AHIMSA

Correspondence reveals grasp of the fact that Nonviolence in thought, emotion, expression, deed and action constitutes a fundamental pillar of Jain philosophy.  What has moved the Western World is the consideration of the principle of Ahimsa towards no only fellow human beings, but to all living beings.  Chitrabhanuji says  “The universe is not for man alone.  It is a field for evolution of all of life’s forms.  Different living forms may not be the same in mental capacity and sensing apparatus, the life force is equally worthy in all.” 

Chitrabhanu’s message to the Western World has been that people must refrain from greed and violence to survive and to create the atmosphere of peace, nonviolence and understanding.  Non-violence is integrally related to truth.  Indeed to separate  oneself  from the truth is violence. 

At the International Press Conference for Religious Peace sponsored by the Embrace Foundation at the U.N. Chapel in New York on October 4, 1985, Gurudev Chitrabhanuji declared:  “To save the world from annihilation we must practise the Jain principles of ahimsa (non-violence) and understanding.  Mahatma Gandhi, albert Schweitzer and Martin Luther King had demonstrated the spiritual power of non-violent action to bring about significant social changes.  Indeed there is nothing in the world so powerful as non-violence.”

The message of Lord Mahavir has gone home with the devout International followers:  “All of our acts of goodness.  All of our moral practices to give up greed and be more humane are meaningless and useless unless we have non-violence and reverence for all living beings in our thoughts, in our hearts and actions.”  “I cannot take what I cannot give back.  No one can give back life,   So no one should take it.” 

The famous American Scientist Carl Sagan observed  in an interview published in the Time Magazine on October 20, 1980:

“There is no right to life in any society on earth today, nor has there been at any fromer time with a few rare exceptions such as among the JAINS of India.  We raise farm animals for slaughter, destroy forests, pollute rivers and lakes until no fish can live there, hunt deer and elk for sport. . . . .

 The message of non-violence has been taken in the comprehensive backdrop of world-wide violence, which threatens to blow up humanity and destroy all fruits of civilisation in terms of values of life, and the concepts of compassion, pity, love and symathy.

There is intense regret and unhappiness at the acceleration of violence in India  -  the land of peace and non-violence.  Kamla wirtes:  “I worry about you everytime.  I hear news of violence in India. Such a beautiful land with so much to teach us.”

Talking about guns and violence in   USA, Quaker Elizabeth from New York found it disgusting that Ronald Reagan during his visit to Mexico presented a rifle to the President of Mexico.  Pro-gun organisations tell people:  “Guns don’t need people; people do.”  But even to own a gun, says Elizabeth, is a violation of Ahimsa for it implies ‘I can kill you’.  America was built on God, guns and guts mentality.  It is a tragic fact that the average high school graduate has been exposed to 18000 TV murders, the rich can buy gold-plated pistols per $10000/- and guns have come to be regarded as American as baseball and apple juice.  In 1980 there eight handgun murders in England but in USA the number was 10012—Enough bad news.”

Clare Rosenfield  has written with great lucidity, eloquence and depth of feeling on the state of world today with indifference and cruelty to life being perpetuated all around us, with ahimsa being relegated to the background, and fear, terror and agony increasing the area of suffering for the humanity and indeed for all living beings.  The letter is a beautiful form of poetic because the expressions have flown from Clare’s heart:

“In these ‘civilized’ days of minutely planned weapon systems, precise mechanisms of premeditated mass murder in the name of  ‘self-defence’, we have become inured to violence.  Torture is justified as patriotism; missiles are calculated to target only people, not buildings, in some cases: people who hold minority views or who are not in a position of power are discriminated against and economically exploited.  Why?  Because of the fundamental flaw in thinking,  because of the gap between intellect and feeling.

When feeling and thinking are in harmony, one would not hesitate to say that all living beings, not just men, not just women, not just wild life, not just certain species of birds or whales, but all creatures are created equal.  One would regard killing as killing, whether it was inflicted on humans, seals, lobsters, fish, sheep, cows or anyone.  All living beings breathe.  When they die, the life force ebbs away.  When death is caused at the hand of another, there is suffering.  There is pain.  There is fear, terror, and agony.  There are no exceptions.

It is nearly spring time.  Along with the budding blossoms of leaves and flowers and grass, along with the Planting of gardens, and the sweet scent in the air, along, with the melting of the snows, there is another not so joyous event going on in our universe.  The birth of baby seals would be a joyous occurrence if it were not a delivery into the hands of murder, excruciating pain, and death.  Can we not stop it?  If human babies were subjected to this, the murderer’s excuses.  Does a seal mother feel any less maternal loving than human mother?  Especially right after birth?  Can you imagine watching your own new born baby smashed over the head with a baseball bat a few hours after you gave birth?  It is unthinkable.  And yet it is not only thought of; it is executed, year after year, after year, despite protests and determined efforts on the part of animal lovers and humanitarians who feel that life is sacred, regardless of the from in which it is found.

When womankind will stop turning a deaf ear to brutality wherever it is, when womankind will stop condoning tyranny by supporting the machines of tyranny (agribusiness which streamline the business of animal confinement and slaughter, fur farms which breed, confine, strangle, or asphyxiate foxes, minks, rabbits, and other innocent creatures for profit, cosmetics industries which squeeze or scrape openings near the reproductive organs for future perfumes, which harpoon whales for  lipsticks, rouge, and other products, which kill musk deer for scent).

When womankind will stop turning a deaf ear to brutality meted out to the most helpless of living beings—the innocent, defenseless animals—only then will there be a move to end brutality and violence towards human beings.  It is those who care to save the lives of all life forms who will awaken humans to their own destiny.  No matter how many outcries of rage are sent out into the universe against the tyranny of dictatorships, agains the irrationality of leaders in perpetuating the arms race, against the  violence done in the name of any ism or in the interest of profit, they will not be effective until the enraged uses his/her voice to stop injustice toward all living beings and until that person stop feeding his/her on murdered flesh.

Animal lovers, activists, vegetarians have taken their place in history as great literary figures, as hightly respected philosophers, artists, mathematicians, statesmen.  Among them are Diogeness, Porphyry, Pythagoras, Seneca, Ovid,  Plutarch, Plato, Socrates. Alexander Pope, schopenhauer, Leonardo da Vinci, Michael de Montaigne, Geremy Bentham, John stuart Mill, Percy Busshe Shelley, Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy, George Bernard Shaw, Maurice Maeterlinck. Annie Besant, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Rabindranath Tagore, John Harvey Kellogg, Albert Schweitzer.
 

Top

Jesus said, “For I tell you truly, he who kills, kills himself, and who so eats the flesh of slain beasts eats the body of death.”

When blood soaks the earth, Mother Earth groans with pain.  Sometimes the pain bursts the earth open and the wound remains gaping, We humans call it earth quake and many beings are swallowed up.  We don’t know why?  Sometimes the tears flood out and overwhelm rivers, villages, cities of inhabitants, floating them out to sea Sometimes her wailing is reflected in the torrential rains and blizzards of different climates worldwide.  Mother Earth mourns.  The sun grows dim, covered over by heavy clouds of man’s immorality.  The air chockes with pollution and negative vibrations are contagious.  Mother Earth come and go, but she remains.  While we are here, let us offerings.  What makes her smile is what makes us smile. Watery streams, and that is harmonious living, harmless living, a life lived in reverence for life.  In this way we will treat all of life with respect, with reverence, with care, regarding all that lives as our own selves.”

Clare, otherwise a clam, meditative and quiet person expresses great courage of her convictions and profoundity of feeling when she deals with reverence for life, and longs for a world in which suffering is reduced to minimum and peace is all-pervading.  She advocated deepest level of compassion on a universal  scale for suffering inflicted on or endured by all living beings, regardless of race, nationality, religion and form.  Here is what she once narrated to Gurudev in a weave of profound thought:

“Once, while waiting at a train station in southern Thailand, I heard cries and wails which pierced my heart.  I traced their source to scores of pigs and piglets  being roped together, shoved, and kicked into the back of a large lorry, eventually to be transported to slaughter.  The squeals and cries sounded to me just like those of my own two babies then four and one,  whom I had left in Bangkok in order to take this trip.  It was then the I thought,  “If it were my own babies, would their suffering by anymore or less than that of the pigs?”  I sat in that station and sobbed.  That scene did something to me.

Today, the minds of many men are focused on how to streamline the process of truning animals into food with the same attitude as turring steel into cars.  Efficiency.  Profit motive.  More and more.  Faster and faster, Babies separated from their mothers, some even suffocated in bags (roosters, for example, deemed useless).  This summer I witnessed a newborn calf crying tears and rolling its eyes restrained in a pen after having lost its mother to the dairy farmer after two days.  I saw a movie called The Slaughterhouse Reform Bill in which the ‘Kosher Kill’ was exposed without commentary.  Cows, calves, lambs were corrailed down a narrow corridor.  One by one, they dropped through a trap door and were caught by a rope by one leg, after which they dangled next to one another fully conscious, in agony, until a man with a long knife came and slit their throats.  The blood that gushed was in torrents.  Everyone who watched that film in the room with me was crying out in anger, anguish, or uncontrollable tears.  The last part of the film showed the ‘humane’ method where the animal is stunned first, with the blow of a sledge hammer, drops to the floor with others who are also in line, and where, unconscious though  not yet dead, it faces the knife.  The film ended on an absured note—‘If you were an animal, which method of slaughter would you prefer?’

The mentality which can kill thousands of non-human lives in a day, what is to prevent it from taking the next step, from killing thousands of human lives?  If we can kill the most helpless, the most voiceless, the most defenseless for profit and for our bodies, what is it that will stop us from sending beautiful sons and daughters to war, rendering ourselves helpless before the stockpilers of weapons and misguided planners of our defense?  If we can think for ourselves, take our lives into our own hands, get up in arms about the arms race, then can we not also stop contributing to the perpetuation of agony, pain, and suffering in our diets?  Can we not see the subtle, desensitization that consumerism, taste buds, and no wanting to know is covering us with?

I don’t know the answer.  I only know that for me and our children, the vegetarian way of life is not only a way of removing ourselves from supporting the machines of violence and the mentality of callousness toward helpless creatures, but  it has also been able to give us a new and fresh outlook on life.  I feel one with the creation I feel a deep kinship with the beings with whom I share the planet.  I see them as energies, conscious, living, growing evolving energies in a myriad of different forms.  They are my brothers and sisters just as much as the downtrodden, persecuted, suffering humans.

Top

 

As Edgar Guest wrote:
“Who for God’s creatures small will plan
Will seldom wrong his fellow man.”
 

I want to go to the root of the mentality which can plan large-scale destruction, whether it is of animals or of humans.  The relationship between meat-eating and war has been pointed out by Jain philosophers of India, by George Bernard shaw, by Albert Schweitzer, by Henry David Thoreau, and others.  You may not agree, pointing to Hitler who was a vegetarian.  But he was only because his digestive system was so spastic that he could not digest anything else but vegetables; his vegetarianism, obviously, was not born out of an iota of compassion for suffering animals.”

Sreven from Canada writes: “You have helped to bring the torch of light into the dark night of ignorance,  where humans are indulging in all kinds of perverted sense of taste, the craving that comes from their mouths and eyes only for their unsatiable taste buds, their swallowed food accompanied by the unheard and unseen cries, agony, pain and suffering of slaughtered animals, fishes and fowl.”

The spirit of non-violence is being imbibed by Americans and Europeans in the broad back-drop of humanitarianism, compassion, love and solidarity with all living beings and interdependence with Nature.

In a recent letter, shcolar—painter Jaromir skrivanek of Czechoslovakia applauded the end of communism and beginnings of a freer democratic society in his country by stressing that it all came to pass in a non-violent manner.  “By this peaceful revolution—now called all over the world as a velvet revolution, the whole totalitarian power was demolished and paralysed.”

Sreven writes with feeling when he quotes a poem of Gurudev Chitrabhanu, which ‘touched him ever so gently’:

 

Top

Fulfilment

The trees were dancing gaily in the breeze
‘Why do you dance so gaily today, O Trees?’
I asked, Nodding their follage merrily,
the trees replied,
‘We bore the searing heat on the sun
giving shade to the weary traveller
and the drooping bird.
We readily offered our fruit to the hungry
Should we not dance now, happy in the fulfilment of
Fortitude and compassion?’

 Mette Norgaard (Madhu mukta) has this to observe:

“This winter has been a time for what I might call ‘practical introspection.’  I have maintained my meditation and yogapractices, but I cannot say I have deepened my understanding or experience.  What has happened, though, is that my commitment to Ahimsa is increasingly solid.  Early on, this commitment was on a very emotional level.  Now, I increasingly experience it on a conscious level as well.  Furthermore, it is becoming  clear to me that part of my purpose in life is to facilitate other people’s understanding of Reverence for Life.  This has given me a very strong know quite where it ends or how I shall travel it.  It h as helped  me become certain that Ahimsa is one of the core principles of my life, and it has helped me find a way to bring my professional life in alignment with my personal beliefs.  As a result, I feel more whole, more energetic more focused.

This past year, a great deal of my energy has been spent on my work.  You might say, on external things.  Though this will continue to require quite a lot of energy, I think it is time to turn my focus inside again and to deepen my understanding of Jainism.  Maybe this summer, I can work on the transcribed talks you gave me, and start to compile the materials for the book on Ahimsa.  That would be helpful to do while you are near.

Myriam Herz (Meera) from Switzerland says what Jainism, means to her:  “Awarenesss is most necessary to live with myself, relatives and friends. In a professional setting with clients and finally with society.  I first have to be aware of my own mind and see how it hurts muself and how this is projected to others.  Since I don’t want to live with hurts and have always been striving for harmony, two important precepts  of Jainism were internalized as guiding poles in my life, namely non-violence, not only in action, but down to the most subtlest thoughts, and relativity in thinking,

To constantly watch my thoughts according to these high ideals, at the same time not criticizing myself for my shortcomings, is a real challenge, often painful, but if confronted with courage and honesty, very rewarding in terms of growth.  Finally, I am a great lover of nature and I feel nature is very good to me.  It restores my energies and I always feel protected by it, even hiking all by myself for hours in the mountains or the woods.  I believe this results from my respect towards the animals, trees, flowers and all life.  It is all mutual, all one.  It is a wonderful joy to experience the depth of non-violence and more I practise it, the more I realize the wonders behind this truth.

Bob Feinson (Bahubal) expresses his feelings thus:

Gurudev’s teachings woke me up at the age of forty.  Until then, I had been given no information on the art of life and living.  (My schooling was electrical engineering.)  This awareness culminate when my wife passed away two years ago after a long illness.  The Jain philosophy helped both of us in this moment of transition.  Judy died at home without fear – ever welcoming death.  She knew that death was merely a part of our journey through life, part of cycle of birth and death.  And the teaching enabled me too separate love from attachment and to go on with my life without the typical period of mourning and desolation.  I had learned, “Everything changes, nothing remains the same!

Top

The Wave of BlissSo Hun | Ahimsa | Looking up to the Teacher | The Practice of Religion | Through the Eyes of the Camera | A Pioneer Shows the Way

www.jainworld.com