Ocean Of Problems - The Boat to Non Violence: 40 ►Non-Violence and Compassion: A Survey

Published: 21.06.2020

Non-violence is not a new concept for Indians. The values of non- violence have been carried by every individual as a tradition. For western countries and material culture non-violence can have a special significance. But in a country where every child understands non- violence or follows it, what special significance can it hold there? To initialize non-violence in every cell-pore and brain of an individual in Indian lifestyle is no exaggeration either.

From one point of view non-violence and compassion are synonymous and from another point of view there is a great difference between them as there is a great difference between East and West. Although the principle of non-violence has been accepted and approved by all unanimously in every religious cult but it has been defined in different ways. On one hand killing or hurting a living creature at any time, any place or any situation has been regarded as an act of violence while on the other hand to kill a criminal or any violent person is not accused of violence. On the one hand even the necessary violence has been regarded as violence and on the other hand violence caused to full needs has been regarded as non-violence. In a similar manner to defend one’s god, master or religion, killing someone is regarded as an act of non-violence only. In this manner the myriad definitions of non- violence would bale even a scholar, what to say about a layman. It becomes difficult for a person to judge which definition is true and which one is false. This subject is very critical. I have to define it keeping all the evidences of Jaina scriptures in mind. In Jaina scriptures non- violence has been defined as—‘अहिंसा निउणं दिट्ठा सव्वभूएसु संजमो|'positive traits like restraint, equilibrium, friendship toward any living creatures is what non-violence is. Non-violence is not merely confinedto one’s family, society and nation. Its horizon is vast. Every living creature has the right to breathe the air of happiness lying over its lap.

Need for the Right Perception

The seers and sages had realized that it is not possible for a layperson to reach the epitome of non-violence. So they classified non-violence in two parts—necessary violence and unnecessary or useless violence. A person’s ambition in life must be to reduce violence to the extent that someday he sets himself completely free of it. It is a person’s sole responsibility to save him from unnecessary violence at all costs. To run life or to defend society or nation it is not possible for any layperson to save himself from necessary violence which is why it has been put in the category of necessary violence or violence that is indispensable. In a way it is indispensable for a layman but still it is violence. Being necessary or indispensable violence can never become non-violence.

Not to abide by non-violence is something but to consider violence as violence and non-violence as non-violence is to develop the right perception. To consider violence as non-violence is not merely to undermine violence but also indicates a false perception. I feel that if a person develops a right perception then there would be no problem. In Jaina religion perception has been given much importance. It has been said that a human being must accept a fact whole-heartedly but at the same time he must try to understand it. If violence is not realized to be violence then there is no question of renouncing it. If it is accepted as violence then the question of reducing it or completely renouncing it may arise. In short the essence of Jainism is that even if a social person cannot become non-violent completely, cannot renounce necessary violence but he must perceive it to be violence.

Politics and Religion

The religion thinkers are of the view that violence is after all violence, whomsoever it is done to or in what situation it is done. A violent person cannot be called innocent. The political view point is somewhat different. Here hanging criminals also is not considered a sin. From political point of view a magistrate sentencing death to someone is not considered a sinner. From spiritual point of view a magistrate has got no right to give someone a death sentence. A sinner will 'suffer for his own sins. If someone breaks the law and comes to me saying he would not like to repent then I have got no right to make him repent forcibly. Preaching is my duty. I may try to transform his heart but I cannot impose the feeling of repentance on anyone. That’s why I believe that the aforesaid statement is politically inspired. In politics positive measures are being supported. This is the reason that an executioner’s violence is supported. This matter needs to be contemplated upon that the purpose of politics is to defend society and that’s why it has to support the executioner’s violence as well. But the way of religion is completely different from that. It cannot support the situation. According to its perception violence is violence and supporting it is always unacceptable.

Indian philosophers had never mixed up political and religious rules. They said, ‘The rules of religion must have a strong influence on politics but they must never be mixed up, when religious laws  transcends their limit and get mixed up with politics then they are mutualized. In a situation like this both religious laws and political laws become lethal and dangerous. Their ideals move in a different path. In politics application of force is inevitable. In religion there is no place for force or application of muscles. No change can be brought by means of force or temptations. By effective advice or imparting knowledge transforming one’s heart is desirable. This way the morals of religion and the ideals of politics are clearly different. So they must not be mixed up under any condition.

Opposite Flow of Ganges

Whether someone is weak or strong, poor, or rich, according to the religious laws everyone has been given an equal status. The importance that is given to a strong person or a rich person in as much the same way the weak or poor is also given the same importance. Religion teaches not to hurt or torture others. It teaches us to establish a friendly and pleasant relation with everyone. It may be argued upon that various insects, worms, monkeys, dears and such other creatures destroy the paddy fields. If they are not killed what human society will thrive upon? If this matter is deeply mediated upon then another question immediately arises, if human beings are so selfish? If we think of the aforesaid question then the only conclusion that can be drawn is that no other living creature is as selfish as human beings. It is not a question of violence or non-violence but one’s own survival and defence. So in the field of politics hurting or killing other creatures is justified for the substance of human species. Religion cannot approve of such laws. According to its perception whatever rights human society has on creation the same rights are entertained by other living creatures as well. Man has intelligence and a developed brain by dint of which he rules the other living creatures and snatches away their rights to survive. If animals had the same advanced brain they would have also finished human beings in no time. Here the same law of power applies. This law has been prevalent from time immemorial that bigger animals eat smaller animals.

The good news is that in some correctional homes some criminals are trained to transform their heart. In a situation like this if religious people call violence as non-violence then proverbs like ‘Ganga has started flowing in the opposite direction’ will become prevalent.

Two Form of Compassion

In my view there is no difference between compassion and non- violence. What is non-violence is compassion and what is compassion is non-violence. As far as non-violence is concerned it is approved by all. But compassion is something that needs to be classified into two parts—social compassion and trans mundane compassion. In other words one is behavioural compassion and the other one is spiritual compassion. A smoker asks for fire. When he gets it then he addresses the giver as a very kind and amiable person. In a similar way when water is offered to a thirsty man he also addresses the giver as a kind and compassionate. The point worth understanding is social compassion would be called compassion unanimously but it will not be considered non-violence. In a situation like this compassion and non-violence in spite of their being alone it becomes imperative to discriminate between the two by classifying compassion into two parts while non-violence is the only symbol of spiritualism and self- purification compassion may be social or spiritual and shows or guides the way. Keeping this difference between compassion and non- violence in mind on the basis of Jaina scriptures some important points are being discussed.

Example of Social Compassion

Queen Dharini out of compassion for her womb and to defend it she consumed medicines beneficial for it. In Gyatasutra’s first chapter तस्सगब्भस्सअणुकंपणट्ठाए' this statement clearly proves that compassion emerging out of attachment is called social compassion.

In the ninth chapter of Gyatasutra Jinrish, Jina and Raynadevi have been mentioned. A debauch and ruthless by nature Raynadevi tried to dissuade the two brothers who were ready to set off mounting over Yaksha (a celestial body). They were not dissuaded. Then she used words that produced compassion to distract their attention. In that state Jina had a full control over his mind but Jinrish somehow could not. Devi’s heartrending scream melted his heart. His eyes longed to get a vision of her तएणंजिणरक्खियंसम्मुप्पण्णकलुणभावं- At that point of time Jinrish got compassionate and looked at her. This compassion of Jinrish, Jinpal and Raynadevi was the outcome of attachment, so it cannot be regarded as spiritual compassion or non-violence. This compassion replete with attachment is even incorporated in social compassion.

In the aforesaid two examples the compassion that has been discussed is truly replete with attachment. So it may be called social or behavioural compassion. To call it trans-mundane or spiritual would not be justified. The sole purpose of social compassion rests on ensuring a good social system. Here the question of violence or non- violence doesn’t arise so it is different from trans-mundane compassion.

Example of Trans-Mundane or Spiritual Compassion

Contrary to social compassion certain instances have been found in scriptures that defines a kind of compassion that appears to be quite different from attachment or social compassion by its nature or signs. In reality that is spiritual compassion. Trans-mundane compassion or spiritual compassion is synonymous with non-violence. They have no difference whatsoever. In Jaina Agam texts their being synonymous has been depicted in many places. Dashvaikalik sutra has a topic— दयाहिगारीभूगएसुआसचिट्ठसएहिवा—that consolidates this factor. Thus significance of this sutra is that a saint must show compassion to every living creature while standing, sitting or sleeping. This proves the element of non-violence and spiritualism in compassion.

From public point of view saving someone’s life or helping others have also been considered an act of compassion. But since they lack the element of self-purification they cannot be a medium by which one may attain to Moksha (liberation). Compassion for people has not been regarded as a way to realize one’s self because it is the consequence of attachment of all sorts. It nourishes non-restraint and one needs to use one’s power. So from spiritual point of view it is not non-violence. It is not even a religious or virtuous act.

In Gyatasutra the analogy of Meghakumar has been mentioned. Mentioning Meghakumar’s past life it has been written- Meghakumar was an elephant in his past life. Once the whole forest was set on fire. All the animals of the forest gathered in a safe place. An elephant at this point laid one of its legs for itching and seeing the vacant space a rabbit came and sat on the spot. After itching when the elephant was about to put down its leg its glance fell over the rabbit. It thought that if it put down its leg then the poor rabbit would be trampled under its foot and it would be responsible for the sin. Contemplating over the matter the elephant decided to suspend its one leg in the air till the fire was put out. When the fire was extinguished it tried to put down its leg but was unable to do so. For having suspended its leg for so long its leg got numb and helpless. If fell down flat on the ground. It died shortly after having fallen down. In this context the elephant driven by his instinct did not kill the rabbit rather scarified its life. In reality this is the true, pure and spiritual compassion. Not to take one is life on one’s own side, not to hurt anyone is the fundamental form of compassion.

Now the question arises whether social and spiritual compassion is attached or non-attached. Spiritual compassion is non-attached. There is no contradiction regarding this fact. There are many views regarding social compassion. Social compassion carries a sort of attachment, indulges non-restraint and enforcement which is why in Jaina Agam text it has not been considered that compassion is non- attached. Spiritual compassion is non-attached and that’s why it is even favourable for the saints. There is no description in scriptures that saints must participate in social compassion. This clearly proves that social compassion is not pure and non-attached.

Difference between Compassion and Delusion

In Uttaradhyan Sutra Namirajarshi’s example has been described. Heis only popular as Janak in vedic texts. To test his state of non- attachment Indra disguised as a Brahmin says Namirajarshi— Lord. Your kingdom of Mithila is burning. Your subjects, your relatives and the entire kingdom are caught in flames and getting scorched. Why don’t you just take a look there? If you just look at that direction the fire will cease and along with that mass annihilation will stop. Hearing Debendra’s pleading Namirajarshi reveals his state of non- attachment and says, ‘Debendra! I am living a life of contentment. I have no association with Mithila whatsoever. I realize that I am not really affected by Mitliila’s burning. A saint who has renounced all kinds of worldly attachments including son, - friend and other close relatives should not be affected by any emotion for worldly attachments rather they are with discarding. For him nothing is dear and nothing is aversive either.

The aforesaid examples from Agam prove that social compassion is not non-attachment so it is not applicable for the saints. Had social compassion been non-attached then why Namirajarshi would not look at his kingdom to rescue it from massive mass annihilation? Whywould he say that for saints nothing is dear and- nothing is aversive?

Once the aforesaid example was placed before Gandhiji and he was asked what his opinion was about Namirajarshi. At that point of time Gandhiji had clearly replied that Namirajarshi was not ruthless but rather non-attached. It clearly proves that for a non-attached person compassion replete with attachment is not feasible. It doesn’t mean that it is pure and non-attached for deluded social beings. There are certain laws by which -attachment and non-attachment are judged. It is a certain law what is non-attached is pure and good for all, in a similar way what creates attachment is impure and-bad for all. Although there is no hard and fast rule that attachment is merely confined to relatives and acquaintances. One might get attached if there is availability of desires, objects and props. Even strangers whom one has never met in life, whom one has no connection with, even one gets attached with them or gets identified with the characters in cinema and start crying at their misery. Seeing them laughing one starts laughing. In a very indirect manner one develops a sort of attraction or sympathy for the characters in cinema. So to get attached it is not mandatory for the relatives or close acquaintances to be present whether one call it compassion or empathy, it is a form of social compassion only.

Religion of a Saint and a Family Person is the same

Behaving according to social compassion is strictly prohibited for a saint in Agam. In Nisthik Sutra a saint has been asked to repent if he shows compassion that is social. It has been clearly mentioned that if a saint or a nun shows compassion to tiny creatures by setting them free then he or she has to perform Chaturmas as repentance. It becomes clear from this that if social compassion was free of attachment then what kind of repentance would be relevant for a monk? If someone argues that social compassion is prohibited for a monk but it is not applicable for a family person and he can attain Moksha by performing this virtue then this argument becomes illogical whatsoever. If doing an action demands repentance for a monk how come it becomes a virtue and leads a family person to the way of self-purification? It is impossible. The spiritual law is same for a monk as well as a family person. What can never is the cause of monk’s self-purification can never be the cause of any family person’s self-purification.

Application of Power by Lord Mahavira

Some people are of the view that Lord Mahavira saved Goshalak by performing an act of compassion. From this point of view compassion is religious and a pathway to attain to Moksha. Along with they also accuse Terapanth that people of this sect don’t ever shirk from pointing out flaws of Lord Mahavira. They also accuse him of being wrong. I would like to clear this doubt there.

It is not that Lord Mahavira committed mistake after having attained to enlightenment. I don’t really mean it. At the time of penance any person may commit a mistake. According to Agam Tirthankaras can neither speak to anyone, nor they can give advice to anyone, nor can they initiate anyone nor can they interact with people before attaining to Bodhi (enlightenment). Mahavira before attaining Bodhi during the days of his penance almost adhered to this rule. Goshalak’s reference is such an incident that seems to violate this discipline. Goshalak was after the Lord. Lord tried to avoid him but continuous pleading led him to accept him eventually. To initiate someone renowned writer of Bhagbati Sutm Abhayadebsuri has discussed at length. It has been explained briefly.

Lord accepted such an undeserving man at the time when he was not completely free of the clutches of emotions. Constantly meeting him Lord got a little intimate with him. He was governed by affection and attachment. Being spiritually immature he was unaware of the future ill-consequences. Based on these factors it may be accepted that initiation of Goshalak by Lord Mahavira defies the rules that Tirthankaras are supposed to adhere to at the time of penance. In future the same Goshalak turned obnoxious and vile. To prove Lord Mahavira wrong he resorted to many vile means. Lord had to face many difficulties for him.

Once Goshalak came across a young recluse. His name was Baishayan. He was clad in a dirty and wrinkled robe. Baishayan was performing austerities in sunlight. He kept his hair long. Many lices had formed in his hair. Due to heat generated by sunlight the lices began to come out of his hair. Baishayan started putting them back in his hair again. Seeing him Goshalak said in an insulting tone—Hey you stray pauper! The collector of lice’s! Who are you‘? Are you a monk or just have taken a disguise? Baishayan ignored his words. He remained silent. Seeing him silent he repeated his words two or three times. After all Baishayan lost his temper over Goshalak. To turn him into ashes he applied an enormous power named Tejolabdhi’ Lord Mahavira sensed that Goshalak would burn. He took compassion over Goshalak and to save him he applied his own power against Baishayan’s power named Sheetal Tejalabdhi. The power clashed. Before Lord’s power Baishayan’s power could not stand. It became useless.

The point worth contemplating here is that one whose sole principle was to transform one’s heart by non-violence; one who had never indulged in applying power; one who considered applying power as violence and inapplicable for non-violent people; the same Lord Mahavira in his effort to rescue Goshalak applied power against power, this raises the question over his principles. To use power against power cannot be religious. To apply power is something that always falls outside the purview of monks. In Jain Agam texts application of power has been considered a vice and for that repentance has been prescribed as a remedy. On the basis of this rule Lord Mahavira’s applying power in the days of his penance cannot be considered a religious act. The famous writer Shri Abhatdeb Suri has commented on application of.power to rescue Goshalak that is mentioned below:

‘Lord applied power and rescued Goshalak. The reason of it is Lord’s immature state. After attaining to Kebalagyan (enlighten) he did not rescue Sunshatia Muni the reason of which is Lord’s state. Saving Goshalak was the consequence of his attachment. There is no place of any attachment in religion. A person might ask whether it is possible for a person possessing Abadhigyan and Mamparyaygyan(psychic powers) to commit any mistake. The answer of this question is that as long as a monk is in penance, immature and has not attained to kebalgyan (enlightenment) committing mistake is not a big deal. The possessor of four kinds of knowledge Gandhar Gautam Swami expressed his doubts over Ananda Shravaka’s pointed out Gautam Swami’s flaws and sent him to Ananda Shravaka immediately to apologise. This proves that before attaining to supreme knowledge even possessing sufficient knowledge may lead a person to commit mistakes.

The Purpose of Discourse

Some people argue over Prashnabyakaran Sutra’s—‘सव्वजगजीवरक्खणदयट्ठयाएपावयणंभगवयासुकहियं' that whereas in Agam it has been said that to defend every living creature of the world Lord gives discourses then why the compassion of defending living creatures cannot be incorporated in penance of self-emancipation? In reply to this question it can be said that this lesson needs to be pondered upon seriously. The code of defence that has been mentioned here is associated with soul, not the physical body or life. The true essence of self-defence lies in defending one’s soul from bad tendencies. If in a situation like this if it is understood that defence is associated with saving the life of creatures who are going to die then the same sutra is extended’—‘इमंचअलियपिसुणफरुसकडुअचवलवयणपरिरक्खणट्ठयाएपावयणंभगवयासुवकहिं |’ It means-to defend the lies clever talks, sarcasm and so on. Lord gave discourses on the same. Even if it is agreed upon that Lord gave discourses taking interest on the power of words then also it doesn’t make any sense. In relevance to it if it is considered that to save one ’s soul from lies, sarcasm and other ill words Lord decided to give discourses then concerning defence of living creatures why some other meaning is inferred?

The Two Forms of Compassion

In Agam texts there are not merely two lessons like this but numerous lessons where no other substitute is indulged other than defending one’s soul. If Agam texts are perused carefully then compassion merely doesn’t have two forms but meditation and service have also been classified into two forms. Meditation can be both good and bad. In Uttaradhyayan Sutra Marikeshi Muni’s reference is being drawn. It has been said, ‘When Bipra started disturbing Muni then the Yaksha(celestial body) who was employed at his service entered Muni’s body and dropped Bipra flat on the ground. This was a service offered by Yaksha to Muni but this service was not pure and religious. Any service concerning physical comfort ability offered by a family person to a monk has been considered a vice and one who accepts such services is considered a sinner. In scriptures such topics have been raised where if a family person in his deluded state shaves a monk’s beard and if the monk accepts this service then he becomes susceptible to lament. This way if mediation and service can have two forms then what creates difficulty for compassion having two forms? A couplet mentioned in ‘Panchpratikraman’s Bandihu’ lesson clearly point out that compassion is of two kinds. This couplet is somewhat like this—

सुहिएसुचदुहिएसुचजामेअसंजमेसुअनुकंपा |
रागेणचदोसेणचतंनिंदेतंचगरिहामि ||

If I have shown compassion to unrestrained happy or unhappy creatures influenced by my emotions then I criticize my act.

If compassion doesn’t have two forms, if that is merely religious and pure t en what is the point of criticizing? The aforesaid couplet carries the words ‘Raag’ and ‘Dwesh’ that clearly indicate that compassion based an emotion has been applied here and it has been Cleary said if any compassion has been shown by the author replete with emotions then he criticizes it vehemently.

If social compassion defending body could become the medium of self-purification and attainment of Moksha then why it has been forbidden in Acharang Sutra? In Acharang Sutra it is written- 'The boat is getting subdued in water and there is a possibility of many people getting drowned, knowing it well a monk should neither warm the boatman verbally that there is a hole in boat not should he indulge in any such thought mentally. If saving life of living creatures would be a religious act then why the doors of religion had been closed forbidding it?

Did Mahavira Repent?

A question might arise here if applying power goes against religious norms and considered a vice than has any such evidence been found in any sutra that proves that Lord Mahavira, in order to rectify his fault, had taken a particular repentance? This much can be said that in sutras Lord Mahavira’s life history is not available. If his entire life history would have been found then probably this context would have been surely touched.

The essence of this entire discussion lies in the fact that Lord Mahavira in his state of penance showed compassion to Goshalak by applying power that goes against the rules. The compassion that he showed was partly out of emotion and attachment so it was not a pure spiritual compassion that was free of attachment and cannot be considered a way of attaining to Moksha for a seeker. If this compassion was pure then after attaining to Kevalgyan why Lord Mahavira did not resist the power of Tejolabdhi applied by Goshalak that burned his two monks into ashes?

It can be argued that Lord had not saved them because other monks like Gautam carrying the same psychic power were present there. In this context it can be said if one of the monk’s carrying psychic powers had saved those two monks then the form of spiritual compassion would have completely changed. They not saving these two monks prove this fact that saving one’s life or compassion defending one’s body is social compassion that goes against Moksha and religion, so Gautam and other power monks despite having enormous power had not saved these two monks.

Need of Deep Contemplation

The facts concerning compassion and non-violence that have been discussed at length needs serious contemplation, if is desirable. There is no contradiction whatsoever regarding the forbidden factors of non- violence. But when the positive aspects of it, in the form of compassion are discussed, numerous problems arise. To solve these problems this special program is being organized. Its aim is this much that a person’s soul is glorified. Saving a life is a relevant fact that happens on its own accord. From the perspective of pure compassion the sole priority is given to the soul not to life.

To adhere to one’s life is also a kind of delusion. The role of pure compassion is to create a non-attached state within. This is the reason why some rivals put this fundamental concept by twisting and turning it before public. According to them it has also been alleged that I forbid people to save the life of living creatures. This is a sheer lie and unjustified. If someone tries to save someone and the other person forbid him to do so then I consider him violent and ruthless. The essence of non-violence doesn’t lie in applying physical force. For that purity of heart is needed. To save oneself and others from evil tendencies is what pure non-violence is. I have tried to illustrate the matter by the aid of scriptures, logic and religious ideals. I fervently hope that people would take a neutral stand point and try to delve deeper into this ideal.


Title: Ocean Of Problems
Author: Acharya Tulsi
Publisher: Jain Vishwa Bharati, Ladnun
Digital Publishing:
Amit Kumar Jain
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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acharang
  2. Agam
  3. Body
  4. Brahmin
  5. Brain
  6. Chaturmas
  7. Contemplation
  8. Discipline
  9. Essence of Jainism
  10. Gandhar
  11. Gandhiji
  12. Gautam Swami
  13. Indra
  14. JAINA
  15. Jaina
  16. Jainism
  17. Jina
  18. Mahavira
  19. Meditation
  20. Moksha
  21. Muni
  22. Non-violence
  23. Raag
  24. Soul
  25. Space
  26. Sutra
  27. Swami
  28. Tejolabdhi
  29. Terapanth
  30. Tirthankaras
  31. Uttaradhyayan
  32. Vedic
  33. Violence
  34. Yaksha
  35. shravaka
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