Some Pressing Questions
One night, I was sitting in the light of an electric lamp. Suddenly the electric current went off leaving me in complete darkness. The light revived within two seconds. This happened three or four times within a span of ten minutes. It came to my mind that electric light is not natural, but artificial. Only darkness is natural. It needs neither a power station nor a button to bring it about. For electric light, we need a power station, an electric current, lamps and so on.
I began to wonder how unreasonable man is. He insists on running away from that which is natural and makes efforts to achieve that which is unnatural. For example, it is not in the nature of man to forgive. It is human nature to be violent.(2) An aggravating situation makes one easily angry. Forgiveness does not come so easily. One has to practice it, and yet on innumerable occasions anger has the upper hand.
The chain of thoughts continued in my mind. I am an ascetic, and therefore, a preacher also. I have been extolling forgiveness in my sermons. I have never extolled violence. Still people continue to be amenable to violence rather than to forgiveness. Why would I then canvass forgiveness?
We are usually prey to fears. We are not only afraid of natural things, we entertain imaginary fears also. We know that we are alive and are not going to die immediately. And yet the fear of death hovers over our minds. I have tried to persuade people not to be afraid of death.
I have tried to argue that it is foolish to entertain the fear of death when everyone must die one day or another. The death of one who is afraid of it will be more miserable than that of one who is not. And yet, I find that man is more of a coward than brave. Fear is a natural instinct, whereas courage needs a lot of effort.
Stoics in all ages have said that Eros is the progeny of the mind of man. If you do not think of it, it will never seize you. And yet, it is these stoics themselves who have time and again been possessed by Eros. Celibacy has been such a rare and exacting discipline that one is forced to the conclusion that it is alien to the nature of man.
I wonder why we run away from things towards which we are naturally inclined and run after things that are artificial.
It is natural to be attracted towards things we need. We feel hungry and thirsty. We do not need anybody to tell us that we should drink water and eat food. I have never come across preachers preaching this. We have been eating food and drinking water instinctively. It is impossible to remain hungry and thirsty.
If I were to ask you whether you instinctively feel the need for religion and whether you feel restless without it, you would reply that you do not. You would adopt religion if it were necessary and would not need anybody to recommend to you that you should practice it because it has great merits. We therefore come to the conclusion that religion is alien to the nature of man. Only those things that the human body and mind need may be said to be natural. What is life except the combined activities of the body and the mind? In other words, life aims to satisfy the natural needs of man. Religion does not seem to be concerned with such a need.
For thousands of years, people have been trying to treat unnatural things as natural, and the stone wall dividing the two has not yet disappeared. People continue to value food, sleep and sex. They continue to be averse to fasting, willful waking and celibacy. They continue to like fighting, hating others and attaching importance to grief. And so, we are as far away from peace, happiness and love as we were thousands of years ago.
You may ask what the value of medicines is when, in spite of their use on a wide scale, diseases continue to multiply. Nature works through dualism and that is why medicines and diseases continue to exist together. There is no use in blaming the doctor!
2. According to the basic tenets of Jainism, man is nonviolent by nature. However, these observations of the scholarly acharya relate to human beings who have passionate regard for the material world. - D. C.
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