Positive Non-violence: Puṇya And Dharma
The auspicious activities of mercy, charity, kindness, compassion, service, benevolence, etc., are positive non-violence in practice. Their volitional modes reduce passions, which indicates merit or puṇya. As is clearly indicated by the following characteristics of dharma, it generates positive qualities or virtues in the soul and purifies it -
Cattāri dhammadārā – khanti, muttī, ajjave, maddave|
- Sthānāṅga, 4/4.
That is, – there are four doors of dharma – forbearance, contentment, simplicity and mildness.
Dhammo maṅgalamukkiṭṭhaṁ, ahiṁsā sañjamo tavo|
- Daśavaikālika, 1/1.
That is, – Dharma, comprising non-violence, restraint and penance, is the best of benedictions.
- Bodhapāhuḍa, 25.
That is, – The dharma based on mercy is the pure dharma.
Jīvāṇaṁ rakkhaṇaṁ dhammo|
- Kārtikeyānuprekṣā, 478.
That is, – To protect the living beings is dharma or sacred duty.
- Tattvārtha sūtra, 6/13, Rājavārtika ṭīkā.
That is, – Dharma is characterises by non-violence, etc.
Punātyātmānaṁ pūyate’neneti vā puṇyaṁ|
- Tattvārthavārtika, 6.34.
That is, – What purifies the soul is puṇya.
Puṇyaṁ karma śubhaṁ proktaṁ|
- Ādhyātmasāra, 18.60.
That is, – Auspicious activities are puṇya.
Durgatau prapatato jīvān dhārayati,
sugatau vā tān sthāpayatīti dharmaḥ|
- Sthānāṅgavātti, 1.40, p. 21.
That is, – Dharma holds the living beings falling in bad or inauspicious destinies and establishes them in good or auspicious destinies.
Dharmo nāma kāpāmūlaḥ|
- Kṣatracūḍāmaṁi, 5.35.
That is, – Dharma is based on mercy.
So dhammo jattha dayā|
- Vātti on Niyamasāra, 6.
That is, – Where there is mercy, there is dharma.
Dharmaḥ puṁso viśuddhiḥ|
That is, – Purification of the soul is dharma.
Śubhaḥ puṇyasya| Aśubhaḥ pāpasya|
- Tattvārtha sūtra, 6.3-4.
That is, – Auspicious combination (yoga) results in the influx of merit; inauspicious combination results in that of sin.
Ṇavavidhe puṇṇaṁ paṇṇate, tañjahā – aṇṇapuṇṇe,
pāṇapuṇṇe, vatthapuṇṇe, leṇapuṇṇe, sayaṇapuṇṇe,
maṇapuṇṇe, vaipuṇṇe, kāyapuṇṇe, ṇamokkārapuṇṇe|
- Sthānāṅga sūtra, sthāna 9.
That is, – Merit is of nine types – 1. Merit earned by giving food 2. Merit earned by giving water 3. Merit earned by giving clothes 4. Merit earned by giving place to stay 5. Merit earned by giving bed to sleep on 6. Merit earned by mind 7. Merit earned by speech 8. Merit earned by body, and 9. Merit earned by bowing.
The spiritual purity is gained through both – dharma as well as merit. Thus, both are similar.
The mental activity of thinking well of others, and prescriptive verbal and bodily activities like speaking well of others, to say something beneficial and to serve, to be kind, to protect, etc., have been included amongst puṇya or meritorious activities in the Sthānāṅga sūtra. Mercy, protection etc have been included in non-violence in the second part of Praśnavyākaraṇa sūtra and non-violence has been given a place amongst such activities that result in karmic stoppage. Karmic stoppage is dharma. Therefore, auspicious activities such as mercy, protection, etc being the causes of karmic stoppage, are dharma only. Puṇya and Saṁvara are both closely related to the purification of the soul. This relationship endures till the separation of the body from the soul, which is up to the moment just before final deliverance. That is why some believe that there is no canonical basis of not accepting puṇya as dharma. Actually in none of the canonical works or its ancient commentaries has it been said that puṇya is not dharma. As means of karmic stoppage and separation purify the soul and are accepted as dharma, so the puṇya should also be similarly accepted as dharma for it also purifies the soul and is also a means of liberation. Puṇya is also a part of dharma just as means of karmic stoppage and separation are because auspicious combination is puṇya as and it is also a means of karmic stoppage. The volitional form of auspicious combination stops the karmic influx by preventing the inauspicious combination from taking hold and its practical form is puṇya. As the volitional and practical forms are closely connected and because they both stay in the path of liberation till the very end, they are both parts of dharma. What causes the downfall of the soul is sin. Therefore, sin is not dharma but adharma. If the soul purifying puṇya be taken as adharma, then we will have to accept the other soul purifying agencies like means of karmic stoppage and penance also as adharma. If puṇya is taken as adharma and abandonable just because it separates from the soul at the time of final deliverance, then we will have to consider the means of karmic stoppage, penance, and the ‘as enunciated conduct (Yathākhāta cāritra)’, etc., also as adharma because all these also separate from the soul at the time of final deliverance, which will not be acceptable to anyone.
Auspicious combination, mercy, charity, etc., are the practical forms of non-violence, which purify the soul. That is why auspicious combination has been said to be puṇya. It is worthy of note that in all ancient scriptures puṇya has been said to be soul purifying. That is – it has been said to be dharma. If the soul-purifying puṇya is taken as adharma and abandonable then there will be no difference left between the soul-purifying puṇya and sin that renders the soul impure. Possibly, because of this reason alone some scholars have called the puṇya as golden gallows and the sin as iron gallows. However, what difference does it make to the condemned whether he be hanged at the golden gallows or the iron one? Actually it makes no difference because it does not happen that one who is hanged at the golden gallows either dies happily or does not die at all. Whether the gallows are golden or iron its job is to kill the condemned and it does so in both cases and the condemned suffers similar pangs of death in both cases. Therefore to consider sin as iron gallows or iron shackles and puṇya as golden gallows or golden shackles is to consider sin and puṇya as equal. In that case there remains no difference between the two. Such an erroneous consideration will bring the noble activities of mercy, charity, friendship, protection, etc., in the same category as the ignoble activities such as cruelty, violence, telling lies, stealing, adultery, etc., which is totally improper and unjustified.
To subscribe the to abovementioned belief is to harm ourselves by not undertaking the acts of merit and to believe that it would be better not to undertake any activities of mercy, charity, etc. Why to dothe foolishness of increasing the worldly transmigration by undertaking such activities? What is meant here is that believing in such an erroneous belief is to condemn and abandon all human and humane virtues and activities of mercy, charity, kindness, compassion, service, etc. Such a belief is grossly inhuman and it should have no place in human life.
On this subject the author had asked the learned saint, Pandit Muni Shri Samarthamalji Maharaj, in Bundi, as to where was it given in the canonical works that puṇya is abandonable. The learned saint replied that it was nowhere given in the canonical literature and that he did not consider puṇya as abandonable. He also did not consider puṇya as adharma or the golden shackles but an item of golden jewellery that was beautiful and good to wear, he added. I think these words of the learned saint brought out the truth of the matter in no uncertain terms. Because if puṇya was considered to be abandonable for the members of the clergy, then the means of its destruction would have been described in the canonical works just like the means of destruction of sinful thoughts and activities have been mentioned there. Whatever spiritual practices, such as those in the form of non-violence, restraint and penance or in the form of right vision, right knowledge, right conduct and penance or in the form of any other combination that has been prescribed in the canonical works do not result in the destruction of puṇya. On the other hand as a spiritual aspirant progresses in his spiritual practice, his merits increase. That is why fully detached omniscient is considered to be infinitely meritorious.
If the destruction of the meritorious volitions and activities were considered as essential for liberation, then there are two ways to achieve it – 1. Destruction and separation after its fruition, and 2. By converting the meritorious subtypes into sinful subtypes by increase in sinful passions etc. The first depends on the nature and the aspirant does not have to do anything. The second way is that of increasing the sinful thoughts and activities, which would eventually be fatal for him and is, therefore abandonable for him. It means that puṇya is not a hindrance or abandonable for the spiritual aspirant. The destruction and separation of puṇya can have no bearing on his spiritual practice. As a ship becomes redundant on getting across the sea, so does the puṇya also become redundant after one gets across the worldly chasm and liberates. As the medicine is given up when one gets cured of any disease, the puṇya also separates from the soul after it has overcome and destroyed the sins. Therefore, there are no rituals prescribed for destroying and separating puṇya. Like one is required to take the vows for giving up sins, there are no vows for giving up puṇya.
The fact is that renunciation is the soul of dharma and the meritorious activities constitute its body. As the body bears the soul, the worldly soul cannot remain without a body. The destruction of the body is death. Similarly, puṇya bears the dharma. In the corporeal state the dharma cannot be held without meritorious activities like those of mercy, charity, kindness, compassion, friendship, service, etc. The reason for this is that a corporeal soul cannot live without the activities of the combination of mind, body and speech. These activities can either be meritorious or sinful. The meritorious ones will raise him further while the sinful ones will cause his downfall. That is why to be without merit is to be unfortunate (Puṇyahīna). The unfortunate being is without dharma; he has no sense of duty or purpose. To be without dharma is being without good fortune and to invite misfortune.
We have said earlier that renunciation, karmic stoppage, and restraint constitute the soul of dharma and meritorious activities constitute its body. Both are parts of dharma. The only difference between the two is that the soul is indestructible while the body is destructible. Thus, the only difference between karmic stoppage and merit is only that renunciation as a means of karmic stoppage, which is a means of gaining liberation, remains with the soul right up to the end of its worldly journey and finally converts itself into the spiritual goal while puṇya, which is in the form of auspicious volition and activities and which aids the path of liberation, separates from the soul when the body separates from it just like the ship separates from the passenger on reaching the destination. Renunciation and means of karmic stoppage
are means, practice and goal, all three combined, while puṇya is just means and practice not the goal. Puṇya is like medicine to remove the disease, which is given up once the disease is cured. It is like ‘as enunciated conduct’ that is also separated when the final deliverance is achieved.
Even the corporeal omniscient Lords have the activities of the mind, body and speech. They give discourses; they peregrinate from place to place. That is why to be active is neither bad nor a cause of karmic bondage. What are bad are the mundane desires, passions and attachment and aversion associated with these activities. These are the causes of karmic bondage. What are abandonable are these inauspicious things and not the meritorious activities. An activity is auspicious if the passions associated with it are lean while it becomes inauspicious if the passions associated with it are gross and deep-seated. Such activities are abandonable.
The activities can be categorised into these three – 1. Activities that increase attachment and aversion, 2. Activities that destroy attachment and aversion and 3. Activities that are free from attachment and aversion or the activities that are fully detached. Out of these the first kind of activities are sinful and are abandonable; those of the second kind are means of getting free from these flaws and achieve destruction and separation of karmic bondages, and the third kind of activities are natural and free from all kinds of desires and attachments and they happen of their own. These latter two kinds of activities are auspicious activities and they are not harmful in any way. These auspicious activities are not abandonable but acceptable. So much so that even the inspiration and giving of discourses by the world renounced monks and fully detached omniscient beings are also auspicious activities but they do not cause any karmic bondages. The reason being that they do not indulge in these auspicious activities for deriving any mundane pleasures but they do so for the welfare of the world at large.
It is not that all activities cause karmic bondage. The activities can also destroy karmic bondages. That is – karmic separation can also be achieved through appropriate activities. In this connection the following quote from the Bhagavatī sūtra is worthy of note –
Samaṇovāsagassa ṇaṁ Bhante!
Tahārūvaṁ samaṇaṁ vā māhaṇaṁ vā aphāsueṇaṁ aṇesaṇijjaṁ asaṇapāṇakhāima-sāimeṇaṁ paḍilābhemāṇassa kiṁ kajjai?
Goyamā! Egantaṁ so nijjaraṁ kajjai,
natthi ya se pāvaṁ kammaṁ kajjai|
- Bhagavatī sūtra, 8.6.
That is, – (Principal disciple Gautama asks Bhagvān Mahāvīra) : Lord! What retribution does a householder gain by giving flawless eatable, drinkable, nourishing and relishable food to a monk? The Lord replied that it results in his karmic destruction and separation only and not in karmic bondage.
Here, the charitable activity has been described as a cause of karmic separation only and not of sinful karmic bondage. Here the word only is very significant and precludes the possibility of incurring karmic bondage through charitable activities. What is meant is that the charitable activities cause karmic separation only and not karmic bondage.
In the first śataka of the Bhagavatī sūtra itself it has been explained by means of questions and answers that the living being can incur karmic bondage for activities for his own sake (ātmārambhī), for activities for the sake of the others (parārambhī) and for activities of both these kinds (tadubhayārambhī) or he may not incur any karmic bondage through his activities (anārambhī). Except human beings all the living beings of the world can indulge in activities of the first three kinds that is – ātmārambhī, parārambhī and tadubhayārambhī but the human beings can undertake activities of all four kinds including the anārambhī ones. Clarifying this subject further, the 16th aphorism in uddeśaka 1 of Śataka 1 of Bhagavatī sūtra says –
Jīvā duvihā paṇṇattā tañjahā – saṁsārasamāvannagā ya asaṁsārasamāvannagā ya, tattha ṇaṁ je te asaṁsāra-samāvannagā te ṇaṁ siddhā, siddhā ṇaṁ no āyārambhā jāva aṇārambhā, tattha ṇaṁ je te saṁsārasamāvannagā te duvihā paṇṇattā, tañjahā – sañjayāya asañjayā ya| Tattha ṇaṁ je te sañjayā te duvihā paṇṇattā, tañjahā – pamattasañjayā ya apamattasañjayā ya, tattha ṇaṁ je te apamattasañjayā te ṇaṁ no āyārambhā, no parārambhā jāva aṇārambhā tattha ṇaṁ je te pamattasañjayā te suhajogaṁ paḍucca no āyārambhā, no parārambhā jāva aṇārambhā, asubhaṁ jogaṁ paḍucca āyārambhāvi jāva no aṇārambhā| Tattha ṇaṁ je te asañjayā te aviratiṁ paḍucca āyārambhāvi jāva no aṇārambhā|
Gautama! The living beings are of two types – the liberated and the worldly. Out of these, the liberated ones are neither ātmārambhī nor parārambhī nor tadubhayārambhī; they are anārambhī. The worldly living beings are of two types – restrained and unrestrained. Out of these the restrained ones are, again, of two types – vigilantly restrained and negligently restrained. Out of these the vigilantly restrained ones are neither ātmārambhī nor parārambhī nor tadubhayārambhī; they are anārambhī. But in relation to auspicious combination of mind, body and speech (yoga) the negligently restrained ones are also neither ātmārambhī nor parārambhī nor tadubhayārambhī; they, too, are anārambhī. However, in relation to inauspicious combination of mind, body and speech (yoga) the negligently restrained ones are ātmārambhī as well as parārambhī and tadybhayārambhī; they are not anārambhī.
In this aphorism, in relation to auspicious combination of mind, body and speech (yoga) even the negligently restrained ones have been said to be neither ātmārambhī nor parārambhī nor tadubhayārambhī but they have been said to be anārambhī only. Because the auspicious yoga prevents the inauspicious activities, it is counted as auspicious and a means of karmic stoppage.
The Jaina canonical work, Uttarādhyayana sūtra, 21.13 also says –
Savvehiṁ bhūehiṁ dayāṇukampī
khantikkame sañjaya bambhayārī|
carijja bhikkhū susamāhi indie\
That is – The sense-restrained monk must be kind and compassionate towards all the living beings; he must be forbearing and forgiving, and a restrained celibate; he must give up all violent activities and go about with his senses well under control.
In this aphorism the monks have been clearly urged to be kind and compassionate towards all living beings. Here, mercy, kindness and compassion have also been held equally important as restraint, celibacy, forgiveness, and giving up of violent activities. That means they (kindness and compassion) have been said to be dharma in the form of karmic stoppage and separation.
The famous master of the sky-clad tradition, Ācārya Vīrasena has said in the commentary of Kaṣāyapāhuḍa –
- Jayadhavalā Book 1 p. 15.
That is – If the destruction of karma through pure and auspicious volitions is not accepted, then there can be no karmic destruction and separation at all.
Here, the Ācārya has clearly said that like the pure volition the auspicious volition also results in karmic destruction and separation. What is meant here is that the auspicious volition is not a cause of karmic bondage but that of karmic destruction and separation.
There are two forms of non-violence – 1 Volitional non-violence and 2. Practical or material non-violence. These can also be referred to as internal and external forms of non-violence. The volitional form of non-violence is beneficial for all and it benefits the self as well as the others. Herein there is no feeling of causing even a little harm to any living being at all. This form of non-violence reduces attachment and craving for mundane pleasures. It is a different thing that except in the mind of the fully detached Lords Jina all other living beings have attachment and aversion, delusion and passions and craving for mundane pleasure in a greater or a lesser measure and their fruition always shows their effects. However, the non-violent volitions of mercy, kindness,compassion, protection, etc., result in the beneficial positive feelings of friendship, brotherhood, affection and they reduce and destroy the feelings of attachment and aversion, delusion and passions, etc., that are already present or that are on the rise at the time and melt them just as the ice melts and becomes water that eventually evaporates. Therefore, for a non-violent person the activities of mercy, charity, etc., cause reduction in attachment, aversion and delusion and these are, therefore, beneficial.
What is meant here is that the beneficial and non-violent activities of mercy, charity, etc., purify the soul and these are, therefore, not abandonable. The abandonable volitions are the harmful volitions of attachment, aversion etc., that accompany these beneficial volitions. The abandoning of these volitions depends on the endeavour of the spiritual aspirant. These flaws are present in the volitional stoppage, restraint and penance of as exalted spiritual aspirant as a vigilantly restrained monk. Therefore, he also incurs sinful bondages in little measures due to the effect of these flaws. However, because of the presence of these flaws the restraint and penance do not become abandonable. Similarly, non-violence also does not become abandonable in either of its manifestations – positive or negative. This fact equally applies to all three parts of dharma – that is, non-violence, restraint and penance. Therefore, as the activities of restraint and penance cannot be treated as abandonable even if some flaws remain associated with them, so the activities of positive non-violence like mercy, kindness, charity, service, etc., also cannot be treated as abandonable even if some flaws are present in them. The requirement is that of getting rid of those flaws rather than abandoning the activities of positive non-violence themselves. To consider them as harmful is neither justified nor proper. It is a folly to do so and such a folly can destroy everything. Due to this folly the spiritual aspirant cannot progress even a step in the right direction in his spiritual practices. The reason being that where there is no humanity, how can there be any dharma or religious practice?
We must always remember that the activities that result in the increase of attachment, aversion, delusion, etc., is known as saṅkleśa. It is delusion and sin. They have no place in dharma and cannot be considered as meritorious. The attachment, aversion and delusion definitely reduce due to dharma and puṇya and the volitions are definitely purified. As restraint, renunciation and penance are not considered as abandonable even when attachment, aversion, passions and delusion are on the rise, so the auspicious activities should also not be considered as abandonable in their presence and rise. The reason being that these auspicious activities only help to reduce attachment, aversion, passions and delusion and do not increase them.
The volitional forms of the auspicious qualities like mercy, charity, etc., are closely linked with the spirit. Therefore, they result in majestic achievements of inner spiritual peace, liberation, happiness, immortality, etc. However, for the practical forms of these activities we have to depend on the physical entities and, therefore, we also get their result in the form of material mental, physical health and wealth. The cause and effect relationship of this phenomenon is as follows – Through the volitional forms of auspicious are feelings the spiritual flaws like attachment and aversion etc., reduced whereby the spiritual purity increases. Through this increased purity the spiritual development takes place. This spiritual development results in the vision and knowledge based qualities of the spirit. The development of the vision quality results in increased consciousness or power of self-realisation. As a result, as per the theory of karma., the related senses that can experience increased consciousness develop. That is – sensory organs, mind, intellect, etc., which can give expression to increased consciousness of the spirit are also gained in their more developed forms. Also, the beneficiaries of these auspicious activities also give respect and honour to the benefactor and at times also gift him material objects. Like this the practical forms of these auspicious activities are related to the physical world and their results are received in the physical forms. These physical results are in the forms of means. These are neither good nor bad. Their proper use is beneficial for all and improper use is harmful and results in physical harm as well as in spiritual downfall.
The available physical means can be misused in mundane pleasures, in indulging in violent activities, stealing, etc. The indulgence in mundane pleasures induces inertness, dependence, inability, agitation, distraction and distress in the spirit and eventually it undergoes painful experiences. Sins of violent nature like killing, hurting, stealing plundering, warring, quarrelling, disturbance, frightening, dismembering, etc., are causes of pain and misery. Like this the misuse of available resources can result in spiritual as well as physical downfall and it can be calamitous. Therefore, one must remember that the means at one’s disposal are not only for one’s enjoyment but also for employment in works of general weal. To employ them for personal enjoyment and for passionate indulgence is to harm oneself and the world at large. Such misuse of resources has no place in a life devoted to spirituality and righteous pursuits. Thus, the proper use of the available resources like material, wealth, body, senses, mind, intellect, etc., are the practical forms of non-violence like, kindness, compassion, charity, etc. Because these activities purify the soul they are also referred to as puṇya.
From this it is clear that the proper use of available resources in activities of general weal is puṇya and their misuse is pāpa. The puṇya does not harm the soul in any way. The fully detached omniscient Lords are infinitely meritorious and pious because they are infinitely charitable. Had the charity been bad and karma binding, the fully detached Lords would not have been infinitely charitable and their infinite charity would not have been referred to as destructional accomplishment (kṣāyika labdhi). For the infinitely charitable Lord the physical means such as His body, etc., do not matter. He does not have any sense of belongingness for them and they exist only in His knowledge and vision and not as doers and enjoyers. That is why He remains absolutely free from any karmic bondage what so ever. His destructive karmas have already been destroyed and separated and the remaining non-destructive karmas are also without any power to do Him any harm because they have no power over Him. Such a power is derived from the sense of belongingness that the fully detached Lord has already shed fully and unequivocally. Therefore, the belief that puṇya is bad, it binds, it results in increase in worldly transmigration, is harmful, is deplorable, is abandonable, etc., is baseless and false. Actually puṇya aids liberation and once liberation is achieved it separates from the soul on its own. No effort or religious practice or ritual observance is required to achieve its separation. However, it must be remembered that puṇya as the practical form of virtues is just a means and not an end in itself. To consider the meritorious activities as end in themselves is to consider the means as the end, which is erroneous. The spiritual aspirant must always be vigilant to guard against this error. Activity by itself is not life. It is the volition of renunciation inherent in the pious activity that makes it live. We must never forget this.
What is meant here is that the natural qualities of compassion, forgiveness, simplicity, etc., are partially present in every human being and kindness, charity, etc., are only the practical manifestations of these natural qualities. Emphasising this very fact that while commenting on the third topic ‘Dharma Śraddhā’ in the twenty-ninth chapter of the Uttarādhyayana sūtra, entitled ‘Samyakatva Parākrama’, Ācārya Śrī Jawāharlāljī M.S. had said that no living being is devoid of dharma. This comment by the Ācāryaśrī is in accordance with the precept that the basic nature of anything or any being is its dharma (Vatthusahāvodhammo).