Jain Business Ethics And Environmental Protection

Posted: 21.02.2012
Updated on: 24.02.2012


Samani Dr. Shashi Prajñā
Asst. Prof. in Dept. of Jainology & Comparative Philosophy and Religion
Jain Vishva Bharati University, Ladnun, Rajasthan: 341306

The protection of environment is a global issue and it is not an isolated problem of any area or nation. It concerns all countries irrespective of their size, and level of development. In this scientific age, with materialistic culture, fast technological development and industrial growth, the protection of environment is really a great problem. It is basic right of all to live in a healthy environment. Even in antiquity, Jain thinkers discussed at length how one could protect the environment and save oneself, the society, nation and all creatures. In the "Upāsakadasā" a Jain canonical text Lord Mahāvīra quoted the remarkable lines for the protection of the environment. As soon as he achieved omniscient knowledge he automatically began to study the human psychology and according prescribed two levels of code of conduct on the basis of followance of one's capacity. One for the houseless monks and the other for the householders. From that householders code of conduct emanate many principles of economic system, ecological theories and the concept of Jain Business ethics.

Business ethics is one of the most important, yet perhaps the most misunderstood, concern in the world of business today. The field of business ethics deals with questions about the acceptance of specific types of business practices. By its very nature, the field of business ethics is controversial, and there is no universally accepted approach for resolving it's questions. It is incorrect to say that ethics, and religion are only concerned with individual personal lives. Lord Mahāvīra said that good of society. The twelve small vows prescribed for the householders can help in the environmental protection, Economic equality and social harmony. The three vratās propounded by Lord Mahavira are icchā parimāṇa vrata, ahimsā vrata and bhogopabhoga parimāṇ vrata. These three vratas are so interrelated with each other that we cannot explain Jain business ethics by negating any one of the above vratas.

Lord Mahavira restricted 15 such professions technically known as 15 Karmādāna[1] i.e. Angāl karma, Vaṇa karma, Śākata karma etc. because such professions initiate tremendous violence. Jainism asserts, 'Non-violence as a highest virtue'. Lord Mahāvīra discussed very minutely the vow of Non-violence. The basic reason behind the restriction of fifteen professions was that Jainism assert the eternal truth that all the six classes of living beings i.e. five immobile beings i.e. earth, water, air, fire and plant bodied beings and mobile beings possess equal consciousness. Each and every living beings whether they are one sensed, two, three, four or five sensed, they play an important role in the ecological sustainable development of the world as a whole.

Modern scientific researches have shown that most of the fifteen professions involve environmental pollution and generate several diseases amongst human beings. It may be noted here, the main cause of the huge violence is human unending desires. So Lord Mahavira clearly preached that human desires must be restrained in the daily use of consumable and non-consumable goods. Accumulation of possessions for personal ends should be minimized. It is of capital importance to know that profession or business is not condemned by Jain seers, what is condemned by them is extreme violence, exploitation, adulteration and mal-practices in business transactions. Tirthaṅkara Mahāvīra was well aware of the fact that a householder cannot lead his worldly life without earning his livelihood and there is no profession which doesn't involve violence in one form or the other. So they were very practical in prohibiting only a few professions and not all. He cautioned the householders to refrain from fifteen such professions as may cause violence as well as environmental pollution. Now let us see, the effect of fifteen restricted professions on ecological balance, and on human health.

1.       Angāra karma: (Livelihood From Char-coal) For 'Haribhadra' this is the making, buying and selling of charcoal.[2] Besides charcoal-burning this includes all occupations involving the use of kilns in which the six forms of living organisms (ṣaḍjīva-nikāya) may perish. Under this head come therefore the smelting of iron, the firing of pottery, the refining of gold or silver, the making of bricks and tiles, the construction of ovens for roasting chick-peas and other pulses, and in general any working in metals such as tin, copper, brass, bell-metal, or lead.[3] The electricity is mainly generated by oil or coal, which nature took million years to produce. The entire world's modern civilization and development was based on energy inputs. The very important indicator of development of a country is based on the per capita consumption of energy. In modern times, it plays a crucial role in providing food and comfort, and in raising the quality of life. There are two types of coal, i.e. hard coal and soft coal. Soft coal is prepared from wooden stock but hard coal is found beneath the earth, once finished cannot be renewed. Due to the reckless use of the non-renewable, non-replenishable sources of power and energy by the industrialized nations for the last 200 years, we are seriously threatened with fuel shortage. In his book 'Engineering for the future' Mr. J.A. Hutchinson, has predicted that according to the most optimistic estimate, our fuel reserves will last for only 400 years with our present rate of growth.[4] So Lord Mahāvīra preached for the householders to be cautious of the use of non-renewable resources, which cause highly ecological imbalance. Moreover coal is such a dirty job, that it makes a whole area barren and scarred and leaves tons of trash behind at the power station in the form of fly ash and residual waste. It is an environmental hazard of serious nature, which causes the disease of pneumoconiosis[5] i.e. a serious illness affecting one or both lungs causing difficulty in breathing.

2.       Vaṇa karma: (livelihood From Destroying Plants) Jainism is a staunch supporter of life or consciousness in the plants as announced by Lord Mahavira. Cutting of forests not only causes violence to vegetable kingdom, but entire ecological balance gets disturbed. Today, we see a new trend of furnishing new building and which is becoming a prestige issue and causing heavy wooden damages. Due to artificial show of furnishing a house and ever increasing removal of forests have disturbed the stable climate that the world has enjoyed for the last 10,000 years. Forests provide shelter for wild life and fodder for animals, innumerable industrial raw materials and thousands of excellent medicines. Forests moderate the climate and invite rainfall. They regulate the underground water levels and provide panoramic beauty but human greed has no bounds. Several thousand rare plant and animal species from the world has already disappeared, others are on the extinction list. Due to deforestation for industrialization and urbanization, we are facing many threats. All the tangible and the intangible benefits of the forest, e.g. cost of the oxygen produced and the green house gas carbon dioxide absorbed, cost of stabilization of soil and protection of water sheds against flood and soil erosion etc.[6] Latest research shows that climate change due to over cutting of trees will occur by way of increasing exposure to ultra-violet radiation and consequently it will lead to temperature change. The climate change may have an impact on several major categories of diseases, including cardio vascular, cerebro-vascular and respiratory diseases and skin cancer.[7] The entire ecological and environmental system is in crisis due to unnecessary cutting of forest trees.

3.       Śakaṭa Karma and Bhātaka Karma: (livelihood by Driving all Types of Transport, and through Transport Fees, Hiring Vehicles) Both the professions are most probably parallel in producing pollution. So it is dealt together. Hemacandra defines as making a livelihood by carting goods in vehicles or on horses, oxen, buffaloes, camels, mules, or assess[8] this profession includes the construction and sale of carts to be drawn by animals and the driving of them, whether done by oneself or at ones instigation. Such trades are sinful as per Lord Mahavira because of the crushing of living organisms by the animals under the wheels as they move. But Modern transport system and the automobiles run by "Fossil fuel" that have really dominated the scene or nature. The mineness tendency or attitude towards material objects is leading towards the purchase of independent vehicle for each and every member of the family. According to the World Watch Institute Report, there are over 500 million automobiles on earth and about 19 million more is added each year and by 2010, it is likely to be doubled.[9] The global vehicle population growth is causing major green house gas. The toxic emissions caused by fossil fuel through automobiles have been alarmingly increasing and threatening both human health and environment. The automobiles all over the world alone produce 60% of carbon monoxide emissions, 42% of nitrogen oxides, 40% of the hydro carbon, 13% of particulars and 3% of sulphur dioxide emissions. They also emit the green house gas carbon-di-oxide responsible for over half the global warming problem.[10] Measures to reduce carbon monoxide emissions will assist in controlling greenhouse warming on a global scale, emission of these pollutants depends on the number of vehicles in use and their emission rate. Exposure to nitrogen dioxide emission is linked to increased susceptibility to respiratory infection, increased airway resistance in asthmatics and decreased pulmonary function.[11] "Some scientists believe that nytrogen oxide is a significant contributor to the dying of forests throughout central Europe. The IPCC scientist conclude that in the absence of efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, sea levels will rise by between 10 and 30 cm by the year 2030, and by 30 to 100 cm by the end of the next century[12]. It is my clear notion that Lord Mahāvīra possessed far-sight in the restriction of bhātaka and shātaka karma 2600 years ago itself and restricted the householders to refrain from such profession, which not only causes environmental pollution but causes high violence.

4.       Phoḍi Karma: (Livelihood From Digging) For Haribhadra, this is the cultivation of the soil with a plough or digging stick[13]. Hemachandra understands it, to include the excavating of artificial pools, tanks, and wells, the ploughing of fields, the quarrying of rocks, and shaping of stone.[14]  Lord Mahāvīra preached that the earth should not be excavated. It causes not only injury to the earth bodied beings, but to the vegetable bodied beings and the mobile beings residing on it. Today's scientific research states that due to over exploitation of natural non-renewable resources, the protective ozone layer, the shield of the earth is depleting in the Arctic and Antarctic regions of the earth, which is an impending danger to the civilization. At global level, it could lead to 10,000 people going blind every year and 50 thousand extra cases of non-melanoma skin cancers.[15]

5.       Danta Vānijya: (Trade in Animal Byproducts) Hemachandra[16] explains that danta (ivory) is an upalakaa to indicate any animal by products such as tail-hairs of yaks, claws of owls, bones, horns, shells of conches etc. As per "Thāaṁ Sūtra" Lord Mahāvīra said that the one, who violates five sensed beings for the trade of ivory, skins, bones horns etc. is bound to take birth in the hell and will experience the same pain in the way he misbehaved with the innocent animals. According to one estimate every day nearly three species of life permanently disappear from earth.[17] Many animals are being killed in the process of cosmetic tests merely for the beautification of human beings. Menaka Gandhi in her book "Head and Tails" clearly writes that when a lady gets ready to attend any party after make up, wearing a silk sari and a jacket with fur lining, carrying a fashionable crocodile leather bag can be called as walking grave-yard where each victim has been dragged and tortured before being killed. She further gives several data that over 1 Lakh rabbit eyes go into just the shampoo trade every year.[18] More over 20,000 silk moths are boiled alive to make just one kilo of silk. Every silk sari you wear has caused the death of at least 50,000 fellow creatures.[19] Likewise ivory bangles, which are made by killing an elephant. Although ivory selling has been stopped all over the world, but trade of ivory continuous at global level of the ban. Ivory collector can take the tusks of a dead elephant but he intentionally kills by various methods and declares it as dead because people want ivory made materials. None of the items listed above are essential. That's why Menaka talks of "Beauty Without Destruction". That's why Lord Mahavira restricted to get into this Danta Vānijya, which initiates terrible harm to the animal species and there by Jain concept of interdependence i.e. our very survival is basically dependent upon the survival of the immobile & mobile beings.

6.       Rasa Vāijya: (Trade in alcohol and forbidden food stuff like milk, curd, butter, meat etc.) From the Āvaśyaka Cūri it would seem that originally the reference here was to manufacture, sale, and consumption of alcohol, which is described as leading to brawling, squabbling and murder.[20] But for Hemacandra rasa in the sense of alcohol becomes an upalakṣaṇa to include honey, fat (obtained from meat), and butter, in other words the substances prohibited under the mūla-guṇa category.[21] A curious question arises what is the reason behind the restriction of this trade. Intake of alcohol is forbidden under seven evil habits in Jainism as it demolishes the discretion of the human society. Although it is harmful for health but government is encouraging such profession as this produces heavy-income. But causes severe water and air pollution. Latest research declares that for the preservation of dairy products water exploitation is needed. Menaka Gandhi writes in her book "Head and Tails" that "In India the milk and meat industries are responsible for huge amount of desertification. Each goat eats Rs. 60,000 Rupees of national property in the form at ground covering grass and young tree shoot.[22] By reading the first chapter "Milk, Meat and Animal Violence" by Menaka, our notion regarding the dairy products and meat that it gives a lot of protein and iron completely changes. She says vegetables are the best source of iron. Even Lord Mahāvīra, propounder of Ṣaḍjīvanikāya said that meat-eating is the one of the cause of taking birth in the hell infernal realm. Even in this birth, research declares that four lakh people in India die out of meat-eating every year through heart disease, colon cancer or by kidney failure.[23] For getting maximum milk at minimum cost oxytocin in an injection, a powerful drug is injected into the cow twice a day by milkmen in the mistaken notion that it produces extra milk. Menaka says, this oxytocin affects not only the cows it filters into the milk. It is considered particularly harmful for the eyes in the growing children. Oxytocin affects the reproductive ability of women and girl children as well. What are some of the features of hormone imbalance? Breasts that sprout early, periods that come early or erratically hair in strange places on the face, weakened sight and hearing. All these occur from milk that contains oxytocin.[24] So Lord Mahāvīra restricted to indulge in such trade, where animals are misbehaved with cruelty.

7.       Lakkha Vāijya: Trade in lac and similar substances sealing wax etc. for making a show piece, bangles etc. lac is used. The collection of red lac involves the destruction of endless numbers of tiny insects. Moreover this lakkha vāijya[25] causes injury to air and fire bodied beings and affects the health of the fellow, who indulges in this profession. Today's research states lac is obtained from the trees, so over consumption or utilization of lac made materials which bring about exploitation of forests.

8.       Via Vāijya: (Trade in raw-metals arsenic etc. poisonous items as well as destructive articles like arms and armaments). This implies a ban on trade in poisons such as aconite, weapons such as swords, mechanical devices such as norias, iron, implements such as spades and ploughs, all of which are potentially dangerous to life.[26] Lord Mahavira prohibited the trade of supplying lethal weapons because Jainism asserts that the killer and the instrument given for killing, both are equally guilty. In this modern age, for maximum agriculture production, chemical fertilizers are used relentlessly, which worked like a brown sugar and slow poisoning of our life supporting systems through food, air, water etc. The nuclear weapons production and its wastages also cause heavy violence. As per research there is about 10,000 deaths every year in the developing countries due to pesticide poisoning.[27] Even ground water has also been polluted by nitrates in many places and will work like a time bomb with passage of time. So no Jain indulges in this Visa Vānijya at any cost.[28] A lot of hue and cry due to pollution caused by pesticides has been pervading among the residents living in the industrial areas. Scientific surveys and evidences throughout the globe have established the fact that the particles of pesticides, insecticides etc. sprayed or used over agricultural area, leave undissolved and harmful elements, which are transferred to human and other living bodies through grains, vegetables, fruits, grasses etc. for variety of diseases ailments and harmful effects on health. 'The pesticide chemicals including toxic substances which cause allergies, damage vital organs of human body, like the eye, brain, liver, kidney, and reproductive organs. Not only this, it produces malformation in unborn children but also causes cancer.[29] According to an WHO estimate about 7,50,000 people are poisoned by pesticides every year.[30]

9.       Keśa Vāṇijya: (Trade of animals like Carmari cows, horses, elephants as well as wool etc.) This is explained as trade in creatures that have hair. This trade causes a huge amount of violence and cruel behaviour with the animals that possess hair. Animal hair is used in the manufacture of shaving brushes, hair brushes, boot-polish brushes, eye lines etc. are made from specially playful squirrel. Jacket with fur lining bags, caps etc. are made by killing beautiful hair holder animals. Menaka writes in her book 'Head and Tails' that 'for preparation of self curly karakul hat from lamb hair, the mother, the ewe, is hit over a hundred times with an iron rod to induce premature birth. The lamb is then skinned alive in front of her eyes so that its fur remains soft and curly.[31] So Lord Mahāvīra possessed high level of intuition power in the restriction of violent professions for meeting the artificial needs of common man. In Daśvaikālika Sūtra, Lord Mahāvīra preached, life is dear to all the creatures, nobody wants to die, so a man of complete restrain should never indulge in such violence.[32] For the householders, Mahāvīra prohibited anarthadaṇda vrata i.e. unnecessary violence. So entire Jain community is aloof from such keśa and viṣa vāṇijya etc. which are severe pollutants.

10.   Yantra Pīlaṇa Karma: This is deemed to be the operation of mills and presses for crushing sugarcane and extracting oil from sesamum seed, mustard seed and castor oil beans as well as the 'crushing' of water in norias. The destruction of life thereby provoked is so great that a popular saying (Laukika) affirms that an oil-press is as evil as ten slaughter houses.[33] Lord Mahāvīra preached the four reasons for taking birth in the hell. Among them the first is 'Mahārambha' i.e. huge (high violence) violence. Yantra Pīlaṇa trade is cause of mahārambha as per karma theory. So Mahāvīra preached to refrain from such professions. Gandhiji also supported always small scale industries (kutir udyog, charkha, khādhi, svadeshi etc.) and was against the establishment of large scale industries because it results in the mass production of goods by few individuals, with unequal distribution and prosperity for few but poverty for the majority. Schumaker in his book - "Small is beautiful" supports the same idea of Gandhi. But the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century in Europe had a global impact and with the advancement of Science and Technology, there were rapid industrialization all over the world, leading to mechanized farmization, motorization and urbanization. The emergences of new technologies such as robotics, computers, automation, micro-electronics, information technology etc. are rapidly evolving developmental activities in the world. But on the other hand the toxic smoke releasing from various companies, industries Iron and Steel plant, Timber, glass, plastic, Paper mill and Coal based industries are worst air polluters. In New Delhi, due to over industrialization, new industries are prohibited to establish and existing industries are warned for proper recycling of their industrial waste.

11.   Nirlanchaṇa Karma: (Work Involving Mutilation) Haribhadra[34] understands by this the gelding of bulls and other animals. This profession is violent to change the sex for a mere profit. The main reason behind this is that the bull, cow etc. eunuch can bear heavy load and the animal's strength becomes double. Lord Mahāvīra restricted to indulge in this mutilation profession because it violates the rights of animals, which possess equal consciousness as humans.

12.   Dāvāgni Dāna: (Work involving the use of fire either to burn fields or meadows etc. in order to make the land clean and setting fire to a forest.) Haribhadra interprets this on the basis of the Āvaśyaka Cūrṇi as setting fire to the meadows as is the custom in uttarapath, so that later on, when the rains come the grass may grow lushly.[35] Due to over industrialization, urbanization and population explosion, the forests are being ignited. As per Lord Mahavira this trade causes Mahārambha and leads to the destruction of animal kingdom and five, one sensed beings (earth, water, fire, air and plant). It is clear that Mahāvīra's principles of 'Non-violence is the highest religious duty' (Ahiṁsā Parmo Dharmaḥ) and mutual support toward all living creatures (Parasparopagraho Jivāṇāṁ) are conducive to the environmental preservation. Latest research declares that population pressure are often supposed to be the prime factor behind deforestation or Dāvāgni Dāna trade. Deforestation leads to the release of large amount of bio-mass carbon into the global atmosphere where it combines to form carbon dioxide-the gas, that is accounting for almost half of the green house effect. It also releases significant quantities of two other potent greenhouse gases, methane and nitrous oxide.[36]

13.   Saraḥ-Śoaṇa Karma: (Work involving the use of drying up streams, rivers, lakes etc.) This is explained as drawing off the water from lakes, tanks and water courses, so that they dry up and can be sown with crops, thus all forms of aquatic life are destroyed. As per Lord Mahāvīra this trade causes injury to water bodied beings and other mobile beings life, which
dwell on the water.

14.   Asati Poaṇa Karma: (Work involving breeding, nourishing birds, animals etc.) Hemachandra[37] supplements this to include the treading and keeping of destructive animals and birds such as parrots, mynāhs, peacocks, cocks, cats, dogs and monkeys. Scientific research highlights that keeping of cats may cause the disease of Rabies. Keeping of cats may causes cat scratch fever due its fungus. Keeping of Monkey may spread malaria due to protozoa. Parrots keeping may result into psittacosis disease.[38] Lord Mahāvīra's view behind the restriction of this profession was that to keep in trap and to give nourishment to the non-restrain animal beings is equal to encourage violence.

Today we see that due to rapid technological development of world, symbolized by heavy industrialization urbanization, mechanized agriculture, hydro power, thermal power and nuclear power, there have been successive destruction of the global eco-system. It is merely a development with destruction motivated by short term, quick, economic and political gains without regard to ecology. These fifteen 15 professions restricted by tīrthaṅkar Mahāvīra although encourages economic growth at the same time causes heavy environmental pollution. The professions restricted by Lord Mahāvīra although encourages economic growth at the same time causes heavy environmental pollution. Even Lord Buddha also restricted five such professions namely - 1. Saṭha vāṇijja (arms), 2. Satta vāṇijja (living beings), 3. Māṁsa vāṇijja (flesh), 4. Majja vāṇijja (Honey) and 5. Viṣa vāṇijja (poison) because these professions cause high violence.[39] Because the economic principle is maximum demand, maximum production, maximum consumption and maximum profit. Due to this maxim, where economy rises, ecology tends to decline. There is a wide disagreement among the economists and ecologists on the strategies of development.

Economists believe in "Quick short term gains" disregarding ecological consequences. Rapid economic development programmes do more harm to environment, whereas ecologists want to maximize long term benefits, slow but sustainable. The ecological impacts of one sided economic development can be seen in the form of five D's syndrome i.e. drought, deforestation, desertification, deluge and disease.

Jain Ācāryās possessed farsight and prescribed business ethics for the householders, which cannot only solve the problems of ecology and economics but also simultaneously can give solution to the ever-increasing problems of L.P.G. i.e. Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization. Ācārāṅga Sūtra, the first Jain canonical text in which Lord Mahāvīra emphasized, "Je logaṁ abbhahikkhai, se attanaṁ abbahikkai"[40] i.e.: "the denial of the existence of the six classes of beings will be tantamount to the denial of the existence of the self." One cannot safeguard ones own existence by obliterating the existence of others. The Jain view asserts the principle of interdependence. So the fifteen professions restricted by Lord Mahāvīra has a social relevance in the context of Global environment preservation, ecological balance but also for the better human health and thereby social health as a whole.

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