Ahimsa – the ultimate winner





[Major Presentation at the Parliament of World’s Regions, Chicago, August-September, 1993]

The Parliament of world Religion is an unparalleled event of this century. It is an honour and privilege to participate in it as a major presenter from India representing “The Jains.”

The world today needs underpinning of faith to the thoughts and activities of human beings. Noble Laureate Post Rabindranaath Tagore described faith as:

A bird that feels the light and
Sings while the dawn is still dark.”

The eyes of the world are upon us. Inter-faith unity of purpose and action forged here at Chicago could help to bring the light of spiritual consciousness while humanity might still be groping in the darkness of despair, ignorance and confusion.

Let us rekindle the torch that was lit in 1893 and put spiritual resurgence on the top of the global human agenda in order to tackle in a purposive manner the crisis points in several fields of human endeavour.

Vincent Van Gogh, the renowned artist once remarked: “I have a terrible need -shall I say the word? ————— Of religion. Then I go out at night and paint the stars.”

There is a world – wide crisis of spirit. Materialism has proliferated extensively. We are about to step into the 21st century with advanced and sophisticated technology servicing vast and varied comforts for the humanity.

And yet standing at the summit of material prosperity, human beings are lost and confused, rootless and rudderless. Is this what life is all about? The body is flourishing, but the soul is barren. There is something missing. It is the spiritual orientation in its wholesome dimension. The materially prosperous world is in danger of becoming a spiritual slum.

The late Swami Chinmayananda observed once:

Happiness dwells not in the outward charms of materialism. Real happiness abides in the core of your spiritual personality one ought to discern the bliss within the key to inner happiness is in spiritual upsurge.”

World religions command large following. However, spiritual rejuvenation is the crying need of our times to reform our religious attitudes, habits and perceptions, which have grown in a climate of ritual, dogma, blind belief, conservative orthodoxy, bigotry and parasitic fanaticism. Lulled by materialistic comforts, human have let ritual be mistaken for religion and bigotry for faith. Non-essentials of religion are highlighted at the vital expense of essentials. Religious fundamentalism devoid of the basic virtue of tolerance and compassion has given a wrong direction to the very nobility and sublimity of religious instinct and faith.

In many ways we have gone a long way already towards committing spiritual suicide, while we may revel in our intellectual and scientific achievements.”

Away from mumbo-jumbo, we need to restore the rational approach to religion for spiritual resurgence. Jain religion espouses that our actions, thoughts and expressions should flow and be inspired from the three principles of:

Samyak Darshan (Rational perception)

Samyak Gina (Rational knowledge)

Samyak Charitra (Rational conduct)

From times immemorial Indian philosophy has sought happiness in looking beyond the earthly mundane existence towards the life giving, sustaining and destroying cosmic phenomenon which in itself has been evolving in the vastness of space and the immensity of time. God has been visualized as a trinity – the creator, the preserver and the destroyer. In the creation, earth is but a tiny place drifting in the cosmic ocean of billions of galaxies and trillions of stars.

Spirituality arouses human consciousness on a higher, wider and ever-enduring perspective of continuity in the midst of ongoing change. It links human effort, achievement and aspirations to the eventual purpose of the transitory passage of human beings in this universe.

Indian philosophy regards happiness as not mere sensual pleasures, emotional joys or intellectual delight. All these are transient joys. Enduring happiness reveals itself in the discovery of the self. In essence, the goal of all religions is the same – to unveil your real self and to draw out the divinity in you.

The message of Upanishads is not to get lost in the glamour and splendour of material comforts but to search for the attainment of enduring bliss:

From the unreal
Lead me to the real
From darkness
Lead me to light
From death
Lead me to immortality”


Jain scriptures say that there is no external agency to guide you in your life and life beyond this life. Your soul is your guide and the example to follow is of those human beings who achieved enlightenment through self effort and control The enlightened ones have removed from their minds all afflicting emotions and mental barriers, acquired all the qualities of wisdom and compassion, grasped the nature of the whole universe, and who have become pure, all accomplished and perfect beyond all differences and dualities, beyond all pleasure and pain.

The need of our times is to rehabilitate our impoverished soul; to rejuvenate it with divine inspiration and to make it recover its strength and power. Bhagvat Gita reminds humanity of the power of the self:

The self is indivisible
It is extremely subtle
Without parts, and infinite
That is why no sword can cut it
No fire can burn it,
Water cannot make it wet
And wind cannot dry it.

The universe is so ancient and so vast that in contrast human affairs may seem of little consequence. Absorbed in day-to-day bread and butter existence, humans are lulled into thinking that what seems remote is irrelevant to every day concerns. Carl Sagan, the famous American scientist observes:

Science has found not only that universe has a reeling and ecstatic grandeur, but also that we are, in a very real and profound sense, a part of that cosmos, born from it, our fate deeply connected with it. The most basic human events and the most trivial trace back to the universe and its origins. In the last few millennia, we have made the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries about the universe and our place in it. They remind us that humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a joy, that knowledge is prerequisite to survival.’

This knowledge has to be backed by faith to strengthen the indivisible self. Knowledge educates and enlightens human beings. But knowledge is a treasure house to be drawn upon not merely to put science and ingenuity for more and more creature comforts, but also to grasp the divine spirit within us and circulating in the cosmic universe, what all religions call ‘godliness’.

Johannes Kepler wrote in “Mysterium Cosmographicum”:

We do not ask for what useful purpose the birds do sing, for song is their pleasure since they were created for singing. Similarly, we ought not to ask why the human mind troubles to fathom the secrets of the heavens – The diversity of the phenomenon of nature is so great, and the treasures hidden in the heavens so rich, precisely in order that the human mind shall never be lacking in fresh nourishment.

Scientists have established that when human beings first evolved on Earth, it was already 4.6 billion years old. But humans came as a very vital element. Our intelligence and technological prowess enabled us to harness the nature in a wide variety of ingenious and successful ways.

With such power at our command, why should the humankind become ignorant or complacent in the realm of the spiritual and the cosmic phenomenon – with which it has incessantly struggled with tremendous success and élan? If humans can reach the moon – it is not to be seen only as a material achievement of an earthly being. Rather it is the achievement of humans in the wonderland of cosmic universe, which lends constant strength, power and inspiration to their souls. Spiritual prosperity is in the backdrop of the total cosmic scenario and not in the backyard of your house, corner of your street or the doors of a temple or a church.

Indian religions believe in reincarnation and the ongoing cycle of birth and death on this Earth. That provides a measure of continuous existence in which the binding factor is the ‘soul’ while the body in varying forms of existence such as an insect, animal or human perishes.

Immortality of the soul is the spiritual inspiration for any given existence on earth at any point of time or form, in any condition of material prosperity or poverty. That is why one finds a tremendous serenity on the faces of the poorest of the poor, and tension lives on the faces of the richest of the rich.

Ovid has pointed out in his immortal work “Metamorphoses” that God has given an uplifted face only to Man and bade him stand erect and turn his eyes to heaven, while all other animals were prone to fix their gaze upon the Earth.

It will be wrong and misleading to run down material progress. It has been an epoch-making achievement of humanity with the aid of science, reason and logic. Beginning with primitive tools and going onto the birth of the wheel, humans have not looked back. Industrial revolution has made continuous strides reinforced by revolution in communications Humans have conquered distances and the world is fast becoming a global village. The creature comforts created by material progress have made life progressively more and more comfortable and enjoyable.

Resurgence of spirituality does not call for cancellation of material pleasures, but only the excess and abuses of them, which distract the human beings from the rational and righteous path.

The virtue of simplicity will be wrongly defined if it condemns material progress, if it advocates denial of the use of benefits of science – which make for better and more comfortable living, greater mobility and access, economy in use of time and conservation of human energy.

It is the weakness of human beings that while materialism has ushered in unparalleled prosperity it has not been evenly distributed. 25% of world population living in highly developed countries of North enjoys 83% of world income, 70% of world’s energy resources, 85% of wood, 75% of metals and 60% of fuel. North and South divide is reflected in the rate of growth in the North being 2.7 times greater than in the South.

Man’s lust of power and blind capricious ambition has diverted science for producing weapons of mass annihilation. Today the turnover of military and drug industries alone of about US$ 1.8 trillion per year is three times the money spent on controlling of population and eradicating poverty. In a world where the science of health and medicine has made remarkable progress, 35000 children under the age of five die everyday due to malnutrition in India. In a world where millions can’t go to schools and are deprived of paper and stationary, 50% of paper in USA is used solely for packing purposes.

One can go on with innumerable such examples that arise from ill or abusive use of science and materialism, of the absence of equity in human dealings, of exploitation. All these point out to the weakened ethical fiber and spiritual void.

Even a celebrated scientist like Albert Einstein persuaded through his famous letter to President Franklin Roosevelt that United States should take the idea of producing nuclear Bomb seriously – as a counter to the fear that German Scientists under Nazi rule might build a nuclear bomb. But later it was Einstein himself who engaged in post war efforts to prevent nuclear war. Thus, sometimes-leading men and women can get distracted and it is arousal of spiritual consciousness that brings them back to the right equation.

Communism heralded socialist ideology promising equity and equality to all, elimination of exploitation and emergence of a classless society. And yet it vanished within half century because it did not have an underpinning of spiritual dimension. It became a God – Less society, which made it inspirationally barren and dry though on the face of it just and fair. The ends and means bore no equation with one another and communism took the form of totalitarianism because of wrong means.

The ends and means are best reconciled in the spiritual and philosophical backdrop and not within the confines of any materialistic ideology – even if it is socialistic. Arthur Koestler has quoted Ferdinand LaSalle pertinently in the famous world classic on communism “Darkness at Noon”:

Show us not the aim without the way.
For ends and means on earth are so entangled
That changing one, you change the other too;
Each different path brings other ends in view”

The colonial exploitation of far away territories and people has now given way to global interdependences between nations of North and south. Weary of wars and conflicts and ideological divides; humanity is looking for durable peace and understanding.

Human kind has been caught up in the illusory web of materialistic pattern of life. Human beings feel rich or poor almost entirely by monetary standards. Money has entered our soul and has crushed it; money has entered our thoughts and has corrupted them. Life has been reduced to a comic tragedy.


Science and spirituality need to go together, while materialism surges ahead and nothing wrong with that. It will be a vastly richer human being if it is accompanied by spiritual resurgence, which will strengthen the moral and ethical fiber in our thought and conduct and give to our intellect the underpinning of rationality.

It needs to be realized that religion and spirituality are not anti – material prosperity. In fact every religion expounds laws of practical living to maximize efficiency, productivity and prosperity!

Both Jain and Vedanta philosophies maintain that religion makes a human internally more self-sufficient, strong and blissful and this does not run counter to simultaneous greater material well being, so long as the culture of non- attachment and non-possessiveness guides the life style.has crushed it; money has entered our thoughts and has corrupted them. Life has been reduced to a comic tragedy.

Unending struggle for satisfaction of limitless and ever multiplying wants has made humans the most discontented species inhabiting the Earth. The irony of it all is that even in oasis environment of opulence and plenty, there is the undercurrent of pain and suffering.

It is necessary to break and rise above the vicious circle of mutually exploitative life bereft of not just justice, equity and equality but also of morality and ethics. Our values of life stand vitiated and ethos of culture devalued. In this dismal scenario, the message of Jesus Christ is worth recalling:

Get thee behind me, Satan,
I will have nothing from thy hands.”

Spiritualism and materialism thus go hand in hand in judicious balance and adjustment. In fact with this combination, one gets to achieve fulfillment in life on a deeply satisfying note. Vigorous activity helps to get rid of inertia and to acquire dynamic momentum towards self-development.

This thought has a message for spiritual thinkers assembled at this historic parliament of world religions. If they wish to actively lead the humanity towards spiritual resurgence, they should enter the field of social reforms and transformation, moral rearmament and environmental conservation.

The monks and saints of the world must come out of seclusion in churches, temples, mosques and gurudwaras to the people to remove their suffering, rehabilitate the needy and make religion a tonic to the society.

We have seen the World Red cross functioning for many years. Last year, at the U.N. Earth summit in June 1992, a World Green Cross war was established to save the environment.

At this Parliament, we should establish a World Saint Brigade, which will through active field service awaken among people the spirit of compassion in action, equanimity in behavior and friendliness in dealing with fellow living creatures.

Mahatma Gandhi showed the way in India by serving the untouchables and called them “children of God” (Harijan). Albert Schweitzer did yeomen service to the needy in Africa. Mother Teresa’s monumental service to humanity has made her a legend in her own lifetime.

There is so much spiritually inspired work to be done in conflict areas; riot hit localities, flooded or drought stricken villages and towns, disease-prone areas and many similar service areas where lead taken by saints and monks would be widely emulated.

Mahatma Gandhi used to recite the following Vedic prayer at his daily prayer meetings:

Not for any kingdom do I long
Not even for the kingdom of heaven
Not even for freedom from the endless cycle of birth and death
For one and only one thing do I long
To free living beings
From their agony and pain
To wipe away their tears.”

It is time to focus on the most common denominator of all religions to promote tolerance and compassion, kindness and cooperation, amity and understanding, peace and harmony. The starting point of the spiritual resurgence is the translation of the Jain Principle of “live and let live” in our thoughts, actions and expression.

Change from the habit of violence to a commitment to Non-violence is the key to spiritual prosperity. Non-violence is an important spiritual discipline as well as a rational way of behavior. Jain Tirthankar Mahavir said 2500 years ago in his discourse on Jain philosophy:

There is nothing so small and subtle as the atom or any element as vast as space. Similarly, there is no virtue of spirit greater than reverence for life.”

In order to bring about spiritual resurgence, widespread spiritual education is necessary, as it will strengthen intellect, reasoning and rationality. The course of spiritual education is similar to the process of making curd out of milk.

The aim of spiritual education is to grow multifold from physical to emotional personality, from emotional and intellectual to ultimately absorb the core of spirituality.

Spiritual education is not mere reading of religious texts, reciting from Holy Scriptures or participating in discourses. It is in active day to day life while performing one’s earthly duties that one should achieve spiritual awareness and rise above the mundane existence to the higher plateau of self-realization regarding the ultimate purpose of life. It is acquiring this higher and deeper spiritual perspective that is part of one’s steady growth in spiritual education. It comes through not conviction alone, but also practice reflected in day-to-day thoughts and actions. Self-education in this realm is the best education.

The process of spiritual education will be accelerated if we understand the true meaning and coverage of religion in our lives. The learned Swami Ram Tirtha says in a very profound observation:

Religion is which is found in the streets, which is written upon the leaves, which is murmured in the brooks, which is whispered in the winds, which is throbbing in your veins and arteries, a religion which concerns your business and bosom, a religion which you have not to practice by going to a particular church, mosque or temple only, a religion which you have to practice and live in your everyday life.”

Inspiration should be drawn for spiritual education from the life and teachings of great human personalities like Jesus, Moses, Buddha, Mahavir, Ram, and Krishna. They were all human beings of flesh and blood like us. They had access to material comforts. Yet they renounced earthly pleasures attained spiritual enlightenment and became ‘path-leaders’ and ‘torch-bearers’ for the entire humanity. Albert Einstein has rightly observed:

What humanity owes to personalities like Buddha, Moses and Jesus ranks for me higher than all the achievements of the enquiring and constructive mind”?

Spiritual prosperity unlike material prosperity can be far more universally spread as it does not recognize or encourage artificial barriers created by greed, deceit exploitation and injustice. The vastly varying level of material prosperity has, as we have seen, divided the world into rich and poor, affluent TUAL AND HUMAN GLOBAL AGENDA

Bringing spiritual resurgence on global human agenda is a very challenging task. Nothing short of collective efforts of all religions of the world can give it the required momentum. Inter-faith coordination must put this task on top of its action agenda. Spiritual rejuvenation will provide the added dynamism and durable vitality to our efforts to tackle global crisis in environmental, developmental, cultural, social and political arenas.

Erosion of spirit has made humanity immeasurably deprived and disillusioned. Let religion, true to its word meaning, bind us again and relate us to the true and ultimate purpose of our life. Discovery of one’s true divine self, abandoning of the egocentric attitudes, eliminating irrational beliefs and restoring the spiritual health at level of the individual, society and the universe.

and the deprived, luxury-ridden and the downtrodden. Spiritual prosperity is not a substitute for material prosperity. With fine pruning, prudence and restraint, material prosperity can continue to be enjoyed while progressing towards spiritual awakening.

Spiritual resurgence will get the desired momentum if we combine the catalytic forces of the timeless wisdom of the East with the glorious scientific and technological clout of the west to make this planet of our a much happier and safer place to live with stable peace for all of us irrespective of our geographical divide, varying cultural backgrounds, differing historical conditioning, variety of the color of our skin and acquired creed or community affiliations over a wide spectrum.

We need a universal outlook, a comprehensive multi-dimensional vision and a fundamental spirit of tolerance and compassion both at the level of the individual as well as of the community-be it at the national, regional or international levels. Cooperative peaceful coexistence sans hostility, friction, tension or war alone would help humanity initiate a worldwide movement for spiritual resurgence which to recall a Vedic prayer will bring blessings and enduring happiness to all:

O Light divine
May everyone attain?
Awareness of the self
May everyone enjoy all?
Pervading peace
May everyone experience?
The perfection of pure consciousness
May blessing be showered upon all”.


 | Contents |