Ahimsa – the ultimate winner
Renowned Jain Saint Acharya Mahapragya has emerged as a living embodiment of non-violence and peace, an ardent practitioner of piety and synthesis, a walking encyclopedia of religion and philosophy, a determined social reformer and an enlightened Ambassador of inter-faith harmony. At the age of 83, her strides on the world stage with youthful vigour in judicious blend with farsighted perception. His magnetic personality mirrors his peaceful soul, mature wisdom, deep sight and an inimitable communication flair, which brings solace and joy to his listeners.
Through his Ahimsa Yatra, he has touched the heart of millions of people In India. Commencing in December, 2001, the five-year Yatra on foot would have covered by 2006 over 5000 kilometers through the populous states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi. Wherever he is going, from the huts of poor farmers, tribals and rural folks to the skyscrapers of big cities, he is bringing home the paramount need to temper material progress with development of ethical values and to practice Ahimsa not merely as a negation of physical violence, but as a synonym of compassion, tolerance and constructive interdependence.
Acharya Mahapragyaji is exhorting people to get rid of their egos. One, who is not egoist and respects others, enhances respect for oneself. The practice of ahimsa benefits others and promotes peace and harmony in the society; but at the same time, it enriches one’s own tranquility and equanimity and makes one a much kinder and nobler person.
If Ahimsa is interpreted only as a narrowly confined religious doctrine or practice, it will not be able to tackle the escalating violence syndrome. That is how even after the end of a war, cold war continues and keeps alive the violent emotions. Riots may appear to be controlled by tough police action and patrolling, but the hostile feeling persists and raises its ugly head again at the least provocation. This is because violence has not been tackled at its roots in the minds and hearts of people.
Ahimsa carries in itself the feeling of compassion, the courage of tolerance, the patience of synthesis, the earnestness of cooperation and the stimulant of goodwill and fellow feeling. The policy of non-violence incorporates the concept of adjustment and accommodation and respect for different viewpoints. A nation cannot develop with a rod in hand and with violent show of power or strength. Change of heart is the basic starting point for controlling and overcoming violent action and thought and laying the foundations for harmonious progress. Civilization and cultures have flourished in times of peace when the balance has titled more on the side of non-violence than violence.
It is through change of mindset the one could be persuaded to reject hatred and embrace love, to give up exploitation and work for justice, and to foster equality in place of social and economic disparities. So long as the individual, society, political system, and economic and social structure are not influenced by the culture of non-violence, violence would continue to poison the society with bitterness and divisive tendencies. It is paradoxical that one can be easily trained to be violent; there are no arrangements for being trained to be non-violent. There is not enough awareness about the long-term efficacy of non-violent approach or the need to be properly trained to practice non-violence in day-to-day life. Through techniques of Preksha Dhyan and meditation, negative emotions can be eliminated. A more positive outlook on life helps better concentration, relaxation and visualization.
Dr. Abdul Kalam, President of India, has interacted with Mahapragyaji several times in the course of last five years. The last occasion was in Surat when he flew down from Delhi to be with him. Together they interacted with fifteen leading spiritual leaders of different faiths and issued a unanimously adopted Surat Spiritual Declaration. The declaration is aimed at promoting inter-faith harmony on the one hand and inter-faith cooperative effort to accelerate the tempo of development and to maximize welfare of the needy sections of the society.
It is the yawning gap between the affluent and the impoverished that provides the breeding ground for violence. Affluence fosters wasteful consumption and exploitation of the weaker sections. Poverty is the worst pollutant and promotes violence provoked by the injustice of being deprived even the basic necessities. Significantly, the declaration links progress and development with spiritual rejuvenation, inter-religious harmony and collective inter-faith creative engagement.
In India and elsewhere, the society is confronted often with ethnic and communal passions, which if not tackled at the roots, could explode leading to violent incidents. This is so because religion and communalism have been bracketed together, Communal harmony is established only in a non-violent environment, which provides no room for fanaticism and fundamentalism.
It is important to realize that violence will continue to foster disorder and disturbance in the society, if the country does not take to the path of all-round development and if economic backwardness persists. The progress may be in the field of science and technology, agriculture or industry, education or health, politics or social upliftment. However, it would effectively contribute to social welfare and mass happiness only if its benefits reach the deprived sections of our society. If religious and spiritual leaders rise above their narrow religious perceptions and work together to promote equitable development, it would strengthen
the foundations of durable progress and peace for all, irrespective of caste, creed, colour, ethnicity or economic status.
During India’s freedom struggle, Mahatma Gandhi had raised the slogan of self-reliance through Swadeshi movement along with Satyagraha for freedom from colonial bondage. The Salt Satyagraha, the giving up of the use of foreign goods, the movement against untouchability, the promotion of Khadi and emancipation of were all integral part of Gandhiji’s strategy for socio-economic upliftment of the masses. Gandhiji’s nonviolent movement both against the British as well as against economic backwardness was at all times positively oriented and had no negative undertones. The same attitude of equanimity is reflected in the Ahimsa Yatra of Mahapragyaji. The avowed objective is to build an India in which the benefits of progress reach all sections of the society. Only then would the country be able to proceed towards all-round development and progress with assured confidence and hope.
A generational change is sweeping India today. Over 54 percent of the population is under 25 years of age. For this emerging young India, we need to bid farewell to outdated and hollow concepts and practices which breathe economic exploitation and discrimination, mutual hatred and intolerance and stubborn resistance to peaceful and cooperative co-existence.
Ahimsa Yatra is spreading the message of grasping the essence of Ahimsa and translating into improved ethical behaviour towards at large. Mahapragyaji does not subscribe to the recipe of lecturing. He is endeavouring to build an environment, which would help the deprived sections of the community to get adequate opportunities for their socio-economic betterment. Spiritual renaissance cannot come on empty stomachs and ill-clad bodies. Hence, there is this emphasis on creating appropriate employment opportunities for the poor in rural as well as urban areas.
The call of Ahimsa Yatra is change of mindset, change of attitude and change of heart. It provides a wide-open perspective for the balanced integration of spiritualism with development, scientific progress and environmental upgradation.
In the course of his Ahimsa Yatra, Mahapragyaji has set the pace for social integration and harmony by visiting temples, churches, mosques, schools, colleges, dwellings of the poor and the rich and speaking with a compassionate touch to the young and the old to bid farewell to the cult of violence and strengthen the non-violent fibre of the society. He is constantly interacting with openhearted communication flair with professionals, teachers, students, politicians, industrialists, businessmen, tribals, social workers and the common folks. Ahimsa Yatra has emerged as a unique mass contact programme to arouse ethical consciousness of the society and to inculcate among people of all stratas of society the practice of self-restraint tolerance and accommodation.
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