Ahimsa – the ultimate winner
This book brings together Major Presentations and Key Note Speeches made by me over the last 12 years on the all-important and increasingly relevant and topical theme of peace through non-violence at historic international conferences, conventions and symposia. The speeches have been duly edited, updated and where necessary elaborated to be readable in a book form.
The common theme running through all my presentations and essays is the need to create awareness and confidence about non-violence as a potent instrument for ushering in durable peace as well as to promote its widest possible practice at individual and collective levels.
All through history, it has been witnessed that violence cannot be eradicated by violence; on the contrary it has served to aggravate it. Humanity needs to develop the mindset that AHIMSA alone can be the ultimate saviour of this strife-torn, terror-targeted and environmentally polluted world of ours.
Jain approach to this vital issue has been analyzed and elaborated in some details since Jain religion stands out as the only religion which from very ancient pre-Vedic times enshrined non-violence to the highest pedestal for moulding peaceful and compassionate thoughts, expressions and actions not only at the level of individuals, but also of societies.
With world-wide unbridled violence and mounting terrorism becoming an issue of acute concern, unpalatable shock, anxiety and fear, it is clear that no resolutions of the U.N. or declarations of Summit Conferences on the one hand, and military action on the other will be able to tackle or cope with the crisis. Time has come to assert the courage of non-violence and to reinforce by spiritual and philosophical underpinning the global efforts to fight and overcome violence and terrorism. One cannot defeat or totally annihilate the forces of evil; one has to eventually win them over.
It is here that Jain teachings assume considerable contemporary relevance not as a religious doctrine or sectarian discipline for the followers of the faith, but as a way of life for the wider human community. It has been my constant effort to project Jain religion as a dynamic and open religion of peace, of environment and of non-violence.
It is highly gratifying that my book was first released at the Ahimsa Varsh Celebrations held in New York (USA) is April, 2002 under the auspices of the renowned Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. That this has happened during the 2600th Janm Kalyanak celebrations of Bhagwan Mahavir is for me a coincidence of great honour, encouragement and motivation.
This is all the more so because having been a career diplomat in Indian Foreign Service (I.F.S.) for four decades, and having served as India’s Ambassador to U.N., European Union (E.U.) Nepal, Mexico and Belgium, after retirement I felt the urge and the inspiration to become an Ambassador for Non-violence and Peace and to project the compassionate philosophy of Jainism for adoption by the world at large in order to bid farewell to the cult of violence which threatens to terrorize us all out of our very existence.
Time has come to think earnestly and seriously of our collective future-future together with a new spirit of fraternity among all human beings, future together with all living beings and the Mother Earth in peaceful interdependence. We must not let the astounding progress made in science and technology to be misused for spreading destruction and misery and for destroying our civilizational values.
I was delighted to have the privilege of addressing the 1993 Parliament of World’s Religions at Chicago (USA), which took place after an interval of 100 years and again the 1999 Parliament of Religions at Cape Town (South Africa). Both the occasions provided the largest ever forum of over 7000 representatives of all religions, faiths and spiritual persuasions. Happily, I was included as a member of the drafting committee for the “Declaration on Global Ethic” at the 1993 Parliament and was elected as a member of the Spiritual Assembly of the Parliament. Thanks to the efforts of the Jain group, the Declaration on Global Ethic recognized “non-violence as an irrevocable doctrine”.
I attended the 1992 U.N. Earth Summit of Heads of States and Governments at Rio de Janiero, Brazil as one of the 60 distinguished invitees from public life from all over the world. Earlier during my tenure as India’s Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative to the U.N., I had been closely associated with the First Environment Summit of Heads of States and Governments at Stockholm in my capacity as Vice-Chairman of the U.N. Preparatory Committee for the Summit. I had the honour to present to the U.N. Earth Summit the Earth Declaration Charter adopted by the Sacred Earth Gathering, which had met a few days before in Rio de Janiero, in which spiritual leaders from different faiths had participated. While in Rio, I also addressed Parliamentary Earth Summit convened by the Global Forum of Parliamentarians and Spiritual leaders. In August 2000 I was invited to participate in and speak at the Millennium Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual leaders at The United Nations in New York.
My most delightful experience in the last one decade has been my close and constant association with the Jain community all over the world. J.A.I.N.A. in USA and Canada, Institute of Jainology in U.K. and leading Jain associations in London, Singapore, Hong Kong, Nairobi and elsewhere have been doing a magnificent job of mobilizing the efforts and the support of Jains settled abroad for not only encouraging religious devotion, fervour and faith particularly among the youth, but also and more significantly becoming the torch-bearers of the compassionate Jain philosophy for the benefit of the wider strata of human community. Indeed the tremendous progress achieved in popularizing vegetarianism outside India in recent decades has been to a considerable extent due to the pioneering efforts of Jains abroad.
Jainism stands at crossroads of history. All along since its birth, it was largely confined to India, and did not spread outside Indian shores. Beginning with the 20th century, more and more Jains have settled abroad and have built up the momentum that has greatly contributed to the increasing global spread and global impact of Jainism all over the world.
The Jain spiritual leaders who stand out for their distinguished contribution towards institutionalizing Jainism’s global spread and impact are Gurudev Chitrabhanu and Acharya Sushil Kumarji Maharaj, Chitrabhanuji has established numerous and for years actively functioning Jain Yoga and meditation centre all over USA, Europe and Africa, and has rendered yeomen service to propagating vegetarianism as well as Jain way of ethical life. Acharya Sushil Kumarji became the eloquent champion for initiating a global movement for Non-violence, with the foundation of which I was also closely associated while we were together for the U.N. Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Credit goes to Acharya Sushil Kumarji also for establishing the first ever Jain pilgrimage centre at Siddhachalam in New Jersey (NJ) in USA where all sects and traditions of Jain religion worship under one roof as per respective rituals. This has set a very desirable precedent. Thereafter a number of Jain temples that have come up in different cities of USA are composite in nature- thereby emphasizing the basic unity of the Jain faith.
In recent times Acharya Tulsi and his highly perceptive and enlightened successor, Acharya Mahapragyaji have broadened the horizons of Jain philosophy. Transcending narrow religious divides, they have sought to arouse awareness among people of all religious persuasions about the need to work for steady growth of ethical values in the society and to grasp the true spirit of Ahimsa by practicing compassion, tolerance and cooperative togetherness.
Despite stay abroad for four decades in a hectic diplomatic life, if my interest in religion, philosophy and spiritualism has not flagged, but consistently grown, the credit goes to the highly motivational and deeply rooted religious and cultural upbringing I received from my father Pannalalji and mother Fateh Devi I also owe a lot to the steadfast spiritual, strength and courage displayed by my wife Rani despite exposure to variegated political, social and cultural environment during my long diplomatic career which took us to different continents, climates, cultures and civilizations of the world. In particular it was a difficult but at all times fascinating and rewarding experience to stay vegetarian despite many constraints. We cherish happy memories of many incidents, which strengthened our resolve to stay vegetarian, some of which have been narrated in some chapters of this book.
As never before Jain Community stands face to face with a challenge as well as an opportunity. The need of the hour is to forge stronger bonds of unity and harmony among different sects and traditions of Jain religion in order to present a unified and cohesive picture of Jain philosophy to Indian as well as global community.
This book is an endeavour in this direction and if it inspires Jain community abroad and in India to actively takes up the task of interpreting the compassionate. Jain philosophy in terms of its wider and beneficial applicability to humanity and the universe, I would feel amply rewarded.
The first edition of this book was published by Kund Kund Jnanapitha, a well-known Jain Research Institution at Indore in Madhya Pradesh (India). I was delighted that it was very well received in India and abroad. I feel greatly honoured that the updated, enlarged and revised edition has now been sponsored by the renowned Prakrit Bharati Academy, Jaipur. I am grateful to Shri D.R. Mehta, Chairman for his gracious offer, which would facilitate my book reaching a much wider circle of interested readers and thinkers.
The most crucial question confronting humanity today is how to surmount the vicious spread of violence, terrorism and non-peace, which has invaded the entire spectrum of universal life. The answer is a determined effort to establish the culture and practice of peace through non-violence at all layers of life and all segments of human endeavour. Jain philosophy provides the ethical content, thrust and direction which if followed would ensure that Ahimsa would be the ultimate winner.
I am dedicating this book to the generation of my grandchildren: Nayantara, Shantanu and Sameer. What we sow now, they will reap. Let us, therefore, for the sake of coming generations sow the seed of Ahimsa as a way of life.
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