MISCELLANEOUS

Credo of non-violence

CHENNAI: A religion that has non-violence (Ahimsa) as its article of faith, Jainism as it is practised today is based on the teachings of its 24th Tirthankara, Vardhamana Mavavira (6th century B.C.) and traces its origin to Rishabhadeva, the first Tirthankara. It derives its name from the individual’s state of liberation “Jina”, meaning one who has attained total mastery over himself and hence it is a tradition that accords the greatest importance to the individual and his freedom to strive for his salvation. As the emphasis is totally on self-effort without the need for any other higher agency, a Jina commands the highest respect among his followers as he is a living example of what he preaches.

In his discourse, Sri Vivarjan Sagar Muni said human birth meant both joy and sorrow. Birth is the consequence of Karma. So rebirth is to be eschewed because the soul has undergone countless lives and suffered birth, disease and death again and again. A human being seeks only happiness in this world but he does not engage in righteous actions that will result in merit (Punya) which will bequeath joy. Just as one desirous of a particular crop must sow the right seed, so also should one remember that if he desires to enjoy only happiness he should not commit misdeeds which will result in Papa. That one can reap only what one sows can be understood by applying it to the fundamental concept of Ahimsa.

According to Jainism anything that lives has a soul, and hence in a positive way Ahimsa is a reiteration of fellowship with all creatures great and small. Ahimsa involves not hurting any life. When one kills a living being the agony that it undergoes accrues as Papa to the perpetrator. This will affect his peace of mind, resulting in mental stress. Thus one can never derive peace through violence.

Adherence to the practices of right conduct will erase the accrued sins and thereby restore peace of mind. The five great vows (Pancha mahavrata) for monks and 12 vows for the lay person comprise the ethics of Jainism. The Mahavratas are non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy, and non-possession or non-attachment. These have to be followed in thought, word and deed.

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