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On behalf of Jain Center of Northern California located in Milpitas which has about 2500 members, I like to thank you all for inviting me to talk about life after death per Jainism – Jain Philosophy.
In simple words, Jainism is laws of nature. Equivalent word in Sanskrit for Religion is Dharma. Dharma means true nature – inherent qualities of a substance. We as a substance are souls. Thus, process of attaining the true nature of our soul, or the inherent qualities of our soul constitutes Jain philosophy. The perfect perception, perfect knowledge, unlimited energy and permanent bliss are inherent qualities of each soul. The reason we do not enjoy inherent qualities of our soul is that it obscured/polluted/clouded by karmic particles. Our soul attracts karmic particles based on the intensity of our anger, ego, deceit and greed in our thoughts, speech and physical actions. Jealousy, disgust, fear, sensual desires, etc. are derivatives of anger, ego, deceit and greed. The bondage and release of karma as well as experience of happiness or sorrow belong to each living being individually. Per Jain beliefs, the whole universe is a self-regulated. According to our past karma, our present fate is decided, and our future will be decided based on our present balance of the karma. One attains salvation, Nirvana, liberation, everlasting happiness or as we call Moksha by getting rid of all karmic particles.
What are karmic particles ? Karmic particles are much much finer than genes and not visible to any living being. Only liberated souls can see them. Today, modern science says you are what you are because of your genes. We Jains say you are what you are because of your karmas. There are eight major types of karmas. Four of them defile the inherent qualities of soul such as perception, knowledge, bliss and energy. Other four karmas – do not defile inherent qualities of soul but determine lifespan, feelings of pain and comfort, our body construction and family determination.
So how do we get rid of karmas ? First we need to enlighten ourselves with right perception and right knowledge that soul exists and is eternal, soul is doer and enjoyer of or own karma, soul can be liberated and there are ways to liberate the soul. Based on the ways to liberate the souls, we practice right conduct through our own right efforts. Right conduct stops the influx of karma and through extra ordinary efforts, soul can be disassociated from all karmic particles. Thus one is liberated which is the ultimate goal of Jainism. Every living being has a potential of being liberated. We are master of our own destiny.
Who expounded the philosophy of attaining inherent qualities of soul ? Jina. Jains are followers of Jina. The word Jina literally means "the Victor" or “the Liberator”. One who has freed himself/herself from the bondage of Karma and expounds the path of liberation is called Jina. The teachings of Jina is called Jainism. People who practice Jainism are called Jains regardless of their race, color or gender. About 2600 years back, Lord Mahavira reformed the Jainism. The fundamental truths of Jainism were preached long before. There are archeological proofs and scholarly researches that put Jainism as one of the oldest religions of the world. It is not an offshoot of any religions. Today, there are about 8 million Jains in the world.
More details about the salvation process ? After attaining enlighten perception and knowledge, one puts in right efforts to purify his inner-self, inner-intention, inner-feelings, inner-thinking by developing precious virtues such as unconditional forgiveness, egoless humility, honest straightforwardness and absolute contentment. And continuous practice of three cardinal principles of Ahimsa (non-violence), Anekantväd (multiplicity of views) and Aparigraha (non-possessiveness) with full awareness. In Jainism, our beliefs in non-violence supersedes all concepts, ideologies, rules, customs and practices, traditional or modern, eastern or western, political or economical, self-centered or social. Non-possessiveness plays significant role in stopping the physical form of violence. And the proper application of Multiplicity of views stops the violence of thoughts and speech. Multiplicity of views is also called the intelligent expression of the Non-violence. Because of the practice of Non-violence: one will not Kill – this stops acts of war. Because of the practice of Multiplicity of views: one will not trample (Squash) others’ Thoughts – this stops economic exploitation. Because of the practice of Non-possessiveness: one will not trample Nature – This stops Environmental and Ecological destruction.
In addition to all mobile living beings, we Jains believe earth, water, air, fire and plants are also living beings. We treat all living beings as equal. They are in their life-forms because of their own karmas. Dalai Lama once said that the Jains were enormously influential in conveying first to Buddhists the true meaning of “love of life and respect for all sentient beings”. Mahatma Gandhi, father of India, learned a lot about non-violence from a Jain Saint and was a Jain in spirit.
What about life after death ? Our next life is determined 1/3rd time before our death based on the amount, type, intensity (quality) and duration of karmas we are associated with. If we have lived a straightforward, ethical, righteous and spiritual life with average subdued anger, ego, deceit and greed, we will be born as a human being. If we have been significantly spiritual and purest monk like, compassionate life and have significantly subdued our anger, ego, deceit and greed, we’ll be born as heavenly being. If we’ve lived a cruel, violent, untruthful, unethical life, then we will be born as hellish being. If we’ve lived an ignorant, sorrowful, lazy life, we’ll be born as animals, bugs, or even as one sensed living being like a plant. But if we get rid of all soul-defiling karmas, we will attain Nirvana, everlasting happiness. Then there is no misery, no birth-death cycle.
One time Lord Mahavir was asked what is the religion from a realistic point of view. Lord Mahavir said, “ the realistic religion consists of four parts: 1) equality of all living ones, 2) every living soul has right to put self-effort to improve itself and should not to be stripped off that right, 3) no one should rule over other living beings, and 4) all views should be viewed with equanimity and respect - without like or dislike." Change you can make is in yourself.
This concludes my talk and again thank you very much for giving me opportunity to present Jainism’s views on next life.