Oct 18, 2021

Disposal of religious books, literature, photos


Q28. The method explained in ancient literature to dispose religious books, photos of Tirthankaras or temples damage our environment.  In fact, these methods are illegal in USA, Europe, and even in India.  Yet, in general the Jain community continues to use these methods. What can we do about it?

 

This is a situation that almost every single Jain household encounter in their lifetime. We all have Jain books, literature, murtis, photos, and other religious items. And the question inevitably comes up what can we do about it when they are no longer used?

 

To address this question, we will first talk about the old methods described in ancient literature and their impact in the current times. 

 

 

Old Methods for Disposing

In old times, there were three main methods used for disposing religious manuscript books and other items:

1.     Dry well - dispose the religious literature, photos, and other items in a dry well

2.     Landfill – dig a hole in a dry land, put the items in the hole and cover it up

3.     Water - dispose in flowing water like river or dispose them in sea

These methods might have been suitable in the past, because in the old times no chemicals were used for manuscripts, paintings, and scriptures. The number of such items in circulations were also limited since they had to be hand made one by one.

But in the current environment, when we use any of these methods then we are either polluting the ground or water because the ink and papers contain chemicals. And polluting the ground or water means that we are harming living beings on land and in water. And such actions directly and indirectly contribute towards climate crisis.

Please refer to the following articles to further understand the climate crisis, how various human activities is causing it, why we should care about it and what actions can we take to limit the adverse effects of climate change.

·        What is Climate Crisis? And What Causes it?

·        Why should we care about the Climate / Environmental Issues?

·        What can we do about Climate Crisis?

Additionally, these methods are illegal to use in USA, Canada, UK, and India. And as a religious person, we must follow the law of the land.

Before we talk what can we do in today’s environment, let’s take some time to think about our perspectives and beliefs.

 

 

Investigating our perspectives and belief systems

There are many practices in place today that are rooted from generations of history, and they are performed with the mindset that “this is how it’s always been done” or “we can’t do this because of paap karma (aashatna)”.

And we continue to carry those practices out of ignorance, lack of desire to gain right information, blind following, wrong belief systems, fear of challenging status quo, or lack of knowledge about direct and indirect implications of the actions, and/or the laws of the land.

Whenever we are crossroads with our old ways of doing things in current environment, we need to do some research, deep thinking, and inner work to truly understand what we are doing, why and at what cost. We can’t continue doing things out of ignorance.

Our intent is to create awareness and provide options for those do not wish to continue with practices that are not aligned with our Jain values and principles. It will cause a little discomfort as we are stepping out of our comfort zone and traditional ways.

 

 

What should we do in the current times?

To determine our approach in current times, we can think in terms of four R’s, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, the basic tenets of sustainability.

 

As we talk about four R’s in this context, we want to encourage everyone to keep an open mind and re-think the traditional ways of doing things.

 

 

Refuse

We want to talk about refuse first because it can help stop this problem in the inception phase. This approach reminds us to refuse anything we don’t really need, whether we are buying it, or it is being offered to us. Mindful approach to not impulsively buy or refuse any religious items that are not essential to us, can reduce the production of those items. A simple “No, thank you” can help nip this problem in the bud.

If you think, what harm am I really causing by just accepting one more religious item? Then we need to think deeply and think broadly. By accepting it, we are promoting the culture, supporting the cycle of production at large because it is all about demand and supply, and we are being part of problem.

We understand when someone approaches you at a Jain event and hands you a “Prabhavna”, consisting of an item that you know you have no use for, refusing is not always easy.  In our culture, it is considered paap or aashatna to refuse prabhavna and it is common for gift givers to be insistent that you accept their gift and not accept no for an answer. And of course, none of us wish to appear rude.  At the same time, you don't want the item to be wasted, and you know that if you take it, it will sit on your shelf unused for years to come.  So here are some ideas of things you can say.

·       If it's an item you have, "That's very thoughtful of you, but I already have a katasanu that is quite good and will last me for many years to come."  They may respond by suggesting that you give it to someone else, in which case you can say, "I really don't have anyone else to give it to.  Everyone in my family already has one."

·       If it's a book in a language that you are not as fluent in, "I'm sorry but I can't accept this because I don't read Hindi well enough, and I would hate for this to sit on my shelf unused.  I would rather it go to someone who can make use of it."

·       If someone gives you an idol, you can say, "Thank you, this is very nice.  But I am trying to keep a minimalist look in my home derasar to represent aparigraha and I already have an idol of Mahavir (or whomever)."

·       Another idea would be to take a badha (vow) to not accept any gifts that you know you can't use.  Since badhas are taken quite seriously in our culture, you can then say, "I'm sorry, but I will not be able to use this, and I have a badha to not accepts gifts that I cannot use."  Bear in mind, if you take such a badha, you will need to practice this in all situations where you may receive gifts, not just religious gifts, but that is probably a good idea anyway.

If it is not truly essential, then we can respectfully say no. Also, if we are the ones giving prabhavna then we don't want to be insistent of other person taking it if they have no use for it. Think about the possibilities if enough of us start making this choice. We can create a new culture and become part of the solution.

 

 

Reduce

Next, we would like to focus on Reduce.  This is probably the most fundamental tenet of sustainability, as the more we reduce our production and consumption of material goods in the first place, the less we need to find ways to reuse or recycle them. 

So how does this apply to our Jain books, murtis, photos, and other items?  When we purchase these items ourselves, we believe that in general we tend to be conscientious about it and only purchase what we will realistically use.  However, quite often, we receive these items as gifts or “prabhavana”. 

There are a variety of occasions in which people give such prabhavana.  Sometimes it is given to tapasvis for having done atthais or other tapascharayas.  Other times it is given to the whole community, particularly during special events such as Paryushan, Mahavir Jayanti, or a temple pratistha.  Quite often, multiple members of one household will end up receiving separate prabhavana, as it can be hard to keep track otherwise, and so then there is even more duplication.  While the people who order and give out such items do so as a nice gesture to the community, people often end up with more items than they can use.  These items then end up stored away in a closet and forgotten.

Here is a list of religious items that are often given as prabhavana that can often end up unused:

1.     Murtis and photos of idols – While most Jains probably have an altar in their homes where they keep these, there is a limit as to how many they have room for or how many they want to keep.  And when people receive additional murtis or photos year after year, sometimes more than one per household, it becomes excessive.

2.     Pratikraman items, such as katasanu, muhapatti, charavalo – Just about everyone who does pratikraman already has these items.  These items don’t tend to wear out readily, so for most of us, one set can last pretty much a lifetime.

3.     Incense holders and divo holders – While incense gets used up, the holders last a long time.  Furthermore, most people who burn incense or light divos, already have holders that they use.

4.     Books – The gift of knowledge can be wonderful.  But so many of these books go unread.  When a person purchases a book of their own choosing that they are interested in reading, chances are that they will read it.  But when books are given out in-mass to a whole community, the number of people who are actually interested in reading the book is quite limited.  Not only because the subject matter may not be of everyone’s interest, but also because the language may not be suitable for many.  While most of us who live outside of India speak English in addition to either Gujarati or Hindi, not everyone has enough command over all three languages to be able to adequately read and fully understand material that is in a particular language.

So, then there is the question of what to give.  Before addressing this, we first need to think about why give prabhavana in the first place.  Is it really necessary?  Is there some level of ego involved?  Can we not just give our good wishes and leave it at that?  These may be points to think about. As we give out Prabhavna, we need to understand that we are becoming part (nimitt) of initiating the life cycle of these religious items and how they get disposed.


To move on here, let’s say we have determined that we still want to give some sort of prabhavana to our fellow community members.  So, then what are some items we can give that does not produce unnecessary waste or at least minimizes such waste?  Here are some ideas:

1.     Food items such as dry fruits – You can give as much or as little per person as per your budget, and none will get wasted.

2.     Dollars or coins – This is another option where you can give as much or as little as per your budget, and of course, none will get wasted.  If giving standard dollar bills seems too ordinary, you could give special edition coins.

3.     Incense without stand – This is an item that easily gets used up.  And if someone does not make use of incense, it is typically easy for them to find someone else to pass it on to, Jain or otherwise.

4.     Digital gifts, such as a subscription to a digital media or an app such as a meditation app – Although not everyone will use this, there is no physical waste.

Another point to consider is instead of giving prabhavana to the whole community, just give something useful to the children.

 

 

Reuse & Recycle

As we shared earlier, our first focus should always be on,

1.     Refuse (respectfully) to accept any non-essential or non-required religious artifacts, objects.

2.     Reduce the need for excess production / consumption of physical religious artifacts, objects.

In this section, we want to discuss various ideas/ ways we can implement to optimally reuse religious artifacts/objects within our community space.

 

Create a Reuse Library section in your local religious centers, for all gently used religious books, manuscripts, and other literature artifacts. Local Jain community can contribute to this Reuse Library by:

·        donating their used religious books and other literature artifacts and/or

·        borrowing / buying gently used religious literature artifacts from the Reuse Library instead of buying a new one.

Real Life Example: Jain center of Raleigh, North Carolina have created this Reuse Library for their local center for many years now. During every religious ceremony, event and/or gathering, they set up a stall for used books for anyone interested to take it free of cost. This practice has been very effective in Raleigh. We highly recommend all the centers to set up a similar practice to efficiently reuse and eventually recycle books. 


Consider reusing other religious objects, such as, Katasanu, Navkarvali, Sapdo for Guru Sthapan, Tirthankar murti, wall frames etc., within family and friends. Be open to share any excess religious objects you have within your household and equally be open to accept such new or gently used religious objects from your family and friends, before deciding to buy a new one.

Optimal Reuse will help Reduce the need for unnecessary production and potential wastage of religious artifacts.

 

Recycle and Proper Disposal of Religious Objects

Once any religious object comes it its end of life and can not be further reused, it should be recycled and/or disposed in environment friendly way. This subject has been discussed with Jain Acharyas and several other Jain monks as well. Many agree with the right choice of environment friendly ways to recycle and/or dispose religious artifacts / objects.

Real Life Examples: 

·       Hutheesing Temple, Ahmedabad, Gujarat have a library for all reused books and other artifacts for decades. The temple center actively distributes these artifacts to anyone in need and make it accessible to many less privileged Jain families.

·      Jain center in Koba, Gujarat has established a library for all used Jain literature as well. Once these artifacts/objects reach its end of life, then center has established an environment friendly way to recycle/dispose of.

·       At Jaina Education Committee of North America, we constantly receive inquiries from our patrons about proper disposal of their excess Jain literature artifacts, which they no longer need. To provide a proper Reuse, Recycle and Disposal Avenue, Jain Education Committee launched a pilot program, “Jain Books Recycle”.

Under this program, team collected any surplus gently used or new Jain books, literatures, magazines etc. from all over USA and gathered in one central location. These collected literature is now being cataloged and the list will be published on www.jainelibrary.org in coming months. This list will make all collected books/literature accessible at no cost (except shipping charges) to all organizations (Jain centers, Universities) and/or individuals. Finally, any remaining books, CDs, DVDs, will be shipped to India and will be offered there in universities, libraries, pathshalas, swadhyay groups etc. Information from “Jain Books Recycle” pilot program and any future activities will be communicated by the Jaina Education Committee and on the jainelibrary website.

 

Remember, proper Recycle and Disposal aligns with our Jain core values of not promoting parigraha of anything that is not required and also not creating any harm to environment and earthly living beings by improper disposal of religious objects.

 

 

Summary

Jain Agam Das-vaikalik sutra states the following:

“Padhamum Jnanm Tao Daya.“

First knowledge (Jnan) / understanding and then conduct or action. This one line provides the essence of Jainism and how our Tirthankars envisioned us to conduct.

 

With the knowledge and awareness, we need to use our wisdom to determine the best approach for disposing religious books, literature, photos etc. We must examine and shed our belief systems or practices that are not aligned with our values. Disposing religious material in old ways certainly has an impact on the environment and it is against the law.  Also, we can’t just pass the problem onto the next person by leaving books behind at a derasar or our local Jain centers.

 

As we can see there are several options available for us to fix the current situation. However, along with addressing the current situation, we also need change the way we think and act to avoid same problem in the future. For example, respectfully refuse things that we don’t need or want, and rethink our mindset about gifting religious items. We need to take responsibility and accountability of the complete lifecycle of our actions.

 

Jun 24, 2021

Jain View on Activism


Q27. As a Jain, should we get involved in issues related to social, humanitarian, political, economic, or environmental reform? How should we approach activism for such issues?

This is an overarching question and so relevant for the current times. There are so many issues we are facing as a society and we clearly see a need for all of us to do our part to lessen any negative impact, relieve suffering and contribute in whatever positive ways we can. At times there is passivity about getting involved when a particular issue doesn’t directly impact one’s own self, and we miss out on opportunities to practice and promote compassion for our interconnected wholeness.  

The purpose of addressing this question is to create awareness and provide a logical thought process that might help us decide on various aspects of activism like – does being a Jain allow us to be an activist on any issue? Which causes should we get involved with? and how can we go about bringing the change?

What is Activism?

First, let’s define the word "activism” since it has many connotations associated with it. Wikipedia defines activism as follows:

Activism consists of efforts to promote, impede, direct, or intervene in social, political, economic, or environmental reform with the desire to make changes in society toward a perceived greater good.

So, when we think about it, activism is born from compassion and the desire to end suffering of other living beings. Activism is a form of service. However, Activism gets negative connotation when it is carried out in a brute force way, extremist view, or imposing approach.

For this conversation, we are talking about activism where the perceived changes and approach are aligned with the core Jain values and principles. 

When we reflect on Mahavir Swami’s life, we can see that he was very progressive in his thinking, a reformist, and an activist for spiritual progress of mankind. There are also examples of activists in recent history like Gandhiji, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela whose approach to make changes in society were aligned with core values like non-violence, compassion, and equality.

First, let’s talk about should we get involved in activism as a Jain?

Should we get involved in activism as a Jain?

That’s like asking – I’m seeing suffering around me and should I have compassion for other living beings? Should I have a desire to relieve other living beings from suffering?

It would be a dire misrepresentation of Jain religion to say that we shouldn't get involved. The core Jain values such as Ahimsa and Compassion urges us to do whatever we can for other living beings.

We can see compassion and ahimsa at the forefront in Mahavir Swami’s life stories beginning with while he was in his mother’s womb. While in mother’s womb he felt that his movements are causing discomfort to his mother and so he stopped moving in the womb to comfort her. However, when he realized that lack of movements caused even more concerns for his mother, he started moving. This story emphasis the importance of understanding pain of other living beings and doing whatever we can at that point to relieve the pain.

As he delved deep into the field of spirituality, he wished to live the life of a monk. His parents were saddened and asked him to renunciate the world only after their death. Mahavir started his journey to monkhood only after their death. For about a year before starting the monkhood journey, he gave away all his possessions, gold, and money to the needy people his kingdom. These life events stories underscore the importance of serving others with whatever we have.

Mahavir Swami did a lot of donation as a Prince, but he did donation even after taking Diksha. Mahavir Swami was meditating in the forest and a poor beggar came to him and told him his painful story. After listening to his story, Mahavir Swami gave him a half piece of the only cloth that he had. This teaches us that we should never miss an opportunity to help others with whatever little we have.

After he realized Keval Gyan he traveled from city to city all over India to promote the Jain way of life. He gave sermons two or three times a day for 30 years out of compassion. So that people can live a spiritual and satisfied life.

When we reflect on all the events from Mahavir Swami’s life, we realize that he was guided by selfless altruism. He teaches us that we are not separate from others. With our sense of interconnectedness, our inner peace and happiness are found in state when we evolve to serve other living beings. We don't have to wait to realize keval gyan to serve others and we can serve from where we are and in whatever capacity we can.

In many situations, inactivity or neutrality is an endorsement of the status quo, which could mean continued harm, injustice, or inequality. In such situations, we need to have a position or organize efforts in a non-violent, peaceful, and constructive way to engage the opposite viewpoint. And this is also entirely in line with the spirit of Anekantvad.

There are many forms of suffering in the world like social inequalities, economic inequalities, racism, human rights, animal rights, environmental issues and the list goes on.

So, the next question is what should we get involved in?

What should we get involved in?

It depends on each individual, their personality, their interests, their calling, their knowledge and what motivates them. There are various forms of suffering around us, and we need to determine where we can be of service.

As we can see from Mahavir Swami and other tirthankaras stories, there was a lot of suffering during that time such as violence towards animals, women were treated unfairly, many other forms of inequalities. And Mahavir Swami chose spiritual activism through the spreading of religion.

Activism doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to be something major or drastic. It can also be small and meaningful activities in our daily life. For example, there are situations when violence or suffering might not be very apparent in the food items we eat, products we use, what we buy, where we buy from, environmental footprint or things we accumulate. And in such situations doing the required research to consciously avoid or limit actions that causes harm is a form of activism. Please see “Is Ignorance Acceptable / Justifiable in Jainism?” article that talks in more detail about how all the choices we make have an impact and remaining ignorant is not an option.

 

 

As we think about activism, there are key perspectives about activism and politics that we need to take into consideration. Activism and politics are different, and they serve different purposes. Let’s talk about the differences between the two as we need them both to affect any real changes. 

How is activism separate from politics?

This is an extremely important, nuanced question - and must be clearly understood or else it will be conflated. Activism necessarily includes a mission-driven approach towards upliftment of the downtrodden or the disadvantaged, speaking up for the marginalized, but doesn’t necessarily involve politics or public policy. Of course, to enact policy, one has to consider political considerations, and it can often get difficult to untangle the two when it gets misunderstood for activism. 

Perhaps an example will help illustrate. In the summer of 2020, there were widespread protests and marches -- “activism” -- surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd. These conversations were essentially about offering basic rights and equality to the African American community - and encompassed a myriad of issues, like educational access, healthcare disparities, income inequality, representation in corporate and civic governance, and criminal justice reform. Public policy (and politics) are the tools to achieve reforms. It will be the Mayors of cities for example that will have control over how much budget to allocate towards public safety.

But essentially, the “act” of activism is rooted in a movement of equality and representation, or speaking up in solidarity with the Black community, not in political considerations. 

As we learn about various causes, we need to do our due diligence to ensure that whatever we decide to get involved with is aligned with core Jain values and principles. So, now the next question is what our approach to activism should be when we see injustice or suffering around us, whether it is directed towards us or others.

 

How should we approach activism?

Activism can be performed in many ways like campaigns, rallies, protests, hunger strikes, boycotts, petitions, street marches, sit-ins to name a few. 

 

Whatever action we choose to take in support of a cause we must always stay within the boundaries of the law.

 

In addition, from spiritual perspective all our actions should be aligned with the core Jain principles: Ahimsa, Anekantvad, Compassion, Aparigraha, Satya, Asteya.


Activism can also lead to chaos or conflict, which could be a side effect of the undertaking. We need to look at conflict resolution as well as facing and handling the hardship by adopting Jain values and few guidelines like:

·        We should aim to influence, not impose.

·        We must be the change.

·        We must not let kashayas (anger, ego, greed, deceit) in any form arise within us.

·        None of our actions should be carried from an egocentric perspective, for fame, power, or any personal gains. 

·        Our actions should cause no harm. None of our actions should hurt us, others, or property.

·        We must maintain our madhyastha bhav (equanimity) as we are carrying out our actions and in all outcomes.

 

 

We must have spiritual practices and inner work discipline within us before we engage our time and energy in service to others, such that all our outward actions lead to inner transformation.

 

Few recent examples of activism by Jains:

·        Jainism: Know It, Understand It & Internalize It - This blog is a form of activism that was launched in May 2019. The purpose of this blog to deepen individuals’ understanding about Jain values/principles, create a positive and enriching experience about the religion and enhance spiritual growth. The committee has released 26 articles addressing contemporary questions faced in today’s world.

·        Jains for Justice – Jains for Justice aims to build grassroots ally ship and advance justice through a contemporary South Asian lens grounded in Jain values. The organization was founded in June 2020 by young Jains in the weeks following the heinous murder of George Floyd. Currently, Jains for Justice is organized into four workgroups: animal & environmental justice; race, caste & religion; civic engagement; and gender & sexuality.

In the past year, Jains for Justice has led nationwide drives for voter registration working in tandem with the Joe Biden for President campaign, organized awareness campaigns for plant-based foods and ethical consumption, released an open letter to the Jain community on the Black Lives Matter movement, and opened safe spaces for discussions on gender & sexuality within online spaces such as Clubhouse. You can learn more and subscribe to the monthly Jains for Justice newsletter here.

·        Ahimsak Eco Vegan Committee  As an expression of ahimsa, this committee supports, educates, and promotes vegan lifestyle - not eating, wearing, or using animal products, reduction, and elimination of activities such as material and energy overconsumption contributing to harm of all life, global climate change, and destruction of the planet.

·        VeganJains – This activity focus on the compassion and health aspects of Veganism from a Jain perspective.

 

 

In Summary…

Activism is born from compassion, desire to end suffering of other living beings and the desire to serve others. We need to do our due diligence to ensure any change and our approach to bring about that changes are aligned with the Jain values and principles. What we choose to get involved depends on our personality, interest, knowledge and what motivates us.

For all the actions we choose to take in support of a cause, we must ensure that we remain within the boundaries of the law, our activities should be aligned with core Jain principles such that it doesn't cause any harm to self or other, respect everyone, not let any kashayas arise within and we maintain our stillness. This kind of activism enhance our spiritual growth and results in inner transformation.

 

Apr 26, 2021

Jainism viewpoint on Abortion



Q26. What is Jainism viewpoint on Abortion?

Human life is considered sacred amongst all other life forms in this world. Any form of violence against a potential human life is seen with very critical and sensitive views. Thus, abortion has been for most part a tabooed topic in our society, with opinions and/or beliefs of people on this topic standing on extreme ends of the spectrum.

 

Many sects of world religions (e.g., Islam, Christianity) have strong position on abortion. The directives from these religions state that abortion is considered a great sin and an abandon act against humanity in general. Except, in a situation where pregnant mother’s life is in danger due to any medical condition, most religions seem to have tolerance when it comes to practical implementation in specific situations.

 

Individuals are affected profoundly with the situations and circumstances (of any kind) that lead them to think about abortion, not just emotionally but often spiritually as well. Thus, many individuals turn to their faith/religion seeking guidance on these excruciating life situations, seeking advice on right vs. wrong, to find explanations that solace their discomfort, hurt and feelings of guilt.




Jain Approach

In this blog we will explore what is Jainism viewpoint on Abortion. What guidance Jinas and Tirthankar Mahavira’s teachings can provide to Jain laypeople of today’s time.

 

Fundamentally, Jain doctrine is not a prescriptive religion with laid out commandments and laws directed for the followers with requisite that all followers must adhere to them.

 

Jain Philosophy shares the essential teachings of JINAs (Divine Liberated Souls) with its followers, in the form of  ‘The guiding principles and values’ (blog post), providing the followers guidance and inspiration to live a compassionate and spiritual life.

 

Jain way of life is explained through the practicing of these FIVE vows Ahimsa (Non-violence), Aparigraha (Non-possessiveness), Satya (Truthfulness), Achaurya (Non-stealing) and Brahamcharya (celibacy) in two different ways:

1.     Mahavrats (big vows) – guiding principles for Sadhujis and Sadhvijis (Monks and Nuns)

2.     Anuvrats (mini vows) – guiding principles for Shravaks and Shravikas (Jain laypeople)

 

Jain monks and nuns pledge to lead their life as per Mahavrats and follow core principle of Ahimsa.

The core principle of ahimsa is explained as,

 ‘All breathing, existing, living sentient creatures should not be slain, not treated with violence, nor abused, nor tormented, nor driven away.’

Tirthankar Mahavir

                                                                                                                  Acharanga Sutra

 

According to Jain doctrine, a living being in any form, possessing any number of senses, is considered precious and worthy of love, compassion, and respect. The salient feature of Mahavir Swami’s sermons has been its emphasis on practicing non-violence or minimize the violence to the maximum potential extent to avoid any suffering to any living being.

However, following absolute ahimsa (non-violence) or absolute Brahamcharya (Celibacy) and total non-possession is not possible in the day-today societal life of Jain laypeople (Shravaks/Shravikas).

 

Thus, Tirthankar Mahavir Swami sermonized the principle of ‘Path of Minimum Violence’ to Jain followers (laypeople). Application of this principle is both universal and timeless as it can be implemented in every situation we live through in today’s time as well.



Guidelines for practicing minimum violence

 

Societal life of Jain laypeople cannot follow absolute non-violence. For our existence we need food, clothing, and shelter, which result in some form of violence against one sense living beings.

 

The principle states that for our survival, we should understand the guidelines of practicing minimum violence and follow them.

 

Jain doctrine says, a living being possessing more senses equate to higher development of its faculty of knowledge. 

Therefor any form of violence against even one five sense living being is considered worse than hurting many four sense living beings or three senses living beings and so on. 

(Note - Please refer to this blog post to read in detail about the equation of Ahimsa and living beings with one to five senses.)

 

Let us explore and analyze what is ‘Path of Minimum Violence’ regarding the topic at hand here:

 


Right Conduct

Living life with Anuvrats - the most important reason for choosing to live life with Anuvrat or mini vows is that we become aware of knowing the difference between not doing something vs. consciously taking a pledge to self that I will try my best to never do it!



Ahimsa Anuvrat (mini vow of Non-violence)

 સ્થૂલ પ્રાણાતિપાત વિરમણ વ્રતનિષ્કારણનિરપરાધીત્રસજીવોની સંકલ્પપૂર્વકની હિંસાનો ત્યાગ

 

Sthul pranaatipat viramaan vrat: - (Anuvrat or mini vow of Non-violence for Jain laypeople)

Nishkaran (without valid reason) Niraparadhi (not guilty) 

Trasjeevani (2-5 sensed beings) Sankalp-Poorvani (premeditated / planned) Himsa (violence) Tyaag (avoid / give up)

 

At the core, it means, first laypeople should avoid / give-up premeditated / planned violence without any valid reason, towards movable (two to five sense) living beings.

 

It is a vow to never intentionally harm any living being by one’s thoughts, words, or actions, with the exception of unavoidable violence towards one-sense beings to support our worldly existence. Of course, here too, himsa or injury should be limited to the minimum possible extent.

 

By taking this Anuvrat (mini vow), one would declare to not carry out the act of Abortion (Himsa against five sense being), on oneself or perform on others, for the reasons of convenience or to avoid unfavorable, uncomfortable, challenging (not life threatening) situations.

 

Violation of Ahimsa Anuvrat: If a pregnant woman or a couple together decides to abort the pregnancy because it is not the right time in their life, it may impact their lifestyle, career, or cause unwanted inconvenience that they are not yet ready to commit etc., such reasons are not considered Self-defense or Self-Protection related reasons and so choosing to abort will be in direct violation of the Ahimsa Anuvrat.

 

Exception: Any act of violence for self-protection or self-defense is not considered a violation of the Ahimsa Anuvrat. In case of aborting a pregnancy in a situation where a pregnant woman is facing grave medical conditions which puts her life in danger is considered an exception and one must apply their own wisdom in such situations and make a right choice.

For such situations, understanding the guidelines of practicing minimum violence helps in deciding. As we saw earlier, the degree of violence inflicted on any living being is proportional to the number of senses a living being possesses and development of its faculty of knowledge. In this case, the mother’s faculty of knowledge is more developed than of the fetus.

For further reference, Muni Shree Nyayvijaji (the undisputed scholar of Jain Logic) explains how to practice minimum violence in his book Jain Darshan. Here are the links to his article on “The Principle of Minimum Violence for Human's Survival” in HindiEnglish and Gujarati.



Brahmacharya Anuvrat (mini vow of Celibacy)

Humans are by nature clement in their sexual desires. In this mini vow of Brahmacharya (Celibacy) ‘Svadhara santosh vrat’, one decides that sensual activities should only take place within a marriage. Married couples choose to remain faithful with their married partner.

 

In the context of this topic, the basic intent of this vow is to control sensorial pleasures, control excessive sexual passions and practice. Jain laypeople can choose to practice this vow in differing degrees; ranging from chastity outside marriage to moderate sexual activity needed to produce children.

 

By taking this vow, individuals as well as married couples can avoid many scenarios of unwanted, unplanned pregnancy and thus can avoid the situations leading to consideration of abortion.

 


Family Planning & Contraception

While following the mini vow of celibacy (Brahamcharya Anuvrat) is the first and foremost path to avoid excessive passion, married householders may naturally engage in just passionate activities for sensual pleasures with no reproductive goal.

 

In such situations, there are ways married couples can choose to be educated and be proactive to practice a path of minimum violence for the given situation.

Today, there are various safe options available for effective family planning that helps married couples avoid undesired outcomes of their sensual relations. Gathering right information about family planning options e.g., safe use of contraception avoids unwanted pregnancy leading to potential act of abortion.

 

As per the ‘path of minimum violence’ principle, safe and effective family planning through use of contraceptives is considered the right choice.

 

Primarily for two reasons:

One, to support women’s rights for equanimity and their freedom of choice for their body and

Second, to provide safe and effective family planning that avoids abortion situations, which is a much greater form of violence. 

 

 

In Conclusion - Apply Your Own Wisdom

Whatever I say, you must test this with your own reasoning and verify it through your own experience. Do not accept what I say blindly by faith alone until it passes the litmus test of intellection. Otherwise, it will never be yours.

If you accept what I teach on the basis of the sacred texts, or from my convincing reasoning, or even because of my radiant personality, but not by testing with your own reasoning, then in the end this will create only darkness (ignorance) in you and not light.’

Tirthankar Mahavir

Ref Book - Harmony-Of-All-Religions by

Maharshi Santsevi Maharaj (Page 100)

 

Tirthankar Mahavir Swami was not the founder of a new faith. While Mahavir Swami followed the well-established creed of Jain religion, he recognized the philosophical tenets of Jainism should correspond to his times. Thus, he became a reformer and propagator of an existing religious doctrine.

 

Above in the article, we discussed some of many ways an individual and/or married householder can practice ‘Minimum-Violence’ to avoid situations proactively and effectively to unwanted pregnancy and abortion. Except for saving a pregnant woman's life if pregnancy itself poses grave danger to her.

 

However, reality is also that an individual or families may face various possible scenarios of unplanned, unwanted pregnancy, or even though rare, forced upon situations with pregnancy. Just to sight few examples such as, teenage pregnancy, a case of physical sexual assault (minor girl or a woman), single mother facing poverty with no support, a recent widow, or rare cases where family planning methods failed etc.

 

In such challenging situations / scenarios you may not find a clear yes or no, black, or white answer from the religious philosophy that sets well with your logic, your reasoning and your wisdom. When faced with any such circumstances, one should remember the sermon (Deshna) of Tirthankar Mahavir Swami. With the right understanding of the guiding principles of Jainism, apply your own wisdom and strive to follow the path of minimum violence that is applicable in given situations.