Positive Non-Violence






To interpret non-violence negatively and prohibitively as ‘not to be violent’ only is an incomplete interpretation of this term that has much wider application. Along with this negative form there is also a positive form of non-violence, which finds expression in the form of mercy, kindness, compassion, friendship, charity, service, affection, etc., The volitions such as forgiveness, simplicity, mildness, etc., also fortify the positive or prescriptive form of non-violence. To be non-violent is a basic quality of the soul and the basic quality is its nature. According to ‘Vatthusahāvo dhammo’ the nature is nothing but dharma. Therefore non-violence is dharma. The basic attributes or nature must have a positive aspect. Therefore, it is essential to accept the positive form of non-violence.

Kindness is natural to living beings; it is clear from the quotation from the Dhavalā commentary. It can neither be taken as due to the fruition of any earlier bonded karma nor as a cause of any karmic bondage. Compassion is a sign of right vision in the absence of which liberation cannot be imagined. Compassion also results in the destruction of the conduct deluding karma. Out of the words that indicate the positive aspect of non-violence, mercy is in the forefront. It is a volitional concept and it has been propounded as the main part of dharma and a means of purification. It represents both – the right vision and the right conduct, because mercy is based on compassion and compassion is a sign of right vision. Therefore, one who considers mercy as the best is not only said to be endowed with right vision, but also with right conduct as he abides by the mercy-dharma. Thus, mercy is the true means of liberation from misery. The use of the word ‘friendship’ indicates the existence of non-deluded and selfless love for, and cooperation towards all living beings. In the friendly volition the aspirant is able to achieve purity of volition and to destroy karmic bonds. Vaiyāvātya (service) also has a place among the positive forms of non-violence. Vaiyāvātya is an internal form of penance and the Lord has said that it is a potent means of karmic destruction and separation. The auspicious karma that yields its fruition in the form of a rebirth as Tīrthaṅkara is also earned as a result of Vaiyāvātya. The canonical term Vaiyāvātya itself is known as service in the currently used language. The service that is rendered under the influence of compassion and without any selfish motives or interests becomes beneficial to both the one who renders it, and the one who receives it. The word ‘Vātsalya (affection)’ that has been used in the canonical literature is also important from this point of view. Vātsalya is nothing but a feeling of universal affection and this volitional disposition is beneficial for all and reflects affection towards everyone. This is the reason why the Tīrthaṅkaras have been given the epithet of being ‘universally affectionate’. Among the activities of positive non-violence ‘charity’ has a prominent place. Charity also has been called dharma. In charity the inherent disposition is that of relinquishing the possessiveness and that of benefiting others. The Lord delivered His discourses for the benefit – mercy and protection – of the living beings of the whole universe. Tīrthaṅkara Bhagvān Mahāvīra very compassionately saved Gośālaka from the fiery energy that was released upon him by the sage Vaiśyāyana by releasing the cooling counter energy upon it. All Tīrthaṅkaras give a yearlong charity just before taking their monastic vows. Thus, we find numerous examples of mercy, charity, compassion, etc., in the canonical literature. The Jaina faith has also accepted the importance of activity. The activity that is undertaken under the influence of auspicious volitions has been considered as acceptable. The activity with auspicious volition not only results in the stoppage of the inauspicious but also in karmic destruction and separation.

The prohibition of the auspicious activities just because they result in the bonding of auspicious types of karmic bondages is not proper, because the auspicious activities like mercy, kindness, compassion, friendship, charity, service, affection, etc., are the cause of not only of the auspicious karma types but also of attaining liberation and are, therefore, acceptable and not deplorable or abandonable. It is so because the auspicious karmas are purely non-destructive. No basic quality of the soul is even partly destroyed due to any kind of auspicious activity and consequent karmic bondage. The intensity bondage of auspicious karma types is bonded due to reduction and destruction of passions. Therefore, when the aspirant is on the destructive ladder phase of his spiritual practice the intensities of the all present auspicious karmas peak and remain so till the very end when the soul achieves final deliverance. No living being can attain omniscience in the absence of reaching this peak of auspicious karmas. Said variously, it means that the destruction of passions and stoppage of sinful karmic influx results in incurring the auspicious karmas. Therefore, to consider merit as destructive for the spiritual aspirant and to prohibit it because it is the cause of meritorious karmic bondage is against the principles of Jaina faith, Jaina doctrine of karma, and its fundamental elemental knowledge. The Jaina philosophy considers only the sinful karmic bondages as deplorable and abandonable because they destroy the basic qualities and nature of the soul. The meritorious bondages have not been prohibited anywhere.

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