Environmental Conservation through Living Jainism

November, 2022 by Pooja Sharma
The present environmental problem lies in our prevalent model of development, which has established consumerism as an index of development.

 

Nations, societies and people are considered developed and even more civilized on the basis of their scale of consumption. This has triggered mad race for more and more consumerism in tendentious pursuits of insatiable sensuous pleasure ignoring the fundamental principal of sustainability, which has remained merely a slogan. (Or an ideal when people are looking for environmental jobs.)

A development can be sustainable only if the consumption inter-alia exploitation of resources is limited to their carrying capacity and renewability. Indifference of mankind has put the whole living fraternity in a crisis of existence.
Now the peak time has come when it is mandatory to step forward to save our mother earth.

The global ecological crisis cannot be solved until a spiritual relationship is established between humanity as a whole and its natural environment.

Jainism has been a staunch protector of nature since the 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.

Spirituality is an individual endeavor. Individuals create connectivity 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. Spiritual relationships, from an ecological perspective, can be understood with the help of some of the basic tenets of Jainism.  

⦁ Injure no creatures (Savve pana na hantavva),
⦁ Do not command any creature,
⦁ Do not own any creature; and
⦁ Do not employ one as the servant (save pana na pariggahetvva).

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.

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. 

 Jainism, though a part of non-Vedic tradition, presents its different philosophy on man and nature relationship. Jainism accepts that every soul whether of a man or of a mono sensed insect is autonomous and independent. It believes in the presence of soul not only in animate ones like human beings, animal, insects but in inanimate things also which are deemed as non-living by others like water, air, fire, earth. These are called ‘Sthavar Jeev’ (immobile) in Jain literature.  

Jainism asserts that there is a beginningless co-existence of soul and matter. Whatever soul possess, whether the capacity for speech, breath, or thought is the result of interaction with matter. This philosophy of Jainism makes people behave sensitively not only with living beings but with materialistic things also.

Jainism does not permit anyone to exploit even non-living beings. Apart from the philosophy of ‘Jeeva’ (animate) one of the most crucial components of Jainism is its theory of nonviolence that runs through the Jain tradition like a golden thread. It involves avoidance of violence in any form through words, deed, or thoughts not only to human beings but to the whole of the nature and requires reverence and compassion for all living being at every step of daily life.

Knowing (and renouncing) severally action against living beings. In the regions above, below, and on the surface everywhere and in all ways-the wise one neither gives pain to these bodies, nor orders others to do so, nor assents their doing so.

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. The truth will always baffle such a person. He indulges himself in action, causing violence to the beings of the earth body, water body, fire body, vegetable body, and others. These beings have consciousness (Santi pana pudho siya).

Non-violence doesn’t pertain in its physical aspect only but in mental aspect also, in fact and factually more so in its mental aspect. Jain believes that violence should not be even in the heart, mind and brain. Non-violence should not only be practised, it should be present in mind and thinking, by way of concern and compassion towards all life in nature.

In addition to Non-violence, the other tenets of Jainism, from which can be derived inspiration for preservation and conservation of environment include vegetarianism, a controlled way of life, and the concept of Aparigraha. These tenets form a basis for the conservation of nature.

The practice of these principles leads the practitioners to the conservation of mother earth. Jains are in forefront of bringing greater awareness everywhere and putting these principles into practice.

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 the one based solely on one’s 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.

Jains,  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.

The Jains are well-suited to reconsider their tradition in an ecological light, particularly because of their history of advocacy against meat eating and animal sacrifice, as well as their success at developing business areas that avoid overt violence.

However, some challenges remain. One expression of environmentalism involves tree planting projects. Though Jain lay people might participate in such activities, their nuns and monks most likely would not plant trees because of the harm caused to the earth in the digging process.

Another expression of environmentalism in India has been to establish forest preserves on property surrounding Jain temple sites. However, this generally requires blocking access to prevent collection of fodder, resulting in a further impoverishment of struggling peasants.  

In addition to these questions of organic and social life, the extensive involvement of Jains in heavy industries in India raises issues of appropriate economic activity and environmental health. These instances demonstrate the complexity of effectively applying ecological principles in a religious context.

Jainism presents a worldview that stresses the interrelatedness of life forms. Its attendant nonviolent ethic might easily be extended to embrace earth ethics. 

Both traditions include a strong emphasis on asceticism that might discourage some adherents from placing too much value on earthly concerns, but, as we have seen, Hinduism and Jainism both contain concepts that can lead to the enhancement of core human-earth relations. 

Acknowledgement: https://www.stuffintheair.com/environmental-conservation-through-living-jainism.html 

About Author

poosharma25@gmail.com

⦁ Living in Ladnun
⦁ MA in nonviolence, peace and conflict management (Gold medalist) from Jain Vishva Bharati University.
⦁ 2011 Doctrate in the Department of Jainology and Comparative Religion & Philosophy under the guidence of Dr. Anil Dhar, JVBU.
⦁ 2012 PHD in ” Environmental Ethics and it’s Relevance: An Analytical Study”
⦁ 2013 Doing MBA (Master of Business Administration).

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