Jainism is based on the five fundamental principles of Non-violence (Ahimsa), Truth (Satya), Non-stealing (Asteya), Celibacy (Brahmacharya) and Non-possessiveness (Aparigraha). Male & female ascetics (Sadhus & Sadhvis) follow these 100%, hence called Great Vows (Mahavratas) and lay-males & lay-females (Shravak & Shravika) follow as much as possible, hence called small vows (Anuvratas). Lay-people will accumulate benefits (Karmas) to the extent that they follow correctly. Benefits, good or bad, we are presently enjoying are results of our past Karmas and whatever we do now will give fruits in the future.
Looking back, I notice that if one does anything with a clear understanding and firm conviction, it results naturally without any special efforts. I was born and brought up in a joint family with strict discipline. To inculcate self-discipline, elders insisted on observing Anuvrat from a young age. Some of the practices included not playing cards and buying a lottery ticket was absolutely, no-no. It prevented me from forming the habit of gambling, which is one of the seven bad habits (sapta vyasan) of Jainism. One of the seven social sins Gandhiji mentioned was ‘wealth without work’ or ‘earning without labor’ and the lottery falls in this restriction. I had not understood then but later realized that it was very good that my parents inculcated such good Jain principles. Till today, I have never bought a lottery ticket nor spent a single dollar on raffle tickets.
Few years ago, a proposal for funding from lottery funds came up and not only I opposed it but motivated others to refuse it. I was happy that others also supported me. I was saved from being a party to the use of such funds and incurring bad Karmas that I will have to suffer in this life or in future births.
After graduating, I had joined chartered accountancy and law courses but luckily due to technical ineligibility, I could not pursue law course. When I told my father, he said that for knowledge you may study law but not for practice, since that profession may call for uttering white lies to defend clients. On another occasion, I declined to join a brick manufacturing business that used a furnace involving killing millions of germs and insects within clay or mud. My brother who is a pilot refused a job of agricultural pesticide spraying over the fields as living insects would be killed. Some do not buy a car if non-leather seating is not available.
Spirit of non-violence that is basic for Jains hence they are vegetarians. I was unhappy when I read in an admission application form at the university that vegetarian diet may be accommodated for medical reasons only. I approached the education minister, who issued instructions to all provincial universities to provide vegetarian food. Now my son could observe the Jain principle of non-violence by following a vegetarian diet.
It is a matter of personal satisfaction that many changes have happened during the last five decades all over the world. Now one can follow one’s own religious practices without any difficulties or restrictions. Thanks to the efforts of many in the past for respecting the Jain principle of the multiplicity of viewpoints known as Anekantvada, Jainism flourishes in the western world in general and specifically in Canada and America.
Author prefers to be anonymous, consider that as the author’s Anuvrat.
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Prof. Padmanabh S. Jaini is considered one of the outstanding scholars of not only Jainism but Buddhism as well. He passed away a few months ago and as per his desire, his contributions were memorialized on October 23,2021 what would have been his 98th birthday. The webinar that lasted four and half hours where 27 speakers with intimate knowledge from six countries in three continents, shared their interactions. He was a profound scholar and an institution himself. He was an advisor and mentor to many of his students and aspiring Jain Scholars. He spoke more than half a dozen languages including Pali, Prakrit, and Sanskrit. He taught at Ahmedabad, Banaras, School of Oriental and African Studies at London then to University of Michigan followed by University of Berkeley where he retired in 1994 but continued teaching as Professor Emeritus. He travelled extensively to Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Indonesia, Cambodia, and Thailand to study Buddhism. He wrote several books, The Jaina Path of Purification is considered the best and is used as a textbook.