I was fortunate to have the opportunity to learn the Jain philosophy from a young age. If Jainism has to be summed up in one word, it would be Ahinsa. And yet, no other philosophy expands on Ahinsa the way Jainism does, in Jainism, Ahinsa means to cause no harm to any form of life. It is the essence of philosophy. Ahinsa starts with oneself. One has to be kind and forgiving towards oneself, only then can we forgive others. Ahinsa should be followed in what we eat, wear, use, and promote. Reflect if any living being is harmed directly or indirectly in what you eat, like meat, eggs, honey, dairy, etc, in what you wear like leather shoes, bags, silk, fur, or in products like candles made from beeswax, jewelry or idols made from ivory or things made from shells, products made from testing on animals, etc. When one decides to imbibe Ahinsa in their life, it is astounding to see how it manifests itself through our thoughts and actions.
The more I’ve read and studied about Jainism, the more I’ve realized that it is a way of living. There are logical, scientific, and spiritual reasons attributed to all the principles. The beauty of it is that it is not dogmatic, it is not Ekantvada (taking into consideration only that aspect of an object which is important at that moment and denying the contradictory views), but, promotes Anekantvada (pluralism of views towards all faiths and ideas). Jain Darshan tells you not to follow blindly but to understand the reason behind the concepts. Jainism encourages questions to acquire a deeper understanding of the philosophy. Gautam Swami who was the first apostle of Mahavir asked him 36000 questions to clear his doubts. It is said that he asked questions like a child, filled with curiosity, without having any apprehension. This was later compiled as a scripture called Bhagwati Sutra. One does not have to be a scholar to follow Jainism. And a scholar need not always be the ideal person to follow. Implementing the Right Knowledge (Samyak Gyana) into the Right Action (Samyak Charitra) is important.
Many times one feels that Jainism is for the elitist. But no soul is small in the eyes of Mahavir and no form is superior. He praises a simple man like Punya Shravak to King Shrenik. Punya Shravak (layman) was a simple sadhak (aspirant) of Mahavir, living a simple life in harmony with the principles through his thought, speech, and action. He would do his Samayik ( 48 minutes of meditation) every day with the purest intention. One day, when he was unable to concentrate on his Samayik, he checked with his wife how she had cooked the food he had eaten. Upon deeper inquiry, he found out that she had got the biofuel made from cow dung from the wayside as no one had claimed it and used it for cooking the food. “What is unclaimed, belongs to the kingdom and we cannot use it without permission of the king” Punya Shravak told his wife. This small action caused a disturbance in his mind during his meditation.
If Jainism is well integrated into one’s life, it makes life more meaningful. Anekantavada (relativity of thinking) and Syadvada (point of view), the two wonderful philosophies, if are interwoven in life, there will be ease in resolving conflicts as Anekantavada tries to accommodate every argument. Personally, for me, understanding of Naya ( a single viewpoint) and Pramana ( multiple viewpoints) has helped me improve my relations, by understanding the viewpoints of the others, be more at peace and let go of things easily. These philosophies have been relevant and continue to be so in today’s times where human interactions are reducing and communication gaps are increasing.
That’s why Jainism is a way of living, it is not ritualistic, but it is about understanding the principles and then implementing them. It is all-embracing and easiest to follow. It’s a philosophy that can appeal to any age. Jain Darshan has no boundaries or pre-set conditions. Pick any one principle dear to you ( for me it is Ahimsa) and then nurture it to take it to the pinnacle. It will change your life for the better.
Born and raised in a Jain family where compassion is a way of life, she learned early on to constantly think of the wellbeing of all living beings. She is a vegan and propagates the benefits of veganism and the unbelievable cruelty in the dairy industry. By profession, she is an interior designer.