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Uttama Mardava Dharma – Supreme Tenderness

    Meaning of ‘Uttama Mardava Dharma – Supreme Tenderness’, the 2nd among the 10 virtues of Jainism – Dashalakshan Dharma with quotes from the Jain Shastras and real-life instances.

    Uttama Mardava Dharma

    Uttama Mardava Dharma

    – Muni Sri Kamkumarnandi Maharaj

    Compassion or supreme tenderness (Uttam Mardav) gets the second place amidst the ten tenets of Jainism. In the book ‘Sarvartha Siddhi’ the reverend Acharya Pujya Pad Swamy tells the meaning of compassion (Mardav);

    Mridorbhavi mardvam”

    The feeling of humility or tenderness is compassion. Compassion (Mardav) is explained to mean:           

    “Jatyadimadaveshadbhimanabhavo mardavam”

    i.e., Absence of pride, born out of the arrogant feeling or boast of ancestry, clan and tribe etc.

    Compassion (Mardava) means to put an end to vanity or egotism. The foundation of compassion is tenderness or humility. It is an inherent trait of the soul. Telling humility the root of religion in ‘Bodh Pahud’ Acharya Shri Kundkund Swamy states’ dhamo dyavisidho’ i.e. ‘Religion means to be adorned with pity’. In ‘Rayansar’ the same has been stated thus; ‘Dyai sadhamo’ i.e., Mercy is the true religion’. Just as the construction of a building in the absence of a foundation, the existence of a tree in the absence of roots, the rainfall in the absence of clouds is impossible. Likewise birth of the virtue of compassion (Mardava Dharma) and Right Belief (Samyak Darshan) is impossible for want of humility. The attainment of salvation (Moksha) lies in humility or compassion.

    Where there are no gentle thoughts, no polite temperament, no humility; it is all futile to go on a pilgrimage, observing vows, taking holy pledges and performing meditation; for these cannot remain stable in a being lacking in compassion i.e., in one who is not free from pride and prejudice. In order to achieve the superb virtue of compassion, it is essential for us to root out pride and prejudice from our heart. Its easiest way is not to be vain.

    Once some children were playing ‘Gulli-Danda’ on the seashore. In this game the players of one team throw the ‘Gulli’ from a cavity in the ground using a small wooden rod ‘Danda’ as distant as possible, and the players in the opposite team try to catch hold of the ‘Gulli’. The ‘gulli’ throwing team let off the gulli. When a child, player of the opposite team tried to catch hold of the gulli by jumping; instead he caught hold a crow flying very low in the sky. The children felt very happy on catching the crow. All the children flocked at a place leaving their game. They picked up a sparkling conch shell (seepi) from the seashore. They drilled a hole in it, threaded it and put it around the neck of the crow. The children felt very happy on adorning the crow.  The crow also began to think, “Oh! There is no bird to match me in the world.” The crow said this very thing to the children as well. A child said, “Oh! You are puffed up with vanity at this petty adoration. Can you match the bird swan?” Overtaken by false pride the crow spoke, “Why not?  Certainly I can.” A swan sat a little afar. The children said to it, “Oh Swan! So far you alone are the bird famous for flying across the sea, but see our this black crow can also fly across the sea.” The swan said, “Don’t be proud in vain.” But the children persisted. The swan said, “Well! It is all right. Get your crow ready to take a flight with me.” They both became ready and the two set on the flight. The swan fluttered its wings to take the flight and covered a long distance, whereas the crow was tired of fluttering its wings but could not overtake the swan. The swan said to the crow, “Why are you tired?” The crow replied with vanity, “No, how can I get tired so soon?” After flying some more distance, the swan again asked, “Have you got tired?” Out of pride the crow replied, “No, not in the least.” But in reality the crow was dead tired out of flying. No end of seashore was visible. Still he had to travel a long distance. The crow was finding it difficult to flutter its wings due to fatigue. It began to roll down. The swan questioned again, “Have you got tired now?” Even then the crow replied, “No, not tired as yet?” The crow began to drown in the seawater; only its beak was visible out of water. The swan understood that the crow was about to die due to false vanity. Hence, an ocean of mercy, the swan lifted it up and brought it on the seashore.  The crow would have lost its life due to its false pride or vanity. We should always remember – “Society has this good at least, that it lessens our conceit, by teaching us our insignificance and making us acquainted with our betters.”

    In this world many kings, emperors and Chakarvartis have lost their lives simply in order to safeguard their vanity. A man should possess self-esteem, not false pride in life. False pride leads a man to downfall, while self-esteem raises him to lofty heights. Rightly has it been said:

    Pride goeth on horse back grand and gay
    But cometh back on foot, begging its way.

     Ravan was a mighty king and a great devotee of Lord Jinendra.  In order to worship God, the great Ravan used to play on the lyre (Veena) manufactured by the veins carved out of his own body. Ravan was known as an ‘Ardhchakari on this earth.  Even such a renowned Ravan kidnapped Sita out of false vanity and brought her to Lanka. Overpowered with egotism he used to say, “No man like me has ever existed on this earth, nor ever will be.”

    Na bhuto na bhavishayati

    Ravan had to go to hell due to this false vanity. Then what can be said of an ordinary living being?

    Hitler was arrogant and given to false ride. Consequently he got innumerable people killed and also suffered his own downfall and ruin. Lord Bahubali failed to obtain enlightenment (Keval Gyan) due to being possessed with little vanity born out of Sanjivalan; and had to perform penance for many years. If someone boasts, “I have gone through so many scriptures (Shastras); I am very affluent and powerful; I have numerous weapons, a huge army and no body can cause me harm,” he is arrogant. Thus if someone prides in his vanity, he falls down into a deep well of ruin by his vanity. Remember, “Vanity is an inborn vice in man; it is often fed and fostered by his own fellow beings. It is therefore almost impossible for him to eradicate it. Though it is not infrequent that a man’s vanity is wounded, crushed or even smashed, but it grows again like the Phoenix from its own ashes.”

    Some ideas must be remembered, pondered and ruminated again and again in order to practice compassion  (Uttama Mardav). One has taken birth in this world, times without number in a low state. High births and low births both are not everlasting. Ultimately, even on taking birth in a higher state of being it is ruined again and we may get birth in a lower state. This world abounds in persons of so many special castes, clans and creeds.  So it is useless for a person to be proud or vain. Secondly, man has passed through these castes and clans etc., many times in his previous lives in the past. Is it then worthwhile to be puffed up with pride in these? The man, who acts in an innocent manner discarding the faults causing disgrace, is the truly self-esteemed. But no body can be termed as self esteemed for being proud even when he is wanting in virtues. This pride and egotism gives rise to many evils in this birth and in the next births. Realizing this the gentle persons get rid of vanity. A man with false pride suffers disgrace everywhere. He can never cherish noble ideas. So, as long as the poisonous snake in the guise of pride and egotism remains hidden in the heart of a person, none can be friendly with him. He generates enmity with all wherever he goes.

    Seth lived poor man named Viney Kumar, who earned his bread and butter by making baskets.  Viney Kumar was polite and diligent by nature. He had become very popular due to his humility. All praised him. Despite being poor Viney Kumar was content and happy. Seth Maan Mal had grown jealous of Viney Kumar at heart on seeing his happiness and popularity. The jealousy of Maan Mal assumed a furious shape.  Out of jealousy he got the cottage of Viney Kumar set on fire. As a result Viney Kumar was totally ruined. The implements and raw materials like bamboo and twigs etc., used for making the baskets were also burnt to ashes along with the cottage. However, the life of Viney Kumar was saved. He appealed to the judge in the court for justice. In order to affirm whether Seth Maan Mal was really jealous of Viney Kumar, the judge sent them both to a far off unknown island.

    On reaching the distant and new island they both set to work to arrange for means of livelihood afresh. Viney labored hard and charmed the inhabitants of the island by his service and good conduct. All began to show him honor and respect. On the contrary maddened with pride of wealth, the cruel hearted Maan Mal did not bring a change in his vain nature and behavior. Consequently Maan Mal received hatred and disgrace from the islanders.

    Maan barahi karne jo dhan kharche murh
    Mar kar hathi ho gye neeche latke sund

    i.e., the fools who spend money to earn honor and glory will after death be born as elephants with their trunks hanging down to the earth.

    Faced with loneliness, disgrace and helplessness Maan Mal became unhappy in life. He now realized that his arrogant nature and bad conduct were the cause of his misery. Being sad and ashamed Maan Mal apologized to Viney Kumar. Pleading guilty Maan Mal pledged to follow good conduct and politeness in the future. It shows that in order to become popular and get peace and happiness in life a man should follow the rules of good conduct getting rid of egotism and vanity. It has been well said, “The heat of the sun scorches the moon, but the moon smiles sweet and sheds her cool luster to delight the world. The truly noble man bears all sorts of troubles with a smiling face, and showers peace and happiness to please mankind.”

    A man indulges in eight types of false pride or vanity. While stating the ways and means to attain Right Belief (Samayika Darshan), Acharya Samant Bhadra Swamy tells:

    Gyanam pujam kulam jatim, balmridham tapo vapu
    Ashtavashritya manitvam samymahurgrtsmya

    To take pride in eight things viz. knowledge, fame, ancestry, tribe, power, affluence, penance and body is known as vanity. This vanity defiles the virtues of our soul. As soon as a living being gets rid of all these eight types of vanity, he is crowned with the virtue of compassion (Mardava Dharma). The same thing has been stated in ‘Bhagwati Aradhana’ also:

    ko ith majh mano, bahuso nichtanam pi satas
    uchate yanriche uchtide chavi nrichte

    Adhigesu bahusu santesu mamadu aeth ko maham mano
    Ko vibhyo vi bahuso pate puvammi uchate

    Even if I am at a higher level in knowledge, ancestry, beauty, penance, riches and power, why to take pride in them because many times I have possessed a lower rank as well in these. A higher rank or a lower rank both are mortal, unstable and perishable. Many in this world are superior to me in knowledge and power etc., then why to be proud in them?  Besides, I was granted this higher state of life many times in my previous births, then why to be veining glorious at achieving them? Knowing this we should give up the above mentioned forms of vanity. Therein lies the well being of a living being. All wise men say, “Humble origin is no bar to the attainment of greatness, while pride of birth is a frequent cause of humiliation.”

    To take false pride in one’s mental accomplishments is knowledge pride (Gyan Mada). In the ‘Mahapurana’ of Acharya Jinsain at one place it is mentioned – “To take pride in knowledge is putting a veil on the knowledge.” Bharatra Hari writes:

    Yada kinchijhoham, dwip iv madandh sambhavam
    Tada    sarvagyosmitybhvdvliptam mam mana

    yada kinchit, budhjanskashadvgtam
    tada murkhosmiti, jvar iv mado me vyapgata


    i.e., When I possessed shallow knowledge, I walked puffed up with egotism like an elephant. When I came out of my home and by and by came in contact with the scholars and learned men and started acquiring more and more knowledge in their company, I began to walk like an ant. Then my pride in knowledge subsided like a fever. One who attains the real knowledge never becomes proud or vain. He walks with a bowed head and is polite to all.

    It has been said: vidya vineyam ddati

    i.e., knowledge brings humility. When a tree is overloaded with fruits, its branches bend down. Likewise a learned man bows down with humility on the acquisition of knowledge; he becomes devoid of vanity. In this context the poet Pump writes:

    ‘Kundkundachyanandnvne shukoham’

    i.e., I, poet Pump, am the parrot of Acharya Kundkund’s spiritual vernal wood (Nandana Vana) ‘Samay Saar’, etc.  Therefore, having tasted their fruits in original I convey them as they are.

    Thus, the learned are polite towards the Acharyas and it is in the nature of the learned men to admire their talent and scholarship. Only such are the truly learned; they alone are gifted with the virtue of compassion (Mardava Dharma).

    To take pride in one’s fame and glory, worldly dignity is known as Dignity Pride (Puja Mada). Father’s lineage is called ancestry and Mother’s lineage is called tribe. To take pride in these comes under the category ‘Ancestral Pride’ and ‘Tribe Pride’. The bodily powers are called strength.  Hence to take pride in them is ‘Strength Pride’. The monetary achievements or the possession of household riches is known as affluence and pride in it is called ‘Affluence Pride’.  Fasting is called penance and pride in it is known as ‘Penance Pride’. Taking pride in healthy and beautiful body is ‘body pride’. One who is aspirant for the virtue of compassion (Mardava Dharma) will have to discard all the above mentioned eight types of vanity; only then one will be capable of attaining unblemished compassion.

    Once Sukh Deva went to King Janak at Rajgrahi to receive education. On the completion of his education he expressed his desire to offer a present (Guru dakshina) to his teacher.  King Janak said, “I don’t want any present. However, if you insist, offer me something seemingly without utility.” Sukh Deva set out in search of some worthless looking thing. The soil, the leaves, all things seemed to have their own utility. No material appeared to be with no utility. He began to ponder over the whole matter. He felt that pride in body alone is of no use. He said to King Janak, “I want to offer you my pride in body.” King Janak said, “Now you are blessed.  People regard bodily pride the most dear to them in the world and stick to it. You found it totally worthless; he alone who gets this vision by God’s mercy is really blessed.”

    The noble minded person who is not the least proud of ancestry, beauty, tribe and clan, learning or education, penance, knowledge of scriptures and chastity is gifted with compassion or supreme tenderness (Uttama Mardava Dharma).

    Kulrujadibhudhisu tvsudsilesu garvam kinchi
    jo nrvi kuchdi samanro madvdhamm haave tsya

    He, who is not proud or vain in spite of being highly learned and a supreme ascetic, possesses the jewel of compassion or tenderness (Mardav). A person regards himself superior to others as a result of the mental outlook developed due to the extreme feeling of family pride created by karma, which is of no use; for sometimes his own vanity is shattered by his own children. It has been said:

    Dharma vasenmamsi yavdalam sa tabadhanta n hanturapi pashya gataith tasmin
    Drishta prasparhatirjankatmajanam, raksha tatosya jagta kharlu dharm ev.

    i.e., So long as this feeling of compassion or tenderness (Mardava Dharma) persists in human mind, a person does not hurt even his own persecutor; and when his mind deserts this feeling of compassion, even father and son have been seen killing each other. Hence this world can be saved only when we possess the virtue of compassion (Mardava Dharma).

    A man, failing to make a distinction between right or wrong and what is worth doing or not, is enveloped by the darkness of vanity and takes recourse to the evil path leaving the wanted right path. When good luck (Punya Karma) comes into existence, he becomes highly puffed up with pride forgetting that as an outcome of this vanity he will have to suffer disgrace in the lower state of births.

    A mad person stood in the middle of the road. A car came from behind and the car owner began to sound the horn. When the man did not budge from the road, the Seth cried, “O blind man! Can’t you see? Move aside from the middle of the road.” The mad man spoke, “O Seth! Sitting in this tin box, your car, you are filled with so much vanity. I stand on this earth which is full of precious jewels. Still I am not proud in the least. Go away keeping this tin box on your head.”

    As a result of good actions of previous births a man gets a bit of material prosperity and worldly wealth in life. If one or two cars stand in front of his door, the man becomes so vain and proud that he begins to think that others are no matches to him. Regarding other persons insignificant and worthless due to this feeling of vanity brings ruin in his life. As a result of this sin he is thrown into the deadly hell. An easy way of escape from it is not to be proud or vain. This virtue of compassion or humility, which annihilates vanity root and branch, is really commendable.

    What to speak of a man in the street, when bad luck dominates, even Kings are born as germs in the excrete, as a result of this pride and vanity. This egotism or vanity, which causes great hurt to the soul, is a deadly enemy of man. The saintly persons should always destroy vanity through this virtue of compassion or humility (Mardava); or if they have to be proud, they should take pride in their vows and holy pledges so that the enemies of religion may be annihilated.  Even the mountain of vanity crumbles by compassion. Aark Kirti, the son of Emperor Bharat Chakarvarti, had to suffer so much disgrace, and the God Maya Mani Ketu burnt to ashes the sixty thousand sons of Emperor Sagar Chakarvarti in the twinkling of an eye due to this vanity. Therefore, just as king Bharat tried to uproot vanity of the royal prince, his brother Bahubali, likewise the saintly persons always try to flee the ghost of vanity from the heart of would-be enlightened souls.

    The holy teachers have great affection for the persons gifted with the virtue of compassion or tenderness (Mardav).  These saintly persons take them also for saints. Such persons attain Right Knowledge (Samayak Gyan) by the blessings of their spiritual teachers and thereby they enjoy pleasures of paradise.

    To be vain or proud is extremely harmful for a person. When Ravan disgraced Vibhishan out of vanity, Vibhishan joined the camp of Ram accompanied with his four battalions of cavalry (char akshohany sena) and thus got his own brother Ravan killed. Hence, we should not nourish malice or ill will for any one to satisfy our feeling of vanity or egotism. Despite being an extremely mighty king, Ravan is condemned and defamed to this day only due to his egotism. In truth, true greatness is free from pride. Little carries pride to its extreme limits. It has been said:

    barhe barhaii na karen, barhe na bolain bole
    hira mukh se na kahe, barha hamara mole

    Two trees stood side by side in a forest. One was Banyan tree and the other Cane tree. Due to being big size, wide spread and strong the Banyan tree developed vanity and egotism at heart. So it became proud. It said to the Cane tree, “What use is your life? You can provide neither shadow nor fruits nor flowers to anybody. Look at me. I provide shadow to so many creatures and even if somebody cuts me down beautiful coaches can be manufactured with my wood for sitting.” In a short while the weather took such an ugly turn that the storm and rain both started together all of a sudden. In an instant the Cane tree bent down and lay straight on the ground. But the storm saw that the Banyan tree stood erect and adamant. The storm uprooted this egotist tree and cast it away turning turtle. As a result the vanity of the tree was shattered to pieces. Therefore, we should never be vain or proud about our safety. Just as sometimes our own weapon becomes the cause of self-destruction, likewise our vanity or egotism becomes the cause of our own ruin. Nobody likes to look with reverence at a person who is self-conceited and prides in his beauty, knowledge, strength and affluence. All persons love gold because it is more soft and full of luster than iron; they wear different types of ornaments molded from it and safeguard it. But no body likes to wear ornaments of iron for they being hard and without luster. Iron lies outside in the open bearing both the winter and cold and summer heat and ultimately destroyed by rust.  Likewise, all people love those who are sweet tempered and they alone are safeguarded forever; but nobody likes the hard hearted and harsh nature persons for they are of no avail. That is why they are ridiculed and condemned everywhere. A man should always be tender by nature, sweet in speech and humble in conduct. Only then a man will be termed a man in right earnest.

    We should learn politeness in words and speech also. Sometimes there lies possibility of clash or bitterness due to words spoken abruptly without proper thinking.

    Once an Indian gentleman went to America. He had to address a conference there. When his turn came, he stood up and started delivering his speech. Meanwhile, seeing the Indian speaker, the American members of the conference started laughing. The Indian speaker felt insulted and got a bit enraged. In anger he spoke, “Fifty percent Americans are fools.” As soon as the American members heard these words, a commotion prevailed in the conference hall and the Americans got out of control. “No, No, Sorry gentlemen, pardon me.  Fifty percent Americans are wise.” On hearing these changed words, also conveying the same sense, the American members became calm again. It clearly proves harsh words cause clash and tender words result in peace. Therefore, learn by heart these sane words of advice; “Treat everybody with politeness, even those who are rude to you. For, remember that you show courtesy to others not because they are gentlemen, but because you are one.” Hence every person should speak beneficial, friendly, affectionate and sweet words. The wise seers have said, ‘Sweet words cost nothing, but buy everything’. Given below are some wise definitions of the virtue of compassion or tenderness in the words of the great poet Reidhu:

    Madu bhav madnru manr nrikndnru, dya dhamhu bhool ji vimlu

    Savham hiyaru gunr gunrsaru, tishun vyun sanjam sehlu

    Madu manr kashay vihamhnru madu panchidiy manr danhnru

    Madu dhamay karunra valli pasrayi chitr mahihin nravalli

    Madu jinrvar bhati pyasi madu kumarh pasru nrinrasand

    Madvenr bahu vinray pavtii madvenr janr badru uhtayi

    Madvenr parinram vishudhi, madvenr thuliy ham siddhi

    madvenr do vihu tau sohi, madvenr nrru tijgu vimohi

    madav jinr sasnr janrijeyi, appa par saruv bhavijyi

    madau dos asais nrivaryi, madu jam uahin utaryi

    samdansnr angu sadu parinramu ji munrhu
    iya pariyanrivichitr madu dhamu amal dhunrhu

    1. This virtue of compassion or tenderness (Mardav Dharma) overcomes the world i.e., conquers everyone in the world. It subdues vanity. This compassion or humility is at the root of mercy. It is the cause of unblemished conduct and is beneficial to all. It is superb amongst all the virtues; and vows and self-control are fulfilled and exercised only with compassion or humility.

    2. Compassion destroys vanity and egotism; puts a check on all the five senses and mind. By the blessing of this virtue of humility, the creeper of mercy expands on the ground of mind.

    3. The virtue of compassion exhibits devotion to Lord Jinendra; compassion restraints the growth of evil thoughts.  Compassion gives rise to the feeling of humility and puts an end to the feeling of bitterness.

    4. Compassion brings purity in outlook; it helps in the attainment of both the worlds – the earthly and the heavenly world (ubhay lok); it glorifies both types of penances and by it a man can charm the creatures of all the three worlds.

    5. The virtue of compassion makes one aware of the Jain discipline and it gives clear perception of the real shape of self and non-self (par). Humility removes all evils and it takes us across the ocean of the world.

    6. The feeling of compassion or tenderness is a part and parcel of Right Belief.  Knowing this, pay homage to the wonderful and unblemished virtue of compassion (mardav Dharma).

    Look at a genuine nude Jain saint, who is a living image of extreme humility treading this earth. Indeed, humility is the strength of perfection; it will bring down all enemies.

    Hence, O Mortal Man! Be compassionate, be compassionate, and be compassionate to one and all – men, birds and beasts.

    Impartiality or equanimity towards all living beings in the world, whether friends or foes, and life long abstention from injury to living beings, is a vow difficult to observe.

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