Advocacy of Intercultural Faith in Jain's Prism

Posted: 09.02.2012
Updated on: 02.07.2015



Human history up to now seems to be the history of conflict, which is originated from differences when one encounters something unfamiliar or strange or different one tends to feel uncomfortable and hostile. And one feels at home when one meets something familiar, not different from what one has been exposed to. This seems to be the natural reaction, which may be called animal instinct. Something different is alienated and is not accommodated, it is excluded. For something different, is taken to be an impediment and a threat to one's own existence.

The aim of my talk is to spell out the difference of opinions, difference of belief system which seems to be source of history of conflict and to propose an alternative one i.e. anekantic multi-dimensional perspective of approach, that will contribute, I hope, to reconstruct mutual well-being of nature, and society of peaceful co-existence and harmony among different cultures and people.


Socialistic approach of Nayavāda

The analysis of nayas (ways of approach and observation) shows every judgement is relative to that particular aspect from which it is seen or known. This is also called sāpekṣhavāda which means relativity of our particular knowledge or judgement to a particular standpoint. Since human judgements are always from particular standpoints, they are relative. Their outright acceptance as a sole truth or rejection as totally false, would not be correct.

The importance of this comprehensive synthesis of Nayavāda, which is the basis of Anekāntvāda supplies a rational unification and synthesis of the manifold and rejects the assertions of base absolutes. Mr. Stephen Hay, an American scholar - historian, in his article, "Jaina Influences on Gandhi's Early Thought" refers to Mahatma Gandhi's view about the Jaina theory of Anekant as under:

It has been my experience, wrote Gandhi in 1926, "that I am always true (correct) from my point of view and often wrong from the point of view of my critics. I know that we are both (myself and my critics) right from our respective points of view. It is this doctrine of the manyness of reality, that has taught me to Judge a Mussulman from his standpoint and a Christian from his,.... Jains standpoint from the platform of the Jains.... "

The more important aspect of Nayavāda is however, the subtlety with which it introduces the practice of ahimsā even in the realm of thought. The moment one begins to consider the angle from which a contrary view-point is put forward, one begins to develop tolerance, which is the basic requirement of the practice of ahimsā. Origin of all bloody wars fought on the surface of this earth can be traced to the war of ideas and beliefs. Because violence proceeds from intolerance rooted in ideological absolutism, ahimsā requires a firm foundation for tolerance, a foundation provided by the philosophy of anekānt.[1]

Prof. Tatia also holds that only intellectual clarity will resolve all conflict and rivalry. All dogmatism owes its genesis to this partiality of outlook and fondness for a line of thinking to which a person has accustomed himself.[2]

Anekāntvāda and Nayavāda tries to make the man conscious of his limitation by pointing to his narrow vision and limited knowledge of the manifold aspects of things. It asks him not to be hasty in forming absolute judgements before examining various other aspects both positive and negative. Obviously, much of the bloodshed, and much of tribulations of mankind would have been saved if the man had shown the wisdom of understanding the contrary view points. "The only attitude that we can adopt in the present context is an attitude not of exclusiveness but comprehension, not of intolerance but of understanding, not of hatred and fanaticism but of appreciation and assimilation of whatever is valuable."[3]

History of all conflicts and confrontations in the world is the history of intolerance. It was Draupadī's intolerance which caused the great, disastrous Mahabharat war. Difficulty with the man is his ego-centric attitude which prevents him in attaining holistic perspective. The concept of nayavāda which claims for rendering due respect for diverse views, cult culture etc. because it can solve the present problem of familial violence, global violence in the name of terrorism, political violence in the form of arranged wars and in the form of assassination of political leaders.


Familial Violence

A family is a place where a group of couple of members live together and serve each other in joy and sufferings parallels. Each person has his own thinking, hobbies, interests, nature, own way of doing his works, own way of food habits. Members of the same family may have contrary views to your own that makes you angry, that is a sign that you are sub-consciously aware of having no good reason for thinking as you do. So whenever you find yourself getting angry about a difference of opinion, be on your guard; you will probably find that your belief is partially true, compared to the other view. This way of approach and looking at the practical issues of life will give full stop to increasing rate of divorce, suicide, familial quarrels etc.

So the Jaina logician welcomes all the light that comes from different ways of approach and integrates them in one whole. This intellectual charity will resolve all conflict and rivalry. So whatever may be the calling and avocation a man may be called upon to pursue he can achieve success if he is alive to the importance and the utility of all the different ways of approach in the study of problems.


The Concept Of Human Race As One

Tīrthankar Mahavira 2600 years back claimed that Human race is one i.e. ekkā manussa Jāī. He never discriminated any human on the basis of his birth, colour, profession, religion, country, etc. He established the novel notion of oneness of Humanity on the basis of one's action. The criteria for a human lies in the virtue of compassion, sympathy, affection, service, and in the acts of benevolence. He propounded in Uttaradhyanna Sūtra that man is brahmin, śudra, kaśtriya and vaiśya not by birth but by action.[4] Noble thoughts and actions justify the human nature. He abolished the prevailing concept of considering one person as high or low on the basis of one's birth, and re-established the merit of action in the world of disparity.

The Veda say: Amrutasya putraṁ vayaṁ i.e. we all are the sons of the same God. Ātmavat Sarvabhuteṣu i.e. behold all living beings as of equal intrinsic values as of oneself. Vishaṁ eka needaṁ i.e. the whole universe is single all supporting trees keep suggesting for peaceful co­existence without discriminating between a man and a man on the narrow principles of class, colour, languages, province, caste or creed. Today we see there is a kind of absolute notion of sexual superiority, colour superiority, caste superiority, class, country and religious superiority which is creating reactive violence and inhuman behaviour in the name of untouchable considering the other as inferior.

The outstanding philosopher of the day Richard Rorty has discussed the cause of distinction between male and female. In male dominated society, only male are considered as human beings as they possess rationality. Women are emotional so they are not human beings. This kind of approach is threatening the human solidarity.

It is conceived both men and women nine times out of ten, are firmly convinced of the superior excellence of their own sex. There is abundant evidence on both sides. If you are a man, you can point out that most poets and men of science are male; if you are a women, you can retort criminals. This question is inherently insoluble, but self-esteem conceals this from most people.

Today one man or one country fights with each other because their views vary. Views are bound to differ, because we are guided by different conditions, thoughts, modes and attitudes. Hence it is wrong to think oneself right and rest others wrong.[5]

We are all, whatever part of the world we come from, persuaded that our own nation is superior to all others. Seeing that each nation has its characteristic merits and demerits, we adjust our standard of values so as to make out that the merits possessed by our nation are the really important ones, while its demerits are comparatively trivial. It is more difficult to deal with the self-esteem of man as man because we cannot argue out the matter with some non-human mind.

The only way I know of dealing with this general human conceit is to remind ourselves that man is a brief episode in the life of a small planet in a little corner of the universe, and that for aught we know, other parts of the cosmos may contain beings superior to ourselves as we are to jelly fish. It is one Kant which envisages us to just turn our global perspective by recognizing the existence of the other human as human.

During Gandhian period our history witnessed the śudras are considered as untouchables and they were prohibited to enter into temples, their children's were not allowed to admit in certain schools, they were not allowed to touch the water pot and even touch the Brahmins. If any śudra violated this, he will be punished severely. The novel-'untouchable' written by R.K. Narayan highlights the social behaviour with śudras. In this novel, he writes - They clean our dirt so they untouchable if it is so then every one of us are untouchable as we also clean our dirt. Such open-mindedness in thought is the need of the hour.

The central philosophy of Richard Rorty is achievement of Human solidarity i.e. to consider the other person not like external, outsider or foreigner, but as one of the member among us. Rorty has given five examples how it threaten the human relationship during IInd world war by Nazis led by Hitler claimed that only Germans have pure blue blood. All the rest are like animals, so let us kill and make the world of human. Due to this one-dimensional perspective lakhs of Jews were killed in concentration camps.

Even the inhuman behaviour with black people in the west by the white people is really cruel. The whites don't consider blacks as one among them in present United States. They are deprived from certain privileges of the country, certain professions etc. The kids of black people were not admitted in the convent schools where white people's kids study. Although civil rights movement occurred against their discrimination, still a kind of segregation is prevailing. Moreover white people community stay in particular area and rich white people live in highly crowded area, they don't stay together. Even policemen too misbehave with black people. All these because of difference of skin colour, only change of perspective can do away this problem. So let us recognize to be human doesn't require anything but only love, affection, compassions for all human brothers and feeling for sufferings of others.

For Jainism, role of religion is to unite all through love and respect for one another. We must also work for the survival of religious diversity. Let every religion exist and flourish let them serve the world in their own ways. Flourishing together is the secret of peace. Unity-in-diversity is the lesson of life. This spiritual unity through Surat Spiritual Declaration connects all, the whole creation in the words of Ācārya Mahapragya.

"So let us guide ourselves and our followers not just to tolerate but to respect other person’s points of views and religions, not just to exist but to co-exist, not just to hail but to help others. We must not prosper and progress at the cost of others, but sacrifice a part of ourselves for the good of others, because in the good of others lies our own, in the progress of others rests our own and in the joy of others abides our own", says Ācārya Mahaprajña in his address at Surat Spiritual Declaration.


The Concept of Interdependence:

As far as my knowledge goes, the main cause of ever increasing environmental crisis is due to the one-dimensional outlook of certain religious beliefs. As Islamic religious text Quran cites in that God has made this creation and whatever available on the earth are made for consumption of man.[6] The very parallel notion of establishing man as a superior being in this earth is found in the Christian's holy text Bible Here it is said,

"God created man in the image of himself in the image of God he created him male and female he created them."

God blessed them saying to them, "Be truthful, multiply fill the earth and conquer it. Be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven and all living animals on the earth. God said, "See, I give you all the seed bearing plants that are 'upon' the whole earth and this shall be your food."[7]

The task of anekantic Intercultural faith is nothing but to attack on the irrelevant belief systems which are causing heavy environmental pollution leading the entire human race in stake. Due to this notion that man is a privileged supreme being in the world and he has all the rights to exploit the nature is main cause of ecological imbalance.

Today, we see our mother Earth is facing the problem of global warming, climate change, lacking resources due to over consumerism, ozone layer depletion, unethical science leading to experimental violence, decreasing earth planet, all these leading to environmental degradation are the sufficient facts highlighting the very human survival at stake. We increasingly realize that human alone cannot live on this planet. Humans have to live in the company of non-humans in complementary relationship.

The right perspective of ecology is enshrined in the Jain motto of Parasparopagraho Jīvānāṁ, as quoted in the Tattvārtha Sūtra,[8] which highlights that all living organisms, however big or small, irrespective of the degree of their sensory perceptions, are bound together by mutual support and interdependence. They are and should remain in a harmonious and judicious balance with nature. As man and nature are so interwoven with each other into the social fabric that there is a common thread, which binds us all. The non-violent anekantic life style can provide solution to the problem of environmental pollution.


Violence vs. Non-Vegetarian Food Style

When we look at present time of scenario, the percentage of meat eaters in west are more than the vegetarians. It is due to the one-dimensional perspective that animal flesh provide sufficient amount of protein for body. Due to this misbelief, innocent animals are killed every day for the sake of pleasing the palate.

Francois Peroux, director of the Institute of Mathematics and Economics in Paris, has suggested that 'if meat and alcohol consumption in the west were reduced by 50%, the grain that would become available would be enough to solve all hunger and mal-nutritional problems in the third world war.[9] Moreover non-vegetarian food style is creating several major categories of diseases in the west including cardio-vascular, cerebro-vascular, respiratory diseases and skin cancer.[10] Research declares that four lakh people die out of meat-eating every year through heart disease, colon cancer or by kidney failures.[11]

Not only this non-vegetarian life style is cause of the continuing degradation of environment and depletion of life supporting natural resources but its reckless consumerism is the matter of serious concern. But ever increasing artificial needs of use of cosmetics, artificial show of furnished houses and offices, leading to violence of innocent beings. Animals are killed for experimentation and cutting of jungles is being carried on recklessly for meeting the demands of the wooden raw material etc. are leading to climate change and huge environmental crisis.


Violence in Medical Science

What medical science is doing on the name of good health of human being can be seen as - In 1971 only following numbers of animals killed in American laboratories, Monkies-852830, Pigs-466240, Goats-22691, Tortoises-40000000, Frogs-15 to 20 lakh. In 1980 some three crore.[12]

According to one estimate everyday nearly three species of life permanently disappear from earth.[13] That's why Maneka talks of "Beauty without Destruction". In Jainism the idea of sadjivnikāya (i.e. six classes of beings water, earth, air, fire, vegetable bodied beings and mobile beings) that every life unit is of equal value effectively counters balances, the importance of hierarchy, which is not a civilized concept.

The goal of medical science, after all, is to relieve people of pain and suffering and to reduce the sum total of human misery. But on the other hand, such manufacture of medicines are causing misery to other innocent creatures, is a matter of serious issue. The very concept of interdependence of living beings as cited in the Ācāranga Sūtra paves us towards the truth that one cannot safeguard one's own existence by obliterating the existence of others.[14]

In Tata Energy and Resources Research Analysis, it has been stated by TERRA Report that if we will do experiments and research on the human beings in the same ratio as we are doing with innocent creature, the human existence will last only for four years. It means that modern science is claiming more than 15 billion innocent lives every year. No one in the world today having the slightest acquaintance with nature of medical science permeated with violence, perhaps this sounds strange to those outside the profession. Thus modern scientific medicine is so vastly complicated that violence is simply unavoidable. There exists non-violent alternative health medicines which can solve not only our problems of human health but it will give remedy to the very survival of us which is dependent on and the survival of the other creatures. Today we have realized the value of life and bio-diversity and hence, we realize the importance of preservation of life, importance of "live and let live".

Perhaps, it was the perception of this spiritual heretia that must have led Dr. Arnold Toyanbee to conclude with a remark, "It is already becoming clear that a chapter which had a western beginning will have to have an Indian ending, if it is not to end in the self-destruction of the human race."

Jain's spiritual ecological thinking which is based on the principle of applied philosophy of Anekānt and Nayavāda and on the concept of parasparopagraho Jīvānāṁ alone can revitalize the relations of humanity with its ecological co-partners viz. all other living species and the natural environment of air, water, land and space. It seeks to get rid of self-centric egoistic mode of thought and behaviour. If this principle of inter-relatedness is understood in depth of heart then the culture of non-violence for the better promotion of socially beneficial, peace-fostering and nature friendly way of life can be established on this earth.


The Concept of Universal Brotherhood (vātsalya)

It means affection towards the spiritual brethren. It is disinterested or dispassionate affection,[15] which involves a selfless love for the high ideal of emancipation. This concept of universal brotherhood has encouraged the Jaina layman to such an extent that most of the Jains are working for the cause of social service by donating their small portion of income to the needy persons in the form of food, medicine, education, shelter, scholarships, etc. and helping those poor who are unable to cure the disease of cancer etc.

Jain laymen want that equal opportunities of education, earning and the like are received by every individual without any distinction of race, religion, sex and nationality.[16] Where there is love, there is no exploitation. To treat individuals as mere means is decried and denied in Jainism. Where there is Vātsalya, all our dealing with others will be inspired by reverence, the role of force and domination will be minimized. Thus the quality of vātsalya is held in high regard by the Jain community.

Throughout India and abroad, Jaina community due to this vātsalya virtue sake, are very much affectionate in the circumstances of famine, drought, flood and donate with full heartedly for the good of the society. Each lay man sees around his residence if any neighbour or any person is deprived of food, shelter, education, and medicine and if at all he finds such fellow, he indirectly comes forward to share his financial assistance to him so that he can get basic necessities of life.

Although the similar concepts of social share are being discussed in Islamic religion in the name of Jakāt i.e. each Muslim should share 1/5th of his income to the needy person. Even in Christian religion too, such injections for social service is found. But as far as Jain concept of universal brotherhood is concerned, it has some deeper meaning rather than mere helping the needy. But it has highest implication that layman considers others hunger and poverty as his own, as he accepts the equality of souls. He not only comes forward for help but he also treats others as human, never tries to exploit the workers working under him and never indulges in malpractices of adulteration etc. This kind of vedic concept of vasudhaiva kutumbakaṁ i.e. we the children of the world are a single family. This universal view of brotherhood and the concept of single global family if brought on to the earth, the problem of economic inequality, exploitation, gotālas, political violence, racial-religious riots, etc. can be eradicated. The dream of Gandhian stateless state will come true on the earth. So anekāntic perspective breaks the barriers of various belief systems and comes forward for intercultural faith.



Anekāntvāda and Nayavāda put a healing touch at the root of human psyche and tries to stop the war of beliefs. It makes all absolutes in the field of thought quite irrelevant and naive, imparts maturity to the thought process and supplies flexibility and originality to human mind. If the mankind will properly understand and adopt this doctrine of nayavāda it will make us realize that real revolution was not the French or the Russian; the real revolution was the one, which taught the man to develop his power of understanding from all possible aspects.



Original Texts

  • Ācārānga Bhashyam-(ed.) by Acharya Mahaprajna. with text, Sanskrit commentary, Hindi translation, comparative notes, topics in text and commentary and various appendices. Jain Vishva Bharati Institute. Ladnun. 1994.
  • Pañcādhyāyī: II,
  • Tattvārtha Sūtra of Umasvati, /Umasvami, English translation by Nathmal Tatia under the title 'That which is' with the combined commentaries of
    Umaswati/Umasvami, pujyapada and siddhasena gani, collins publications, America, 1994,.verse, 5.21.
  • Uttarādhyayana Sūtra.Ed. Muni Mishrimalji Maharaj.Trans. Muni Rajendra. Beawar: Āgam Prakāshan Samiti.1991.
    Quran, 1 The Jerusalem Bible,


Secondary Sources

  • Christopher Key Chapple (ed.), Jainism and £cology,Cambridge: Harvard University Press,2002.
  • Bhanawat, Narendra and Prem Suman Jain (ed.).Bhagwan Mahavira and His Relevance in Modern Times.Bikaner: Akhil Bharata-Varshīya Sādhumārgī Jain Sangha.1976.
  • Radhakrishnan, Our Heritage
  • Nemichandra Śāstrī, Viśva Śānti aur Jaina Dharma.
    Thich Nhat Hanh, Inter Being: Fourteen Guidelines for Engaged Buddhism, ed. by Fred Eppsteever,Delhi, 1997
  • Legett, Jeremy (ed.),Global Warming, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1990,
  • Maneka Gandhi,Head and Tails, The Other India Press, Mapusa Goa, 1994. Nemichandra Jain, Bekasūr prāniyo ke khun se sane hamāre ye barbar śoka,
  • Rajiv K. Sinha,Develo/?ment without Destruction, Environmentalist Publisher, Jaipur, 1994
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