Jaina Ethics


Ajit Kumar AJIT KUMARWISDOM IAS, New Delhi.

The doctrine of Ahinsa (Non-violence) is a cardinal principle of Jain Religion. It is so central in Jain faith that it may be called the beginning and the end of Jain Religion. The first and foremost principle of Jain philosophy is Non-violence (ahinsa). Non-violence means not to kill or hurt any living being by the body, speech or mind. It is possible only for those persons who dedicate their whole life on the basis of Mahavratas and who have renounced their household life. First of all one should shun all thoughts leading to ‘Sankalpja Hinsa’ (The violence perpertrated by intention and activities premeditated) coming to his mind out of attachment and aversion. The minor vow called “Ahinsa Anuvrata” prescribed by Lord Mahavir is an effective step in the direction of creating a healthy society.
A person perperates violence due to desire of possession. It is the main requirement of life. A man cannot sustain his life without it. The craving of more possessions make people indulge in violence. The greed for money, land etc. and craze for acquiring more things are the root causes of violence. So Non-violence is secondary where as Non-possession is the main principle of Jain philosophy. One cannot understand Lord. Mahavir’s conception of Non-violence until and unless he comprehends his principle of Non-possession. Violence and acquisitiveness go hand in hand.
Philosophically an important contribution of Jainism is the doctrine of Anekantavad. The Jain thinkers thought that reality can be examined from many (aneka) standpoints (anta). The thing can be described from at least seven standpoints (saptabhangi) and all can be equally true. This
doctrine has contributed to the tolerance of contrary opinions among theologians and philosophers. In modem times, when exclusive claims of religion are under strain, this doctrine has a special relevance and meaning.
 The Jain doctrine of Anekantvad (Non-absolutism) which is so relevant today that if propagated properly, it can solve many of the burning problems of modern times. Jain dharma has the capacity to become Vishva dharma (Universal Religion). Its principles are certainly beneficial for the humanity at large.
The sacred books of Jainism are called Agamas. The Jain agamas or scriptures are works of the immediate disciples of Mahavir. The first sacred books of the Jain are in Prakrit or Ardhamagdhi language. They were given their written form in the 5th century at Vallabhi, in Gujrat. Dr. L.M.
Joshi is of the opinion that the literature of Jainism is vast and varied. Its subject matter includes not only ascetic culture, morality, religion and philosophy, but also fable fairy-tales, legendary romances, history, hagiography, mythology and cosmology. Literature known as Agamas includes a large number of texts. These are devided into two classes. Anga Agamas or the original twelve books and Angabahya Agamas or the texts outside the original twelve books.
The Jain scriptures are the sources books of Jain ethics, yoga, religion, philosophy and mythology. The Tattvarthasutra is a famous book which summarizes Jain teachings. The Achangasutra deals chiefly with the ethical conduct and discipline of monks. The Kulpasutra describes in detail the life-story of Mahavir. A most remarkable description of hells is given in Sutrakritanga. The Sthanga discusses dogmatic topics. The Upasakadasha deals with pious men of the time of Mahavir. The contents of other book are mixed and varied. They deal with myths and legends, ethical and monastic discipline, hells and heavens, cosmology and astrology.

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Thursday, 01st Jan 1970, 12:00:00 AM