Do you know what is better than charity and fasting and prayer?

It is keeping peace and good relations between people,

as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind.

- Prophet Mohammed


Day 7

I'm slowly training myself not to verbalize my hunger or physical desires. I feel that once I start venting my frustrations aloud, they could possibly manifest causing me to fail in my observance of lay Jain rules. Hunger is a pretty tough thing to manage, though. The mind certainly starts rationalizing itself on an empty stomach and even the most stoic of men can fall victim to the very natural urge to, you know, eat food and stay alive.

Many times I have been tempted to ask for "a bite" (rationalization) and many times I have almost allowed myself to run home and grab my check card (manifestation). This afternoon, a co-worker was eating McDonald's. I didn't even consider munching on the animal flesh, but the fries and the ketchup were definitely tempting me. I like ketchup a lot (Not on eggs, though. Sorry fellow southerners.) I knew he wasn't going to offer me any and I was fine with that. It was only 4:00pm and I actually wasn't too hungry at that point. My concern was more that nightfall wasn't that far away and I was running out of situations where a food offering was possible. This made me curious. How do Jain monks, who have no permanent homes and spend most days walking around the earth, manage a situation like this? Isn't there a point where our vessel needs fuel? Can't they ask for a little help?

Jaina Sutras explains how Jains can beg for food, but it's really confusing. Read it for yourself. This is what I got from the first lesson.

If I have the intention to collect food, I must first make sure that...
  •'s not mixed with living things
  • ...the food can be eaten in a place where there are no other living things
  • contaminated by the living can be placed in ashes, on bones cow dung for inspection before consumption
  • ...if water was used in the prep, then it must be properly filtered by a layman
  • has been cut properly
  • ...includes only thrice-worked flattened grain
  • is eaten in the absence of heretics
  • ...has not been bought, stolen or taken
  • was not prepared for beggars or paupers
  • ...I only plan on eating half of what is offered
There are more rules as well. Many more rules. (Lesson 2,  3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11) This lesson is the hardest part and the very reason the becoming a Jain monk just might be the hardest thing that a person could do on the earth. This one is from the Eighth Lesson.

When a monk or a nun on a begging-tour smells, in travellers' houses or garden houses or householders' houses or maths, the scent of food or drink or sweet scents, they should not smell them, being indifferent against smell, and not eager or desirous or greedy or covetous of the pleasant smell. 
Man, this is a tough religion and while it's easy to become frustrated and disenchanted by the extreme measures by which some Jains adhere to, there's a simpler message that I have taken away from it: appreciation. Since I am essentially helpless in many situations, I must rely the kindness of others. 

It's easy to say that you're an appreciative person and even easier to accuse others of not being appreciative enough. (Just look at the US welfare system.) I've always considered myself to be appreciative, but I have a feeling I speak appreciation much more than I feel, act or reciprocate appreciation. This past week, I have been overwhelmed with the response and genuine care that I have gotten from my amazing wife and even my students. I already knew my wife was spectacular, but I didn't know that my students cared. Each and every morning they casually pull bananas, cherries, milk, yogurt, bagels, tea and donuts from their bags and offer them to me. Even students that I have barely taught are doing whatever they can to offer me food because they know how hard not spending money and not eating when hungry must be. 

I find this really refreshing for many reasons. For starters, Koreans aren't particularly expressive when it comes to appreciation or care for people outside of their social group or family. Try holding a door or elevator for a Korean. Even though no Koreans who do that for one another, when it is done, they act as if it was a normal thing with little or no acknowledgement. Secondly, when it comes down to it, I am starting to see that people care. People are naturally compassionate and no matter how much we try to ignore that very fact, we are all good people inside just waiting for a trigger. Relying on other people might seem like burden to some, but this past week has taught me that that burden does not outweigh the genuine beauty of humanity. If karma is the name of this game, then I know that those who offer help to the needy; the poor; the hungry; or the Jains are sitting pretty. 

I appreciate all the people in my life for without them, I could not be doing what I do today. I could make a list, but if you wanted a short one, I'd have to throw my wife and mother on there. The wife has taught me more about living and being a man than she'll ever know and my mother has, well, she has done everything for me. Sadly, a mothers love can't be reciprocated. How could it? Their sacrifice is immeasurable and even trying to quantify it would be a mistake. I try not to regret too much in this life, but if you were to ask me what I regretted the most, it would be the time we missed while I have been abroad. Luckily, the grand return is on the horizon.

Overall, I guess Jainism has restored some of my faith in mankind. To quote myself (after way too much wine) at my wedding reception: 
"Thank you all for being people with me."

1 comment:

  1. Glad you would "throw my wife and mother" on your list of people in your life you appreciate. I appreciate being appreciated! Mom's wait for that day!