Jainworld
Jain World
Sub-Categories of Passions

THE JAIN DECLARATION ON NATURE

THE JAIN TEACHINGS
JAIN COSMOLOGY
THE JAIN CODE OF CONDUCT

THE JAIN TEACHINGS

 

Author -  Dr. L. M. Singhvi


1. Ahimsa (non‑violence)

The Jain ecological philosophy is virtually synonymous with the principle of ahimsa (non‑violence) which runs through the Jain tradition like a golden thread.

�Ahimsa parmo dharmah� (Non‑violence is the supreme religion).

Mahavira, the 24th and last Tirthankara (Path‑finder) of this era, who lived 2500 years ago in north India, consolidated the basic Jain teachings of peace, harmony and renunciation, taught two centuries earlier by the Tirthankara Parshva, and for thousands of years previously by the 22 other Tirthankaras of this era, beginning with Adinatha Rishabha.  Mahavira threw new light on the perennial quest of the soul with the truth and discipline of ahimsa.  He said:

�There is nothing so small and subtle as the atom nor any element so vast as space. Similarly, there is no quality of soul more subtle than non‑violence and no virtue of spirit greater than reverence for life.�

Ahimsa is a principle that Jains teach and practice not only towards human beings but towards all nature.  It is an unequivocal teaching that is at once ancient and contemporary.

The scriptures tell us:

�All the Arhats (Venerable Ones) of the past, present and future discourse, counsel, proclaim, propound and prescribe thus in unison:

Do not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, insult, torment, torture or kill any creature or living being.�

In this strife‑torn world of hatred and hostilities, aggression and aggrandizement, and of unscrupulous and unbridled exploitation and consumerism, the Jain perspective finds the evil of violence writ large.

The teaching of ahimsa refers not only to wars and visible physical acts of violence but to violence in the hearts and minds of human beings, their lack of concern and compassion for their fellow humans and for the natural world.  Ancient Jain texts explain that violence (Ahimsa) is not defined by actual harm, for this may be unintentional.  It is the intention to harm, the absence of compassion, that makes action violent.  Without violent thought there could be no violent actions.  When violence enters our thoughts, we remember Tirthankara Mahavira�s words:

�You are that which you intend to hit, injure, insult, torment, persecute, torture, enslave or kill.�


2. Parasparopagraho jivanam (interdependence)

Mahavira proclaimed a profound truth for all times to come when he said:

�One who neglects or disregards the existence of earth, air, fire, water and vegetation disregards his own existence which is entwined with them�

Jain cosmology recognizes the fundamental natural phenomenon of symbiosis or mutual dependence, which forms the basis of the modern day science of ecology.  It is relevant to recall that the term `ecology� was coined in the latter half of the nineteenth century from the Greek word oikos, meaning `home�, a place to which one returns.  Ecology is the branch of biology which deals with the relations of organisms to their surroundings and to other organisms.

The ancient Jain scriptural aphorism Parasparopagraho jivanan (All life is bound together by mutual support and interdependence) is refreshingly contemporary in its premise and perspective.  It defines the scope of modern ecology while extending it further to a more spacious �home�.  It means that all aspects of nature belong together and are bound in a physical as well as a metaphysical relationship.  Life is viewed as a gift of togetherness, accommodation and assistance in a universe teeming with interdependent constituents.


3. Anekantavada (the doctrine of manifold aspects)

The concept of universal interdependence underpins the Jain theory of knowledge, known as anekantava or the doctrine of manifold aspects.  Anekantavada describes the world as a multifaceted, everchanging reality with an infinity of viewpoints depending on the time, place, nature and state of the one who is the viewer and that which is viewed.

This leads to the doctrine of syadvada or relativity, which states that truth is relative to different viewpoints (nayas).  What is true from one point of view is open to question from another.  Absolute truth cannot be grasped from any particular viewpoint alone because absolute truth is the sum total of all the different viewpoints that make up the universe.

Because it is rooted in the doctrines of anekantavada and syadvada, Jainism does not look upon the universe from an anthropocentric, ethnocentric or egocentric viewpoint.  It takes into account the viewpoints of other species, other communities and nations and other human beings.


4. Samyaktva (equanimity)

The discipline of non‑violence, the recognition of universal interdependence and the logic of the doctrine of manifold aspects, leads inexorably to the avoidance of dogmatic, intolerant, inflexible, aggressive, harmful and unilateral attitudes towards the world around.  It inspires the personal quest of every Jain for samyaktva (equanimity) towards both jiva (animate beings) and ajiva (inanimate substances and objects).  It encourages an attitude of give and take and of live and let live.  It offers a pragmatic peace plan based, not on the domination of nature, nations or other people, but on an equanimity of mind devoted to the preservation of the balance of the universe.


5. Jiva‑daya (compassion, empathy and charity)

Although the term `ahimsa� is stated in the negative (a=non, himsa=violence), it is rooted in a host of positive aims and actions which have great relevance to contemporary environmental concerns.

Ahimsa is an aspect of daya (compassion, empathy and charity), described by a great Jain teacher as �the beneficent mother of all beings� and �the elixir for those who wander in suffering through the ocean of successive rebirths.�

Jiva‑daya means caring for and sharing with all living beings, tending, protecting and serving them.  It etrails universal friendliness (maitri), universal forgiveness (kshama) and universal fearlessness (abhaya).

Jains, whether monks, nuns or householders, therefore, affirm prayerfully and sincerely, that their heart is filled with forgiveness for all living beings and that they have sought and received the forgiveness of all beings, that they crave the friendship of all beings, that all beings give them their friendship and that there is not the slightest feeling of alienation or enmity in their heart for anyone or anything.  They also pray that forgiveness and friendliness may reign throughout the world and that all living beings may cherish each other.