Ahimsa Day is an opportunity to look at the world through the eyes of Jains and also explore the role of Ahimsa in the modern world. During the past twenty years, as part of the annual celebrations, discussions have taken place on Ahimsa as an alternative to the many significant challenges we currently face; abject poverty, lack of universal education, environment destruction, climate change and so on. Eminent speakers, including social activists and people working in the fields of education, environment etc have talked of solutions that are both viable and non-violent on these topics.
Just to give a few examples: –
Dr Rashmikumar Zaveri speaking on the subject – “Jainism and Alleviation of Poverty” stated the following: –
“Jainism offers a direct solution to this issue and suggests following steps to alleviate the problem of global poverty: Jainism advocates a lifestyle based on the cardinal principles of spiritualism – ahimsa, stoicism, reduction and/or giving up the desire for material things. It says that one should pursue one’s needs rather than one’s wants. This brings us to the Economics of Mahavir.
Lord Mahavir said, “Dhammo mangal mukkitham ahimsa, sanjamo tao”. That means Religion or spirituality based on non-violence i.e. ahimsa, restraint and austerity is the best auspicious for mankind. Mahavir’s economics is based on these three principles.
Mahavir prescribed a lifestyle of balancing. He advocated the principle of self-discipline, restraint, abnegation, sacrifice, and voluntary limitation of accumulation of wealth. He said that. Initially wants arise from hunger, and then the wants themselves turn into hunger – hunger for more wealth, more accumulation, more consumption, leading to loss of direction and peace.
Jainism firmly believes in the aphorism: “samyamah khalu jeeanam” which means discipline coupled with stoicism is life. Life is where discipline is. If passion increases, the entire world may find itself on the brink of annihilation.
Violence and acquisitiveness (parigraha) are inseparably welded together. Voluntary limiting the possession and consumption of material objects through curbing own cravings and pining called Iccha-parimana is the best solution for solving the problem of global poverty The vow of Ichha-parimana should be associated with modern economics and concept of development. “
Professor Mitra, a polymath and educationist spoke about his quest is to create an environment for enabling the children in depressed areas to have an opportunity to develop their latent talents and skills in their own way rather than going through a regimented education process which may not offer them the same challenge to their own creativity.
He himself finally asked the question – what has all this to do with Ahimsa? His answer was that Hinsa – opposite to Ahimsa in Bengali (his language) means jealousy. That all Hinsa arises because of the difference between the haves and have nots leading to a variety of conflicts. Creating opportunities for the have nots to rise in the world will certainly reduce jealousy and evolve Ahimsa.
Dr Mehool Sanghrajka of the IOJ, spoke of the Jain perspective on Climate Change and the Contemporary World. He reminded all present of the two basic premises of Bhagwan Mahavira’s 2600-year-old philosophy, perhaps the greatest environmentalist theory in our history:
- The earth is a living entity, and we are interdependent. We should respect the right of all life to exist and learn to live in harmony with it rather than exploiting it.
- The earth has enough resources for all. It is accumulation by the few that is the cause of the scarcity. We should learn to live within what we need.
He explained that these two principles offer us all the solutions that we need to solve the problems that the world is facing if we based our actions and thoughts on science rather than politics!
The Ahimsa Day celebrations were expanded in 2006 to include the IOJ Ahimsa Award. This Award is presented annually to a carefully chosen and vetted, deserving personality by the IOJ Board, from across the globe, who personifies Ahimsa and is actively involved in selfless, compassionate, humanitarian work, in education, social upliftment, disaster relief and the environment.