Pearls of Peace and Harmony in Jainism

Posted: 14.12.2014

Values creating peace and harmony were the need of past as well as today and future. When we look around the world there is a huge cry out for global peace by individuals and organisations as the only panacea to conflicts and wars. The list of violence, crimes, clashes, conflicts and wars are increasing and thereby creating more fear and worries in the minds of the inhabitants of the world in the present century.

Studies have shown that there are two kinds of wars - Crisis and Non-crisis. Crisis (or generational) wars are those which is believe to come from people within a society, region or nation while Non-crisis (or mid-cycle) wars are political in nature, it comes from the politicians and can start at anytime and ends at any time. The "bitter truth" is neither of the two wars is good for individual or a nation as they tend to be horrible and traumatize. Therefore, the structure, causes and values of peace should be understood by all. We all need to bring a strategic approach for raising the world's attention and awareness to the importance of peace as the only panacea to the global problems and the survival of humanity. All the religions and faith have some basic principles to establish peace but here my attempt in this paper is to present how Jain principles can pave the path to have peace and harmony in the world at large.

In India, their were many personalities who have done great effort to promote and propagate the Indian culture and values to establish peace and harmony in the world. Peace and violence are two opposite words. Where there is violence there cannot be peace and where there is peace there cannot be violence. Peace is not only the absence of war or violence or conflicts but it is a state of harmony with the freedom from fear of violence It is the existence of healthy interpersonal and intrapersonal relationship. Intrapersonal, that is the relation of man toward his own self and interpersonal means relation of one man with the other. A man who himself is not at peace cannot give peace to others too. Therefore, to be peaceful one is to be nonviolent. Ghandhi ji has rightly said that programme of nonviolence is tough and slow process but the surest way for peace. Nonviolence (ahiṁsā), one of the basic principles of Jainism says " not to kill or torture or hurt or enslave any innocent being through mind, speech and body."[1] "No one like pain or sorrow, everybody wants pleasure."[2] Jainism also believes that "all souls are equal."[3] "At the level of existence no one is high and no one is low."[4] Hence, no one has right to hurt or kill others.

Ācārāṅga Sūtra (4th cent B.C.), one of the foremost Jain canonical text says, "if one denies the existence of earth bodied beings, water bodied beings, air bodied beings, etc. that mean she denies his own existence and if one denies his own existence that means he denies the existence of the others."[5] This maxim asserts that Jainism gives equal respect to not only human beings but also to the microorganisms such as earth, water, air, fire and plants. It is on the level of existence one is to have respect for others life. This same thought is found in the theory of modern philosopher, Albert Schweitzer. He speaks of 'Reverence of Life'. Here the respect or following the principle of non-hurting or non-killing is not because of selfish motive. These micro-organisms themselves has the intrinsic value to live. One is not to follow nonviolence on the contract base that I will not hurt you so you should also not hurt me but we should follow nonviolence because we all possess the same kind of consciousness, feelings and emotions. Life as such is to be respected.

One of the eminent scholars' of Comparative Religion and Philosophy, Prof. Arun Kumar Mookerjee once ask Ācārya Mahāprajña (the 10th head of Shwetāmbar Terāpantha Sect) that we all know that the essence of Buddhism is compassion similarly what is the essence of Jainism. Ācārya Mahāprajña replied - it is vītaragatā. Vītaragatā means not to have any attachment or hatred towards any kind of living being. That is to say, to have the feeling of equanimity towards all living beings. In Jain terminology it is called samatā. Ācārya Mahāprajña,[6] in the commentary on Ācārāṅga Sūtra, speaks of two kinds of samatā - svasamatā and parasamatā, that is, equanimity dependent on self and equanimity dependent upon others. One may ask what is the need of equanimity towards self? Actually it is the prior need for equanimity dependent upon others. Svasamatā means in any condition favourable or unfavourable one has to be at peaceful state, without attachment and hatred. In order to be in equanimity one has to have mental strength and spiritual strength. In case, if one is not able to tolerate the situation, favourable or unfavourable then for defense he will prepare the weapons which are more powerful than the other. The event does not stop here. In resistance the other will again manufacture the weapon still more superior to him. In this way, the cycleof manufacturing more and more great weapons will continue and thence the perpetual violence too. To put an end to such series of violence, Ācārāṅga Sūtra proclaims "Atthi satthaṃ parenaparaṃ, Natthi asatthaṃ parenaparaṃ"[7] i.e. There are weapons superior to each other, but nothing is superior to asastra i.e. disarmament or non-violence. Actually, nonviolence is disarmament but if we consider it as armament than it will be the most powerful armament because it is the only armament which can bring an end to all the violence. Thus, to create nonviolent atmosphere equanimity dependent on self and equanimity dependent upon others are the basic need. Lord Mahāvīra rightly said, Conqueror is the one who is nonviolent.

Same kind of view can be looked into the thoughts of Swami Vivekananda. He says, "Non-Violence means having the ability (and strength) to strike (hurt) someone and yet restraining oneself from doing so. Therefore, non-violence can only be practiced by the strong and powerful ones. The weak only but make a show of non-violence for they never had the strength to inflict any harm on anybody." This is what is said in Indian culture as "Ksamā Vīrasya Bhūsanam" meaning one who is brave can only be nonviolent.

It is rightly said in the preamble of UNESCO's constitution that "Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the peace must be constructed." That is, if one wishes to have peace in thre world thenfirst of all one must construct peace in one's own mind. It is the aggressive outlook of an individual or a society that gives birth to war and violence. They are the expression and outcome of our sick mentality. It is through firm faith in mutual credibility and non-violence that humanity can get rid of this mad race for nuclear weapons, violence and wars.

Moreover, according to the one of the Jain holy text, Sūtrakrtāṅga Sūtra, the root of violence is attachment or desire for possession[8]. Ācārya Mahāprajña says violence is the consequence. We have to search and look for the causes of violence. Until and unless the causes are removed we cannot get rid of the problem of violence which is caused due to selfish motive of man. At the root of all types of wars and violence there lies the feeling of discontentment as well as the desire for power and possession. Today everybody is busy in the mad rat race of materialistic pursuit.

Man's ego and feeling of mineness prompts him to be more and more ambitious and selfish. It is this ambition and feeling which lies at the back of materialism. Man always wants pleasant sensations. It is again this hedonism and love of comfort that props up materialism. Secondly, a materially successful person looks down upon all those who are less privileged. Among the causes of economic inequality, the desire for possession and hoarding are the prime. Accumulation of wealth on the one side and the lust for worldly enjoyment on the other, are jointly responsible for the emergence of present-day materialistic consumer culture. A tremendous advancement of the means of worldly enjoyment and the amenities of life has made man crazy for them.

If we want to save the humanity from class-conflicts, economic disparity, ecological imbalance, corruption, etc. resulting due to excess greed and possession we will have to accept principle of self-imposed limitation on our possessions and modes of consumption. Lord Mahāvīra has propounded the vow of complete non-possession for monks and nuns and vow of limitation of possession for laities. Along with it man should earn money with right means. Secondly, to have a check on luxurious life and modes of consumption he prescribed the vow of limitation in consumption so that other can also have their share and thus, cannot be deprived of their necessities. In this way, this principle of Aparigraha (limitation of wants), which is the attitude of non-possessiveness or non-greediness can also secure humanity from the coming up burning problem of global warming and crisis.

Besides this, especially in the present days, many conflicts are the outcome of aggressive assertion of supremacy of one race, caste, colour, religion, faith, ideology over the other. For that what is dire need in the present-day society is the virtue of tolerance. This virtue of tolerance, that is, regards for others ideologies and faiths have been maintained in Jainism from the very beginning. Lord Mahāvīra mentions in text called Sūtrakrtāṅga Sūtra "those who praise their own faiths and ideologies and blame those of their opponents distort the truth and create disharmony in the society."

Anekāntavāda, one of the significant principle of Jainism, forbids being dogmatic and one­sided in approach. It preaches us to have broader outlook and open mindedness, which is more essential to solve the conflicts taking place due to the differences in ideologies and faiths. Anekānta, perceives the reality from multiple perspectives. In Jain scriptures we come across an interesting story of five blind persons and elephant. Once, all blind persons surrounded the elephant and touched its body one by one. One man who caught the leg of elephant said that elephant is like a pillar and one who caught the trunk said the elephant is like a python. The person who caught the ear said it is like a fan while the other who caught the tail said it is like a rope and yet another who touched the stomach touched said it is like a wall. Actually, they all are partially true. In the absence of reconciliation of all the views, there cannot be complete knowledge of an elephant. If one become adamant that what he has said is the only truth then he can never get the true picture of elephant. To have complete truth one has to assimilate all. According to the philosophy of anekānta, one-sided view can never give us complete truth. We need to reconcile the partial truth to make a complete whole. Similarly all different faiths are the part of the whole. All are true in themselves. If one denies the other, means he denies the whole. Prof. T.G. Kalghatgi rightly observes "The spirit of anekānta is very much necessary in society as it brings the spirit of intellectual and social tolerance."

Thus the principle on anekānta develops the tolerance power, helps to have broader outlook, teaches us to respect others thoughts, beliefs and faiths. In this way the principles of Jainism are no more subjects of philosophy; they are essentially human conduct. Alike Jainism, there are many others religions, faiths and belief systems which preaches these values. The aim should be to enlighten and educate the masses about all these principles of all religions, faiths and belief systems so that the message of universal brotherhood, peace and harmony can spread throughout the world.

Swami Vivekananda believed, "Religion is not a theoretical need but a practical necessity."

Peace is not a philosophy. Peace is something that has to be experienced. Unless a person experiences it, everything is empty. People think that a hungry person only needs bread. Of course he need bread but along with it he need peace too because this world does not exist only to fill the stomach. Peace needs to be experienced in our hearts. The only need is to mould the thinking pattern and consciousness. For peace and harmony we have to have the mutual understanding that we all are interconnected. With the survival of humanity only we will survive ourselves. With the peace and harmony of all we can have peace and harmony for the self. Even it is true that 'Where there is no peace there only is the development'. Abdul Kalam, our ex-president remarks very perfectly that -

When there is beauty in the character, there is harmony in the home,
When there is harmony in the home, there is order in the nation,
When there is order in the nation, there is peace in the world.

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