IOJ ►2nd Annual Ahimsa Day Celebrations at the House of Commons 2004

Published: 19.10.2004
Updated: 30.07.2015

Bhagwan Mahavir's Message Of Ahimsa Reinforced At The House Of Commons

Ahimsa or Non-violence is the first and foremost precept of Jain philosophy. Jainism takes this precept to its subtlest level by defining the elements of nature as living beings and hence have respect towards their rights. Its relevance today could not be any greater not only to our deteriorating environment but also to the prevailing atmosphere of terrorism and war, because it teaches both tolerance as well as compassion.

The program at Portcullis House, The House of Commons, has now become an annual event so that the message of Ahimsa can be delivered in its finest definition to those who represent the people of this country with the expectation that eventually the message will be fully understood and accepted universally to inspire not only in this country but in the world kindness, compassion and forgiveness.

Some of the Guests

This year, Ms Laura Moffatt,MPand the Treasurer for Labour Parliamentary Friends of India hosted the programme The programme commenced with the Pujya Samnijis, from the Jain Vishwa Bharti, chanting the auspicious Navkar Mantra and the Manglik followed by a recital of a message of peace and goodwill from Acharya Mahapragyaji.

Dr Kalaben Acharya, Director, K J Somaiya Bhartiya Sanskrit Peetham of Mumbai it the lamp signifying the desire for universal enlightenment.

The children from South London’s Chandna Vidhya Peeth then recited a hymn of universal peace and happiness.

Laura Moffatt MP

The host for the evening Ms Laura Moffatt then welcomed the guests. She admitted that she knew very little about Jain faith then went to recount her experience of meeting a Jain person. Laura had attended an event with Asian ladies a few weeks ago and remarked on how the Jain lady on their table had them spell-bound in terms of how she applied her values in daily life and the tremendous sense of duty to community with which she lived.

She was very much looking forward to the messages on Ahimsa especially from the children and asked the Institute to ensure that Ahimsa Day remains an annual event on its calendar.

Ashik Shah, a young practicing Jain who is well versed in Jain philosophy was the main speaker for the evening. He delivered a message on Jain concept of Ahimsa. Ashik who was part of the founding team of Young Jains of America, is an active member of the Young Jains of the UK where is he helps the younger members of the community to gain better understanding of the Jain philosophy and practices. He is also active with Raj Saubhag Satsang Mandal, following Shrimad Rajchandra’s tradition.

Ashik Shah

His talk began by welcoming the opportunities for Jains to enter dialogue at places such as the House of Commons. Addressing the key role of Ahimsa to Jain practice and philosophy, he also looked at how it had been narrowly understood in the standard Jain stereotype. He spoke of the need for us all to enrich our encounters and enhance our self-representation. He spoke of the centrality of the concept of Soul to Jain Dharma and how it actually enriched and animated the approach to Ahimsa of the Jains, sighting modern examples, including the impact of the Jain Shrimad Rajchandra on Mahatma Gandhi.

One of our Chief Guest, Mr Gareth Thomas MP and Minister for International Development, representing the Harrow constituency, first thought it was not appropriate for Jains to be in the House of Commons. However, given the emphasis on Forgiveness, Sincerity, Humility and Compassion, amongst other things, he felt that there was a great need for Jains to be there. He saw the great need for the exercise of Ahimsa principles both in the House and generally everywhere in view of the current environment.

Mr Gareth Thomas MP
Minister for International Development

He observed that he was glad to see that so many Jains lived in Harrow, his constituency.

He had been on a recent trip to India as Minister for International Development. He said Britain was the largest donor of aid to India and he had just signed an agreement to give further aid worth £190m toward achieving the goal of universal education - ‘Sarva Shikshan Abhiyan’. He also commented on how committed the Jains were to the cause of education.

Mr Stephen Pound MP, the Chairman of Labour Parliamentary Friends of India was eloquent as ever in expressing his admiration for the faith and talked about its vastness and depth. He recalled that after last year's event, he had been in the same room the next day, and felt the presence of a totally different atmosphere.

He felt that there is so much depth in the Jain tradition, and that, once he had begun to read about it, he realised that there was so much he did not know. He likened the philosophy of Jainism to an ocean which would engulf us with its richness and simplicity.

He closed his talk by inviting the Jains to come back every year and wanted the spirit of Ahimsa to seep into the very stone of the Houses of Parliament.

Mr Peter Luff MP and the Chairman of Conservative Parliamentary Friends of India who had also attended last year’s function commented on the relevance of Jainism to a place like the House of Commons i.e. a place that is full of greed, deceit and lies yet where the need for compassion and honesty is the greatest. He also observed that it is events like Ahimsa Day that bring the Conservatives and Labour members together.

Mr Luff MP was followed by a short play by Young Jains. The play illustrated the way Jains cultivate their relationship with nature thus sharing its wealth. The play also illustrated how the state of one’s mind affects bondage the karmas and its resultant fruits.

The children from South London CVP returned to do a small play
illustrating how the behaviour of children changes for the better
when they attend the Jain school.

Dr Shantilal Somaiya, the Head of the K J Somaiya Institutes
Mumbai then introduced the book ‘Indian Philosophical Terms: Glossary & Sources jointly published by the K J Somaiya Bhartiya Sanskriti Peetham and the Institute of Jainology.

This book gives an account of the philosophical and religious trends and traditions of Ancient India. The main purpose of the book is to give a clear, comprehensive and critical account of the terms used in different branches and systems of Indian Philosophy.

The panorama of Indian religion and philosophy is pretty vast and the present work is designed for all those who want to explore and discover the rich heritage. The book will facilitate in understanding technical terms of philosophy and will serve a ready reference for both beginners as well as scholars.

He also briefly described the K J Somaiya Institute with its two campuses in Mumbai stretching over 100 acres and with 14,000 students.

H E The High Commissioner Launching the Book

After this His Excellency the High Commission of India launched the book formally, Dr Somaiya and Mr Ratibhai P Chandaria, Chairman Board of Trustees of the Institute of Jainology jointly presented the book to him.

H.E. the High Commissioner our other Chief Guest, who has just taken up his post in the UK, was introduced with a detailed recount of his illustrious career commented that sometimes such introductions sound like obituary and lightened the atmosphere.

He started with a recount of his experience at Jaiselmere. - where he came across a Jina statue and the peace & calm he felt at seeing it was unbelievable. To think such a statue could have been made by human hands' - resonated with the picture of Mahavir at the hall and conjured the same feeling.

He said the message of Jainism is - don't waste time, ignore the irrelevant, embrace the relevant, cause no injury to anyone through right thought, right speech and right action. By having no violence in our minds results in pure thoughts, by having no violence in our heart results in sweet speech and that having no violence in our minds can only result in harmony.

The Institute’s Secretary talked about the various partnerships developed by the Institute over the last 15 years and appealed to the members of Jain community to support the Institute’s work by both by giving their time to work voluntarily with the Trustees and also provide material support which so far had been sourced from a limited number of families.

Ashwin Mehta, Compere for the Evening

The vote of thanks was called by Ashwin Mehta who had compered the program for the evening. He then invited all to refreshments. The Refreshment team at the Portcullis House had exceeded all expectations and rounded the evening well with their culinary delights.

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              3. Ahimsa
              4. Ahimsa Day
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