Friday, November 11, 2011

Rational Religion

Being a Jain, I’ve got the privilege to attend, (I am forced to listen to) sermons by our gurus. No I don’t have anything personal against Jain Gurus or for that matter any other religious person, but there are some things that I would like to ask them or rather open their eyes towards.

First of all, who are Jain Munis (Monks, and here I would like to talk about Jain munis only cause I’m most familiar with them).
In Jainism, there are 2 main bifurcations, some are idol worshipers, some not. The ones not worshiping idols take their Maharaj Sahebs (monks) and Masatijis (nuns) as Gods. Before I go any further, let me also tell readers who don’t know about Jainism that it is one of the most scientific as well as toughest religions to follow, as far as fasting, praying or other aspects of living are concerned. These monks lead a very tough life, they travel by foot, bare foot, around the country throughout the year, eat only food that they are offered, only when they get it appropriately, drink only boiled water, and use least materials as possible, some don’t even wear clothes. Rest use basic simple white unstitched cloth that is wrapped around their bodies. 

They stay at an Apasra, Jain shrines; only if they are invited during the 4 and half months of monsoon, as they do not walk when it is raining, as it is believed that during this season there are numerous living micro organisms in the atmosphere. Jainism believe in giving AbhayDaan(gift of security, fearless existence ) to all living organisms.

I would like to share some examples for the same too. Like how often after having a bath we leave the tumbler in the half filled bucket itself? Often. But Jainism says that the living beings present in that bucket of water fear that you shall fill another tumbler and disrupt their environment again, so if possible use minimal water, and after you are done, do not leave the tumbler in the bucket. Chopping vegetables, using electricity, wearing clothes, applying cosmetics or even using basic furniture items are a complete no-no (sins).
So much so that Jain Priests wear white cotton mask at all times to cover their mouths so that no form of life will be disturbed by their talking, coughing or deep breathing acts.

Basically to cut a long story short, I am well aware that Jain gurus lead a very tough life, physically and mentally. They have my utmost respect; there are no two ways about it. Rather I hold great admiration for their families too, who have allowed them to take this tough path for the betterment of mankind.

But, (there is always has to be a but with me) What I fail to understand is, why sacrifice all worldly or materialistic things and still aspire to be something above the rest of us? Well as soon as you embrace living like a monk, you are given a stature high above a normal human who is slaving his life away to earn a decent livelihood for his family, it also includes the donations and charity made to these religious causes, including the monk’s bread and butter too, well in-case of a Jain Guru he shall not accept bread, so a roti for him please.

I've wanted to ask them, but never was allowed to so putting my thoughts/questions up here.
I agree you are above the rat race that we are in, but hello, isn’t yours another race all together too? You are running for sainthood, for moksh or mukti? Moksh/Mukti here refers to being spared the misery of being reincarnated again and again, till we don’t pay or repent for all the sins that we commit knowingly or unknowingly.

So when I look closely at the life of a monk, (to all those who may ask me what has given me the right to look into a monk’s life closely, I’m a nosey person) I find lots of discrepancies and there are various inconsistencies in what they preach and what they do(just like me I realize).

Like in our normal world, we strive to achieve the most in the world, similarly in their world or domain they do the same, race for the highest title of sainthood. Like us even they have ladders and ranks amongst them and aspire to have shrines built in their honor.  And why? So that they can conjure up a large following of devotees or disciples (read fan, who are willing to donate generously “materialistic things” to their causes). 
In Jainism, most of these causes are like saving a cow’s life, feeding a needy family, providing appropriate facility for the welfare of Jain Sadhus and Sadhvis.
They all want to be the best preachers, best orators and be recognized for the numerous welfare and development projects that they have initiated and been successful at, sounds familiar?

Doesn’t all this add up to doing good work, social work or just plain being a nice human? But with time some things need to be changed, some “traditional and religious ideas”need to be worked on so as to bring wide spread acceptance among the youth of the society.

On the other hand maybe if people like me and you go out and preach the world on how we should help the needy and donate to good causes, then it would not be so effective, to make their words count or bring about some results these extreme steps many be necessary.

But what disgusts me the most, or rather always has ticked me off, is that even though they are at a higher altar in life, believe in purity of thought action and are more closer to God, they too have succumbed  to petty practices specifically that of gender bias.

Gender discrimination is so deeply ingrained within us that these so called Gods also have fallen prey to such appalling ways of thinking. In Jainism, and also in some other Hindu religions, women devotees are not allowed to touch sadhus(priests) and similarly male devotes stay away from sadhvis(nuns). Isnt that almost like being an untouchable?

Most of the times, we also notice that sadhus, priests or monks are allowed to rise up in the rankings much faster that the sadhvis, basis only being their gender. Even if the rank is the same of a nun and a priest, he is always given priority over her by default. After all it’s a man’s world, be it ours or theirs.

Recently I was reading a book on Hinduism and vedas, ya sometimes I pick up these books by mistake too, in which I was shocked to read about the tradition of applying sindoor. The main component of traditional sindoor is usually vermilion. A component considered to be toxic by nature.

As most of you must be aware that Hindu wives are expected to fill sindoor (for me it always looked like a stamp of being taken/sold/unavailable!) along the parting of their hair, thus applying it on the scalp (where the pores are most open), so as to let it seep inside slowly. It is a sacred and most prominent symbol of a Hindu married woman. Like I’ve said earlier, Vermilion is a toxic substance, you might now wonder why a Hindu married lady is made to apply if it is a known toxic, and well that’s the precise reason for making her do it. 
A female’s life span is comparatively longer than her male counterparts, as we all know, and that’s exactly why this practice was incorporated, to slowly poison the wife so that both the partners can die with each other, and for the ones who dint die a natural death, they were made out to be satis. (An abolished tradition of Hindu wives burning themselves alive on their husbands’ pyre).

Doesn't it sound like that applying sindoor is more like killing someone slowly and painlessly? Most of us are not even aware of the meaning of some traditional rituals that we are made to follow. We just do as we are told, as again asking for logic or questioning our age-old praths (religious ceremonies) is considered to be a taboo in most Hindu homes.

Let me know if you are aware of any other such traditions or ritual, love to hear new fascinating things like this.


  1. Honestly, I won't read bada bada posts, but i read this one entirely and enjoyed as well...
    Well, its interesting to read about your experience and practices.. while reading itself i can understand the importance you give to this topic while writing.. Keep going mam :)

    But one thing i want to share, during our vedic tme, there are evidences for people practicing non vegetarian foods, basically all such restrictions are forced to follow by our fellow humans...

  2. A very bold post, Pooja, may God save you from the wrath of religious Jains! :). I personally loved it!

    That bit about the sindoor is scandalous! I had seen in Hindi movies where a singer would give sindoor in milk to a competing singer to ruin his throat, but I never twigged on to the fact that it works because it's so toxic! The reason behind making women use it on their head is scientifically cruel and definitely horrified me when I read it! I mean, it's taken as a symbol of romance and glorified and glmourized no end by our films and TV serials. ("Do chutki sindoor ki keemat tum kya jaano.." is such a famous dialogue). But in reality, it's just a cruel and heartless gimmick thought of by the religious powers! Geez!

    There are a lot of other things I can add to that since I am a non-believer in organized religion myself but I don't want to take over your thread. Thank you for this post. I will try and write something about that sindoor thing myself, I think that's a fact that should be publicised not obscured!


  3. Very different post really :)
    all d best wishes. :)
    Hope u like and promote my post "The Girl i loved"
    Check out sure ul like my post.

  4. Old traditions and superstitious beliefs are hard to grasp and sometimes they make no sense!!!


  5. @Rahul, Sriramnivas, Sampth and Kranthi, thanks a lot for stopping by and leaving your comments.

    @Deepak, very true in the pre-nomadic days people used to eat meat and flesh, that is exactly what I was trying to say here, that through times and with changes we have forgotten that our vedas have very strong scientific reasoning and logic behind those day traditions, but with time we have molded and mended thing to suit our outlook.

    @Sunil, Yes I agree, definitely bold, cause I happen to be married in a traditional-conservative family, and hoping none of my inlaws dont happen to read my post, especially this one!
    I would also like to thank you for sharing my post on your blog too. Hopefully we shall have some influence and convert some into thinking and acting. I would also like to read your list of traditions and please dont worry about taking over or any such thing, please feel free to share your experiences here too.

  6. interesting .. well I did not know any of those .. I run far away from religion .. I do my bare minimum bit thats all

    As above comment old traditions wer made with view of those days things have changed so i think religion shud change too according ot time ..


  7. wow! this is the first time I have heard a Jain speak up against their gurus!! bold post!


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