Comprehensive Concept Of Ahiṅsā And It’s Application In Real Life

Posted: 13.03.2009
Updated on: 30.07.2015

1.0 Introduction

Ours is the age of reason. Asymmetrically ours is also the age of violence. Never before in the human history there was so much of violence. Relationships at individual, social, national and international levels are often afflicted by violence, in degrees large or small. In such situation generally the reactive remedy adopted is violence without realizing that violence begets violence, which in turn, generates further violence. Therefore, there is a need for a workable and effective alternative to break this chain of violence. Ahiṅsā or the opposite of violence, properly understood and sincerely implemented, may be such a relevant option for ensuring harmony, survival and dignified living. Ahiṅsā is also a way of conflict resolution.

While many philosophical and religious systems have referred to Ahiṅsā or some of its forms and essence; Jainism developed this principle of Ahiṅsā adopted it as the primary doctrine and detailed it to the minutest levels or practice. The growth and content of Ahiṅsā in Jainism is such that Albert Schweitzer, one of the greatest humanitarians that the world has produced, state thus in his book - Indian Through and its development

“The lying down of the commandment not to kill and not to damage is one of the greatest events in the spiritual history of man kind…. So far as we know it is for the first time clearly expressed by Jainism.

Late Dr. D.S. Kothari, a great Indian scientist, in a similar vein, observed that the history of Ahiṅsā is also the evolutionary history of mankind.


2.0 Concept of Ahiṅsā

Before proceeding further it may be appropriate to dwell on the concept of Ahiṅsā and its applications to real life situations. Ahiṅsā is a benign and benevolent concept. It is an expression of compassion. It means reverence for life. It is recognition of the personality and accompanying dignity, naturally due to all living beings. Alongside this lofty and altruistic connotation, Ahiṅsā on the other negative implies non-killing and non - harming. This is equally important. Ahiṅsā is a combination of empathy and abstention. Thus it is a comprehensive concept. However, quite mistakenly some of the thinkers, and believers, ignoring the original treatises, references and their true spirit, tend to take a lop - sided view and reduce Ahiṅsā into a mere negative principle or practice, depriving it of its humaneness and nobility.


2.1 Definitions and interpretations of Ahiṅsā

The glory of non-violence as a doctrine of religion has arisen from the vision of similiarity of souls. This doctrine is narrated and analyzed in the Āgamas as follows:


    1. All violence deserves to be discarded because it leads to sorrow and fear. This is the basic argument of the doctrine of non-violence.
    2. Violence means ending somebody’s life or torturing others. Still, the blemishes born of violence depend only on infatuation or attachment and jealousy etc. If there is no infatuation or attachment, mere ending cannot come under the category of violence. This constitutes an analysis of non-violence.
    3. The purports of the blemish do not depend upon the relative importance of the size, number and senses of the living beings that are killed. It depends upon the result of the violating persons or the intensity or the otherwise, his knowing or unknowing action or the use of force. This constitutes the purport of non-violence.

The three matters mentioned above became fruitful in the thought and conduct of lord Mahāvīra and are woven in the Āgamas. Howsoever spiritual an individual or a group of individual’s may be, when they ponder over the question of sustaining life with self-control, the above mention analysis and stages naturally arise from it.

However so let us see how non-violence developed further on in the light of various sects of Jainism.

Jainism has two broad sects namely Śvetāmbara and Digambara. Both these sects are further splintered into large number of sub - sects, which are headed by different Ācāryas, many of whom have defined Ahiṅsā in their own way, unmindful of canon and original texts. Some of them brazenly describe the positive aspects of Ahiṅsā, like saving the lives of man and other creatures, feeding the hungry, providing water to thirsty, helping the sick with medicines etc, as undesirable, because in their view, these activities result in generating of karmas, which inhibit one’s liberation. They treat such activities as an expression of attachment, which according to them is the cause of bondage and not salvation.

One of the sub-sects of Jainas has even gone to the extent of describing the act of saving the life of a man or animal in distress, as violence. “(Page 191 “Tirthankar” of “Mahaveer Aur Unka Sarvodya Tirth” - by Hukam Chand Bharill of Todarmal Smarak). There could not have been a greater travesty or distortion. The problem gets further compounded when such scholars try to project such views as a part of the Jaina religion. Such views, when picked up by scholars, particularly the western ones, lead to their wrong presentation of Jainism. One such example is the book - Heart of Jainism - by Stevenson, who, perhaps getting such erroneous views concluded that Jainism had no heart at all.

When such scholars or Ācāryas are asked to provide the canonical or original references in support of their unusual stony views, either refer to some texts of much later times or conveniently just parry such questions. Both for the sake of purity of thought and practicability such views need to be questioned and corrected to present an authentic picture of Ahiṅsā in Jainism.

Ācārānga Sutra, a Śvetāmbara canon comprising the first discourse of Mahāvīra the 24th and the last Tīrthaṅkara of the Jains, delivered about 2550 years ago, defines Ahiṅsā thus:

“The saint with true vision conceives compassion for all the world, in east and west and south and north, and so, knowing the scared lore, he will preach and spread and proclaim it, among those who strive and those who do not, in fact among all those who are willing to hear him…He should do no injury to himself or any one else…The great sage becomes a refuge for injured creatures like an island which the can not overwhelm.”

- Ācārānga Sutra (1.6.5)

In another verse Ācārānga sutra spells out Ahiṅsā as:

“Thus say all the perfect souls and blessed ones, weather past, present or to come- thus hey speak, thus they declare, thus they proclaim: All things breathing, all things existing, all things living, all beings whatever, should not be slain or treated with violence, or insulted, or tortured, or driven away. This is the pure unchanging eternal low, which the wise ones who know the world have proclaimed, among the earnest and the non-earnest, among the loyal and the non-loyal, among those who have given up punishing others and those who have not done so, among those who are weak and those who are not, among those who delight in worldly ties and those who do not. This is the truth. So it is. Thus it is declared in this religion”.

Tattvārtha Sutra of Umāswāti / Umāswāmi (7/6), a treatise acceptable to both Śvetāmbara and Digambara sects of Jainas, has also stressed the positive side of Ahiṅsā:

“One should cultivate the feelings of fraternity toward all beings, pleasantness toward the proficient, compassion toward the destitute and equanimity toward the disrespectful unbelievers”.

Vīrasena, the renowned Digambara sage, who lived about 1200 years ago, described compassion as the intrinsic nature of soul in his voluminous commentary of Şatkhandāgama popularly known as Dhavalā.

Kundakunda another great Digamber sage, who lived about 2000 years ago, and who is known more for stress on abstract spiritual path for the soul, enjoined that one should provide food to the hungry and water to the thirsty as it constituted Anukampā or Compassion (Pañcāstikāya- 137). It may be noted that according to Tattvārtha Sūtra, liberation of the soul is possible only through the composite path of Samyak Darśana (right doctrine). Samyak Jñāna (right knowledge) and Samyak Cāritra (right conduct). Further Bhaṣya (commentary) on Tattvārtha Sutra enumerates five characteristics of Samyak Darśana of which the prominent one is Anukampā or Compassion. In short, according to canons, liberation of soul is not possible in the absence of compassion. A human quality like compassion, which according to Tattvārtha Sutra and its commentary helps the process of liberation, obviously cannot be the cause of bondage.

Ācārya Kundakunda in his book - Bodha Pāhuda stated that only that is Dharma, which is leavened with compassion.

There are even more positive and emphatic directions in the original canons of Śvetāmbara Jainas which promote humanism and compassionate action, which are synonyms of Ahiṅsā. For example Sthānānga Sutra – (eight chapter) ordains the following:


    • Be ready to listen to hither to unknown noble doctrine.
    • Be ready to follow noble conduct.
    • Be ready to block inflow of Papa- Karmas through practice of austerities.
    • Be ready to help and provide refuge to the destitute and helpless.
    • Be ready to educate the uneducated.
    • Be ready to serve the ailing with joy.
    • Be ready to resolve differences, strife, conflicts etc. among the colleagues and bring about harmony.

Similarly the following dialogue between Mahāvira and gaṇadhara Gautama reported in: Āvaśyaka sutra, Commentary by Haribhadra, leaves 661-662 requires in similar commitment:

Bhagvāna! Who is to be commended, the one who serves the ailing and distressed? Gautama- He who serves the ailing and distressed is to be commended. Bhagwāna! Why is it so?

Gautama! He who serves the ailing distressed, serves me. He who serves me serves the ailing and distressed. This is the pith and substances of the doctrine of Arihantas. Therefore, O Gautama! I say - he who serves the ailing and distressed, serves the ailing and distressed. Therefore, one who serves it to be commended?

In fact the Jaina scriptures are replete with large number of equally effective references, which highlight the need of compassion along with non-killing and non-harming. Recently a book “Sakārātmaka Ahiṅsā :Śāstriya aur Cāritrika ādhāra” authored by Mr. K. L. Lodha and published by Prakrit Bharti Academy, Jaipur (India) has extensively gleaned verses from Śvetāmbara āgamas and Digambara sources to put across this aspect of the wholeness of the concept of Ahimsā.

Both of the Jaina clergy and laity, great and minor vows (Vratas) are mandated by Jaina canons. These are common to all sects of Jainas. Among them, the first vow or Vrata is for Ahiṅsā. The classical definitions of these vows for Ahiṅsā are as under (mainly for clergy)

“I renounce all killing (included hurting) of living beings, whether subtle or gross, whether movable or immovable. Neither shall I myself kill (not hurt) living beings, nor cause others to do it, nor consent to it”.

(Āvaśyaka sutra)

Anuvrata for Ahiṅsā: (mainly for laity)

“I renounce all intentional killing (including hurting) of gross (mobile) living beings. Neither shall I myself kill (nor hurt) living beings nor cause others to o it”. (Upāśakadaśānga sutra - 1/13 and Ratnakaranda Śrāvakācāra

Apart from being both positive and negative, Ahiṅsā is a comprehensive concept from another angel as well. Ahiṅsā does not mean mere absence of physical violence. It is also a psychic phenomenon. Ahiṅsā has to be practiced at levels of “mana” (thought) “vacana” (speech) and “kāya” (body). In fact the basis of violence is “Bhāva” (thought and feeling). There is a possibility that there may be no Hiṅsa (Violence) even if there is physical harm, as in case of the death of a patient in an operation in the absence of the intent to kill. On the other hand, even without physical violence, an adverse or unwholesome thought may be tantamount to violence. Jainism has extend the idea of culpability regarding violence to a situation where the person has abetted pr approved the harm or killing. No loophole is left out. This approach adds to the fullness of the concept of Ahimsā.

According to Jainism, the concept and practice of Ahiṅsā transcends the human beings and covers even the smallest of the creatures. All life is sacred and as such cannot be tortured, maimed, or destroyed and instead has to be respected. This is a unique feature that further enlarges the range and intensity of this idea and conduct of Ahiṅsā.

Mahāvīra also emphasized friendship (maitrī or mitty) with all the beings at all levels over the entire universe. He said, “May I be the friend of all beings. Further I should not harbor any illwill with any being anywhere”. (Pratikramana Sutra/ Āvaśyaka Sutra). Friendship is nothing but the positive aspect of Ahiṅsā . Maitrī and Ahiṅsā are two sides of the same coin.

Viśesāvaśyaka sutra provides sixty synonymous of Ahiṅsā including anukampā (compassion) and Dayā (piety). Some of these aspects have been specially brought out because they exhibit the keenness of the Jaina scholars to delve deep into the physical and psychological nature of man and his actions, and present a philosophy and practice which is all-embracing and beneficial. Additionally, these facts have a bearing on the actual practice of Ahiṅsā in real life, an aspect that would be dwelt with later.

Shorn of the arguments based on religiosity, the commonsensical and rational basis of Ahiṅsā is provided both by Mahāvīra and Buddha. Ācārānga Sutra states:

“…… in support of this truth (Ahiṅsā) I ask you a question. “Is sorrow or pain desirable to you?”

“If you say, ‘yes it is,’ it would be a lie as it is against the evident reality. If you say, ‘no it is not.’ You will be telling the truth. What I want to add to the truth expressed by you is that as the sorrow or pain is not desirable to you, so it is to all which breath, exists, lives or have any essence of life. To you and all it is undesirable, painful and repugnant”.

This brings out the universal abhorrence to pain or sorrow and leads to the conclusion that since nobody wants pain or sorrow, we should not cause pain or sorrow to anyone. Similarly canons also stress that since all beings desire happiness, our efforts should be to work towards the happiness to all. Kant, the great western philosopher, was one asked whether he knew what the truth was. He, with his humility, replied in the negative. Further on being asked whether he could at least suggest the path of reaching the truth, he mentioned one of his categorical imperatives namely that something which is truth must be universal. Using this Kantian touchstone, Ahiṅsā emerges as the truth, because of its universality in terms of revulsion to pain or killing and common desire for happiness among all the living beings.

Buddha also preaches similar views.

The other support for Ahiṅsā is ethical. Jainism believes in plurality and equality of souls. No soul has an ethical right to dominate or harm the other beings. All souls deserve similar treatment. By harming another soul, in a way, we are harming our own similar souls. Ācārānga Sutra again sums up this idea:


The principle of equality of souls however is at times applied wrongly. In Jaina canons the synonyms of “Hiṅsa” or violence is the expression “prāṇātipāta” which means that the sin of killing is in proportion to the “prāṇās” taken. It is a subtle aspect, which needs to be explained. Soul or “Jīva” is indestructible and what can be killed is only the body. For bodies Mahāvīra gives a five-fold classification. According to him bodies are one-sensed, two-sensed, three-sensed, four-sensed and five-sensed. The micro level creatures in air, water earths etc are onesensed. On the other hand man or other large creatures have five-senses. The level of “prāṇā” in these categories of life forms increases with the number of senses. For example man has ten “prāṇās”. According to Mahāvīra the killing of a man is far more sinful than the killing of lower forms of lives possessing lesser number of “Karmas” by being a vegetarian rather than a meat eater.

There is yet another aspect. Violence is an expression of power and not ethics. Violence is possible with means of confinement, punishment, destruction etc. but such instrumentalities have little ethical justification except possibly in case of self-defence. Taking a subjective and insular view, some philosophies and doctrine tried to make man the center of universe and reduced all other beings as subordinate ones, required to subserve him only. However there is no ethical or rational basis of such a proposition. But resultant rituals (as distinguished from ethics) arising out of such man-centric arrogant views are unfortunately projected as mandatory principals to be followed and even fought for.

Rhetorically Max Heindel asks, “we can not create so much as one particle of dust, therefore what right have we to destroy the very least form?”


2.2 Science of Ahiṅsā

Ahiṅsā also receives science-based commendation. This is a new development. Science, as the source of instruments and weapons of destruction and mass killing and violence, has been the cause of maximum and unprecedented violence in the world. But paradoxically science now is providing the most cogent and convincing conceptual basis of Ahiṅsā . The emerging science of Genetics unravels the ultimate structure and combination of genes in form of chromosomes. The results are amazing. The difference between the genes of a man and chimpanzee is hardly 0.6 percent. The swine and man again may not differ by more than 5 percent in their genes. Many more such parallels have been given by science. In fact the genetic code of life is similar from the smallest bacteria of man. With this kind of closeness and similarity between man and other living beings, violence against the latter is scientifically indefensible. Just as man is not allowed to kill another man on the ground of similarity and closeness, killing of animal by man should also come to an end. However such old habits, particularly dietary ones, die-hard. But like racialism, ill- treatment and, even worse, killing of animals, which some of the proponents of ethics call specie-ism should also come to an end. But we will have to face a long and bitter resistance and fight from conservative and vested interests.

The science of Neurology clearly brings out the existence of neurons, their networking and the feeling of pain among the animals. Thus from this angle, these other creatures are not different from man. Non- expression of pain in some cases of animals is no justification for their killing. On the other hand, even the life of man starts from a single cell that also does not have any neuron. But that cell develops into human beings that sense pain and pleasure. Therefore, it will be incorrect to think that living organism which do not have nerve cells do not experience the feeling of pain or hurt.

Science of Environment also enjoins that one should be acutely conscious of life in other animals, plants, other components of nature and microbes. Further there is strong factor of interdependence between living organism as well as the abiotic part of the environment. The damaged caused to the environment leading to denudation of forests, global warming, drying up of glaciers, rivers, lakes and other water resources and pollution of air, water and land has already caused catastrophic effects on the existence of life on Earth.

Amazingly, the first formal and detailed declaration on environmental protection covering air, earth, water, fire, vegetation and other increasingly higher forms of life reaching up to the level of man, was made by Mahāvīra in his first set of discourses delivered more than 2550 years ago and embodied in Ācārānga sutra. There are seven sections in the first chapter of Ācārānga Sutra dealing with the subject of environment only. Mahāvīra strongly pleads for recognition of life in air, earth, water, vegetation etc. and desires that one should be careful not to damage it. To give a flavour of what he said, it may be apposite to quote aphorisms 113 to 117 of Ācārānga Sutra as under:


“Comparison of plant life with Human life - 113


This (i.e. human being) is born;

this (i.e. plant) too is born.


This grows;

this too grows


This possesses consciousness;

this too possesses consciousness


On being cut this becomes sad;

this too becomes sad (i.e. withers) on being cut.


This takes nourishment;

this too takes nourishment.


This is mortal;

this too is mortal.


This not eternal;

this too is not eternal.


There is metabolism (anabolism;

there is metabolism in this too and catabolism) in this (i.e. building up of new cells and decaying of old cells);


This undergoes various transfor mations (such as ageing etc.)

this too undergoes various transformations (such as ageing etc.)

He who uses a weapon on the beings of vegetable body has neither comprehended nor forsworn actions (causing violence to the beings of vegetable body and other beings residing in the vegetable). 114.

(On the contrary) he, who does not use any weapon on the beings of vegetable body, has comprehended and forsworn actions (causing violence to the beings of vegetable body, and other beings residing in it).115

Having discerned this, a sage should neither use weapon-causing violence to the beings of vegetable body, nor cause others to use it, nor approve of others using it. 116

He who discerns (i.e. comprehends and forswears) the actions that cause violence to the beings of vegetable - body, can be regarded as a (true) ascetic (for a true ascetic is he) who has discerningly forsworn actions”. 117

Modern science discovered life or consciousness in plants life only about a hundred years ago, whereas Mahāvīra, without the aid of scientific instruments, could discern life in plants more than 2550 years ago. His teaching, if followed, will go long way in preserving the environment.

Ahiṅsā is also necessary for practical reasons. As mentioned earlier violence begets violence. Besides, violence does not solve problems in the long run. Further all life is bound together by mutual support and interdependence. (Parasparopagraho Jivānam)


3.0 Application of Ahiṅsā

We may now consider the application of Ahiṅsā in day today life of common man.

As already stated, normal life at individual, social, national and international level is rife with violence ranging from pretty one to horrendous levels. For the sake of mutual safety and comfort, social amity and international peace, action of various types, at different levels, may be necessary.

Undoubtedly one has to be seriously concerned about the weapons of mass destructions that might wipe out the entire life from our planet, or other grave forms of violence. But to concentrate exclusively on the larger issue of disarmament or other measures dealing with high dimensional violence is unlikely to lead to any real and meaningful change in the situation. Opinions on these aspects, though well meaning, may be high-sounding but hollow in terms of practicability and efficacy. Many of the movements for peace in the world, though needed, have at best been vapory. What is required is to focus on individual, however ordinary he might be. In fact, to obtain positive results, even though insignificant, one has to think of the application of Ahiṅsā in day-to-day life of common man.

The root cause of all violence is invariably to be sited in the mind of the smallest component of human society, an individual. It is at this level that proper education and ensuring action is required.


3.1 Ahiṅsā at individual level

Individuals would have to truly and sincerely practice Ahiṅsā in their daily life. With personal commitment to Ahiṅsā and personal transformation of individual, the real remedy to violence could be found. One of the major problems with many of the protest groups, trying to fight against violence at national and international levels, is that personally they are not non-violent. One of the reasons why Gandhiji also could not succeed many a time was that a large number of his followers advocated non-violence at the social level but did not practice non-violence at the personal level.

Mahāvīra realized this during his time and stressed upon reformation of the individual and prescribed a detailed code of conduct of good and peaceful behavior. Mahatma Gandhi also emphasized it and made the individual mind as his focus of address and action.

Even at the expense of repetition, it needs to be stated that the violence at the level of the nation-states or comity of mations is not a matter of unconcern but if we only talk of that and ignore Ahiṅsā at the individual level, we are unlikely to obtain positive results.

There could be many practical and concrete steps to promote harmony peace and Ahiṅsā. Some of the suggestions in these regards are mentioned below.

As a primary step, human welfare projects should be planned at individual, social national or international levels. It does not matter if these projects are small. If they are bigger and serve larger number of people, the effort is equally welcome. The quality and intent of service is even more important. Such projects should first take care of the basic needs including those of water, food, housing, education and medicine. Generally when somebody is fed or given water or treated, his immediate response is one of happiness and gratitude. The spontaneous smile on his face is self-expressive and touching. A new type and level of communication is established between the giver and the receiver. It is a mutually satisfying experience. It is beneficial to the helper as to the receiver. It is, to use a modern cliché, a win-win situation. Negative thoughts and actions are dispelled. It is not for nothing that Mother Teresa was called the apostle of kindness and Calcutta (or now Kolkota) is named the City of Joy. This is the most effective method of bringing diverse individuals and groups together. Here, instead of indifference there is a concern. Hatred, if any, is replaced by harmony. And sadness is substituted with joy. This is the real alchemy of Ahimsa. If this idea is extended to the individuals of other faiths or countries, results are increasingly satisfying. Recently a free heart surgery of a resource - less girl from Pakistan in a well- known hospital in Bangalore in India generated an unusual goodwill between the peoples of India and Pakistan, generally not considered to be the best of the friends. Many of the diplomatic moves could not match it.

Incidentally despite the efforts of some Jaina scholars and ācāryas beset with their own sectarian thinking, to deprive Ahiṅsā of its true positive meaning, Jainas in India and abroad do charity on a large scale. In India few can match them. They run several schools, hospitals orphanages, food and water distribution centers, animal sanctuaries etc. It is a case of heart getting the better of sterile and inhuman concepts, wrongly propounded by some of the subsects of Jainas.

One example of such compassion action is Bhagwāna Mahāvīra Viklānga Sahāyatā Samiti (BMVSS), which was set up in 1975 to provide artificial limbs/ calipers others aid and appliances to the handicapped. It is my privilege to be is founder and now its chief patron. BMVSS provides free artificial limbs to the amputees, calipers to the polio patients and others aids and appliances to the handicapped. By now BMVSS has provided over 8, 00, 000 aids and appliances totally free of charge in last 30 years. It is the largest limb / caliper fitting organization in the world. For example in the financial years 2004-2005 BMVSS fitted over 17,000 handicapped with artificial limbs in a year. 90% of the patients of BMVSS are below the poverty line. Beneficiaries belong to different faiths and regions. They speak of Mahāvīra as the lord of compassion. BMVSS also held camps in 18 countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America, where the impact is equally complimentary. For example Dawn, the leading newspaper of Pakistan and generally a critic of India, in its issue of 19th January 2002 said this for our third on–the –spot limb fitment camp at Kabul:

“As aid pours into Afghanistan, a special consignment from India is probably bringing more happiness to Kabul than the rest of the world’s cargo combined ------. The consignment consists of thousand pieces of Jaipur Foot ----. Along with the consignment went a team from BMVSS, a Jaipur charity that provide artificial legs for the poor----”

In October 2003 BMVSS held a limb-fitment camp in the compound of the second largest mosque of Srinagar in Jammu & Kashmir where extremists are still active. The banners of BMVSS, which highlighted the words “Bhagwāna Mahāvīra”, were displayed in the compound of the mosque. We were told that this was an unusual event. The naming of Hindu or Jaina Lord in mosque or Allah in a temple was unthinkable without sparking off communal riots in India. But we were welcome. Such is the soothing impact of compassion and Ahiṅsā.

Similar is the response in other parts of the country and the world.

Mother Teresa personally visited our center and used to send all her amputees to us. One of her nuns, who had lost her leg was provided with an artificial leg by us. We saw the same nun praying and kneeling before the cross in Mother Teresa home in Kolkota. The present Sisters of Charity Kolkota also sends her cases to us. We hold camps with Ramakrishna Mission, Śankarācārya āśrams and others without any distinction. This kind of wide support again is the result of compassionate activity transcending all differences.

The compassionate projects small or big should also extend to animals. Compassion like peace is indivisible. One cannot be cruel to animals and compassionate to man. Once brutalization starts, its impact is not limited. The mechanized slaughterhouses, inhuman animal farms and other organized torture and killing need to be exposed so that individuals can make informed choices about their conduct and food. The industrial lobbies in these sectors however are reported to be so strong that even the media is virtually silent on these matters. Dietary habits are one’s own choices but what is needed is transparency about the process. Besides on the positive side, the value of compassion towards animals needs to be inculcated among the younger generations. Compassion clubs and such other institutions need to be set up and encouraged. An extensive educational drive is needed.


3.2 Ahiṅsā at interpersonal level

Application of Ahiṅsā to inter-personal relationships is equally important. Because of ego, the other person’s viewpoint is not appreciated and this becomes the origin of all conflicts. Additionally, earlier the rigidity in thought was often because of ignorance. Now we have a new phenomenon and the rigidity is, at times, on account of blind rationality.

Thought human knowledge is relative but, if people treat it as absolute, and make it the basis of Anekānta, has great relevance. This principle has many dimensions. It has seven-fold logic. It is a theory of relativity. It is a principle of ethics and human relationship. Under this principle I may be right or wrong as much as the other person. The moment I recognize that I could be wrong from one perspective, may conduct can never be dogmatic or fundamentalist and my behavior is bound to be amicable. Some profound scholars have pointed out that the Semitic philosophies and cultures suffer from the concept of the excluded middle: things are either good or bad or white or black with no intermediate stages or gray colours. This may not be conducive to tolerance and hence may give birth to religious concept of Ahiṅsā and is also, in a way, partly subsumed by Ahiṅsā, permits thousands of flowers to bloom.

Keeping the above in view as also recognizing the equality of all souls, the cardinal core of Ahiṅsā , one has to be considerate to and appreciative of the views of other persons. In practical terms, at the level of individuals, what is needed is that lines of communications between man and man, husband and wife, parents and children, friends and foes must remain open. Further, the communication must be non-violent by being proper in its language and thoughtful in respecting the other person and his view. Those who have tried this know that this is the best way of conflict resolution.

The same principle applies to inter-faith relationships. If the leaders and followers of different religious starts knowing the other faiths and talking to their leaders and believers, things would be different. Most of the problems arise because people live in their religious cocoons. Dara Shukoh, the heir apparent of Shahajahan, the great Moghul who built Taj Mahal, was a great scholar. He was a liberal and tolerant person. In his book - The Meeting of Oceans, he observed that the day pundits i.e. Hindu priests and maulvies i.e. Muslim religious leaders, could sit together and talk, most of the differences between the followers of these two religions would not even arise. His further comment was more practical. He felt that the interested parties would however not let such meetings take place. With the present state of intolerance and terrorism, efforts have to be made for inter-faith dialogues to be conducted in non-violent, non accusive, non-dominent and in an appreciative language.

There is also a need for having greater interaction with the scholars and practiseners of Christianity, which is known for its concern for the poor and the service it renders to them.


3.3 Dos and Don’ts

Yet another way to achieve proper and harmonious conduct is to follow the basic principle of carefulness and restraint in thought, speech and conduct. For this Jainism has provided the concepts of samiti and guptis.

Samiti includes carefulness and caution in all activities and guptis include restrain in through and conduct. There has to be training and discipline for these so that they become the part of our second nature. For this, the modern psychological techniques could be used to instill these ideas not only in the individual’s conscious mind that habit formation takes place. It is also particularly necessary that our response to any verbal comment or physical act must not be immediately reactive: it must be a paused and restrained one. The moment there is an intervening time element; the violent response may become muted. In short, saṅyama (another expression for restrain) and viveka (discretion) should guide our thought and conduct.

The other pertinent and important idea is that of Pratikramaṇa, which is followed by devout Jainas. It means a daily critical self-appraisal and confession with the commitment to make an effort not to repeat the wrongs including violence towards man and other creatures. As is common, such practices tend to become mere formalities and rituals. But if Pratikramaṇa practiced in its true spirit, overtime, a person is likely to be considerate and non-violent in his daily life.

When we are talking of restraint, another primary principle of Jainism namely Aparigraha comes to the fore. At times violence at individual, social, national and international levels is rooted in greed and related economic causes.

While for laity, economic endeavor is inevitable and permitted; it has to be qualified by certain norms. In the first place undue possessiveness needs to be restrained and regulated. Mammon should not be allowed to become God. Secondly there must be the concept of sharing; call it giving, tithe, zakāta, dāna or visarjan. As the wise say, living is giving.

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