View: Recovering loans is success, but canceling loans is the super success

2500 years ago, a great revolution took place in India. The country saw the rise of many monastic orders, amidst great affluence. The most popular among them were the Buddhists. But the Jains were the most resistant. The unique feature of the Jain monastic order was the monks who chose to wander without clothes. Buddhist monks wore robes and shaved their heads. Hindu monks smeared their bodies with ashes and tangled their hair. Another characteristic of Jain monks was their desire to fast until death. This characteristic of monks, sitting on top of stone mountains and fasting, has been documented in inscriptions from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. They were the Sramanas, the hard striving. But the question is, what exactly were these sramanas striving hard for?

All of these monastic orders recognize the universality of hunger. All life yearns for nourishment and comfort. We therefore give and receive goods and services. We feed and are fed. This creates debts: lenders and debtors. This establishes Swarga and Naraka.

People often confuse Swarga and Naraka with the ideas of heaven and hell found in Christianity and Islam. In Christianity and Islam, God creates the world. It creates nature as well as culture. God provides laws for humans to follow and judges them based on their conduct. If humans follow God’s law, they go to heaven, if they don’t follow God’s law, they go to hell.

But, Swarga and Naraka are based on the principle of karma. Karma is not a matter of allegiance to any particular law or code of conduct. In karma, our engagements with the world make us either lenders or debtors. Loans propel us to Swarga, the land of plenty, while debts rush us to Naraka, the land of scarcity. At Swarga, we are reimbursed what is due to us. In Naraka, we are bound by debts that we have to repay.

This idea of ​​many worlds of abundance and many worlds of scarcity, based on karma, is a common theme in Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism. This idea was illustrated in the snakes and ladders game. It was said that Jain munis invented it. He explained how human beings oscillated between worlds of abundance and worlds of scarcity depending on whether they lent or borrowed from others. This cyclic pattern of up and down movement based on karmic baggage was further visualized by the symbol of the swastika. In the symbol one constantly descends and ascends from the world, from swarga to naraka and back to swarga. It’s our never-ending, relentless merry-go-round of debit and credit.

But above Swarga there is another sky. This is known as Siddha Lok in Jainism, Dharma Kshetra in Buddhism and Vaikuntha in Hinduism. These are the realms of super success. Achievement consists in attaining all the material comforts of the world, in satisfying hunger. Super realization overtakes him, reaching a state of contentment and tranquility. Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism, realize that the purpose of life is not to satisfy our material needs. Material needs can never be satisfied. The more material things we get, the more uncertain we become. Instead, we need to work on the root of material desire: our cravings and insecurities. If we overcome our insecurities or cravings, we will achieve relative contentment and tranquility. It is the realm where the Tirthankara stays, in Jainism, where the Buddha stays, in Buddhism, where Shiva and Vishnu stay, in Hinduism.

So, while most human beings struggle to find material resources to satisfy their material desires, Jain monks sought to overcome hunger itself. The supreme manifestation of this was starving voluntarily, without the desire for death. It wasn’t suicide because they weren’t denying the world. They were only choosing to override the natural hunger instinct. It was a voluntary action of giving up the pleasures of life, including food.

Jains say that Mahavira once said that he would only accept food from the hands of a woman whose head was shaved, was in chains, and who was actually a princess. By setting such impossible conditions, he saw how far he could control his mind, understand how the world worked and how the world would tempt him. Indeed, he met such a woman. She was a princess who was enslaved and abused. She offered him food. He then realized how the world worked. Its balance sheet was full of loans and the cosmos conspired to pay it off, and thus keep you trapped in the cycle of rebirths. The only way to escape is to not search for food and cancel all loans. Then you are not hungry and no one has to offer you food. It is complete isolation – kaivalya. Recovering loans is an achievement, but canceling loans is the super achievement and is only possible when you defeat hunger.

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