Author - 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).
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 millenia.
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
civilization 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.