Positive Non-Violence


Editor’s Note

Non-violence is essential for the coexistence of the living world, environmental protection, peace and harmony. In the absence of non-violence we cannot even think of family and society. Where violence generates and increases enmity, non-violence results in and strengthens feelings of mutual co-operation and friendship. In different religious philosophies, the concepts of violence and non-violence have been analysed and thought of for centuries and their meanings have been assuming different dimensions under different circumstances of time and space. Taking the case of Jaina philosophy itself, we notice that the meaning of non-violence has traveled some distance in its quest for a sensible and acceptable meaning.

The Ācārāṅga sūtra advocates the acceptance of non-violence in accordance with the living beings’ love of life, desire for pleasure, undesirability of pain and tenuous hold on life-force – vitality.1 Therein not only killing of any vitality, living being or living entity has been forbidden, but subjugating them, enslaving them, tormenting them, disturbing them, etc., have also been forbidden.2

Bhagvān Mahāvīra preached non-violence by identifying Himself with the consciousness of all living beings. A stream of affection and mercy for all the living flows eternal in His discourses. He gave the principle of feeling and treating all souls with a sense of equality with the self.3

In Ācārāṅga Cūrṇi, it has been said, “As I like pleasure and dislike pain, so do all the living also like pleasure and dislike pain.4 The Lord preached universal friendship.5

Along with proscription of violence, a positive facet of non-violence has also been revealed in the Jina canonical works. Although we do not find the mention of positive non-violence in the āgamic literature, even then its positive aspect clearly stands out in the mentions of mercy, kindness, compassion, affection, friendship, charity, etc. Many a present day scholars and commentators have started ignoring this positive aspect of non-violence and have been emphasising and limiting themselves to its proscriptive form of not committing violence only, which is an incomplete proposition of non-violence. The use of positive non-violence is the need of the day to clearly bring out the emotional and positive or prescriptive form of non-violence contained in the canonical works of both Śvetāmbara and Digambara pursuits. This term (positive non-violence) depicts the positive and prescriptive form of non-violence.

In the canonical literature, various terms such as mercy, kindness, compassion, service, charity, friendship, affection, etc., have been used signifying positive non-violence. In the primary canonical text entitled ‘Praśna Vyākaraṇa’ we find sixty synonyms for the term ahiṁsā or non-violence, most of which represent the positive forms of non-violence. Of these two words – ‘mercy’ and ‘protection’, which imply non-violent co-operation towards all the living beings, are very significant. Other words such as non-action (nirvṛtti), reconciliation (samādhi), peace (śānti), love-liking (prīti-rati), satisfaction (tṛpti), forbearance (kṣānti), patience (dhṛti), purity (viśuddhi), welfare (kalyāṇa), joy (pramod), beneficence (maṅgal), etc., also point at its positive form only. In the Jaina lore dharma has been described as rooted in mercy.6 Charity has been described as one of the forms of dharma.7 Compassion has been depicted as one of the indicators of righteousness.8 Affection has been given a pride of place amongst parts of righteousness. Friendship towards all the living beings has been depicted as a means of spiritual purification and fearlessness.9 Respectful and selfless service (vaiyāvṛtya) has been said to be a means of karmic separation10 and of earning the merit to be a Tīrthaṅkara in a future birth.11 It goes to prove the importance of service. Service is nothing but the modern form of vaiyāvṛtya. The intention and practice of service is beneficial to both – to the one who serves and to one who is being served. Thus, various forms of positive non-violence are clearly visible in the Jaina canonical lore.

It is a matter of great worry that while explaining non-violence today, its negative aspect is being emphasised at the expense of its positive aspect by saying that the positive aspect is flawed. It is being depicted as something to be abandoned for reasons of being flawed sometimes by attachment, some times by being imbued with violence, and some other times by karmic bondage. Shri Lodha has written this book with a view to dispel such doubts on the basis of canonical and scriptural beliefs and to establish the positive aspects of non-violence as fully acceptable as dharma.

Some of the Jaina sects that ignore the positive forms of non-violence such as compassion, kindness, friendship, etc., emphasise giving up of violence to such dogmatic depths that they depict all activity as a means of violence and forbid it altogether. Not only this, they depict beneficial activities such as saving of other creatures’ lives, charity, service, etc., also as means of karmic bondage and say that they are fit to be abandoned also. The Śvetāmbara Terāpanthī sect of Jainism has changed their tack and at least made the activity of charity as acceptable under the euphemism of ‘visarjan’, but the followers of Kanji Svami are engaged in tarnishing the very concept of noble precept of kindness and compassion based non-violence, preached by Bhagvān Mahāvīra by spreading the deceptive net of absolute and practical standpoints. They have taken a strong hold on its negative aspect only and consider themselves as great scholars and explicators by taking recourse to misleading logic. They consider the Lord’s words contained in canonical works like Ācārāṅga, Sūtrakṛtāṅga, Praśna Vyākaraṇa, Daśavaikālika, Uttarādhyayana, etc., as untouchable. They consider the sensitivity towards other creatures’ consciousness as abandonable as sin. They say that to save other creatures is flawed as attachment induced volition and, therefore, amounts to violence. At page 181 of his book ‘Tīrthaṅkara Mahāvīra Aur Unka Sarvodaya Tīrtha’ Dr. Hukamchand Bharilla writes, “Jaina philosophy says that a volition to kill is decidedly violence, but according to the absolute standpoint, a volition to save is also violence, because it is flawed by a volitional attachment and attachment in whatever form is violence.”

This assertion by Dr. Bharilla only shows his lack of depth of study of the Jaina philosophy in its entirety. It is sure to introduce and promote mercilessness and cruelty towards all living beings and, to say the least, it is likely to kill the teachings of merciful non-violence by Bhagvān Mahāvīra. The feeling of attachment remains in a person until he becomes totally detached (vītarāga). It keeps becoming more or less from time to time. There is no harm in having some attachment in trying to save some creature’s life; actually it will take such merciful benefactor only from attachment towards detachment. If in some activity the feeling of attachment increases as compared to what it was earlier, it may be considered as deplorable but a reduction in the feeling of attachment cannot be viewed as such. If such an activity is considered as deplorable, the detachment, in which the feeling of attachment is completely reduced, itself will become deplorable. The feeling of protecting and saving other creatures is a generous feeling of friendship and affection in which strength of attachment towards the self gets reduce. Another thing is that it is not necessary to have a feeling of attachment or selfishness in trying to save other creatures. Others can be saved selflessly as well. While serving or attending to the members of one’s family or near and dear ones there may be a feeling of attachment or selfishness but how can we say that there is attachment and selfishness in trying to save an unknown accident victim on the road?

It has been said that the Lord mercifully preached with a view to save the living beings of the universe.12 To preach with a view to save, protect and deliver the worldly living beings by the Lord cannot be indicative of any feeling of attachment on His part. What attachment can one have who wishes well for everyone and who does not wish to gain anything from anyone? Just as to preach mercifully and selflessly is a noble activity, so are the activities of saving lives, to serve others, to co-operate with them in their auspicious works is also noble. Nowhere in the agamic lore have such activities been denied or restricted. Canonical works do say that feelings of attachment (motivated by selfish motives), ignorance and violence are only fit to be given up but not the activities undertaken under the influence of mercy, kindness, compassion, friendship, non-violence, etc. Even Ācārya Kundkunda, who has analysed the concepts of absolute and practical standpoints threadbare, has said in the context of compassion in relation to right-vision that compassion is the volitional feeling under which a person is moved by other thirsty, hungry and miserable living beings and acts mercifully towards them.13

On the basis of Ācārya Kundakunda’s Samayasāra itself Dr. Bharilla has also tried to establish that a living being dies when its life-span determining karma exhausts and lives till it does not. Therefore, neither can someone kill another one nor can he save someone.14 Dr. Bharilla must know that living and dying are subjects of the practical standpoint. Absolutely speaking one is neither born nor does one die. Also, from the absolute standpoint, the soul is devoid of any karmic burden and one need not try for karmic separation. If we study the agamic lore from the practical standpoint, we find that with the exception of the persons who are to attain spiritual liberation in the same birth (caramaśarīrī jīva), exalted personages (ślākāpuruṣa or the spiritual torch bearers), human and subhuman beings with a life-span of innumerable years and unexpectedly born divine and hellish creatures all living beings have commutable life-spans which can be shortened for various unavoidable reasons.15 Ordinary human beings have to be cautious for this reason only that our life spans are commutable. If that were not so, we would be safe even driving with our eyes closed. That the lifespan is commutable is also found mentioned in the Sthānāṅga sūtra where it describes seven reasons that can shorten the lifespan as 1. Intense attachment, aversion, fear, etc., 2. Weapon-wounds, poisoning, earthquake, etc, 3. Eating more or less, 4. High fever or other incurable diseases, 5. Others blow, 6. Snake-bite, etc., and 7. Stoppage of respiration.16 This reference from the Sthānāṅga clearly indicates that the life can terminate even before the exhaustion of the previously bonded life-span determining karma. Due to commutation of the life-span determining karma it is possible to die before enjoying the full lifespan. In today’s practical terminology it is said to be untimely death or akālamṛtyu. To accede to the concept of untimely death is timely and proper from both the practical as well as principle points of view. If we do not accept untimely death, no slaughterhouse will ever be illegal in any country. No one will be able to kill anybody. No one will be found culpable as anyone’s murderer. Every criminal will be able to give this argument in his defense that the victim had died because his lifespan had ended and that he was only an agency in his death and not a principal and, therefore not guilty. Therefore, it is perfectly proper and logical to accept untimely death and to engage oneself in the activities to save lives in order to minimize the incidents of untimely deaths. To ignore or rather proscribe such noble activities in the name of exhaustion of lifespan determining karma is both unscriptural and inhuman.

The positive (prescriptive) and negative (proscriptive) aspects of non-violence are supplementary to each other. The living being that has been endowed with the combination of mind, body and speech cannot remain idle. As long as one does not attain the incorporeal omniscient stage in spiritual development one is always engaged in some activity or the other. If this activity is not in the noble forms of mercy, kindness, compassion, friendship, affection, sympathy, etc., it will have to be in the ignoble forms of cruelty, enviousness, hatred, etc. In order to save ourselves from the sin of such ignoble activities it is essential that we cultivate the noble activities of positive non-violence. The engagement in the auspicious activities is useful in the process of giving up the sinful inauspicious activities. Only proscribing of violent activities cannot proscribe all kinds of activities. It is natural for a man to act. Therefore, the teaching of giving up of inauspicious activities leaves only auspicious activities to be undertaken. In the Sarvārthasiddhi commentary Pūjyapāda says, “what prevents from the auspicious is inauspicious or sinful”.17 If noble auspicious deeds are also proscribed man will become idle, which is against his very nature. This will also prevent his ascent on the right path. In the Jaya Dhavalā commentary it has been said that if we do not accept karmic separation through auspicious and pure actions, it cannot be there at all.18 Here, it is to be understood that every activity (of the unenlightened worldly beings) is also associated with a volitional disposition. It is this disposition that is responsible for spiritual ascent or descent. The volitional ascendance is acceptable while descent in the form of increased passions is not. Auspicious activities of compassion, mercy, kindness, charity, friendship, etc., result in spiritual ascendance and this ascendance itself results in karmic stoppage, destruction and its separation from the soul. This has been vividly brought out in this book.

Whichever activity is performed under the condition of full vigilance or spiritual alertness does not result in karmic bondage. As has been said – “walking vigilantly, standing vigilantly, sitting vigilantly, sleeping vigilantly, eating vigilantly, and speaking vigilantly one does not bind sinful karmic bondages.19 Thus, the discretion and vigilance have been given due importance while undertaking any activity. In the presence of discretion and vigilance no activity can result in karmic bondage. When we are vigilant, the volitional disposition is pure or auspicious and externally the activity may appear to be violent towards some creatures, it is not flawed by the guilt of violence. Other quotes that support this line of thought are – “In the religious order of Lord Jina the bondage or separation is decided by the volitional disposition under which any act is performed”.20 On this issue, the Viśeṣāvaśyaka bhāṣya says that violence is committed when a living being is killed or compromised under the influence of inauspicious volition; where there is no inauspicious volition, there is no violence even when a creature is killed or compromised. It is very clear that such involuntary external violence will not result in any karmic bondage.21 The Oghaniryukti also supports this line of thought.22

Shri Kanhaiyalalji Lodha, who is a well-known scholar of Jaina scriptures of both the Śvetāmbara as well as Digambara followings, has, with the help of agamic references and quotations, tried well to prove beyond any shadow of doubt as to how the auspicious activities such as mercy, kindness, compassion, friendship, charity, co-operation, etc., go to reduce the undesirable volitional dispositions like attachment, etc. and as to how they contribute towards achievement of karmic stoppage and separation. The author has a firm grasp over the very soul of the Jaina doctrine of karma and he has used his grasp over the subject to clarify any doubts that may be there in the minds of the readers. Here, I would like to quote from his thoughts and arguments presented at various places in this work to show as to how he dispels the doubts with his logical treatment of the subject –

  1. Mercy melts the heart of a man. With this melting of the heart melts the feeling of attachment therein. Just as heat melts a solid into liquid and liquid into gaseous state, which eventually evaporates so does mercy or the warm of his sensitivity towards others’ troubles and travails melts the dense ‘delusion’ into fluid delusion and then fluid delusion into vaporised delusion that vanishes eventually. (pp. 30-31)
  2. Feelings of mercy, kindness, compassion, friendship, affection, etc., are not due to fruition of any earlier bonded karma but they arise in a person naturally, and are, therefore, his basic nature. Whatever is natural is dharma and dharma can never be a cause of karmic bondage. On the other hand it is a cause of karmic destruction and separation. (p. 78)
  3. If the feeling of generosity or charity were to be karma-bonding, the progressive spiritual accomplishments of any aspirant, which result in greater and greater giving, would be more and more karma bonding and the ultimate infinite spiritual accomplishment of the fully detached Lords Jina would be infinite bonding and they ought to have never liberated. If charity resulted in the destruction of any of the natural attributes of a spirit, then it would have prevented the absolute detachment of the aspirant forever. (pp. 79-80)
  4. The fully detached aspirant does not possess even a grain of anything, and then what does he give? How can he be infinitely charitable? We will have to say that when a detached person sees the worldly creatures shackled in the grip of sensory pleasures and tied down to such bondages, his heart melts with mercy and he engages himself in endlessly enlightening them by giving them the right knowledge and destroying their delusion. This giving of the right knowledge is their infinite charity. (p. 83)
  5. Charity is characterised by two main elements – 1. Giving up and 2. Beneficence. Giving up is the soul of charity and benefaction is its body. Giving up denotes forsaking the ownership of an object and giving up ownership denotes giving up of the pleasures that could be derived from the objects so given up. This lack of selfishness results in generosity or magnanimity. Beneficence is the practical form of generosity or altruism. This is the second basic element of charity. (p. 78)
  6. More the expanse of one’s affection more will be the leanness of attachment. As a rubber balloon is blown up its walls become thinner and thinner and when it is blown beyond its material capacity, it explodes. Similarly, when the attachment wears down and detachment increases, the field of one’s affection keeps expanding. The circle of one’s affection expands from family to neighbourhood, from neighbourhood to the society, from society to the whole of humanity and from the whole of humanity to whole of the living set including the animals, birds, fishes, insects. etc. It turns itself into all beneficial feeling. Eventually this noble feeling destroys the attachment and delusion and results into completely detached state. (p. 95)
  7. Auspicious activities like mercy, kindness, compassion, friendship, etc., are virtues while baneful activities like violence, and lying, etc., are vices. The virtues and vices are opposite of each other. The virtues are natural and vices run counter to human nature. Any activity according to the nature is dharma while one that runs counter to the nature is sin. Therefore, noble activities like mercy, kindness, compassion, friendship, etc., constitute dharma and the ignoble activities like violence, and lying, etc constitute sin. The former results in karmic destruction and separation while the latter in karmic influx and bondage. The karmic destruction and separation aids spiritual emancipation and eventual liberation. Being aids to liberation, these noble activities or virtues are dharma. To consider them as causal to karmic bondage and worldly transmigration is to consider them as adharma. To consider dharma as adharma is false belief. (pp. 129-30)
  8. If only the pure volition is considered as causal to karmic destruction, only the fully detached ‘Vītarāga’ persons will be able to achieve it and none other will be able to do so for all those who are not fully detached have passions. (p. 133)
  9. All four feelings: of friendship (maitrī), joy at others’ virtues (pramoda), mercy (kāruṇya), and neutrality (mādhyasthya) are auspicious feelings and being auspicious they are natural and do not run counter to human nature. They are not flaws in any case. (p. 137)
  10. The auspicious feelings that arise due to reduction in passions, auspicious activities and destructo-subsidential feelings result in destruction of the destructive karmas in the form of their destruction cum subsidence. They also result in ascendance in the intensities of the auspicious types of non-destructive karmas. When the passions are destroyed the rise of pure volition coupled with auspicious activities become instrumental in destruction of the non-destructive karmas. It is only then that the infinite set of infinite knowledge, infinite vision, infinite charity, infinite gain, infinite enjoyment, infinite joy, infinite spiritual prowess and karmic destruction based righteousness and conduct manifest themselves in the spirit. Thus, the auspicious activities are also instrumental in full realisation of a living being’s physical and spiritual potential. Once, he achieves this ultimate accomplishment, nothing remains to be gained by him, he becomes all accomplished. (pp. 143-44)
  1. Friendship is imbued with the feeling of wellness for all. It is devoid of selfishness or the desire for physical enjoyments. It is devoid of pride and when the pride melts, the feeling of own and other also melts. One’s self becomes one with the others. As long as the duality between the self and the other remains, it is not possible to cultivate the feeling of affection or friendship. It is only when the self subsides and becomes one with the other and a feeling of selflessness sets in that the feeling of affection and friendship can arise. Where there is no pride, there is no desire, there is no possessiveness, there is no lust, there is no selfishness, and there is no delusion. In the Śvetāmbara tradition, this belief exists to date, that auspicious activities of body, mind and speech are the means of karmic stoppage, but today it has not remained all pervading in the Digambara tradition. Some followers of the Digambara tradition may not believe in this precept now but in the days of yore this was believed by all in that tradition as well. The proofs of this assertion can be abundantly seen in the Dhavalā and Jaya Dhavalā commentaries written by Śrī Vīrasenācārya, a famous Ācārya of the Digambara tradition. (p. 131)
  2. Puṇya or meritorious pious acts do not hinder liberation but on the contrary they aid its achievement. Right vision is gained by a high rise of puṇya only. Right vision is impossible to gain without achieving merit to gain it. Such a merit is gained by undertaking meritorious pious or auspicious activities. Without gaining the right vision it is not possible to gain right knowledge and right conduct also and liberation is impossible in the absence of these three. Thus, puṇya is a direct and traditional cause in gaining spiritual liberation. (p. 183) If these activities had been considered as hindrances in achieving liberation in any way, the vows for abandoning them would have been prescribed and given by the religious leaders just as the vows for giving up sinful activities are prescribed and are being given. However, such vows are neither prescribed anywhere in the scriptures or their explanatory literature nor are they being given by any ācārya. The vows are taken for forsaking sinful activities and not the pious activities. (p. 184)
  3. Through charity one reduces attachment towards one’s possessions and greed passion becomes leaner. Mercy, kindness and compassion result in a feeling of friendship and pride melts. The feeling of affection and friendship can arise only when delusion or attachment and aversion are reduce. Anyone with strong delusive attachment will care only about oneself and one’s relatives. He cannot feel others’ pain or misery. He cannot be sensitive or sympathetic to such painfully miserable people or creatures. The feeling of affection just does not rise in such a person. (p. 170)
  4. The activity or the lack of it that results in sensory enjoyment or passionate feelings is flawed, binding and causal to worldly transmigration and the activity or the lack of it that result in reduction of carnal enjoyment or the feeling of passion, or it is subsided or destroyed, is useful because such an activity or the lack of it is the practice of karmic stoppage and separation that eventually results in spiritual emancipation and final deliverance or liberation. (p. 172)
  5. Charity is the practical aspect of generosity or magnanimity. The Jaina scriptures are full of incidences that highlight the importance of charity, These are – King Pradeśī got a charity house opened; Revati gave the Bijorāpāk (Jam made of large citrus fruit – Bijorā) to the Lord; Śreyāṁsakumāra gave sugarcane juice to Bhagvān Ṛṣabhadeva for breaking His fast and earned the merit to become a Tīrthaṅkara himself; and Candanabālā also gave food to Bhagvān Mahāvīra to break His long standing fast and became blessed. All the Tīrthaṅkaras gave yearlong charities before accepting their monastic ordinations and set an ideal for the householders to follow. Also, on gaining omniscience they became infinitely giving and charitable. (p. 85)
  6. To say that Jainism differs from other faiths in that it also proscribes puṇya (merit) is to show ignorance of its precepts and philosophy. This belief is totally irrelevant and against Jaina elemental knowledge and its doctrine of karma. To base one’s arguments against merciful, kind, compassionate and altruistic activities, and those of service to the troubled and miserable creatures on the basis of this belief is against Jaina scriptures, Jaina dharma and even against humanity. (p. 221)
  7. If the activities of mercy, kindness, compassion, charity, service to the needy, benevolence, affection, etc., are considered deplorable and abandonable because they result in meritorious karmic influx and bondage, we will also have to consider the activities of restraint, renunciation, penance, pious and pure contemplations (Dharma-dhyāna and Śukla-dhyāna), destruction of passions and practicing as enunciated (perfect) monastic conduct (Yathākhyāt cāritra) also as deplorable and abandonable as they result in much more meritorious karmic influx and bondage as compared to the activities comprising positive non-violence as listed earlier. Such a thought even cannot be entertained as it is against the canonical teachings and the very religious precepts. As the latter activities are acceptable as means to the pursuit of spiritual emancipation so must be the latter activities on the strength of the same argument. Activities of both these kinds are acceptable or beneficial and not deplorable or abandonable. (p. 224)
  8. Kindness curbs the deplorable activities of cruelty, service curbs those of selfishness, kindness curbs those of mercilessness, simplicity curbs those of deceit, mildness curbs those of proud arrogance, and generosity or magnanimity curbs the deplorable activities of greed and miserliness. Such curbing results in karmic stoppage and the soul becomes pure. (p. 225)

The following words of the author are very important from the point of view of highlighting the form and content of positive non-violence: -

Positive non-violence includes only those activities that melt and reduce the feelings of attachment, aversion, possessiveness, and pride. Besides such noble activities, there may be other activities that may appear to be noble but if they result in increase in the feelings of attachment, aversion, passions, etc., they cannot be included amongst activities of positive non-violence.” (p. 144)

The thoughtful foreword by the author, the meaningful and extensive preface by Dr. Sagarmal Jain and the scriptural quotes, given at the end of the book, that strengthen positive non-violence are certain to be highly useful for the discerning readers. Where this book is sure to succeed in presenting the concept and practical aspects of positive non-violence to the laymen, scholars and ascetics alike, it is also readable by those of the Jaina sects that refrain from its activities and is sure to be thought provoking for them. If they will be able to imbibe its contents, the precepts and practice of mercy, kindness, compassion, service, friendship, affection, charity, etc., will become acceptable on a wider scale and will surely get a fillip. This will also be in accordance with the scriptural and fundamental teachings and the message of the Jaina lore.

The scriptural quotations appended at the end have been classified under fifty-seven heads and, where necessary, explanatory notes have also been given in order to clarify their meanings.

I am indebted to Prakrit Bharati, Jaipur, respected Shri D. R. Mehta, and the author and my teacher Shri Kanhaiyalalji Lodha for giving me an opportunity to edit this work. I cherish their affection, generosity, kindness, sensitivity and motivational nature.

Dharmachand Jain
3 K 24-25, Kudi Bhagtasani,

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