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REDEFINING NON-VIOLENCE IN THE 21ST CENTURY With Special Reference to the Jain Religion / Manish Modi

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  • MANISH MODI
    dharmatirthakarebhyostu syadvadibhyo namonamah Rsabhadi-Mahavirantebhyah svatmopalabdhaye REDEFINING NON-VIOLENCE IN THE 21ST CENTURY With Special Reference to
    Message 1 of 3 , Aug 1 12:25 AM
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      dharmatirthakarebhyostu syadvadibhyo namonamah
      Rsabhadi-Mahavirantebhyah svatmopalabdhaye


      REDEFINING NON-VIOLENCE IN THE 21ST CENTURY
      With Special Reference to the Jain Religion
      [Read on 31 December, 2003 at the ICWP Ahmedabad]


      "The Rishis who discovered the law of non-violence were greater
      geniuses than Newton, greater warriors than Wellington.
      Non-violence is the law of our species as violence is the law
      of the brute."1

      Today, with the spread of education, people are willing to give up age-old
      prejudices and biases in the pursuit of spirituality and global peace. They
      want to find true peace. They are no longer willing to accept distortions
      and artifice in the name of religion. They are keen for peace and
      non-violence. If they are logically explained about violence in all its
      forms, they will master the concept of Ahimsa and its meaning, its
      importance and its value.

      All religions of the world teach us that violence is a sin and non-violence
      is a virtue. Nevertheless, despite this common teaching, one cannot claim
      that all religions perceive violence in the same light.

      Scholars of the world who have studied scriptures belonging to different
      religions, covering the past 2500 years, and have considered various codes
      of conduct, histories, and ethical teachings, are of the opinion that, the
      definition of violence and levels of acceptable violence are unique to each
      religion.

      The concept of non-violence in the Vedic era is one in which thousands of
      animals are sacrificed during the yajñas. Vis-à-vis today, there is no
      animal sacrifice made in the yajñas.

      It is difficult to briefly trace the evolution of Ahimsa. Clearly, the
      concept of non-violence occupies an important position in the world's
      theological hierarchy. The ethico-epistemological structure of each religion
      grants a tremendous importance to non-violence. No religion in the world
      teaches violence. Yet, the levels of violence that are acceptable to the
      followers of each religion are very different. This is because the etymology
      and understanding of the word non-violence varies between religions,
      cultures, regions and civilisations.

      What is the Jain perspective on non-violence? What are its recurring motifs,
      and what has been its impact on other religions, mainly Hinduism? One
      response is that of the great scholar Lokmanya Tilak. Tilak states that

      "In ancient times, innumerable animals were butchered in sacrifices.
      Evidence in support of this is found in various poetic compositions
      such as the Meghaduta. But the credit for the disappearance of this
      terrible massacre from the brahminical religion goes to Jainism."2

      First, we ascertain the real meaning of non-violence, differentiating
      between non-killing, non-injury, motiveless violence and premeditated
      violence. To illustrate the Jain position, we will apply the epistemological
      proposition of Anekanta that considers the relativity of Truth or Reality.

      What is Anekanta?

      Anekanta is a system of considering an object in all its modes. Anekanta
      holds that reality is multi-dimensional, dynamic, and operates at different
      levels. Thus, Anekanta is truly a dynamic tool for considering reality,
      which by itself is dynamic.

      How does Anekanta work?

      Equipped with Anekanta, the Jain appreciates reality in all its aspects.
      She or he is equipped to understand other people's viewpoints. This makes
      her or him a better listener, more sympathetic and more receptive to others
      and their viewpoints.

      He or she is willing to consider any phenomena in its entirety. She or he is
      diligent enough to examine all precedents, willing to approach any issue
      with an open mind and unwilling to jump to an instantaneous conclusion.

      Faced with a complex moral question, he or she is willing to consider the
      conundrum in all its aspects. She or he is willing to think for her or
      himself, consider the issue from its various viewpoints. He or she is
      willing to put himself or herself in other people's shoes and see the issue
      from their viewpoints.

      Such a rational and ethical approach is bound to lead to less violence, less
      anger and consequently, less anguish.

      In my humble opinion, there is a direct relationship between anger and
      anguish. The more anger you have, the more anguish you will feel. The less
      anger you have, the less anguished you will experience.

      A sane rational man or woman is not only logical, but also applaudable and
      will find a non-violent solution and hence a lasting peace.

      Only the non-violent settling of problems creates a lasting peace.
      Aggression, belligerence and violence will only beget a temporary truce
      fraught with tension. Reasoned, fair, non-violent and mutually agreed-upon
      solutions always bring a lasting peace, and a peace among equals.

      The relations of India and the United Kingdom have changed. India, the
      former colony, and UK, the former coloniser, have become at peace with
      one another, because the Indian National Movement had been largely an
      exercise in non-violence and self-restraint. If India had gone instead for a
      bloody revolution and indulged in senseless violence, millions of lives
      would have been lost and bad blood would have been created for generations.

      The victors of the First World War imposed a dishonourable defeat and a
      peace among non-equals by mortgaging the human rights and economy of
      the Germans, and consequently, trampling on their self-respect. Two
      decades later, Germany was held responsible for another World War. Had
      the victors of the First World War imposed less rigorous and damaging
      terms on the German people, or created a peace among equals, perhaps
      there may not have been a Second World War!

      The Jain interpretation of non-violence

      Many people, including Jains, mistake vegetarianism for non-violence.
      This perspective is both true and false. It is true, since vegetarianism may
      be viewed as the external manifestation of inner non-violence. However, it
      is false, since, vegetarianism by itself does not convey the essence of
      non-violence.

      How does one define non-violence?

      Non-violence is the external manifestation of confidence, inner purity and
      wholeness.

      A person who is strong, complete and whole from the inside, and confident
      in his or her outlook is most likely to respect the rights of others. She or
      he will not knowingly trample upon another person's rights, nor will she or
      he injure her or his self-respect. He or she will behave at all times with
      dignity and consideration. She or he will consider other people's needs,
      with reason and empathy.

      Someone who is insecure, biased, afraid, and not willing to think for him or
      herself, therefore lacking in self-respect, will never respect another
      person's rights, and will behave in a prejudiced and immoral way.

      What causes prejudices and bigotry? We believe they are caused by
      economic or political conflict, an expression of frustration, conformity to
      existing norms, xenophobia and illusions of purity and racial grandeur: the
      tendency to judge people by categorising them.
      We now examine these causes closely.

      Economic or Political Conflict

      When resources are limited and the means of livelihood is hard to come by,
      we may experience in ourselves a sharp rise in bigotry and regional
      chauvinism. We feel that we must compete for any scare resources. We
      are trying to qualify for a job, gain admission to an educational
      institution, or qualify for a spot on some special team. Yet, we who cannot
      achieve our ambitions can become conflicted and instead, achieve negative
      attitudes towards others.

      An Expression of Frustration and Insecurity

      When we are thwarted, we may express our frustration by speaking poorly
      about specific groups of people, calling the group's or groups' members
      cheats or crooks, or badmouthing the members. When we are insecure, we
      see any setback as an end to our personal hopes and dreams. We feel that
      our lives are shattered and tend to take out our frustration on the people
      who seemingly have defeated us or that people's ethnic group or their
      community. We, whose hopes apparently have been dashed, feel that we
      have been denied what we deserve, and instead of trying to critically review
      our own position, we turn to bigotry. In this confused haze of bigotry, we
      find it nearly impossible to see the truth, unless our inner strength is
      developed which can only come from a rational worldview.

      Conformity to Existing Norms

      One of the most common causes of prejudice and bigotry is conformity to
      existing norms. Since we have inherited bigotry from their families and the
      societies to which they belong, we think meanly or poorly of specific groups
      of people, of specific communities, without thinking of the ramifications of
      this, the bigotry.

      Since Pakistan and India are so often in conflict with each other, many of
      us in India fall prey to thinking ill of Pakistanis. I use myself as an
      example.

      The first time I met a Pakistani, I was willing to hate him on sight.
      However, since we were both working in a country, not native to either of
      us, we were forced to work together as a team. As time went by, we got
      to know each other and we became good friends. This "bloody Pakistani"
      eventually became my closest friend.

      I had previously considered myself a rational person. Yet, I had been
      so undeniably willing to hate another person whom I did not know at all,
      simply because I condemn the policies of the nation of which that person
      was a citizen. I had transferred my hatred for another country into hatred
      towards its citizens.

      Xenophobia and Illusions of Purity and Racial Grandeur: The Tendency
      to Judge People by Categorising Them

      Our tendency, often, is to sort through the world by objectifying others and
      subsequently, categorising them into groups based on race, nationality,
      colour of skin, religion, caste, creed, native language, et cetera. Our
      tendency to judge others, based on the ethnic group, to which they belong,
      is not only misleading, but clearly, WRONG. Simply put, we are all
      different. We are all unique individuals. We think differently, act
      differently, and respond differently because we FEEL differently.

      We are reminded of a few groups in recent years and centuries: The Nazis,
      the Khmer Rouge, many Europeans and Americans. They had illusions of
      racial purity and they felt morally justified to exterminate millions of
      Jews, Cambodians, and Indigenous peoples, respectively, in order to carry
      out `racial cleansing.' As a group, what is our destiny?

      We now consider the Jain texts to see how many ways the term Ahimsa
      or non-violence is interpreted. 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. Svami Kartikeya says:

      "jo vavarei sadao appanasamam param pi mannanto," 3

      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.

      Acarya Samantabhadra describes Ahimsa:

      "Ahimsa bhutanam jagati viditam brahma paramam," 4

      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, characterised 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:

      "Parasparopagraho Jivanam"

      Tattvarthasutra 5:21

      The purpose of souls is to assist each other. One makes the world a
      better, safer and more peaceful place in which to stay.

      By Manish Modi, Mumbai

      References

      1. Rolland, Romain. "Mahatma Gandhi", pg. 48
      2. Tilak, Bal Gangadhar. Letter, Bombay Samachar. Mumbai: 10 Dec, 1904
      3. Kartikeya. "Kartikeyanupreksa". Verse 331 (first half)
      4. Samantabhadra. "Brhatasvayambhustotra". Verse 119 (first half)

      Bibliography

      Amrtacandra. "Purusarthasiddhyupaya". ed. Premi, Nathuram. First ed. 1904.
      Ninth ed. Agas: Shrimad Rajachandra Ashram, 1997

      Divakar, Sumeruchandra. "Jain Shasan". Varanasi: Bharatiya Jñanapitha, 1950

      Dobrin, Arthur. "Religious Ethics: A Sourcebook". Mumbai: Hindi Granth
      Karyalay, 2004

      Dobrin, Arthur. "Ethical People & How They Get To Be That Way". New York:
      Ethical Press, 1998

      Dundas, Paul. "The Jains". London: Routledge, 2002

      Kuhn, Hermann. "The Key to the Centre of the Universe". Mumbai: Shri Jain
      Sanskriti Sanrakshak Sangh, 2003

      Jain, Mahendrakumar. "Jain Darshan". Varanasi: Shri Ganesh Varni Digambar
      Jain Sansthan, 1974

      Rayanade, B. "Jain Philosophy: Religion & Ethics". New Delhi: Bharatiya
      Vidya Prakashan, 2002

      Tatia, Nathmal. "That Which Is". London: HarperCollins, 1994
    • Sudhir M. Shah
      Very nice article Manishbhai. Thank you for sharing it with us. Mahavirswami said Prigraha sevve attai karanti prananum behanum meaning , Parigraha is the
      Message 2 of 3 , Aug 2 8:30 PM
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        Very nice article Manishbhai. Thank you for sharing it with us.
        Mahavirswami said "Prigraha sevve attai karanti prananum behanum" meaning ,
        Parigraha is the root cause of all violence. As long as there is Parigraha,
        non-violence can not be achieved.
        What are your views on the importance of Aparigraha
        (Non-possessiveness/non-attachment) in practicing non-violence?
        Submitted with Respect
        Sudhir M. Shah

        ----- Original Message -----
        From: "MANISH MODI" <manish.modi@...>
        To: <jainlist@yahoogroups.com>; "Yahoogroup Mjvahmedabad"
        <Sent: Monday, August 01, 2005 3:25 AM
        Subject: [JainList] REDEFINING NON-VIOLENCE IN THE 21ST CENTURY With Special
        Reference to the Jain Religion / Manish Modi



        REDEFINING NON-VIOLENCE IN THE 21ST CENTURY
        With Special Reference to the Jain Religion
        [Read on 31 December, 2003 at the ICWP Ahmedabad]


        "The Rishis who discovered the law of non-violence were greater
        geniuses than Newton, greater warriors than Wellington.
        Non-violence is the law of our species as violence is the law
        of the brute."1

        Today, with the spread of education, people are willing to give up age-old
        prejudices and biases in the pursuit of spirituality and global peace. They
        want to find true peace. They are no longer willing to accept distortions
        and
      • Anish Shah
        A nice article indeed. Manishbhai has shown as to how by practicing Jainism one leads a non-violent life in letter and spirit. I also agree with Sudhirbhai
        Message 3 of 3 , Aug 3 1:17 PM
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          A nice article indeed. Manishbhai has shown as to how by practicing Jainism one leads a non-violent life in letter and spirit. I also agree with Sudhirbhai that Ahimsa (Non-violence)and Aparigraha are connected.
           
          It is my humble opinion that all the other four Mahavratas are intrinsically linked to Non-violence. The view is based on the following analysis of the four vows other than Ahimsa :-
           
          1) SATYA or TRUTH - Truth and non violence are interlinked. Any untruth, lie, falsehood or misleading statements are harmful to others. It ultimately results in violence and injury to others. Even a half truth uttered by Yudhishtra on Ashwathama resulted in death of Dronacharya.
           
          2) ACHAURYA or NON STEALING - Theft, Stealing,robbery, misappropriation or the act of taking something from someone unlawfully and forcefully involves direct or indirect violence on the victim.
           
          3) APARIGRAHA or NON POSSESSION - The more you hoard and desire to possess, the more you tend to indulge in violence. The people having mindset of increasing their wealth and status by hook or crook, often trample on others, destroying many in the wake of their ambitions.
           
          4) BHRAMACHARYA or CELIBACY - This is an extension of Apiragraha. Many wars have been fought over women (eg. Mahabharat, Ramayan, Trojan). Passion also results in mental violence. It is also known that sex results in killing of millions of multi sensed beings.
           
          It can be seen that violation or even a minor infringement of any of the other four vows results in violence. Hence the ascetics are required to observe them completely without any exception.
           
          Michhami Dukkadam, if I have said anything wrong.
           
          Regards,
           
          Anish Shah
          ----- Original Message -----
          Sent: Wednesday, August 03, 2005 9:00 AM
          Subject: Re: [JainList] REDEFINING NON-VIOLENCE IN THE 21ST CENTURY With Special Reference to the Jain Religion / Manish Modi

          Very nice article Manishbhai. Thank you for sharing it with us.
          Mahavirswami said "Prigraha sevve attai karanti prananum behanum" meaning ,
          Parigraha is the root cause of all violence. As long as there is Parigraha,
          non-violence can not be achieved.
          What are your views on the importance of Aparigraha
          (Non-possessiveness/non-attachment) in practicing non-violence?
          Submitted with Respect
          Sudhir M. Shah

          ----- Original Message -----
          From: "MANISH MODI" <manish.modi@...>
          To: <jainlist@yahoogroups.com>; "Yahoogroup Mjvahmedabad"
          <Sent: Monday, August 01, 2005 3:25 AM
          Subject: [JainList] REDEFINING NON-VIOLENCE IN THE 21ST CENTURY With Special
          Reference to the Jain Religion / Manish Modi



          REDEFINING NON-VIOLENCE IN THE 21ST CENTURY
          With Special Reference to the Jain Religion
          [Read on 31 December, 2003 at the ICWP Ahmedabad]


             "The Rishis who discovered the law of non-violence were greater
               geniuses than Newton, greater warriors than Wellington.
               Non-violence is the law of our species as violence is the law
               of the brute."1

          Today, with the spread of education, people are willing to give up age-old
          prejudices and biases in the pursuit of spirituality and global peace. They
          want to find true peace. They are no longer willing to accept distortions
          and


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