Ecology and spirituality in Jain tradition

69. The global ecological crisis cannot be solved until spiritual relationship is established between humanity as the whole and its natural environment. Jainism has been staunch protector of nature since inception of the Jain faith. The religion of nature, Jainism paves the way to understanding nature’s utility and the essential nature of plants, worms, animals, and all sorts of creatures that have their own importance for maintaining ecological balance. Jainism therefore says that the function of souls is to help one another (Parasparopagraho Jivanam-Tattvarthasutra, 5.21)2

70. This principle is connected to the whole of life. It includes humans and other creatures. The plant, animal, and human populations are merely part of the landscape. For Jainism, the landscape is itself lives and breaths and merits protection.

71. Spirituality is essentially an individual endeavor. Individuals create collectivity on the basis of discipline and practice. Every basic reality of the universe is integral. Jainism reconciled the parts of reality with the whole by means of the relativistic approach.23 Spiritual relationships, from an ecological perspective, can be understood with the help of some of the basic tenets of Jainism; 1) injure no creatures (Savve pana na hantavva), 2) do not command any creature; 3) do not own any creature; and 4) do not employ one as the servant (save pana na pariggahetvva) .25

72. Jain ecology is based on spirituality and equality. Each life form, plant, or animal, has an inherent worth and each must be respected. Within Jainism, the term for ecology might be Sarvodayavada, or the concern for lifting up all life forms, as articulated by Samantabhadra (third c. A. D.), the prominent Jain philosopher. Acarya Jinasena explained the same view of social equality by saying that the entire human world is one because of the interconnectedness of different aspects of the human community. 26. Seeing other people as connected with oneself develops the spiritual perspective through which all life takes on sanctity that can and must be protected by observing the principles of ecology. The real task of religion consists in removing bitterness between people, between races, between religions, and between nations. That nature of religion has been discussed in Jain scriptures in various ways in the form of Non-violence (Ahimsa). That Ahimsa can be summarized: Aspire for yourself. Do not aspire for others. This is the fundamental principal of Jainism.27

73. Jainism holds that the entire world, including plants, trees, birds, animals, water, and so forth, is possessed of life. It is our prime duty to protect all this. We are to treat others, as we want to be treated, and this refers not only to other people but also to the entirety of our planet. One is therefore expected to respect the land and its natural beauty. Jainism does so philosophically by accepting the principle of the interdependent existence of nature and animals.28

74. Non-violence creates identity between self and self. 29 Therefore Mahavira says, “Kill no creature”, One has to experience personally the consequences of one’s own Karmas (Anusamveya namappanenam, jam’ahantavvam’ti nabhipatthae). 30 Through this unitized experience, the existence of souls is established. Mahavira goes on to say that one who is afflicted with lust is bereft of knowledge and perception. Truth will always baffle such a person. He indulges himself in action, causing violence to the beings of earth body, water body, fire body, vegetable body, and others. These beings have consciousness (Santi pana pudho siya). 31.

75. The vivid description is found in Jain scripture as to how plants and other beings can and should be saved by a Jain. 32 These are very important principles laid down by Jainism to avoid harm to water, air, fire, and all forms of life and to minimize such evils as sound pollution, and thus to balance the community and ecosystem. To keep silence, to observe carefulness in speaking (Bhasasamiti), to protect the forest and plants- these are religious rules that apply even to the Jain laity. Jain cosmology gives paramount importance to mountains, rivers, trees, and other natural resources. In its opinion, nonviolence should be observed strictly, at any cost to protect the ecological atmosphere.

76. Ecology sees the individual as interconnected with both nature and the fabric of society. Ecological theory considers the community the supra-organism, the complex social organism. Therefore, the Jain tradition instructs the Jain laity to keep the community very pure and pious. They are supposed not to indulge in obnoxious habits (Vyasanas), which make life disastrous. A Jain should be a strict vegetarian. He should not indulge in professions related to violence, such as dealing in weapons. Jain laymen also practice the twelve types of Vratas, which assist us in eliminating corruption from society and in purifying ourselves in the process.

77. Nonviolence, the humanistic element is based on the principles of equality and equanimity as applied in society. Nonviolence still may allow for the theory of caste, but one based on one’s own deeds and not on one’s birth. Jainism tries to shape our attitude toward nature by prescribing humane and nonviolent approaches to everyday behavior. Jainism inspired its followers to safeguard what in contemporary discourse would be called the ecological perspective. Jainas even today practice these principles and religious traditions prescribed for the protection of nature. Through its philosophy, its ascetic practices, and in its narrative arts and architecture, Jainism and its leaders have made efforts to create the society dedicated to love for all creatures. Jain Philosophy and Psychology

78. Philosophy is the science of the general law of being and human thinking, which indicates the process of cognition and development led to the various aspects connected with ontology, epistemology, logic, ethics, aesthetics, psychology and sociology. It promotes man’s self-awareness, his understanding of the nature of self or life and clarifies the content of problems that have been traditionally philosophical. It is also the speculum of life and thought, which deals with the psychology of beings’ activities that become Karma.