Science of Living:

Man And His Environment(1)

by Jagadisha Sahaya

Acharya Nemichandra Siddhantachakravarti, in his celebrated volume GOMMATASAAR KARMAKAND, has described the pseudo-karmas, also known as NIMITTA (instrumental or auxiliary causes) for various kinds of karmas.(2) In addition to karmas, pseudo-karmas have considerable impact on our lives. Our parents, relatives, friends, teachers, books, food, medicine and other things around us are pseudo-karmas. Pseudo-karmas are external things and circumstances, sometimes beyond the control of individuals, which influence the course of lives of living beings in a manner similar to karmas. In most cases, it is not possible to determine whether a particular event is a consequence of karmas or pseudo-karmas. The present article addresses this aspect of our lives. - D. C. J.

Man cannot be separated from his environment. His consciousness is inextricably linked with his surroundings, physical and social. He adapts himself to his social environment as well as his physical environment. Both environments affect his organic and mental development. Neither nature nor nurture is more important because they are both essential for the development of the human personality. The basic relativity of nature and nurture can not be overlooked. Sentience imports for us to be conscious of something and that something, whether painful, pleasurable, or indifferent, comes within our experience. Some experiences are agreeable and some disagreeable; some are of our own seeking and some are thrust upon us. The character, quality, and trend of such experiences depend upon and are, to a great extent, determined by our birth, nationality, place, etc. - in short, by heredity and environment. The hard knocks from which a poor man suffers, are rare in the family of the rich; the blessed feelings of superb health are unknown to one suffering from a chronic disease; the experiences of a man born in a free nation differ widely from those of a slave; the feeling for more activity or feeling of less fatigue peculiar to cold countries cannot be expected where the sun sends down its scorching rays and inanition prevails. The station in life, the position he holds in society, determine the character of the experiences of the individual. Station in life is determined by birth and immediate surroundings. Birth is determined by previous acts. Only a few surpass the limits of their birth. The overwhelming majority lives, moves, and toils within the status inherited by their predecessors, rising a little now here or falling down there. Human life is a book of experiences. In its pages are written the joys and sorrows, hopes and fears, the ups and downs, all events and incidents, which a man, as a sentient being, encounters during the career of his earthly existence.

An individual does not generally obtain without effort the position he covets in the group of which he is a member. He wants wealth, knowledge, power and pleasures. He is driven by his greed, his ambition, his curiosity and his sexual appetite. But he finds himself in an environment always indifferent, sometimes hostile. He quickly realizes that he must fight for what he wants. His mode of reaction to his social surroundings depends on his specific constitution. Some people become accommodated to the world by conquering it, others by escaping from it. Still others refuse to accept its rules.

The passion for conquest assumes diverse aspects according to individuals and circumstances. It inspires great adventures. But it drives the modern human being to robbery, to murder, and to the great financial and economic enterprises characterizing our civilization. But its impulse also builds hospitals, laboratories, universities and churches. It impels men to fortune and to death, to heroism and to crime, but never to happiness.

By far the most important part of the overall environment of man is the social environment. It differs from one nation to another, one period to another, one class to another, and its influences are outside the control of any one individual. The social system needs to be remodeled such that individual success does not conflict with communal welfare. This can be achieved by encouraging such social traits as altruism, readiness to cooperate, sympathetic enthusiasm, and so forth, instead of putting a premium on many anti-social traits such as egoism, cunning, and insensitivity to human misery.

All in all, differences among mankind are the outcome of nature and nurture, of heredity and environment. Some are sharp, some are dull. Nevertheless many apparently dull persons can be restored to normal intelligence by proper education, regular exercise of the mind, and facilities for wholesome association. The way to progress lies in a ceaseless effort to develop our knowledge and intelligence. Such development is possible only when the mind is kept steady and well-poised.

 

Footnotes:

1. Excerpts from the book 'Values Of Human Life', published by PARSHVANATH VIDYASHRAM Research Institute, Varanasi, 1990.

In the publisher's note, Shri B. N. Jain writes: "The author has tried to answer these questions (about soul and world) in his own way. In this context, he has also taken up questions like: What is man? What is religion? How far he has been successful in this attempt is left entirely to the readers to evaluate. . . . It is not necessary for us to agree with the views of the author. If this book succeeds, even to some extent, in arousing thoughts of the readers on human values, we will consider our efforts worthwhile." These excerpts are presented to the readers of the Jain Study Circular in the same spirit. Back up

2. Jain Study Circular, July 1997. Back up

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