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Conference 'Economics of Non-violence...' - Report [3.06] - Swamini Parmananda Saraswati (1)

Published: 26.05.2006
Updated: 02.07.2015
Third Plenary Session:
Spiritual Foundation for Developing a New Model of Economic System

In the evening, there was a special lecture by Swamini Parmananda Saraswati.

Swamini Parmananda Saraswati

Swamini Parmananda, an eloquent speaker, shared her vision of Ahimsa in the Vedic Dharma. She commenced by saying that in our culture and in our country, Ahimsa is called as Parmo Dharma (non-violence being the supreme religion) and when we say it is Parmo Dharma, the basic question that comes to the mind is why do we need Ahimsa? Our scriptures have been magnanimous in eulogizing Ahimsa. Our culture looks upon or brings together all the pursuits of the human heart, all the belongings, all the desires. It classifies them universally into two folds - the pursuits of Artha and the pursuits of Kama.

Pursuits of Artha mean activities that all animals, birds and amphibians undertake which will give a secure future, something to hold on to. Things that make a person secure in the material world are called Artha. Birds build their nests, rabbits burrow. All these activities exemplify Artha.

Pursuits of Kama are the other kinds of pursuits which are looked upon as universal and that is fulfilling desires, doing what you decide to do and in this you may have to part with some of your security. This implies a compromise with Artha or a trade off with Artha. For instance, one may wish to go on a vacation, this means spending money that one saves. It's at this point of time that Kama predominates Artha. The need for propagation or procreation also comes under the scope of Kama.

There is a beautiful verse, which says that when it comes to Artha and Kama, human beings are no different from the animal kingdom. If there is any difference, that is the Vishesha. Dharma is that quality of human being that makes him stand apart from other living beings of the universe. When a tiger kills a prey, it's not at all considered as an act of Adharm. Howsoever macabre and gruesome act it may be, it is never considered as an act of Adharma, as we all agree with the fact that the tiger has but no choice or no option to do wrong. Whatever it does is only right. Dharma does not become a specific pursuit and added pursuit for that living being.

It is only in the human life, if you analyze, where the human being could go wrong. This choice or dichotomy is esoteric to only human beings and does not belong to any other living being on earth. Therefore, there is no discussion about right or wrong for those creatures in the world. A human being alone has the choice of right and wrong and when exercising his choice he uses the right then alone he deserves to be called a human being. That alone is the quality that makes him stand apart from rest of the being inhabiting this universe.

In Dharma, we say Ahimsa Parmo Dharma. It's a very strong statement meaning that Ahimsa is the most exalted Dharma of all Dharmas and in fact Sanyasa is the vow of Ahimsa meaning non-injury not only to your fellow beings but all pranis and elements of nature. Broadly classifying, we have a pre conventional, conventional and post-conventional model. Pre-conventional model means Ahimsa or any Dharma is innate to human heart. Values don't need to be taught in schools because we all sense values. Even a toddler, who has never been to school, has a realization that it's wrong to steal or hit others.

In the pre-conventional model, the concept of ahimsa is need-based. A child does not hit an irritating boy sitting next to him because he is overwhelmed by his size and is sure to be reciprocated if he tries to hurt him. I cannot hurt my fellow human beings, because if I hurt, my religion says I will go to hell or Narak. Thus, there is fear-based conformity to the values. Sometimes we follow the value, because we want acceptance. There is an episode in Mahabharata that exemplifies this. Karna was of royal blood but could not be owned up by any royalty, had to accept his fact that he was a Charioter's son or Sut putra and Karna for this acceptance that Duryodhana gave him is willing to stake his life for the friendship. It's for acceptance that we do so much. This exemplifies the significance of acceptance and how one follows values like ahimsa based on the need for acceptance. This is the pre-conventional model in the life of ethics.

Contemplating ahimsa in a larger canvas and a larger paradigm gives us the conventional model. According to this model, there is something more to ahimsa than a mere fear of rejection or a mere desire for acceptance. Mutual understanding and harmony are the basic tenets of this model. In a society nations do not fight with each other, not because they love each other. They don't fight with each other because they don't want to be destroyed by each other. The idea is we come and stand on a common platform so that we don't step on each other's toes. The shastras also reinforce the same thought-I don't do to the other what I don't want the other to do to me. I know what is injurious to me, hurting to me and I am sure that is exactly what is injurious to the other person and therefore I refuse to inflict injury on him. Yogasutras advocate non-injury by thought, word and action. A little deviation from the above is however permissible if it becomes indispensable for self-sustenance. For, instance I may have to destroy some plants in order to sustain myself.


Ashok Bapna, Director, JIILM Jaipur, Honorary Visiting Professor, CTI, CMS, HCM RIPA, Jaipur & SID Country Coordinator - India, Mobile: +91-93145-09414


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                Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
                1. Adharma
                2. Ahimsa
                3. Ahimsa Parmo Dharma
                4. Artha
                5. Ashok Bapna
                6. Dharma
                7. Fear
                8. Jaipur
                9. Kama
                10. Mahabharata
                11. Non-violence
                12. Saraswati
                13. Shastras
                14. Vedic
                15. Yogasutras
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