What is the Jain understanding of Ahimsa or non-violence?
Ahimsa is a profound understanding of all living beings and the feeling of natural compassion towards them. Empathy is key.
Swami Kartikeya says:
"jo vavarei sadao appanasamam param pi mannanto,"
the translation of which is, he or she who behaves with compassion, knows others to be just like him or her self. We, who empathise with all living beings, behave compassionately. We are able to recognise that living beings have aspirations and feelings, and we are able to respect all living beings, including ourselves. We understand that all living beings are different, yet, deeply interconnected. Logic permits us to know that there is no other, and simultaneously, that we are all unique. There is no enemy. Our actions affect all living beings as much as the actions of all living beings affect us. Therefore, we need to ensure that our actions do not restrict the vitality and expression of all living beings and make sure that we do not kill nor injure a living being through tethering, beating, piercing the skin, overloading or withholding food and drink.
Acharya Samantabhadra describes Ahimsa:
"Ahimsa bhutanam jagati viditam brahma paramam,"
Ahimsa is the supreme truth for all human beings in this universe. Ahimsa is the foundation of a virtuous life. Neither the individual nor the society can live in peace and happiness without non-violence. Ahimsa is the key to asceticism. In conclusion, it is claimed that violence, falsehood, avarice, loathing, and so on, are the universal causes of suffering. The perpetrators of such acts cause great harm to themselves and to others.
The first victim of violence is the perpetrator or, our self. We feel the miseries brought about through the karmic influx as a direct result of our acts of violence. To recapitulate, violence only leads to unmitigated suffering.
Jainism is rooted in a reverence for all forms of life, characterized by a non-violence based on a true understanding of reality, and finds strength in forbearance and freedom from worldly desires through ascetic practices. By practicing Jainism in letter and spirit, one respects other people, does not harm them nor injure them, does not lie to them nor steal from them, does not lust after their possessions and wealth, and is impelled by Jainism's teaching of:
The purpose of souls is to assist each other. One makes the world a better, safer and more peaceful place in which to stay.
Special problems that the 21st century has brought in, are terrorism, increased religious fundamentalism, intolerance and an increasing focus on consumerism. The inclusivity approach of Anekantavada can help in these situations.
- Non-Violence means we have to abstain from violence/abuse of living and non-living beings.
- Refrain from violence of living beings.
- Practicing kindness, truth, non-stealing, chastity, humility and poverty will help us become non-violent humans.
- Practicing veganism shall help us control the blatant exploitation of animals that goes on in this world.
And the Jain approach of Aparigraha can help control this headlong race for using up all the material resources in the world. Aparigraha would also lead to a more ecological way of life.
Spirituality and meditation would help allay the increasing violence in our day to day lives that seems to have become a common feature of modern civilization.
Aum Shanti Shanti Shanti