Humankind’s Basic Problem & A Door to the Answers

When speaking with a Christian pastor, I was asked how I would answer two questions from a Jain standpoint.

  1. Predicament: What is humankind’s basic problem?
  2. Resolution: How can humankind’s problem be solved?

After realizing this is a very relevant question to which every person should have an opinion about, I began to see if I could write out a more thorough response –

What is humankind’s basic problem?

Humankind’s problem is delusion. It is the inability to see the true nature of reality, or the full picture from a frame of truth. Why? Because we are culturally and genetically brought up as human beings to have two different selves inside of us. One is the animalistic self that is often blindly looking out for its own self-interest, for its survival, and its long term safety, security, and happiness. This is usually called the ego, and in Jainism is described extensively as Moheniya Karma, the toughest of karmas to overcome. (Keep in mind karmas are not subtle particles but more so restrictive thought patterns) The second part of us is based in compassion and connectedness – the self that understands the non-obvious truths about the world, the self that discovers awe through appreciation and realization of beauty within those truths, the part of us that feels compassion for all beings regardless of their hurtful intentions by empathizing with their perspective. This has often been called the soul, or spirit, in religions around the world.

The problem – society, culture, and traditional ideology cultivate human beings to live a fear-based life. As a result, we innately fear two general things: shame and pain.

  1. Fear of shame from our lives not living up to expectations within the world that our minds predict for us (often because society/others instigate these expectations to flourish within us)
  2. Fear of pain, which is usually trivial pain or inconvenience that makes us try to control the world in order to avoid it

An attachment to each event occurring exactly as intended and desiring a future entirely aligned with these expectations leads us to pain, misery, and suffering. After a certain age when responsibilities and expectations start to create within us a growing bubble of fear, we begin to become plugged into the world around us, influenced too much by every bump in the road.

To summarize, a desire for certain expectations that are based in our ingrained self-interest and a desire for certain events to transpire plague humanity, and it is delusion (Moheniya Karma) that is the root cause of this desire.

How can humankind’s problem be solved?

Detachment should be internalized and valued above all else – and it is religion that proliferates this concept of detachment. Jainism makes it everyone’s goal to allow one to realign his/her perspective to become more detached, and this in turn liberates him/her from suffering due to understanding that it is futile to place value on outcomes in the future with such assuredness of one’s understanding of the true nature of reality.

While one of the most powerful solutions to humankind’s problem does lie within religion, many times religions have diluted the truth causing the interpreters to lose their focus. Especially more so during tough times for any civilization, those who must propagate the essence of a religion become less capable of teaching it correctly and passing on its more powerful principles.

As a result we have a tainted version of religions around the world; many are based in fear of an irrational authority as dictated by an external superpower.

Knowledge can solve humankind’s problem of delusion, but the correct teachers have to be present to liberate humans from their suffering. Teachers lie within religions – Christ, Buddha, Mahavir – who preached pathways to upholding truth and solving this internal problem – the problem of feeding the wrong wolf within us.

The point is, the solution to humankind lies in accumulating right faith, right knowledge, and then ensuring one’s actions are consistent with that knowledge. Jains call these the Three Jewels of Samyag Darshan, Samyag Gnan, and Samyag Charitra.

Why do Jains value idols? Not to bow down in fear of them as all powerful Gods, but rather to value and appreciate their messages and their qualities. Mahavir Swami propounded these Three Jewels and their power in the first line of the last speech before his death, called Uttaradhyayan Sutra: ‘Samyagdarshan gnanacharitrani mokshamarga’ which means that it is only Samyag Darshan (right/true perception), Samyag Gnan (right/true knowledge), and Samyag Charitra (right/true actions) that will lead someone to Moksha (enlightenment and liberation). Jains for centuries have ‘worshipped’ these idols not to offer fruits and ask for wealth and good fortune in return, but instead to internalize their qualities of detachment, compassion, and self-realization to overcome the flaws ingrained within us and see the world more clearly, more correctly.

In all, religions have the power to uplift everyone if they are incorporated correctly into our lives. Once humankind recognizes its problem and takes the right actions to solve it, our collective species would move towards one that treats all souls as equal rather than falsely believing in superiority and inferiority, one that tries to spread as much positivity to others as possible, one that minimizes its consumption and harm to nature, and one that promotes truth, beauty, creativity, and freedom above all else.


Forged by Chintav Shah | Engineering and Wharton Class of 2016

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s