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Social Cohesion - A Jain Perspective: [3.0] Issues and Solutions

Published: 01.11.2008
Updated: 30.07.2015

Jainism has often been portrayed as an other-worldly faith tradition, concerned with withdrawal from organised society. This is partly because of the highly visible asceticism of Jain monks and nuns - some of whom, famously, wear strips of cloth over their mouths and sweep the ground in front of them, to avoid injuring the tiniest forms of life. The Jain emphasis on the individual, and his or her personal spiritual development, is also sometimes equated with lack of social engagement. Both these interpretations of Jainism are, however, quite false. The men and women who have taken ascetic vows have withdrawn from all relationships of economic or physical power. But their lives also serve an educational purpose - to remind us all that there are values higher than material ambition, and that the highest of these values is respect for life. Jains also draw no distinction between spiritual endeavour, in the personal or private sphere, and activities which enrich or improve society.

Thus, although Jainism explicitly rejects material attachment as an end in itself, it is also a philosophy of social engagement. This explains in part why so many Jains have contributed to society as teachers, doctors and businesspeople, including social entrepreneurs. They tend to be modest about their faith and its tenets, preferring subtle or indirect to overt influence and realising that social issues cannot be reduced to simplistic formulae or political slogans. Yet the Jain philosophy is in many respects well-suited to the problems and complexities of a diverse modern society such as the United Kingdom today. In particular, it contains teachings and practices which relate closely to issues of social and community cohesion.

With this in mind, we have here attempted to address several key questions of social cohesion from a standpoint rooted in Jain principles. The list is by no means exhaustive, and aims to be accessible to all, regardless of faith, background or position on the political spectrum. It invites the reader to think, reflect and act with care.

Sources

Published by: Diverse Ethics Ltd diverseethics.com
August 2008 Front Cover Image:
Jain Pooja by Jayni Gudka, London Back Cover Image:
Jain Temple, Potters Bar, London, www.oshwal.org
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  1. Jain Philosophy
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