The rationale of nonviolence - Jainism

According to Jainism, the purpose of nonviolence is not because it is a commandment of a God or any other supreme being. Its purpose is also not simply because its observance is conducive to general welfare of the state or the community.

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While it is true that in Jainism, the moral and religious injunctions were laid down as law by Arhats who have achieved perfection through their supreme moral efforts, their adherence is just not to please a God, but the life of the Arhats has demonstrated that such commandments were conductive to Arhat's own welfare, helping him to reach spiritual victory. Just as Arhats achieved spiritual victory by observing non-violence, so can anyone who follows this path.

Another aspect that provides a rationale to the avoidance of hiṃsā is that, any acts of himsā results in himsā to self. Any act of violence though outwardly is seen to harm others, harms the soul of the person indulging in the act. Thus by an act of violence, a soul may or may not injure the material vitalities known as dravya praṇa of someone else, but always causes injury to its own bhāva praṇa or the psychic vitalities by binding the soul with karmas. It would be entirely wrong to see Ahimsa in Jainism in any sentimental light.

The Jain doctrine of non-injury is based on rational consciousness, not emotional compassion; on the responsibility to self, not on a social fellow feeling.

The motive of Ahimsa is totally self-centred and for the benefit of the individual. And yet, though the emphasis is on personal liberation, the Jain ethics makes that goal attainable only through consideration for others.

Furthermore, according to the Jain karmic theory, each and every soul, including self, has reincarnated as an animal, plant or microorganism an innumerable number of times besides being re-incarnated as humans.

The concept of Ahimsa is more meaningful when understood in conjunction with the concept of karmas. As the doctrine of transmigration of souls includes rebirth in animal as well as human form, it creates a humanitarian sentiment of kinship amongst all life forms.

The motto of Jainism – Parasparopagraho jīvānām, translated as: all life is inter-related and it is the duty of souls to assist each other- also provides a rational approach of Jains towards Ahimsa.

In conclusion, the insistence of ahimsa is not so much about non-injury to others as it is about non-injury and spiritual welfare of the self. The ultimate rationale of ahimsa is fundamentally about karmic results of the hiṃsā on self rather than the concern about the well being of other beings for its own sake.

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