sometimes they become Kshattriyas (members of the second highest of the four castes of traditional Indian society), or Kandâlas (the lowest of men) and Bukkasas (lowest of men), or worms and moths, or insects called Kunthu and ants. Thus living beings of sinful actions, who are born again and again in ever-recurring births, are not disgusted with the Samsara (migration and transmigration), but they are like warriors (never tired of the battle of life). Living beings bewildered through the influence of their actions, distressed and suffering pains, undergo misery in non-human births. But by the cessation of Karman (retribution), perchance, living beings will reach in due time a pure state and be born as men.

II. And though they be born with a human body, it will be difficult for them to hear the Law, having heard which they will do penances, fight their passions and abstain from killing living beings. III. And though, by chance, they may hear the Law, it will be difficult for them to believe in it; many who are shown the right way, stray from it. IV. And though they have heard the Law and believe in it, it is difficult for them to fulfill it strenuously; many who approve of the religion, do not adopt it. Having been born as a man, having heard the Law, believing in it, and fulfilling it strenuously, an ascetic should restrain himself and shake off sinfulness.

The pious obtain purity, and the pure stand firmly in the Law: the soul afterwards reaches the highest Nirvâna (paradise). Leave off the causes of sin, acquire fame through patience! A man who acts up to this will rise to the upper regions after having left this body of clay. The Yakshas (nature-spirits) who are gifted with various virtues, live in the heavenly regions, situated one above the other, shining forth like the great luminaries, and hoping never to descend thence. Intent on enjoying divine pleasures and changing their form at will, they live in the upper Kalpa heavens many centuries of former years. The Yakshas (nature-spirits), having remained there according to their merit, descend thence at the expiration of their life and are born as men. Men are of ten kinds. Fields and houses, gold,

and servants: where these four goods, the causes of pleasure, are present, in such families he is born. He will have friends and relations, be of good family, of fine complexion, healthy, wise, noble, famous, and powerful. After having enjoyed, at their proper time, the unrivalled pleasures of human life, he will obtain true knowledge by his pure religious merit acquired in a former life. Perceiving that the four requisites are difficult to obtain, he will apply himself to self-control, and when by penances he has shaken off the remnant of Karman (retribution), he will become an eternal Siddha (spiritual being). Thus I say.

FOURTH LECTURE: IMPURITY You cannot prolong your life, therefore be not careless; you are past help when old age approaches. Consider this: what protection will careless people get, who kill living beings and do not exert themselves? Men who adhering to wrong principles acquire wealth by evil deeds, will lose it, falling into the snares of their passions and being held captive by their hatred.

People in this life and the next cannot escape the effect of their own actions. If a man living in the Samsâra (migration and transmigration) does an action for the sake of somebody else, or one by which he himself also profits, then, at the time of reaping the fruit of his actions, his relations will not act as true relations (i.e. will not come to his help). Wealth will not protect a careless man in this world and the next. Though he had seen the right way, he does not see it, even as one in the dark whose lamp has suddenly been put out.

Though others sleep, be thou awake! Like a wise man, trust nobody, but be always on the alert; for dangerous is the time and weak the body. Be always watchful like a Bhârunda bird! A monk should step carefully in his walk (i.e. in his life), supposing everything to be a snare for him. First, he must bestow care on his life till he wins the stake (viz. enlightenment), and afterwards he should despise it, annihilating his sins. By conquering his will, a monk reaches liberation. Be watchful in your young years; for thereby a monk quickly obtains liberation. “If he does not get victory over his will early, he will get it afterwards,” such reasoning presupposes the eternity of human life.

But such a man despairs when his life draws to its close, and the dissolution of his body approaches. One cannot quickly arrive at discernment; therefore one should exert one's self, abstain from pleasures, understand the world, be impartial like a sage, and guard one's self: thus, never be careless. A Sramana (wandering monk) who again and again suppresses the effects of delusion, and controls himself, will be affected in a rough way by external things; but a monk should not hate them in his mind. External things weaken the intellect and allure many; therefore keep them out of your mind. Keep off delusion, remove pride, do not practice deceit, leave off greed. Desire virtues till the end of your life. Thus I say.

FIFTH LECTURE: DEATH AGAINST ONE'S WILL In this ocean of life with its currents (viz. births) difficult to cross, one man has reached the opposite shore; one wise man has given an answer to the following question. These two ways of life ending with death have been declared: death with one's will, and death against one's will. Death against one's will is that of ignorant men, and it happens to the same individual many times. Death with one's will is that of wise men, and at best it happens but once. Mahâvîra has thus described the first kind in which an ignorant man, being attached to pleasures, does very cruel actions.

A man attached to pleasures and amusements will be caught in the trap of deceit. He thinks: “I never saw the next world, but I have seen with my own eyes the pleasures of this life.” “The pleasures of this life are, as it were, in your hand, but the future ones are uncertain. Who knows whether there is a next world or not?” The fool boasts: “I shall have the company of most men.” But by his love of pleasures and amusements he will come to grief. Then he begins to act cruelly against movable and immovable beings, and he kills living beings with a purpose or without. An ignorant man kills, lies, deceives, calumniates, dissembles, drinks liquor, and eats meat, thinking that this is the right thing to do.

Overbearing in acts and words, desirous for wealth and women, he accumulates sins in two ways. Then he suffers ill and is attacked by disease; and he is in dread of the next world when he reflects on his deeds. I have heard of the places in hell, and of the destination of the sinner, where the fools who do cruel deeds will suffer violently. Then going to the place where he is to be born again according to his deeds, he feels remorse, as I have heard from my teacher. As a charioteer, who against his better judgment leaves the smooth highway and gets on a rugged road, repents when the axle breaks; so the fool, who transgresses the Law and embraces unrighteousness, repents in the hour of death, like the charioteer over the broken axle.

Then when death comes at last, the fool trembles in fear; he dies the “death against one's will,” having lost his chance like a gambler vanquished by Kali (goddess of strength). Thus has been explained the fools’ “death against one's will”; now hear from me the wise men's “death with one's will!” Full of peace and without injury to any one is, as I have heard from my teachers, the death of the virtuous who control themselves and subdue their senses. Such a death does not fall to the lot of every monk, nor of every householder; for the morality of householders is of various character, and that of monks is not always good throughout. Some householders are superior to some monks in self-control; but the saints are superior to all householders in self-control.

Nakedness, twisted hair, baldness – these outward tokens will not save a sinful ascetic. A sinner, though he be a mendicant friar, will not escape hell; but a pious man, whether monk or householder, ascends to Heaven. A faithful man should practice the rules of conduct for householders; he should never neglect the Pôsaha fast in both fortnights, not even for a single night. When under such discipline he lives piously even as a householder, he will, on quitting flesh and bones, share the world of the Yakshas (nature-spirits).

Now a restrained monk will become one of the two: either one free from all misery or a god of great power. To the highest regions, in due order, to those where there is no delusion, and to those which are full of light, where the glorious gods dwell – who have long life, great power, great luster, who can change their shape at will, who are beautiful as on their first day, and have the brilliancy of many suns – to such places go those who are trained in self-control and penance, monks or householders, who have obtained liberation by absence of passion. Having heard this from the venerable men who control themselves and subdue their senses, the virtuous and the learned do not tremble in the hour of death.

A wise man having weighed both kinds of death and chosen the better one taught in the Law of Compassion, will become calm through patience, with an undisturbed mind at the time of death. When the right time to prepare for death has arrived, a faithful monk should, in the presence of his teacher, suppress all emotions of fear or joy and wait for the dissolution of his body. When the time for quitting the body has come, a sage dies the “death with one's will,” according to one of the three methods. Thus I say.

SIXTH LECTURE: THE FALSE ASCETIC All men who are ignorant of the Truth are subject to pain; in the endless Samsara (migration and transmigration) they suffer in many ways. Therefore a wise man, who considers well the ways that lead to bondage and birth, should himself search for the truth, and be kind towards all creatures. “Mother, father, daughter-in-law, brother, wife, and sons will not be able to help me, when I suffer for my own deeds.” This truth should be taken to heart by a man of pure faith; he should therefore cut off greed and love, and not hanker after his former connections.

Cows and horses, jewels and earrings, cattle, slaves and servants: all these possessions you must give up in order to obtain the power of changing your form at will. Everything that happens to somebody, affects him personally; therefore, knowing the creatures' love of their own self, do not deprive them of their life, but cease from endangering and fighting with them. Seeing that to accept presents leads to hell, one should not accept even a blade of grass; only to preserve one's life one should eat the food that is put in one's own alms-bowl. Here some are of opinion that they will be delivered from all misery by merely attending the teacher, without abstaining from sins.

Acknowledging the truth about bondage and liberation, but talking only, not acting in accordance with these tenets, they seek comfort for themselves in mighty words. Clever talking will not work salvation; how should philosophical instruction do it? Fools, though sinking lower and lower through their sins, believe themselves to be wise men. They are going a long way in the endless Samsara (migration and transmigration); therefore, looking out carefully one should wander about carefully. Choosing what is beyond and above this world, (viz. liberation), one should never desire worldly objects, but sustain one's body only to be able to annihilate one's Karman (retribution).

Those will reap pains who, in thoughts, words, or acts, are attached to their body, to colors, and to forms. Recognizing the cause of Karman (retribution), one should wander about waiting for one's death; knowing the permitted quantity of food and drink, one should eat such food as has been prepared by the householders for their own consumption. An ascetic should not lay by any store, not even so little as the grease (sticking to his alms-bowl); but as a bird with its plumage, so he with his alms-bowl should wander about without desires. Receiving alms in a manner to avoid faults, and controlling one's self, one should wander about in a village, etc., without a fixed residence; careful among the careless one should beg one's food.

Thus has spoken the Arhat Gñâtriputra, the venerable native of Vaisâlî, who possesses the highest knowledge and who possesses the highest faith, who possesses, at the same time, the highest knowledge and the highest faith. Thus I say.

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