Peace Through Dialog 2007 - Dr. Kumarpal Desai : A New World Order

Posted: 11.02.2008
Updated on: 09.01.2009

Jaina Convention
Federation of Jain Associations In North America

 

A New World Order


Dr. Kumarpal Desai
kumarpalad1(at)gmail.com
Tel. 91 (79)2660 2675)
 
Dr Kumarpal Desai, is a well-known writer, an author of over 100 books and a speaker in international forums. He has been a recipient of a number of awards including the prestigious Padmashri for his outstanding services and for having authored books in Gujarati, Hindi and English on Jainism, philosophy and spirituality. As a former Dean of the Faculty of Arts of Gujarat University, he has guided over twenty Ph.D. students in the disciplines of literature, journalism and Jain philosophy. Dr Desai is the co-coordinator of the Institute of Jainology and the president of The Gujarat Sahitya Parishad, the most prestigious literary organization in Gujarat.

Today man has created massive means of destruction, which would one day devour the entire human race. The star wars are staring at the world with greed. In the days to come, tanks, rockets and bombs would cease to have any power. Wars would then be fought with poison gas. The nature of weapons has changed, but the craze of man to kill is increasing and multiplying every day. That is why many today want to take shelter in the teachings of Tirthankar Mahavir.

All this reminds us about the words uttered by the renowned French novelist Victor Hugo when he said, "A timely thought carries greater strength than all the armies of the world taken together."

Let us now think of those principles and teachings of the Jain religion that may give relief in distress to the suffering humanity, which today is facing a dilemma of life and death. The first and the foremost principle of the Jain religion is renunciation. The Jain scripture 'Shree Sutra Krutang Agam' in its first chapter deals with this principle. Lust for possessions leads to violence, fear and recourse to sins and to falsehoods also. It has converted man into a demon. It encourages in him the craze for material pleasures. That is why great thinkers today say to us, "The less I have, the more I am."

Tirthankar Mahavir says, "As the bee carefully draws fruit juice from the bud of the flower without harming or hurting it, so also the one who aspires for emancipation would hurt least or harm no one through his actions." In the coming age, this very concept of renunciation would offer solace and would give new direction to the suffering humanity. Mahatma Gandhi presented the same concept of renunciation in a new light and in a new context. He said that by advocating the concept of trusteeship, if you possess something more than what you really require, the surplus or the excess actually belongs to others.

The five leading vows prescribed by the Jain philosophy begin with Ahimsa i.e. non-violence. Today when the whole world is involved in widespread violence, it will have to heed to the principle of non-violence with sincerity, devotion and respect more than what was shown to it in the past. Violence at the individual level and also at the level of the whole universe is increasing day by day in one form or the other. From every six rupees (currency of India) collected by way of tax from the starving millions, at least one rupee is being spent on the army and on armaments. What does one get in return? Fear, terror and insecurity. And the irony is that the same super powers, which have built these arsenals of destruction, have to now enter into mutual treaties to eliminate them. A few countries, which on one side are talking of peace, are preparing for war on the other. Ahimsa is not a supreme precept; it is more a way of life, which gives shape to humanity and to human life. The most ancient Jain scripture 'Shri Acharang Sutra' says, "Not to kill or harm or destroy any animal, living species or being is the purest, permanent and most eternal religion." The very first chapter of this ancient scripture details the causes and instruments of violence. The essence of Tirthankar Mahavir's thoughts on Ahimsa can be gauged in his following words - "You are the one whom you want to strike, you are the one on whom you wish to establish your command, you are the one which is in anguish, you are the one whom you want to kill. That is why a prudent person never strikes anyone, never establishes a command over others, never creates any anguish for others."

The seed of violence is first sown in thought, which then is followed in words and actions. That is why it is said, "war is born in the hearts of men". Acharya Umaswati says, 'Parasparopgraho Jivanam', which means that each living being lives because of mutual cooperation of each other's. The concept of Ahimsa enunciated by Tirthankar Mahavir is very comprehensive and includes all beings in it. It treats every living being with utmost equality and respects it the same way.

Mahatma Gandhi found Mahavir's concept of non-violence appealing after two thousand five hundred years and he proved the strength that it carried by applying it to all walks of his life. In 1946 he stood unarmed with compassion in his heart before a furious mob, which was carrying lethal weapons. The mob had to bow down before this 'Half-naked Fakir' as he was called. Non-violence had won while violence was defeated. Lord Mountbatton had said then, "What we could not accomplish by dispatching a full army brigade was accomplished single handedly by this one man, thereby saving the entire eastern side of the country from complete annihilation." One remembers Prof. S. R. Bhatt's statement in which he had said, "The seed of the thought that was sown some two thousand five hundred years before was reaped by Gandhi (The Thought of Ahimsa) as if there was an invisible link between Mahavir and Gandhi."

Violence is directly related to the craze for accumulation and possession, so that for the world of tomorrow exploitation and corruption would manifest themselves as new forms of violence. To obtain benefits by exploiting the poor, the weak, the downtrodden, the hapless is not only a manifestation of social injustice but it is one form of violence and deceit. Non-violence presupposes the coexistence of different religions, philosophies and thoughts, in peace with each other. The concept of non-violence and peaceful co- existence is the greatest gift to mankind by Jainism. The world today and the one that would follow hereafter need such glorious thoughts and feelings for each other. Jonathan Swift writes, 'We have just enough religion to make us hate but not enough to make us love one another.' If we accept the feelings expressed in this statement by this great thinker, we can cross all hurdles that are created by religious fundamentalism, religious intolerance etc. and can safely reach the objective of 'Religious fellowship'.

American leader Martin Luther King Jr. dreamt of the day when a man is known not by the color of his skin but by the strength of his character. To quote him verbatim, 'Not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.' The Jain religion gives no cognizance to the color or the creed of man. Man is known not by the accident of his birth but by his subsequent actions and character.

When one looks at things from different angles and locates an element of truth in everything, it leads one to 'Anekant' i.e. many sided or many faceted approach. Not that 'what I say is the only and the ultimate truth'; but 'what in truth is mine' is the correct approach. Therefore one should not be rigid and dogmatic towards one's own approach but one should be generous enough to concede that what others perceive may also have an element of truth. Thus, the philosophy of 'Anekant' perceives an all sided view and is based on equality, tolerance, assimilation and co-existence. It is the right approach for reaching the truth. 'Anekant' approaches everything relatively and tries to find the truth in every situation. In the life of Tirthankar Mahavir, many instances can be found where 'what is truth is mine' has been accepted. He had even persuaded Gautam, his first Ganadhar and most learned disciple to apologize to Shravak Anand. During Tirthankar Mahavir's times, many controversies existed and many opinions got expressed. Everyone tried to dispute the opinions of others so that one can prove that what one said was the only truth. But, Tirthankar Mahavir showed the path of this principle by which one can practice accommodation of others' views rather than the path of refuting others' views. To bring home the truth behind what he was saying, he gave the illustration of the seven blind men who were trying to know what an elephant was like. It is only when human beings adopt 'Anekant' that peaceful co-existence becomes possible. And our sorrows disappear. Saint Vinobaji considers the concept of 'Anekant' as Tirthankar Mahavir's greatest gift to the world.

Albert Einstein discovered the theory of relativity applicable to the physical world while Tirthankar Mahavir propounded relativity in our everyday life 2600 years ago. Acharya Jinbhadrasuri explains the concept of 'Anekant' in the following words - "the disputes and contradictions remain intact between different opinions as long as one does not look to the truth through assimilation and accommodation. The disputes between various opinions are a product of one's own faults and deficiencies."

As the world becomes narrower and narrower, the coexistence of different religions becomes a reality and in this context, the feeling of coexistence between various religions and philosophies advocated by the Jain philosophy becomes noteworthy. On the one side, there is assimilation, while on the other; there is respect for other religions. The kings like emperor Kumarpal and Vishnuwardhan constructed Jain temples and the temples of Vishnu and Shiva side by side. Hemchandracharya after offering prayers in the Somnath temple said, "I bout down before Lord Shiva because He aims at the welfare of every human being". The philosophy of 'Anekant' will lay the foundation of the assimilation of the glorious principles of various religions. Let us reconstruct the world on the basis of the philosophy of 'Anekant' and Non- violence to take humanity to peace, prosperity, stability and coexistence under a new world order.

Share this page on: