Positive Non-Violence





Dhammo dayāvisuddho|

- Bodhapāhuḍa (Kundakunda), 25.

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


Savvajīvāṇaṁ dayāvaraṁ dhammaṁ . . . . bhaṇṇadi so hu saddiṭṭhī |

- Kārtikeyānuprekṣā, 317.

One who considers mercy on all living beings as the noble faith has the right vision.


Savvehiṁ bhūehiṁ dayāṇukampī |

- Uttarādhyayana sūtrā, 21.13.

Be merciful and compassionate towards all living beings.


Jīvāṇa rakkhaṇaṁ dhammo|

- Kārtikeyānuprekṣā, 478.

To protect all living beings is the sacred duty.


From what Kundakundācārya has said in Bodhpāhuḍa it becomes clear that through mercy the dharma attains purity, meaning that in the absence of mercy the dharma is not right and pure. Daśavaikālika, a canonical work of the Śvetāmbara tradition, mentions mercy as a purifying agency for the faith for the spiritual aspirant. The message of Digambarācārya – Svāmī Kārtikeya that one who considers mercy on all living beings as the noble faith has the right vision is veryimportant. In the Uttarādhyayana, too, we have been urged to be merciful and compassionate.

From the abovementioned quotations it is proved that the quality of mercy is the very basis of dharma or, in other words, that of the (right) conduct (Cārittaṁ khalu dhammo) and, at the same time, it is also the foundation of the right vision. As the right knowledge follows right vision, we can say that the quality of mercy includes in it all three – right vision, right knowledge and right conduct. As these three constitute the path of liberation, the quality of mercy is variously proved as the means to attain liberation and that quality of mercy is decidedly the means of spiritual purification. By practicing mercy the spiritual aspirant advances in his spiritual practice. Therefore, the canonical works have stated that the living beings must be merciful and compassionate.

Mercy is the positive form of non-violence. In the first chapter, entitled ‘Ahiṁsādvāra’ of the ‘Saṁvaradvāra’ part of the canonical work called ‘Praśnavyākaraṇa sūtra’ are mentioned the following sixty synonyms indicating the qualitative attributes of non-violence or ahiṁsā –

1. Nirvāṇa (Deliverance) 2. Nivātti (Detachment) 3. Samādhi (Concentration) 4. Śānti (Peace), 5. Kīrti (Fame) 6. Kānti (Lustre) 7. Rati (Inclination) 8. Virakti (Disinclination) 9. Śrutāṅga (Scriptural part) 10 Tāpti (Satisfaction) 11. Dayā (Mercy) 12. Vimukti (Liberation) 13. Kṣānti (Forbearance) 14. Samyaktva-ārādhanā (Practical right vision) 15. Mahati (Greatness) 16. Bodhi (Enlightenment) 17. Buddhi (Wisdom) 18. Dhāti (Patience) 19. Samāddhi (Prosperity) 20. Āddhi (Wealth) 21. Vāddhi (Increase) 22. Sthiti (Position, condition) 23. Puṣti (Nourishment) 24. Nandā (Joyousness) 25. Bhadrā (Goodness) 26. Viśuddhi (Purity) 27. Labdhi (Yield) 28. Viśiṣṭa Dṛṣṭi (Special vision) 29. Kalyāṇa (Welfare) 30. Maṅgal (Benediction) 31. Pramoda (Happiness) 32. Vibhūti (Glory) 33. Rakṣā (Protection) 34. Mokṣavāsa (Liberated state) 35. Anāśrava (Non-influx) 36. Kaivalya sthāna (Omniscience) 37. Śiva (Auspicioisness) 38. Samiti (Comportment) 39. Śīla (Righteousness) 40. Saṁyama (Restraint) 41. Śīla parigāha (Residence of righteousness) 42. Saṁvara (Karmic stoppage) 43. Gupti (Self-control) 44. Vyavasāya (Business) 45. Unnata-bhāva (Exalted volition) 46. Bhāvayajña (Benevolence) 47. Āyatana (Shelter) 48. Yatanā (Care) 49. Apramāda (Vigilence) 50. Āśvāsana (Assurance) 51. Viśvāsa (Faith) 52. Abhaya (Safety) 53. Amāghāta (Safe conduct) 54. Bhalāī (Weal) 55. Pavitratā (Purity) 56. Śucitā (Cleanliness) 57. Pūjatva (Venerability) 58. Vimalatā (Stainlessness) 59. Prabhṛṣā (Language of kindliness) and 60. Nirmalatā (Spotlessness).

Thus, these sixty are the qualitative names of the goddess non-violence. Out of these, many such as mercy, protection, nourishment, joy, etc., are of practical positive non-violence. As non-violence is a means of karmic stoppage, it is inferred that positive non-violence in the form of mercy, protection, nourishment, etc., is also a means of karmic stoppage and, therefore, it cannot be a cause of karmic bondage. To believe that mercy, protection, etc., are causes of karmic bondage is to believe that karmic stoppage is a cause of karmic bondage, which is fallacious. Karmic stoppage is dharma. Therefore, positive non-violence in the form of mercy, protection, etc., is also dharma. Not to consider so is to believe that dharma is adharma and to believe like this is nothing but false vision. As has been said in the tenth part of Āhāṇāṅga sūtra –

Dasavihe micchatte paṇṇate taṁjahā –

adhamme dhammasaṇṇā, dhamme adhammasaṇṇā . . .

- Aphorism 993.

That is – ‘The false vision is of ten kinds such as – to believe adharma as dharma and dharma as adharma . . .’

The belief that ‘Mercy is dharma’ has been prevalent since the ancient age, as –


Dayādhammassa khantie vippasīijja mehāvī –

- Uttarādhyayana sūtra, 5/30.

That is – ‘The wise aspirant must keep himself happy with his mercy-dharma and forbearance.’


Dharmo jīvadayā –

- Padmanandi Pañcaviṁśati, 17.

That is – ‘To keep a kindly disposition towards the living beings is dharma.’


Dayā sarvaprāṇiviṣayā . . .

- Bhagvatī Ārādhanā, 1836.

That is – ‘Mercy concerns all living beings and to be moved by the misery of other living beings is mercy.’


So dhammo jattha dayā . . .

- Niyamasāra vātti.

That is – ‘Where there is mercy, there is dharma.’


Dayā dukhārtajantutrāṇābhilṛṣaḥ |

- Aṇagāradharmāmāta, Svopajña Āīkā, 4.1.

That is – ‘To desire to save the miserable living beings from their misery is mercy.’


Dayāmūlo bhaved dharmo|

- Mahāpurāṇa, 5.21.

That is – ‘Mercy is at the root of dharma.’


Paḍhamaṁ nāṇaṁ tao dayā|

- Daśvaikālika sūtra, 4.14.

That is – ‘First knowledge and then mercy, meaning that mercy is an outcome of knowledge.’


Yeṣāṁ Jinopadeśena kāruṇyāmātapūrite citte jīvadayā nāsti teṣāṁ dharmaḥ kuto bhavet| Mūlaṁ kṣamate-rādyaṁ vratānāṁ dhāma sampadāṁ guṇānāṁ nidhiriti | Dayā kāryā vivekimiḥ|

- Padmanandi viṁśati, 37 and 34.

That is – ‘How can those householders practice dharma whose hearts are not aroused by mercy for the living beings even after hearing the teaching of Lords Jina, which is full of the elixir of mercy. Mercy for the living is the root of the tree of dharma, it is the most important of all the vows, the abode of spiritual wealth and the treasure of virtues. Therefore, the discreet must practice mercy towards the living.’


Na taddānaṁ na taddhyānaṁ, na tajjñānaṁ na tattapaḥ|

Na sā dīkṣā na sā bhikṣā, dayā yatra na vidyate\

That is – ‘Where there is no mercy, there the charity is no charity; the meditation is no meditation; the knowledge is no knowledge; the austerity is no austerity; the monasticism is no monasticism and the mendicancy is no mendicancy.’


Savvajagajīvarakkhaṇadayaṭṭhāe Bhagavayā sukahiyaṁ

- Praśnavyākaraṇa, 22-22.

That is – ‘The Lord delivered His discourses for the sake of mercy and protection of all living beings.’


Dharmo dayāmayaḥ proktaḥ Jinendrairjitamātyubhiḥ|

- Varāṅgacarit, 15.10.7.

That is – ‘Death-conquered Jinendradeva has said that the dharma is merciful.’

Like this, there are innumerable aphorisms in the canonical works and their explanatory works to the effect that mercy is dharma and, therefore beneficial. Here we have just quoted a few as samples.


Mercy and Protection -


In the beginning of this chapter we have given sixty qualitative names of non-violence from the Praśnavyākaraṇa sūtra. These include mercy and protection. These names signify positive and not negative form of non-violence. The meanings of mercy and protection are – ‘to save’ and ‘to protect’. They are not limited to ‘non-killing’. In saving and protecting the non-killing is always included but its main thrust is on saving and protecting the living beings.

Here, clearly there are two aspects to non-violence. The first aspect is ‘not to kill’ and the second one is ‘to save’ or ‘to protect’. To accept the first aspect of non-violence and to reject the second one is to accept its incomplete version only. To deny the second aspect of saving and protecting is to deny the full meaning and expression of non-violence and to deny the merciful form of dharma. It is, in other words, to support violence and is, therefore, sinful.

The Jaina scriptures prescribe giving up of sinful practices in three ways and by three agencies. This means that one must give up sinful activities mentally, verbally and bodily by the three agencies namely – by self, by others and by appreciation or approval of others’ sinful actions. This means that that to indulge in sinful activities like violence, untruth, stealing, etc., through these three means and by these three agencies is sinful, bad and flawed conduct. To stop any sinful activity is dharma. Who-so-ever is prevented from indulging in a sinful activity will be saved from committing that sin and to save someone from committing sin is also dharma. Therefore, eventually not to kill any living being and to save one from being killed are the same. To save the life of some living being itself is saving that creature and is, therefore, mercy. Thus, mercy and protection are part and parcel of non-violent dharma. Emphasising the importance of mercy-dharma it has been said –

Dayā sukhān rī belaḍī, dayā sukhān rī khāna|

Ananta jīva mukate gayā, dayā taṇo phala jāṇa\

That is – ‘Mercy is a creeper, which yields the fruits of bliss; mercy is the goldmine of happiness; Infinite number of souls have liberated as a result of practicing mercy.’


Digambarācārya Kundakunda has also said –

Jīvadayā damasaccaṁ acoriyaṁ bambhacerasantose|

Sammaddaṁsaṇa ṇāṇaṁ tao ya sīlassa parivāro\

Sīlaṁ tavo visuddhaṁ daṁsaṇasuddhī ya ṇāṇasuddhī ya|

Sīlaṁ visayāṇa arī, sīlaṁ mokkhassa sovāṇaṁ\

- Śīlapāhuḍa, 19, 20.


That is – ‘Mercy towards the living beings, sense-control, truth, non-stealing, celibacy, contentment, right vision, right knowledge and penance are the members of the family of righteousness. This righteousness itself is the purest form of penance, it is the purity of vision and knowledge and an enemy of sensory indulgence and it is this righteousness that is a staircase that leads to liberation.’

Thus, Kundakundācārya has accepted righteousness as a ladder to liberation and he has also included mercy towards the living beings as one of the means to attain such righteousness. Mercy is a word that points towards positive non-violence. Thus, the use of the word ‘mercy’ instead of non-violence by Kundakundācārya clearly indicates that he did not limit himself to the ‘non-killing’ meaning of the term non-violence and emphasised its positive aspect in the form of mercy towards the living beings.

When somebody sees a creature in misery and dying and if he is not moved with sympathy and with a desire to save such a creature, he can only be called cruel and pitiless. Not only this, if he has the ability to save such a creature and does not act to save it, the rise of his feeling of pity is useless. That feeling is lifeless, dead, meaningless and useless.

Mercy is to save some dying or miserable creature from death or misery, it is not merely to watch it kindly while it is dying and miserable. If only watching be considered as mercy, then every moment everyone is watching innumerable dying and miserable creatures, and they will all be considered as merciful, which is ridiculous and, hence, unacceptable. Therefore, the true implication of the term ‘mercy’ is in actively saving and protecting. Mercy indicates activity in the form of saving and protecting and not inactivity and uselessness in the form of passive watching. Inactivity in this case is the extreme form of negligence. If inactivity and uselessness are accepted as the meaning of mercy then sleep will be the highest form of mercy. What is meant here is that the feeling and knowledge also become useful only when they are translated into appropriate actions. From the aphorism, ‘Paḍhamaṁ Nāṇaṁ tao dayā, too, we can infer that the fruition of knowledge is in the form of merciful activity. The essence of knowledge is in translating it into mercy (action). Without such mercy the knowledge does not fructify and one cannot gain the fruit of spiritual emancipation and liberation through knowledge without mercy.

When Tāpasa Vaiśyāyana attacked Gośālaka with Tejoleśyā (Spiritual power of creating intense fire)to burn him alive, Bhagvān Mahāvīra saved his life by projecting Śītaleśyā (spiritually created coldness in order to extinguish the fire of Tejoleśyā). If the Lord were not endowed with the feeling of mercy, kindness and compassion, He would have just passively watched Gośālaka being burnt alive andwould not have acted to save and protect his life. The very fact that the Lord acted to save Gośālaka underlines the importance of mercy, kindness and compassion.

There is yet another incident connected with Bhagvān Mahāvīra that further emphasises the importance that He accorded to mercy, kindness and compassion. Śreṇika, the king emperor of the kingdom of Magadha, once doubted the fidelity of his queen consort Celanā and that doubt became so intense and overpowering that he started considering all women as unfaithful and ordered the entire seraglio to be burnt down so that all the queens including Celanā would be burnt alive. When Bhagvān Mahāvīra came to know of this, he enlightened Śreṇika about the fact that all the seven daughters of king Ceṭaka including queen Celanā were absolutely faithful and true. He urged the king to give up his false doubt and to accept the truth. Śreṇika’s doubt was set at rest by the Lord’s intervention and a great sin was prevented from being committed.

What was the necessity of saving the queen Celanā? Why did the Lord not think that in this world infinite numbers of creatures die every moment and Celanā may also die likewise? What was it to Him? However, He thought otherwise and prevented a great calamity from happening. If all the queens were burnt alive there would have ensued great enmities with the kings of the kingdoms they hailed from and great wars would have been fought, killing millions of innocent people, in the aftermath of this calamitous happening just as the killing of an Austrian resulted in the eruption of the Second World War and brought the world the brink of ruin.

Bhagvān Mahāvīra was very sensitive. Therefore, his heart melted at the thought of others’ pain and misery and, hence, he acted to alleviate the troubles of anyone who came in contact with Him. In all this, He had no personal or selfish interest. This is, then, the nature of true compassion. The totally detached Lords are extremely compassionate and they always give all that they have for the benefit of the world at large. This is their charity and that is why they are said to be infinitely charitable. Bhagvān Mahāvīra, too, preached only due to His extreme compassion for saving and protecting all the worldly living beings.

Similarly, the Lord saved Māgāvatī by preaching the faith to king Caṇḍapradyota. Many an incident in general and these two incidents in particular, from the life of Bhagvān Mahāvīra, as well as, His discourses delivered during His monastic tours after His enlightenment are the living examples of positive non-violence.

A peculiar thing about all these incidents is that in all these no one was ever harmed but all involved were immensely benefited. The truth is that non-violence in the form of mercy, kindness and compassion is always beneficial for all.

There are many words that indicate mercy. In the Niryukti on Aupapātika sūtra it has been said, ‘Anukampā kāpā dayetyekārthāḥ|’ that is – mercy, kindness and compassion are synonymous. In the Niśītha cūrṇi, too,it has been said that to be moved by the misery of the miserable is also a form of mercy only (Anukampanamanukampā dayāyāṁ|).Therefore, we will discuss, in detail, various forms of mercy such as kindness, compassion, service, etc., in the chapters that follow.

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