Tree of Knowledge

The Tree of Knowledge


It is a Divine Republic


All great religions in the world have, and still revere, their sacred scriptures. These scriptures constitute the basis of all religions. While these sacred texts have served to mould the identity of communities, they have also become points of excessive compartmentalisation among religions.



As long as our world remained divided into discrete spheres of culture with little exchange among societies, each scripture could be affirmed as unique and exclusive without causing conflict. Time was when a Christian in America, a Buddhist in Thailand, a Hindu in India or a Moslem in Arabia hardly ever met someone of some other culture. Each would consider the other as a heathen who needed to be brought into the knowledge so that his condition could be improved. This mindset, fuelled by political considerations, only served to widen the gap between communities.


The need of the hour is to transform the mindset of exclusivity and the lone claimer of salvation into one of understanding and acceptance. As His Holiness Sri Sri Ravishankar says, “Religion is like the banana peel, spirituality is like the banana. We are holding onto the peel and have thrown away the banana.” Spirituality — the basis of all religion — is what can provide the solution to the problem facing mankind. What is needed in the world today is a better appreciation of this unifying outlook which comes out of a thorough understanding of our own self coupled with a healthy respect for all of humanity. It is the ignorance of each others’ scriptures which is the cause of lack of respect. This column is an attempt to also provide understanding about various religious scriptures that could unite minds and hearts.

This week, we bring you The Five Worships (The Panch Parmeshthi) the five-fold worship which is universally practiced by all sects of Jains and is given the name of Namaskar Mantra credited with many a miraculous quality.

First, Jainism at a glance: Vardhaman Mahavir, the 24th Tirthankar and the founder of Jainism, was born in a royal family in northeast India. Jains observe five precepts: non-injury to life, to speak the truth, not to steal, to renounce sexual pleasure and to renounce all attachments. The Jain Holy Scripture is laid down in 12 books, called Angas, written in Prakrit. The Digambaras, now fewer in number, follow books written by later religious Jain leaders. This is Secondary Canon, which in turn is followed by extensive theological literature. Mahavira was a contemporary of Buddha, and he stands as the 24th Tirthankara whose preaching fully breathes the spirit of the Eastern stream of thought in India. The entire philosophy of Jainism is based on ahimsa — nonviolence towards all living beings. Even a miniscule living form has to be treated with tremendous compassionate universal eternal love.

To come back to the Namaskar Mantra: this Mantra is supposed to contain the cream of all scriptures of the Jains. The Namaskar Mantra or veneration is also known as Panch Parmeshthi Mantra, as the five most esteemed beings are worshipped by it:


1. Namo Arihantanam      – I bow to the Arihants – the omniscient personages.

2. Namo Siddhanam         – I bow to the Siddhas – the bodiless liberated souls.

3. Namo Ayariyanam         – I bow to the Acharyas – the Heads of the order.

4. Namo Uvazzayanam    – I bow to the Upadhyays -the head teacher saints

5. Namo loye Sav Sahunam – I bow to all the saints in the universe.


1.        Arihants – Literally the word ari means enemies and hant means destroyer, and therefore, Arihant is destroyer of enemies. But these enemies are not external enemies, but the internal enemies of the soul – the four passions: anger, pride, deceit and greed which give rise to Karma bondage. Those living beings who have destroyed these internal enemies completely and are free from the Karma bondage of the major types are called Arihants. This is the highest stage a living being can reach with body. These Arihants possess perfect vision, perfect knowledge and perfect conduct.

2.        Siddhas – These are liberated souls who have attained salvation after having completely destroyed all the Karmas. They have as such no encumbrance including that of a body. Besides, possessing perfect knowledge, vision, bliss and prowess that are neither heavy nor light, have penetrability and are beyond sense perception as they are non-material. They are free from cycle of births and deaths. They have thus attained Godhood, but they maintain their individual identity, are indistinguishable like different rays of pure light.

3.        Acharyas – They are Jain monks or saints who are heads of the order or the group of not only saints but also of the four-fold organization of Jains – monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen. They not only follow the rules of conduct for the monks strictly but also ensure that the monks under them do so — as also the entire lay community follows the rules framed for them .They teach the right conduct and punish the delinquents to bring them on the right path. They are the spiritual heads of Jains and are responsible for the preservation and propagation of the noble path.

4.        Upadhyays – They are monks who are responsible for the study of scriptures and dissemination of their knowledge, amongst the monks and the laity. While the acharyas are the heads who administer and maintain discipline in the Sangha, the Upadhyays look after the teaching of the scriptures. They are thus the spiritual teachers.

5.        Saints or Monks – Those who have renounced the world for spiritual search are monks. The duties prescribed for monks:  the observance of five major vows (Mahavrata) three controls (guptis), five types of vigilance (Samitis), ten commandments (dharma), twelve penances (tap), etc. The monks are required to observe these rules strictly


The Teachings


At any time, in any form and acceptable name, if one is shorn of all attachment, that one is you alone. My Lord! You are one although variously appearing.

The wise man looks upon life as a mere dew drop which quivers upon the tip of a blade of kusa grass, to be whisked off or blown away by the breeze at any moment. The life of an unwise, imprudent, and ignorant person is likewise as transient as the same dew drop.

He who looks inwardly at the self revels in the self; He who revels in the self looks inwardly at the self.

Comprehend one philosophical view through comprehensive study of another one.

Forgiveness, humility, straightforwardness, purity, truthfulness, self-restraint, austerity, renunciation, non-attachment and chastity (with one’s spouse) are the ten duties (of lay people).

A man should wonder about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated.

I have heard and realised that bondage and salvation are both within yourself.

Subdue pride by modesty, overcome hypocrisy by simplicity and dissolve greed by contentment.

Realising the retributive nature of karma, a wise man refrains from accumulating them.



Source: ‘Samayasara of Sri Kudakunda’ and ‘Timeless Wisdom’


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