Relevance of Compassion of Jain Philosophy in Modern Corporate World

February, 2021 by Avisha Ashish Ladhani

The history of the last two or three centuries in particular, does represent an era in which commercial activity has exploded, while universal compassion seems to have reduced in favour of a ‘me first’ approach. Superficially, this might seem to indicate that the two go inevitably hand in hand. However, just because two things happen at the same time, there is no reason to believe that either is a necessary requirement for the other.

In the case of our economy and social organization, the dog-eat-dog model creates individuals motivated by a disproportional emphasis on what suits them. In other words, generations of constantly dissatisfied consumers seek to give their life meaning by buying more and more things. Does this result in a ‘booming’ economy? The answer is most definitely, yes. However, let us not forget that all growth is not the same. Drawing a parallel to our biology, cancer too is a ‘growth’, covid-19 is a ‘rapid growth’! So, what does a model based on constant and uncontrolled consumption represent? I think the answer is clear. It is a path that leads ultimately to ecological, psychological and, most importantly, even economic disaster.

With almost every limitation that humans have struggled against for millennia in the process of being overcome by today’s tech innovations, I feel that our greatest challenge might well be how to retain our humanity and not act selfishly when such power becomes available to us.  We seem to have come to a point from which many often look at compassion as a favour to others. The reason why I advocate compassion as the very basis of our lives and collective existence is that I see the world from the completely opposite perspective. To my mind, compassion is an investment in ourselves. I believe, very strongly, that when we become so obsessively concerned with our own needs that the consequences to others cease to matter, we are creating a world in which we ourselves are more vulnerable and defenseless, as others will do unto us as we do unto them!


Among emotion researchers, it is defined as the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering.

The Merriam-Webster defines compassion as a sympathetic consciousness of others’ distresses together with a desire to alleviate it. A standard definition of compassion is sensitivity to suffering in self and others with a commitment to try to alleviate and prevent it.”

In Sanskrit, the equivalent of compassion is karuna. Karuna is compassion, pity, sympathy, or tenderness towards others. The true sense of karuna is feeling a deep sense of pain in seeing other souls suffer and having a desire to remove that suffering. Compassion is ‘maitri,’ or ‘friendliness towards others.’ A compassionate person is one whose heart is full of the feeling of kindness for the afflictions (pida) of others, as if this suffering were one’s own.

Compassion is one of the most important declarations of strength and courage known to humanity. It is difficult and powerful, infectious and influential. It is a universally recognized motivation with the ability to change the world. Compassion is the most transforming energy in the universe with everything we all deeply long for – kindness, caring, loving It is a courageous state of mind and heart, with far-reaching consequences in terms of how we experience ourselves and reality…

Thupten Jinpa, a Tibetan scholar and English translator to Dalai Lama, defined compassion as “a mental state endowed with a sense of concern for the suffering of others and aspiration to see that suffering relieved.” Jinpa indicated that every expression of compassion has three aspects in it: The cognitive aspect – “I understand your problems”. The affective component – “I feel what you feel”. The drive or motivational component – “I want to help you out of this.”

Jaina Ethics Leading to Compassionate Being

May the sacred stream of amity Flow forever in my heart. May the universe prosper, such is my cherished desire. (Maitri Bhavanu Pavitra Zaranu, Muj Haiya Ma Vahya Kare, Shubh Thao Aa Sakal Vishvanu, Evi Bhavana Nitya Rahe.)

May my heart bleed at the sight of the wretched, the cruel, and the irreligious.  May tears of compassion flow from my eyes. (Din Krur Ne Dharma Vihona, Dekhi Dilma Dard Rahe, Karuna Bhini Ankho Mathi, Ashruno Shubh Shrot Vahe).

The very pillar of the Jain vision is compassion and that is why Jainism is sometimes called a compassionate religion. In Jainism, compassionate living encompasses every element that makes up our world. Jainism emphasizes observance of verbal and mental compassion also. We should be compassionate and friendly towards all and should have no enmity for anyone.

The concept of compassionate living predates Lord Mahavira. Lord Mahavira said you should not say or do anything to others that you would not like to have done to you. Everybody in this world wants to be happy. No one likes to be hurt. The message of Lord Mahavira is that we should love everybody and should not hurt anybody. We should try to help others and make them happy. To understand the pain and unhappiness that others are experiencing is compassion. The same is true about nonviolence (Ahimsa). Non-Violence in Jainism means compassion and forgiveness in thoughts, words and deeds towards all living beings (humans and non-humans both). 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. Cruelty is not only an aspect of external behaviour, but it is also an inner evil tendency. He who is cruel at heart will behave cruelly towards all living beings. He, who is compassionate at heart, will behave compassionately towards all.

Jaina Ideologies like Ahimsa, Aparigraha and Anēkāntavāda are considered as the pillars of socio-economic world order. The practice of such religious ethical values helps every lay people for self-purification by destroying all passionate activities like greed, infatuation, egoism, hatred, crime, terrorism and lust and encourages disciplined way of life.

Since Jains held that even unintentional activities generate karma, they sought to avoid not only those modes of livelihood that clearly and always cause harm to the living, but also any which might do so incidentally or occasionally. Almost from its inception, a number of common occupations including agriculture, animal transportation and animal by-product trades were thus deemed unsuitable for a practicing Jain. Another strong pillar of Jain identity is its strong, unexceptionable emphasis on vegetarianism, which attributes it with a distinct identity. “In Jainism, both the ascetic and the householder subjectivity are weaved around the principle of ahimsa which is expressed formally through the prism of this dietary habit.

Anēkāntavāda of Jainism helps to understand true nature of reality from multiple viewpoints which provide healthy spiritual solutions against fundamentalism and absolutism and improves inter-personal as well as human relations. Jaina morality does not encourage the unlimited accumulation of wealth, lambasting this a possessiveness amounting to delusion. As a religious belief attachment to earthly things represent evil karma and holiness lies in the escape from materiality. Greed is bad, but more than that it is a delusion.

Jainism 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 own self. Inflicting injury to them is inflicting injury to one’s own self.

The whole of Jain Philosophy contains Ratnaraya? popularly known as Three Jewels. That is Right Faith, Right Knowledge and Right Conduct. The Ratnatrayas? removes illusion by understanding the true nature of reality and encourages disciplined way of life by practicing ethical values in the form of Anuvratas like Non-Violence, Truth, Honest, Celibacy and Non-Possession. The Anuvratas restrains all unethical actions of mind, speech and action and promote self-purification which brings happiness in daily life of every human being by understanding true nature of reality. The daily practice of Rites, Rituals, Fasting, seek forgiveness, Practicing Ten Virtues in the form Dasha Lakshana Parva helps one to develop self- discipline, self-control, patience and purify mind and body. Compassion or Supreme Tenderness (Uttam Mardav) gets the second place amidst the ten tenets of Jainism. The feeling of humility or tenderness is compassion. Compassion (Mardav) means to put an end to vanity or egotism. The foundation of compassion is tenderness or humility. It is an inherent trait of the soul. “Bodh Pahud” describes humility as the root of religion. Just as the construction of a building in the absence of a foundation, the existence of a tree in the absence of roots, the rainfall in the absence of clouds is impossible, likewise birth of the virtue of compassion (Mardav Dharma) and Right Belief (Samyak Darshan) is impossible in absence of humility. The attainment of salvation (Moksha) lies in humility or compassion.

The virtue of compassion makes one aware of the Jain discipline and it gives a clear perception of the real shape of self and non-self (par). Humility removes all evils and it takes us across the ocean of the world. The feeling of compassion or tenderness is a part and parcel of Right Belief.

Applying Core Values Of Compassion Of Jainism In Corporate World

Any business idiosyncrasy is understood by the religion they follow. Religion has great influence on its business strategy and corporate social responsibility policies. Max Weber in his classic study demonstrates that the best values come not from inter-personal rules and regulations but from the ideals of individual who set their own standards of honesty, thrift and integrity from religion. The religion has evolved around human sense of reality greater than self and it creates an enabling environment which creates stability and peaceful atmosphere. It helps to generation of wealth and overall development of citizens and acting as a driving force for the human development in the world. Each religion has its own ethical code of conduct which comprised of what is right and what is wrong guiding us what right things to do and what wrong things not to do. Thus, ethical code of conduct of religion plays a major role in dealing with social, economic, political, physical problems of injustice and sufferings. Looking to the history of Indian Philosophy, which had not taken any thought from any disciplines of knowledge, but it, is a divine origin and spiritual in nature developed by intuition of sages.

Every ethical business has a story. Who they are, what they do, and who they’re doing it for. Many businesses do what they do for the bottom line. They care too much about the profit they pocket at the end of the day. Contrastingly, there are companies out there who believe that the impact they make on the community means something much bigger than the payoff. Empowerment, altruism, achieve socio-economic empowerment, value-based education, community welfare, spread of global friendship and spiritual upliftment of fellow beings and love are common themes that arise from ethical companies but the most common theme among them all is practice of compassion. Without compassion, there would be no ethical companies in existence today.

Corporations have a responsibility to humanity, just as other organizations, such as government and nonprofits, do. If profits are the body of the corporation, ethics are the conscience, vision is the soul, and compassion is the heart. In order for compassion to be part of the corporate culture, it should be more than just fluffy and meaningless words that are put up on the wall. A company’s ethos described through its corporate values is the best indicator of visible integrity in an organization’s description. Values need to be practiced and compassion needs to become part of the corporate lingo. Only when one knows of the word – ‘Compassion’ and understands what it means, can one believe in it and eventually start practicing it. Words without appropriate meaning merely give birth to noise. Embodying compassion is not a chance, but a conscious choice for people who would like to see compassion as a driving force in their business.

Compassionate organizations are concerned with what they can offer to the market (innovation), instead of what can be done to match or bring down competitors. The main purpose of companies should be to exercise compassion that will make a difference in their communities—not to generate profits. Companies ought to have a positive and measurable footprint on their communities by incorporating compassion into their vision, mission, goals, values, culture, decisions, strategy, and operations to improve the quality of life via the reduction and/or elimination of suffering in global society.

One of the oldest living religions in the world, Jainism, also boasts one of the most successful and enduring business communities today. Compassion in Jainism is a religious economics, the integration of religious philosophy, ethical principles and practices into economic activities, individuals, family, group, corporate society and community for the well- being of the society.  Jains have the qualities of hard work, self-discipline, education, intelligence, integrity, honest, faith and also a sense of community loyalty encourages disciplined way of life and promote good actions of compassion, philanthropy, morality, friendship, universal forgiveness for the socio-economic wellbeing of all living beings. Hence the Jaina ethical codes of conduct have socio- economic significance and impact on economically important social behavior which motivates to do humanitarian work.

From time immemorial, the philosophy of Ahimsa, Aparigraha and Anekantvada made Jain entrepreneurs more compassionate towards all living beings and play an influential role in increasing the standard of living of large junk of general population by creating jobs, providing quality education, health services, charities for needy people directly and indirectly.

The trade or the professions Jains choose to pursue are determined by their values. They avoid the meat industry or anything that is directly or indirectly connected to the killing of animals. Literacy among Jains had deeper roots from ancient period and during 20th century the Jains have taken the full advantage of modern education system the occupational rigidities appears to have paved the way and they have started big industries and entered into a wide variety of professions and services besides trade and commerce. The Jain entrepreneurs in the form of traders, money lenders, exporters, importers and big industrialists spread all over India and at global level. Apart from this we can find Jain entrepreneurs in the area of management of state enterprise, Judiciary, medicine, manufacturing, Running Educational institutions and Hospitals, IT Sector, political life and Running Social Media in different parts of India.

There are mainly 10 core values of compassionate companies follows:

  1. Adherence to the principles of integrity.
  2. Action in support of human rights and welfare (shareholders, employees, customers, women, children).
  3. Action against global social ills (poverty, disease, disaster, others).
  4. Action in support of family and community needs (roads, schools, hospitals, others).
  5. Support for freedom.
  6. Responsible workplace practices.
  7. Support for animal rights and welfare.
  8. Action in support of environmental sustainability.
  9. Excellence in corporate shared governance.
  10. Excellence in corporate and social performance.

Compassionate Leadership

Compassionate leadership is more than just a feel-good add-on to your tool belt of skills. It’s a requirement of modern leaders who want to navigate their people and organizations to sustainable success and a brighter future. There might have been a time when compassion was viewed as weakness. Those days are long gone. Today, leaders are expected to treat their people with a greater sense of caring and humanity and to respect the unique attributes and qualities each person brings to the team and organization.

Effective leadership traits are important to any organization in normal times. In extraordinary times such as now during the COVID-19 pandemic, these traits are critical. A little reassurance, compassionate listening, a conscious effort to validate people’s fear and confusion all go a long way.

Ritchie Davidson of the University of Wisconsin has compared practicing kindness and compassion to weight training: “People can actually build up their compassion ‘muscle’ and respond to others’ suffering with care and a desire to help,” he said. Great leaders attest that it is not a sign of weakness or relinquishing authority to be consistently kind and to offer encouragement and show genuine interest in employees’ mental well-being in punishing times. Being kind is good for our own and our employees’ mental health.” And that translates to improved morale and performance.

Jainism as living religion, its principles and philosophy, daily ritualistic practices inspire its followers to lead an ethical life from the time immemorial. Hence, the Jain community is highly traditional in its ethos, centered on family and community and also profoundly focused on the inner life. Since, business and commerce have always been central to their way of life and ethical life made them successful economic entrepreneur all over the world. It is well known fact that all kinds of occupations prevalent in ancient period, due to principle of non-violence, most of them have adopted trade and commerce and they have proved themselves most successful entrepreneurs in the world.

Max Weber in his classic study demonstrates that the best values come not from inter-personal rules and regulations but from the ideals of individual who set their own standards of honesty, thrift and integrity. The success of the Jain community in business worldwide is widely known and acknowledged. Jain’s have the qualities of hard work, self-discipline, education, intelligence, integrity, honest, faith and also a sense of community loyalty encourages disciplined way of life and promote good actions of compassion, philanthropy, morality, friendship, universal forgiveness for the socio-economic wellbeing of all living beings.

Exemplifying some Compassionate Jainiests in the Corporate World

The Jainism philosophy and principles advocate that the lay followers should minimize their desires for accumulation of possessions and enjoyment for personal ends. The reduced consumption attitude due to austerity practice and the social conscience of surplus wealth will be redistributed voluntarily, increased generously giving charitable donations and spent his/her own time for community projects are a part of Jain householders businessmen obligations. The sense of social and economic obligations cultivated from religious philosophy had led Jains to become philanthropists for the goodwill of society.

Materialistically it provided employment opportunities to the masses during that period and spiritually they thought that utilization of fund for meritorious cause can reduce the bondage of karma.

Contribution of Jains in different fields of economy

Founders Important areas/companies
1 Dilip Shanghvi Founder of ‘Sun Pharma’ India’s largest pharmaceutical company
2 Rajesh Mehta Founder of ‘Rajesh export’ India’s largest gold company
3 Prithviraj Kothri Founder of RSBL India’s largest bullion company
4 Russel mehta and

Mehul Choksi

Founder of ‘Rosy Blue and Gitanjali’ India’s largest Diamond company
5 Indu Jain Founder of BCCI Ltd, (Times of India), largest media house in India
6 Premchand Roychand Founder of ‘Bombay Stock Exchange’ India’s first Stock exchange
7 Mangal Prabhath Lodha Founder of ‘Lodha group’ India’s largest real-estate group
8 Rakesh Gangwal Founder of ‘Indigo airlines’, largest airline company in India
9 Gautam Adani Founder of ‘Adani ports and sez limited’, largest port company in India
10 Bhawarlalji Jain Founder of ‘Jain irrigation’ largest irrigation company in India
11 Anurag Jain and Tarang Jain Founder of ‘Varroc group and Endurance technologies’, one of leading automotive car and motorcycle components manufacturing company in India
12 Gautam Adani Founder of ‘Adani Power, Adani Transmission and Adani Green’,

largest private power group in India

13 Seth Walchand Hirachand Doshi Founder of ‘Hindustan shipyard limited’, India’s first ship manufacturing company
14 Seth Walchand Hirachand Founder of ‘Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’, India’s first aircraft manufacturing company and now India’s largest aircraft and Helicopter Manufacturing Company

Sahu Jain

The Times Group, belonging to the Jain family Sahu Jain, is the largest communication company in India. The Sahu Jain Family are the owners of the Times Group and Bennett, Coleman & Co, the most widely read newspaper in English in the World. They also have interests in education (SP Jain School of Global Management), chemicals, or finance (DoubleDot and Crescent Finstock).

Indu Jain is the current President of Bennett Coleman, which owns the Times of India and other major newspapers. She founded Times Foundation and managed the philanthropic activities of the Group and the Bharatiya Jnanpith Trust. She also created in 1983 “Ladies Wing of FICCI.” She is an advocate of the world peace; she participated on the “World Summit on Millennium Peace Religious and Spiritual Leaders (United Nations),” where she talked about the need for unity among the religions. Shanti Prasad Sahu Jain (1911 – 1977) was one of the most influential Jainist of the XX century. He was a prominent industrialist and philanthropist.

Ajit Gulabchand

“Be it within the organisation or society; we have a strong sense of social responsibility, which is reflected in our values and actions.” – Ajit Gulabchand

He is the President and Managing Director (CEO) of the Hindustan Construction Company (India). 80 years ago, the founder of the Hindustan Construction Company, Seth Walchand Hirachand (considered as the father of the Indian Transport Industry), created the “Gulabchand Foundation” developing health and education projects. The Hindustan Construction Company is a global company specialised in infrastructure, power (50% of the Indian nuclear power generation), construction, property (real estate) (Lavasa, the Indian first planned hill city), Engineering, services (the second-largest total services contractor in Switzerland). 80 years ago, the founder of the Hindustan Construction Company, Seth Walchand Hirachand (considered as the father of the Indian Transport Industry), created the “Gulabchand Foundation” developing health and education projects.

Gautam Adani

Gautam Adani (1962) is an Indian Jain Businessman and self-made billionaire. Adani is the Chairperson of the Adani Group (Revenue: 8.7 billion dollars. Employees: 10,400), an Indian conglomerate with business in infrastructure sector, trade and coal mining, petrol and gas, ports, logistics, power generation, and gas distribution. The Adani group invests 3% of income in philanthropy through the Adani Foundation (established in 1996), operating in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, and Himachal Pradesh.

Bhavarlal Hiralal Jain

There are no limits to the human suffering and human generosity. Jain people hope to help alleviate anxiety and pain.” Bhavarlal Hiralal Jain.

Founder of Jain Irrigation Systems and the Jain Charities Fund. His mission of Jain Irrigation Systems is: Leave this world better than you found it.”

Each one of the products of Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd is the result of an effort to conserve the precious resources of the nature through the value addition substitution. Bhavarlal Hiralal Jain is also one of the most prominent Indian philanthropists.

Bhavarlal Hiralal Jain (“Son of the Soil”) creates the Jain Charities Fund with the objective:  “To help worthy cause of every community whether Christian, Hinduism, Jain, Muslim or Parsees (Zoroastrian). “Growth regarding sales volume and net worth is not the only worry for Jain people. With the passage of time and material progress, Jain people have continued to grow their philanthropic horizons.”


Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

We therefore call upon all men and women to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion – to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate – to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures – to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity – to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings – even those regarded as enemies.

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.

As the famous Aesop saying goes, No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Compassion is a powerful emotion and a thrust to positive actions.

It encompasses every single aspect of self-development, both personally and professionally. Through compassion, we can reach hearts, spread joy, and resonate positivity in each other. After all, it is not how much you do, but how much love you put into the doing that matters.

If a Jain system of business ethics is implemented then future managers of modern businesses can bring out a harmonious blend of our religious values with the modern management style to head a transparent, peaceful and content economy. In the age of globalization, we have to reaffirm faith in Indian ethos. The ethical principles of Jainism prescribe a code of conduct, which requires an individual to be an ideal person with nonviolence as the foundation of his life not only from the Indian context but also universally in this 21st century.

Follower of Jaina religion thinks everything on ethical ground and follow an ascetic ideal, at the Centre of which is renunciation of material possessions and worldly beings which they learnt it from Tirthankara’s for social, economic and spiritual well- being of the mass population. Hence, they are social entrepreneurs and spiritual entrepreneurs too. In this context I would like to remember Aidan Rankin statement “Learn to think like a Jain”. Thus, Jainism is not only an ancient spiritual wisdom, but also a practical modern philosophy of life that is tuned with renaissance of India as well as at globe. Hence, I would like to conclude with Relative Economic Thought of Jains and their disciplinary way of life is a “Hidden Gem” that every human being should cultivate in their daily life for the survival of all living beings.

About Author

Avisha Ashish Ladhani

Avisha Ashish Ladhani

Presently pursuing Ph.D. from University of Mumbai on Ethics and Psychology of a Consumer: An Analysis from Sramana Perspective under the guidance of Dr. Meenal Katarnikar. MBA, MA in Philosophy (Jainism). Freelance Career Counsellor for Overseas Education. A Research Scholar, Spiritual Advisor, Writer and Speaker on Jain Philosophy.

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1 month ago

Your point of view caught my eye and was very interesting. Thanks. I have a question for you.