An Ahimsa Crisis: You Decide ► On Items We Put In Our Mouths ► Is Ahimsa Limited To The Thali In The Jain Community?

Posted: 27.07.2016

Yes, it appears to be so. For many Jains, ahimsa practice in their daily lives is generally limited to food issues. To review, most Jains are vegetarians and do not eat meat, poultry, fish, or eggs but do consume dairy products. Although they eat one-sensed organisms—plants—many avoid all or some types of root vegetables (vegetables that grow under the ground such as potatoes, carrots, and onions) because it is thought that consuming these vegetables involve more and additional himsa.

This additional himsa comes from two sources. First, when we pull a root vegetable out of the earth, we often kill the entire plant rather than just taking a fruit or some other part of the plant that leaves the overall plant structure unharmed. Second, some Jains believe that certain root vegetables, such as onion and garlic, as well as foods like figs and honey, contain many other microscopic living organisms called nigods (the minutest form of life). Some Jains will not eat certain green vegetables on certain days of a month or during Jain holy days such as Paryushan and Das Laxan, which is a practice emphasized in many of the pravachans and preaching by Jain monks and nuns. Some ascetics ask their followers not to eat certain types of pickles as well.

In India, in major restaurants, hotels and on airlines, Jain food is well recognized and generally available. In many Jain homes, people will have a cotton cloth filter on the mouth of the water tap to avoid any insects being harmed or digested. In weddings, parties, and celebrations and in Jain temples and places of worship, Jain food (vegetarian without root vegetables) will be served. In many ways, Jains have developed minute details of practice in their diet and culinary habits with these rules and restrictions.

It has been estimated that every vegan saves roughly two hundred animals a year, not to mention the reversal of water waste and topsoil erosion. Carbon emissions from factory farms and slaughterhouses are now the single largest contributor to so-called greenhouse gasses, which are linked to global warming. Taking into account the subtle shift in public awareness towards veganism over the last two decades, clearly a change is already taking place. All that is left to consider is whether humanity can wean itself off of meat and dairy before the earth reaches a calamitous tipping point. 


Dilip Shah, Past President JAINA

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