Ahiṁsā (Non-Violence) & Human Rights In Indian Culture: With Special Reference To Jainism (2)

Published: 08.07.2008
Updated: 30.07.2015

Ahiṁsā in Jainism

Jainism has gone into detailed discussions on Ahiṁsā. Since the eternal time period of Lord Ṛṣabh Deva, all rituals of Jain religion are based on the principle of Ahiṁsā. Not only in religious rituals but in each and every activity of life Ahiṁsā should be practiced. The foundation of Jainism is in fact Ahiṁsā. After Lord Ṛṣabh Deva, Lord Māhavīra said ‘Like earth is the basis of existence of all living beings, similarly the philosophy of all great people of the past, present and future is Ahiṁsā’. The Ahiṁsak culture has in fact made India a great nation.

Violence can never be the religion. All living beings in this universe, be they small or big, animals or human beings, all wish to live and not die. How can anyone like the violent behaviour which you do not like? Absence of violence is Ahiṁsā.

Jainism is one of the oldest religions of the world. A comparative study of the three main religions of India, namely Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism, shows that Jainism maintains a unique position due to its scientific vision and subtle analysis without supporting and believing in rituals or myths and miracles[6]. The five ethical vows of Jains namely Ahiṁsā, speaking the truth, non-stealing, celibacy and non possession are beneficial in the worldly and spiritual welfare of the mankind. Whereas practicing these five vows in our daily life, we can live a moral, ethical and ideal life; their practice in the form of mahāvratas can even lead the practitioner to the highest goal i.e. attain Godhood or become parmātmā.

Jain philosophy and culture is the proponent of not only the mankind but the entire world of living beings. From beginningless times and from the time of Lord Ṛṣabh Deva in the present time cycle, Human rights and welfare have been greatly emphasized. Jain philosophy goes a step further even in talking of the rights and welfare of all types of living beings (i.e. not restricting just to mankind).

Satveṣu maitrī, guṇiṣu pramodaṁ, kliṣṭaiṣu jīveṣu, kṛpā paratvaṁ
Mādhyastha bhaṁva, viprīta- vṛtto, sadā mamātmā vid ghātu deva
- Ācārya Amitrgāta

i.e. we extend friendship to all living beings, seeing the virtuous we should feel happy, should feel compassion on seeing the beings in pain and different to bad persons.

While enunciating the importance of five mahavratas enunciated by the Jinas,[7] Jain canons say practicing Ahiṁsā, speaking the truth, non-stealing, celibacy and non possession makes his life like the religion itself.

Ahiṁsā saccaṁ c ateṇgaṁ c,
Totto ya bambhaṁ apariggahaṁ cṁ
Padivajjiya pañc mahavvayāṇi
Carijja dhamamaṁ jiṇdesiyaṁ vidū

Like religion is the basis of the life style of its followers, so is the constitution of a country for its citizens to run all institutions effectively. Whereas the constitution of a country presents the aspirations of its citizens, so also it is the foundation to administer successfully the institutions of an independent country. The constitution of a country along with the different laws made on its basis contributes effectively to administer a welfare state.

The constitution of a country clearly reflects the cultural, social, religious and economic ideologies. Jainism has a clearly visible impact on the social and economic set up of India. Hence it is naturally enshrined in the constitution of India. The five ethical vows (vratas) of Jainism have been described in simple language and adopted in the constitutional and legal framework of India.


Ahiṁsā had been given the supreme status in Jainism. Jain canons say:[8]

savvesimāsamāṇaṁ, hidayaṁ, gababho va savvsatthaṇaṁ
savvesiṁ vadguṇāṇaṁ, pinḍo sāro ahiṁsā hu

i.e. Basis of all states of living beings is Ahiṁsā, foundation of all scriptures is Ahiṁsā, essence of all ethical practices is Ahiṁsā and finally the essence of all virtues is Ahiṁsā.

Freedom struggle of India was fought with the weapon of Ahiṁsā. It was the potency of Ahiṁsā only that powerful British Empire was forced to leave India after bowing to the non violent freedom struggle of Gāndhījī. Gāndhījī himself writes in his autobiography[9] as ‘Foundation of search for the truth is Ahiṁsā. I experience every moment that till I achieve and realize Ahiṁsā I cannot get to the truth itself’.

Ahiṁsā does neither create cowardice nor is negative doctrine. Not just the brave but only the most powerful can become a follower of the doctrine of Ahiṁsā. ‘Forgiveness if the jewel of the braves only’ is the well known doctrine of Jains. Don’t take revenge but change the attitude of the enemy. However due to cowardice and folly, a number of rulers and ignorant people under the influence of self ego make the mistake of thinking practice of Ahiṁsā as an act of cowardice.

Similarly Jainism which is basically a religion propounding ‘giving up rater than support consumption’, emphasizes ‘Live and let live; based on their Ahiṁsā and non possession doctrines. The Jain principles have been established by Arhantas from the beginningless time, composed by gaṇdhars, and now written by preceptors like preceptor like Tulsī and Śānti Sāgarjī in four groups (anuyogas) of holy text. Reading and contemplating of these four groups of holy texts, listening and delivering sermons, teaching and seeking explanations of the doctrines contained therein along with conducting discussion groups etc termed under the essential duty ‘svādhyāya’ of Jains. Ahiṁsā is the supreme religion. Detachment thrives on Ahiṁsā, giving up worldly possessions, penance, self restraint, practice of the vows along with universal brotherhood, tolerance and coexistence. Such detachment is even being practiced completely by Jain preceptors like Muni Vidhyā Nandjī, Muni Vidhyā Sāgarjī, Mahāprajñajī and other monks and ascetics to advance in their spiritual purification process.

If we analyze the preamble to the Constitution of India giving briefs on fundamental rights, directive principles of state policies and fundamental duties shows that Ahiṁsā has being given important place in all of them. Clarifying the fundamental rights in the preamble[10], the constitution vows to implement and extend to all citizens of India equality in social, legal, economic, freedom to act, equanimity, personality development and brotherhood. Is it possible to achieve all these without practicing Ahiṁsā? Mahāvīra’s doctrine ‘Live and let live’ is based on Ahiṁsā and by practicing this doctrine can we implement all the above statements made in the constitution of India.

Fundamental Rights [11] (Articles 12-32).

Constitution of India has provided certain fundamental rights to all citizens of India and foreigners living in India to lead a dignified life and free from fear of any kind. In all these rights concerning equality, freedom and right to live we find the basis as Ahiṁsā only. Article 21 provides right to freedom for life and body. Supreme court of India while deliberating on this had declared death sentence as unconstitutional in general except in rarest of rare cases  [12],[13].

Directive Principles of State Policy[14] (Articles 36-51)

To implement the declaration about the social-economic justice made in the preamble of the constitution, the constitution has given certain directive principles to the state of India e.g. Equal pay for equal work (Article 43), Banning the exploitation of children and women (Article 23), Environmental Protection (Article 48a), Enhancing International Peace (Article 51) are all based on the doctrine of Ahiṁsā. It is appropriate to say here that being a welfare state, it is essential to provide birth right to every child youth, adult, senior citizens and women and these should be protected by the state. Supreme court of India has given a number of judgments concerning Article 21 Protection of life and Personal Liberty[15], ‘law of Precedence reference to Article 141 [16], Right of Equality Article 14 [17] Gender justice in Employment and in Profession, Empowerment of Women [18] and Directive Principles of State Policy [19] and Public Interest Litigation [20] which all relate to different aspects of fundamental rights of all human beings. I have compiled some of them. The decision provide information to all citizens about their rights and duties. It is the duty of a welfare state to implement these and provide good governance to its citizens so as to eliminate exploitation and suppression of their rights.

Fundamental duties (Article 51A) [21]

Rights and duties are co-relative. Constitution of India was further enhanced in 1976 by adding a section on fundamental duties of its citizens along with their rights. Article 51a (g) clearly states ‘every citizen should protect and Improve natural environment including forest, lakes, rivers and other wild life inhabiting the forests and make them better. Further he should have a feeling of compassion towards all living beings. Similarly it is the duty of every citizen to protect public property and refrain from violence.’ The author feels that such statements have been included in the constitution inspired by Ahiṁsā only.

2. Satya i.e.Truth

Truth is not bound to an individual person or community. Like sun, moon, air are not limited to Hindus, Muslims or Jains but belongs to all. Satya and Ahiṁsā are complimentary to each other. Without being truthful, how can you enhance fearlessness? If there is no greed, then how aversion can exist and without aversion violence cannot exist?

Constitutional aspects:

For a welfare state, it is essential to control the accumulation of wealth by a few. India, through a declaration of 1976 incorporating changes in the constitution of India made India a socialist state. Maximum use of nation’s wealth and public property shall be made to remove poverty and help the destitutes. With this in mind, constitutional amendment in 1978 (article 31) eliminated the fundamental right to property earlier existing and gave the right to the state to acquire the wealth of any individual by paying the appropriate compensation. Important decisions of the Supreme court of India, making the actions /laws enacted by the government valid in cases of Keśavānand Bhārti (1976) [22], Mādhav Rāo Scindia (1971) [23], Nationalization of banks [24], abolition of the privy purses of the princes etc. Similarly articles 39 (b and c) facilitates ownership and control of material wealth and means so that they become the means of social welfare. Similarly the economic administration should be such that the wealth and means of production are not concentrated in the hands of a few to avoid their use for the detriment of general public. It is the definite view of the author that all these provisions are made to encourage the doctrine of non-possession.

To punish and eliminate hoarding, a law concerning essential commodities act was also incorporated under which the traders can be punished for hoarding essential commodities. Recently the government is considering enacting a law to confiscate wealth acquired through illegal means.

Even with the legal and doctrinal provisions against hoarding, we see a significant increase in acquiring and hoarding wealth. In our society, a rich man is becoming richer and the poor is becoming poorer. Under the garb of privatization of trade and industry, liberalization of the economy and international trade, we see eternal doctrines of non possession and constitutional declarations being completely set aside. All these are being done against the concept of a welfare state and the society based on the principles of equality. Hence it has become essential to remove these discrepancies.

The above discussions make it amply clear that the five principles of Jainism and vows have greatly influenced the framing of the constitution and legal framework of India. The need is for us to understand the intricacies of these principles and their practical aspects and make efforts to implement them. Similarly it is a warning to the government to implement in letter and spirit the provisions of the constitution of India and the legal framework so that India can again resurrect its great spiritual inheritance.

According to Ācārya Samant Bhadra ‘Religion is one which takes the living beings from the worldly pain to a zone of peace and tranquility’[25] i.e. the fundamental purpose of the religion is to provide happiness to its followers. Human rights are the objectives of the religion as the word dharma means the one which is to be practiced. That which is the cause of the happiness of all living beings is religion. Jain religion talks of Sarvodaya i.e. welfare of all living beings[26]

Hence the foundation of Jain philosophy and religion is the welfare of all living beings. Elimination of pain and acquisition of happiness by all is the objective of Jainism. The two guiding principles of Jainism are the independence and equality of all beings. [27]

According to Paṇḍit āśā Dhar, the natural and tendency and hence the religion of the soul is right faith, right knowledge and right conduct.[28] Ācārya Kunda Kunda called conduct as religion. Absence of tendencies like anger, pride, deceit, greed, attachment, aversion and delusion is religion. Ahiṁsā (i.e. feeling of compassion) is the religion. ‘Ahiṁsā parmo dharma’ i.e. Ahiṁsā is the supreme religion. Supreme forgiveness - absence of pride - absence of deceit - speaking the truth- cleanliness - self restraint - penance - giving up - feeling of non-possessiveness and celibacy are the all parts of conduct and limbs of religion. All these are the characteristics of humanism. Not to give pain to any one, not to speak a lie or harsh words, to preach sweet and welfare oriented words, not to steal, minimize the tendencies of attachment and aversion, have a feeling of compassion, forgiveness, simplicity, tolerance, co-operation, cleanliness, charity, non accumulation etc are all characteristics of being humane and are essential for welfare of all human beings.

Social evils such as untouchables; discrimination based on colour of the skin, rich-poor, social groupings, animosity to certain communities; alcoholism, prostitution, profiteering, evading taxes and stealing, excessive accumulation of wealth, smuggling etc are the expressions of tendencies of greed, anger, ego, aversion, deceit etc. These all result in suspiciousness amongst neighbours and families and generate animosity and harbour enmity. An individual will try to eradicate these evils only when he realizes the temporary nature of wealth, life, youth, body and the world.

External controls, rules and regulations, laws and discipline do not eradicate the evils from the society, rather these evils increase with the intense application of these means. But by changing the hearts of people, brain washing them with good ideas and doctrines and showing human-ness towards them, will help in increasing the will power and putting a break on the evil tendencies of the people in general. These will definitely result in social reforms thereby building a happy healthy society. Kārtikeyesvāmī went to the extent of saying that these contemplations can ultimately lead the practitioner to achieve bliss.

All declarations on human rights bring forth the concepts and doctrines of liberty, equality, absence of exploitation, compassion, forgiveness, Ahiṁsā, discriminations based on caste, colour, creed or language etc. Jain religion gives an in-depth and well organized analysis of all these tendencies along with the need and ways to give them up.

Liberty of the individual is the foundation of human rights. Similarly the basis of Jain religion is the soul which is independent and wants its liberation. According to Jainism, every living being in this world and all small atoms are independent. Foundation of Jainism is also personal liberation and equality.

According to Jain beliefs, all living beings are substances, each with its own independent soul. It does not depend for its existence on any other substance and no other substance depends on it for their existence. With this view, a living being is its own lord /go. Each living being is responsible or its uplift or downfall. Thus by nature the living beings are independent but they can express their independence as human being based on its efforts. Jain religion accordingly assigns importance to the importance, dignity and wish of all living beings.

Jains believe that all substances are independent and are busy in their own nature and activities. Hence no substance to do anything for any other substance[29] Pañcādhyāyī says that’ substance is real, eternal, has its own identity and existence, self reliant and beyond perception. These an be compared, in the light of doctrine of human rights, to self cognition of the living being, fundamental independence, freedom to live and exist and its independent existence[30]. Verse 95 of Pravacansāra and sūtra V-29-30 of Tattvārathsūtra also define independence of an entity. Jains belief that a living being is also an entity as it has the attributes of substantiality and of transformation (vastutva).

Living being is independent encompasses the independence of each living and human being. [31] An entity is accompanied with origination, destruction and permanence. Its transformation is self generated and other entities are not responsible for it [32].

All living being can attain the status of supreme soul or paramātmā i.e. attain bliss through their own efforts. The first statement in the charter of the Human rights says that a human being is with the faculty to think and has self consciousness. Jains also believe that each living being is with consciousness and its manifestation as perception and knowledge.

Jains define jīva (living beings) are defined as saini i.e. with the faculty to think. It has consciousness and its manifestation as knowledge. It has faculties to smell, taste, and touch and hear through its sense organs [33] as Jains believe that such beings are with five senses [34]. Jiva has consciousness and the capability or its manifestation i.e. with knowledge and perception [35].

Jains do not believe in independence without any limits. Jains do keep in mind the independence of other beings also. This fact brings forth the concept of Ahiṁsā which emphasizes friendship and brotherhood towards all living beings.

Pañcastikāya says that the nature of human being is consciousness and its manifestation. Human, sub-human, heavenly and hellish beings are with five senses.


bhāvā jīvādīyā jīvaguṇa cedaṇā ya uvaogo
suraṇarayariyā, jīvassa ya pajjyā bahugā

Uttrādhyayan Sūtra says:


ṇāṇaṁ c daṁkahṇṁ cṁva carittaṁ c tovo tahā
vīriūṁ uvaogo ya rūyaṁ jīvasya lakkhṇaṁ

i.e. characteristics of jīva are knowledge, intuition, conduct, penance, energy and their manifestation. In this way jīva is with self consciousness, with mind and thinking faculty and all jivas are independent.

Every living being has the right to live and exist. It has freedom to live i.e. to live is its right. Dasvaikalika sutra says exactly the same about Ahiṁsā.


Savve jīvā vi iccchaṁti jīviuṁ na marijjiuṁ
Tamhā pāṇvahaṁ ghor niggaṁthā vajjayaṁti sā

i.e. all living beings wish to live and no one wants to die. Hence their lives should not be destroyed. Nirgraṅthas have prohibited killing. Ācāranga Sūtra says:


Savve pāṇā pivayāuyā, suhsāyā dukkh paḍikūlā vahā
Piya jiviṇo jiviuṁ kāmā savvesiṁ jibiyrṁ piye

i.e. everybody loves his own life. Happiness is desired and unhappiness is frowned upon by all. To die is undesirable and to live is desirable. Hence everybody wants to live i.e. everyone should have the freedom to live.

Everybody has the right to live. Hence no one should be killed. Purūṣārthasiddhiupāya says ‘To kill anyone, tie anyone, beat anyone, be cruel to anyone, to treat anyone in human manner all fall under the category of hiṁsā.’ Going further it says that even to steal someone’s means of livelihood, to speak in an insulting manner and harsh words, rape and to usurp other’s property all fall in the category of hiṁsā. All these acts are unworthy of doing and we should all refrain from them.

Jains believe in the principle of ‘live and let live’. One should live and exist himself and should not become a hindrance in the life and existence of others also. Jain holy texts say ‘treat others as you wish to be treated yourself. Do not treat others in a way you do not want to be treated yourself’.


jṁ icdaṁti appṇto jṁ cṇ icchsi appṇeto
tṁ icchṁ paiṅrssavi mā ettisaggaṁ jiṇa sāsayaṁ

Similarly Jain philosophy describes the liberty as human right in crisp manner. A person will experience his liberation only when there is a treatment of equality to all and equal opportunity is available to everyone. Jains considers all souls to be equal or similar. Thus all living beings and all human beings are equal. All have the attributes of knowledge, intuition and their manifestation[41]. Therefore it is said that treat others as you wish to be treated yourself. To maintain equanimity and balance towards all is a different form of samtā / equality. Human rights are similar to the concept of equanimity in conduct of Jains. ‘sarva satveṣu hi samatā sarva charaṇāṇāṅ paramaṅ charaṇe’ i.e. conduct based on equanimity towards all is the supreme conduct of all types of conduct. Jain philosophy says that a person is said to be with good conduct who observes equanimity towards all. Where friendship towards all living beings (mitti me sarva bhuteṣu) is the basis of Ahiṁsā there the feeling of equanimity towards all living beings is the basis of equality. Ahiṁsā is the supreme religion and to be kind to others is to be kind with oneself also.

Doctrine of human rights is associated with Jain principles of Ahiṁsā, Anekānta (multiplicity of viewpoints), equanimity, non-possession and Syādvāda (conditional dialectic). It is only Ahiṁsā which includes all aspects of human rights such as personal liberty of individuals, freedom to live, freedom to be born anywhere, freedom of self consciousness and realization, freedom from exploitation, freedom from being inflicted with pain, etc and the doctrine of equality in equanimity of Jains.

Non-possession is the real panacea to eliminate differences /discrimination. Non-possession and contentment are the extensions of Ahiṁsā. Freedom of thoughts is included in the freedom of expression which can be seen in the doctrines of Anekānta and Syādvāda.

Even though Ahiṁsā is negation of hiṁsā (violence) yet it is considered as proclamation of right to live for all living beings, protection to them against exploitation and oppression, unemployment and provision of freedom. It provides freedom from slavery and bonded labour. In its affirmative sense, it is the proclamation of happiness, friendship, compassion towards all. It teaches welfare and co-operation of mankind towards each other which is also the fundamental doctrine of human rights.

Ahiṁsā teaches us not to kill others, not to cause pain to others, not to cause hardship to others, not to exploit women and children, to protect them against pain. In short thoughts of humane-ness and welfare are incorporated in Ahiṁsā only.

According to Jain philosophy, friendship and compassion towards living beings is Ahiṁsā. Ācārya Amṛit Candra has described Ahiṁsā in great details. According to him ‘Not only to kill anyone or to cause pain (through activities of mind, body and speech) is hiṁsā but even to tell lies, or to degrade others, to steal others property, excessive lust and possession of material objects and developing feeling of mine towards them are also includes as hiṁsā. Besides these to develop tendencies of attachment and aversion in one’s own soul is also hiṁsā[42] and absence of all these is Ahiṁsā.

To thinks all others as equal to oneself and to treat them all well are also contained in the doctrine of Ahiṁsā. Consciousness pervades all living beings. Hence all jīvas are equal in terms of their nature and potential. All jīas are full of intuition, knowledge, energy, penance and happiness. But they are unequal in terms of expression of these attributes which is the cause of perceived inequalities amongst living beings. But dependence is self inflicted the living beings. Their violent tendencies and self destruction tendencies cause his dependence on others. But with his own efforts and energy, he can become free and attain bliss.

In reference to equality, we can say that extension of self is Ahiṁsā and true equanimity. Practicing equanimity towards all living beings is Ahiṁsā only. Charter of UNO mentions brotherhood, co-operation and equality. In My prayer (Merī Bhāvanā) we only wish fro friendship and co-operation.


maitrī bhāva jagat mein merā sab jīvoṁ se nitya rahe
dīn - dukhī jīvoṁ par mere ur se karuṇā strota bahe
bair pāpa abhimān choḍ jag, nitya naye maṁgal gāve
sukhī rehein sab jīva jagat ke duṣkar - duṣkṛt ho jāve

This reflection spreads the doctrine of friendship, compassion, co-operation, happiness, and humanism.

Today the distance between the rich and the poor, gender biases, discriminations due to castes, colour, language, religion, community, owner and worker, nationality, provincialism etc are breeders and acts of encouraging hiṁsā. Doctrine of Ahiṁsā has solutions for the above discriminations. Jain philosophy talks of no discrimination based on the birth in different castes, communities etc. All living beings are known by their acts and not by their birth. But no discrimination can be made based on the development of the individual’s personality. Equal opportunity and freedom in the selection of the means of livelihood provided in the charter prohibits discrimination due to high /low status, or small and big etc. One who praises himself and degrades others is definitely on his way to hell. Entire ethics of Jains is based on duties associated with human rights and welfare. Any one who prays and wishes the welfare of all living beings of the world can attain the highest position of a tīrthaṅkara. Doctrine of tīrthaṅkars tendencies teach us that the person who wishes to serve the entire humanity ultimately becomes the lord of the entire world.[44] He serves and with his wishes and willingness to serve and welfare of others, he becomes the lord and not the slave and worthy of worship by all. Therefore the one who protects human rights, serves others becomes the lord of the world and not its slave. In Jainism contemplation of the ways and means to remove the pains of self and others is called ‘upāya’ mode of spiritual meditation.[45]

Jain religion cites the importance of self effort (śram) as purūṣārtha or the realization of the objective. The word śramaṇa used for Jains is derived from the word śram only. The one who makes the best efforts is called śramaṇa. In Historical cum stories literature of Jains, the definition of karmabhūmi and highlighting superiority of śramaṇa philosophy and supporting self-efforts both for enjoyment as well as detachment. Thus self effort is considered essential for both but even after emphasizing detachment and efforts to develop it, Jains do not support the concept of laziness and enjoyment without self effort. To receive gratification without efforts is termed as exploitation while Jains say that for self gratification, one has to make efforts himself. Thus a man can eliminate his pains by making efforts himself.

Eliminating the tradition of slavery and gratification without work is one of the human rights. While describing the flaws of vow of Ahiṁsā, calling overburdening a living being (Atibhār- āropaṇ) is termed as one of the flaws of the vow of Ahiṁsā.[46] To extract work or to load more than the individual living being’s capacity is called atibhār-āropaṇ. In the slavery tradition, the slave is asked to work more than his /her capacity and is prohibited from achieving higher status i.e. is suppressed. In gratification, one is asked to work without receiving any reward / payments accompanied with more work than the capacity of the individual. Atibhār-āropaṇa and ānn-pān virodh (withdrawing food and water to an individual) [47] detail these tendencies which prohibits every one from overloading other living beings with more load or work than their capacity and they should be paid according to the work performed. In other words, the worker, be it a person or animal should be suitably rewarded for the work done.

Similarly in another flaw named vadh of Ahiṁsā, the practitioner is prohibited from treating cruelly or inhumanly those who are his protected one or dependants. To cause pain or to punish living beings is also included in this flaw [48]. Another flaw of Ahiṁsā called bandhan, the practitioner is prohibited from keeping other human beings under bondage or to inflict harsh punishment without any reason on them. To suppress others also falls under this flaw. [49]

The freedom to get married and establish a household falls under the category of ethical postulates of the householders in Jainism. The first Jain tīrthaṅkara of this time period, Ṛṣabha Deva established the tradition of work culture over the just pleasure culture prevailing and strengthened the concept of family. He initiated the institution of marriage. How to lead a family life and be contented with one’s wife can be found in svadar santosh vrata (vow of limited celibacy) of Jains. Further it prohibits excessive sexual activities, prostitution, having sex with other’s women as well as sex with organs not meant for it.[50]

Privacy of family, home and correspondence is enshrined in the vow of speaking the truth which prohibits divulging other’s secrets under its flaw of rahasyokhyān. Not to divulge secrets is called rahasyokhyān and is a flaw of the vow of speaking the truth. This should be opposed[51]. Truth encompasses respecting the secrets of others and not to divulge them. This declaration has been made in the charter of human rights.

Causing hardships or giving pains to women and children, exploitation of backward classes, untouchablity all fall under the gambit of Ahiṁsā vow’s flaw called tāḍan.[52]

To curb thoughts, writings or expressions of some one is called hiṁsā. To frighten someone also falls under the gambit of hiṁsā. Jain literature talks of ten life forces of human beings. Five sense organs i.e. touch taste smell form and hear senses, to think, to speak and activities of mind body and speech, to breathe and the energy to live are the ten life forces. To cause loss or curb any of these life forces intentionally is called hiṁsā. Putting impediments to someone’s thoughts, or restraint someone from speaking or to limit his movements are all forms of hiṁsā. Indian constitution also places all these freedoms under the fundamental rights and also covered under the doctrine of human rights. Freedom of thoughts and their expression, to take out processions, to decide and vote are all results of the Jain concept of freedom of ten types of life forces under Ahiṁsā. Physical freedom is also the result of the freedom of life forces. So are the freedom to live and exist, movement throughout the country. To arrest forcibly or to enslave someone using force are part of the flaw o Ahiṁsā. Human rights imply absence of these flaws of Ahiṁsā.

According to Jain doctrine, property is also one of the life forces of an individual. Hence freedom to acquire own property is also a result of freedom of the life forces. To forcefully seize the property is like hurting the life of someone. Hence the individuals have the right to the property. To make a living one has to indulge in business or related activities. Under the vow of non-stealing, even though a person can earn livelihood and acquire property yet doing so in unfair and illegal manner is a flaw of the vow of non-stealing.[53] Absence of this flaw is a part of human rights. A person should use the right to acquire and own property by observing the limits prescribed to do so. Like a rich person, a dependant worker should also be not exploited and their rights should be well protected. One should not try to usurp the proper of others as these are all parts of the flaws of vows of speaking the truth and non-stealing and hence are part of Ahiṁsā. As a result only the freedom to own property exists but within limitations. According to Jain doctrine property also should be owned within limits.[54] This is a part of the vow of Anartha danḍa vrata and it flaw bhogrūpi anarthatā i.e. wasteful consumption.[55]

The vow of non-possession is very effective in maintaining peace and harmony in the society and to curb exploitation of weaker sections. One should acquire wealth but with legitimate means. A man is worshipped because of his virtues /qualities and not due to his family, heredity or community. According to Jains all human beings are equal and individual get recognition in the society due to their qualities. Samvibhāga parichheda flaw of the vow refutes means of livelihood based on endowments by nature/ automatically over endowments due to personal efforts.

Freedom of practicing religion is also associated with freedom of thoughts. Religious freedom is the result of Ahiṁsā in thoughts only. Forgiveness, Absence of pride and deceit, truthfulness, cleanliness etc. Ten Commandments of the Jain religion are also part of being human. Jain religion believes in the worship of virtues only. A human being who is omniscient, completely detached from worldly objects and delivers sermons which are beneficial to all is termed as God by Jains and he may be called any names. This is also described in Merī Bhāvanā.

Meri Bhāvanā. or my prayer of Jains with 11 stanzas is an extremely popular and important piece of poetry recited by Jains daily. This payer described human rights completely. Given below is the first stanza of this poem /prayer.

Jisane rāg dveṣ kāmādik jīte, sab jag jān liyā
Sab jivoṁ ko mokshamārga ka, nispṛḥ ho updeśa diyā
Buddha, vīr, jina, hari, har brahmā yā usko svādhīn kaho
Bhaktibhāv se prerit ho, yah citt usī mein līn raho

I dedicate oneself completely to a holy teacher who has conquered attachments, versions, desires and all sorts of passions as he is only worthy of being called a teacher and leader of the path. He is an omniscient and in his knowledge the entire world is reflected.

Jain story literature is full of stories of kings who provide protection to their subjects as a part of their religion. Main aim of the king is said to be able to provide protection to people in meditation and practicing the creed. According to Jain philosophy, time is divided in two cycles called era of rising happiness (utsarpiṇī) and era of declining happiness (avasarpiṇī). Each era has six segments. The present era is one of declining happiness. Its first three segments denote the period of enjoyment only i.e. void of any form of scarcity. All the needs of the human and animal beings were fulfilled by kalpvṛakshas (Desire fulfilling trees). However as time progressed the power of these trees kept on declining and the facilities of enjoyment kept on decreasing till in the end people started feeling pains of dissatisfaction or unfilled desires. As a result a form of government with Manu as a kulkar came into being. In the beginning of the fourth time segment, first Tīrathaṅkar Ṛṣabha Deva established the work culture. According to Jain story literature, the primary duties of the king were to provide freedom to his subjects for their rights, welfare and equality/ justice in the eyes of the law. People were free to practice the religion of their choice, adequate facilities for their education and welfare existed, the state did not forcefully arrest anyone and the culprit was put behind the bars only after proved guilty. Even then he was not ill or inhumanly treated. Individuals and communities earned their livelihood under the protection of the state. Jain doctrine provides use of virodhi hi by individuals to fight against their suppression. A person who was expelled from one state could be provided shelter in another state. Similarly a state used to provide protection to another state when asked for.

Twelve contemplations/ reflections (Bārah Bhāvanā)

Rājā raṇā chatrapati, hāthin ke avasār
Marnā sabko ik din, apni - apni bār
Dal bal devī devatā, māt - pita parivār
Marti biriyāṁ jīva ko, koū na rākhanhāra


dām binā nirdhan dukhī tṛṣṇāvaś dhanvān
kabhuṁ na such saṁsār mein, sab jag dekhyo chān
āp akelā avatare, mare akelā hoya
yo kabhuṁ is jīva ko, sāthi sagā na koya

Jajaṁ deh apnī nahiṁ, tahāṁ na apnā koy
Ghar saṁpati par pragat ye, par hain parijan loya
Dipai cām- cādar maḍhī, hāḍ pījṁrā deh
Bhītar yā sam jagat mein, aur nahiṅ ghin geh


Moh nīṁd ke jor, jagavāsī ghumeṁ sadā
Karma cor cṁhu or, sarvas lūtai sudha nahiṁ
Satgurū dey jagāy, moh nīṅd jab upśamaiṁ
Tab kachu banhiṁ upāya, karma cor āvat rūkaiṁ

jñān - dipa - tapa- tel bhar, ghar śaurdh bhram chor
yā vidhi bin nikasaiṁ nahiṁ, baiṭhe pūrab cor
pañca mahāvrata sṁcaraṇ, samiti pañca parkār
prabal pañca iṅdriya vijaya, dhār nirjarā sār

caudaha rāju utaṁga nabha, loka purūṣ sṁṭhān
tāmeṁ jīva anādi taiṁ, bharmat haiṁ bin jñān
dhan kan kaṁcan rājsukh, sabhi sulabhkar jān
durlabh hai saṁsāra mein, ek jathārath jñān

jāṁce sur - tarū dey sukh, cintat cintā raina
bin jāṁce bin cintaye, dharm sakal sukh daina

These twelve contemplations are very important in Jain religion. We can say that these are the essence to divert a person from the worldly life to a life of detachment and religious practices. If we contemplate on these twelve contemplations daily, then not only our spiritual purification activities get strengthened but we shall also be able to resolve social, personal and physical problems. Whereas these contemplations strengthen our journey to liberation on the one hand, they on the other hand give us strength to happily bear the results (pains, sorrows etc.) of inauspicious events in our worldly life. They remove our infatuation with the objects and activities of enjoyment /lust and materialism. They eliminate the fear of death and refute the use of force and social ills such as bad behaviour, exploitation, rape, violence etc. They further encourage a person engaged in activities of spiritual welfare to go further and make progress in becoming more spiritual and attain higher levels of spiritual purification. They make the doctrine of meditation more fertile.

These twelve contemplations, which are of welfare nature for all, point towards equality amongst all living beings, all communities, all castes, all religions etc. Welfare of all is called Sarvodaya. All living beings should get opportunities for realizing their full potential is Sarvodaya. No one an make progress but wishing the ill of others.

Today we have created hurdles between individuals. These hurdles are self inflicted by us. Discrimination due to colour of the skin, caste, creed, community, family, province, country etc are today the real causes of all sorts of tensions pervading the world. Every person sees with doubt every other person of different caste, colour, creed, country and province etc. Contemplating on these twelve reflections eliminate these hurdles /barriers of discrimination and reduce tensions thereof. Hence it is clear that human rights as discussed today had been a part of Indian culture and specially of Jain religion since several millennia. The first and foremost duty of every one according to Jain religion is welfare of the soul as said below;

Kalā bahattar purūṣa kī, jāṁeṁ doya sardār
Ek jīva kī jīvikā, dūjā ātmoddhār

Welfare of the self /soul is only human welfare and human rights only point towards human welfare. Rights of each human beings are natural, eternal with incidentally get bonded with him/her at the time of birth. Duties are also associated with human rights so that the freedom and rights of other human beings are not jeopardized.

It becomes the responsibility of a welfare state to ensure that it is answerable to everyone concerning their rights. Good governance is that realization which ensures effective implementation of human rights.

The above description about Ahiṁsā is abundantly available in Prākṛit, Hindi and Sanskṛt literature and even in literature of other languages. These have been described in different scriptures. Besides, a number of preceptors and scholars have written easy, crisp and detailed commentaries on Ahiṁsā. It is worthy of being practiced and followed. Qualities of the soul are existent in all living beings. They need to be invoked. All persons know everything but they are not able to implement their knowledge which is due to lack of spiritual teachers. As chairman of Human rights Commission first in Himāchal Pradeś and now in Rājasthān, I saw that most of the people do not work with a sense of duty and dedication. There can be many reasons for this situation. But this is also a hard fact that if the officers of different government departments work with full responsibility in the existing circumstances accompanied by citizens behaving with others in a manner they want to be treated themselves, then the human rights will not be suppressed. Along with this we can rejuvenate our ancient and worthy to be followed Indian culture for the welfare of all. Hence his is my humble effort and contribution to compile the doctrine of Ahiṁsā in various religions of India. It is also a truth that every Indian with his constructive thinking, self knowledge and efforts should understand the doctrine of Ahiṁsā and practice the same in their daily life along with the knowledge of their rights and duties.

All religions have adopted Ahiṁsā in one form or the other. Ahiṁsā is a thing not just for discussions and writing in the books but for practice in our daily life. Ahiṁsā is an important pillar of Indian culture. Ahiṁsā is a search for truth and a universal law. It is essential for a better society to ensure that rights of its members are protected. Every citizen should be enthused for the unity, integration of India. Along with the government every citizen should be dedicated and concerned about right thinking and concerned about protection of every body’s rights and duties and implement the same. I expect that every citizen shall behave according to is own intellect, feeling of co-existence and co-operation perform his duties; treat others as he will like to be treated by others. Mutual conflicts and aversions, Intolerance, respect for religious beliefs of others, their thoughts if seen with anguish generate confrontation and mutual distrust. Hence, keeping Anekant doctrine which is called right belief or vision in mind, positive thinking and observing Ahiṁsā in thoughts and actions, one can stop suppression of human rights for self and others. Ahiṁsā is the supreme good conduct which results in purification of one’s soul also. Ahiṁsā encourages its practitioners to adopt a path leading to happiness by practicing forgiveness, compassion, friendship, tolerance and humility. Practicing Ahiṁsā automatically results in protection and implementation of human rights and the well known saying ‘Ahiṁsā parmo dharma’ becomes a reality.

Today December 10th i.e. International Human Rights Day, I pray that truth and good which is not only mine but of everyone prevails resulting in the welfare of all. Every one should achieve peace, harmony, happiness, healthy and disease free life so that the country can become prosperous and its citizens lead a happy and healthy life.

Jai Jinendra and Jai Hind.
Dated 10th December 2006.


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Translated from Hindi to English by:

  • Shri S.C. Jain, Director, International Summer School for Jain Studies, New Delhi - 110017
  • Dr. P. C. Jain, Director, Centre for Jain Studies, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur;
  • Prof S. P. Jain Principle, Retd., D-2, Raman Marg, Tilak Nagar, Jaipur- 302 004
  • Smt. Saroj Jain, Retd. Prof. Bio-Chemistry, Medical Collage, 32, Surendra Pal Colony, Shyam Nagar, Jaipur

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          Page glossary
          Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
          1. Ahiṁsā
          2. Ahmedabad
          3. Anekant
          4. Anekānta
          5. Anger
          6. Anādi
          7. Avasarpiṇī
          8. Bandhan
          9. Bhadra
          10. Bhāva
          11. Bhāvanā
          12. Bhāṣya
          13. Body
          14. Brain
          15. Buddha
          16. Buddhism
          17. Candra
          18. Celibacy
          19. Cintā
          20. Consciousness
          21. Contemplation
          22. Dasvaikalika Sutra
          23. Deceit
          24. Delhi
          25. Deva
          26. Dharm
          27. Dharma
          28. Discipline
          29. Dveṣ
          30. Environment
          31. Equanimity
          32. Fear
          33. Fearlessness
          34. Greed
          35. Hinduism
          36. Human Rights Day
          37. International Summer School for Jain Studies
          38. Jain Philosophy
          39. Jainism
          40. Jaipur
          41. Jina
          42. Jinendra
          43. Jiva
          44. Jīva
          45. Kalpa
          46. Karma
          47. Karmabhūmi
          48. Karuṇā
          49. Kerala
          50. Loka
          51. Mahavratas
          52. Mahāvrata
          53. Mahāvratas
          54. Mahāvīra
          55. Manu
          56. Meditation
          57. Muni
          58. New Delhi
          59. Nirjarā
          60. Nitya
          61. Omniscient
          62. Paramātmā
          63. Pañcāstikāya
          64. Pride
          65. Prākṛt
          66. Punjab
          67. Pāpa
          68. Rajasthan
          69. Rāg
          70. Rājasthān
          71. S.C. Jain
          72. Samatā
          73. Samiti
          74. Sarva
          75. Sarvodaya
          76. Satya
          77. Saṁsāra
          78. Siddhi
          79. Soul
          80. Sukh
          81. Surendra Pal
          82. Sutra
          83. Svādhyāya
          84. Syādvāda
          85. Sūtra
          86. Tattvārthasūtra
          87. Tilak
          88. Time Cycle
          89. Tolerance
          90. Tīrthaṅkara
          91. Utsarpiṇī
          92. Vastutva
          93. Violence
          94. Virodhi
          95. Vrata
          96. Ācāranga
          97. Ācārya
          98. Ācārāṅga
          99. Śānti
          100. śramaṇa
          101. Ṛṣabha
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