Bhagwan Mahavir said,
“If you kill someone, it is yourself you kill. If you overpower someone, it is yourself you overpower. If you torment some one, it is yourself you torment. If you harm someone, it is yourself you harm.”
A wise man knows this and so he does not kill, nor does he overpower or torment anyone.
The heart of Jainism is non-violence. Positively stated, Jainism is a religion of compassion, universal love, and friendliness. It aims at the welfare of all living beings, and not of man alone. It maintains that living beings are infinite, all so called empty spaces in the universe are filled with minute living beings. According to it, there are countless single-sense organisms that take the subtlest possible units of material elements -earth, water, fire, and air – as their bodies. Fresh earth is alive but when it is baked it becomes dead. Fresh water from a well, etc. is alive but when it is boiled or influenced by mixing some other substance it becomes dead. Vegetables, trees, plants, fruits, etc. do have life but when they are dried, cut or cooked they die. To avoid injury to them as far as possible, man is advised to use them discreetly. He should resist from polluting water, air, etc. and thereby perpetrating violence to them. Worms, insects, animals, etc. help in keeping ecological balance thus they help man. And domestic animals have for ages been a constant and faithful aid to man in civilizing himself. From the ultimate standpoint of their original pure pristine state, all living beings are uniform in their nature. Jainism teaches to look upon them as upon one’s ownself. Inflicting injury to them is inflicting injury to one’s ownself.
This concept of Ahimsa, non-violence, has evolved from logical thinking and from experience. It has an almost empirical basis. It has emerged from the doctrine of the equality of all souls. Everyone wants to live; nobody likes to die. Violence enters first in thought; it then manifests itself in speech and then in deeds. That is why they say that war is born in the minds of men. The quest for ahimsa is centred in Anekantavada, the philosophy which accomodates a multiplicity of points-of-view and of perspectives.
In the universe, there are different forms, different orders, of life, such as human beings, animals, insects, trees and plants, bacteria and even still smaller lives which perhaps be seen only through the most powerful of microscopes. Jainism has classified all the living beings according to their sense organs.
Jainism firmly believes that life is sacred, irrespective of caste, colour, creed or nationality and therefore not only physical or mental injury to life should be avoided, but all possible kindness should be shown towards all the living things. This should be the true spirit of Ahimsa. Jainism believes that more weapons are in no way an effectiveanswer to weapons. Lord Mahavir has emphatically declared in “Acharanga Sutra” that one weapon may be stronger or superior to another, but the path of Ahimsa or peace remains unsurpassed. Fire cannot be put out by fire. It is our duty to stop adding fuel to the fire. Jaina scriptures say that a piece of blood-stained cloth cannot be washed with blood, we need water to do it. To achieve peace, world peace, we have to stop the race of armaments and we have to have an unshakeable faith in Samyag Darshana in the effective validity of Ahimsa. For who can claim final and absolute victory in the race for armaments? Like Arjuna the nations believing in violent means shall have to declare, “Nor do we know which for us is better whether we conquer them, or they conquer us.” Ahimsa teaches us that recourse to armed force is an infallible sign of the brute in man, that war neither profits the victor nor the vanquished.