The Root of Non-Violence

Non-violence and Its Many Facets

Jain Philosophy
by Acharya Mahapragya

The Root of Non-Violence

In the case of every problem man wants to search its root and is not content until his search succeeds. Where and in what does the root of violence lie? Geneticists will locate it in the genes inherited from one’s forefathers. It would mean that man is helpless in the matter since he cannot control his heredity. Psychologists trace violence to one of the basic Instincts. Environmental scientists blame it on the general atmosphere or circumstances surrounding a human being since his childhood. Some philosophers attribute it to karmas.

Thus we are confronted with a plethora of views on the subject. If we pause and think for a moment we find that each one of them is partial or one-sided, though none of them can be termed wholly untrue. We must take a holistic view. But even this might not provide the ultimate solution. More serious thinking is needed. Each of the theories based on genes, prime instincts, environment and karmas has a more or less deterministic ring about it, which leaves one both, pessimistic and helpless in the face of the Inevitable. However, the doctrine of karma also suggests the possibility of changing the karmas. Then why can’t other factors be changed ? The genes, the instincts, the environment-all can be changed. The possibility of change kindles new hope in the heart. After all, we can change; violence can change.

The key to change is the development of non-violence. Both violence and non-violence inhere in us. Our mind also works in two ways: one dictates anger; the other counsels patience, puts the brakes on anger. Both the instigating and the restraining tendencies are there. Good and evil are both present in us. The real question is which of the two we shall develop. Which one shall we awaken and which one shall we put to sleep ?

It is here that meditation has its role. Through it we can awaken non-violence and put violence to sleep. It is then a question of proper awakening. Unfortunately we are fully conscious of things material but totally unconscious of our selves. Meditation makes us conscious of our selves. It develops self-awareness. Once self-awareness has dawned, non-violence develops.

We talked earlier of genes, instincts, environment and karmas. Of these four, environment or the general atmosphere has an immediate impact on us and so deserves our attention first. In this connection it is noteworthy that right from childhood man is exposed to violence, crime and immorality through the mass media-radio, television, cinema and newspapers. No wonder crime and violence permeate modern society since the whole atmosphere is charged with them and nothing or very little is heard of non-violence in general. The worse the crime the bolder the banner headlines in newspapers. What could be a better source of free publicity ? A radical change of policy is needed to reverse the situation. The general atmosphere must improve minimizing people’s exposure to undesirable activities. Sex, greed, fear, suspicion and anger-they all breed violence.

However, while trying to improve the general tone of the media, it will have to be remembered that the root cause of violence can be removed only through spirituality or a knowledge of the self.

In non-violence we veritably have the philosopher’s stone that can change all dross into gold. It is said that genes and instincts cannot be changed but karmas can certainly be, else there will be no relevance of penance, austerity and the like. The need to change remains crucial. Both the root and the branches have to be changed. And as stated earlier, the most important and powerful means of bringing about complete change is meditation. It alone has the power to develop non-violence, self-realization and the sense of unity and equality of all sentient