Ahimsa – the ultimate winner
IN THOUGHT AND PRACTICE
[Speech delivered at the International Conference on Ahimsa at Kankroli (Rajasthan, 1992) convened by Anuvrat Movement]
Non-violence is an integrated philosophy covering thought, word and deed. It stems from the concept of ‘Reverence of life”. All forms of life and elements around them are for evolution and growth, and not destruction and devastation. The universe can prosper in moral and material terms by pursuing the path of mutually supportive coexistence. Mutual interdependence is not confined to human being alone. It is equally relevant to all living beings ranging from plants, vegetables and trees to minutest insects and birds.
In a truly universal concept, the elements of nature – the earth, the sky, the air, the water and the fire are intrinsically interwoven with all forms of life. All must coexist and co-prosper in harmony with one another and not at the cost of one another. Nonviolence thus emerges as a universal culture rooted to the basic theme of survival, evolution, growth and full blossoming of life in all its splendour and variety in this planet of ours.
Non-violence also emerges as a universally applicable and valid democratic concept because it pins its faith in the plurality and equality of souls, irrespective of differing forms of living creatures ranging from man to animals, insects and plants. Lord Mahavir, the 24th Tirthankar of Jain religion observed
“All living beings desire to live. They detest sorrow and death and want a long and happy life. Hence, one should not inflict pain on any creature, nor have any feeling of antipathy or enmity. One should be friendly towards all creatures”.
(Acaranga Sutra 184.108.40.206)
According to Jain holy scripture Tatvartha sutra practice of non-violence has ingrained in it the attributes of Maitri (friendship), Pramoda (joy), Karuna (sympathy and benevolence), Madhyastha (equanimity and tolerance). Pujyapada Devindu in his work Sarvarthasiddhi has explained it thus: “the desire that other living beings should be free from suffering is friendship (Maitri) and respect and regard for the virtuous and the saintly is joy (Pramod); desire to help the suffering and the needy persons is Karuna; freedom from attachment and spirit of tolerance is Madhyastha.”
Non-violence in its comprehensive sense applies not just to physical violence but also to the intention to hurt or injure. Violence (Himsa) in Jain texts like Tattvartha Sutra is classified for clarity into Dravya Himsa (the actual hurt) and Bhaava Himsa (the intention to hurt). Both are undesirable. Of particular concern is the violence resorted to with pre-thought and pre-determination (Sankalp Himsa) such as through wars.
“Dravya Himsa” develops from “Bhaava Himsa” which is caused by imperfect, emotional, and impure thoughts such as anger, ego, pride, malice, revenge, intolerance, deceit, greed, sorrow, fear, disdain, passion, lust for power and possessions. And, the thought (Bhaava) is what eventually promotes physical acts of violence.
Hence, non-violent philosophy emphasizes the importance and imperative of developing in individual minds and hearts a culture of equanimity, non-attachment and self-realization.
Jain philosophy expounds that the culture of non-violence cannot develop in an environment of social inequalities and unfair economic exploitation. For extending the application of nonviolence to social/political life, it is imperative to promote peaceful coexistence, tolerance, equanimity, and spirit of give and take. World history is replete with instances of religious intolerance, which led to bloodbaths. Mahavir always preached that if the goal is peace and harmony, then the means to achieve the goal have also to be peaceful and non-violent.
Rapid stride in technology and scientific development has enabled Man to discover hidden secrets of nature and to reach hitherto inaccessible planets like the moon. He has been able to harness science for bringing about tremendous progress, and considerable increase in material and creature comforts. Science has increased speed, mobility and comfort and has contributed to underwent of increase in the standards of living of human beings all over the planet. Distances have shrunk and interaction with distant countries and people through travel or communication channel is easy and swift.
Yet fruits of this tremendous step forward have not been for strengthening and consolidating world peace, universal brotherhood, mutually responsive compassion, sympathy and kindness. Wars and conflicts, hatred and animosity, tensions and hostilities have continued on an ever-increasing scale spelling misery, disaster, unhappiness and discontent.
Fruits of science and technology instead of uniting human beings into more enduring bonds of love, understanding and cooperation are taking them on the path of destroying whatever their own creative urge had brought into being.
The appeal of non-violence has, therefore, in the first place to the minds and hearts of the human beings. Non-violence has an abiding relevance in the furthering of the civilizing values and traditions of the humanity. Humanity – rich or poor, strong or weak must realize that non-violence is a sine-qua-non of justice, equality and democracy. Without non-violent thought and behaviour, all these modern concepts would become devoid of any meaning and content. Exploitation – mental as well as physical, political as well as economic, social as well as racial would continue and violence would serve to sharpen its cutting edges.
Non-violence needs to be promoted at different layers of human conduct – ranging from the level of an individual to a group or society, and moving on to national, regional and international levels.
It cannot be enforced by any legal decree or administrative order. It can come to prevail only by persuading and convincing human beings that this is the only right and rational way which should shape the art and science of living.
Human Community needs to establish a network of effective non-violent communication. This can be done with attitudinal transformation on the following lines:
I. An attitude of love
(Involving care, respect, responsibility and knowledge);
II. An attitude of flexibility
(Meaning tolerance, accommodation, humility and openness to other viewpoints);
III. An attitude of trust
(Implying regard, patience and goodwill towards others);
IV. An attitude of openness and dialogue
V. An attitude of sharing
(As a two-way process of exchange of ideas, information, facts and opinions);
VI. An attitude of listening to others
VII. An attitude of cooperation and consultation
(Through guidance, advice, interaction and looking at problems in broader perspective)
VIII. An attitude of sacrifice
(for helping others)
IX. An attitude of joy and fulfillment
(in the service of the needy, the deprived and the dispossessed)
There are enough examples in recent history to convince volunteers of non-violence that non-violence is a potent and a dependable confidence-building weapon for promoting peace, eliminating exploitation and strengthening equality.
Non-violence is a path of courage and confident strength and not of fear or cowardice. A follower of non-violence must realize that through peaceful persuasion, not only are problems solved, but bitterness and hatred conquered and enduring goodwill established. It is a time tested and viable method, which strengthens the moral and spiritual fiber of the society and the nation.
His Holiness Ganadhipati Tulsi, founder of the Anuvrat movement once put it very succinctly:
“Non-violence is to violence what light is to darkness; what nectar is to poison and what life is to death. Comprehending and internalizing non-violence is the greatest achievement of life.”
A message must go out of this timely conference at Rajsamand under the divine leadership of renowned Jan Acharya Tulsi that all wars conflict must stop, and solution devised through peaceful negotiations. It is a question of choice between violence and non-violence, between confrontation and co-operation, between co-annihilation and coexistence between war and peace.
The task is not simple. World community must recognize the need for systematic training at individual and community levels in the concept, culture, techniques and methods of propagating non-violent thought and behaviour. Education right from early schooling deserves to be oriented towards virtues of non-violence and its positive aspects. U.N. Organization like UNESCO can also take meaningful initiatives to globally strengthen trend towards non-violent dealings. The progress of and success in training and education in non-violence would be determined by development of individuals in increasing numbers whose mentality is irrevocably committed to non-violence. Of crucial importance also is collective efforts of thinkers and saints to influence the decision makers and the administrators in every country to take to the path of non-violent action in their sphere of activities.
A challenging task lies before all those who are prepared and willing to champion the cause of peace and non-violent action. A lot of courage and conviction is needed. Mobilization of world public opinion is called for. The task is by no means easy, but it has to be undertaken and that too urgently without any loss of time.
Let us recall what the noble Emperor Ashoka said:
“Victories of peace are more enduring than victories of wars”. Let us therefore work towards durable peace – vibrant peace, which will bring not only contentment but also progress. The world is weary of not only wars but also the peace of the graves that such wars and conflicts lead to.
Peace and non-violent action are not merely absence of wars and violent action. They symbolize a compassionate life culture of “live and let live” which the Jain religion advocates not only for its followers but also indeed for the wider humanity.
Reverend Ganadhipati Tulsi under whose benign inspiration this conference has been convened has aptly summed up the message of Jainism in his ANUVRAT song:
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ÁÙ ÁÙ ×Ù ÂæßÙ ãUæð Ð
×ñ˜æè Öæß ãU×æÚUæ âÕâð
ÂýçÌçÎÙ ÕÉU¸Ìæ ÁæØð Ð
â×Ìæ, âãUçSÌˆß, â×‹ßØ
ÙèçÌ âÈ¤ÜÌæ ÂæØð Ð
(Let our life be ingrained with temperance and dipped in the holy stream of ethics. Let every mind be pure. May our friendly feeling for all increase day by day. May the culture of equality, coexistence and harmony guide our way.)
“A doctrine is accepted when it comes out right in application. Religion is no terminology, but application. Life is the sphere of its application. Tirthankar Bhagavan Mahavir did not memorize the terminology of religion. He understood it, felt it and then made its application”.
-Dr Hukumchand Bharill
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