Non-Violence Is Easy. Non-Possessiveness is More Challenging To Me.

Bus PassNon-violence is easy. Don’t pick up a gun and shoot anyone. Don’t pick up a sword and chop anyone. Avoid violence and negativity in thoughts, words and actions. I don’t hang around much people anyway so it’s relatively easy to temper my negative passions that way. If someone does cross my path and says or does something negative towards me, I have to remember to stop and think (as our right hand symbol suggests) and thank the person for allowing me a chance to test compassion and forgiveness, in essence, test my Jainism, if you will.

Lessening possessions is another matter, though. Obviously, I can’t walk around naked like our Digambar monks. What I do possess are eight shirts, one pair of pants, one pair of sneakers, an Obama phone, my car and my computer, both of which were purchased used. I suppose that’s already relatively little by today’s standards but I think I could go even further.

Since I need my clothes, what I can give up are my car and computer. That’s gonna be tough, though, because they keep me going through the day, especially the computer. I watch movies on it, watch terrestrial TV on it, surf the internet, converse with other Jains and Autistic people on it, write my short stories on it, listen to music on it, etc. In the past I’ve even created music on it as well as edited videos on it. In short, it’s been very good to me these past 30 years or so, so abandoning it will be difficult, indeed.

Giving up my car is an easier matter. Seattle is rife with transportation so, technically, I can get away without it. Of course, since I also sleep in my car, I’ll have to keep it till an apartment comes along. Once I do get a place I think I’ll give the car up. That’ll leave me with just my laptop and clothes. In any case, I don’t mind walking. I need the exercise anyway. I’ll just have to manage with the occasional bus pass now and then. I think that’s doable.

Jain Society of Seattle

Adinath and Mahavir

Adinath and Mahavir

Yes, Virginia, there is one. Our temple is located within the walls of the Hindu Temple & Cultural Center in Bothell. Right now it’s under renovation but should be up and totally functional in a few months. I was going to take some pictures but I didn’t know if they’d allow it so I didn’t. So far I’ve only been up there about five times, mainly for the big celebrations like Mahavir Jayanti. The two idols pictured in the photo are Adinath and Mahavir, the 1st and 24th Thirtankars. Mahavir, as we all know, is the Jina for this generation and the one who’s teachings are followed. Basically, is teachings are the same as all the other Thirtankars, though – respect for all life, renunciation of material things to attain happiness, extreme non-violence, etc. It’s interesting to note that teens and young people don’t go to the temple that much, at least when I’m there anyway. Mainly it’s older folks and young kids who are learning about Jain Dharma. I suppose like any other religion, the young ones prefer to sit at home playing video games than attending temple. That’s their prerogative. The only reason I mention that is I get a perspective of Jainism from the older crowd. I would also be interested to see how young Jains apply the tenets of Jainism, what they cling to and what they eschew. I’ve read they don’t care much for the complex practices of their ancestors. Some probably don’t bow to the idols, either. I do know that some sects of Jainism have no idols in their temple at all. I guess the basic beliefs of non-violence remain and that’s probably the biggest takeaway. I’m looking forward to the 5K Walk/Run in Marymoor Park on Aug 9. Should be interesting.

Jain Dharma & the Difficulty of Self Discipline in a Modern World

Stanford professor Michel Serres hikes the Dish on a regular basis.

Stanford professor Michel Serres hikes the Dish on a regular basis.

Slowly, I’ve been moving away from the word ‘Jainism’ because I’ve noticed some Jain scholars eschew the term as being an English construct. The ‘ism’ implies separateness, apartness, a religion unlike the others. The scholars believe that other religions can, and do, incorporate Jain ethics in their day to day behavior so, in essence, they can be Jain while also being Muslim or Christian. I suppose that’s true although I don’t see how a religion like Christianity or Islam, which believes in a creator/punisher god, can reconcile with one which doesn’t. Since a belief and acceptance of different points of view (Anēkāntavāda) is part of the Jain ethos, I suppose that makes the Dharma possible.

It’s hard being a Jain in the modern world. Every day I run into something that gets me pissed off, whether it’s people honking their horns for no reason or people shuffling past you without saying excuse me. I still look at shiny new cars and think, “Why isn’t that mine?” I see people with beautiful hair and wish my head was like that. Couples walking hand in hand make me jealous. People walking down the street with their pitbulls untethered gives me a stroke. I desperately want peace within myself. I don’t want to be angry. I don’t want to feel jealousy. Sometimes I think this is a war I’ll never win; I’ll go to my grave an angry man.

Jain Dharma believes there is happiness in owning and craving nothing and I believe that, too. I read about monks who are ostracized, maligned, spat upon, cursed, victimized and brutalized and still hoist no anger or ill will towards their tormenters. I’m nowhere near that. If I was crossing a bridge and someone spit on me my immediate reaction would be to throw them off the bridge after reading them the riot act. But I don’t want to be that guy. I want to be the forgiving one. I’ve actually already started forgiving my parents for me having had such a traumatic life. That’s something I thought I’d never do. Maybe I’m just getting old, I don’t know. I wrote a short story yesterday about a young man who tests his personal strength by placing himself in dangerous situations. If I had spoken to a wise man I’m sure he’d say something like, “Don’t put yourself in danger. Danger finds its host anyway.” I suppose it’s true what they say about facing your fears – it’s the best way to conquer them.

I do wish there were more Jains around here. I need strength. I need to be bolstered. I need them around me to show me the way, to give me hope, and to guide me where I need to go. I think without their support I could fall to the wayside. I can’t do this self-discipline bit by myself. I don’t think it’s gonna work. I need to push myself harder but am reluctant because, well, I can be lazy sometimes. My roommate and I have been doing a lot of walking lately, so that’s good. We average around 4 or 5 miles/day. This past Sunday we walked the entire circumference of Lake Union. We took a longer route around it so we ended up walking nearly 10 miles. It was a good walk because there were staircases and hills to navigate. I just walked to this Wallingford library I’m in from the Seattle Center. It’s only about 4 miles but it was in the hot sun so hopefully that counts for something.