The book is an attempt at describing aperson's higher ideals and values inlife, the journey and the hardshipsone undertakes in achieving one'sgoal, etc. from the Jaina perspectivein particular. The philosophicaldiscussion about who this person issets the foundation for themeaningful conduct and engagementof the Jains in the world. Thedescription of this Jain story of theSelf recognizes and sensitizes theimportance of one's engagement innoble deeds and philanthropywithout any attachment or greed ordesire for fame. The Jaina ethos thusdescribed transcends a person's classand creed. Incidentally, the book alsoserves students of philosophy as ageneral introduction inunderstanding the nature of the Selffrom multiple philosophicalperspectives, giving them acomprehensive view about Indianphilosophy and culture.
Vincent Sekhar is a Jesuit priest fromIndia. It is rare among Catholicpriests to do higher studies in Jainreligion and philosophy. Sekhar'sdoctoral thesis was on Dharma inEarly Brahmanic, Buddhist and Jaintraditions. His higher studies inJainism and his interest in promotinginterreligious dialogue for harmonyand reconciliation have beeninstrumental in initiating Jain-Christian dialogue in the Indiansubcontinent. He holds a Master'sdegree in Sanskrit from MadrasUniversity and another in ContextualTheology from Vidyajyoti College ofTheology, Delhi. He served for 12years as a faculty of philosophy ArulAnandar College, Karumathur,Madurai Dist. He undertook post-doctoral researches in WoodstockTheological Center, GeorgetownUniversity, Washington DC, taught inFordham University, New York, andlectured at Berkley Center forReligion, Peace and World Affairs,Washington DC, and the Institute forCatholic Thought and Culture,Seattle University, Seattle. He is nowthe Executive Director & Dean ofResearch in the Institute of Dialoguewith Cultures and Religions (IDCR), aPh.D. Research Institute onComparative Religion and Culture,affiliated to the University of Madras,and located in Loyola College,Chennai.
Scriptures generally acknowledge that humanbeings are at the centre of life and also the foremost of allcreation (Genesis 1.26) and Jain scriptures, particularly,extol the human birth to be the unsurpassed among allforms of life (Acaranga 1.5.2). The reason for such anexaltation is due to the Knowledge and perceptive power ofa human being and the capacity to transcend alllimitations, and mainly so, because of a tendency tocommit oneself to lofty ideals even at the risk of one’s ownlife. There are a number of arguments to show how humanbeings are different from others in evolution. Scientificevolution points out that human beings are almost identicalwith the apes genetically. But still, apes do not buildtemples and do not take mental evolution in their ownhand. But humans do. Our bodies are made up of similarstuff as the earth and other elements, but the humanminds are far superior to these elements. Only humanbeings have the conscious choice to elevate themselves,become noble beings, follow the precepts of higher beings,etc.
The word Soul (Atman) or the Self is not the righttranslation for Jiva in Jainism. Jiva is life, basically, and itpertains to any living organism. Jiva is also known asprani, because it possesses ‘life forces,’ which areexternal or physical and internal or psychic. And the term isused to describe both the embodied as well as liberatedbeings. The embodied beings or the worldly selvespossess both physical and psychic life-forces. Theliberated beings possess only psychic life-forces. TheJains accept six categories of living beings. One of itscategories, namely, the trasa-Jiva ts further classified asone-sensed, two-sensed, etc. and it includes humanbeings possessed of five senses and the mind. For thesake of convenience and brevity, | am limiting myunderstanding of the Self having recourse to only some ofthe Jaina texts, especially Samayasara, by AcdaryaKundakunda (second to third century CE), known for hiserudition and writings. His several other works like theNiyamas4ra, Pravacanasara, Pancastikayasara, etc. have1given him a scriptural authority to the Digambara Jains,matching equal to the Svetambara Canons, 45 in number.Samayaséra is Quintessence of Religion and the centralPhilosophy of the Jains. It treats Jiva or the Self and itsaddiction to the non-Self, the cause of bondage, and theway to freedom.
When | looked for a suitable title to my book, theimage of a mirror came to my mind. As one stands in frontof the mirror, one is able to see one’s self. If the mirror isblurred, the image too looks blurred, and vice-versa. Thisimagery is used often in the Jain texts to explain Jiva orthe Self. Jiva in its pure-form is all-perfect, bright, andbrilliant, like the clear mirror. In its tainted-form, it is tingedwith karma, good and bad actions, and hence kept inbondage, struggling to climb up the ladder of perfection toreach its highest goal, a liberated state, to realize its pure-form. The Self is compared to the Mirror — the pure-Self tothe clean-Mirror and the tainted-Self to the blurred, dusty-Mirror. As the mirror needs cleaning, the Self requirespurification, until its perfect image can be completely seen.| remember the Bible quote, more or less rendering asimilar meaning: In Christianity, Saint Paul tells theCorinthians in his first letter (13:12), ''Now we see only adim likeness of things. It is as if we were seeing them in afoggy mirror. But someday we will see clearly. We will seeface to face. What | know now is not complete. Butsomeday | will know completely, just as God knows mecompletely.''
The Journey into the Self in Jaina tradition is a trialin Knowing and understanding its true nature and how it isrelated to the world and other things. The Journey issimple to understand, perhaps easier with an Indianphilosophical background. The Journey will point howhuman persons become sullied in the process of theseveral activities they are involved and how they struggleto come out of the bad links and eventually experience theinterior peace and freedom. This is the Journey of oneselfin the journey through the thin-thick, light-dark forest ofactivities and experiences, where one actually realizes thestate of bondage and of liberation. The story tells us howpowerful karma and its effects are. Be it a starting of abusiness, or mending a relationship, or a job-seeking, oran achievement celebrated, the hardship one undertakes,the anxiety one goes through, and the hope that motivatesare in fact a series of behavior, activities, efforts, etc. saidin a simple term karma. How necessary and how powerfulit could be in human/animal life!
The Journey, as it would be seen, is descriptive innature, going through the ascent and the dissent in thespectrum of life. In a sense, it Its introspection into one’sown personality, seeking one’s own true abode. TheJourney would also suggest the means of transcendence,transcending good and bad, rewards and punishment, thisworld and the other world, happiness and sorrow, etc. withthe sole intent to know and to realize the true Journey ofoneself as omniscient, bright and brilliant.
People in the West wonder whether there is aphilosophy called /ndian. If perhaps they could see thehoard of literature in it they would see the truth, and muchmore, would acknowledge the depth of reflection of theIndian seers or masters on the universe and the beyond.The Vedic and the Upanisadic materials from the Orthodoxside and the earliest literature of the Indian materialists(Sankhya), the Jains and the Buddhists are illustrative of afine philosophical genre, a taste for an avaricious mind toknow the truth about the reality of the Self and theUniverse, their connectivity. with the Beyond. Hence it isnecessary for me to take a simple survey of how the Self isunderstood in different Indian philosophical traditions. |have tried to use simple language and explaining theconcepts and ideas in brief, summary form mainly forstudents, who may not have any grounding in Indianphilosophy. Hence, this book is an introduction to thesubject discussed.
**Contents and Sample Pages**