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Non-violence Relative Economics And A New Social Order: Role of Nonviolence in Global Survival

Published: 12.06.2015
Updated: 13.07.2015

(Jain Perspective of Ecology)

Ecology is a study of harmful or beneficial interactions between organism to organism, community to community and organism to environment. These interactions are being further influenced by physical factors like light, temperature, moisture, wind, gravity, space and time. When a variety of factors interact the process becomes very complex and infact that is what happens in the nature. Amongst the organisms, if the interaction is beneficial to both the partners it is known as symbiosis, to one-commensalisms and when harmful-antagonism. Innumerable intricate relation-ships occur in nature and make the science of ecology a very com-plex and fascinating subject of great relevance to the mankind.

The interactions are natural phenomena and have been going on since times immemorial and have led to the present day scenario on this planet. The natural interactions have been vastly interfered by the human beings primarily due to lack of proper education, degradation of moral and spiritual values and an outlook of mate-rialistic possessiveness. Thus, primarily biological, chemical and, physical phenomena have now-a-days also become economical, social and political phenomena. This has resulted into depletion of natural resources, extinction of many species, pollution of environ-ment with toxic substances, and has in fact threatened the very existence of the human community itself.

Today, human community is widely engaged in rapid destruction of the environment as man has developed antagonistic attitudes towards environment and other beings. Now environmental concerns are global issues. Man's materialistic outlook and tendencies to a large extent has contaminated the atmosphere causing global warming. The chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs) that is used in refrigerators and air conditioners breaks down the ozone layer and affects everyone in the world. Nuclear power could provide safe, inexpensive energy to the world, but instead it has been used to exterminate cities and threaten a global holocaust. Thus it is important to rethink and redo our relations with nature to produce environmental harmony. On the other some wise people talk about saving it, but the central effort is to save human community only. How could human community be saved alone? If we want to save this 'precious' species we have to save everything, protect every thing. Lynn white (1967), a historian observed 'what people do about their ecology depends on what they think about themselves in relation to things around them. Human ecology is deeply condi-tioned by beliefs about our nature and destiny, that is, by religion.' This in fact seems to be very much true.

To understand Jainism is to understand ecology. The central theme of Jainism is non-vio-lence. Non-violence does not only mean that one must not kill a living being, but means that one should not create an atmosphere of violence, one must not create an environment in which animate beings perish, and must not create a situation which would disturb the inanimate order. Non-violence relates to both the sentient and the non-sentient. The doctrine of non-violence is not limited to the non-killing alone. According to Jain principles soul and matter influence each other. The material environment is conditioned by living beings and living beings are conditioned by environment. Let us consider non-violence in the context of these factors.

The doctrine of non-violence asserts that nothing can exist by itself. All our energy and power are produced by matter that comes to us through environment. If the environment is polluted, it will have a direct effect on the energy, which we imbibe from nature that in turn will affect our actions, and our actions will affect our soul. A non-violent person who recognizes this truth (viz. that all life owes its existence to matter) cannot abuse environment. A study of ecology is in fact a study of Jainism. Jainism has given the education to the human community to restrain from all forms of violence. Non-violence or not injuring any of the living beings such as insects, animals, plants, even micro-organisms living in water or soil is the foundation of Jainism. It further suggests restraint in possession or non-interference with all kinds of non-living things. Thus, a code of maximum restraint in relation to interference with the environment is the basis of this religion and that in fact is en-visaged in the protection of ecology. Any harm or disturbance done to ecology will certainly recoil on all the living beings including the human community. The problem of protection of environment is complex. Take the case of the use of paper. The consumption of paper has reached fabulous proportions, and to manufacture it, innumerable trees are being cut resulting in further deforestation, which in turn directly brings many calamities such as floods and many more indirectly resulting in the destruction of ecology and environment.

The human community gives much importance to the above noted secondary causes of pollution, but the primary causes under-lying environmental pollution are human emotional or psychologi-cal pollutions. Pollution has been created by our own lack of self - restraint. People are misusing and wasting natural resources such as water and air. Nowadays, when someone takes a bath, he pays no attention to the amount of water he is using and so much water is wasted. Cleanliness is not achieved only on the basis of how much water is used, but by a clear concept and practice of how cleanliness is achieved. Disregarding this fact, most people cause a colossal waste of water. Such neglect is a modern disease, and until this is cured, environmental imbalance is bound to continue. Today people are getting greedier day-by-day. It is generally be-lieved that the greater the number of factories, the greater will be the progress of the individual and of the country. It seems the issue has not been given the serious consideration it deserves. How ruthlessly the earth has been exploited! The production and the consumption of material goods have increased tremendously in modern times. Where will this thoughtless exploitation of our lim-ited resources lead to? No one seems to care about the next gen-eration, let alone the plight of the fifth or the seventh generation from now. What is going to happen to them? How will they fare? It is really a matter of great concern and therefore, we must give to it our most serious consideration. Natural resources are limited, but the wants of individuals are unlimited. There are more consum-ers than material objects to be distributed among them and this is bound to give rise to conflicts. We should pay attention to the use of the matter. Since material articles are limited, the consumer's desires must be limited too. Limitation of material goods, limita-tion of the consumer's desires and self-restraint in consumption are urgently required.

It is necessary in this age that we appreciate the value of environment, non-violence and self-restraint. This issue should not be brushed aside as related to the religious world. In fact it is di-rectly related to the whole of mankind, animal world and even the mother earth itself. It is necessary to take appropriate action to resolve the problem of environmental imbalance and pollution. Only by adopting this approach call the curse of pollution be cast off. In this context the maxim of Anuvrat is very significant; 'Self - restraint alone is life.'

Non-violence is a principle of harmony, of synthesis. The science of environment and non-violence are indivisible. The science is the product of the present century, whereas the doctrine of non-violence is the product ancient wisdom. Lord Mahavir's teachings were basically founded on non-violence. Non-violence is the supreme religion. Ahimsa (non-violence) is a principle that Jain Philosophy teaches and practices not only towards human beings but towards nature also. The scriptures tell us 'All the arhatas (venerable ones) of past, present and future counsel and propound in unison: Do not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, insult, torment, torture or kill any creature or living being. The science of environment and nonviolence are indivisible. This science is the product of the present century, whereas the doctrine of non-violence is very old. Lord Mahavir's teachings were basically founded on non-violence

It has been mentioned in the Acharang Sutra that religion that has the highest level of purity in the form of Nonviolence is only true religion. Hence no living beings, no spirits, no matter should be killed or destroyed, nor should be got killed or destroyed by others. Similarly Sutrakrutang Sutra also advises the intelligent to refrain from violence knowing that what so ever holds life dislike suffering.

The teaching of Ahimsa refers not only to wars and visible physical acts of violence but also to violence in the hearts and minds of human beings. In the absence of violent thought, there would be no violent action. Mahavira's words "You are that which you intend to hit, injure, insult, torment, enslave or kill.' Mahavira also says "One who abuses cosmos abuses himself. One who abuses self abuses cosmos. Neither abuse self nor others. It is further said '"One who neglects or disregards the existence of earth, air, fire, water and vegetation, disregards his own existence which is entwined with them.The Jain scriptural aphorism, 'All life is bound together by mutual support and interdependence' is vitally important. In this aphorism, life is viewed as a gift of togetherness, accommodation and assistance in a universe teeming with interdependent constitu-ents. We can bring about holistic environmental protection. Peace and harmony in the universe. Acharya Tulsi and Mahapragya gave multi-dimensions to Mahavir's nonviolence. One of these dimensions corresponds with the present day science of environment. Acharya shree Tulsi has classified nonviolence into two different levels:

(a) Theoretical  (b) Practical

The former comprises the comprehension of the philosophical theories of nonviolence. There is diverse doctrine of nonviolence and if we enter into the polemics, we may get entangled into futile controversies. Therefore, we shall mention only a few basic metaphysical ideas without which the very concept of training cannot be understood.

There are five metaphysical points that confirm the value of nonviolence and can render in building a healthy environment as follows -

1. Reality of Soul: There is a real existence of soul. There exist six kinds of souls. Earth, water, fire, air, vegetation, animals.

2. Independence of Soul: Every soul is responsible for its own sufferings or pleasures. From this point of view, the soul is independent.

3. Equality of All Souls: Speaking arithmetically, the number of souls is infinite. The states of different souls formed by the effects of their own "Karmas" are also diverse. But from the point of view of intrinsic nature, all souls are completely identical; there is no difference whatsoever. This principle of "equality' is not confined to human beings but applies to each and every living being. Wc can definitely make a statement that "souls of all living beings are intrinsically identical."

4. Relativity in All Facets of living: No one can survive by remaining absolutely indifferent to or also from other beings. Therefore, the principle of relativity applies to every particle of nature. Even a single leaf falling from a tree would have its effects on the whole universe.

5. Co-existence: To think in terms of "Either I shall remain or he will remain" has no place in the cannons of nonviolence. Thinking on the lines of "You as well as I will live; this as well as that will prevail", is the terminology of co-existence; and ideology of non-violence.

"View every living creature as you view your own soul!" The day one realizes the truth there of, it becomes impossible for him to indulge in violence any more. This in modern terms correspond to bio-centric ethics means life-centered ethics, Schweitzer (1923) describes the theory of "Reverence for life" that all of life is sacred and that we must live accordingly, treating each living beings as an inherently valuable "will to live". Every living thing (every will to live) in nature is endowed with something sacred or intrinsically valuable and should be respected as such! Apart from his theoretical contributions, regarding non-violence, Acharya Mahapragya built a system of training, which turns violent into non-violent, eco-foe into an eco-friend. The practical aspect of Non-violence consists of four-fold training in non-violence, namely

· Change in attitude

· Change in heart

· Change in life style

· Change in system or purification of livelihood

Had the mankind been imparted training as to how should he treat other creatures, there would not be occasions for avertable/ avoidable himsa, cruel treatment and hedonistic outlook to flourish. Knowingly or unknowingly many people use such cosmetics which involve extreme cruelty and inhuman treatment to animals in their production. For mere entertainment some people organize animals' fights, camel race etc. All such violence is nothing short of sadism. The training in non-violence as established by Acharya Mahapragya, can make man free from such cruelty by making him realize his oneness with the world.

The only solution to environmental degradation is self-re-straint, according to Jain Philosophy. The Jain ecological philoso-phy is virtually synonymous with the principle of nonviolence, which runs through the Jain tradition like a golden thread. It is essential to avoid senseless violence. People often quote the saying. "Jiva jivasya bhojanam" (One conscious being survives by consuming another) but forget another, -"Parasparograiha jivanam" Conscious being help one another) If each conscious being is full of sympathy and helpfulness towards another, no conscious being can damage the interests of another. Even if one cannot help the inevitable violence associated with birth, one should at least strongly resolve to avoid senseless violence. Those devoid of the above resolution practice unimaginable cruelty against other conscious beings. Arnold Toynbee express similar thoughts " In this hurricane of annihilating material power, man kind will not be able to save itself from self destruction unless we all of us manage to practice non-violence in relation with our fellow beings."

We can thus deduce that the security and life of anyone is dependent on the safety of the other. This security shall always be shared. Man exists because his environment exists. Man has to realize that development cannot be defined as using the natural resources to its fullest, but to the least with best result. Jain view of life awakens the consciousness that Man has been fighting for human rights and animal rights but it is time to think and work for the 'Mother earth's right'. Mother earth do have right to exist in its originality" and for this the slogan "either restraint or perish" and "non-violence is the supreme religion" needs to echo in our life. Let us all restrain ourselves and practice non-violence, so that we may save nature. Survival of nature is survival of the whole universe.


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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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acharang
  2. Acharya
  3. Acharya Mahapragya
  4. Acharya Shree Tulsi
  5. Acharya Tulsi
  6. Ahimsa
  7. Anuvrat
  8. Consciousness
  9. Ecology
  10. Environment
  11. Himsa
  12. Jain Philosophy
  13. Jain View Of Life
  14. Jainism
  15. Jiva
  16. Karmas
  17. Mahapragya
  18. Mahavira
  19. Non-violence
  20. Nonviolence
  21. Science
  22. Soul
  23. Space
  24. Sutra
  25. Tulsi
  26. Violence
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