Ecology & Spirituality
For Persons & The Planet In Jaina Tradition

By Dr. Bhagchandra Jain Bhaskar


Ecology : The study of organism in environment and attitudes towards nature - has created awareness regarding interaction within natural systems. Under materialistic influence man is involved in unnatural treatment of nature, overlooked ecological values and invited hundreds of problems. Fredrick Engels is right to say “Let us not however flatter ourselves so much on account of our human victories over nature, for each such victory, nature takes it revenge on us. Each victory, it is true, in the first place brings about the results which are expected but in the second and third places it has quite different unforeseen effect which only too often cancel the first. “As a result, the disorder of nature drew the attention of political, religious and spiritual leaders to think us as to how ecology dominates the society and whether the social events can be controlled through spirituality. In replying to such questions human ecology establishes the relationship between man and nature, man and his environment with which he leads the life. this includes arts of living, treatment to neighbours and animals, social attitudes, and everything that makes the human society pleasant.

The ecological crisis cannot be solved until the spiritual relationship is established between man and environment on collective basis. The present paper will manifest the fact that Jainism, the oldest Indigenous Sramana Religion had been a staunch worshipper and protector of nature since its inception and being a religion of nature, it paves the way to understand the Utility And Essentiality Of Plants, Worms, Animals and all sorts of creatures which have their own importance for maintaining the ecological balance.

Spiritual Relationship : Spirituality is essentially individual and individuality creates collectivity on the bases of discipline and practices. Every basic reality of the universe is integral. Jainsim reconciled the parts of reality with the whole by means of his relativistic approach. The Ayaranga, and ancient Jaina Text, says therefore the “One who knows one,  comes to know all. One who has known all, knows one. “Kundakunda and other Jain thinkers are also of the same view. This conception emphasises that everything has innumerable characteristics that can be perceived from numberless stances. Spiritual relationship with ecological view can be understood by basic tenets of Jainism that (1) Injure no creature (Savve pana na hantavva), (2) Don’t command any creature. Don’t enthrall him, and (3) Don’t own any creature and (4) Don’t employ one as a servant (savve pana na ajjaveyavva, savve pana na pariggahetavva).

Coordinative Ecological View : Theology of one’s religion certainly leaves influence on his treatment to the world. If the universe under theological idea is created by God, the God will then rule the world through man. Man  is accordingly subordinate  to God and then he functions, rules over the nature under God’s direction. This creates subordinative ecological attitude towards nature, matter and animals and bears the notion that nature does not possess the soul. Soul  is not immortal and the body and soul constitute a single entity. On the contrary, if it is viewed that there is no God as a creator and destructor, it is one’s  deeds which bestow the results on him, then aforesaid subordinative ecological idea does not persist. The coordinative ecological model of appreciation works with the man and then man treats others not in isolation from one another but a part of his own.

This is the view of Jain tradition. According to it, the creation of universe depends on the nature and our efforts (Nimitta and Upadana Karan). For instance, in the manufacturing of a pot, clay is the substantive cause and the potter, stick, water etc. are external or subordinative causes.  Each and every entity runs through these two causes and gets the similar modes. All the entities have accordingly their own independent existence and man is not supposed to be a crown of creation. If someone is overpowered, it will create problems directly or indirectly as happened with nature.

Our planet is covered with living beings. Jainism believes that entire world including plants, trees, birds, animals, water etc. is possessed of life. it is our prime duty to protect them. We are to treat others as we would want to be treated. One is therefore expected to respect the land and its natural beauty. Jainism does it by way of accepting an independent existence of nature and animals.

Concept of Spirit of Karma : To obtain the spiritual happiness and perennial peace, it is necessary to believe first in the existence of spirit or soul which is endowed with qualities like consciousness, the power of cognition, formless, agent, enjoyer of the fruits of karmas, beginning less, infinite in number etc. It is of two types one is worldly and other is emancipated from karmas (Sansari and Mukta). Worldly soul attracts influx of karmic matter and gets mixed with false notions, negligence and passions. As a result, soul is called Bahiratman which is ignorant of ecological harmony. The second stage Antaratman repents for this indulging tendency of sense and determines to see the self within, and the Third stage is the Parmatman, the Siddhahood, a soul that has freed itself from the bondage of karma and cycle of birth and death…..

from ecological standpoint we should understand the transmigrating souls (Sansaris) which are of two kinds, Trasas (mobiles), and Sthavaras (immobile beings). The Sthavaras are further divided into five kinds, viz. earth, water, fire, air and plants possessing one sense of touch (sparshan). The mobile beings are form the two sensed beings onwards. the worm, the amt, the bee, and man etc. have each one more sense of taste, smell, sight, and hearing respectively then the preceding one. These living beings possess of some essential characteristics called Pranas, viz. Bala, Indrya, Ayu, and Ucchavasa (breathing).

Non-Violence And Religion : Non-violence and religion are integral. They cannot be isolated. Religion and spirituality guide the human society as to how one should lead a purposeful life without teasing others. Non-violence depends on unititive experience. None would wish injury to oneself. If no self is different from me, how would I kill any body? The Ayaro, Samayasara and other Jaina works say clearly that which you want to kill is you yourself. That which you want to rule is yourself. That which you want to satisfy is you yourself. That which you want to torture is you yourself. “Tumansi nama sacceva jam ‘hantavvam’ ti mannasi, tummansi nama sacceva jam ‘uddaveyavvam’ ti mannasi.

This is non-violence which creates identity between the self and self. Therefore, Mahavira says “Kill no creature”. One has to experience himself the consequences of one’s own karmas (anusamveyanamappanenam, jam ‘hantavvam ‘ti nabhipatthae). Through this unitive experience he first establishes the existence of soul and then says that one who is afflicted with lust is bereft of knowledge and perception. Truth always baffles him, consequently he remains benighted. He indulges himself in action causing violence to the beings of earth-body, water-body, fire-body, vegetable-body and others.

The Niryukti on the Ayaro explains this statement. It says that the process of respiration is present in the beings of earth body too, but it is not perceptible. Like a man in a swoon, the beings of earth body  do not manifest consciousness. This is due to the constant coma produced by the deep slumber producing karma known as “Styanagriddhi”. Ploughing, digging, excretions etc. comes under the earth body violence. Water contains beings. This is supported by the present science also.  The  Jainas are supposed to take water filtered. The Niryukti enumerates some weapons which kill beings of water-body, viz. Drawing water from well etc., straining, washing clothes etc., homologous and hetrologous weapons etc. The weapons which cause violence to fire bodies are soil, sand, water, moist vegetation, mobile beings, holologous and hetrologous weapons. There are beings residing in earth, grass, leaves, wood, cow dung and garbage. There are also beings which fly in the air and drop down form there. All these beings shrivel up on coming in contact with fire and die there and then.

As proved by modern science, the Jaina tradition is of view that just as consciousness of a man born without any sense-organs (one who is blind, deaf, dumb, crippled etc.) is not manifest the consciousness of the beings of vegetable body is also not manifest. Nevertheless, such a man experiences pain when struck or cut with a weapon and so do the beings of vegetable-body. The comparison of plant life can be made with human life. As human life is born, grows, possesses consciousness, takes nourishment, is mortal, is not eternal, is metabolism, undergoes various transformations, sleeps, has longings during pregnancy, diseases, so plant too. Man does so for the sake of survival, for the sake of birth, death, liberation and for the sake of prevention of miseries.

This is the vivid description of plants and other beings which are connected with ecology, and its balance,. Bodhi tree, fig tree paper, mango tree, plantain tree, betel-nut tree, bamboo, margosa tree, palm, Tulsi, kadamba, teak, tamarind tree, acacia tree, etc. are very useful for mankind. We Indian worship them on different occasions. If they are cut down so many environmental problems will arise. Therefore Jaina tradition never allows to cut the trees.

Negligence is the main cause if violence. Even violence in thought in view of Jainism is a cause of injury. Dasavaikalika, Mulacara etc. say that one who walks, stands, its, sleeps, eats, and speaks with vigilance and non-violence, no sin accuses to him. Dasvaikalika further says “Killing horrifies because all beings wish to live and not be slain. Therefore , non-violence should be observed strictly and it should not be broken at any cost.

Social Attitudes & Ecology
Ecology is also connected with social and individual harmony. Jaina layman is supposed not to indulge in seven types of obnoxious habits (Vysanas) which make the life disastrous. They are: gambling and racing (Dyuta), meat-eating, alcoholic drink (madya), prostitution, hunting. Stealing an sexual intercourse with other’s wife of husband. He should be strict vegetarian. He should not be indulged in violence-carrying professions, such as Angarakarma, Vana-sakata-bhataka-sphota- danta-laksa-rasa-kesa-visa-yantra-nirlanchana- devagni-sarahsosana-asalkiposana karmas. Originally such traders were prohibited under the anarthadanda categories, but Hemachandra and Asadhara made them more cleared. The licit earning sources are asi (war), mast (writing), krsi (agriculture), vanijya (business) vidya (teaching) and silpa (art). These sources do not involve the persons into anti-social activities. Dr. Basham explains the non-violent attitude of a Jaina towards his earning sources. He says that a Jain should not be a farmer, for ploughing the earth involves much injury to animal life…. Even most crafts involve injury to living beings for, as we have seen the metal on the anvil of the blacksmith suffers excruciating torturous. Thus  the safest profession for the Jaina is trade, and from the earliest days the faith of Jainism has recruited most of its members from the trading communities of India.

Jaina layman also practices truth, non-stealing, refraining from all illicit social activities and non-possession to perfection to avoid the Aticaras is an essential part of the vows which keeps the person and social environment pure. Pujyadeva enumerates five aticaras of each Anuvrata:-the aticaras of Ahimsanuvrata are binding, beating, mutilating limbs, overloading and withholding food and drink to the animals etc.

The aticaras of Satyanuvrata are: Mithopadesa (perverted teaching), Rahasyopakhyana (divulging what is done is secret), Kutalekhakriya (forgery),it means preparing false records prompted by others in  order to cheat others, Nyasapahara (mis-appropiration, it means taking for oneself gold and other things entrusted to one’s care by another, and Sakaramantranheda (Proclaiming other’s thoughts). This vow can be strengthened by giving up anger, greed, cowardice of fearfulness, and jest, and speaking harmless.

The aticaras of Asteyavrata (not taking the property of others whether pledged or droped) are: Stenaprayoga (prompting another to steal), Stenahratadana (receiving stolen things), Viruddharajyatikrama (underbuying in a disordered state), Hinadhikamanonmana (using false weights and measures), and Pratirupakavyavahara (deceiving others with artificial or imitation goods, like gold, synthetic diamonds and so on).

Brahmacarya is celibacy : Parigrahaparamanuvrata means limited acquisition for limited personal use. This was a formula of a Tirthankara Mahavira for social reconstruction. It includes the purity in earning sources, and an emphasis on austerity in personal life. one is forbidden to Indulge in the following practices: adulteration, under-weighing, supplying poorer stuff than the sample, overloading the beasts of burden, and harming another in respect of his means of livelihood. One should also not deprive the native inhabitants of their rights and therefore Mahavira prescribed a vow not to visit remote places for the purpose of acquisition.

Non-violence is based on the principle of equality and equanimity in the society. It propounded the theory of caste based on the deeds of own and not on birth. Vanity creats disrespect to others. Therefore, Mahavira said that one ought to shun all vanities in knowledge, austerities, caste and livelihood. One who is free from these vanities transcends castes and achieves the supreme state of caste-less deliverance. Mahavir further says that caste is like a slough on human body, it blinds the human being, he regains his sight only after discarding the slough and that is why I exhort the saints to shed caste as a snake does its slough. He should never take pride in his caste. He should never be scornful to anybody on that account…..

The concept of Syadvada and Anekantavada is also a non-violentic approach which respects others views and avoids the clashes between man and man and nation and nation. Religion, sect, caste, colour, language, province are the sensitive points which spark the clashes amongst the groups. Sactarian dogmatism cannot be get true spirituality and without true spirituality ecological balance and environmental purification cannot be brought in the society the one dyed with a fast dye shall be difficult to bleach. The principles of love and vegetarianism are integral part of ecology. Vegetarian food is the requirement of human life. meat is not indispensable like vegetables. The will to live at another life’s expense is there behind this way of living. Jain Tirthankara Mahavira’s first moto is - if violence under compulsion is unavoidable, at lest violence voluntarily performed should bed avoided. This dictum renders non-vegetarianism assailable.

Thus Jain tradition is a tradition which considers the ecology an indispensable part of spirituality and life as well. To stay with the nature is a realistic approach to religion and the religion is life. therefore all the while one should realise the paramount importance of ecology and nature and the role of spirituality is protecting them for the sake of human welfare.



Source - Souvenir Published on Silver Jubilee Celebrations By Ahimsa International, New Delhi
February, 1998


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