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Non-violence Relative Economics And A New Social Order: Ahimsa

Published: 27.05.2015
Updated: 13.07.2015

*Originally printed in Heritage of Buddhism, 1989.

There was a time, when Mahatma Gandhi's nonviolent struggle for independence had not yielded desired result, some top-rank politicians and historians of India used to level the charge of India's political downfall and slavery upon the influence of Ahimsa taught by Mahavira and Buddha. In that period of peril and moral damnation Mahatma Gandhi was glorifying the Ahimsa doctrine and amazingly winning the hearts of millions of people by the application of Ahimsa in the field of politics. I am reminded of our great leader's veneration and high regard for Ahimsa doctrine when he spoke on the eve of Mahavira Jayanti celebrations at Ahemadabad in 1920 to the effect that Ahimsa had indescribable power, if honestly and faithfully followed. It can, not only bless us with political freedom but with out spiritual Nirvana as well. He also paid high tributes to Jain doctrine of Ahimsa and added that because of this ennobling message of Ahimsa, Jainism can become the Religion of the whole world.

Gandhi's great love and high veneration for Jainism is evinced from the fact that he wanted to write a book on Jainism, but due to adverse circumstances he was unable to do so. During his internment in the Agakhan palace at Poona in 1942 he had told, "I had the idea of writing a book on Jainism with the co-operation of Shri Raichandra Bhai, but that was out of my mind since long. At present I feel my inability to undertake the work. What do I know about Jainism? With a view to fulfil my desire I will have to study hard carefully and read sacred Jain literature and commentaries thereon. Only then I will be in a position to undertake the task but now it is beyond my power. I can't help it."[1]

Universal interest in Ahimsa

Now, since India is free politically by virtue of the leadership of the hero of non-violence without any blood-shed, entire world's attention is focused towards the efficacy of Ahimsa doctrine and we see that all countries are evincing great interest to fully understand the whole philosophy of Ahimsa; because in it they see the solution of the puzzling world problems, which appear to destroy the entire fruits of civilization and culture at this critical juncture and when the dark clouds of global war and looming large over the sky.

Flaw in modern civilization

The noble soul C.F. Andrews had once remarked, "one war follows another and there seems to be no escape. Surely there must be something wrong in Western civilization itself, which causes self-destructive tendencies to recur, without any apparent means of prevention."

Now the sense of civilization has undergone.a great change. Poet Tagore therefore remarks that today's civilization really means efficiency in killing. He further observes that the use of science for inhuman ends is the greatest insult to God.

Dr. Tagore's great esteem and innermost veneration for Ahimsa is evinced from the gate-inscription of the temple at Shanti-Niketan, which runs thus, 'Here in this Ashram the one invisible God is to be worshipped; to preserve the peace of worship three things were required from those who lived there- to use no idol or image of God in their worship, to avoid speaking ill for other's religious beliefs and 'Do No Injury To Bird Or Beast'.

Cause of Consternation

This state of affairs makes all sober-minded and sensible people seriously active to find out some remedy, whereby this mad race after materials and piling up of horrifying armaments may be forthwith stopped and serene, peaceful and lovely atmosphere may bless our universe.

Selfish and short-sighted war-mongers little care about the destruction and the indescribable havoc played by modern means of warfare. It was reported that the money wasted in the second global war was so huge that it would have improved the fate of millions of unfortunate people of the world. In our universe which consists of nearly 260 crores of people, each person would have got thirty thousand rupees, but alas! all the money was wasted for human destruction.

Appeal to Jain scholars

The President of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad in 1949 had expressed his desire that the Jain thinkers who have understood the real significance of Ahimsa should enlighten the entire world in this period of universal annihilation because Jainism has explicity and scientifically expounded the Ahimsa doctrine, which is much needed in this hour of universal distress and unrest.

Rishabhadev- The originator of Ahimsa

From historical point of view this message of Ahimsa was in fact taught to the world by the first Jain Tirthankara - Lord Rishabhadev.[2] In the Rigveda we have reference of Lord Rishabhadev, who is known as the founder of Jainism. Prof. Virupaksha Veda-Tirtha mentions the following hymn of the said book –

ऋषमं मासमानानां सपलानां विषासहि ।
हंतारं शत्रूणां कृधि विराजं गोपितं गवाम् ।।

Vinoba Bhave, the exponent of Bhoodan Movement, once wrote to me in 1948 about the antiquity of Jain thought quoting from Rigveda the following hymn, which shows that the doctrine of Ahimsa was taught by Jain Tirthankaras.

अर्हन् विभर्षि सायकानि । अर्हन् निष्कं यजतं विश्वरूपम्
अर्हन् इदं दयसे । न वै ओजीयो रुद्र त्वदस्ति ।।

Dr. S. Radhakrishnan's remarks are note-worthy since they speak about the originator of Ahimsa doctrine. "There is no doubt that Jainism prevailed even before Vardhman or Parsvanath The Yajurveda mentions the name of three Tirthankaras Rishabha, Ajitnath and Aristanemi. The Bhagwat Purana endorses the view that Rishabhadev was the founder of Jainism."[3]

A Vedic scholar, Dr. Mangaldeo after mature study observes that the Jain thought must belong to the Pre-Vedic period.

Impartial study of the Vedas, the Brahmans and the Upnishads shows that in ancient India two currents of thought were prevalent; one was associated with animal sacrifice, ordaining
"सर्वमेधे सर्व हन्यात्"

- kill all creatures in Sarwamedh - sacrifice; the other view supported the Ahimsa doctrine enjoining the practice of non-injury in sacrifice - "मा हिंरमात् सर्वभूतानि".

This Ahimsa School was headed by the warrior class while the animal sacrifice was followed and advocated by the priest class. In the 'Shatpatha Brahman' priest class was advised to give up visiting Kashi, Videha and Magadh countries where animal sacrifice was prohibited and the warrior class was dominating.

In the Upanishad period the warrior class gains the upper ground headed by kings Janak and Ajat-Shatru. In this age we observe an entirely changed outlook, for then people were not much interested in the sovereignty over the world; rather they attached higher value to Atma-vidya - the science of self-realisation. In this age we see the priest class moving towards prohibited countries like Magadh, Videha etc. to learn about the science of self-realisation, from the warrior class who advocate the philosophy of Ahimsa. In the sixth century B.C. we see great figures of Lord Mahavira and Buddha espousing the cause of Ahimsa.

Several Hindu Puranas i.e. Kurma Purana, Markandeya Purana and others show that Lord Rishabhadev founded Jainism, the religion of Ahimsa. He was a saint of very high order. His son was emperor Bharat after whom our country India is named as Bharatwarsha "तस्मालु भारतं वर्षम्".

The excavations made at Mohen-jo daro and Harappa show the influence of the founder of Ahimsa doctrine. The eminent Archaeologist R.P. Chanda had written in Modern Review that the material found in the said excavation was five thousand years old and that it shows the influence of Rishabhadev; because the pose of the standing deities on the Indus seals resembled the pose of standing image of Rishabhadev obtained from Mathura. The feeling of abandonment that characterises the standing figures of the Indus seals, three to five (plate II, I, G, H.) with a bull in the foreground may be the prototype of Rishabha.

Dr. Zimmer's remarks are note-worthy:

"Dr. Zimmer regarded Jainism as the oldest of the non-Aryan group, in contrast to most Occidental authorities, who consider Mahavira, a contemporary of the Buddha, to have been its founder instead of, as the Jainas themselves (and Dr. Zimmer) claim only to the last of a long line of Jaina teachers. Dr. Zimmer believed that there is truth in the Jain idea that their religion goes back to remote antiquity, the antiquity in question being that of the pre-Aryan, so called Dravidian period, which has recently been dramatically disillusioned by the discovery of a series of great Late Stone Age cities in the Indus valley, dating from the third and even perhaps fourth millennium B.C.[4]

Father Heras, who has made special study of these Indus-Valley inscriptions and objects, has come to the conclusion that the people of Indus valley civilization were Dravidians and that their culture was similar to that of Sumeria and Babilonia. These people have been depicted by the invading Aryans in uncomplimentary terms as slaves (द२यु), black-coloured (श्यामवर्ण) non-sacrificer (अयच्चन्), snubnosed (अनास) soft language-speaker (मृध्रवाक्), observing other vows (अन्यव्रत) and the like. Tamil work 'Tolkappaiyam' supports the above view-point.[5]

After Rishabhadev the doctrine of Ahimsa was taught by twenty-three Tirthankaras amongst them the twenty-second Lord Neminath was the cousin of Lord Krishna. After him the twenty-third Lord Parsvanath held the banner of Ahimsa. According to Jain logician Acharya Samantbhadra of the fourth century A.D. it appears that the Upanishad writers were influenced by Bhagwana Parsvanath.

यं ईश्वरं विधूतकल्मषं वी६य वनौकस: तपोधना: शमोपदेश शरणं प्रपेदिरे ।।

Mahavira was the last Omniscient Lord, who espoused the cause of Ahimsa. His teachings show the way to international concerned and tranquility. The talented and reputed scholar Lokmanya Tilak had observed, "Lord Mahavira again brought into prominence the doctrine of Jainism. Jain religion was prevalent in India before Buddhism." He further adds, "In ancient times innumerable animals were butchered in sacrifice. The credit of the disappearance of the massacre from the Brahamancial religion goes to the share of Jainism." Mahatma Gandhi had said, "If any body had developed the doctrine of non-violence, it was Lord Mahavira. I request you to understand the teaching of Lord Mahavira, think over it and translate it into action."

Buddhist work 'Majjhamnikaya' tells us that Lord Buddha had followed the foot-steps of Nataputta Mahavira. Buddha says, "Thus far Sariputta did I go in my penance. I went without clothes. I ate my food from my hands... I accepted no invitation to a meal. I took no alms in pot or dish... I did not take fish nor drink..."

Ahimsa in that age had become State religion for a long period. Chandra Gupta Mourya, the grand father of Ashoka, was the devotee of Lord Mahavira and his Ahimsa doctrine. When Ahimsa was the State religion, the country enjoyed all-round prosperity, progress and peace.

Ahimsa preached abroad

The apostles of non-violent cult had taken pains to preach the doctrine in far off countries. They had been to Afghanistan, Persia, Syria, Arabia, Egypt, and Eastern Countries like China & Japan. The Miitras in Persia and the Essenes in Syria had accepted the noble doctrine of Ahimsa. The junior Zoroaster, who flourished about five hundred B.C. supported blood-less sacrifice. Alexander had come across nude non-violent philosophers termed as Gymnosophists. He had taken with him a nude Jain monk when he left India. Foreigners came to India to learn the wisdom of the country. The philosopher Pyrrho had visited India and had studied from Gymnosophists, who were Jain saints.

John Baptist, the teacher of Jesus, had abandoned meat and drink being influenced by the Indian teachers of non-violence. Pythagoras was under the sway of this doctrine and he preached abstention from drinking and meat-eating.


Acharya Amritchandra in his Purushartha Sidhupaya has defined Ahimsa' and 'Himsa' in these words; "In fact the non-appearance of attachment and other passions is Ahimsa and their appearance is Himsa. This is the extract of Jain scriptures".

In this connection it is to be noted that the crucial point is the mental attitude. If the mind is muddled with mischievous ideas, the inevitable result is Himsa - violence, even though no physical injury is caused to any being. If the activities are propelled with pure and pious motive and some injury does take place there will not be the least of violence. It is said in the Jain Scripture, "When a monk goes on foot with carefulness, sometimes small insects get crushed under his feet and die, still there is not the slightest bondage of sin in his case. From the spiritual stand-point infatuation is called attachment. The crux of the problem is thus explained, "He who acts with negligence commits injury whether death is caused to organism or not. And he who proceeds with proper care does not contract bondage of Karma by mere injury. It is further added. He who has passions causes injury to himself by himself. Whether injury is then caused to other living beings or not it is immaterial."[6]

It is therefore imperative to act vigilantly and with due caution. Inadvertence and negligence are sure to cause violence, therefore the soul will be surely penalised.

Jain view

Jain view of Ahimsa enjoins not only compassion towards human or sub-human beings, but also abandoning even the thought of causing injury. If you have evil thought to cause harm to others, you are said to have committed the offence of violence spiritually, although the idea may not have been translated into action physically. Indian Penal Code shows that criminal offence rests upon the intention, which is technically known as 'mens rea'.

Ahimsa, according to Jainism, has positive aspect also. It stands for Maitri - love for all creatures -'सत्येघु मैत्री'. This 'Maitri' in Chinese is called Jen. Its negative aspect is known as 'Pu-hai'. In pursuance of Maitri for all living beings the Jains have opened charitable institutions even for the good of animals. Pandit Nehru, in his 'Discovery of India' tells us, "In the third or fourth century B.C. there were hospitals for animals in the country. This was due to the influence of Jainism and Buddhism, which lay emphasis on nonviolence."

Chinese saint Mo-Tsu preached Chine-Ai or "love all" and Fei Kung or non-aggression.

The Jain idea of Ahimsa for the house-holder is different from the one of the homeless saint. The saint observes the vow without any limitations. But the house-holder has to discharge various worldly responsibilities. It is, therefore, impossible for him to follow the principle fully. He is required at least to abstain from intentional killing. He is also ordained to give up meat eating, hunting and similar other practices, which are associated with intentional destruction of life.

Cause of Immortality

The great logician Samantabhadra says: "अहिंसा भूतानां जगति विदितं ब्रह्म परमम्"This non-injury towards living beings is the Supreme Self - Brahma. "Sage Amritchandra has observed,  "अमृतत्वहेतुमूतं अहिंसा-रसायनम्" This Ahimsa is the cause of immortality and it is the abode of extreme happiness. It is invigorating as well. If we seriously consider over the point we will arrive at the conclusion that noninjury is not only the cause of immortality, but it is in unison with it. This point can thus be considered: Himsa - violence is equivalent to Mrityu - death; therefore its antithesis Ahimsa - nonviolence will be synonym of Amrityu or immortality. This approach provides us with the answer of this question, how immortality can be achieved?

The legitimate and convincing reply would be: Ahimsa is the way Mundakopnishad says  "ब्रह्मेवदममृतम्" Verily this Brahma is immortal,"[7] therefore we arrive at the following conclusion: Ahimsa is synonym for Amritama and Amritam stands for Brahma; therefore Ahimsa is equivalent to Brahma. This fact has been pointed out by Swami Samantbhadra. This Ahimsa bestows vigour to the soul, therefore Acharya Amritchandra calls it Rasayanam- the great invigorating tonic of the soul. Poet Tagore in a Bengali song says: "महाशान्ति महाप्रेम, महापुण्य महा प्रेम" "Where there is universal love there resides unperturbed peace. This limitless love is most auspicious."


These days people argue about meat-eating on the ground that vegetable has life like cow, sheep etc; therefore if the advocates of Ahimsa don't see any harm in eating vegetables, in the like manner eating of meat of a dog or a hog cannot be objected. Diet does not come in the way of Ahimsa.

This question was asked by some friends in Japan, where I had been to participate in the world religion Congress in September 1956. I said to my Japanses friends that this sort of logic will place them in a very awkward position. Supposing one takes to eating human flesh. How will you object? He will strongly assert that man also possesses life like the beasts. And if you are not kind to the animals, how can you question my way of living?

In case man takes to cannibalism, he ceases to be a man, rather he will rightly be renamed a devil. We should, therefore, act wisely. It is very unfortunate that people forget the noble idea of universal brotherhood and look things mainly from selfish motives. Killing & compassion cannot go hand in hand.


It is to be noted that the above line of argument is fallacious. Man should use his finer sense to decide his course of conduct e.g. mother is a woman. Wife is also a woman. Womanhood is common to both; but the civilized people and even barbarians in their behavior observe the difference between the mother and the wife. Similarly vegetables should not be treated on par with meat. Those who take pride and pleasure in killing voiceless animals should reflect upon these remarks, "If a tiger should kill a great scientist what is its gain and what is the loss to humanity? The man-eater gets perhaps 120 lbs. of flesh, bone and blood. The nutritive value of these can well be replaced even from the vegetable kingdom, if the digestive apparatus were adapted to it. On the otherhand what humanity loses is not so much the flesh and blood, but the higher faculties, which are the resultant of generations of culture expressed under changing values of life and action and which are of no use to the tiger, while the loss is irreparable to mankind. That part which is noblest and highest and which works towards permanence is lost by the parasitic act of the tiger, whose gain is but transient. The flesh and blood have gone to appease its hunger for a few hours at the cost of an eternal loss as a heritage.

The higher life of the scientist comprising of knowledge, creation and love has been of no use to the prowling beast... It may be mentioned here in passing that apart from the sentimental or religious feelings and considerations of such principles as violence and non-violence slaughter of animals stands condemned by the above reasoning. While the man-eater gets flesh, which can easily be substituted by nutrition obtained from other sources, nature loses valuable expressions of instinctive life - the song of bird, the love of animals etc. which often excel the fitful exhibits of man and are equally as irreplaceable functions as the creative faculty in man. Flesh eating therefore belongs to the parasitic Economy of Transcience and causes avoidable destructions. It lowers the "habitue" to the lowest order of existence which has no dignity attached to it."[8]

Those, who believe that the world is created by God and kill their fellow creatures saying that if they do not kill, the world will be full of fishes and other animals are overwise; because they find fault with their Lord and interfere with the Divine working for their selfish ends.

According to the Universal law of cause and effect those who want happiness should not inflict pain upon others. How can we get a rose flower when we sow the seed of a futile shrub? Poet Arnold's argument in 'Light of Asia' appears very sound, "How is it that man who prays for mercy, is himself not merciful towards other fellow-beings? Some times meat-eaters contrive cunning devices to meet their selfish ends and make a nice show of their religiosity. Swami Satyadeva - reputed Hindu Samyasi had written in his memoirs of sojourn of Tibet: "I went into a temple of the Buddhist Lamas, who brought a goat and tied its feet and other parts of the body including the nose. Due to this atriocity the beast was moving restlessly and died after few seconds. The belief of the Lamas is that the goat was not killed by them; it died of its own accord, therefore there was nothing wrong in eating the dead body. Even a dullard idiot can see the underlying mischievous motive.

Joy of Compassion

If a man seriously and sincerely compares his mental state when he is wicked and cruel with the disposition when his heart becomes replete with the noble sentiments of compassion he will admit that when he was merciful he was really happier.

It is said that once the President of America was going to the Senate. In the way the benevolent heart was deeply moved by the pitiable plight of a pig who was immersed in mire. The President immediately rushed to the place and saved the dying creature. In this affair his clothes had become soiled. Upon enquiry the President is reported, to have said, "I was deeply moved by the misery of the animal and I had no time to ask my attendant to help me in this cause, for few minutes' delay would have proved fatal to the precious life of the poor animal.

As a matter of fact such souls over-brimming with mercy and sympathy can establish the kingdom of heaven upon earth. It is a sad commentary upon the progress of this material age that man's heart is in fact becoming smaller and out of selfishness he has no ears to hear the moanings of other unfortunate beings. There was a period in the past when people used implements made of stone. It is called by our historians 'The Stone Age'. It will be more appropriate if we call this age of science and technology as the Advanced Stone Age', when the hearts have acquired the hardness of stone. If we are really advanced we need not boast about it. We must give positive proof of our enlarged heart and broad vision which look upon all life with a friendly eye and chant the mantram of मिती मे सब्दभूरासु - I extend friendship towards all creatures.

Noble Revolution Needed

Our unbridled lust for best comforts, luxuries and pompous life is developing 'the-brute-in-man'. The progress of man does not depend upon his selfishness; but self-sacrifice, benevolence, mercy and other virtues make the real man. Merely physical form does not constitute a genuine man. We should have a peep into the innermost heart of man. If he has the brutish tendencies of a tiger, he is no longer a man, but a tiger with the man's appearance. We need not stifle our soul for the satisfaction of our carnal cravings. What is the propriety of physical purity and tidiness, when the mind is soiled and dirty? One gets horrified to see how the scientific man of this advanced age is mercilessly finding out the ways and means for quick and cheap destruction of life. The rapid growth of slaughter-houses equipped with latest developed instruments of destruction to provide best leather and other things for our physical comforts speaks volumes whether we are advancing or spiritually perishing. We forget the central truth. "I am the intelligent soul. I am not the material body." This ignorance of the real point has been the root cause of all worries. Now we should immediately cry a halt to our beastial ways and make a noble resolve to behave like a genuine gentleman. In this respect it will be wise to remember the advice of Abraham Lincon, "Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other thing." The iron, invincible and unflinching determination is the primary requisite if want to see all happy and peaceful. We should have noble revolution in our thoughts, if we aspire for real evolution. These words of wisdom should be implanted in our hearts, "Woe unto the world because of offences; for it must needs be that offences come, but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh."

Song of Compassion

Those whose lives are sinful and impure are not remembered for long in the world. Look at the history of nations, which were greedy, selfish and vicious. They have been effaced by time and no one cares to remember them. The memory of benevolent, good, selfless and pious is ever enshrined in the heart of all. All lovingly remember Christ, Nanak, Buddha, Rama, Mahavira and the like for their sacred contributions to the world. The satisfaction and solace obtained by pious and merciful life are far superior to the pleasures of a self-seeker selfish glutton. Virtue is its own reward. Our world is weary of violence. The song of love and compassion is needed. It is much sweeter than Apollo's lute.

Shaw's Views

The great dramatist G.B. Shaw was a vegetarian and he had exhibited great love for Jainism, the religion of Ahimsa, before an Indian Journalist. He had expressed his innermost longing to be reborn in a Jain family. It is said that he was once invited to a dinner but he was sitting silent, for there was no vegetable preparation, when somebody asked "Why are you not enjoing the dish?" Shaw replied, "God has provided me with a stomach where there is no room for dead animals. My stomach is not a cemetery." He had once observed, "If I were an omnipotent despot, I should enforce such a distribution of the material conditions of natural vitality as to make my subjects independent of analgesics, intoxicants, stimulants, tobacco, fish, flesh and fowl for the endurance of life."

Those who always think of war and strife are not worthy of being called as human beings. The poet sings:

Let dogs delight to bark and bite,
For God hath made them so;
Let bears and lions growl and fight
For it's their nature too.
But children, you should never let
Such angry passions rise.

Some Doubts Examined

Those, who want to take shelter under the argument that life thrives upon life; and so man is following the laws of nature when he butchers animals for his palate, are depending upon false analogy. The rule of the jungle may guide a barbarian but it is not right for a civilized person to forget that he is much superior to the animals. Therefore, he should act in such a way as suits his noble and exalted position. The religious books speak of man as the best of God's creation. The best should not do the worst action of the uncivilized and unprogressive beasts. The Ahimsa culture fits with the fair name of a wise man.

Some people are alarmed thinking of the fate of the entire world if all people take to vegetarianism because of the scarcity of food stuff. This fear is baseless, because all people cannot follow the sublime principle. It requires strong will-power and mental strength to control our passions and take to the life of Ahimsa. As water flows in a low level without any effort, in the same way people's mind generally falls an easy prey of carnal pleasures. As the water is taken to a higher level with the aid of some power similarly by determination and noble resolve alone people can resort to the ideal life and sublime conduct. Such people will always remain in a minority; hence the fear of scarcity of vegetable is baseless and superfluous.

Those who take beef at least should for a moment pause and think that out of gratitude they should have shuddered from killing or getting the animal slaughtered, whose milk was enjoyed by them all their life. Shakespeare in As You Like It' sarcastically remarks:

Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou are not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.

A Japanese Professor's argument

A professor of science of the Kyoto University of Japan asked me a fine question. He said, "I am a professor of chemistry and can say with authority that meat and vegetables are same from the view- point of elements." I replied, "My friend, if you believe all objects as one element, excuse me, if one would suggest a man to change his diet for the food of beasts. From the view point of Chemistry the things which we abhor to see will have to be eaten if we stick to your argument. Therefore, cultured man is required to see what is useful and good for his mental purity."

Vegetarian food, according to Tolstoy is indispensable for mental purity. He had examined several men and women and had come to the conclusion that meat-diet encourages animal-passions. Mahatma Gandhi also laid great stress upon simple vegetarian diet. He had said to a Chinese Professor, 'You Chinese people are very artistic, but one thing I do not like is that you take too much meat." The good professor humbly replied, "I will certainly try to be a vegetarian and will regard this as a happy memory of our first meeting. (Sino-Indian Journal)

The Goddess of Ahimsa blesses the heart of the devotee when his mind is free from the filth of fanaticism, selfishness or undue regard for the unscientific and callous creed of the ancestors.

Touching Incident

A hunter became a disciple of the noble mission of mercy by a touching incident. The rustic related his change in these words; "all my life I was busy in killing animals. 1 felt no pity for them. I thought that God had created them for the use of man-kind. One day I was out for a Shikar-hunting expedition. By chance my sharp arrow entered into the vital of a pregnant deer. The she-deer. The she-deer immediately died. Her inarticulate agony did not effect me, for my heart was used to such expressions of anguish, but certainly I was moved beyond description when I happened to see a small deer in its mother's womb moving restlessly and closing its eyes for ever. Its death gave me everlasting message about the bubble like fleeting life.

I became extremely restless. All the time the picture of the dying fawn was moving before my mind's eye. My dull and almost dead conscience awoke. I took a vow that henceforth I will never kill any animal for sport or meals. I became a strict vegetarian."

This incident reminds the episode of the author of Ramayan poet Valmiki. What happened? One day Valmiki saw a pair of doves wheeling round and round and kissing each other. Next movement an arrow killed the dove. The female dove went round the dead body in grief. Valmiki's heart was much touched, and he cursed the hunter "Thou art a wretch, without the smallest mercy? Thy slaying did not stop for love. Thou shalt never be happy."

If a person in pensive and reflective mood ponders over such material he will forthwith become a genuine messenger of mercy and love. The great leaders of our age should seriously see their noble task ahead. The heroes of Ahimsa and Mercy are venerated by celestial beings. Compassion is the cream of Virtue.

Sub-division of Ahimsa

The Jain teachers have divided Ahimsa into four categories. The intentional in jury (संकल्पी हिंसा) is to be abandoned without exception. The second division (विरोधी हिंसा) consists of violence towards tyrants and oppressors. A Jain layman or a ruler is ordained not to be a bully or an oppressor or a tyrant; but he should take a defensive attitude and should give a lesson to the mischief-mongers by heavy punishment so that they may not even dream of inflicting injury, pain or insult upon the innocent and harmless persons. A Jain may use his arms to punish the culprits and scoundrels, who disturb the peace of the society.

Shelley's Song

In Jainism a householder does not adopt the attitude of aggression, but as long as he has not taken the absolute vow of Saint's Ahimsa called the Ahimsa-Mahavrata he can certainly defend himself with all his might. Shelley in his 'Song to the Men of England' supports the Jain view point of holding arms in self-defence: In his advice to the English people the poet says:

"The seed ye sow, another reaps;
The wealth ye find, another keeps;
The robes ye weave, another wears;
The arms ye forge, another bears.
Sow seed-but let no tyrant reap;
Find wealth, - let no impostor heap;
Weave robes, - let not the idle wear;
Forge arms, - in your defence to bear."

Chivalry of Jains

If one turns the pages of Indian History, he will find a host of chivalrous Jain people. The noble General 'Chamundrai' whose name is associated with the world famous 57ft. high monolithic Jain statue of Lord Gomateshwar, was a warrior of highest order although he was a staunch Jain. In an inscription we read, "A braver soldier, a more devoted Jain and a more honest man than Chamundrai Karnataka had never seen."

The third division (आरंभी हिंसा) permits that violence, which occurs in cooking, washing, and other domestic duties. The last (उघोगी हिंसा) is associated with unavoidable destruction of small insects in agriculture, industry and other means of earning one's bread. The central idea of Jainic Ahimsa is that you should try well to discharge your duties of warrior, artisan, merchant ruler etc. You should discharge your duty honestly and honourably with a humane heart. Interntional injury must be avoided.

Real Sarvodaya

According to Jainism this Ahimsa is a Sarvodaya Tirth - a sacred place which brings prosperity to all without distinction or prejudice. It annihilates all calamities. It is deathless. The band of workers bearing the banner of Sarvodaya society if take these facts into heart that the message of compassion should be preached all over the country and abroad and sincerely devote their energy in expounding the sacred philosophy of compassion which is free from the contagion of politics, to all deserving without fear or favour much salutary result can be achieved. This will persuade them to preach the futility of animal-butchery and utility of vegetarianism.

Real Ahimsa should be practiced. Artificial lion cannot terrify the intoxicated elephant, like-wise, mechanical and artificial Ahimsa cannot ward off our misery. The edifice of Sarvodaya should have its foundation upon the solid rock of truth which does not care for praises from unworthy souls, who do not understand the A-B-C of humanitarianism. The entire Jain system of thought and code of conduct are a living commentary on the noble ideal of Sarvodaya. Jainism always thinks of universal good and welfare. Its attention is not centred towards its votaries only. With a view to tread on the path of compassion one has to control his passions and in-ordinate desires. This is the reason why we have few men of religion and love.

Appreciation of Jain Life

Those who have come in contact with the life of a Jain devotee, appreciate it from the core of their heart. Mr. Ernest V. Hayes of the Theosophical Society England relates his experiences of a great camp in Holland in 1927 presided over by Krishna Murti, "There were about three thousands people of forty five different nationalities gathered there; there was only brotherhood (save for a disgruntled few) instead of Nationalities, there was a love so keen that one walked the camp-enclosure in bliss, knowing no barriers between men and the beasts (including the insects) for we could not even kill a wash; we were for a week at least like 'the Jains of India', to harm anything was to destroy the harmony in our souls; like Enoch, the Patriarch of the Bible, 'we walked with God."[9]

Rational Stand

Ordinarily a mediocre thinks that the Jains must be practicing highest type of Ahimsa. This is partially true. To comprehend the real position one must remember the Jain Teachings.

Jain literature has classified the doctrine of Ahimsa into one for the house-holder and the other for a recluse, who has renounced the worldly life of passions and carnal cravings. The Ahimsa of the monk is of the Supreme type. If any one causes trouble to the saint, he will not retaliate. He bears all hardships and inconveniences without any ill-will or anger. Generally people misconstrue the Jain principle of non-injury and expect a layman to follow the supreme path of a monk; but this is not possible as long as he holds domestic and worldly responsibilities.

To talk and discuss about the noble principle of highest Ahimsa is quite easy, but its practice is beyond the scope of a householder. The sacred Jain books tell us that the sixteenth Tirthamkara Lord Shantinath was a Chakravartin-sovereign ruler. He possessed the mightiest weapon Chakra (discus) which created terror in the minds of those, who were enemies of the rule of Law and Justice. Poet Jinsena in his Maha-Puran says that a ruler must be equipped with military strength; otherwise the rule of fishes will prevail and the stronger will oppress and persecute the weak and ultimately chaos and disorder will corrupt the society. Those who wish to rule and govern should possess sufficient military strength, but its use should be made with the greatest caution and wisdom. The possession of giant's power is not condemned, only the adoption of giant's relentless brutal use is to be properly controlled and checked, so that the righteous and the innocent & peaceful may not be a victim of the high-handedness of the Devilish plans.

Permanent Peace

Prime Minister Nehru in his New York speech had told; "Political subjugation, racial inequality, economic misery - these are the evils we have to remove, if we would assure peace". This will lead to material prosperity, no doubt; but permanent peace will never be attained by this process. It will always remain out of reach. Peace mostly rests upon the mental state of purity and sublimity. Swami Samantbhadra tells us that Tirthamkara Shantinath had achieved spiritual peace by destroying the blemishes of the soul. Outward peace can be attained by external means, but this will not be perennial and genuine. Real peace necessitates the thorough purging of all blemishes and imperfections of the soul.

Caricature of Ahimsa

This Ahimsa presents a very sad and despicable caricature when people jumble up the code of conduct of the laity with the code of monks. This ridiculous mixture cannot serve our purpose. The Ahimsa shorn of all humanitarian considerations for all living beings is the lifeless effigy of the doctrine. In fact we need living Ahimsa, which holds all life as sacred and which makes it imperative for a man to act as befits a gentleman, not a fashionable figure. Politicians may change their policies like a chameleon and they may name a thing or policy as ahimsa. although it may be the very anti-thesis of reality; but scientific religion deals with eternal truth, which does not permit any sort of animal butchery. The humane government will never tolerate such way-ward ways which put on the cloak of Ahimsa. Artificial Ahimsa will never bless us with real peace and tranquility. Spurious name and advertisement of Ahimsa may deceive others, but this foul method will never give real peace and lasting prosperity. Genuine compassion is the royal road to perpetual bliss.

The words of Socrates are very significant, "The fewer are our wants, the more we resemble Gods." Due to ignorance, greed, lust, and delusion man tries to construct his mansion of peace by accumulating worldly objects little remembering that all worldly joys are swift of wings. They are like a lightning flash. As a deer runs after a mirage in the hope of quenching his thirst, and gets disappointment, similarly worldly objects cannot give us peace. Real peace is not outside, therefore our search of it in material object cannot serve our purpose. The American poet and philosopher Emerson's maxim was "Insist on Yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but yourself." The truth of these words illumines a man, when he is in a serious and sober disposition. When the former President of America Truman was passing by a volcano in Mexico, he is reported to have observed "This volcano is not so terrible as the one which is in Washington over which I am sitting."

In Jainism man's greatness is not measured by his worldly possessions but his life of self-denial, self-sacrifice, piety, purity and renunciation. Therefore, the possessionless nude monk is venerated with great devotion and respect. If people wisely limit their possessions as far as possible and offer the unnecessary wealth for the use of the poor and needy, our intricate and puzzling economic tangle will be solved in no time.

In Gulistan poet Firdoshi has said: "A Fakir went into the locality of the rich and loudly proclaimed, O wealthy persons, listen; had you possessed the virtue of contentment, there would be no beggary."

Experiences of a Saint

The great Jain saint, Acharya Shantisagar Maharaj had told me few year back, "Material objects cause mental distress. They arouse several worries, whereby the mind cannot enjoy tranquility and peace. The serenity of a lake is disturbed when a stone is pelted therein; in the like manner worldly objects bring in their train dissatisfaction, mental worries and anxieties. This state of affairs acts as an impediment on the path of spiritual progress and perfect Ahimsa."

Jain sage Swami Gunbhadra says, "Oh man! just think for a moment as to how long you will remain in this body. Everyday you play the role of a dead person while you are asleep and only when you are awake you put on the form of a living fellow."

"Just see that the pan of a balance which is loaded goes down and the lighter one rises up; similarly a person possessed of the burden of the worldly objects will go down and the fellow with few objects will rise up."

A Jain Tirthankara Kunthunath while renouncing his royal pleasures and vast kingdom explained as to why he was giving up priceless treasures and becoming a saint. He said, "I have enjoyed the best worldly pleasures but I could not get lasting peace and real satisfaction; the more I enjoyed, the more my desires increased like fire by means of fuel. Therefore, to obtain life of immortality and everlasting bliss, I am becoming a homeless hermit."

Swami Vivekanand has observed, "Race after race has taken the challenge up and tried their utmost to solve the world riddle on the plane of desires. They have all failed in the past - the old ones have become extinct under the weight of wickedness and misery, which lust for power and gold brings in its train, and the new ones are tottering to their fall. The question has yet to be decided whether peace will survive or war; whether patience will survive or non-forbearance, whether goodness will survive or wickedness, whether muscle will survive or brain, whether worldliness will survive or spirituality? We have solved our problem ages ago and held on to it through good or evil fortune and mean to hold on to it till the end of time. Our solution is un-worldliness-renunciation." (India's message to the world.)

Control Desires

If we really want peace, we should lessen our needs, curb our desires and limit our possessions; we should also disarm ourselves of our bestial instincts. In this way the economic problem will be solved automatically. A bird equipped with two feathers soars higher and higher in the sky, so also a soul equipped with Ahimsa and Aparigraha will rise in the Spiritual sphere and attain Divinity.

Gandhi has said; "An ideal passionless person will move about like a bird having no habitation, no clothing and without food. Few can attain this unique status." (Yarwada Mandir)

Message of Jesus

These words of Bible are remarkable, "And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

And Jesus said unto him, why callest thou me good? None is good, save one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth. Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him. Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.

And when he heard this, he was very sorrow ful: for he was very rich.

And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, He said how hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God? For it is easier for a camel to go through needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.[10]

Acharya Samant Bhadra has compared the longings for belongings to a river which is hard to cross and which is the cause of immediate misery as well as trouble in the after-world. O God Jinendra! You have crossed the river by the boat of knowledge in the shape of possessionlessness.

Deep Study of Jain works essential

In this connection I would like to suggest the various thinkers and scholars of all parts of the world to very kindly devote their time to the study of vast Jain literature, wherein marvelous material for individual and universal advancement will be found.

It is worthy of note that President Dr. Rajendra Prasad while presiding over a Jain function in New-Delhi had in 1956 spoken very highly of priceless Jain literature and the utility of its critical study.

The great German savant Dr. Jacobi in his speech at Rajkot remarked, "Jain literature is of great importance for our knowledge of the ancient literature of India." He also added, "Jainism contains a vast mine of knowledge and that it is well worth exploring for all, who are interested in the history and culture both philosophic and religious of ancient India."

The French scholar Dr. A. Guiernot's remarks are very significant, "There is very great ethical value in Jainism for man's improvement. Jainism is very original, independent and systematic doctrine. It is more simple, more rich and varied than Brahamanical systems and not negative like Buddhism."

It is hoped that we shall be utilizing the two oars of Ahimsa and Aparigraha - non-violence and non-possession to protect our boat of life from sinking in the deep sea of transmigration and lead it to the harbour of immortality and everlasting bliss.

Central Point

We should bear in mind that Jainism, the religion of Ahimsa is the sublime sermon of self-reliance, self realization, self-control, sympathy and serenity. It is the liberator of the mundane soul from the serfdom of passions and sordid dispositions.

May the edifying message of Jain saints and seers illumine every heart to attain spiritual independence, the ultimate goal of life.


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Title: Non-violence Relative Economics And A New Social Order
Publisher: Jain Vishwa Bharati University, Ladnun, India
Editors: Prof. B.R. Dugar, Dr. Samani Satya Prajna, Dr. Samani Ritu Prajna
Edition: First Edition, 2008

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  1. Acharya
  2. Acharya Shantisagar
  3. Ahimsa
  4. Ajitnath
  5. Anger
  6. Aparigraha
  7. Aristanemi
  8. Ashoka
  9. Bhadra
  10. Body
  11. Brahma
  12. Brain
  13. Buddha
  14. Buddhism
  15. Chakra
  16. Deva
  17. Fear
  18. Gandhi
  19. Gita
  20. Greed
  21. Harappa
  22. Himsa
  23. Indus Civilization
  24. Indus Valley Civilization
  25. JAINA
  26. Jacobi
  27. Jaina
  28. Jainism
  29. Jayanti
  30. Jinendra
  31. Karma
  32. Karnataka
  33. Kashi
  34. Krishna
  35. Kunthunath
  36. London
  37. Magadh
  38. Mahatma
  39. Mahatma Gandhi
  40. Mahavira
  41. Mahavira Jayanti
  42. Maitri
  43. Mandir
  44. Manu
  45. Mathura
  46. Neminath
  47. Nirvana
  48. Non-violence
  49. Nonviolence
  50. Omniscient
  51. Pandit
  52. Parsvanath
  53. Poona
  54. Prasad
  55. Pride
  56. Puranas
  57. Purushartha
  58. Pythagoras
  59. Rajendra Prasad
  60. Rajkot
  61. Rama
  62. Rishabha
  63. Sarvodaya
  64. Science
  65. Shantinath
  66. Shantisagar
  67. Socrates
  68. Soul
  69. Swami
  70. Tagore
  71. Tamil
  72. Teaching of Lord Mahavira
  73. Tilak
  74. Tirth
  75. Tirthamkara
  76. Tirthankara
  77. Tirthankaras
  78. Vedas
  79. Vedic
  80. Vegetarianism
  81. Vinoba Bhave
  82. Violence
  83. Vivekanand
  84. Washington
  85. Yoga
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