Jagat Ram Bhattacharya: Theory and Practice of Aparigraha in Jainism with Special Reference to the Jain Canons

Dr. Bhattacharya’s talk on the theory and practice of Aparigraha or non-possession – the abstinence from accumulation and possession of material and non-material things emphasized its importance as one of the five great vows of Jainism which include Ahimsa (non-violence/non-injury), Satya (truth) and Brahmacarya (celibacy) etc. When invoking the ethical doctrine of the Jaina dharma which advocates the limitation and the cessation of all desires, Dr .Bhattacharya drew attention to the Jaina code of conduct which makes a distinction between the householder and the monk while prescribing an ethical way of life to be followed in accordance to the various tenets laid down, that would guide one’s journey in the ultimate liberation of the soul. Jainism being soteriological in its nature endorses a certain way of life that is free from desire that would facilitate one’s spiritual progression towards reaching inner bliss by a way of renouncing all possessions or Aparigraha.

This movement towards renunciation of all possessions has to start with limiting one’s desires for the same to the extent only of the bare minimum requirements. An important distinction is made though, in the case of the enlightened pursuit of knowledge as not being motivated by passion and thus does not come into conflict with the doctrine of Aparigraha, in the scriptures. There is detailed enumeration of the categories of objects to be avoided and further, the code of conduct regarding the acquisition or acceptance of the necessary items for bodily as well as spiritual sustenance.

Dr. Bhattacharya observed that the concept of Aparigraha or one’s detachment from all worldly possessions also includes the renunciation of mental states or feelings that are binding. He went on to illustrate the various practices prevalent in the Jain community which are in line with the sayings of the scriptures. He noted that the monks abide by a stricter code of conduct whereas the householders follow a comparatively less demanding code while upholding the central value of renouncing all that is beyond one’s need. In conclusion, Dr.Bhattacharya reiterated the Jaina concern for Aparigraha while outlining how it plays out in practice in everyday activities of the Jain community.

Report by: Sreeram and Kartikeya Jain


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