What moves us in life? What makes us want to achieve more or to go above and beyond all expectations? It’s strange, but sometimes the kashayas, or passions, that are “net negative” are responsible. When I say “net negative,” I am referring to the concept that good is derived from something that is innately corruptive in nature. On a macro level, the potential negative effects outweigh the positive effects. For example, sometimes anger or deceit pushes you to become more aggressive and work harder. Other times ego or greed may push you to prove that you're something of value. We can see this clearly within the sports arena. A myriad of athletes, in various sports, would confess that they use whatever they can to motivate themselves to play their best. In a similar way, life imitates sports. Several times we find motivation through these various passions. And of course, these feelings are but natural. So what's the problem?
In using such kashayas to inspire ourselves, more often than less, it seems that we become more and more disassociated with the world we live in and more self-centered in our search to become "someone." We can rarely use these passions to help others or society as a whole without eventually succumbing to selfish desires. When was the last time you went out of your way to help someone without any personal recognition or gain? This is a rhetorical question and be completely honest to yourself.
To do genuine social good on a long term basis, inspiration isn’t derived from these passions. It can’t be. It is derived from deep within your character. First, you have to realize that there is more you can contribute to the world than your own personal success. Second, you have to want to do something good and beneficial for others without any selfish agenda. And third, you have to be able to create time and energy for these efforts.
One of the basic tenets of Jainism is being a humanitarian. If you see something wrong in our society, try to address it and fix it. At least put an honest foot forward and try without giving in to personal recognition (ego) and fighting over trivial issues that place the larger accomplishment away from reach (anger).
I strongly feel and believe that we all as individuals have an innate desire to do good. But somewhere, along the way, we have all become very involved in only our lives and do the bare minimum that is required to not feel guilty about not contributing to society. As for those that have gone above and beyond in helping others and repairing the smallest of things, you are leading by example. I hope that fire always lives inside you and spreads to motivate and inspire others.
For the rest that always wanted to contribute but never knew how, start with the smallest thing and move forward. The humanitarian effort lies on a spectrum, from fixing a “garden patch” for your neighbor to “redeeming a social condition.” As Jains, the fundamental quality we should all be working on is becoming better humanitarians. And that means helping members in our community; Jain and non-Jain, human and non-human, whenever and wherever, in any way possible. Start initiatives in your local communities at all levels; through temples, schools, or community centers and bring attention to various concerns and issues that may help the community as a whole.
We are the future of Jainism and we carry a torch that needs to shine light not only through principles but by action as well. As someone once said, “Do not try to be better than your predecessors or your contemporaries, try to be better than yourself.”