Ahimsa – the ultimate winner
JAINISM AND THE
CONCEPT OF PROGRESS
Interview given to Millennium Institute, Arlington, VA (USA) on the eve of 1999 Parliament of World’s Religions]
The issue is what is the perspective of Jain religion on the meaning of progress and how it is to be achieved.
Jain Religion considers and recommends progress integrated in a wholesome spiritual and ethical perspective. It is against wasteful living and against limitless pursuit of materialism. Wants and desires need to be limited. The culture of self- restraint alone would guarantee the survival of our universe in the face of exploitative pressures on its resources.
Jain religion is not against scientific or technological progress, but would not like it to be misused for violent purposes, armed conflicts and development of weapons of mass destruction.
The vision offered by Jain religion for the future of the human community and the Earth is for the human beings to lead a life of equanimity, non-violence and to actively pursue peaceful global interdependence with other living beings.
In Jain religion, ‘developed culture’ is one, which provides and stimulates soul awakening and spiritual renaissance in judicious combination with restrained and disciplined material life. Material civilization and culture is transitory. Progress should be soul lifting, humanitarian, compassionate and soul emancipating.
The nobility of human nature can shape human destiny. Jain Religion maintains that in the course of the ongoing cycle of birth and death, incarnation as a human being is at the highest stage. It is thus presumed that to deserve being born as a human being, the soul in its earlier incarnations as bird or beast would have pursued a noble path of good deeds.
Since human beings alone among all other living beings have the talent mix of intellect, ingenuity, perspective and rationality, they should shape their destiny by following the path of Right Perception (Samyak Darshan), Right Knowledge (Samyak Jnana) and Right Conduct (Samyak Charitra). They would, thus not only work for the emancipation of their souls, but for the overall health and well being of mother Earth and fellow living beings.
The philosophical approach of Jainism to progress in terms of overall community welfare and happiness is contained in the following observation of Bhagavan Mahavir as enumerated in Nirgranth Pravachan:
¹æ×ðç× âÃß Áèßæ
âÃßð Áèßæ â×¢Ìé ×ð
ç×žæè ×ð âÃßÖê°âé
ßðÚ¢U ×…Ûæ¢ ‡æ ·ð¤‡æ§ü (z)
I seek forgiveness for all beings
All living beings forgive me
I am friendly to all
And harbour hostility to none
Jain religion does not believe in the institution of God. Its 24 Apostles (Tirthankaras) who have guided the Jain religion were all human beings who took to the path of renunciation in search of emancipation from earthly bondage. If they could attain salvation (Nirvana), so could any human being if he chooses to follow their path. And until he moves on that path, he lives life guided by sentiments of piety, compassion, tolerance and non-violence. He does not cease to be progressive, active or dynamic, and he develops more objectivity, rationality, and wider perspective.
During his day-to-day life, the follower of Jainism will remain dedicated to preserving and nourishing the environment around him, and will contribute to the strengthening of the global eco- systems based on mutually supportive cooperation and harmony with all other living beings.
“Sympathy for the lowest animals is one of the noblest virtues with which a man is endowed.”
- Charles Robert Darwin
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