Nov 28, 2007

The Principle of Non-violence (Ahimsa)

By: Dr. C Devakumar

Almost every religion wants to claim this principle in one form or another. Non-violence has been hailed as the supreme religion and the essence of all religions (Ahimsa paramo dharma). One must make a distinction between the principle and the practice. Putting a principle into practice brings in the element of subjectivity and diversity. Jainism, in true sense is synonymous with non-violence. None in mundane life can avoid one or other form of violence to fellow beings. In other words, violence is a part of mundane life and if so non-violence is next to impossible. All the Tirthankars have born in kshatriya (ruling) clan whose main duty was to defend the state from external aggression and ensure law and order within the state. Those Tirthankars who led Their household life as kings had to reward need-based capital punishment and wage war against aggressors.

Roughly up to first millennia after Mahavira, this religion was practiced by all walks of life that included peasants, artisans and courtesans alike. The religion of Ahimsa was not confined to any sect, or state. In the past one and half millennia major populace of Indians gradually disregarded their duties such as defence, agriculture etc and ignored their family life so much so that the social fabric became vulnerable to foreign aggression. Common wealth got eroded and impoverishment of people gulfed in states which were otherwise once very rich in the past. The states of Bihar, Orissa, UP, MP, AP etc. bear ample testimony. The middle path adopted by the people was neither here nor there. Either one should abandon householder routines and engage oneself in true renunciation or pursue the life of householders within the prescribed limits. We slowly encouraged all shades of ascetics and begging in the name of religion and God. Work and worship must go hand in hand for householders. The temple at Kajuraho etc, inventing puranas centering around gods with goddesses engaged in sensual (sexual) activities in preference to Vitaraga Parameshthin and (re) discovery of karma yoga in preference to renunciation or sanyas Yoga etc were possible attempts intervened from time to time to attract the citizens to social life. The laid-back approach of men folks in rural milieu in India has been the symptom of this chronic ailment.

If my above humble diagnosis is by and large correct, this happened due to wrong understanding of the principle of Ahimsa. It may be noted that I am talking of the principle but not the multiple ways through which this principle can be put into practice. Probably Jainism is the only religion, which prescribes Ahimsa as prime of the five vows (vrat) to be followed by both laity and ascetics. Though Patanjali has adopted these vows in his Yoga Shastra, these have not gained currency even in Hinduism. Jains are familiar with mega and minor vows (mahavrat and anuvrat). vrat = vi+ rat, rat means desire and vi means devoid. In other words, the practice of elimination or minimization of desires willfully is called vrat.

Now let me articulate the principle of Non-violence as stated in Jain scriptures. The psychic defects (dosha) or passions such as desire, hatred, illusion, ignorance, conceit, anger, ego, fear, hunger, thirst etc are the primary manifestations which hurt the essence of the soul. In reality, these defects or forces, which feed mundane life, are the seeds of violence. Invariably, we confuse the secondary physical manifestations as violence. It is like treating fruits at par with seeds. A clear distinction must be understood between these two pairs of causes and events. It is clearly stated in Bhagavati Aaradhana, Dhavala and other agams that verily your soul is the seat of violence and non-violence. If you are in pramatta state or state of intoxication (this term includes all feelings overcome by desire etc.), you are a himsak or source of violence and if you are in apramatta state i.e. sane, sober and wise, depending on your dispassionate level, you become non-violent to that extent. You cause himsa to yourself by passions. You may plot a crime in your mind but such crime wouldn’t have taken place in the outside world but you get your punishment. Merely looking for the physical manifestations as the cause and effect could mislead us. For example, a king wages a war. The king may not take part personally but the verdict would be: the king won the war. Sri Krishna, it is stated, did not take arms in the epic battle but he was the force behind it. So he was the real hero. The numerous soldiers who braved in the war front do not get this credit. Take another example. A servant may be working in a shop but he doesn’t own it. The owner is responsible for the outcome of the servant’s work. Verily, one causes violence but not paid for it and one is mute but owns it. In other words, violence at work and life per se is inevitable but not your intent. One who regulates his or her desires walks in the road of non-violence. If you are conscious in your thoughts, words and deeds in your interaction in the mundane world and still a life is lost due to your action, you do not own that act because, you have been detaching your Self from the fruits of your interaction. That is the art of living. Gita’s karma yoga is based on this principle: indulge in work but renounce the fruit. Always pray that you do not have to go through this dichotomous state. Pray and contemplate to become and be a pure soul devoid of all defects. It is our ignorance to think that we are saving life of others by our practice of non-violence. It is wise to know that non-violence saves you and you only.

Upanishads are extracts taken from Shramanic tradition catering to the demands of those who cannot renounce the world completely. Here we must substitute our pure Self in place of Lord or God. Let us turn to Ishopanishad:

1. The Lord is enshrined in the hearts of all. The Lord is the supreme Reality. Rejoice in him through renunciation. Covet nothing. All belongs to the Lord.

2. Thus working may you live a hundred years. Thus alone will you work.

3. Those who deny the Self are born again blind to the Self, enveloped in darkness, Utterly devoid of love for the Lord.

6.Those who see all creatures in themselves and themselves in all creatures know no fear.

7. hose who see all creatures in themselves and themselves in all creatures know no grief.

9-11. In dark night live those for whom the world without alone is real; in night Darker still, for whom the world within Alone is real. The first leads to a life of action, the second to a life of meditation. But those who combine action with meditation cross the sea of death through action. And enter into immortality Through the practice of meditation. So have we heard from the wise.

No comments:

Popular Posts

Mahavir Sanglikar's Articles

शोध आणि बोध: Marathi Articles on General Subjects