Saturday, September 25, 2010


It is not true that only humans can develop compassion and love toward all living beings. Some animals also have capacity to develop such level of compassion toward other living beings. In the ancient Jain texts it is mentioned that how compassion plays major role for the progress of the soul toward liberation. There is a beautiful story in the history of an elephant in the history of Jainism which states that how compassion and kindness toward all living being plays major role in spiritual upliftment.

This is a story about an elephant. Once, there was a wild fire in the forest where that elephant used to live. All the animals came running and took refuge on the safe place. The elephant also went there. During that time, the elephant raised his foot to scratch his body because of an itch. That very time a rabbit was pushed in that space by the pressure of other animals. As the elephant tried to put the foot back, he felt the presence of the rabbit and decided to hold the foot up in order to save it. The fire raged for two and a half day during which the elephant continued to hold the foot up out of compassion for the rabbit.

At the end of fire as the animals retreated, the elephant tried to lower his foot. It had however stiffened during that time. The elephant could not maintain his balance and fell down. He felt agonizing pain and could not get up. That way he spent three days and night facing much affliction and acute pain. Ultimately the elephant left that body and were born as the prince, named Meghrath of King Shrenik, because of compassion for the rabbit.

At the age of 8 he was sent to school where he learned all 72 arts and crafts and became known as an accomplished youth. He was then married to 8 beautiful girls with whom he enjoyed all the pleasures of the worldly life. Once Lord Mahavira came to Rajgruhi and camped in Gunashil monastery. Almost every resident of Rajgruhi used to go to His sermon. Meghkumar went as well, and was very much impressed. Realizing the transitory nature of the worldly situations, as explained by the Lord, he decided to renounce his worldly life. But his parents were sad to hear about his intentions. They tried every means to stop him from renouncing. He however remained very firm. He left everything and became a possession-less monk of Lord Mahavira.

After becoming a monk in Lord Mahavira’s order, Meghkumar undertook fasting, meditation and other austerities in order to shed his karma. The Lord and his chief disciple Indrabhuti Gautam too praised him for that. When his body became very weak and could no longer observe the rigors of monk-hood, he decided to observe fast unto death. That he did for a month on mount Vaibhargiri near Rajgruhi and took birth in heaven. The Lord has stated to Indrabhuti Gautam that at the end of the heavenly life, he would be reborn in Maha-Videha part of the Universe and would attain salvation.

The story states how an elephant reached the level of higher purity of soul just because he had compassion for the rabbit in that birth.


  1. Thanks for posting the Elephant story.

    As I read (when I get a chance) about our religion – some thoughts or doubts comes to my mind.

    I have questions – without disrespecting any one – just for conversation or knowledge purposes. Does all this Tap, countless life etc. make sense?

    1) What happens to the people who are not born as a Jain and eat meat etc? Do they go to haven?
    2) If I restrain the enjoyment of my current birth (life) – do you think am I missing the joy? What happens if there is nothing like next life? Is there any proof of next life?
    3) Even at late stage in some one’s life if they follow the rules and restrains and austerities – is it little late? It seems like you will go nowhere because all good karma started very late.

    I have read Canto Two (Hemachandra The lives of the Jain Elders) about marriage of Jambu and conversations with his wives and the story of the crow.

    We are in 2010 and 2600 years after this period. So the question is are these just stories? Do we really know if there is next life or havens?

    This is just for knowledge and conversation purposes only. I have no intent of offending any one. As I know the concept of Right Knowledge, Right Fait and Right Conduct.

    As a matter of fact I like this blog.

    Any one who wants to answer and explain – please do so.


  2. First of all, don’t see Jainism as a religion. Jainism is a way, a path toward liberation. We have given name religion but it is a way and describes the process to get rid of karma. Jainism is an intuition which comes from within, from soul. When we gets rid of possessions, wrong beliefs, four passions namely anger, ego, pride and deceit and start meditation on self (soul) then what comes from within is Jainism.

    Jainism doesn’t state that only Jains can attain liberation. In fact, in the past those who became omniscient and attained liberation were Brahmins, Kshatriyas and from other casts who chose the path of non-attachment and self-control. In the past, we have examples of people who never knew about Jain principles but they attained omniscience even when they were living life of a house-holder, for example, Kapil Kevali etc. The true purpose of human birth is getting rid of passions and attachment and accepting the path of self-control.

    Now accepting the vow of austerities and meditation is nothing but process to isolate good (punya) and bad (papa) karma attached with soul. Karmas are sub-atomic particles which attracts toward soul as a result of vibrations released by us by our actions of mind, body and speech. The Universe is made of two-fold substances, living (chetan) and non-living (jada). There are infinite, individual souls in the universe. Soul is categorized into living beings and is conscious and sentient energy. It has qualities of infinite knowledge, power and bliss. On the other hand Non-living beings are sub-atomic particles or parmanus. They are infinite and individual. When they accumulate, they form matter like solid, liquid, gas and plasma which can be detected through eyes. Also space, time, medium of motion, medium of rest are categories of non-living beings. Non-living beings are also energies and they converts into energy (E=Mc2 ). This statement is written in the scriptures and preached by the last Tirthankar Lord Mahavir. Mahavira said in that time’s local language that, “Uppanei Va, Vigamei Va and Dhuvei Va”. Which means everything emerges, vanishes but original qualities (atoms) of substance remains constant. The modern science has proved same thing by the help of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics!! The same Omniscient Lords who stated the above statement has also stated the separate existence of soul. The basic qualities of a soul is Infinite Knowledge, Power and Bliss but due to interaction with karma pudgala the basic qualities of soul has been covered by the karmic dust since innumerable times so the soul fails to recognize its real self. The soul ultimately gains its real self when it gets rid of four types of destructive karmas.

    Now because of this bondage the soul has to transmigrate through endless birth-death-rebirth cycle. The proof of recollecting memories of previous births (Jati Smaran Gyaan) has found during recent years. There are thousands of people in the world who has acquired memory of their previous lives. We have a beautiful example of a Jain Philosopher Srimad Rajchandra who remembered his many previous births at the age of 7 and later he also acquired telepathy that allowed him to read other’s minds!! Because of such spiritual powers he could develop high level of detachment from worldly objects.

    Those who eat meat cannot reach the state of perfect equanimity because it is also proved that the type of food we take affects on our nature. Pure vegetarian food is ideal to develop compassion (toward every kind of living being). Equanimity develops bridge toward liberation. Those who eat meat should give up eating non-veg food if he/she wants to attain liberation. Also we all think that whatever we enjoy from mundane world, money etc are real enjoyment. But actually it gives just illusion of pleasure. The real pleasure is within, in soul, so no need to gain pleasure from external objects because such objects and relations are transient and gives us pain when we depart.

  3. So when do you start? When it's too late? (age)If you start late is it enough?

  4. There is no age limit. In Gujarati, we have a quote that “Jagya Tyaar thi Savaar”. That means, “It’s morning since when you are awakened”. If you or anyone starts to learn and practice Jainism then I would suggest them to learn Jain Philosophy as deeply as possible. Developing faith in the teaching of Tirthankars is the most important step toward spiritual progress and it gives us Right View (Samyak Darshan).

    I see the majority of Jains all over the world give importance to rituals only. I don’t think the majority of Jain people would be knowing The Jain Philosophy and the concepts like Anekantvaad (Non-Absolutism) and Syadvaad (Theory of Relativity) etc. Practicing and learning both philosophy and rituals lead us to the right path. Only practicing rituals are all futile. I also see that most of Jains give importance to fasting only. I have read that Tirthankars and ancient monks and nuns practiced fasting only to make their grip of meditation stronger. So we must know why we are observing fasts.

  5. Rahulbhai:
    • I agree that fasting “I have read that Tirthankars and ancient monks and nuns practiced fasting only to make their grip of meditation stronger. So we must know why we are observing fasts”, however fasting is also external austerities (penances or tapas) so as to accelerate the ripening process of bad karma as well as reducing the effects produced.
    • Please see below – as we said in America “No pain – No gain”. We must observe austerities like fasting to shed bad karma.
    Monks, nuns and laity fast as penance and to control desires. Jains believe fasting purifies the body and the mind, reminding one of Mahavir's emphasis on renunciation and asceticism. Mahavir spent months fasting and in contemplation. It is not sufficient simply to stop eating when fasting; the person must also stop wanting to eat. Control over one's mind is a major goal. If one continues to desire food, the fast is fruitless.
    Jain fasts are also observed in penance or in compensation for sins committed. The self-imposed penalty serves as a pause to contemplate transgressions and a means to focus on ways to improve one's self.
    Shedding of Past Karmas (Nirjara)
    Main article: Nirjara
    Jainism prescribes mainly two methods for shedding karmas (Nirjara), accumulated by the soul.
    • Passive Method – By allowing past karmas to ripen in due course of time and experiencing the results, both good and bad with equanimity. If the fruits of the past karmas are not received without attachment or agitation then the soul earns fresh karmic bondages. It is also not possible for the soul to know before-hand when and which karma will start to produce results and therefore require good discipline in practicing equanimity under all circumstances.
    • Active Method – By practicing internal and external austerities (penances or tapas) so as to accelerate the ripening process as well as reducing the effects produced. This is recommended approach as it prepares and conditions the soul and reminds it to be vigilant.
    The internal austerities are
    1. Atonement of sinful acts
    2. Practice politeness and humility - in spite of having comparatively more wealth, wisdom, social status, power, etc.
    3. Service to others, especially monks, nuns, elders and the weaker souls without any expectations in return
    4. Scriptural study, questioning and expanding the spiritual knowledge
    5. Abandonment of passions – especially anger, ego, deceit and greed
    6. Meditation
    The external austerities are meant to discipline the sensual cravings. They are
    1. Fasting
    2. Eating less than one's normal diet
    3. Abstention from tasty and stimulating food
    4. Practicing humility and thankfulness – by seeking help without egoistic tendencies
    5. Practicing solitude and introspection
    6. Mastering over demands of body

  6. Yes it’s true. The six external austerities are the step toward internal austerities. Because he who has controlled his senses, mind etc by performing external austerities like fasting etc can start practicing internal austerities like Atonement, politeness, Service to others, scriptural study, Kayotsarg and Meditation.

    All the first five internal austerities and all six external austerities are preparatory steps for the practice of dhyana, which is the primary cause of moksha.