Business Ethics & Non-Possession in 21st Century: Jainism Perspectives

Published: 03.12.2010
Updated: 30.07.2015

Business Ethics & Non-Possession in 21st Century: Jainism Perspectives

[Sub Theme: Non-Possession & Business Ethics]

Distinguished  Delegates,

Welcome to the National Seminar on “Application of Non-Possession in Jainism” November 27-29, 2010 Jain Vishwa Bharti University, Ladnun-341306 (Rajasthan) India. 

The topic of my presentation is “Business Ethics & Non-Possession in 21st Century: A Jainism Perspectives”.


"For building a better world, the transformation should begin at individual level”
- Said Acharya Mahapragya, Leader and propagator of the Anuvrat movement.

The world economic order is changing rapidly due to advancement of science and technology. The world has been transformed into a global village. Due to the process of globalization & technological explosion business world in India & abroad are facing global challenges i.e. Challenges of survival, challenges of change, challenges of competition & customer satisfaction.

Present Scenario:

At present we are living in age of corruptions, greed, conflicts, violence & terrorism, which is known as ‘Kali Yuga’ i.e. Age of darkness & impurities, which is an extremely explosive troubled times where the context of human life is changing every moment.

Modern Civilization & Civilization's Crisis:

We have reduced the world to its present state of chaos, by our prejudices, by our egoistic behavior and by our self centered activities towards nature and towards human being. 

  • Civilization's Crisis in the 21st Century:
The problems faced by humanity are many but the most pressing are or the problems of meeting the basic needs of the vast majority of the people removal of illiteracy and the gap between the rich and poor.
  1. THREATS TO THE ENVIRONMENT: The Threat of Environmental Destruction & global warming & climate change are the great’s threat to humanity.  
  2. The Threat of Increasing Population.: GROWING POPULATION, VANISHING RESOURCES.
  3. The Threat of Increasing Poverty: THE GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS & INTOLERABLE ECONOMIC INEQUALITY are also main threats of human survival.
  4. The Threat of human survival: THE THREAT OF NUCLEAR WAR; &
  5. The Cultural threat of Human values: Erosion of Human Valves & Ethics due to mind pollution & cultural pollution are also affecting our society
  • Can we overcome these crises through a focus on human values and ethics?
My presentation is divided into three parts:


Introduction - Globalization & Civilization's Crisis in the 21st Century. Globalization & Transition of Values.


Concept of Aparigraha i.e. Doctrine of Non-Possession in Business Ethics; Consciousness of Aparigraha - Non-Possession in modern world.


Jainism & Business Ethics; what is Business Ethics? The Role of Ethics and Values.

Globalization & Transition of Values:

There is a transition from ‘Vasudheva Kutumbkam’ to globalization, which has changed the concept of values in present day education system & in the society. The present world is faced with many urgent problems - such as political, economical, educational, social & cultural problems due to deteriorations of values.

Human values (cultural, moral & spiritual values) are eroding at very fast rate resulting in declining the quality of life of the people. At the dawn of the new millennium, what is required most is ‘Jainism philosophy & Values of Nonviolence & Non-Possession for Self development, business survival & growth.

In the age of globalization, we have to reaffirm faith in Indian ethos. The ethical principles of Jainism prescribe a code of conduct, which requires an individual to be an ideal person with nonviolence as the foundation of his life not only from the Indian context but also universally in this 21st century.

To meet these challenges & to save the humanity from further destruction we have to change our attitude from ‘Culture of Materialism’ to 'Culture of Spiritualism,' & we have to change our attitude of possession to non-possession.

This is a real agenda, 'Agenda of Social Transformation through ‘Ethics & Nonviolence' and this is a two-fold task of:

    1. Creating a Social Ethical Consciousness i.e. ‘Social Transformation for Nonviolence Attitude & lifestyle ' through self-transformation by the Principles ‘Ahimsa’ Nonviolence & ‘Aparigraha’- Non-Possession.
    2. Creating a Global Peace Consciousness - 'World Transformation ' based on principles of Ahimsa, Compassion, forgiveness, friendship, tolerance& equality etc (jiyo aur Jino do, parasparopragrahajivanam.
  • Need of an ‘Aparigraha’ - Non-Possession for Social Change

Social change is a universal phenomenon and it occurs in every society. Change is inevitable and it takes place in all fields. The term ‘Social change’ is often used to describe variations in, or, modifications of any respect of social process, social patterns, social interaction or social organization. Great thinkers emerged from various societies induce social change. Lord Mahavira advocated overcoming vices like anger greed etc. and recommended the practice of certain virtues. The ethical principles of Jainism prescribe a code of conduct, which requires an individual to be an ideal person with nonviolence as the foundation of his life. The concept of Aparigraha Non-Possession is the concept for environmental Protection& for social change. First eight verses of Sūtŗkrtāńga describe the concept of Aparigraha and its importance in achieving the ultimate objective in life i.e. liberation.

  • Jainism- India’s greatest spiritual gift to the world

Jainism is one of the world’s oldest religions, which is originating in India, dates before 3000B.C. Jainism has been rightly called ethical religion, which is applicable and relevant today as it was 2500 years ago. It lays great stress on good conduct. Jainism was made into a popular religion by Mahavira (599 BC), the 24th Thirthankara of Jainism.

Part I - Religion & Non-Possession

  • Our Planet & Our Common Future:

In UN Documents Cooperation Circles - Gathering a Body of Global Agreements a public education initiative ‘Foundations for a Sustainable Common Future’ it is mentioned about Our Planet & Our Common Future that “Until recently, the planet was a large world in which human activities and their effects were neatly compartmentalized within nations, within sectors (energy, agriculture, trade) and within broad areas of concern (environmental, economic, social). These compartments have begun to dissolve. This applies particularly to the various global crises that have seized public concern, particularly over the past decade. These are not separate crises: an environmental crisis, a development crisis, an energy crisis. They are all one.” Our Common Future, p. 4.

Jainism is a religion of love and compassion to all living beings, it is a greatest gift to the world, its teachings provides the solution of not only of life problems but also solution to the world problems such as Environment, Poverty, violence & conflicts through the principles of ‘Ahimsa’ (Nonviolence) &  Aparigraha Non-Possession.

The ethical doctrine of Jaina’s i.e. doctrine of Aparigraha Non-Possession is unique in modern world which has relevance to the solutions of the global problems: i) Economical problems 2) Ethical problems & 3) Environmental Problems.

  • Concept of Non-Possession

“The earth has enough for human needs, but not for human greed"
said Mahatma Gandhi

We are living in Culture of Greed & Culture of Possession. Possessiveness is the root cause of conflicts & himsa (violence),Late Gurudev Acharya Tulsi & Acharya Mahapragya Ji have coined a new dictum ‘Aparigraha Parmodharma’ ( Non-Possession is the greatest religion). Aparigraha is described basically as ‘absence of a feeling of mine’. First eight verses of Sūtŗkrtāńga describe the concept of Aparigraha and its importance in achieving the ultimate objective in life i.e. liberation. Prigraha is the feeling of possession / attachment / bondage, expectation, desire etc. Aparigraha means work hard to earn merit, but do not develop attachment to the results/ benefits accrues, share it with others.

  • Consciousness of Non-Possession

We have built a society, which is violent & explosive.We are living in extremely explosive times the world is in confusion and human beings are driven by the power of  Ego, Greed & lust for power. Mind is the origin of conflicts & violence. Fear, hatred & greed are produced in the mind due to Avidya (Ignorance), Anger (Krodha) & Ahamkara (Ego). The consciousness of human mind can be divided into two main categories according to its levels:

    1. Material Consciousness i.e. Accumulation of material things is called as Consciousness of Possession which is driven by Greed, Ego, & lust for land & power. The root of all our current problems is materialism. Materialism has become their new religion and we are living in Religion of materialism.
    2. Spiritual Consciousness i.e. Consciousness of Non- Possession which is driven by need, eco-dharma, Ethics & values of human beings. Consciousness of Non-Possession is based on the Principle of Ahimsa - Doctrine of Non-violence and Principle Aparigrahavāda - Doctrine of Non-Possession.

Part II - Religion & Ethics

  • What is Business Ethics?

“Business” is about value creation and trade & Business is about creating value for stakeholders. At minimum stakeholders are customers, employees, suppliers, communities, as well as shareholders or other financiers.

“Business”+”Ethics”= Business Ethics

“Ethics” (also known as moral philosophy) is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good vs. bad, noble vs. ignoble, right vs. wrong, and matters of justice, love, peace, and virtue. Ethics always works at two levels:  personal and interpersonal. Business ethics is “an art or science of maintaining harmonious relationship with society, its various groups and institutions as well as reorganizing the moral responsibility for the rightness or wrongness of business conduct”.

 Jainism and Ethics:

Jainism and Ethics both are related. Business Ethics and Aparigraha or non-possessiveness preservation are part of the Jain’s religion principles. Aparigraha or non-possessiveness is the moral ethics of Jainism which provides the solutions for life management as well as solutions for social, economical & environmental problems.

Principle of Aparigrahavāda - Doctrine of Non-Possession are applicable in solving the social & economical problems such as poverty & inequality,   ecological problems (management of natural resources & Environmental protection) and also in the field of Business crisis & management, Charitra dharma’ is a Jain Ethics having two main components:

1 Ethics - Charitra dharma’ and
2. Shrut or Philosophy:

    1. Jainism is founded on the equality of all living beings - To an extent; it puts all non-living beings also on a status of respect. Hence, Jainism represents the highest standard of ethics ever. Jainism stresses on the importance of controlling the senses including the mind, as they can drag one far away from true nature of the soul.
    2. Limit possessions and lead a life that is useful to yourself and others. Non-possessiveness is the balancing of needs and desires while staying detached from our possessions.

The second foundation is Jainism’s Philosophy, which stresses on Ahimsa (Nonviolence) as Ahimsa is said to be the supreme religion and himsa is considered to be source of all evil and of all miseries.

Part III - Business Ethics & Jainism:

“Wealth without work, Pleasure without conscience;
Knowledge without character, Business without Ethics;
Science without Humanity, Religion without Sacrifice and
Politics without Principles are deadly Sins."
Gandhi Ji said.

We have built a society, which is violent & explosive.We are living in extremely explosive times the world is in confusion and human beings are driven by the power of egocentric behavior.

Key spiritual values embraced in a business context include integrity, honesty, accountability, quality, cooperation, service, intuition, trustworthiness, respect, justice, and service.

Jainism Core beliefs & Values  

According to Jainism following are the core beliefs i.e. spiritual principles of human beings:

    • Every living being has a soul.
    • Every soul is potentially divine, with innate qualities of infinite knowledge, perception, power, and bliss (masked by its karmas).
    • Right Faith (right vision), Right Knowledge and Right Conduct (known as triple gems of Jainism) provides the guidance for business management & also provide the way to self realization.

A major characteristic of Jain belief is the Controlling of Mind-   One's unconquered mind with anger, pride (ego), deceit, greed and uncontrolled sense organs are the powerful enemies of humans. Anger spoils good relations, pride destroys humility, deceit destroys peace and greed destroys everything. Jainism recommends conquering anger by forgiveness, pride (ego) by humility, deceit by straight-forwardness and greed by contentment.

Purity of mind: Purity of environment will bring purity of mind. Purity of mind will make a nation to progress. Jainism provides practical solutions for mankind to follow and live. Jainism is a religion of love and dharma of truth. We learn love, compassion and respect for all living beings, big and small, from Jainism.

  • The New Paradigm ‘APRIGRAHA PARADIGM

‘Aparigraha Parmodharma’ (Non-Possession is the greatest religion)

Late Gurudev Acharya TulsiJi & Acharya Mahapragya Ji have coined a new dictum of ‘Aparigraha Parmodharma’ (Non-Possession is the greatest religion) for Global harmonic society. According to Jainism Ahimsa (Non-violence) is an experiment in spirituality. It is way of life to achieve self peace & it is also useful for society as it is for awaking spiritual consciousness.  The root of all our current problems is materialism. Materialism has become their new religion and we are living in Religion of materialism. In fact all mental energies of the entire world and individuals are focused on acquisitions and possessions. To promote world peace, preaching and practicing the doctrine of non-possession has become a necessity. ‘Parigraha’ or possessions increases the desires & also increasing the consumption & attachment to material things.  However Aparigraha is opposed to the development of attachment and infatuation with the ownership and consumption of material wealth. The principle of Aparigraha helps the humans to overcome greed, attachment, and cravings and to reduce the ego & elevating the level of consciousness from Material or Violent Consciousness to higher level i.e. Spiritual Consciousness (Peace Consciousness).
The new paradigm Aparigraha - Paradigm’ is required for developing a nonviolent Global Harmonic Society based on common values for humanity’s future.

    • From Culture of Materialism to Culture of Spiritualism;
    • From Culture of Greed to Culture of Need;
    • From Culture of possession   to Culture of ‘Aparigraha - Non-possession;&
    • From Culture of ‘himsa’ (Violent Consciousness) to Culture of ‘Ahimsa’ (Non-violence) Peace Consciousness; and

Anuvrat (Non-violence) is the process of self-transformation of elevating the consciousness from material consciousness to spiritual consciousness (i.e. from violent consciousness to Peace consciousness).

Acharya Mahapragya says, ‘Negative thoughts cause violence and positive thoughts help the natural evolution of the process of ahimsa. The negative ones are anger, arrogance, greed, hatred, fear, communal enmity and feelings of caste supremacy. Tolerance, politeness, dispassionate attitude, love, fearlessness communal harmony and human solidarity are positive thoughts. "Anuvrat" Non-Violence aims at imparting training in the strategies to transform the negative thoughts into positive ones.’


‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbhkam’ - The world is one family has been expressed in our scriptures. The oneness of humanity has been a fundamental belief of Indian Civilization. Global Peace is Oneness of Humanity. World Peace & Human Unity can only be achieved by following the principles of Jainism philosophy i.e. Ahimsa - doctrine of Non-violence; Anekanta- doctrine of Non-absolutist; andAparigrahavāda - doctrine of Non-Possession.

Global Peace & Oneness of Humanity:

World peace starts with peace in self, in family, in our society, in our cities and extends beyond all political borders. We must teach our children and ourselves Peace & value education for creating peace in ourselves and in the minds of the children.  World peace is possible and a natural part of mankind's evolution and it can be achieved only through Peace values.

The basis for Global Peace is 'self-transformation' and 'self-transformation leads to world transformation.'

    1. Ahimsa - or Doctrine of Non-violence:
      Ahimsa (Non-violence), tolerance and peaceful existence are the essential ingredients for creating world peace & human unity. Ahimsa reduces the conflicts & violence; and creates the peace & harmony in the world.
    2. Anekanta or Doctrine of Non-absolutist teaches tolerance, listening to view points of others & ponder over in our quest for truth..
    3. Aparigrahavāda or doctrine of non-possession.

Aparigraha is the absence of feelings of possession, attachment, bondage, expectation, desire, etc., which helps in reducing the poverty & creates the nonviolent sustainable society.

Doctrine of non-possessions is a significant and unique contribution of lord Mahāvīra to the world. It generates peace and harmony in the society; equanimity in the nation and sense of belonging in the family. Its practice in letter and spirit only can result in the welfare of humanity.
What the Acharya Mahapragya Ji - A revolutionary thinker & a great Peace Maker said about the Anuvrat movement is also significant: “India played a leading role in this search through Lord Mahavira and Lord Buddha in ancient times & through Mahatma Gandhi in modern times My preceptor, His Holiness Acharya Tulsi, who had a long experience of interaction with a cross section of a society, opened a new chapter by starting a movement “Anuvrata” for living a good moral life by one & all. Let the message of Peace go as wide as possible:                                                       

    • Let there be harmony in every walk of life.
    • Let human mind blossom to its full capacity
    • Let individual & society on one hand, and man & nature on the other, respect & cooperate with each other to achieve world peace & human unity.

  1. Living Path of Non-Violence
  2.  Anuvibha Reporter: Vol.3 No.1 & 2 Jan. –June, 2007
  4. Basic Principles of Jainism
  5. Jainism and World Peace
  6. Non Violence & World Peace
  7. Foundations for a Sustainable Common Future
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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. 24. Tirthankara Mahavira
  2. Acharya
  3. Acharya Mahapragya
  4. Acharya Tulsi
  5. Ahamkara
  6. Ahimsa
  7. Anekanta
  8. Anger
  9. Anuvibha
  10. Anuvibha Reporter
  11. Anuvrat
  12. Anuvrat Movement
  13. Aparigraha
  14. Avidya
  15. Body
  16. Buddha
  17. Business Ethics
  18. Charitra
  19. Communal Harmony
  20. Consciousness
  21. Cooperation
  22. Deceit
  23. Dharma
  24. Environment
  25. Equanimity
  26. Fear
  27. Fearlessness
  28. Globalization
  29. Greed
  30. Gurudev
  31. Himsa
  32. JAINA
  33. Jain Vishwa Bharti
  34. Jaina
  35. Jainism
  36. Jainworld
  37. Karmas
  38. Krodha
  39. Mahapragya
  40. Mahatma
  41. Mahatma Gandhi
  42. Mahāvīra
  43. Non violence
  44. Non-violence
  45. Nonviolence
  46. Parigraha
  47. Pride
  48. Rajasthan
  49. Science
  50. Soul
  51. Tolerance
  52. Tulsi
  53. Violence
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