Ahimsā for Protection of Environment

January, 2022 by Dr. Jeoraj Jain
Violent lifestyle is contributing comprehensively to global ecological challenges. It is posing serious threats for the breakdown of our eco-system. People talk about superficial non-violent life styles for salvaging the eco-system. However, it must be understood in a wider perspective to change our attitude and make essential effects on restoration of ecosystem for future generations.

Non-violence (Ahimsa) in a general sense is understood as abstinence from the killing of animals or humans. However, in Jainism, it is not merely avoiding killing of animals or humans, it is comprehensively defined. It substantively includes refraining from even causing harm to any creature.  Objectively, Ahimsa is defined as an attitude, which makes a person feel one with all creatures. It stands for refraining from causing any pain to any one at any time. That means practicing Love / Maitry  towards all.

1. Confines  of Living-Beings (LB)

In this context, it is important to know the actual definition of creatures in Jainism. As a principle, the word Creature includes not only humans and animals but also birds, insects, vegetables, air, trees, water, and earth minerals. Science has understood for the first time in the 20th century that plants are living beings.  As per Jainism air, water, and earth minerals, etc. are also Living-beings, but the mechanism of these LB has still to be understood by science. They are termed as one-sensed LB. In fact, Jainism defines six types of Living-Beings and every type of it imbibes/ harbours 4 to 10 types of Prana, a life force of living-beings. Jainism also clarifies that water, fire, air, and earth minerals will also feel pain when injured.

Recently revolutionary scientific research has put forward a hypothesis of mechanism, which brings at least Water into the category of LB (Fig 1). It opens up a vast field of possibilities to bring the other above-mentioned three types also into the scientific basket of LB, as and when the quality of scientific insight and instruments improves.

Fig 1: Distinctive transition in the nucleus of Aura – while making Living water to Non-Living Water.

2. Practical necessity of Ahimsā

One important principle declares that “All souls render service to one another” – Parasparopgraho Jivanam. One cannot exist independently. The law says that living beings have to share their pain and pleasure with others. Though humans are the most developed LB, nature has provided everyone’s role to be played by them for peaceful co-existence with each other. This phenomenon of mutual help and support can be seen at all levels of existence. Micro-organisms help in the digestion of food in the stomachs of all beings. Trees provide food to all creatures and worms assist in agriculture.

Hence if Humans want to live and exist peacefully, it is mandatory that they practice respect for all other types of LB. Otherwise, their own existence is bound to be threatened as per the above law. The principle of equality propounds that everyone has a right to live.  The directive principle is not “living on others” or “living by killing” but “living with and for others”.  That means the welfare of human society depends on mutual co-operation, the sacrifice of our own interest for the sake of our fellow beings, and regard for other’s life. The existence of society depends not on claiming our own rights but accepting the rights of others too.

Acharang Sutra 1 / 4 warns :   “तांसे अहियाई, तंसे  अबोहिये।”  एकेन्द्रिय जीवों का अनर्थ उपयोग मनुष्य जाति की दुर्गति करनेवाला है।  That is, “Irresponsible use and killing of one-sensed LBs is going to be disastrous for the mankind.”

As such, Non-Violence (NV) towards all types of LB has to be understood as a practical necessity in the world for our existence.

3. Categories of Himsā

“Himsā is done in many shapes and forms, with or without motives. It encompasses himsā committed for basic bodily needs for food, clothing, shelter, and medicine, secondary needs and desire for physical beauty, for sports and entertainment, for furnishings, for transportation, for societal and religious customs, and stemming from ego, anger, hatred, greed, control, power, and dominance over others.” Himsā has been classified into the following four types:

i). Deliberate or aggressive violence i.e. intentional killing,

ii). Protective violence, resulting from opposing attacks on one’s life, property, or country,

iii). Occupational violence, resulting from the industrial or agricultural activity of the individuals for earning their livelihood,

iv). Unintentional but indirect injury to living beings, resulting from acts necessary for a normal life, like cooking or cleaning, etc. called Arthja Himsā

4. Minimizing the Hinsā

i) Equality of Souls

Accepting the rights of others is a strong pillar of non-violence (NV). It calls for restraint i.e. curbing his limitless desires to consume and possess things. Environmental degradation due to too much spread of consumerism can be checked only by the self-imposed discipline of limiting desires and possessions. It checks both poverty and luxury with the objective of Gandhiji’s trusteeship model of wealth management.

While observing proper vigilance in indulging in himsā, one exhibits respect for the right to live even for micro-organisms and for one-sensed Living-Beings (LB), like water, air, fire, earth minerals. In fact, they form the basic structure of the environment. Voluntarily curbing their consumption and use would change the mindset of society. The most important formula for practicing NV and showing compassion towards one-sensed LB is to use three R formula in our consumption of resources. It means, to Reduce, Re-use and Recycle the resources that should become the norm of an individual as well as of society. To explain its applicability at root levels, we take up a few examples.

ii). Minimizing the Needs:

All laities can renounce the first type of non-violence i.e. intentional killing. However, he should indulge in the other three categories, only after observing proper vigilance. That means he must imbibe an attitude of frugality and of minimizing the requirements.

It means, he should minimize food, clothing, and other requirements, which are sourced from slaughterhouses or involve cruelty to animals and insects having 2 or more than 2 sensory faculties. He should also not indulge in trades like slaughtering, fishing, hen-farming, and even brewing.

iii) NV towards Water:

Since freshwater resources are depleting fast and are getting polluted, we can counter this problem by showing respect for it by reducing its killing i.e. by improving our wasteful Habits and optimizing its usage in following easy way.

#. In agriculture, maximise its effect by adopting drip irrigation in place of normal water channels.

#. Be vigilant and reduce violence by adopting the 3-R formula i.e. Reduce consumption by efficient water delivery system, Re-use used water for a secondary purpose, Re-Cycle the used water after decanting or after treating with ash powder in various domestic activities. Some examples of showing our respect and compassion towards water can be seen in our following frugal habits and in efforts in reducing Himsā / consumption.

Fig 2: Retrofits. Can save water up to 70%, (Aerator on Taps and adaptor for paste tubes)

iv). Water wasting machines:

A lot of water is wasted in automatic washing machines in rinsing operation. Either this operation should be done manually, or arrangements be made to collect the rinsing water for its secondary re-use.

# Similarly, the use of RO filters in kitchens is a source of huge wastage of water. A few people exert to collect and re-use it. The collection arrangements can be taken care of at the design stage by a prudent architect.

# Fit water-saving adaptors and aerators (Fig 2) to taps and smaller adaptors for Toothpaste tubes to reduce consumption of water by more than 60%.

# Avoid any washing like a car, floors, body, brushing, utensils, etc. under flowing water. Use water containers like buckets with a small mug.

# Use Ash Powder instead of Soap for cleaning and washing the kitchen.

# Collect wash water from the washing of utensils, clothes, floor, bathing in proper vessels, etc. for Re-use or Re-cycle after treating, settling, and decanting for secondary use like flushing toilets, washing, irrigating plants, kitchen garden, etc.

# Washing of vehicles, floors can be replaced by wiping.

Fig 3: Washing a car under flowing water wares.

v). NV towards Fire (Energy):

# Since Fire is also LB, have compassion by reducing its consumption by following methods.

# Switch off appliances, when not in use. Use energy-efficient appliances of 5-star ratings.

# Use pressure cookers, reduce the use of deep-frying.

# Use renewable energy sources for domestic appliances, which do not pollute the air.

# Pre-cool or pre-heat the required items in natural air and sunrays, to reduce energy requirement.

vi). NV towards Air:

# Do not use vehicles for shorter distances. Prefer walking to reduce pollution -himsā of air.

# Use cycles and public transport to reduce fire and air himsā. It would help save ecology.

# Minimize use of paper to save trees. Use an e-communication system.

vii). A few Ecological ideas

# NV lifestyle should reflect in everything we do. It would also minimize the tendency of accumulation of wealth and would help avoid wasteful consumption and thereby avoid catastrophe for mankind.

# Avoid the meat in food, because it uses 8-10 times more natural resources than that required for producing and eating food grains for the same food value.

# What is the effect of violence on the environment; let us understand it with this example.

If all the four hundred million citizens of America give up non-vegetarian food and eat only vegetarian food for just one day, then the environment will have the following benefits (Based on “The Food Revolution” by John Robbins)

Four thousand crore liters of water will be saved, about 7.5 lakh tons of food will be saved, 30 lakh acres of land will be saved, 280 crore liters of gas will be saved, and thirty-three tons of antibiotics will be saved.

# Apart from this, the amount of the reduction in the production of greenhouse gases will be as below.

1.2 million tons of carbon dioxide, three million tons of soil landslides, 4.5 million tons of animal excreta, and seven lakh tons of ammonia gas, etc.

5. Making NV a reality

i). Faced with the twin danger of ecological disaster and nuclear holocaust on one hand and the abashed, unrestrained, and harmful pursuit of material and sense pleasures on the other, mankind is groping today for the vital light ray that can guide its way out of this frightening disaster. Practicing the above basic principles of NV is the vital beam of that lighthouse. It can help change the attitude of mankind for not only protection of the vital environment, but also voluntarily living a more compassionate, thoughtful, and deliberate lifestyle.

ii). If the education is coupled with the spirit of NV in schools, children will get practical opportunities (like Karuna Clubs of Chennai) to uphold the principles of co-existence, minimising the usage of natural resources, and imbibing the qualities of compassion towards them. They will become free from biased knowledge and inhumane behaviour patterns. A person who can maintain balance never leaves himself open to the endless race of violence, attack, exploitation, accumulation, etc. but remains in moderation. Jain Samaj has deep roots in non-violent life style with aparigraha  (non-possessive) mind-set and as such can rise to the occasion to champion this cause by demonstrating their attitude of compassion and respect towards resources like water, fire, and air, etc. as well as their system of inculcating these values in children. The adoption of the NV lifestyle will automatically change the attitude, make the growth sustainable and preserve the environment.

About Author

Dr. Jeoraj Jain


Dr. Jeoraj Jain is a Gold medallist of Rajasthan Uni. He obtained the Degree “Doctor of Engineering” from Germany . He worked with Tata Motors in Growth and Production Departments. Was First in the world to design and produce Fabricated Axles for heavy Vehicles, involving Innovative Welding Design.

He has advanced a scientific hypothesis of the Life form of Water without DNA and RNA.

He discovered that the contents of Jain Loka are described by Statistical Method in scriptures. It resolves the present riddles of Loka.

He received the “Vigyan Ratan Award” from Gyan Sagar Science Foundation, 2017. He has authored three  books on Water and Lokakash.

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