Jainism – a way of life





WE live in a society where everyone asks questions about almost everything. Our values have changed, our ideas have changed, and the structure of society has changed. Science and technology have changed our lives. Our thinking process, our life-style and how we behave towards each other has gone through radical changes. The last millennium has seen many empires rise from the dust and many fall into oblivion. No doubt, in the forthcoming years, we will see a lot more changes too. Some will be for the better and some will undoubtedly erode and undermine the basic structures of family life and society. Values would perhaps change to the extent that many wrong doings will be looked upon from different angles and many of our religious principles will be further scrutinised.

When one asks whether the Jain faith is a science of living or not, whether it can be considered a way of life or not or whether it has the potential and strength to guide man or not, one has only to consider the relevance of the Jain faith in the context of our past, present and future.

Ahimsā, aparigraha and anekāntvāda are not mere words in the holy book. They are not some ‘religious’ principles, which are to be observed at certain times of the day or week, but these principles offer a great deal to individuals, society and nations. Ahimsā or non-violence is important to preserve the very fabric of our foundation. Without this we would perish. Conflicts in many countries have time and again taught us this lesson and Jain Ahimsā is not merely non-killing or non-harming, it has to be practised upon the lowliest living entities on the planet. All physical and mental violence has to be avoided. This principle and others will be discussed in depth when we reach that particular topic. Aparigraha or non-possessiveness is another point one should also bear in mind. This is not only in the sole interests of religious purity but also for the survival of mankind. The hoarding of food by an individual or by a nation is a ‘sin’. It not only creates an unjust balance in life-style, but it is a greed which attracts innumerable other vices too. Greed in one’s life-style leads to all sorts of activities that may be inhuman and unethical.

Anekāntvāda, this unique principle in the Jain system of philosophy, is very important too. The root cause of all arguments and enmity lies in intolerance and failure to or unwillingness to understand other’s viewpoints. Anekāntvāda simply explains that no two persons are equal, as far as their mind, thinking process, likes and dislikes are concerned and therefore one has to make an extra effort to understand each other. One has to accept there are different kinds of people with different ideologies and that acceptance and tolerance are the keys to peaceful co-existence. Anekāntvāda is as important on a family level as it is on an international level.

These and other values together with many other tenets will be considered in the following chapters. The greatest need today is to accept that the whole world is one family. We have no choice but to broaden our horizons, to make sure that our age-old wisdom prevails and to accept that greed, hatred and violence has no place if we want to achieve true peace in third millennium.

If we want the human survival- survival with dignity- then we must turn to the age-old values. As we move into the next century, we will see more and more scientific discoveries taking place. But science, which includes matter and not mind, is not a true science. If we think that matter can only be explained by science and mind, soul or consciousness as the subject of religion, then science and religion will always stay apart. But this should not be the case. By linking the philosophies of matter and soul, by linking science and religion we would not only understand human nature but we would find a proper and considered answer which will bring about inner light.

Scientists like Albert Einstein and philosophers like Bertrand Russell or Krishnamurti or Carl Jung have tried to discover this inner light. Philosophers and enlightened souls like Gautam Buddha and Mahāvir had seen that inner light and had preached the way to discover it. Buddha left his royal household in search of an answer to the end of the suffering of mankind. Mahāvir similarly left His kingdom behind to achieve true salvation. Mahāvir too gave a message of love and kindness. However, Mahāvir said that all species on this globe are interdependent and one’s welfare depends on the welfare of another. He said trees, plants and vegetation are also living beings. Our love should be boundless and should reach every corner of the earth. The key to this love is through the observance of goodness and goodness in everyone. Let the life energy be love energy. Let us accept and recognise that all cognisable and noncognisable living entities have the right to existence. Jains say that it is in the benefit of all mankind to be vegetarians. Vegetarianism is an ethic for ecology and physical and mental health.

Jainism is a path, which leads one to achieve freedom from the shackles of attachment and aversion. Jain scholars have always maintained that attachment to worldly things is the cause of karma bondage. This path explains and shows the way of true freedom and this is why it is a way of life, an ideology that transcends arguments and logic- an ideology that makes sense. The path we are shown purifies our soul and kindles a light of knowledge, dispersing the darkness of ignorance. This system provides day-to-day guidelines for practical life and takes man towards a highest goal.

It is said that Jainism is a way of life and has answers, full of logic and perception, for our entire life. It has transcended the boundaries of time and space, as it is a path for mankind. Its code of conduct is based on age-old wisdom, yet it has an essence of life force within. Its rituals have common sense, yet it is beyond ritual. Jainism is a dharma or a true nature of our inner consciousness, which manifests itself in practical life. It is not dogmatic and does not believe in an almighty creator but believes in the potential to become an enlightened soul. It is the path of right perception; right knowledge and right conduct leading towards ‘the ultimate.’

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