WHAT IS THE PHILOSOPHY AND PRACTICE OF REVERENCE FOR ALL LIFE

More than twenty-five hundred years ago, Mahavira made a simple yet profound statement, based on the absorption of Non-violence into the fabric of his consciousness.  He realized, “All of life is just like me.  I want to live. So do all souls, all living beings.  The instinct of self-preservation is universal.  Every animate being clings to life and fears death.  Each of us wants to be free from pain.  So let me carry out all of my activities with great care not to be harmful to any living being.”

The philosophy of Non-violence is a living practice.  More than refraining from violence, it is a deep Reverence for All Life.  It starts by cultivating a genuine respect for oneself—one’s consciousness or life force, and for each of its supportive elements—the body, mind and emotions.  We come to realize that our life force is precious and that we are here to respect and reveal its innate wisdom.  It is a process of taking care of both our inner being and the material envelope in which it dwells.  Like a mother nurturing the development of her child, we do what is healthful and helpful for our spiritual growth

Most of us are not used to treating ourselves with gentleness and love. It requires a conscious decision.  The practice of Reverence for All Life begins with a decision not to take any hurtful influence into our body or mind.  This is called samvara, stoppage, or stepping apart from the rat race, discontinuing pain-creating habits, and re-evaluating one’s life.

The automatic and mechanical aspects of living cease to rule us when we activate our faculty of observation and self-inquiry.  We take time to notice the universal law of cause and effect and how it is functioning as a precise computer in our lives.  There is a real connection between the vibration we send our and the pain or pleasure we receive.  When we radiate loving-kindness, joy, and friendliness, that multiplies and comes back to us.  Violent thoughts are as real as the tangible world.  They too, return to us.  When anger, jealousy, or unfulfilled ambitions goad us, the one whom we demage first is our own self.  This is equally true of harsh, slanderous, or critical speech.  It works like a matchstick; before it ignites something else, it burn its own mouth.

Through the practice of self-respect, we recognize that our peace is the most precious thing in the world.   Before hating, judging, or treating anyone as an inferior, we check ourselves.  Before buying or using any product, we ask, “By my action, am I causing any living being to pay a price in pain?  Directly or indirectly, am I causing a life to be lost?”

We take the help of meditation to know and remember that we really are.  In our natural state, our soul is nothing but love, energy, peace, and bliss. Gradually we glide to a peak of realization and joy, exclaiming, “I am life! I am a living conscious energy! I feel my life force moving in all my limbs and awakening all my cells with awareness!”

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At the heart of the experience of self-reverence, we realize that the same energy which  is pulsating in us is also vibrating in all living beings.  When this awareness dawns, we see through a new set of eyes.  We feel an uninterrupted connection from our innermost being to the soul force alive in all.

This experience enables us to recognize, in shree    Chitrabhanu’s words, “that the universe is not for man alone.  It is a field of evolution for all of life’s forms.  Jainism teaches that life is life, not only in people of all lands, colors, and beliefs, but is of the same sacred quality in all creatures, right down to the tiny ant and humble worm.  Consciousness exists in everything  which grows, regardless of the size of its form.  Though different forms are not the same in mental capacity and sensory apparatus, the life force is equally worthy in all.”

From the moment this awareness becomes a par of our daily life, we find that traits and habits  which used to limit us fall away naturally.  We are no longer able to invite pain and disease to our bodies through uninformed eating habits.  The vegetarian way of life becomes a natural outcome of inner understanding.

At the same time, it becomes imperative for our well-being and continued evolution to forgive, drop, and forget those painful vibrations we may still be carrying in our mind.  With courage and compassion, we can remove them.  It is a gradual process.  If we realize that the hurts and scars from the past came to us by our own invitation, we can stop focusing on blaming and retribution.  Once we take responsibility for our own pain, we can transcend it.  We can see its purpose—to act as compost, breaking open the harsh outer shell of our heart and helping the soft flower of compassion and kindness to blossom.

In this way, the trials of life become fuel for our growth, and we come closer to our goal, self, Realization.  As an instrument tuning itself to the right key, we tune ourselves to Reverence for All Life.  By doing everything we can to minimize violence and pain to life, we enjoy living with a cleansed consciousness and a light heart.