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 Positive Non-Violence

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The Positive Meaning of

Non-Violence

Dhammo dayāvisuddho |

- Bodhapāhuḍa (Kundakunda), 25.

The real faith (dharma) is one that has been purified by mercy and kindness.

Mittī me savvabhūesu |

- Āvaśyaka sūtra.

I have friendship with all the living beings.

Sattveṣu maitrī guṇiṣu pramodaṁ,

kliṣṭeṣu jīveṣu kāpāparatvaṁ |

Mādhyasthabhāvaṁ viparītavāttau,

sadā mamātmā vidadhātu deva |

- Amitagati

Lord! Grant me the boon that my soul (I) may be ever friendly towards all living beings, and have a feeling of everlasting joy towards the virtuous; that I may ever be compassionate towards the miserable creatures and that I may be able to remain calm under unfavourable circumstances.

Gilāṇaṁ veyyāvaccaṁ karemāṇe samaṇe

nigganthe mahāṇijjare mahāpajjavasāṇe bhavati |

- Vyavahāra sūtra.

The monk who serves the diseased ones sheds great karmic bondages and even comes to the end of his worldly transmigration.

Tisidaṁ bubhukkhidaṁ vā duhidaṁ

daṭṭhūṇa jo du duhidamaṇo |

Paḍivajjadi taṁ kivayā tassesa,

hodi aṇukampā |

- Pañcāstikāya, 137.

When one gets perturbed by seeing the hungry, thirsty and the miserable ones and acts towards them with mercy, it is said to be his compassion.

Karuṇāe jīva-sahāvassa kammajaṇidattavirohādo

- Dhavalā Book 13, p. 362.

Compassion is in the nature of the living beings. Therefore, to call it karma generated, is against the scriptural teachings.

Asuhādo viṇivittī, suhe pavittī ya jāṇa cārittaṁ |

- Vāhaddravyasaṁgraha, 45.

(Right) conduct is nothing but refraining from inauspicious activities (like violence, etc.,) and to engage in auspicious activities (like mercy, kindness, etc.,).

Ātmaprayojanapara eva jāyate svādhyāyameva kurvan|

Vaiyāvātyakarastu svaṁ paraṁ coddharatīti manyet\

- Bhagavatī Ārādhanā, 329.

One who engages in self-study does well by himself only, but the one who serves others does well by himself as well as by the others.

Kiṁ Bhante! Jo gilāṇaṁ paḍiyarai se dhaṇṇe udāhu je tumaṁ daṁsaṇeṇa paḍivajjai?”

Goyama! Je gilāṇaṁ poaḍiyarai|

- Āvaśyaka sūtra Hāribhadrīya Āīkā, Folio 661.

(Agamodaya Samiti Surat, 1917)

Bhagavan! Who is noble, the one who serves the diseased or the one who serves you?”

Gautama! The one who serves the diseased.”

Dānaṁ sīlaṁ ca tavo bhāvo, evaṁ cauvviho dhammo|

Savvajiṇehiṁ bhaṇio, tahā duhā sua-caritehiṁ\

- Saptatisthānaprakaraṇa, verse 56.

All the Tīrthaṅkaras have said that the dharma is practiced in four ways – through charity, through righteousness, through penance and through right volition. That dharma has been said to be of two kinds – the scriptural dharma (Śruta dharma) and conduct dharma (Cāritra dharma).

Pasatthajogapaḍivaṇṇe ya ṇaṁ aṇagāre aṇantaghāī pajjave khavai|

- Uttarādhyayana sūtra, Ch. 29. Aphorism 7.

The monk who engages himself in auspicious activities of mind, body and speech destroys many kinds of destructive karmic bondages. Thus, it is clear that the auspicious activities of mind, body and speech are able to destroy the four destructive types of karmic bondages and yield the spiritual emancipation to their practitioners.

Jīvāṇaṁ rakkhaṇaṁ dhammo|

- Kārkikeyānuprekṣā, 478.

To protect all living beings is dharma.

The abovementioned quotes from Śvetāmbara as well as Digambara sources show that non-violence has a positive form and that it is based on positive activities such as mercy, kindness, compassion, affection, service, friendship, etc. Violence is not to be given up only because it results in karmic bondages and because it results in misery in future rebirths but also because to be violent is to be inhuman. All the religions of the world support such noble activities of mercy, kindness and compassion and urge their followers to act compassionately. It is a different matter altogether whether or not they apply this concept of mercy, kindness and compassion to species other than human. Unfortunately some Jaina thinkers have wrongly explained the concept of non-violence, which is Jainism’s mainstay. By doing so, they have promoted the practice of inhuman conduct. Therefore, it is essential that this concept is absolutely and clearly explained, propounded and translated into conduct in accordance with the scriptural teachings.

Not to indulge in violence is one of the meanings of non-violence. Generally some thinkers limit themselves to this negative interpretation of non-violence. Etiologically the word non-violence, the English for ahiṁsā, is made up of a prefix ‘a’ to the root word ‘hiṁsā’ (according to the rule ‘na hiṁsā iti ahiṁsā’). However, the prefix ‘a’ (naṅ) is used in more than one sense such as ‘absence of’, ‘opposite of’, ‘little of’, etc.. In ahiṁsā ‘a’ has been used in both the senses of ‘absence of’, and ‘opposite of’. It can be understood by another example of the word ‘adharma’, which means ‘absence of dharma’ as well as the ‘opposite of dharma’. Adharma certainly means ‘absence of dharma’, while it also means ‘opposite of dharma’. The acts of violence, lying, stealing, etc., which are opposite of religious acts of non-violence, telling the truth and non-stealing, etc., are also considered as irreligious. If someone just takes the first meaning of adharma and limits his views about it as not doing the religious acts and does not accept its second meaning and does not consider the acts of non-violence, telling the truth and non-stealing, etc., as dharma, his view would be considered as lopsided, incomplete and misleading. This view is also upheld by the following second half of the 37th verse of Chapter 20 of the Uttarādhyayana sūtra: -

Appā mittamamittaṁ ca duppaṭṭhiya-suppaṭṭhio\

In this verse the good activities have been said to be the soul’s friends and the bad activities as the non-friend. Here, the meaning of non-friend is not limited to not being friend but it, also positively means being a foe. Similarly, the word ahiṁsā (non-violence) certainly means the absence of hiṁsā (violence) but, at the same time, it also includes the beneficial or virtuous activities of mercy, kindness, compassion, affection, brotherhood, friendship, service, charity, benevolence, etc., which are opposite of hiṁsā or violence.

Two Forms of Non-violence –

Every quality has two forms – 1. Positive, and 2. Negative. Take, for example, the great vow of truth. Its negative form is not telling lies and its positive form is telling the truth. If we forbid the positive form of truth by forbidding ‘telling of the truth’, we will be left with only one alternative and that would be ‘not to tell anything’. It is so because telling can take only two forms – ‘telling the truth’ or ‘telling the lies’. In the negative form the vow of truth means ‘not telling the lies’ and its positive form of telling the truth we do not want to accept. Therefore, we are left with no alternative but ‘not to tell anything. If we accept this meaning of the great vow of truth then anybody who does not tell anything at all or is not telling anything at the time, would be endowed with the great vow of truth. Thus all creatures with no faculty of speech like plants and even the speech handicapped would be considered as being endowed with the great vow of truth. Not only that but lies of omission would not be lies at all. However, doing so would be clearly foolish and ridiculous. Leave aside the learned and the scholarly, even the ordinary or little educated or even the uneducated masses would also not accept this ridiculous meaning of the great vow of truth that anybody who is not speaking is observing the vow of truth. If we consider the whole issue dispassionately, we would find that this is quite appropriate, too. Thus, it becomes quite clear that in the quality of truth, telling the truth is also there along with not telling the lies. Similarly, the quality of non-violence also has these two forms. The negative form of non-violence is not to indulge in violence, not to kill, not to hurt, etc., while its positive form is to engage oneself in the activities of kindness, protecting, mitigating others’ pain and misery, etc.,

What is meant here is that every quality is not only in the form of absence of its opposite, but it is also in the form of the presence of its desirable aspects. This is possible only through the acceptance of its positive form. The qualities of compassion, friendship, mercy, etc., manifest themselves in the acts of kindness, charity, etc., and not merely in not killing and hurting the creatures. Actually, the meaning of mercy, kindness and compassion is not limited to the negative form of non-violence in the form of not killing or hurting the creatures, but also extends to its positive form of charity, service, cooperation, the feeling of affection, friendship, etc. If we take out this positive form we are left with only the negative form of non-violence. The quality of non-violence is in the form of good acts of mercy, charity, etc. Charity is the very natural quality of the soul and it is for this reason that the completely detached Lords are considered to be endowed with the quality of infinite charity (ananta dāna). Non-violence also means affection. That is why they are said to be universally affectionate. Thus, positive non-violence, and not only negative non-violence, has also been given a place among the natural qualities of the soul. As the word ‘ajñāna’ indicates absence of knowledge or ignorance, it also indicates false knowledge or opposite of knowledge. Similarly the word non-violence indicates absence of violence as well as mercy, kindness, compassion, affection, friendship, etc, which are opposites of violence.

In a wholesome life the renunciatory or negative form of non-violence is essential but to consider it as the whole meaning of non-violence would be delusory and misleading. Therefore, a practitioner of non-violence needs both the negative form of non-violence in the form of not killing or hurting any creature as also the positive form of non-violence in the form of mercy, kindness, compassion, etc.

The great Digambarācārya Nemicandra has said –

Asuhādo viṇivittī, suhe pavittī ya jāṇa cārittaṁ\

- Vāhaddravyasaṁgraha, 45.

(Right) conduct is nothing but refraining from inauspicious activities (like violence, etc) and to engage in auspicious activities (like mercy, kindness, etc.).

The negative form of non-violence is not to kill or hurt or dismember or torment or torture or harm or using hurtful speech or enslave or overload or misbehave with, or ill-treat or to subject to immoral behaviour or thinking ill of, or speaking ill of, any living being. In the positive sense it takes the form of mercy, kindness, compassion, charity, friendship, affection, service, cooperation, brotherhood, benevolence, generosity, gentility, sensitivity, etc. These two aspects of non-violence are mutually complementary.

Here, it is worthy of consideration that Bhagvān Mahāvīra was the all accomplished Lord. He had nothing more to accomplish after gaining his enlightenment and omniscience. Then why did He deliver His discourses to the worldly creatures? Which gain or merit did He earn by delivering these discourses? He delivered these discourses in order to express his feeling of mercy and protection for the worldly beings. As has been said in the Praśnavyākaraṇa sūtra –

Savva-jagajīvarakkhaṇadayaṭṭhayāe pāvayaṇayaṁ Bhagavayā sukahiyaṁ

The Lord delivered His discourses with a feeling of mercy and protection for all the worldly living beings.

The delivering discourses and personally enlightening the listeners by the totally detached Lord is the finest living example of positive non-violence.

Even before their monastic ordinations Bhagvān Mahāvīra and all other Tīrthaṅkaras, who were endowed with three kinds of perceptions (Sensory, Scriptural and Clairvoyant), also gave great charities, without any discrimination, to all those who came for one whole year each. If giving of charities were a cause of worldly transmigration and a hindrance in the form of golden shackles, in the gaining of spiritual emancipation and final liberation, the Lord would not have done even for practicing prescriptive non-violence proscriptive or negative form of non-violence is essential. The tree of prescriptive non-violence grows only on the soil of such proscriptive non-violence. This means that only on the ground prepared by negative non-violence can the tree of positive non-violence grow and bear the sweet fruits of love and affection. Without the right ground the trees do not grow and without the trees the ground cannot, bear fruits. The ground and the trees both are essential for the bearing of the fruits. Similarly, for gaining the fruit of liberation both the ground of negative non-violence and the tree of positive non-violence are essential.

In the abovementioned we have explained the two facets or forms of non-violence namely the prescriptive non-violence and the proscriptive non-violence. These two forms are not contrary but complementary to each other. The spiritual aspirant, whether a monk or a householder, must accept both these forms. The monk practices various comportments (samitis) and restraints (guptis) and treads the path of virtues by giving up that of vices. If he is a follower of Bhagvān Mahāvīra, knows the scriptures and is a true monk, an incessant current of kindness and compassion must flow in his heart. His heart melts at the misery of the creatures that burn in the fire of sensuality and passions and he preaches them and tries to save them from that fire. For the householders, too, both these forms of non-violence are practicable. It is a common delusion that the precept of non-violence is different for the monks and the householders. However, it is not possible to have different norms of non-violence for both these categories of followers. This noble precept is dharma for both. The limitations of their respective conducts may be different, its practice may be at a greater or lesser level but the basic precept remains the same and unshakeable. Thus, for both, the positive non-violence is as essential as the negative one.

Various dimensions of positive non-violence such as mercy, kindness, compassion, service, charity, affection, sympathy, friendship, gentility, etc will be discussed in the following chapters.

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e so at all. Even if such a negligence had been committed by Him due to His unenlightened state at the time, He would have definitely mentioned it as His negligence out of ignorance and forbidden such charities after becoming enlightened. He would have mentioned its proscription in His discourses and would have included non-charity also as a vow for the monks as well as the householders. However, no such proposition or proscription exists anywhere in the canonical literature. On the contrary, there is prescription for the giving of charity.

Even for practicing prescriptive non-violence proscriptive or negative form of non-violence is essential. The tree of prescriptive non-violence grows only on the soil of such proscriptive non-violence. This means that only on the ground prepared by negative non-violence can the tree of positive non-violence grow and bear the sweet fruits of love and affection. Without the right ground the trees do not grow and without the trees the ground cannot, bear fruits. The ground and the trees both are essential for the bearing of the fruits. Similarly, for gaining the fruit of liberation both the ground of negative non-violence and the tree of positive non-violence are essential.

In the abovementioned we have explained the two facets or forms of non-violence namely the prescriptive non-violence and the proscriptive non-violence. These two forms are not contrary but complementary to each other. The spiritual aspirant, whether a monk or a householder, must accept both these forms. The monk practices various comportments (samitis) and restraints (guptis) and treads the path of virtues by giving up that of vices. If he is a follower of Bhagvān Mahāvīra, knows the scriptures and is a true monk, an incessant current of kindness and compassion must flow in his heart. His heart melts at the misery of the creatures that burn in the fire of sensuality and passions and he preaches them and tries to save them from that fire. For the householders, too, both these forms of non-violence are practicable. It is a common delusion that the precept of non-violence is different for the monks and the householders. However, it is not possible to have different norms of non-violence for both these categories of followers. This noble precept is dharma for both. The limitations of their respective conducts may be different, its practice may be at a greater or lesser level but the basic precept remains the same and unshakeable. Thus, for both, the positive non-violence is as essential as the negative one.

Various dimensions of positive non-violence such as mercy, kindness, compassion, service, charity, affection, sympathy, friendship, gentility, etc will be discussed in the following chapters.

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