The Quest For Truth: [01.12] Bhagvan Mahavira: Life And Philosophy - Co-Existence

Published: 12.01.2007
Updated: 06.08.2008
Mahavira believed in the existence of many souls (atmas). He is not part of any soul. Each soul is independent of the other. Every soul has conscience but it is not a collective conscience. It is separate and different for each soul. Just as souls are different, their earthly manifestations are also different. Some souls are found in the animal world, some among human beings. Even within human beings there are many divisions. If some people are born in the tropical region, some others are born in the temperate region. Some are fair, some dark. In Mahavira's time man was in one of the four varnas: Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Sudra.

These divisions were made on the basis of man' s karmas and sanskaras geographical conditions and social organization. But man's arrogance was domineering. The section which could dominate built a hierarchy. Caste system came into being. Those who considered themselves to be superior dealt with the 'inferior' ones in a manner worse than how one would deal with animals. Under these circumstances Mahavira reflected that if there was equality and co-existence in the objective world, then why is it not there in the world of humans? On this insight he based his idea of amity. He said; Practise amity with all beings.

The principle of amity is very noble, but it is not easy to turn a philosophical principle into a code of conduct for practice. When nature, inclination and thoughts differ, the principle of amity breaks down.

Mahavir gave a tool to achieve amity towards all-tolerance. He reminded:

Do not forget the similarity hidden behind the differences. You are not entirely different from anybody. When you are different from everybody then how do you accept the norm of dissimilarity at times and antagonize some people as enemies and at other times accept the norm of similarity and befriend some people as friends? Accept both the one you imagine to be your enemy and the one you imagine to be your friend. Get influenced by this principle (sutra):

  • I accept all beings as they are and wish they would do the same towards me.
  • I have amity towards all
  • I do not have enmity towards any

When you are different from everybody how do you think of one person as inferior and one as superior? If you think of a person as inferior that is your arrogance and if you think of a person as superior, that is also your arrogance. Give up arrogance and look at reality. Man is born as a Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaisya or Sudra depending on his action (karma). Do not attach ego to this division made on the basis of karma and see people as superior or inferior. Do not divide man and see him. Do not forget the natural human unity underlying the diversity in individuals and their profession. This sermon revolutionized Indian society. Unity is not separate from diversity. This is the valuable basis for co-existence. Unity of man is possible only on this basis. Only on this basis can different types of governance co-exist. Diversity is natural. They cannot be erased. For a peaceful life, co-existence is essential. It cannot be given up.

Sources
  • The Quest For Truth: In the context of Anekanta by Acharya Mahaprajna
  • Edited by Muni Dulahraj
  • Translated by Sudhamahi Regunathan
  • under the guidance of Revered Munishree Mahendra Kumar.
  • Published 2003 by Jain Vishva Bharati Institute (Deemed University), Ladnun, Rajasthan, India

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Brahman
  2. Karma
  3. Karmas
  4. Mahavir
  5. Mahavira
  6. Soul
  7. Sutra
  8. Vaisya
  9. Varnas
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