Non-Violence - A Commentary

edited by
Dr. H.C. Bharill

Lesson 7


Acharya Amritchandra is second only to Kundkundacharya in the galaxy of spiritual saints. It is a matter of regret that we do not know much about this great Acharya of about the 12th century, except whatever is known from his writings.

Always unconcerned with fame and other worldly aspirations, Acharya Amritchandra, after writing great treatises, says:-

"Words were formed with letters, sentences with words, and sentences gave rise to this holy scripture. I have done nothing." The same feeling has been expressed in Tattvarthasar.

Pandit Ashadharji has called him Thakur, which shows that he must have been connected with some high Kshatriya family.

He has complete mastery over Sanskrit language. Both in his prose and poetry, language flows according to feelings, and is simple, easily comprehensible and sweet. He was always engrossed in spiritual thinking. Consequently, all his creations are full of spiritualism of a high order.

All his works are in Sanskrit. He wrote prose and poetry both. Among his prose writings are his commentaries on the great works of Kundkund :

  1. Samaysar Tika-known as Atmakhyati'.
  2. Pravachansar Tika-known as 'Tatparya Dipika'.
  3. Panchastikay Tika-known as Samay Vyakhya'.
  4. Tattvarthasar-Poetic translation of prose sutras of Umaswami.
  5. Purusharthasiddhiupaya-An original work on the life of a householder. The nature of violence and non-violence has been very clearly depicted in this work.

The resent essay is based on his Purusharthasiddhiupaya.


"Non-Violence is the greatest religion" is a common saying of the age. It is an established truth that non-violence is the greatest religion. But the question is what non-violence is ?

Whenever there is a talk of violence and non-violence, we always think of killing or torturing or saving living beings, thus, relating violence and non-violence to others only. Most people believe that Ahimsa (non-violence) is not only killing or harming others. Very few people understand that these are also related to the self. Even these regard violence of the self as suicide by poisoning etc. Nobody tries to understand the innermost meaning of these two. Very few people know that rise of attachment and aversion in the inner self is also violence. It is on account of this that Acharya Amritchandra has given importance to the inner sight, while giving definitions of violence and non-violence :

"Rise of attachment, aversion and delusion is violence and their elimination is non-violence.'

As such he emphatically declares that telling lies, theft, indulging in sensual joys and accumulation of wealth and belongings, since they arise out of attachments, aversions and delusions, are all violence.

Telling lies and theft etc. are all violence, because they destroy the pure feelings of the soul. Their division is meant only to give knowledge about them to the students.

Those, who conduct themselves according to the tenets of religion, do not commit violence merely on account of causing pain to others, since they are not actuated by feelings of attachments and aversions, and those who are careless about the tenets are guilty of violence, irrespective of the fact whether living creatures die or not, because they indulge in different passions and thus kill their souls. They are great sinners, since they are self-killers.

Critics can say a when is not related to the killing or not-killing others, why should we try to keep away from deeds of violence ? We should only keep our feelings pure. The Acharya replies :-

It is true that other beings and objects are not causes of violence. Still then for the purity of our feelings we should not indulge in accumulation of wealth and other sins that are occasioned by violence.

It is not true that external violence, that is, to torture or cause pain to others is not violence. It is violence, since it is due to recklessness of our being. We do not pay attention to the mental violence that is committed in the inner self and regard physical harm alone as violence. Here our attention has been drawn to the psychic violence that is caused by passions like attachments. Those who do not renounce even external violence cannot understand psychic violence.

It is, therefore, very necessary for mental purity that we should renounce uneatables, eating during night time, the use of wine, meat, honey, and five kinds of fruit, which contain moving living creatures in them, because their consumption means the slaughter of countless moving living creatures and rise of cruelty in our feelings. Persons of non-violent conduct having soft passions do not indulge in such irresponsible activities.

Violence is of two kinds : (1) Material violence (2) Psychic violence.

We easily understand that material violence is killing or torturing living beings, and psychic violence is the desire or mental preparation to commit such violence; but we do not understand that intention to save the life of others is also not real non-violence, because that is also attachment.

In fact, the emergence of attachment of whatever kind in the mind, is Violence, because it leads to bondage. When Acharya Amritchandra included feelings of attachment in violence, it is not possible that he did not have an idea of their connotation i.e. auspicious and inauspicious attachments both.

Acharya Amritchandra has given a true and the best definition of non-violence. All attachments etc. of whatever nature are violence. If they have somewhere been described as non-violence, that is conventional exposition of facts.

Critics can say that such, non-violence, can only be followed by the monks and as such it concerns them alone; feelings of kindness in saving the lives of others is real non-violence of the householder. Acharya Amritchandra has taken up this matter and established that non-violence is not of two kinds. There can be two stages of imbibing non-violence in life, but violence shall always remain violence. If the householder cannot abjure violence altogether, he may abjure part thereof, but that which he cannot abjure cannot be regarded as non-violence. If we cannot abjure violence completely we should abstain from partial violence. If we cannot do even that, we should, at least, abstain from regarding and calling violence as something religious. Auspicious activities, because they are attachments, are included in violence and it is not correct to treat them as religion.

Rise of attachments, aversions, and delusions in ourselves is violence and to treat them as religion is the greatest violence, and absence of these is non-violence and not to regard these attachments and aversions etc. as religion is the real understanding of non-violence.

A possible question is - vicious attachments are violence, but why regard virtuous attachments as violence ? The fact is that when attachment is violence, how can virtuous attachments be treated as non-violence ? It is also a kind of attachment. Of course, virtuous attachments are mild violence and vicious attachments are strong violence. If we cannot abjure violence altogether, we should mitigate it. The lesser are our attachments, the better it is for us, but their presence cannot be treated as religion. Religion is complete absence of attachment, aversions and delusions and that is non-violence, which has been hailed as the greatest religion.