AN ANALYTICAL STUDY OF UPAMITI – BHAVA – PRAPAÑCA – KATHĀ
The 20th century age is marked by wonderful scientific accomplishments which are essentially materialistic in nature as they appease the material tendencies of man, inflating the wants, luxuries and desires of the entire mankind. We belong to the most dramatic and catastrophic era, for, in spite of the marvelous achievements of science and technology, the existence of mankind is threatened by the trigger of a nuclear bomb and sophisticated man- made missiles. The innumerable religions on one hand and the astounding scientific and technological advancements on the other hand have not been able to establish peace and harmony on earth. The moral and ethical degeneration of mankind is caused by the nourishment of animal instincts of violence, hatred, fear, terror, jealousy etc and vice versa. In the words of Dr. Paul Brunton “”We who live on the outer crust of a planet rotating its way through endless space, belong to the most tragical and critical of all its eras. That is why we must begin to search for its meaning for us. To discover what that is and to reorient our lives accordingly could make the impending era the most blessed of all, but not to do so easily make it the worst. That the universe has a meaning, and that human life is not a mere wandering from nothingness to nothingness, is the unhesitating affirmation of philosophy. Although in its fullness it offers a wisdom too subtle, a morality too lofty, a mystique too strange for the mass of humanity to care for, much less to comprehend and live up to, this is not to say that it is useless to them or has no message for them in the gravest crisis of their lives. Without asking everyone to become a mellow-minded philosopher, without asking anyone to study light-bringing philosophy, it yet asks for a hearing for its message on humanity’s present situation’’.1 1 He further remarks, ““Materialism is an intellectual illusion. The sturdy struggle of reason against passion, intuition against suggestion, truth against self-interest, individuality against the mass and contemplation against convention is an unending one. But it is also an honourable one. We must not, we dare not surrender either the right to think or the power to intuit for ourselves. It is both a blunder and a sin to take the easier path. We have witnessed in our time its terrible consequences in the case of whole nations.’’22 It is truly said that science without spirituality is blind and spirituality without science is lame. In this strife torn world, it is becoming difficult for man to be at peace with himself, with his immediate surroundings and with the environment at large.
Through this thesis I have tried to search solutions to the critical sickness of mordern man. The spiritual ignorance of man on one hand and the material tendencies on the other hand are responsible for the disastrous conditioning of persons and societies. Our faulty way of life, the invisible war of thoughts and feelings, the inflated ego all these have to be checked at the spiritual, intellectual and worldly levels. The ancient spiritual teachers dived deep in themselves, searched the higher values, experienced the age old truths of spiritual reality and then expounded them, most times orally and sometimes in a written form. The unbalanced use of intellect threatens the existence of mankind. Upamiti-Bhava-Prapañca-Kathā has attached great importance to restore the imbalances of mind, body and soul for spiritual welfare as well as material welfare. The text serves as a campaign against all the evils which the modern man faces. The age- old truths and religious beliefs have been best pronounced and chalked out by the author Siddhaṛṣi through the popular medium of story-telling. The entire text serves as a model in upholding the eternal values of spirituality, emancipation and peaceful co-existence. The text inspires the readers to progress towards self-realization and spiritual welfare withstanding all chaos and confusion existent in the external world.
The concentration of the book is primarily on worldly sojourn i.e. to explain and to bring to light the reality of transmigration and the possibilities of a solution to terminate the endless wanderings of individuals caught in the cycle of births and deaths. The progress in the scientific and technological arena, no doubt has made our lives comfortable but corresponding degeneration of humanity and humanitarian values has turned its goodness to evil. The book serves as a path finder in solving problems of spirituality, morality and materialism. The author has enumerated his philosophical and mystical experiences which have taught him the spiritual truth besides understanding one’s relationship with the inner self as well as the external world. The quality and duration of stay in the worldly sojourn differs from person to person (soul to soul) but each one has to pass through the grind of four-fold existence and liberate oneself firstly from perverse attitude, which is the root cause of transmigration. So long as the soul does not realize or acquire self-realization, it wanders in the worldly sojourn. Hence right faith i.e. unmoving faith in the self, as distinct from the body is of utmost importance. To know onself as the knower and seer is supreme spiritual reality, but due to one’s own spiritual ignorance, one is subject to endless, unfortunate material conditioning. At the outset all aspirants, seekers and students of philosophy, should realize the urgency of right faith, faith in the true self and then proceed on the path of spirituality.
Secondly the importance of vows in one’s life have been discussed throughout the length and breadth of the text of Upamiti-Bhava-Prapañca-Kathā. It is certain that only when one gives up all material cravings, he can progress on the path of liberation. But the overwhelming world of pleasures and material enticements allure not only individuals but societies and nations at large. But the economic fact of modern times is that, That nation is not developed which has the highest per capita income but that nation is richest whose people are healthy and knowledgeable.’’ The Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen developed the concept of Human Development Index and his findings reveal that the essential capabilities for human development are:
1) For people to lead long and healthy lives.
2) That they should be knowledgeable and
3) That they should have access to the resources needed for a decent standard of living.33
This goes to prove that more than just economic and financial growth of any nation the above factors of development play a crucial role and these factors can be developed enormously by kindling the light of Vratas (vows) and by accepting the vows. Not all can renounce the world by thought, word and deed but all can accept the partial vows of a house holder and prove to be good humans, humble citizens, sincere students, housewives, professionals, businessmen etc. The vows enable us to lead a life contentment and satisfaction thus checking our exorbitant and extravagant style of living which appears to be fantastic on the surface, but deep down it is full of unfathomable adversities of karma, ill-health, conflicts and environmental hazards.
India is a spiritual land unlike the western nations, which are generally materialistic in their attitude and behaviour. At no cost India can afford to overlook its rich spiritual background, although currently it is charged to ape the western materialistic culture which enjoins drinking, merry making, free sex, drugs, crime etc. as normal and part and parcel of life. The ever-growing population and the sinking ethical and moral standards are the two of the many innumerable challenges before India. The study of Upamiti-Bhava-Prapañca-Kathā reveals that its spiritual content inspires man to perfect himself, its religious content inspires man to remain a human being above all and the ethical dimension of the text safeguards the intention of man in a harmonious and prosperous society. The text also reveals the interplay of co-operation and conflicts at all levels of biological organisation be it micro or macro. To minimise the conflicts between man and man, man and society, man and environment, a scientific study of the Vratās (vows) can be undertaken.
The need for non violence and self-restraint has been felt most in modern times. Conservation of the environment, fuel, electricity, oil, water, forests, etc and the protection of animals and the ozone layer are topmost on the agenda of the nations of the 21st century. This is because of the absence of self-restraint and the vartā culture. In the words of Swami Vivekānanda, ““Our sacred motherland is a land of Religion and Philosophy, the birth place of spiritual giants- the land of renunciation, where and where alone, from the most ancient to the most modern times, there has been the highest ideal of life open to man.’’44 In this eon Lord Ŗṣabha was the promulgator of the Śramaṇa current of thought which runs parallel to the Brahmanic current of thought since time immemorial.55 The philosophical contents of the text of Upamiti-Bhava-Prapañca-Kathā have come down to us through the legacy of the twenty four Tīrthaṅkars, who have been apostles of the Vratā movement, renunciation and perfection. Mahāvīra retold the same set of five Mahavratas for the monks and nuns and twelve set of Aṇuvratas for the laymen and women and all this is history.66 But the relavance of non-violence, truth, non-stealing, continence and non-possession in modern times is multi-fold. In the words of the great Ācārya Tulsi, leader of the Aṇuvrata Movement, ““The Aṇuvrata Movement is a project for the spiritual and moral integration of life. The objective it aims at is immensely larger than social or political good. It is spiritual good. And the spiritual good is not merely the highest good-but the total good. It includes both one’s good and the good of others.’’77 A study of Aṇuvratas reveals that its essence, message and practice cannot be confined to one faith and tradition but it is universally applicable. The validity of the movement for all individual societies and nations cannot be debated, for they have been adhered to, in some degree and in some manner or the other, be it the Ahiṅsā of Gandhi, Panchsheel of Nehru, Freedom struggle of Nelson Madela, Human Rights Commission of the Security Council and the fundamental rights of the Indian Constitution all have asserted and delivered the message of Aṇuvrata at different times and in different lands.
Thus the Vratā culture is not merely spiritual, religious or ethical in nature but it is synonymous with survival in modern times. As the world progresses on material lines, the Vratās (non-violence, truth, non-stealing, continence and limitation of possessions) will become essential and indispensable. All religions have recommended the Vratā culture in some form or the other by suggesting its followers to limit their wants and utilize them properly. In the text of Upamiti-Bhava-Prapañca-Kathā through the character of “The Worldly Soul’ the author has conveyed the eternal validity of Vratās in the life of individuals and societies.
Thirdly a scientific analysis of the role of passions can enable us to understand human psychology in better light.88 The intensity of the passions, and the destructions caused by them, the colouring they produce in each individual, their roots in attachment and aversion, the nature of the sixteen sub-types of passions and the nine quasi passions, significance of auspicious and pure disposition, methods of annihilating the karmas and shaping one’s character-all these call for intensive, comparative research work. One can experience and attain peace (spiritual or otherwise), only when they conquer the passions. So also to realize our dream of a peaceful world, it is important that we restore our lost individuality of self-restraint and compassion. The different nations are a collective force of individuals, so individuals have to be trained and geared up for building a peaceful world.
Manoj Kumar Miṣra remarks in his article “Give peace a chance’, ““How does one define a peaceful world? It is a world where values are important and people know why and what they really want. Where satisfaction is not a mirage; where nature is respected; where attitudes are positive; where corruption is again a ““dirty’’ word; where a good day’s work is a worthwhile goal; where equity is the overriding principle of all political decisions; and merit is not a victim at the alter of political expediency. Such a ““peaceful world’’ is becoming increasingly difficult by the day. Human population is slated to become 8.5 billion by 2005 A.D. from the present six billion. Urbanisation becomes irreversible. Fresh water demand is doubling every 21 years, while supply is finite the world over. Chemistry of the atmosphere is changing with fearful ramifications. Biodiversity is threatened as never before. In this gloomy scenario, it is only the great religions sans their dogmatism that can show the way out whereby man can lead a life which ensures providence for all, and coexistence with all.’’99 At every step the author has advocated his readers to start with themselves by awakening the spirit of righteousness after realizing the reality of transmigration. The author serves as a role model in preaching philosophy through the popular instrument of story-telling, and one can analyse and study the impact of such an amalgamation of philosophy and story telling. Very few books are written on this line and one can take up a comparative study of philosophical allegorical works available not only in Sanskrit Narrative Literature, but also in Indian Narrative Literature and World Narrative Literature Dr. Brunton observes, ““Socrates wept over the corruption and ignorance of Athens as Jesus wept over the corruption and ignorance of Jerusalem. Men pass their whole lives in error when they might pass them in truth. They do wrong when they might do good. The result is suffering when it might be peace. Materialism is inevitable as a temporary phase of man’s endeavour to comprehend the facts of life. To those who wish to escape from the pressures and tyrannies of contemporary materialism, philosophy offers the most effective way and the safest road. It helps to understand the true relationship between the divine and the human. It will enable them to realize their spiritual potentialities.’’1010 Siddhaṛṣi and the concept of manifold existence both have come alive in the text of Upamiti-Bhava-Prapañca-Kathā. By making an analytical study of the text, in the given frame work, I have made an attempt to unravel the contents, essence and message of Upamiti-Bhava-Prapañca-Kathā.
- Paul Brunton in The Spiritual Crisis of Man Pg. 43. [↩]
- Ibid. Pg. 42. [↩]
- Down to Earth (Magazine). [↩]
- Swami Vivekānanda’s works. [↩]
- Jain Dharma Kā Maulika Itihās by Ācārya Hastimalji Mahāraj. [↩]
- Ibid. [↩]
- Ācārya Tulsi on Aṇuvrat Movement. [↩]
- Introduction of Upamiti-Bhava-Prapañca-Kathā by Devendra Muni Śāstri. [↩]
- Manoj Kumar Miṣra, in his article “Give Peace A Chance’, in Magazine Down to Earth. [↩]
- Paul Brunton in The Spiritual Crisis of Man, Pg. 223. [↩]