IS JAINISM A PESSIMISTIC RELIGION?
It is sometimes asserted that Jainism is pessimistic. The idea presumably arises because Jainism insists
that suffering is an essential constituent of the being of the whole of humanity and in a greater degree
of all other living creatures.
Bring to a man’s sight the terrible sufferings and misries to which his life is constantly exposed, conduct the confirmed optimist through the prisions, the torture chambers and the slave kennels, over battle-field and the places of execution open to him all the dark abodes of misery and finally allow him to look into the starving dungeons of Ugalino and he is sure to feel that his blood is curding.
Whence did Dante take the material of his hell, but from our actual world? But when on the other hand he came to describe heaven and its delights, he had an insurmountable difficulty before him, for our world offered no material for this. Every epic and dramatic poem represents a struggle an efforts, a fight for happiness, never-ending and complete. It conducts its heroes throgu a thousand dangers and difficulties towards the goal but as soon as this is reached it hastens to let the curtain fall for now there would be nothing left for it to do but to show that the glittering goal in which the hero expected to find happiness had only disenchanted him and that after its attainment was no better off than before. Life says Keats, is a depressing spectacle, Listen to this description of the world:
Here where men sit and hear each other groan,
Where Palsy shakes a few last grey hair,
Where youth grows pale and spectre thin and dies,
Where but to think it to be full of sorrow
And leaden eyed despise;
Or new love pine at them beyond tomorrow.
And Shelly expresses is grief thus:-
We look before and after
And pine for what is not
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is frought
Our sweetest song are those
That tell of saddest thought.
Be honest and work according to your conscience, but even then you cannot escape.
The oppressor’s wrong the proud man’s contumely
The pangs of despised love the laws delay
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes.
(Hamlet)Weakening sometimes even seek refuge in
Gods and goddess, but
What have they wrought to help their worshippers?
How hath it steaded man to pray and pay
Tithes of corn and oil to chant the charms?
To say the shrieking king sacrifice, to rear
The stately fane to feed the priests, and call
On Vishnu Shiva Surya who save
None- not the worthiest-from the
Those litanies of flatters and fear
Ascending day by day, like wasted smoke?
Hath any of my brothers’ scaped there by
The aches of life, the stings of love and loss
They fiery fever and the agne-shake
The slow dull sinking into withered age
The horrible dark death and what beyond
Wait still the whirling wheel comes up again
And new lives bring new sorrow to be borne
New generations for the new desires
Which have their end in the old mockeries
Hath any of my tender sisters found
Fruit of the fact or harvest of the hymns
Or brought one pang the less at bearing time
For white curds offered and trim tulsi?
(Edivin Arnold- The Renunciation)Tried of life one seeks solace through the use of bare broadkin.
But that the dread of something after death
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveller returns puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Them fly to others that we know not of?
(Hamlet)Death is something inevitable. Whill one dreads the prospects of being put on the pyre of burning embers or going down a stream, can one find peace in the cold embrace of mother earth? Chinese constitute one third of the human race. Even the dead can have no peace in China.
Under the present regime grave sites are not sold as was done previously but rented for a period of three years. At the end of three years land reverts to Government and the body must be removed.
Further according information available here, the prices of coffins are prohibitive and no less than 10 purchasing coupons are to be surrendered for any sort of wooden coffin.
Such a major dent in the quota of coupons automatically inflicts hardships on an already bereaved family by depriving it of other necessities.
Those who read daily newspapers know that hardly a day passes when there is no bad new; nay every page or even every column conveys dismal news of deaths.
Americans are most effluent as compared to other but even these the sociologists and physicians express concern over the increasing number of suicides, “the annual number of which being 20,000” according to New york Times. Suicide is among the first ten causes of deaths in the U.S.A but for young people it is among the first five.
(Partiot, May 22-65)Philosophers like Schopenhaur called life an evil because life was based on desire. Even the fulfilment of desires is no remady,for desires realised develop new desires and there is no end to it. While the death of a near and dear one loss of hard earned money loosing a law-suit, frustration in love etc.are all deeply deplored even the joys we feel in achieving the cherished goal sometimes proves fatal.
Both the hunter and the hunted lost their lives in the forest area near Salzburg.
A. 57- year old games keeper shot dead a massive deer but rejoiced so much over his kill that e had a heart attack and died on the spot.
(The Hindustan Times dated 2/1/65)Life is an evil, because life is struggle. A traveller relates that he saw in Java a plain entirely covered with skeletons. He took it for a battlefield but latter discovered that they were merely the skeletons of large turtles which come on the shore to lay theirs lay their eggs. The turtles were then attacked by wild dogs who with their united strength lay them on their backs, stripped off the shell from the stomach and devoured them alive. But often then a tiger pounced upon the dogs and killed them. The human race which has assumed for itself the title of “the least of all possible world” subdues all others and regards nature as a manufacturer for its own use. Nay we all know how man is wolf to man. Men call this the Law of Survival of Fittest.
Let alone others; living beings ae sometimes enemies of themselves. The most striking example of this is of the bull-dog ant of Australia. Cut it into two. A battle begins between the head and the tail. The head seizes the tail with its teeth and the tail inreaks vengeance by seizing & lashing the head. The battle lasts for an hour or so unless both lie or are reparated by other ants.
Abundance of worldly wealth leads to ennui and we know how at least in India, several wealthy people have renounced the palatial building owned by them and became Sanyasis. Age also plays havoc and capacities to enjoy diminish with passages of time.
Adversity is however without its use. The religions are ever tranquil in adversity; they are not for the mock, impotent sympathy of their kind, nor do they deviate in the least from the strict path of truth and rectitude. Cheerfully do they welcome adversity when it comes believing that:-
The good are better mode by ills
As odours crushed are sweeter still,
Surely without recognizing the existences of suffering all religions would be super flours and life would need no antidote.
Even it Jainism lays stress on pain, it cannot be justly accused of being pessimistic, for it offers a way our- a way to eternal bliss and unalloyed happiness to everyone. While Christianity requires to followers its regard themselves as miserable sinners and therefore helpless in the face of their sinfulness so that they can only be sold by an atonement and intercession and not by their own efforts and whereas the Christian majority can bargain with their deity- there was a time when the priests granted certificates on payment as a passport to heaven-and the muslim is persuaded to believe that faith alone is sufficient to save the sinner. Jainism asserts that self-help and self-reliance are supreme necessities, Right Faith, right knowledge and Right Conduct all combined; constitute the proper high road landing to enternal salvation and bliss.
The Jain teachers were the very embodiments of unalloyed happiness and supreme bliss. It might have been noted that their images in the Jain temples depict them not as thin and lean people reduced to skeleton by protracted fasts, but as healthy persons with peace and transquillity born of contentment reigning supreme on their faces.