Jainism: give life, take not

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I bow to the enlightened ones.
I bow to the liberated souls.
I bow to the spiritual leaders.
I bow to the learned preceptors.
I bow to all the saints and sages.
Everywhere in the world.

— Namaskar Mantra
or Universal Prayer of the Jainas

Part I — Lord Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara

Mahavira: Pilgrim of the Highest

Mahavira, Mahavira, Mahavira!
In prayerful supplication I bow my head to you.
Do accept my soulful obeisance.
O Pilgrim of the Highest, ever wandering free,
Your Heart is a ceaseless Compassion-Fountain.
O Vardhamana, O Vardhamana, O Vardhamana!
By virtue of sleepless and breathless askesis
You made the discovery supreme:
Each bondage-life can and shall attain
Liberation of the Beyond.

The 24th Tirthankara

Lord Mahavira was not the founder of the Jaina religion. Jainism has a long and illustrious line of teachers who are called Tirthankaras. Tirthankara means "one who finds a place to cross the ocean of suffering." Another translation is "ford-finder."

The very first Tirthankara was Rishabha who lived at the dawn of human civilisation. Lord Mahavira was the 24th Tirthankara and the last one in this particular cycle of time.

Mahavira's conception

There are five very special and auspicious events in Mahavira's life which are celebrated by devout followers of the Jaina path. The very first of these is Mahavira's conception, or garbha.

According to our Indian philosophy, kings are traditionally of the Kshatriya or warrior caste, while the role of the Brahmins is to act as priests. When it comes to the Avatars and spiritual Masters of a very high order, Hindus, Jainas and Buddhists believe that they should also come from the Kshatriya class, since these great figures are actually kings in the spiritual realm. Sri Ramachandra, Sri Krishna and Lord Buddha were all Kshatriyas.

In the case of Lord Mahavira, it is believed that his soul originally descended into a Brahmin family. Indra, the king of the cosmic gods, could not brook this untoward circumstance, and so he occultly transferred the embryo to a devout Kshatriya woman by the name of Trishala. She was the wife of a wealthy zamindar, or chieftain, whose name was Siddhartha. He was the ruler of the Naya tribe.

Siddhartha and Trishala were already of the Jaina faith. They were devoted to the 23rd Tirthankara, Parsva, who had lived 250 years earlier.

Trishala's most illumining and fulfilling dreams

One night, before Mahavira was born, his mother Trishala had fourteen most significant dreams. She awoke, trembling with joy, and called her husband. She described each dream and asked him its significance. Trishala had dreamt of a lion, the rising sun, a lake filled with lotuses, a vast sea composed entirely of milk and many other sacred symbols.

In profound silence, Siddhartha meditated on the inner meaning of each one. Finally, he said to his wife, "I am fully convinced that you will give birth to a boy who is a very high soul. He will bring great honour and glory to our family. One day he will be crowned king and he will command a large army."

Trishala was very happy with the meaning her husband ascribed to her dreams. She stayed awake the rest of the night so that these good dreams would not be counteracted by any bad dreams.

When morning dawned, Siddhartha summoned the wise men of the village to come and interpret the dreams. They discussed all the symbols at great length and concluded that Siddhartha's son would be either an emperor or a Jina. A Jina is one who is victorious in the inner world. He is the conqueror of the self. It is from this word that we derive the word "Jaina."

Siddhartha accepted this interpretation and rewarded the wise men with food and gifts. Trishala was overjoyed to receive the news that their child was destined to achieve great things.

Mahavira's birth

Mahavira's birth, or janma, is the second of the five auspicious events in his life. His birthplace was Kundragrama in the kingdom of Vaisali in northern India. Mahavira's birth took place long 599 years before the birth of Jesus Christ and 32 years before the birth of the Lord Buddha. By divine coincidence, Lord Mahavira and Lord Buddha were born in the same vicinity.

Mahavira's parents gave him the name Vardhamana. Vardhamana means "the ever-increasing one." They chose this name because they noticed that ever since Trishala had conceived, their material prosperity had begun to increase immeasurably.

Vardhamana's childhood experiences

As a young boy, Vardhamana was physically very strong and he possessed tremendous courage. One day he was playing with some friends when a terrifying cobra appeared. All the other boys ran away in fright. But Vardhamana grabbed the cobra by its tail and threw it far away. Then he went and joined his friends.

This cobra was actually a cosmic god who had become jealous of Vardhamana's fearlessness. He wanted to test the child by assuming a most frightening form, but he was badly defeated.

Vardhamana decides to renounce family life

In the course of time, Vardhamana married. His wife's name was Yashoda and they were blessed with a daughter whom they called Priyadarshana. When the child was still very young, Vardhamana decided to leave his family and begin his spiritual life. By this time, his parents had passed to the other world and he felt that he should not delay his search for the highest Truth any longer. But his elder brother, Nandivardhan, came to know of his plans and requested him to wait a few more years. In obedience to his elder brother's wishes, Vardhamana agreed.

The great renunciation

Now comes the third auspicious event of Lord Mahavira's life — his renunciation, or vairagya. When Vardhamana was thirty years old, he had certain profound inner experiences by which he knew that the choice Hour had arrived for him to renounce the world.

When the villagers came to know of his decision, a huge procession formed. Vardhamana was carried in a magnificent palanquin to a park beyond the city. There he came down from the palanquin and began to renounce all his possessions one by one.

He took off his flower garlands and discarded his robes. Then he put on a single piece of cloth which was very simple. (Some years later, this cloth became caught on a thornbush and he never wore clothing again.) Finally, Vardhamana plucked out his own hair in five handfuls and silently walked away, in the opposite direction from his home.

"Happy are we, happy live we, who call nothing our own" was his motto.

The path of austerity

Vardhamana practised austerities to the extreme. He meditated day and night, under the blazing sun or in the freezing depths of caves. He fasted for long periods of time. He even abstained from water for weeks on end.

When he felt the need to take food, Vardhamana would go to the house of a villager to beg for alms. If he saw that another monk was there ahead of him, or even if he saw a dog or cat moving around, Vardhamana would quietly go away from the place. He would say, "All souls are equal. They have come here before me, so they are more deserving than I am. If I stay, then their share will be less. I do not want to deprive them. Let me go somewhere else to beg for food today." Such was his compassion-heart.

While he was seated in meditation, many kinds of insects gathered on his body, causing him great discomfort. But he valued the souls of these little creatures and he would not remove them or bathe.

Living in this way, immersed in prayer and meditation, Vardhamana walked all over India. He acquired the epithet 'Mahavira', meaning 'Great Hero', because of his unimaginable austerities.

Mahavira's supreme silence

Sometimes for months and even years, Mahavira observed a vow of silence, specially at the beginning of his spiritual life. It was his practice to get up at three o'clock in the morning and roam from place to place meditating, completely naked. He believed that if you have any possessions, it prevents you from realising God.

Mahavira was a strong man physically and people misunderstood him when they saw him in the streets at night. They used to insult him and even pelt him with stones or set dogs after him but, since he had taken a vow of silence, he never complained. He maintained his perfect equanimity towards all living beings.

One night he wandered into a particular village. It happened that there had been a considerable number of thefts in this village, and so people were in the streets looking for the thief. When they saw Mahavira, they were convinced that he was the culprit. Why else would he be roaming around the streets in the middle of the night?

So a group of men grabbed Mahavira and began asking him all kinds of questions.

"Tell us how much money you have stolen!"

Mahavira remained silent.

"Why did you take all those things?"


The men became frustrated because Mahavira was not responding and they began beating him up. Still he would not speak. Finally, they decided to take him to their superior, the village chief. The chief was completely drunk. He said, "Let us strangle this villain!"

They brought a very thick rope and tied it around Mahavira's neck. Seven times they tried to strangle Mahavira, but nothing happened. The villagers realised that Mahavira had tremendous spiritual power, so they begged his forgiveness and released him.

The ideal of ahimsa

Many times it happened that Mahavira was persecuted by inconscient people. Sometimes they would cover him with dirt while he was in deep meditation, or they would pick him up and drop him to try to disturb his trance. But Mahavira never retaliated. For him, ahimsa or non-violence was the highest religion. He used to preach,

"Towards your fellow creatures be not hostile; that is the Law of Him who is rich in control."

Mahavira's enlightenment

Throughout many long years, Mahavira never swerved from his austerities. When he was 42 years old, in his thirteenth year as a wandering mendicant, the fourth most auspicious event of his life took place. On that particular day, he sat on the bank of a river, under the blazing sun, and entered into a deep state of meditation, as was his wont. It was there that he achieved his enlightenment, which the Jainas called kevalajnana.

Mahavira's first words were: "I am all-knowing and all-seeing, and possessed of an infinite knowledge. Whether I am walking or standing still, whether I sleep or remain awake, the supreme Knowledge and Intuition are present with me — constantly and continuously."

Afterwards, Mahavira continued to walk from place to place for thirty more years. Everywhere he went, he preached compassion, tolerance and austerity.

Mahavira's five vows

This story took place during the monsoon season. During these four months of the year, the Jaina monks cease from their wanderings lest they hurt the tiny creatures which abound at that time. Mahavira arrived at a hermitage and the ascetics who dwelt there invited him to stay with them. He accepted their kind invitation and took up his abode in a grass hut.

Food being scarce, some cows came and began to eat the roof of the hut. Mahavira was happy to see them eating to their hearts' content and he continued with his meditation. But the head ascetic became furious. He insulted Mahavira mercilessly, saying, "Even the birds know how to look after their nests, and yet you do not know how to protect your own hut! Hard is it to believe that you were once a Kshatriya and the son of a chieftain."

As usual, Mahavira maintained his silence and did not make any reply. But from that day on, he took five vows which he observed for the remainder of his life. He decided never to stay at places where his presence would cause trouble to others. He determined to give all importance to the soul and not to the body. He resolved only to speak in answer to seekers' questions, or to beg for alms. In connection with alms, he vowed to accept only what he could hold in the palm of his hand. And, lastly, he made up his mind not to render service to householders for the sake of fulfilling his own needs.

Mahavira is unnecessarily tortured

One day Mahavira was meditating peacefully at the foot of a tree. A cowherd brought his cow to that place and said to Mahavira, "Please take good care of my cow. I will return later."

Mahavira was in deep meditation and he did not reply to the cowherd. The cowherd felt that the sage's silence meant that he agreed to accept the responsibility of the cow and so he went on his way quite happily, leaving the cow behind.

Mahavira continued in his meditation as before. After a few hours, the cowherd came back. He was shocked to discover that his cow was no longer there. It had wandered away. He was furious with the sage and began striking Mahavira mercilessly. Then the cowherd climbed up the tree and broke off a small branch. He started thrashing Mahavira with the branch, but Mahavira did not utter a word.

Finally, the cowherd took two sharp sticks and drove them deep into Mahavira's ears to seal them up. He shouted, "Since you pretend to be deaf, let me make it true!" Then he left the place.

Mahavira's ears were now bleeding profusely and he was in acute pain. He rose to his feet and walked to the next village. When the villagers saw him, they were simply horrified that someone could have treated him so badly. They gave Mahavira proper medical treatment and they were able to cure him.

The question of fate

Mahavira's first disciple was called Goshalak, but Mahavira used to call him Goshal. Goshal stayed with Mahavira for six years. Then they had a difference of opinion and Mahavira had to ask Goshal to leave.

The main reason they disagreed had to do with Mahavira's philosophy on fate. Goshal believed that, as human beings, we have to reap the fruits of our past actions. Everything depends on what we did in the past.

Mahavira said, "It is true that we reap the fruits of our past actions, but at the same time we have the capacity to go beyond our past. We are not completely subject to fate. If we pray and meditate, we can go far beyond the results of our past actions."

Goshal felt that fate is the last word in human existence, and Mahavira was of the same opinion as Sri Aurobindo, who said: "Fate shall be changed by an unchanging Will."

Eventually Goshal left his Master. He went out and started practising austerities on his own. He practised for many years and was able to acquire great yogic powers. He also gathered a number of disciples. Unfortunately, on several occasions his moral conduct was deplorable.

Many years later, after Mahavira's enlightenment, Goshal was to reappear in the life of his former Master.

Mahavira accepts female disciples

A particular king was killed in a battle and all his wealth was taken away. As a result, his young daughter, whose name was Chandana, was left completely helpless. One day she was walking along the street in a very sad mood. A rich merchant passed by. Seeing the princess, he enquired after her welfare. Chandana asked him if she could obtain work in his house as a maid. The merchant felt very sorry for Chandana and immediately offered her a position in his household.

Unfortunately, Chandana was so beautiful that the merchant's wife became very jealous. "This girl will create all kinds of problems for me," she said to herself. The wife did not dare to ask Chandana to leave the house but she took the opportunity to torture her whenever she could.

It happened that Mahavira once came to the merchant's house. As soon as Chandana saw him, she ran and fell at his feet. She begged Mahavira to accept her as his disciple. Mahavira gladly accepted Chandana, and with her he began his order for women.

Mahavira and the learned pandit

In the course of time, Mahavira became very well known. When he gave talks, he used to speak in Prakrit, which was the language of the people. He used simple words that they could understand. Most of the sages and pandits of that time spoke in Sanskrit, which was infinitely more difficult.

People used to flock to hear Mahavira's lectures. He would stay one or two nights in each village and then move on. He never stayed more than a few nights in any one place.

Once he entered a certain village and, as usual, all the villagers left their places of work to come and listen to him speak. In that village there was a very learned pandit. He had studied the shastras and he was a supreme authority on the teachings of the sacred scriptures.

The pandit noticed that everybody seemed to be hurrying somewhere and he asked one group, "What is happening? Is there a circus or something of that nature?"

The men replied, "We are going to hear Mahavira. He is fully illumined."

"What!" exclaimed the pandit. "He is nothing but an upstart! I have read all the scriptures. There is nothing he can tell you that I cannot. I will punish this rogue for fooling innocent people. I will expose him!"

So saying, the pandit followed the crowd to where Mahavira was seated in meditation. Thousands of people had gathered. Mahavira gave a very simple talk. He asked them to pray and meditate, to have more compassion for each and every soul on earth and to renounce the life of pleasure.

Towards the end of his talk, Mahavira started calling out, "Indrabhuti, Indrabhuti!" It was the name of the pandit. Mahavira said to him, "What are you doing there at the back of the crowd? Come closer to me."

The pandit was astonished. He asked, "How could you know my name? I did not reveal it."

"I know your name," answered Mahavira compassionately. Then he continued his talk. Everybody listened enraptured and nobody paid any further attention to the pandit.

When Mahavira had finished speaking, Indrabhuti said to him, "How do you know all these things? Have you studied the scriptures?"

"No, my son," replied Mahavira. "I know these truths because of my inner realisation. Books can never give us illumination. Illumination can only come from prayer and meditation. I want everybody to pray and meditate. This path is for everyone."

"How can it be?" protested Indrabhuti. "How can monks and householders, men and women, all follow the same path and keep the same standards?"

"Everybody can follow the same Truth," said Mahavira. "By forgiving all beings, having friendship towards all and malice towards none, you will realise the Truth."

Indrabhuti felt so much love and compassion in Mahavira that he became his disciple.

Goshal's curse

Many years after he had attained enlightenment, Mahavira went to a particular village to spread his message. His former disciple, Goshal, was also in the same village with his own disciples. Mahavira said publicly, "Some people have sincerely realised the Truth, while others have only false realisation. My ex-disciple, Goshal, is one of that type."

Goshal soon came to hear what Mahavira had said concerning him and he became furious. He came with some of his disciples to challenge Mahavira.

"Withdraw what you have said about me!" demanded Goshal.

"No, I cannot do that," replied Mahavira.

"Then tell me why you said 'my ex-disciple Goshal'," said Goshal. "How dare you claim that I was your disciple? I was never your disciple."

Mahavira looked at Goshal. "You were our Goshal," he said. "You stayed with us for six years."

"No," insisted Goshal. "I am not your Goshal. I have changed my name. It is now Udaye Kundiyajan."

"Oh, I was only talking about our Goshal," said Mahavira. "If you were not our Goshal, then why do you have to identify with him? Why do you have to be affected at all? If it is true that Goshal was someone else, then why do you have to worry about what I said?"

But Goshal was not satisfied with Mahavira's reasoning. He began to threaten Mahavira verbally. "You must never again say that I was your disciple," he screamed.

Mahavira remained unmoved. "I know you were my disciple," he said. "You were with me for six years."

Then a heated discussion ensued. Goshal became so enraged that he literally wanted to kill Mahavira. He used a special kind of occult power to attack Mahavira. The name of that occult force is tejoleshya. It is a kind of deadly heat.

When Goshal directed this force towards Mahavira, the destructive force penetrated Mahavira's body and then rebounded back to Goshal. Both of them were in severe pain. Their bodies were burning, burning.

Then Goshal faced Mahavira and said, "I am cursing you! Within six months you will die!"

Mahavira said, "I am sorry, but you will die in seven days and I will live sixteen more years."

Mahavira's disciples and Goshal's disciples all witnessed this scene. They saw that Mahavira was protected by his purity and spiritual height.

It came to pass that on the seventh day after this encounter Goshal died, while Mahavira went on to live for another sixteen years.

Occultly Mahavira knew that Goshal was in the village when he first gave the message about Goshal's false realisation. Goshal had misused his occult power on many occasions and the time had come for him to be exposed to the whole world.

Revati cures Mahavira

Although Goshal could not kill Mahavira, he did create serious physical problems for this great soul. Because of Goshal's destructive attack, Mahavira suffered from a burning sensation in his body. This went on for many years.

Mahavira's disciples were very distressed to see their Master in this condition. They begged him, "Please tell us how you may be cured."

"Only one person can cure me," Mahavira said. "Her name is Revati. She is an extremely devoted seeker. She is beautiful in her heart and in her life. You will find her in the village of Shavasti. If you go there and beg for alms, she will give you sweetmeats. Those sweets will immediately cure me."

The disciples hurried to that village and Revati gave them sweetmeats. As soon as Mahavira ate them, his pain disappeared completely.

Mahavira attains Nirvana

Lord Mahavira was now 72 years of age. It was the rainy season and he was staying in Pava. Tirelessly and selflessly, Mahavira passed his days and nights in giving discourses and answering questions in a large hall. Many people had gathered, including the members of various royal families. All gazed at the sage, who was seated in the lotus position before them, and drank in his every word.

After preaching more than 110 sermons — the final one lasting no less than 48 hours — Mahavira entered into deep meditation and withdrew from his physical body. This is the fifth and final auspicious event in Lord Mahavira's life. Like the Buddhists, the Jainas refer to this state as nirvana.

When the assembled crowds realised that Mahavira's soul had departed, they said, "The light has gone from this world. Let us now light clay lamps." Countless small lamps were lit to soulfully observe the passing of their beloved Teacher. Some people believe that this is one of the origins of our Indian Dipavali festival.

Lord Buddha was residing nearby at Samagrama at the time. Within a few fleeting hours, messengers brought him the news that Mahavira had attained nirvana. Although Lord Buddha and Lord Mahavira did not meet on the physical plane, they had tremendous respect for each other.

Mahavira's dearest disciple

Mahavira had eleven main disciples. The Jainas refer to them as ganadharas. Among them, the first and foremost was Indrabhuti Gautama, the learned pandit who had come to one of Mahavira's discourses with the intention of exposing him as a fraud.

Like Ananda, who was the Buddha's dearest disciple, Indrabhuti was deeply devoted to his Master. On the last day of Mahavira's life, in the year 527 BC, Mahavira gave a most moving sermon for Indrabhuti's benefit. In it, he urged his disciple not to halt before reaching the final Goal, but to make all haste to cross to the other Shore.

It is said that Indrabhuti was so inspired by the words of his Master that he achieved enlightenment the same day.

Mahavira's contemporaries

In the sixth century before the birth of Christ, the Supreme's Light descended very powerfully to earth in the form of spiritual Masters of the highest order, visionary prophets and wisdom-flooded philosophers.

In India, Lord Buddha and Lord Mahavira attained enlightenment and established spiritual paths to guide humanity to the goal of nirvana; in Persia, the prophet Zoroaster spread his lofty teachings on the nature of goodness and the reality of Heaven and hell; in China, the sage Confucius taught moral and social precepts that were to become the foundation of the Chinese way of life; and in Greece, the philosopher-giant Socrates, with his indomitable inner spirit, ushered in a new mode of thinking and a new standard of morality.

The spiritual, religious, philosophical and moral teachings of these immortal figures continue to mould and guide the consciousness of countless millions of people even to this day.


"If you know one, you know all.
  If you know all, you know one.
  One and all are the same."
  — Lord Mahavira

Part II — Essential concepts: by His Excellency Dr. L.M. Singhvi

Foreword to the Jain Declaration: by Dr. L.M. Singhvi

The Jain tradition which enthroned the philosophy of ecological harmony and non-violence as its lodestar flourished for centuries side-by-side with other schools of thought in ancient India. It formed a vital part of the mainstream of ancient Indian life, contributing greatly to its philosophical, artistic and political heritage. During certain periods of Indian history, many ruling elites as well as large sections of the population were Jains, followers of the Jinas (Spiritual Victors).

The ecological philosophy of Jainism, which flows from its spiritual quest, has always been central to its ethics, aesthetics, art, literature, economics and politics. It is represented in all its glory by the 24 Jinas or Tirthankaras (Path-finders) of this era whose example and teachings have been its living legacy through the millennia.

Although the ten million Jains estimated to live in modern India constitute a tiny fraction of its population, the message and motifs of the Jain perspective, its reverence for life in all forms, its commitment to the progress of human civilisation and to the preservation of the natural environment continues to have a profound and pervasive influence on Indian life and outlook.

In the twentieth century, the most vibrant and illustrious example of Jain influence was that of Mahatma Gandhi, acclaimed as the Father of the Nation. Gandhi's friend, Shrimad Rajchandra, was a Jain. The two great men corresponded, until Rajchandra's death, on issues of faith and ethics. The central Jain teaching of ahimsa (non-violence) was the guiding principle of Gandhi's civil disobedience in the cause of freedom and social equality. His ecological philosophy found apt expression in his observation that the greatest work of humanity could not match the smallest wonder of nature.

Presented to His Royal Highness Prince Philip
at Buckingham Palace
on 23 October 1990


These extracts on the Jaina philosophy are taken from a keynote address delivered by His Excellency Dr. L.M. Singhvi, High Commissioner for India to the United Kingdom, at the Summit on Religions and Conservation held in Atami, Japan, on 7 April 1995.

The premise of the Jain religion is that the goal of human life is liberation, which is defined as perfect knowledge, perfect intuition and eternal bliss. The path to liberation is paved by enlightened world-view, enlightened knowledge and enlightened conduct.

The Jaina theory of knowledge, known as anekantavada or the doctrine of manifold aspects, describes the world as a multi-faceted, ever-changing reality with an infinity of viewpoints, depending on the time, place, nature and state of the one who is the viewer and that which is viewed. It is this doctrine and the discipline of non-violence which lead to the doctrine of syadvada or relativity, which states that truth is relative to different viewpoints ( nayas ). What is true from one point of view is open to question from another. Absolute Truth cannot be grasped from any particular viewpoint alone because absolute Truth is the sum total of all the different viewpoints that make up the universe.

Because it is rooted in the doctrines of anekantavada and syadvada, Jainism does not look upon the universe from an anthropocentric, ethnocentric or egocentric viewpoint. It takes into account the viewpoints of other species, other communities and nations and other human beings.

According to the Jaina tradition, maximum abstinence from violence is of pivotal value and is the foundation of all virtues. Self-restraint is the hallmark of non-violence. Compassion and reverence for life are the sheet-anchor of the Jain quest for Peace, Harmony and Rectitude, based on spiritual and physical symbiosis and a sense of responsibility and restraint arising out of the ethical principle of cause and effect.

Although the term "ahimsa' is stated in the negative ( a = non, himsa = violence), it is rooted in a host of positive aims and actions which have great relevance to contemporary environmental concerns. Ahimsa is an aspect of daya (compassion, empathy and charity), described by a great Jain teacher as "the beneficent mother of all beings" and "the elixir for those who wander in suffering through the ocean of successive rebirths." Jiva-daya means caring for and sharing with all living beings, tending, protecting and serving them. It entails universal friendliness ( maitri ), universal forgiveness ( kshama ) and universal fearlessness ( abhaya/ ). Jains, whether monks, nuns or householders, therefore affirm, prayerfully and sincerely, that their hearts are filled with forgiveness for all living beings, that they crave the friendship of all beings, that all beings give them their friendship and that there is not the slightest feeling of alienation or enmity in their hearts for anyone or anything. They also pray that forgiveness and friendliness may reign throughout the world and that all living beings may cherish each other.

It is remarkable that the Jaina tradition, as indeed the Vedic and Buddhist traditions, established the principles of ecological harmony centuries ago, not because the world was perceived as heading for an imminent environmental disaster or destruction, nor because of any immediate utilitarian exigency, but because of its quest for spiritual and physical symbiosis, synthesised in a system of ethical awareness and moral responsibility.

Jaina ecological philosophy is virtually synonymous with the principle of ahimsa (non-violence) which runs through the Jaina tradition like a golden thread. Non-violence is the supreme religion and is the keynote of the Jaina tradition. Lord Mahavira threw new light on the perennial quest of the soul with the truth and discipline of ahimsa and said:

"There is nothing so small and subtle as the atom, nor any element so vast as space. Similarly, there is no quality of soul more subtle than non-violence and no virtue of spirit greater than reverence for life."

Ahimsa is a principle of compassion and responsibility. It should be practised not only towards human beings, but towards all animals and nature. The Jaina scriptures tell us:

"The Arhats (Venerable Ones) of the past, present and future discourse, counsel, proclaim, propound and prescribe thus in unison: Do not injure, abuse or press, enslave, insult, torment, torture and kill any creature or any living being."

Suffused with the theory of karma and transmigration of souls, Mahavira sums up the rationale of his philosophy of compassion and non-violence when he says:

"You are that which you intend to hit, injure, insult, torment, persecute, torture, enslave or kill."

It is the same sense of compassion and non-violence which is the basis of the ancient Jaina scriptural aphorism Parasparopagraho Jivanam (all life is bound together by mutual support of interdependence). Lord Mahavira proclaimed a profound ecological truth for all times to come when he said:

"One who neglects or disregards the existence of earth, air, fire, water and vegetation disregards his own existence which is entwined with them."

Jainas do not acknowledge an intelligent first cause as the creator of the universe. The Jaina theory is that the universe has no beginning or end. It is traced to jiva and ajiva, the two everlasting, uncreated, independent and co-existing categories. Consciousness is jiva. That which has no consciousness is ajiva. There are five substances of ajiva: Dharma (the medium of motion), Adharma (the medium of rest), Akasha (space), Pudgala (matter) and Kala (time).

Pudgala (matter) has form and consists of individual atoms ( paramanu ) and conglomerates of atoms ( skandha ) which can be seen, heard, smelt, tasted and/or touched. According to Jains, energy, or the phenomena of sound, darkness, shade, heat, light and the like, is produced by conglomerates of atoms.

The jiva (soul) has no form but, during its worldly career, it is vested with a body and becomes subject to an inflow of karmic 'dust' ( asravas ). These are the subtle material particles that are drawn to a soul because of its worldly activities. The asravas bind the soul to the physical world until they have brought about the karmic result, when they fall away 'like ripe fruit' by which time other actions have drawn more asravas to the soul.

With the exception of the Arihantas (the Ever-Perfect) and the Siddhas (the Liberated), who have dispelled the passions which provide the 'glue' for the asravas, all souls are in karmic bondage to the universe. They go through a continuous cycle of death and rebirth in a personal evolution that can lead at last to moksha (eternal release). In this cycle, there are countless souls at different stages of their personal evolution: earth-bodies, water-bodies, fire-bodies, air- bodies, vegetable-bodies, and mobile bodies ranging from bacteria, insects, worms, birds and larger animals to human beings, infernal beings and celestial beings.

The Jain evolutionary theory is based on a grading of the physical bodies containing souls according to the degree of sensory perception. All souls are equal but are bound by varying amounts of asravas (karmic particles) which are reflected in the type of body they inhabit. The lowest form of physical body has only the sense of touch. Trees and vegetation have the sense of touch and are, therefore, able to experience pleasure and pain, and have souls. Mahavira taught that only the one who understood the grave demerit and detriment caused by the destruction of plants and trees understood the meaning and merit of reverence for nature. Even metals and stones might have life in them and should not be dealt with recklessly.

Above the single-sense jivas are micro-organisms and small animals with two, three or four senses. Higher in the order are the jivas with five senses. The highest grade of animals and human beings also possess rationality and intuition (manas). As a highly evolved form of life, human beings have a great moral responsibility in their mutual dealings and in their relationship with the rest of the universe. It is this conception of life and its eternal coherence, in which human beings have an inescapable ethical responsibility, that made the Jaina tradition a cradle for the creed of environmental protection and harmony.

The Jaina tradition lays great emphasis on an integrated code of conduct, austere and exacting for the monks (Mahavratas) but comparatively moderate and flexible for the householders (Anuvratas). The five vratas (vows) in the Jaina code of conduct are:

- non-violence in thought, word and deed,
- to seek and speak the truth,
- to behave honestly and never to take anything by force or theft,
- to practise restraint and chastity in thought, word and deed,
- to practise non-acquisitiveness.

The vow of ahimsa is the first and pivotal vow. The other vows may be viewed as aspects of the larger concept of ahimsa which together form an integrated code of conduct in the individual's quest for equanimity and the three jewels ( ratnatraya ) of right faith, right knowledge and right conduct.

Underlying the Jain code of conduct is the emphatic assertion of individual responsibility towards one and all. Indeed, the entire universe is the forum of one's own conscience. The code is profoundly ecological in its secular thrust and its practical consequences.

The transgressions against the vow of non-violence include all forms of cruelty to animals and human beings. Many centuries ago, Jains condemned as evil the common practice of animal sacrifice to the gods. It is generally forbidden to keep animals in captivity, to whip, mutilate or overload them or to deprive them of adequate food and drink. The injunction is modified in respect of domestic animals to the extent that they may be roped or even whipped occasionally but always mercifully with due consideration and without anger.

Except for allowing themselves a judicious use of one-sensed life in the form of vegetables, Jains would not consciously take any life for food or sport. As a community, they are strict lacto-vegetarians, consuming neither meat, nor fish nor eggs.

By taking the basic vows, the Jain laity endeavour to live a life of moderation and restraint and to practise a measure of abstinence and austerity. They must not procreate indiscriminately lest they overburden the universe and its resources. Regular periods of fasting for self-purification are encouraged.

In their use of the earth's resources, Jains take their cue from "the bee that sucks honey in the blossoms of a tree without hurting the blossom and strengthens itself." Wants should be reduced, desires curbed and consumption levels kept within reasonable limits. Using any resource beyond one's needs and misuse of any part of nature is considered a form of theft. Indeed, the Jaina faith goes one radical step further and declares unequivocally that waste and creating pollution are acts of violence.

Accumulation of possessions and enjoyment for personal ends should be minimised. Wealth creation must have a philanthropic goal. Giving charitable donations and one's time for community projects generously is a part of a Jain householder's obligations. That explains why the Jain temples and pilgrimage centres are well-endowed and well-managed. It is this sense of social obligation born out of religious teachings that has led the Jains to found and maintain innumerable schools, colleges, hospitals, clinics, lodging houses, hostels, orphanages, relief and rehabilitation camps for the handicapped, old, sick and disadvantaged, as well as hospitals for ailing birds and animals. Wealthy individuals are advised to recognise that beyond a certain point their wealth is superfluous to their needs and that they should manage the surplus as trustees for social benefit. The five fundamental teachings of Jainism and the five-fold Jaina code of conduct are deeply rooted in its living ethos in unbroken continuity across the centuries. They offer the world today a time-tested anchor of moral imperatives and a viable route plan for humanity's common pilgrimage for holistic environmental protection, peace and harmony in the universe.

Divinity's fragrance-core

Laxmi Mall, Laxmi Mall Singhvi, Laxmi Mall!
Divinity's fragrance-core for big and small.
I bow and bow to your heart-throne and mind-crown.
Your Lion-Soul-Roar has silenced ignorance-frown.
Ancient tear-sea, modern smile-sky you own.
Infinity's Delight-Sun in you is grown.

The entire universe

"The entire universe is the forum of one's own conscience."
  — Laxmi Mall Singhvi

The togetherness of humankind

"The time for the idea of the togetherness of humankind has now come."
  — Laxmi Mall Singhvi

The principle of ahimsa

"I ask pardon of all living creatures; may all of them pardon me. May I have a friendly relationship with all beings and unfriendly with none."
  — Jaina prayer

The inner meaning of ahimsa

Jainism and ahimsa are one and inseparable.
What is ahimsa?
It is the non-violence-world-transformation-light.
What is non-violence?
It is Heaven's soul-flower and earth's heart-fragrance.

Part III — What India has

India has three world-conquering weapons: non-violence, peace and the wisdom which says that she is in all as all is in her.

The power of non-resistance

The history of mankind is replete with wars. One noble exception there is to this fact. Never have the Jainas engaged in war. They have discovered the infallible truth that non-resistance is the supreme power that eventually conquers the disproportionate power of militarism.

The two branches of Jainism

There are two main branches of Jainism: Digambara and Svetambara. Digambara means "one who is naked" or "one who has the sky as his clothes." Only men can become Digambara monks. They believe that if you have anything to your name, you cannot realise the Highest. Therefore, they have renounced all material possessions. They keep only a single peacock feather to sweep the ground clear in front of them so that they do not tread on any living beings and a gourd for boiled water.

The Svetambara branch is more moderate. Svetambara means "clad in white." Both men and women can belong to this branch. They often wear white clothes and sometimes a mask across their nose and mouth so that by breathing in they do not kill any little organisms in the air. They lead a very simple life and also follow the teachings of Mahavira.

In abiding by the principle of ahimsa, both branches show their deep reverence for all living beings. In ahimsa they find their lasting joy and their true salvation. Mahavira said, "One who neglects or disregards the existence of earth, air, fire, water and vegetation disregards his own existence which is entwined with them."

The turning point for Alexander the Great

Three hundred years before the birth of Christ, Alexander the Great marched across the Asian subcontinent, conquering all that lay in his path. Eventually he reached the Indian village of Taxila. As he and his troops swept through the village, they encountered some naked men sitting directly in the path of the army. They were Digambara monks.

Alexander was curious to speak with the monks and learn from them about their way of life, but they refused to speak with him until he came down from his horse, removed his battle armour and sat down in the dust of the roadside with them.

This Alexander did, to the wonder of all his soldiers. By conversing with the ascetics, he became aware of their deep reverence for life which they expressed through ahimsa. Alexander was humbled by this experience and he ordered the release of a prominent Indian king whom he had taken captive. He then turned his army around and went back home to his native Greece without making any further conquests.

Akbar yields to a Jaina monk

In 1582 the great Moghul Emperor Akbar invited a Jaina monk to come to his court and participate in religious and philosophical debates. Akbar was very fond of these debates and he tried to include representatives from many different paths. The name of the monk whom he invited was Haravijaya.

As a warrior, Akbar engaged in many battles. He was also deeply enamoured of hunting. Haravijaya knew that for him to accept the principle of ahimsa in its totality would be an impossibility. At the same time, he found that Akbar saw the virtue of non-violence. So Haravijaya counselled Akbar to set aside certain days of the calendar when all hunting and killing of animals would be forbidden throughout the empire. Although this entailed considerable personal sacrifice, Akbar agreed to this request. He also released many prisoners and caged birds on those festive occasions.

The source of Mahatma Gandhi's non-violence-weapon

Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Indian Nation, time and again offered his heart's gratitude to his closest friend, Rajchandbhai Mehta. Why? Because it was from this dearest friend, who was a devout Jaina, that Gandhi absorbed the principle of ahimsa which was to mould and shape his entire political life.

Once Gandhi wrote to his mentor-friend and asked, "If a snake is about to bite me, should I allow myself to be bitten or should I kill it?"

Rajchandbhai wrote back, "If the person lacks the development of a noble character, one may advise him to kill the snake, but we should wish that neither you nor I will even dream of being such a person."

Gandhi learnt this valuable lesson. Years later, he wrote, "The votary of non-violence has to cultivate the capacity for sacrifice of the highest type in order to be free from fear. He recks not if he should lose his land, his wealth, his life. He who has not overcome all fear cannot practise non-violence to perfection."

Ahimsa does not mean that one will not strike someone or fight with someone. Gandhi's non-violence was the vision of universal and transcendental Light in humanity. This is the vision that he had, that he embodied and that he wanted to reveal.

Mahatma Gandhi's physical frame was very frail and weak, but this physical frame embodied inner light in abundant measure. That is why he became India's unparalleled and supreme leader.

The practice of ahimsa

To practise non-violence, what we need is a pure heart and a sure life. India's Gandhi did it. We, too, can do the same.

Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi

In America, the Absolute Supreme chose Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to be the unparalleled student of Mahatma Gandhi and his message of non-violence.

Dr. King introduced the principle of non-violence to his brothers and sisters who were struggling for equal rights in all spheres of life. His momentous words were:

"I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality."

"He who himself hurts the creatures, or gets them hurt by others, augments the world's hostility towards himself."
  — Lord Mahavira

Part IV — Remarks on Jainism and Buddhism by Dr. Ananda Guruge and P.N. Jain

Jina Mahavira and the Sakyamuni Buddha: they walked the same streets

Jainism is a religion of great antiquity. Jina Mahavira Vardhamana, who was a senior contemporary of the Buddha, was undoubtedly the most important of its exponents.

Hailing from the ranks of warrior-rulers, both the Buddha and Mahavira saw the immediate practical implications of the fundamental Upanishadic concept of the Oneness of Humanity. They raised their voice in unison against the prevailing practice of assigning to people their place in society in terms of their birth and family background. This was the foundation of the caste stratification which both these great teachers felt was unjustly discriminatory. The Buddha said, "By birth one does not become a Brahmin or an Outcaste. By action and action alone does one become a Brahmin or an Outcaste." Jina Mahavira asserted the same when he said, "By action alone does one become a Brahmin, a warrior, a commoner or a slave." They both admitted to their religious orders all people without any restriction or prejudice.

While they disagreed on many philosophical issues, they were champions of non-violence and peace and used a common vocabulary to preach a code of righteousness. The Buddha had spoken of the fourfold restraints ( catuyamasamvara ) of Jainism but noted that they were overly stringent. That was to be expected from the Buddha, who preached moderation as the crux of his Middle Path. Mahavira, in turn, thought that the Buddha's teachings reflected inaction or detachment from action.

It is in their approach to dogma that they made a significant contribution to the promotion of free and open-minded intellectuality. Mahavira's syadvada (literally, 'maybe-theory') cautioned that any statement could be true or valid only relatively in relation to a particular context. The Buddha, on the other hand, was specific in his advice that one should not believe anything because it was in a book, was taught by a teacher whom one liked and so forth.

The time these two stalwarts walked the same streets and spoke of their different Paths of Deliverance to the same people must have no doubt been very exciting.

Together their words, deeds and thoughts have inspired millions of people over twenty-five centuries and bequeathed to humanity two great cultures exemplified by many a noble work of art, magnificent edifices of exquisite architectural beauty and stimulating literatures of admirable creativity.

— Dr. Ananda W.P. Guruge
Senior Special Advisor
to the Director-General of UNESCO,
former Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the USA,
Eminent Buddhist Scholar

Ahimsa Paramadharma: "non-violence is the highest religion."

The Jain path of ahimsa is non-violence in thought, word and deed. My Guruji, His Holiness Acharya Sushil Kumarji Maharaj, said, "Non-violence is the key to global survival." In 1975, breaking a centuries- old taboo against travel abroad, he became the first Jain monk to go outside of India. His primary purpose was to bring the teachings of Lord Mahavir to the wider world. In 1991 Siddhacalam was consecrated as the first Jain tirth, or place of pilgrimage, outside India. The principles of non-violence are more relevant now than ever before. As we come to the close of what may be the bloodiest century in human history, if we as a people are to survive we must embrace the dharma of non-violence.

The exemplary lives of Mahatma Gandhi and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. are celebrated throughout the world because of their commitment to non-violence. It is well known that Gandhi was a great influence on Martin Luther King. What is not so generally known, especially in the West, is that Jain principles were the greatest influence on Gandhi, who came from a part of India which is the heartland of Jainism. Some say that Gandhi's mother was of Jain ancestry. One of Gandhi's closest friends and advisors was a Jain by the name of Shrimad Rajchandra. Gandhi would seek his counsel at critical moments as he spearheaded the movement for a free India, and he turned to him throughout his life. The influence of Jain values through Gandhian methods in movements for peace and justice not only in India but in many countries — including the United States, the Philippines and South Africa — is indeed the historic achievement of Jainism.

We believe that the United Nations was created to achieve peace in all its dimensions. The work of Jainism at the United Nations, as initiated by His Holiness Acharya Sushil Kumarji Maharaj, is to create awareness of Jainism in the international community and of ahimsa as a way of achieving peace. In 1992 the International Mahavir Jain Mission became the first Jain organisation to be affiliated with the United Nations. My own lifework is to continue the legacy of my Guruji Acharya Sushil Kumar. We feel that the principle of non-violence means that we do not want "peace at any cost" nor can we use violent means to attain peace; rather, as Guruji said, we must evolve to a global culture of non-violence.

— Bawa Preminder Jain
United Nations Representative
and Director for International and UN Affairs
The Interfaith Center of New York
and The Temple of Understanding

The Jain community founded by H.H. Acharya Sushil Kumarji Maharaj in Blairstown, New Jersey, in 1983.

Part V — Lord Mahavira and Lord Buddha

The paths of Lord Mahavira and Lord Buddha

Lord Mahavira and Lord Buddha were contemporaries, although Lord Mahavira was a little older. Lord Mahavira lived from 599 to 527 BC and Lord Buddha lived from 567 to 487 BC. It seems that the Buddha took birth in a Jaina family. Both Lord Mahavira and the Buddha were born in the state of Bihar in northern India. Bihar is considered to be the cradle of both Jainism and Buddhism.

Sometimes the mendicant life of Lord Mahavira and the Buddha brought them into the same vicinity. On at least three occasions, they were preaching in the same village at the same time, but destiny did not allow them to meet personally.

Because of their tremendous respect for each other, Lord Mahavira and Lord Buddha were both interested in each other's philosophies. They used intermediaries to send and receive messages from one to another.

There are more than sixty references to Lord Mahavira in Buddhist literature. This has added considerably to our knowledge of Mahavira's life.

Now, thousands of years after these two immortal spiritual lions lived on earth, their light has spread in different ways. Buddhism is found mostly outside India, in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Japan, Cambodia, Myanmar and other places. But Jainism is found only within our Indian subcontinent.

We can say that Buddhism has gone out of India to spread India's lofty message of spirituality, whereas, Jainism has remained within the boundaries of India to proclaim India's spirituality.

Striking similarities in the early lives of Vardhamana and Siddhartha

The Buddha was born into a Jaina family. So, too, was Mahavira.

The Buddha's parents were Kshatriya rulers. Even so, were Mahavira's.

The Buddha's mother, Queen Maya, dreamt of several most significant symbols prior to the Buddha's birth, including an elephant and a white lotus.

Mahavira's mother, Queen Trishala, dreamt of fourteen special symbols prior to Mahavira's birth, including an enormous white elephant and a lake filled with lotuses.

The soothsayers who were summoned by each queen to interpret the dreams foretold in both cases that the child to be born would be either an emperor on the physical plane or a great spiritual leader.

The young Prince Siddhartha enjoyed unbounded wealth. The young Prince Vardhamana also had everything for the asking.

Prince Siddhartha married and had a little son called Rahu. When Rahu was a mere babe, Prince Siddhartha left his wife and child to go out into the world and seek illumination.

Prince Vardhamana married and had a little daughter called Priyadarshana. When she was yet a child, Prince Vardhamana also received an inner call to leave his wife and child and go out into the world and seek illumination.

Both princes renounced all their possessions and became wandering ascetics.

Significant similarities in the later lives of Mahavirya and the Buddha

Both the Buddha and Mahavira practised tremendous austerities when they first renounced the world. At the end of six years, the Buddha adopted the Middle Path, while Mahavira continued to practise austerities for the remainder of his life.

The Buddha and Mahavira had the goal of attaining nirvana, or complete enlightenment — and they both achieved this Goal of goals.

After the Buddha and Mahavira had attained enlightenment, they each walked countless miles to and fro across the face of India, giving spiritual discourses, answering the questions of aspiring seekers and begging for food.

They each began to accept disciples, both male and female.

Neither one recognised any of the traditional Hindu distinctions of caste.

The Buddha withdrew from his physical body at the age of 80. His last words to his disciples were, "All things composed are perishable. Now, strive diligently."

At the ripe age of 72, Mahavira left the body. On his last day, he uttered the words: "As a dewdrop clinging to a blade of kusa-grass lasts but a short time, even so, the life of men. Gautama, be careful all the while!"

Austerity, the middle path and the way of householders

Mahavira's own personal austerities were much greater than those of the Buddha. After a few years, the Buddha gave up extreme austerities and adopted the Middle Path. Mahavira was undisturbed by hardships of any kind. He continued practising austerities until he left his body at the age of 72.

But Mahavira did not advocate austerities for all his disciples. To those who were ready to accept the life of monks and nuns, he said, 'You have to be very, very austere.' But to those who were householders, he said, 'Go slowly. If you are not strong enough spiritually to become monks or nuns, then continue to make progress at your present level.' So Jainism has two approaches. In this way, Jainism has left room for progress. Like kindergarten students, householders can grow and grow and grow until they eventually reach the level of the college students, who are the monks and nuns. Then again, these college students can also grow and grow. They will go on to university level and eventually become liberated. Mahavira knew that not everyone could maintain the same standard, and so he allowed immense scope for progress. You can say that Jainism has little plants and it has trees.

Jainism reminds me of our ancient Indian system which tells us there are four stages of life: first you go to school, then you get married and lead a householder's life, then you retire and, finally, you renounce the world and go into the forest. In the same way, Jainism has two stages: the householder life for those who are not strong spiritually, and the life of a monk for those who are ready for the higher life.

The Buddha's philosophy was completely different. He did not advise his disciples to go to the extreme. A musician, for example, cannot remain either on the higher notes or on the lower notes. It is not at all pleasing to the ear. So he stays most of the time in the middle notes. Similarly, the disciples of the Lord Buddha progress steadily towards the perfect bliss of nirvana without going too far on one side or the other. The Buddha had a heart larger than the universe. He cried for the end of human suffering. His path was also very strict, but he did not want to impose undue sufferings on his followers through austerities.

The idea of God

Lord Mahavira did not believe in the existence of God or in the idea of Avatars, direct descendants of God. He said that if you realise your own soul, you will attain liberation.

Although the Buddha denied the existence of God and the soul, he did believe in the inner Light and in an inner being, an inner existence. He said that it is our inner existence which is eventually freed from the fetters of ignorance.

The philosophies of the Buddha and Mahavira are very similar in many respects. Both of them share the goal of nirvana and both proclaim the principle of ahimsa or non-violence.

Lord Mahavira and Lord Buddha came from the same spiritual Home: the Heart-Nest of the Universal Light.

The Buddha embodied and revealed the Light-aspect. Mahavira embodied and revealed the Power-aspect.

Both Mahavira and the Buddha came from the Beauty of the Unknowable and returned to the Fragrance of the Unknowable.

Part VI — World luminaries speak about Jainism


"May the Siddhas, purer than the moons, more radiant than the suns, and as profound as the oceans, give me protection. p1:" — Jaina hymn of praise

"Buddhism with its high and noble ethics, Jainism with its austere ideal of self-conquest, Hinduism with its magnificent examples on all sides of the Dharma are not inferior in ethical teaching and practice to any religion or system, but rather take the highest rank and have had the strongest force."
  — Sri Aurobindo

"How can the Hindu, whose whole fabric of thought centres in God, believe in Buddhism which is agnostic, or in Jainism which is atheistic?
  The Buddhists or the Jains do not depend upon God; but the whole force of their religion is directed to the great central truth in every religion, to evolve a God out of man. They have not seen the Father, but they have seen the Son. And he that hath seen the Son hath seen the Father also.
  " — Swami Vivekananda

"I am not Rama. I have no desire for material things. Like a Jina, I want to establish peace within myself.
  " — An utterance of Sri Rama in the Yoga Vasishtha

"Mahavira proclaimed in India the message of salvation that religion is a reality and not a mere social convention, that salvation comes from taking refuge in the true religion, and not from observing the external ceremonies of the community, that religion cannot regard any barrier between man and man as an eternal verity. Wondrous to relate, this teaching overtopped the barriers of the race's abiding instinct and conquered the whole country.
  "— Rabindranath Tagore
  Nobel Laureate (Literature)

"No religion of the world has explained the principle of ahimsa so deeply and systematically with its applicability in life as Jainism. As and when this benevolent principle of ahimsa is practised by people to achieve their ends of life in this world and beyond, Jainism is sure to have the uppermost status and Bhagwan Mahavira is sure to be respected as the greatest authority on ahimsa. If anybody developed the doctrine of non-violence, it was Lord Mahavira. I request you to understand the teachings of Mahavira, think it over and translate it into action.
  "— Mahatma Gandhi
  Father of the Indian Nation

"The path of ahimsa, non-violence, emerges unmistakably as the only effective counter to the atom bomb. The Jain message of non-violence can make a significant contribution in helping national and international societies to resolve conflict. More and more people have begun to appreciate the imperative need to adopt the non-violence formula so that a global war can be averted and tensions overcome.
  "— H.H. Acharya Sushil Kumarji Maharaj
  Jaina Spiritual Leader

"Jainism is really neither Hinduism nor Vedic Dharma. It contributes to the advancement of Indian culture and the study of Indian philosophy.
  " — Jawaharlal Nehru
  First Prime Minister of India

"The term Jain stands for self-control and ahimsa. Where there is ahimsa, the feeling of hatred cannot remain.
  "— Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
  The Iron Man of India
  Political Leader and Patriot

"Jainism has contributed to the world the sublime doctrine of ahimsa. No other religion has emphasised the importance of ahimsa and carried its practice to the extent that Jainism has done. Jainism deserves to become the universal religion because of its ahimsa doctrine.
  "— Dr. Rajendra Prasad
  First President of India

"There is evidence to show that so far back as the first century BC there were people who were worshipping Rishabhdeva, the first Tirthankara. There is no doubt that Jainism prevailed even before Vardhamana or Parshvanath. The Yajur Veda mentions the names of three Tirthankaras: Rishabha, Ajitnatha and Aristanemi.
  "— Dr. S. Radhakrishnan
  Second President of India

"All religions preach love and the shedding of hatred. It is the distinctive glory of Jainism that it has taken a lead in propagating the efficacy of ahimsa. The Jains have set the pace in serving humanity. The glorious heritage of the Jain religion can benefit the entire world.
  "— Giani Zail Singh
  Tenth President of India

"The sages, who discovered the law of non-violence in the midst of violence, were greater geniuses than Newton, greater warriors than Wellington. Non-violence is the law of our species as violence is the law of the brute.
  "— Romain Rolland
  Nobel Laureate (Literature)

"I do not know if there is rebirth or not, or life after death. But if it is true, then I would like to be born in India as a Jain.
  "— Albert Einstein
  Nobel Laureate (Physics)

"Let me assert my conviction that Jainism is an original system, quite distinct and independent from all others; and that therefore it is of great importance for the study of philosophical thought and religious life in ancient India.
  "— Dr. Herman Jacobi
  German Indologist

The inner secret of Jainism

They say that Jainism and its ahimsa-code have caught the imagination of the Indian nation.

I say that Jainism and its ahimsa-essence have elevated the consciousness of the entire world.

They say that the Jaina religion is practised only by the few.

I say that the Jaina code of life is destined to be practised by the many.

They say that Jainism is confined to the shores of our Mother India.

I say that the heart and soul of Jainism will eventually be embraced by humanity as a whole. Indeed, that blessed day is fast approaching.

They say that Lord Mahavira and Lord Buddha were contemporaries, but by no means equals.

I say that Lord Mahavira and Lord Buddha were perfect embodiments of the selfsame Light of the ever-transcending Beyond. Who are we to judge them? We have to be fully enlightened like them before we can open our big mouths.

They say that Jainism is stark austerity-life.

I say that Jainism expects austerity from those who have the capacity to renounce the world for the world-illumination, and self-control from those who are still enjoying the pleasure-life.

They say that Jainism is too difficult.

I say that Jainism is easier than the easiest if you have but one feeling deep inside your heart: love and sacrifice for each and every living thing in the universe.

Part VI — Song-Offerings

Mahavir Vardhaman

Mahavir Mahavir Mahavir Mahavir
Minati akuti bhakati pranati mama shir
Tirthankar tirthankar antar taba kripa nirjhar
He Vardhaman he Vardhaman he Vardhaman
Maha sadhanar maha muktir maha sandhan

Mahavira, Mahavira, Mahavira!
In prayerful supplication I bow my head to you.
Do accept my soulful obeisance.
O Pilgrim of the Highest, ever wandering free,
Your Heart is a ceaseless Compassion-Fountain.
O Vardhamana, O Vardhamana, O Vardhamana!
By virtue of sleepless and breathless askesis
You made the discovery supreme:
Each bondage-life can and shall attain
Liberation of the Beyond.

Namaskar Mantra

Namo arihantaanam
Namo siddhaanam
Namo aayariyaanam
Namo uvajjhayaanam
Namo loe savva saahunam

I bow to the /Arihantas/ — the ever-perfect spiritual victors.

I bow to the /Siddhas/ — the liberated souls.

I bow to the /Acharyas/ — the leaders of the Jaina order.

I bow to the /Upadhyasa/ — the learned preceptors.

I bow to all the saints and sages everywhere in the world.

These five obeisances erase all sins. Amongst all that is auspicious, this is foremost.

Jaina Prayer

Jam jam manen badham
Jam jam vaayen bhaasiyam pavam
Jam jam kaayen kadam
Tassa michaami dukkadam

If I have done wrong, or collected bad /karmas/ by my mind, speech and body, I wish to be forgiven and my sins nullified.

Four Jaina chants

Mahaavira Mahaavira
Trishlaa nandan
Mahaavira Mahaavira

O Mahavira,

You are the son of Mother Trishala.

Aum Guru, Aum Guru, Aum Guru, Aum.
Jay Guru, Jay Guru, Jay Guru, Aum.

Aum Arhum, Aum Arhum, Aum Arhum, Aum.

I pray to be free from sins.

Aum namo Siddhaanam

I bow to the liberated souls.

Note: This is one of the most powerful of all the Jaina mantras, and it is chanted many times over on a daily basis to invoke purity in the entire being.


Cessation of sorrow,
Cessation of karmas,
Death while in meditation,
The attainment of enlightenment;
O holy Jina! Friend of the entire universe,
Let these be mine,
For I have taken refuge at your feet.

— sacred Jaina prayer