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Ahimsa – the ultimate winner

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EPILOGUE

At the start of the new Millennium, humanity stands at the critical crossroads of history. In the midst of tremendous strides in scientific and technological progress as well as increasingly wider reach of material comforts, there is urgent need for spiritual and moral resurgence in a violence free environment for stabilizing progress, for promoting all-round development based on justice and equality, for ensuring the well-being of all strata of human family, for preserving the larger living world and for creating the urge to make the entire world a zone of durable peace.

Escalation of violence in all walks of life and the emergence of terrorism as a much-dreaded monster has sent shockwaves in the lives of innumerable men, women and children. The entire world was stunned when on September 11, 2001, a hijacked plane crashed into the 110 storeyed Twin Tower of the World Trade Centre in New York and it came tumbling down like a pack of cards. Part of the mighty Pentagon in Washington was also destroyed. Many innocent lives were buried in the debris. To those who saw or felt it happening:

It sounded like an earthquake… It was like World War III… it was horrible, the panic, seeing people jump out of windows like rain from a cloud. They looked like planks of Wood but with limbs. It was sixty minutes of hell. When the smoke cleared the twin towers were no more”.

It brought home to the dazed world that even the most powerful country on earth – the only super power USA was no longer immune from the impact of terrorism. US President George W. Bush reacted saying, “We have just seen the First War of the 21st century”.

Terrorism with its crude, cruel, barbaric and brazenly violent face is perpetrating every day tragedies in Kashmir and elsewhere. That this extremist and fanatic “ideology” could have had disastrous impact on India’s democratic polity was reflected in the daring but fortunately not successful attack on December 13, 2001 on the Indian Parliament and earlier in October 2001 on the legislative assembly building of the State of Jammu and Kashmir in the city of Srinagar.

Terrorism recognizes no territorial borders or national sovereignty – concepts which have been basic in two World Wars fought in the 20th century. It has no ear for any international law or convention. It is fanatic to the point of becoming rabid “anti-religion”.

This is the most vicious face of violence the World has yet seen-at once so committed, so blinded, and so passionate although unhappily for the wrong cause and cult of destruction.

There is fear and nervous anxiety gripping not only ordinary human beings but also organized Governments. How does one tackle it? US President Bush sounded enraged and vengeful and wanted ‘Osama bin Laden dead or alive’. However after all the bombing of Taliban targets in Afghanistan, not only Osama bin Laden but indeed none of the senior Taliban leaders have been caught. Taliban may have been politically / militarily defeated, but violence-perpetrators have so far escaped punishment for their crimes against humanity.

Many times we hear both individuals and Governments speaking of one who commits a crime “as though he were not one of us, human beings, but a stranger unto you and an intruder upon our World”.

So while in political management terms violence has been answered by violence it does not offer a lasting solution. Further-more violent attack on terrorists through extensive carpet-bombing has led to many civilian casualties and destruction of whatever little infrastructure that poor country had.

Let us, therefore, be clear. The goal of non-violence is to diminish violence and endeavour to eliminate it. It is by means a passive approach. It provides not only an idealistic but indeed also a pragmatic solution of finding one peaceful way or another of neutralizing those who do major wrongs to others, without adding further forms of violence. If we do that, as Jain philosophy exhorts us to do, hope can be kindled for a more peaceful world.

And so we come to focus on the principal theme of this book. Realization is dawning upon ordinary citizens as well as policy makers all over the World that a lasting victory over violence could only be achieved in the long run by building a non-violent global culture. It is easy enough to kill a militant-spirited, misguided and frenzied terrorist, but it does not prevent two more taking his place. The answer is to win over the terrorists and persuade them to realize that it is futile and frustrating to kill mercilessly. In other words, as the compassionate Jain philosophy (elaborately explained in this book) maintains violence cannot be killed. Its spirit has to be extinguished from the hearts and minds of human beings. It can be overcome with strong collective will-power by giving people tension-free environment in which they could smile, relax and become once again creative, courageous, imaginative and tolerant. The moment the perpetrator of violence realizes that in the end he is hurting himself, far more than others he would throw away his violence-outfit.

Kahlil Gibran has made the point poetically and poignantly:

But I say that even as the holy and the righteous cannot rise beyond the highest which is in each one of you; so the wicked and the weak cannot fall lower than the lowest which is in you also.

And as a single leaf turns yellow but with the silent approval of the whole tree, so the wrongdoer cannot be wrong without the hidden will of you all”.

The silver lining is that while people fear violence and terrorism, they also detest it and are ready at the first opportunity to reject it. They need encouragement, succour and support to fight the forces of evil.

Even in the midst of violence and counter-violence, when peace came recently to the violence-infested land of Afghanistan, the instant reaction of the man on street was picking up the threads of more civilized, more tranquil and more tolerant behaviour far more than the thought of avenging for past sufferings.

The long queues outside barber shops in Kabul, people suddenly over crowding cinema houses, women setting aside their burqas, fans watching foot-ball, and the music sounds once again filling the streets – all this and more expressed silently the courage and confidence, hope and promise of a peaceful non-violent beginning.

Six Nobel Prize Laureates (Malread Corrigan Maguire, Betty Williams, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Desmond Mpilo Tutu, Dalai Lama and Joseph Rotblat) have in a joint appeal stated that:

Respect for the sacredness and inviolability of human life is a principal article of faith in each of the major world religions. There is nothing, which can condone an act that has cost the lives of thousands of innocent people. We call upon the governments and peoples of the world to take concrete steps in developing a culture of Peace and Non-violence”.

In the ultimate analysis, the culture of non-violence is synonymous of all civilizing values, of ethics and morality, of honesty and transparency, of serenity, of sobriety, of peace, tolerance and individual freedom. If hopes have been rekindled in the hearts of Afghans for a happier tomorrow, it is only with the expectation ahead of a peaceful environment of non-violence. They do not have to refer to any holy book of any religion for solace, but to their own enhancing inner confidence and determination to rebuild peace in and around them.

Let us expand this very vision from this test case to the global stage. If we put before ourselves the theme of this book, “Ahimsa the ultimate winner” in its universal as well as historical perspective, we come to the following salient points:

1) Human ingenuity and creativity has flourished in manifold dimensions only in an environment of peace and non-violence.

2) Ethical values flowing from religious faiths have been guiding stars in search of soul satisfying happiness for self as well as society.

3) Preservation and strengthening of the divine web of interdependence among all humans, other living beings and elements of nature is a prerequisite for universal survival and growth.

4) Escalating hatred, intolerance, violence and terrorism are eroding human achievements in scientific, material and spiritual fields;

5) Drawing faith and moulding code of conduct in day-to-day life from ethical religious teachings of non-violence and tolerance can greatly contribute to enhancing human integrity and promoting justice, equality and mutual respect.

6) Realizing that true living “Dharma” is not in reading scriptures and committing them to heart but is manifested in acts of compassion and selfless service especially towards the poor, the needy and the deprived.

7) The supremely non-violent Jain philosophy provides a very firmly rooted base for the basic concepts of democracy. Anekant equality and freedom are expressions of non-violence. These are also ingrained in the concept of democracy and serve to strengthen the democratic structure of polity as well as society.

As we have seen in previous chapters, Jainism is a philosophy of peace, environment and non-violence. It seeks to promote tolerance and accommodation of others along with enhanced degree of self-reliance for the individual-self.

Let us therefore interpret this compassionate life-ethics by each one of us in our station of life and within our capacity endeavouring to:

Ø Enlarging constantly and earnestly areas and content of voluntary self-less service to the needy in education, health, disaster relief and other life-sustaining sectors;

Ø Participating actively in gross root programmes for promoting compassion, fraternity and tolerance, eliminating hatred, greed and deceit and above all helping build a non-violent culture and way of life.

Ø Supporting actively all plans and programmes to save Mother Earth and the universe from escalating environmental pollution and degradation with the conviction that a new sense of our communion with planet Earth must enter our minds and hearts.

Ø Evolving a pattern of voluntary self-restraint, abstinence and detachment from material bondages and building up a total community culture of avoiding wasteful consumption, wreck less exploitation of humans as well as natural resource base.

It will be a long, arduous and patient struggle and a formidable task to translate the culture of Ahimsa into living reality in the day-to-day life of the humanity. In this egocentric world, temptation to hurt and injure others comes so easily. Restraining oneself from committing any kind of violence requires self-discipline of the highest order as well as a social mindset conducive to non-violence.

Poetess Marla Glen puts it beautifully:

I just cannot understand this
Why it is so hard
To take each other by the hand
And say that
No more war
Just say I love you
I just cannot understand this
The world is in trouble
We do not waste any time
To come together
And make a better way

We can draw courage and strengthen our confidence from the historical fact that great man like. Bhagavan Mahavir succeeded in their campaign for non-violence in the face of raging violence. The success of Mahavir has left an indelible stamp on the history of the World, and we remember him, revere him and hold him as one of the most outstanding teachers of humanity.

His immortal teachings show the way for humanity to forge ahead towards an increasingly non-violent ethos, as this is the only recipe for the long term survival of our civilizational and spiritual values; for the enjoyment of the fruits of unprecedented progress in science and technology; for making worthwhile our incarnation as a human being; and for transforming Mother Earth into a much better and safer place to live and to leave a happy legacy for generations to follow.

All of us in the vast community of over 6 billion human beings need to rise above our self-centred egos and shortsighted materialistic perspectives to collective peaceful coexistence in all nooks and corners of this wide world. There in lies hidden the key of Ahimsa the ultimate winner.

Mahavir’s words ring as true today as they did when he uttered them over 2500 years ago:

Nothing is higher than Mount Meru or anything more expansive than sky; Likewise, know that no Dharma is equal to Ahimsa in the world”

EPILOGUE

At the start of the new Millennium, humanity stands at the critical crossroads of history. In the midst of tremendous strides in scientific and technological progress as well as increasingly wider reach of material comforts, there is urgent need for spiritual and moral resurgence in a violence free environment for stabilizing progress, for promoting all-round development based on justice and equality, for ensuring the well-being of all strata of human family, for preserving the larger living world and for creating the urge to make the entire world a zone of durable peace.

Escalation of violence in all walks of life and the emergence of terrorism as a much-dreaded monster has sent shockwaves in the lives of innumerable men, women and children. The entire world was stunned when on September 11, 2001, a hijacked plane crashed into the 110 storeyed Twin Tower of the World Trade Centre in New York and it came tumbling down like a pack of cards. Part of the mighty Pentagon in Washington was also destroyed. Many innocent lives were buried in the debris. To those who saw or felt it happening:

It sounded like an earthquake… It was like World War III… it was horrible, the panic, seeing people jump out of windows like rain from a cloud. They looked like planks of Wood but with limbs. It was sixty minutes of hell. When the smoke cleared the twin towers were no more”.

It brought home to the dazed world that even the most powerful country on earth – the only super power USA was no longer immune from the impact of terrorism. US President George W. Bush reacted saying, “We have just seen the First War of the 21st century”.

Terrorism with its crude, cruel, barbaric and brazenly violent face is perpetrating every day tragedies in Kashmir and elsewhere. That this extremist and fanatic “ideology” could have had disastrous impact on India’s democratic polity was reflected in the daring but fortunately not successful attack on December 13, 2001 on the Indian Parliament and earlier in October 2001 on the legislative assembly building of the State of Jammu and Kashmir in the city of Srinagar.

Terrorism recognizes no territorial borders or national sovereignty – concepts which have been basic in two World Wars fought in the 20th century. It has no ear for any international law or convention. It is fanatic to the point of becoming rabid “anti-religion”.

This is the most vicious face of violence the World has yet seen-at once so committed, so blinded, and so passionate although unhappily for the wrong cause and cult of destruction.

There is fear and nervous anxiety gripping not only ordinary human beings but also organized Governments. How does one tackle it? US President Bush sounded enraged and vengeful and wanted ‘Osama bin Laden dead or alive’. However after all the bombing of Taliban targets in Afghanistan, not only Osama bin Laden but indeed none of the senior Taliban leaders have been caught. Taliban may have been politically / militarily defeated, but violence-perpetrators have so far escaped punishment for their crimes against humanity.

Many times we hear both individuals and Governments speaking of one who commits a crime “as though he were not one of us, human beings, but a stranger unto you and an intruder upon our World”.

So while in political management terms violence has been answered by violence it does not offer a lasting solution. Further-more violent attack on terrorists through extensive carpet-bombing has led to many civilian casualties and destruction of whatever little infrastructure that poor country had.

Let us, therefore, be clear. The goal of non-violence is to diminish violence and endeavour to eliminate it. It is by means a passive approach. It provides not only an idealistic but indeed also a pragmatic solution of finding one peaceful way or another of neutralizing those who do major wrongs to others, without adding further forms of violence. If we do that, as Jain philosophy exhorts us to do, hope can be kindled for a more peaceful world.

And so we come to focus on the principal theme of this book. Realization is dawning upon ordinary citizens as well as policy makers all over the World that a lasting victory over violence could only be achieved in the long run by building a non-violent global culture. It is easy enough to kill a militant-spirited, misguided and frenzied terrorist, but it does not prevent two more taking his place. The answer is to win over the terrorists and persuade them to realize that it is futile and frustrating to kill mercilessly. In other words, as the compassionate Jain philosophy (elaborately explained in this book) maintains violence cannot be killed. Its spirit has to be extinguished from the hearts and minds of human beings. It can be overcome with strong collective will-power by giving people tension-free environment in which they could smile, relax and become once again creative, courageous, imaginative and tolerant. The moment the perpetrator of violence realizes that in the end he is hurting himself, far more than others he would throw away his violence-outfit.

Kahlil Gibran has made the point poetically and poignantly:

But I say that even as the holy and the righteous cannot rise beyond the highest which is in each one of you; so the wicked and the weak cannot fall lower than the lowest which is in you also.

And as a single leaf turns yellow but with the silent approval of the whole tree, so the wrongdoer cannot be wrong without the hidden will of you all”.

The silver lining is that while people fear violence and terrorism, they also detest it and are ready at the first opportunity to reject it. They need encouragement, succour and support to fight the forces of evil.

Even in the midst of violence and counter-violence, when peace came recently to the violence-infested land of Afghanistan, the instant reaction of the man on street was picking up the threads of more civilized, more tranquil and more tolerant behaviour far more than the thought of avenging for past sufferings.

The long queues outside barber shops in Kabul, people suddenly over crowding cinema houses, women setting aside their burqas, fans watching foot-ball, and the music sounds once again filling the streets – all this and more expressed silently the courage and confidence, hope and promise of a peaceful non-violent beginning.

Six Nobel Prize Laureates (Malread Corrigan Maguire, Betty Williams, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Desmond Mpilo Tutu, Dalai Lama and Joseph Rotblat) have in a joint appeal stated that:

Respect for the sacredness and inviolability of human life is a principal article of faith in each of the major world religions. There is nothing, which can condone an act that has cost the lives of thousands of innocent people. We call upon the governments and peoples of the world to take concrete steps in developing a culture of Peace and Non-violence”.

In the ultimate analysis, the culture of non-violence is synonymous of all civilizing values, of ethics and morality, of honesty and transparency, of serenity, of sobriety, of peace, tolerance and individual freedom. If hopes have been rekindled in the hearts of Afghans for a happier tomorrow, it is only with the expectation ahead of a peaceful environment of non-violence. They do not have to refer to any holy book of any religion for solace, but to their own enhancing inner confidence and determination to rebuild peace in and around them.

Let us expand this very vision from this test case to the global stage. If we put before ourselves the theme of this book, “Ahimsa the ultimate winner” in its universal as well as historical perspective, we come to the following salient points:

1) Human ingenuity and creativity has flourished in manifold dimensions only in an environment of peace and non-violence.

2) Ethical values flowing from religious faiths have been guiding stars in search of soul satisfying happiness for self as well as society.

3) Preservation and strengthening of the divine web of interdependence among all humans, other living beings and elements of nature is a prerequisite for universal survival and growth.

4) Escalating hatred, intolerance, violence and terrorism are eroding human achievements in scientific, material and spiritual fields;

5) Drawing faith and moulding code of conduct in day-to-day life from ethical religious teachings of non-violence and tolerance can greatly contribute to enhancing human integrity and promoting justice, equality and mutual respect.

6) Realizing that true living “Dharma” is not in reading scriptures and committing them to heart but is manifested in acts of compassion and selfless service especially towards the poor, the needy and the deprived.

7) The supremely non-violent Jain philosophy provides a very firmly rooted base for the basic concepts of democracy. Anekant equality and freedom are expressions of non-violence. These are also ingrained in the concept of democracy and serve to strengthen the democratic structure of polity as well as society.

As we have seen in previous chapters, Jainism is a philosophy of peace, environment and non-violence. It seeks to promote tolerance and accommodation of others along with enhanced degree of self-reliance for the individual-self.

Let us therefore interpret this compassionate life-ethics by each one of us in our station of life and within our capacity endeavouring to:

Ø Enlarging constantly and earnestly areas and content of voluntary self-less service to the needy in education, health, disaster relief and other life-sustaining sectors;

Ø Participating actively in gross root programmes for promoting compassion, fraternity and tolerance, eliminating hatred, greed and deceit and above all helping build a non-violent culture and way of life.

Ø Supporting actively all plans and programmes to save Mother Earth and the universe from escalating environmental pollution and degradation with the conviction that a new sense of our communion with planet Earth must enter our minds and hearts.

Ø Evolving a pattern of voluntary self-restraint, abstinence and detachment from material bondages and building up a total community culture of avoiding wasteful consumption, wreck less exploitation of humans as well as natural resource base.

It will be a long, arduous and patient struggle and a formidable task to translate the culture of Ahimsa into living reality in the day-to-day life of the humanity. In this egocentric world, temptation to hurt and injure others comes so easily. Restraining oneself from committing any kind of violence requires self-discipline of the highest order as well as a social mindset conducive to non-violence.

Poetess Marla Glen puts it beautifully:

I just cannot understand this

Why it is so hard

To take each other by the hand

And say that

No more war

Just say I love you

I just cannot understand this

The world is in trouble

We do not waste any time

To come together

And make a better way

We can draw courage and strengthen our confidence from the historical fact that great man like. Bhagavan Mahavir succeeded in their campaign for non-violence in the face of raging violence. The success of Mahavir has left an indelible stamp on the history of the World, and we remember him, revere him and hold him as one of the most outstanding teachers of humanity.

His immortal teachings show the way for humanity to forge ahead towards an increasingly non-violent ethos, as this is the only recipe for the long term survival of our civilizational and spiritual values; for the enjoyment of the fruits of unprecedented progress in science and technology; for making worthwhile our incarnation as a human being; and for transforming Mother Earth into a much better and safer place to live and to leave a happy legacy for generations to follow.

All of us in the vast community of over 6 billion human beings need to rise above our self-centred egos and shortsighted materialistic perspectives to collective peaceful coexistence in all nooks and corners of this wide world. There in lies hidden the key of Ahimsa the ultimate winner.

Mahavir’s words ring as true today as they did when he uttered them over 2500 years ago:

Nothing is higher than Mount Meru or anything more expansive than sky; Likewise, know that no Dharma is equal to Ahimsa in the world”

| Contents |