Depth of Non-Violence and Peace – Embrace and Embark

October, 2020 by Prof. Dr. Anekant Kumar Jain

We live in a spendthrift universe of continuous giving. Everywhere the sun is radiating its warmth and light .The air and wind carry the very breath of life upon us. Clouds and oceans follow the same law to shower upon us their precious waters. Earth cultivates all manner of vegetation from which grain and fruit sprout forth. Our bodies are made of vegetation from which grains and fruits sprout forth. Our bodies are made of all these gifts. What are we giving back to this all-providing universe? Where there is abundance in our lives, are we sharing it or taking more than our share? Though we are receiving of its bounty, are we allowing ignorance, fear, apathy, or ego to blind us to the generous heart on our earth? Are we saturating the atmosphere, the seas, and with deadly waste pollutant? How long will Mother Nature continue to bear with this ingratitude of ours? When blood soaks the land, we label it enemy blood or friend blood, locking up or letting loose our emotions accordingly. In the same way, when the throats of helpless creatures are cut, human minds categorize, rationalize, and explain, cutting hearts off from natural compassion. Where has our human capacity for feelings and empathy gone?

Today we have conquered distance. We are no longer living as isolated individuals. Our activities and thinking now encompass not only the country we belong to, but also the whole world. This is an important development. However, let us not forget the truth that the center of all consciousness lays within the individual, no matter whether it is individual consciousness or collective consciousness. Therefore, one cannot realize the dream of world peace without refining the individual consciousness. The individual is relegated to the secondary position as soon as peace becomes an organizational matter, or a matter related to management. Now, what characterizes good organization or management is complete control; but such control is subversive of peace. Therefore, eventually, one must awaken social consciousness in individuals to ensure world peace. This social consciousness is in traditional terms consciousness of equity.

In our natural state, our soul is nothing but love, energy, peace, and bliss. Gradually, we glide to peak of realization and joy, exclaiming, “I am life! I am a living conscious energy! I feel my life force moving in all my limps and awakening all my cells with awareness!” and before buying or using any product we ask, “By my action, am I causing any living being to pay a price in pain? Directly or indirectly, am I causing a life to be lost?” In this way, the trials of life become instrumental for our growth, and we come closer to our goal i.e. self-realization. As we tune an instrument using right key for better results, we must tune ourselves in right direction all life. By minimizing attachment, violence, and sadistic approach, we enjoy life with a light heart enjoying calm of mind.

The philosophy of non – violence is a living practice. More than refraining from violence, it is a deep reverence for all life. It starts by cultivating a genuine respect for oneself: one’s consciousness or life force, and for each of its supportive elements the body, mind, and emotions. We come to realize that our life force is precious and that we are here to respect and innate wisdom. It is a process of taking care of both our inner being and the material envelope in which it dwells. Like a mother nurturing the development of her child, we do what is healthful and helpful for our spiritual growth. When a well-known Sanskrit scholar Jain Acharya Samantrabhadra (4th A.D.) announces that in this word Ahimsa of living being is equivalent to Brahma, the metaphysical reality, he is propounding Ahimsa as the highest social value-

Ahimsa bhutanamjgatividitam brahma parmam1

Co-existence and ParasparopagrahoJeevanam:

Everybody should know the famous Jain emblem, which contained at its base the following sutra:
This is an important aphorism from the first Sanskrit book in the Jain tradition called Tattvarthsutra by Acharya Umaswati. It means that living beings (jivas) mutually relate through favour and obligation, i.e. beneficence. The industrialist pays wages to the labourer and the latter acts in a manner likely to benefit the former and to safeguard his interests. Likewise, the teacher imparts knowledge to the pupil and makes him go through a sacred ceremony. The latter moulds himself according to the teacher and respectfully obeys his directions. Both are examples of mutual beneficence. Life’s formula is not conflict, for conflict denotes helplessness and is not an independent trait. On the other hand, mutual beneficence is an independent trait. While treating life as conflict compels man to take the course of violence, mutual beneficence takes him on the road to non-violence.

Definition of Non-violence (Ahiṃsā):
Nonviolence is not limited to refraining from mental, verbal, and physical injury to human beings. It encompasses abstaining from injury to all living beings – all animals and plants. The ancient Jain scripture, Ācārāṃga Sutra presents a highly sophisticated discussion on non-violence. It states that one should not cause injury to any living being, including the tiniest creatures and plants. All lives depend on nature for survival. Thus, disturbing the ecological balance by wasting natural resources and polluting water and air also constitutes violence. In Ācārāṃga he says,

savvepāṇāṇahaṃtavvā, ṇaajjāvetavva, ṇaajjāvetavvā,
ṇaparighettavvā, ṇaparitāveyavvā, ṇauddveyavvā.

None of the living beings ought to be killed or should be deprived of life, ought to be ordered or ruled, ought to be enslaved or possessed, ought to be distressed or afflicted and ought to be put to unrest or disquiet. Thus, the Āyāro (Ācārāṃga) conclusively pronounces that after understanding the importance of kindness to beings, the enlightened person should preach, disseminate, and applaud it at all places in East-West and North-South directions.

dāhinaṃudiṇaṃāikkhevibhaekitte veyavi

Later, in The PraśnavyākaraṇaSūtra, he designates Social Ahiṃsā as kindness (dayā), security (raksha), solitariness (kallāṇa), fearlessness (abhaya), non-killer (amāghāa), equanimity (samatā), forgiveness (kshma) and so on by 64 different names5. The coverage of Ahiṃsā is so vast that it does not refer only to our external activities (like hurting or killing by only physical means), but it also refers more strongly to the internal activities of mind, both physical and psychic. Thus Ahiṃsā is defined as: ‘Knowingly or unknowingly not causing pain or killing of any living being by activities of mind, body or speech; or not asking others to do so or not to admire or support those who do so is Ahiṃsā’.

Acharya Umaswati defines violence as the obstruction of life processes through activities of body, speech and mind tainted with negligence6. Violence is of two kinds: Physical violence and mental violence. Obstruction of or injury to physical life processes is physical violence and bringing about untoward thoughts and feelings constitutes mental violence. Jainism propounds that injury to others invariably involves injury to the life processes of self. When we intend to hurt or harm others, we have passions such as anger, pride, deception, and greed. Thus, we always commit violence of the self in the process.
The definition of ahimsa (non-violence) reflects Amritchandra’s predilection for internal aspects (Nishchayanaya) when he declares that only the destruction of the intrinsic purity of the psychic disposition is verily the cause of himsa (violence)7.


He further explains: Violence is the result of appearance of thoughts and feelings of attachment, passions, etc. while non-appearance of attachment and aversion occur even though no creature is injured or killed. The text Purusharthsiddhiupaya gives a different direction when it unambiguously expresses non-emergence of attachment, aversion, etcetera on the surface of self Ahimsa.


This verse is quite akin to the following Prakrit verse of Jayadhvala

Ragadinamanuppao, Ahinskattamttidesiyamsamaye.
Tesimcheuppatti, hinsettijinehiniddittha..9

When anger, jealousy and any good or bad attachments goad us, the one whom we damage first is our own self. This is equally true of harsh, slanderous, or critical speech. It works like a matchstick, before it ignites something else, it burns its own mouth, and this is the first and foremost position of non-violence-

Jivavahoappavaho, jivadayaappnodaya hoi.
Ta savvajivahinasa, Parichatta attakamehima..10

Thus, violence occurs wherever attachment and aversion occur even though no creature is injured or killed.

Mriyatamjivo ma vaDhavatyagreDhruvamhimsa..11

In making these statements, Amrtachandra is indeed following Kundakunda who defines non-violence as follows: “Let the creature die or live, on the part of the
careless (that is one imbued with passions), the act of hurting is curtain: by the mere fact of hurt he who is careful in his observances incurs no bondage.”


Commenting on this verse, Amrtachandra remarks:
Impure psychic attention is negligence; the taking of another’s life is external. Whether the taking other’s life is external. Whether the taking of another being’s life occurs or does not occur, to the actual impure psychic attention, proved by the careless conduct, which does not occur without it, the nature of hurting certainly belongs.13
If we have no conscious for the common good of living beings, it means we are practicing violence. If we are, it means we are the follower of non-violence. Anima and Himsa totally depend on our intentions.

Atta cheval ahimsa, attahinsatinichchaosamaye.
Jo hodiAppamatto, ahisagohinsgoidaro..14

Through the practice of self- respect, we recognize that peace is the most precious thing in the world. Before hating others or treating anyone as inferior, we should check ourselves. We take the help of meditation to know and feel what we really are.

Origin of violence
When we think of the source or origin of violence, we come to our thought process first. Whatever we do in our life, we think hastily or in a planned manner all the activities we are going to undertake along with their consequences. Thus, the beginning of any violent activity starts with our thinking or in mind. Jains say that the thinking of violence directly relates to our feelings of attachment or aversion to those against whom we wish to be violent. Hence, we first use our mind and then implement Hiṃsā by body and speech. We thus see that if we think of hiṃsā we have committed it already, even if we do not implement/ express it by body or speech due to our inadequacies or other circumstances. Similarly, the motive behind our thought and the intensity thereof also contribute to the type of violence we commit. Talking of the results of hiṃsā, karma doctrine of Jains says the one who commits violence will also be caused pain suitably either immediately or in future. We observe this in our own life as ‘when we think of committing violence we are preoccupied with the cruel thoughts as love, compassion, etc disappear and our body starts showing ill effects like hypertension, anxiety, sleeplessness, etc’. The hiṃsya naturally is a victim who suffers the results even though not involved in the act. Thus, Jains have classified hiṃsā as demerit / pāpa or sin.

Four types of violence:

Jain thinkers understood that it is not possible to avoid violence completely. No matter how conscientious we are, we commit some violence in our daily activities. Practically we find four types of violence in our daily life-
1) Intentional violence (SANKALPI HIMSA): It means, intentional killing or hurting of self and of others.
2) Subsistence-related violence (AARAMBHI HIMSA): The violence involved in cooking, cleaning, etc.
3) Occupation-related violence (UDYOGI HIMSA): The violence involved in pursuing agriculture, industry, business, or profession.
4) Adversary-related violence (VIRODHI HIMSA): It means violence involved in dealing with undesirable elements of society. It is the violence for one’s protection from one’s opponents.
We must avoid willful, intentional (SANKALPI) violence and minimize other kinds of violence as much as possible.

Five vows:
Jainism realizes that various trials and tribulations are part of life and that we humans are prone to all kinds of weaknesses. In view of these facts, Jainism provides a unique system to attain inner peace and happiness. Bhagwaan Mahaveer propounded five virtues: nonviolence (AHIMSA), truth (SATYA), non-stealing (ACHAURYA), continence (chastity, BRAHMACHARYA) and non-possessiveness (APARIGRAH).Nonviolence implies consciousness free from attachment (love) and aversion (hatred). Discrimination based on religion, race or social status hurt peoples’ feelings. Thus, it is violence. Untruth (falsehood), stealing, intemperance (unchastity) and possessiveness (greed) involve mental and sometimes physical violence of self and others. Thus, the virtues of truth, non-stealing, chastity, and non-possessiveness are integral parts of nonviolence.

People talk of bringing world peace through tolerance and accommodation, but no constructive actions are being taken. Therefore, peace and happiness for all remain just a mirage. Obviously, talking of peace in such terms is unreal. The Jain thinkers realized this truth and Jain scriptures present a rather different view of attaining genuine happiness and peace.

The above observation implies that instead of trying to change others, we should look inward and imbibe the virtues of nonviolence, truth, non-stealing, chastity, and non-possessiveness in one’s daily activities. One should minimize one’s passions and desires. One should give up egoism, greed, and selfishness, have contentment and practice equanimity. This is Bhagwaan Mahaveer’s message of nonviolence and peace. By practicing the teachings of Bhagwaan Mahaveer, we will certainly achieve true happiness in our lives. To quote from Uttaraadhyayan sutra-

Iyaro vi gunasamiddhotiguttiguttotidandviraoya.

A person who is free from delusion (who understands things as they are), who has good qualities, who has good thoughts, speech and deeds, and who avoids violence of body, speech and mind, enjoys freedom like a bird, while living on this earth.

Lord Mahaveera made a simple yet profound statement, based on the absorption of the non-violence into the fabric of his consciousness .He realized -“All of life is just like me. I want to live .So do all souls, all living beings. The instinct of self-preservation is universal. Every animate being clings to life and fears death. Each of us wants to be free from pain. So, let me carry out all my activities with great care not to be harmful to any living being like me.”

SavvejivaaveIccanti, Jiveumnamarijjaium.

Short though it is, our time on this planet can be valuable and meaningful, if we choose to discover and live by the laws of life. War, butchering, and all kinds of killing are abominations, antithetical to life. When we live in the cocoon of possessiveness, resentment, or cold heartened intellect, we support, whether we mean to or not, the machines of power and domination of billions of other human and non- human lives who, like us, are equally eager to grow, fulfill their needs, and bring their lives to fruition.
What we need is a new dimension of thinking, a new directive for living. We need to perceive that all planetary lie as one interdependent family from which no living being is excluded. We need to experience the plight and pain of all living beings as if it were our own .Indeed , the pain of others is our own, for the consequences of neglect and apathy cannot be long in coming our way. It would be relevant to quote the following excerpt-

Jha tenapiyamdukhama, Janiyaaemevasavvajivanama.
Savvayaramauvautto, Attovammenakunasudayama..17
Tumamsinamasaceva, Jama hantavvamatimannasi.
Tumamsinamsacheva, jam ajjaveyavvamtimannasi..18

Jain literature explains not only general way of life with Ahimsa but spiritual too. The deep theory of Lord Mahaveera’s spiritual non-violence has been also explained in this text and this is the original theory of ahimsa as explained by Lord Mahaveera.


  1. Svayambhustotra– Aacharya Samantabhadra, Samantabhadragranthāvali, editor – Dr. Darbarilalkothia, Pub. Veersewamandir trust, Beena, First edition-1989, Pp-26, sloka-119
  2. Tattvārthsutra– Aacharya Umaswami,7/21, edited- Pt. Phoolchandra, Pub. SGVDJSS, Varanasi.
  3. ĀcārāṃgaSūtra, 132
  4. ĀcārāṃgaSūtra, with Bhasyam- Acharya Mahaprajna, Pub.JVBI ,Ladnun, 6/5/101, Pp-340
  5. PraśnavyākaraṇaSūtra, 6.1.3, Pages 683-684, (Jaina Vishva Bhārati, Ladnun, under the title Page 393 of 509 STUDY NOTES version III, “Angasuttāni” ( from Paper by Prof K.C.Sogani))
  6. Pramattayogaatpraanavyaparopanamhimsa. Tattvaarth Sutra: 7-13.
  7. Purusharthsiddhiupaya- Acharya Amritcandra, editor- Ratanchand Bharill, Pub.Todarmalsmark Trust, Jaipur, sloka-42
  8. ibid-44
  9. Jayadhawala– Acharya Veersena, 1/42/94
  10. Samansuttam– Jinendravarni, Sarvasevasangh Prakashan, Varanasi, 2007, Gatha-151
  11. Purusharthsiddhiupaya– Acharya Amritcandra, 46
  12. Pravcansar(PS)– Acarya Kundkund,III.17
  13. Sanskrit Commentry by AcaryaAmritchadra on PS,III.17
  14. Bhagwati Aaradhna – Acharya Shivarya,803
  15. Uttaraadhyayan Sutra – Pub. JVBI, Ladnun, Chapter 20, verse 60
  16. Dasvaikalika-6/10
  17. Samansuttam-150
  18. Acaranga with Bhasyam- Acharya Mahaprajna, 5/5/101, page-282

About Author


Prof. Dr. Anekant Kumar Jain.

Prof. Anekant K. Jain is not only Doctorate in Jain Philosophy but also honoured with the title of Acharya in Prakrit, Buddha Philosophy and Jain Philosophy. He is head of Dept. Of Jainology in Sri. Lalbahadur Shastri Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth, New Delhi. He is a prolific writer, who is honoured with various awards.

co-edited by Virati Jayesh Visariy

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