The concept of non-violence has been preached by almost all religions of the world. All great thinkers and founders of religious orders universally accepted non-violence as a core principle of human conduct and a cardinal religious virtue.
In Indian religions in general and Jainism in particular non-violence is considered as a supreme moral virtue.
Non-violence is nothing but to treat all living being as equal. The concept of equality is the core behind the theory of non-violence. The observance of non-violence is to honour every form of life, whether they are living beings with one, two, three, four or five senses. As per the Jaina point of view, all living beings have an equal right to lead a peaceful life. Just like nobody has a right to take our life in the similar way we have no right to take another's life.
Jainism goes a step further and deep dives into Non-violence (Ahimsa) by also laying down ahimsa in thought, speech, intentions, attitude and conduct. Making it stand apart from other religions.
Jains believe that acquisitions are an obstacle to liberation. It can be of people, animals, beliefs or non-living materials. Worldly wealth creates attachment which results in greed, jealousy, selfishness, ego, hatred, violence etc. Which results in bondage with the cycle of birth and death. Jain monks have virtually no acquisitions or assests. While the guidance to lay Jains is to try and minimise their acquisitions.
Acquisition does not only mean a collection of things. It is a feeling of ownnership over those things or a sense of attachment towards those things. Non-acquisition and non-attachment are to be observed in speech, mind and deed.
Aparigraha is the first step towards advancement on the road of Dharma - Righteousness. An Aparigrahi is always above self. The Jain doctrine of non-acquisition could lead to more equitable distribution of wealth and resources in society.
Anekantavada is one of the most essential and fundamental doctrines of Jainism. It refers to the principle of pluralism and diversity of viewpoints. The notion that truth and reality are perceived differently from diverse points of view. The Jaina philosophers held that everything in the world is complex in nature and as such has many aspects. It would be improper to view something by only one of its characteristics and to hold that view as final. On the contrary, it should be viewed by its varied aspects to properly comprehend it.
A deeper understanding of Anekantavada provides excellent insight into the problems of human interactions which cause conflict, grief, envy and hatred. Similarly, it is highly applicable to understanding social issues and national strife. More importantly, these doctrines provide ways of resolving global differences and conflicts by being open to accept different points of view.
When a person destroys his four Ghatiya karmas he attains kevalgyana. He has regained the original attributes of his soul, which are perfect knowledge, vision, power and bliss. He is omniscient of the past, present and future forms of all entities (living and non-living beings) in the universe. He is still a human being but remains in ablissful state for the rest of his life. Arihants are classified into two categories Thirthankars and Simple Kevali
Immediately after attaining kevalgyana, if a person establishes the four fold religious order of monks, nuns, shravaks (male householder) and shravikas (female householder) is known as a Tirthankar. He preaches Jain philosophy, religion, code of ethics and conduct to his followers.
Jainism believes that twenty-four Tirthankars are born during each descending and ascending part of the time cycle in this region (known as Bharat Kshetra) in the universe. No two Tirthankar as can exist at the same time. Generally, a Tirthankara is born when the religion is in a state of depression. The new Tirthankar comes and revives the same Jain philosophy. He gives a different form to the religious practice, which depends upon the time, place and social behaviour of human society at that time.
Both Arihants and Siddhas are considered Gods of Jain religion. Arihants are perfect human beings and preach the Jain religion to the people after attaining kevalgyan. After death, they become Siddhas. All Siddhas are perfectsouls, living forever in a state of bliss or Moksha.
The only difference between Tirthankara and Simple Kevaliis that the latter does not establish the religious order.
In the religious scriptures the name Arihantas and Tirthankaras are interchangeably used because Simple Kevalis do not play any active roles in the religious order. Tirthankar is also known as Jina, Arihant, Arhat, Arhant or Nirgrantha
Both Tirthankars and Simple Kevalis (all Arihants) become Siddha after nirvana (death). All Siddhas are equal in qualities.
Both the Tirthankaras and Simple Kevalis (all Arihants) destroy the remaining four Aghati karmas at the end of their present life. After their nirvana (death) all of them are known as Siddhas. They are totally free and liberated. They live as pure souls in an everlasting blissful condition at the top of the universe (Lokakas) known as Moksha. The qualities and attributes of all Siddhas are the same, however they still retain their unique identity and form. For example Lord Mahavira's soul as a Siddha possesses the same qualities as Shri Gautam Swami or Shri Bahubali's soul, however their souls remain unique, individual with different forms.
An interesting concept in the philosophy of Jainism which has been elaborately discussed is the theory of Karma. Karma is nothing but the law of moral causation which is that nothing happens without a cause. Each individual is responsible for his or her actions. It is important to understand that good actions generate good fruits and bad actions generate bad fruits. This will motivate a person to refrain frombad actions and perform only good actions.The theory of Karma also explains the role karmas play in our lives. How we accumulate karmas, why we accumulate karmas, what happens with the accumulated karmas and how to get rid of the karmas, both good and bad, as this is the only route to salvation.
Karmas is made up of Karman particles. Karman particles are non-living matter scattered all around us and all over the universe. They are very fine particles that cannot be seen even with a microscope. A cluster of innumerable Karman particles is called Karman Vargana. Whenever we think, speak, or act, Karman Varganas around us are attracted to our souls. (This process is called Asrava in Sanskrit.) The Varganas become bonded to our soul and once they are bonded, they are called Karma(The bondage is called Bandh in Sanskrit.) Depending on our passionate emotions of attachment, anger, ego, greed, and deceit Karman Varganas are attracted towards our soul. Karman Varganas that are attached to your soul are called karmas.
There are three primary ways to perform activities; mental, verbal andphysical. Taking these a step furtherwe can perform each of the above activities ourselves, ask someone else to perform the activities on our behalf or encourage someone else to perform the activities. Hence there are nine ways to perform theactivities mentioned above, so for example we can do the metal activity on our own, ask someone else to perform it on our behalf or encourage someone else to do it. Out of all of the three primary activities, mental activities have the farthest-reaching consequences on our soul. Under certain circumstances, we are constrained and disregard the Law of Karma and are forced to perform evil actions against our will. In such cases too karmas get bound to our soul however the duration may be short, and the bitterness less intense.
Prakriti Bandh depends on the type of activities in which we indulge. Each karma particle can give a specific type of fruit to the soul when it matures. The nature of the fruit that Karma will give at maturity is determined at the time the karmas get bound to the soul. There are eight major categories and 158 sub-categories of the nature of Karma. These 158 varieties of karmas lead to various type of pleasant and unpleasant experiences and circumstances for the Jiva (living being).
The eight types of karmas are as follows:
Karma particles that get bound to the soul become a part of the karmic body, which accompany the soulinto future births. The duration of times till which these karmic particles will stay bound to the soul is called Stithi Bandh. The intensity of our desire at the time of the activity decides the duration till which this karma particle will be bound to our soul. The milder the intensity the shorter is the duration and the stronger the intensity, the longer is the bondage. The time,karma can stay bonded to the soul could range from a fraction of a second to innumerable number of seconds.
Karma particles give mild or intense fruits to the Jiva (living being) on maturity. The intensity of karma depends upon how intense our passions are at the time of the activity. The lesser the intensity of our passions, the less severe is the result of the bondage; the greater the intensity, the more severe the result of the bondage.
Karma enters the soul and becomes part of the karmic body. The exact number of karmic particles that get assimilated in the karmic body at a point of time is called Pradesh bandh.
From the four distinct characteristics, Prakriti bandh (nature of karma) and Pradesh Bandh (quantity of karma) are dependent mainly on Yoga (mental, verbal and physical activities). On the other hand the time or duration and intensity of bondage(Sthiti and Anubhagbandh) are mainly dependent on the intentions behind the mental, verbal and physical activities.
When karmas attach to the soul, there are four levels of bondage:
It should be noted that it is not always true that we have to wait to bear the result of our karmas; we can change the course of our karmas before they mature. They can be changed in duration and intensity as well as in nature too. This is a very important point because it means that not only do we have control over our karmas, but that we can also change our fate.
Karmas obstruct these eight attributes of a pure soul:
The aforementioned four attributes of the soul are experienced by Arihants. The following four attributes are experienced only when the soul is liberated which is when Arihants become Siddhas upon their death.
To manifests the above attributes and become a pure Soul, one needs to get free from all the 8 types of Karmas.
If we look around us, we see living things everywhere people, cats, dogs, birds, insects, plants, etc. There are various forms of living beings in this universe. As one can see, nothing is permanent, every minute something dies, and something is born. It makes one wonder what happens after death and what decides our next birth. Is there a law that governs this outcome?
Jainism has an explanation, it is the result of the karmas associated with our souls which makes one go through the cycle of birth and death since time immemorial. Until the soul gets rid of its karmas, it will never be free. When a living being dies it can be reborn into one of four given below which are known as Gatis or destinies:
Human beings, Heavenly beings, Tiryancha beings, Infernal beings
Modern science is inconclusive about life after death or so-called rebirth. However, Jinas has explained that there is life after death and it is we and no one else who decides what will happen to us after our death. No God or superpower decides our future. It is our past and current deeds that trigger the accumulation of the karmas, which in turn, govern what we will be reborn as in our next life. Let us learn about this Gatis or destinies.
As human beings, we have been endowed with the ability to think and we can differentiate right from wrong. We can decide what is good for us and what is not. We can also control our minds and actions. We can learn of the wholesome religious principles of Jainism and put them into practice by adopting appropriate vows and restraints. We can also renounce worldly life for monkhood, which can lead to liberation or salvation from worldly life (Samsar).
Heavenly being, have superior physical capabilities, a variety of supernatural powers, and access to luxuries. Heavenly life is transient, and when it comes to an end, heavenly beings feel very unhappy. They cannot adopt restraints or renounce their lives to become monks or nuns. Therefore, certainly, there is no salvation in heavenly life, and such beings will have to be reborn as human beings to attain liberation.
Tiryancha beings are born as animals like lions, elephants, birds, insects or plants, etc. One is considered to be of a lower lifeform. Animals and birds may be able to think, but not nearly as well as humans, and they do not have the ability to differentiate right from wrong. There is a great degree of suffering and dependency in their lives. Only some animals and birds with a higher level of wisdom may be able to observe certain levels of restraint. The rest of the Tiryancha beings passively go through the suffering destined for them. A life of this kind is not analogous to a life aimed at attaining salvation.
Infernal being lives in hell. One has to undergo continuous suffering. Most of the time, infernal beings fight among themselves and cause more suffering to one another. Such a life is, therefore, absolutely unsuitable for spiritual pursuits.
Thus, it is clear that out of these four Gatis or destinies, only human life is suitable for spiritual pursuit and freedom from the cycle of birth and death.
Those who enjoy excessive violence, lying, stealing, and sensuous pleasure or are too possessive, angry, egoistic, greedy, deceptive, or intensely attached to worldly life are likely to be reborn as infernal beings in hell.
Those who are disciplined and straight forward, observe vows and restraints, behave well, have good character, have faith in true teachers, attempt to gain true knowledge, and follow a good moral life are generally reborn as heavenly beings.
Those who are selfish, cause trouble, or wish evil onto others are likely to be reborn as Tiryancha beings.
Those who are simple, straight forward, and are admirers of truth, have few attachments, control their anger, greed, or deception, and try to follow religious teachers are generally reborn as humans.
In short, we are the masters of our destiny and existence, therefore we should not blame anyone or anything else for our destiny. Let us be inspired to lead a spiritual life without delay, so that we may be reborn as human beings and continue to tread on the path of liberation.
Vegetarianism is understood with different connotations in different contexts. Viewed with Jainism as a backdrop it amounts to eating a diet which causes no harm or injury to living beings directly or indirectly. It is closely linked to three fundamental principles of Jainism: Ahimsa or Non-violence, Sayyam or Self-control and Tapas or Austerity.
Ahimsa is the basic principle on which the Jain moral code is built. In simple words, 'Live and let live' is the creed of Jainism. As life is precious, each one of us wants to live, enjoy pleasures and escape pain. If we want to exercise our right to live, we must give the same right to others as well. It is a simple moral law of reciprocity. Therefore, human beings have no right to slaughter animals for theirfood or pleasure. If they does so,due toa belief in their superiority, then in the cadre of biological evolution, these actions are not justified. To lead a life of justice and equality in society, a human must have the highest respect for the entire animal world, and the sanctity of life per se. This necessitates for taking up a vegetarian diet.
A human is endowed with the faculty of discrimination between right and wrong, just and unjust, and fair and unfair. Our superiority over other living beings dependon our ability to exercise these faculties with the utmost sincerity. As enlightened beings, humans cannot afford to grant themselves privileges and prerogatives not available to others living things. We cannot enjoy any rights without the responsibilities accruing from them. In fact, every respectable citizen has more duties than rights and is expected to lead a life of self-control. Such self-control, according to Jainism, amounts to various kinds of restrictions in matters related to food, in acquiring possessions, and enjoying pleasures. Moderation is the first step on the path of self-control. By observation, Jain teachers have concluded that animals as a source of food not only involve the destruction of life, but also stimulate animalistic passion. Therefore those who wants tolead a sober, sensible and religious life should live on a vegetarian diet.
Austerities of various kinds are prescribed in Jainism, and a pious Jain is expected to observe various austerities such as fasting, eating less than one's fill, putting restrictions on the use of certain food items, and renouncing delicacies. The underlying principle is 'Eat to live but, not Live to ea'.
These doctrines of Non-violence led the Jain Teachers to study in detail the animal kingdom and classify various living beings under different classes based on their level of development and faculties of sense. If injury to a living being was to be avoided, it became necessary to study and classify living beings.
Living beings fall into two broad classes, Trasa or mobile and Sthavara or immobile. Trasa beings are those who possess two, three, four and five senses. Sthavara beings are those who have only one sense namely, that of touch. Sthavara beings are of five kinds: earth-bodied, water-bodied, fire-bodied, air-bodied, and vegetables. Jain Teachers had realized long back that plants had life, and hence treated them as one-sense beings.
When Jain Teachers studied the animate world in detail, they realised that complete abstinence from injury to living beingswas practically impossible. Naturally, every individual might not be able to avoid injury to living beings in the absolute sense. Jains are broadly divided into two groups, Ascetics and House holders. Ascetics are to observe the vow of Ahimsa in the strictest sense. They cannot cause injury to living beings, even in their diet. To put it plainly they cannot use seeds in their food which are capable of growing into plants. Thus Ascetics avoid all kinds of harm to both Trasa and Sthavara beings.
The case of a householders it is slightly different. They have social obligations and practical duties, therefore vow to avoid injury to Trasa beings. It is not always possible for him to prevent violence on Sthavara beings, but the main aim is to minimise harm.
Root vegetables and anything that grows below the soil including onion, garlic, potatoes and carrots are forbiddensince they contains infinite living souls and some of them are Tamsik (foods that are old, foul, or unpalatable, and thought to stimulate violent and negative behaviour) in nature.
Fermented foods which use live yeast or rennet is not allowed. Alcohol is shunned as fermentation is involved in the production, and also because it clouds one's judgement, leading to violence.
Eating after dark is frowned upon in Jain Dharma and there is a perfectly philosophical as well as scientific reason for it. Germs and microbes that disappear when there is sunlight do not really get destroyed; they take shelter in shadowy places and after sunset, they enter and pervade the atmosphere. These microbes are invisible to the naked eye, get into our food. Consuming this food after sunset will lead to killing these germs and bacteria. Thus to avoid himsa against these living beings it is suggested not to consume food or water after sunset.
The scientific reason is that our biological clock is set according to the sunrise-sunset. When the sun is right above us, our digestive fire is at it's peak. The food eaten at night does not get digested since the digestive system becomes inactive during the nightand we face problems of indigestion. The metabolic rate also slows down at night as we do not indulge in any physical activity which aids digestion. Hence, due to these reasons the food taken at night does not get digested properly; and its put refaction in the body is harmful to health. This leads to increase in weight, as undigested food gets stored in the form of fats. It also leads to foul smell in the breath, put refaction of teeth, constipation, pain in knee joints and several diseases of the throat.
In a heartening, rallying, cry to those protesting the excesses of the industrial dairy industry, some Jains will only accept milk and other dairy products from sources where cattle is treated in an ethical and humane manner.
Multi-seeded fruits and vegetables, such as figs and egg plants are avoided. The promise of inherent life,in multitude, in such produce, is more important than the sacrifice of lust to the palate.
Honey is a forbidden food, since removal of it from the honeycomb involves the death of thousands of bees.
As for the thin silver foil that is used as a decorative coating for cardamom seeds and sweets, Jains don't touch it, since the metal has been beaten paperthin between layers of soft leather, or the intestines of cows.
The above details make it abundantly clear that Jainism not only insists on a strict vegetarian diet but prohibits even those vegetarian foods which cause harm directly or indirectly to subtle organisms and hence are to be avoided by pious Jains.
Apart from the religious aspect, vegetarian food has its merits. A vegetarian diet is conducive to a dispassionate and balanced mind and a detached and equable attitude. In a vegetarian diet baser emotions and animalistic instincts are sublimated resulting in nobler virtues of universal kindness, equality, and brotherhood.
It is universally accepted that nowhere else but in India, do we have the doctrine of Ahimsaor non-violence. It has significantly and long-continued to influence the national character. It is therefore our national history and heritage, that outstanding men and women of our land have adhered to vegetarianism so that they might create a kindlier atmosphere and prove themselves to have standards of high thinking and simple living.