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JAINISM – THE CREED FOR ALL TIMES

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JAINISM AND SOCIAL HARMONY

Importance Of Social Harmony –

Everyone is aware of the pain and misery that is wrought upon the society and its individual members in a society torn by strife and conflict and the state of pleasure and happiness that prevails in a society blessed with harmony, agreement and understanding. A state of social harmony is of paramount importance because the societies in states of disharmony are in states of discontent as well and it is the harmonious societies that make all–round progress.

Harmony is nothing but a state of agreement and understanding of mutual feelings, interests and opinions. The conflict arises when we fail to appreciate the feelings, interests, opinions and view–points of others and abruptly reject them in favour of conflicting views. In any society such a state of affairs breeds mutual hatred and results in unresolved conflicts. As the very aim of every form of existence is to gain pleasure and happiness, it stands to logic that human beings have been in search of ways and means to resolve such conflicts and promote harmony. Jaina seers are no exception to this rule and they, too, have been on the lookout for such means. In this essay we propose to examine as to how effective the search by the Jaina seers down the ages has been and how effective the Jaina precepts and a life led in accordance with these precepts are in resolution of social conflicts and paving the way for social harmony.

Causes Of Social Conflicts –

Every society can be either homogeneous or heterogeneous. The societies with its members from same caste and creed and that exhibit similar attitudes, interests and dispositions are said to be homogeneous and those that have members belonging to different castes and creeds, that exhibit varying attitudes, interests and dispositions are said to be heterogeneous. We can well infer that it is the heterogeneous societies that are more prone to social conflicts rather than the homogeneous ones. However, there may be occasions when even the homogeneous societies also suffer pangs of social conflict. The causes of social conflict can be grouped under the following heads: –

A. In Heterogeneous Societies –

(i) Religious intolerance,

(ii) Intolerance for different social customs,

(iii) Lack of appreciation for different views,

(iv) Racial and cultural differences,

(v) Exploitative and expansionist attitudes of some social groups, etc.

B. In Homogeneous Societies –

(i) Sectarian views and ambitions,

(ii) Conflicts arising out of property and possession disputes or those over wealth and women,

(iii) Personal vanities and ambitions,

(iv) Passional dispositions of individuals and leaders, etc.

When we have a look at these causes of social conflict, it dawns upon us that none of these causes are irremediable and that these can be resolved with due application and sincerity on the part of the individuals and the leaders of the societies concerned. In what follows we will be able to see and appreciate that sincerely applied and followed the Jaina precepts have the capacity to resolve all such conflicts and are, therefore, prime need of the hour at a time when the societies everywhere are being torn asunder by these very causes.

Jainism : The Remedy For Social Conflicts –

In this part of the essay we will see as to how various Jaina principles and precepts resolve various causes of social conflicts and contribute to the promotion of social harmony. The most potent conflict resolvers are the principles of right–vision, right–knowledge, non–violence, respect for others’ property rights, truthfulness, controlled greed, sexual discipline, simplicity of life–style, inconspicuous consumption, non–absolutism, subdued passions, mutual respect and universal love. We shall now discuss their effectiveness one by one.

Right–Vision –

Most conflicts arise out of our inability to see things in their right perspective. The Jaina thought lays most emphasis on development of this ability and thereby equips its followers with an insight that can see things as they are and not with a distorted view. This insight resolves the conflicts arising out of lack of proper perspectives. The causes that fall in this category and which are easily resolved by having a right perspective are racial, religious and cultural intolerance.

Right–Knowledge –

Lack of proper knowledge also gives rise to conflicts. Most religious and cultural conflicts fall in this category. We are unable to appreciate the others’ religious tenets, precepts and norms for want of their knowledge and feel threatened by this lack of knowledge. Gaining proper knowledge of own as well as that of the other religions and cultures are of utmost importance for conflict resolution. Jaina emphasis on gaining right–knowledge is well known. So much so that it is considered to be one of the three liberating elements.

Non–Violence –

If we were to state the most important tenet of Jainism, it is non–violence. We cannot help but realise that violent thoughts are at the very root of all conflicts and the conflicts escalate when such thoughts are translated into actions. Jainism advocates giving up violence at both levels, resolution of all differences in a non–violent manner and thereby facilitates a conflict free life for its followers as well as for the society at large.

Respect For Others’ Property Rights –

History is evidence to the fact that wealth and women have been the causes of most conflicts. The third major and minor vows for the clergy and the laity respectively enjoins them to respect others’ property rights and refrain from their thefts or forcible possession. All conflicts arising out of matters of wealth either do not arise or get readily resolved if this principle is sincerely and faithfully followed. This applies equally effectively in both types of societies – homogeneous as well as heterogeneous. Another aspect of this issue is greed control. We have discussed earlier in this work that greed is the mother of all evils. Most conflicts have greed for material as well as emotional adjuncts as the root–cause. Jaina vow of non–possession for the members of the clergy and those of simplicity of life–style, limited possession and inconspicuous consumption by the laity is the clarion call for neutralising all conflicts that arise out of uncontrolled greed.

Subdued Passions –

Another related aspect is that of rising passions – anger, pride, and deceit that, too, is a contributory factor in initiation as well as escalation of conflicts. Jaina precept holds that passions form the glue that binds the karma matter with the soul to inhibit its spiritual progress. All right minded Jaina believers are, therefore, advised to subdue their passions in the self–interest, which indirectly helps in conflict resolution and promotion of social harmony.

Truthfulness –

Lies, lies and lies. Some never seem to tire of telling lies. Many a conflict has lies at its root. Lies when found out give rise to disbelief and consequent lack of trust, which, in turn results in conflict. The Jaina way firmly denies its followers the taking of shelter behind lies and advocates strictest adherence to truth in all walks of life. Need it be mentioned in so many words that adherence to truth promotes trust and resolves conflicts.

Sexual Discipline –

Jaina vow of sexual abstinence by the members of clergy and that of strictly disciplined sexual life by its lay followers keep them away from conflicts originating from the most potent cause of conflict – women.

Principle Of Non–absolutism –

One of the most important agent of social harmony that is the remedy for conflicts arising out of differing view–points is the principle of non–absolutism that states that in this changing world of ours nothing is absolute. There are, therefore, no absolute truths and no absolute untruths. The truth has infinitely many facets, which only an omniscient visionary can see and know. We, with our limited vision and perception can at best see and appreciate only a few of those infinitely many aspects. Therefore, it is imprudent for any of us to insist upon that insufficient knowledge as the absolute truth and thereby cause conflicts. This realisation instils in us a respect for the others’ views and is, thus, the greatest harmonising factor.

Universal Love –

The spirit of universal love is reflected in the Jaina addict that reads, “Friendship for all the creatures, respect for all the virtuous, compassion for all the miserable, a disposition of equanimity in adversity; Grant me O’ Lord µ always and every time.” Most conflicts arise out a feeling of animosity towards the others for one reason or the other. A feeling of universal love, when it starts flowing in our veins drives a death knell in any such feeling of animosity and paves the way for absolute social peace tranquillity and harmony. Jainism is so particular about this principle of universal love for all the living beings that it advocates complete or all possible avoidance of hurt or injury not only to the big and discernible life but also to the smallest microscopic creatures like the invisible bacteria and Nigodas of the vegetable origin. It goes without saying that such feeling of universal love transfers itself to the members of the society at large and promotes social harmony.

Conclusion –

We conclude this essay on social harmony through the pursuit of Jaina precepts by saying that the very Jaina way of life is to rise above conflicts and seek harmony in personal as well as the social life. Following the Jaina precepts, therefore, paves the way for social harmony.Svastika

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