JAINISM – THE CREED FOR ALL TIMES
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Environmental Calamity –
The human greed, consequent reckless exploitation of natural resources and careless release of polluting wastes into the vulnerable Eco–system has taken the toll of the ecological balance in nature and has resulted in the environmental imbalance that has made life difficult not only for the humans but also for all the other forms of life on this planet.
Environmental Concerns Of Jainism –
The Jaina motto ‘Parasparograho Jīvānām’ voices the environmental concerns of Jainism. This motto means that all forms of lives, how–so–ever big or small and how–so–ever higher or lower on the scale of evolution are interdependent and one form cannot survive without the support of the other forms. It, therefore, implies that all living beings must maintain a judicious balance with the other living beings and live in harmony with them. This is further strengthened by the basic Jaina precept of non–violence towards all forms of life from the microscopic one sensed earth, water, air, fire bodied creatures as well as vegetation through the intelligent five sensed creatures such as some animals and the humans.
The Causes Of Environmental Degradation –
The causes of environmental degradation and ecological imbalance are not far to seek. They can be grouped under the following heads: –
1. Unplanned and reckless exploitation of natural resources,
2. Wasteful conspicuous consumption by human beings,
3. Removal of balancing agents from the Eco–system, and
4. Thoughtless release of polluting wastes from homes and industries into the delicately balanced Eco–system.
The Jaina Remedy –
The Jaina way of life firstly prevents all these causes and secondly, helps in the restoration of the disturbed ecological balance as it regards non–violence and harmony between various parts of the Eco–system as inseparable. Lord Mahāvīra, in His preaching, laid utmost emphasis on maintaining harmony between the six types of life forms and said, “A considerate follower of the faith must treat all the six forms of life with equal concern and never act so as to hurt or injure them.” (Daśavaikālika, 4.29).
Ecological Balance And Jaina Way Of Life –
The Jaina answer to this eternal problem lies in making the most evolved of the earthly beings, the human beings, responsible for its solution. As the Jaina way of life, for both – the clergy as well as the laity, has been evolved around the principal of non–violence towards all life forms irrespective of their stages of evolution from the most evolved humans through the animals, birds and fishes as well as the insects and the microscopic organism, it makes for the preservation of the ecological balance by countering all the causes that go to disturb it. Jainism prohibits its followers from destroying of the interdependent life support systems that ensure such a balance by realising that other living beings that constitute the Eco–system also do a lot of good.
Jainism tackles these issues on two levels – spiritual as well as practical. Spiritually, it advocates that protection of all the six categories of living beings and that leading a life of minimal interference in the natural existence is soul purifying because it does not incur any sin and helps one in achieving separation from the earlier bonded karma. Practically, the Jaina injunctions for the clergy as well as the laity are such as to inhibit them from any interference in the Eco–system of the nature.
Jaina Vows And Environmental Protection –
As far as the Jaina clergy is concerned, their vows of complete non–violence, complete adherence to truth, non–stealing, sexual abstinence and non–possession are so stringent that that their way of life does not militate with the ecological balance in any way. From the non–violence point of view, they do not kill hurt or torment any living being, do not eat meat, do not trample or pluck vegetation, do not use anything that may be live and thereby may have a chance to hurt it. For them to pollute, disturb, hurt or destroy anything in the nature is to commit violence towards the creatures that constitute it and, therefore, they walk, talk, eat, sit, stand and lie down after taking care that they do not hurt any living being in the process. Their observance of complete and absolute non–violence ensures that they do not interfere with the ecological balance but promote its protection. They faithfully abide by the dictates of their holy canons that maintain that all life is equal and to hurt or kill any living being of the lowest denomination such as that from the vegetable kingdom or from the microscopic variety is also sinful. So much so that the Jaina monks and nuns do not eat raw vegetables, drink untreated water, or tread upon wet patches or cross over puddles or rivers unless there is no other way to go across. Also, they do not enter rivers or pools or lakes for bathing. Their vows of celibacy non–possession, five–way vigilance and three–way restraint also keeps them away from all temptations and helps them in practising complete non–violence and thereby helping protection of the ecological balance. They are so conscious about environmental pollution that monks and nuns of some sects even tie pieces of cloth over their mouths so as not to cause air pollution.
Jaina laity, too, observes such restrictions as the monks and the nuns but only less rigorously. Their minor vows of refraining from gross violence (meaning strict and inviolable vegetarianism), gross untruth, gross stealing, gross violation of sexual discipline, and unlimited possession and conspicuous consumption go a long way in making them follow a life style that does not grossly infringe upon the natural environment. Besides the fact that many Jaina laymen and lay women follow some of the restrictions meant for the clergy, the Jaina householders are also prohibited from pursuing such vocations as cause mass destruction of life of any fine or gross kind. They do not fell trees, cut or burn forests, empty ponds and dig mines, run slaughterhouses or trade in meat or any products thereof. They even do not run such industries that have harmful effluents and cause heavy pollution of ground, air or water. They do not hunt or keep animals or birds of prey as pets. They also do not resort to use of pesticides and, in general, refrain from all forms of avoidable violence towards all forms of life that constitute the Eco–system. They consider all these as grave sins and term them as ‘Mahārambha’. Some Jaina householders also restrict the quantity of water and number of vegetables that they can take.
Vegetarianism : The Most Important Environmental Protection –
Vegetarianism is one of the strictly inviolable injunctions for the Jaina clergy as well as the lay followers. Also, it is the most important environment protecting measure. It is said that the animals that the non–vegetarians eat in one month eat away vegetable food that can sustain hundreds of hungry humans for one whole year. Non–vegetarianins is an environmental threat in more than one ways.
Firstly, it takes away those animals from the Eco–system that are the natural food of the animals of prey.
Secondly, it causes the extinction of a large variety of floras by the animals that are artificially raised for meeting the demands of the flesh–foods.
Thirdly, it is responsible for the extinction of many kinds of faunas by starving them of their natural food.
Fourthly, It disturbs the natural ecological balance by tampering with its ingredients.
Fifthly, the chemical fertilisers and pesticides used in order to meet the artificially inflated demand of vegetable food for feeding the livestock for flesh–foods and poultry also cause irreparable harm to the Eco–system.
Sixthly, the butcheries and slaughter houses release such effluents in the surroundings, which are a major cause of ground, surface water, sub–soil water and atmospheric pollution.
All these considerations force us to conclude that meat eating is most injurious to the environment.
We can conclude this essay on environmental concerns of Jainism by quoting from the Rio declaration that very significantly incorporates the Jaina thought:
“We believe that the universe is sacred because all is one. We believe in the sanctity and the integrity of all life forms. We affirm the principles of peace and non–violence in governing the human behaviour towards one another and all life.”
“We view ecological disruption as a violent intervention into the web of life. Genetic engineering threatens the very fabric of life. We urge governments, scientists and industry to refrain from rushing into genetic manipulation.”
Also, to quote from Dr. N.P. Jain: “Jaina ecological consciousness is grounded in a judicious blend of divine holism and vision of non–exploitative science and technology. Instead of ignoring or side tracking one another, religion and science must go hand in hand and chart a single path to guide humans spiritually in the direction of preservation of our planet and conservation of its resources. The scientific approach, reasoning and practices prescribed by Jaina religion are, thus, highly relevant today when environmental concerns are on the top of human agenda.”
“Jaina philosophy exhorts and inspires human beings to become the spiritual agents for preserving the grace and dignity of Mother Earth and enhancing the productivity and vitality of the natural phenomenon. After all, all human beings, nature and the other living beings are a part of an organic whole – a oneness in the vast eternity of time and space.”
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