Samanasuttam: The Book for an Enlightened Life

Reading, study, and reflection develop us, make us competent and provide us with a stable position in the society. We are aware of the SrutGyana (Knowledge received by listening to the scriptures). Jains have a treasure of great philosophical, moral and spiritual scriptures. The disciples of Mahavira compiled his teachings in the form of Dwadshang. Since then, we have had so many scriptures. The scriptures have influenced people from different faiths. One of the important scriptures is Samanasuttam. The inspiration to compile that scripture was given by Vinobaji. What a powerful influence it might have been on him! Several scholars have tried to edit and translate it. Rather than putting in the bookshelves of the libraries, it is better if we got close to them and try to understand the meaning of the scriptures so that we can carry out the journey towards self-emancipation.

The Prakrit stories in the Samanasuttam have some of the most important values of life. The scripture cannot be restricted to any one community or even a country of a specific time. Today, despite having so many materialistic pleasures, we are not satisfied. Human does not understand what he actually wants and still keeps running for it! Samanasuttam gives the understanding that carnal pleasure is limited, you cannot have permanent pleasure from that. Today, we are lost into pleasures and forgot the art of inward-looking. It is important to remove layers of ignorance and desire to attain the Supreme Being. Self-awareness is very much significant. In a true sense, it is Samyak Darshan of Jain philosophy. Samanasuttam is a scripture that guides for self-awareness. We should have victory over our own self by self-control and austerity. However, one should be careful that these two activities are also binding. It should not happen that the reason for liberation itself becomes binding. Samanasuttam provides details of the principles of life for a Shravak. Nonviolence and non-possessiveness are very important qualities for world peace. Lazy and unalert people are called violent in Samanasuttam, whereas workaholic people are considered non-violent ones.

We can develop virtues in our life only when we have self-control. Having knowledge is also a responsibility that it doesn’t become violent. Bad thoughts and desires are called Kshay. Anger, pride, desire, and greed are considered to be four weaknesses. It is written in the Samanasuttam that anger destroys love; pride destroys humility, desire destroys friendship and greed destroys all kinds of virtues.

Samansuttam suggests ways of winning over the vices. The virtues like politeness, satisfaction, and simplicity develop a person. This scripture is very much necessary and relevant in today’s world because it has a message for peace. It can be considered as one of the representative scriptures of Jainism. It is only through Samyak Darshan and Samyak character that one can attain salvation. The knowledgeable soul is one that has the knowledge of the essence, has control over the conscience and has purity at the core. Jainism suggests various ways of saving oneself from fake knowledge. As the absence of knowledge is called ignorance, fake knowledge is also a kind of ignorance. A soul can be devoid of Samyak Darshan but not devoid of knowledge. He has knowledge in one or the other form. When the same knowledge evolves as Samyak, it becomes the Samyak knowledge. This scripture provides us with guidance regarding our behaviour. It also provides a foundation for values of life and character building. It is experiential learning to an enlightened life. It puts a premium on inspiration from the soul along with the external ones for achieving our goals. In present times, people are more focused on application than on principles. Therefore, this scripture is expected to be read by many people as it celebrates education.

Right knowledge is my shelter; right vision is my shelter, right conduct is my shelter, austerity and self-restraint are shelters, Lord Mahavira is my shelter.

I want to attain such shelter, and there are four sections described here. The first one is Jyotirmukh, which means to rise in the material aspect of life and study it. It makes one march towards salvation with complete awareness. On the path to salvation, all kinds of suspicions vanish, the mind experiences the serenity and develops a state of Samyak. During such a journey, the body heads towards the direction of freedom from life and works for the welfare of the society in divine light. This direction is self-realization. The third section of this scripture is philosophical, wherein the detailed description of six elements, natural and artificial objects of the world has been discussed. The fourth section is called Syadvaad, which introduces many-sidedness. In four sections, 756 stories, the scripture presents its philosophy and applications, including all the practices of Jainism.

All the practices of Jainism are oriented towards soul wherein there are guidelines for Shravak and Sramana.

The unique feature of this scripture is that it has been composed by combining five Samvaaya. Jainism has always given importance to many-sidedness and soul-orientedness. The path that has been suggested by Jin (a realized being) is the part of welfare. One has to get absolute control over one’s body and soul. Everyone desires to understand the soul and attain the Supreme Being.

Each element in the universe behaves as per its natural disposition. Its entire journey from evolving to destruction is fixed. No substance changes its nature; it is always stable in its original form; however, it is also constantly changing while travelling. It is on this triangle that the entire universe is based upon. All the systems of the world and society have been established on this idea. Lord Mahavira said that equal perspective is nonviolence and not having desire is non-possessiveness. Truth does not lie in the scripture but in the experience. No one can get liberation, only karma or only knowledge. Self-knowledge and self-realization can give liberation to humans. This is the true Samyakattva.

We know that Shravakachar and Sramanacha describe simple practices for Sravaka because they are not supposed to renounce their worldly life. Be it a Shwetambar or Digambar, or Buddhist or from any faith, one whose soul is guided by Sambhaav– a balanced vision, certainly gets salvation, as said by Jinendra. A true Samayik is Sambhaav, and that is salvation.

This is such a scripture which has philosophical and social logical points as well.

Today when society is suffering from nuclear families, this scripture explains the importance of united family and parents for children through various symbols. There are many problems and stresses in life from which people want to fly away. It is at this time that one should look within and try to understand the virtues of the soul so that one can have happiness. Today when we are talking about tolerance and secularism, but one can develop faith in oneself by reading and studying such scriptures. It can be said that from Samanasuttam one can learn to be a good listener, be aware, aspire for the higher purposes, to do good deeds, develop humility and politeness, forgiving others strike a balance between the two extremes of life and death. Developing values like nonviolence, non-possessiveness and many-sightedness is very important for world peace by accepting this humanity will have a life of self-dignity and happiness.

Finally, one can say that a good friend, a good book and a good thought make progress towards light. Let’s identify such light and be able for its grace.

O human, leave all kinds of desires and be non-possessive,

Try to control happy and unhappy emotions.

That is the true religion… Since now I have this knowledge,

I am not afraid of death.

Dr. Sejal Shah (Ph.D)