0.02 Key-note Address

Posted: 20.05.2010
Updated on: 30.07.2015

Chennai 2009: Non-violence, Compassion and Instrumentality - A Jaina Perspective


Non-violence, Compassion and Instrumentality

A Jaina Perspective

Seminar organized by the Department of Jainology of the University of Madras,

13 and 14 February 2009

Chennai, India


Key-note Address by Dr. Jayanti Lal Jain


A. The Concept

The word Non-violence is generally understood in the context of killing others, hurting others or protecting others. It relates to “others.” Jainism goes beyond others. It is used in the context of killing oneself, hurting oneself and protecting oneself. Passions arise only after “killing” (ignoring) oneself. Non-existence of passions is really non-violence and presence of passions reflects the state of violence. The attitude of killing, hurting or not protecting others refers to violence. The converse of this is compassion for others. However, when one protects oneself, it is a supreme state of non-violence and compassion.

The basic instinct of all living beings can be termed as passion. Compassion is one of the passions. A proper understanding of the universal concept of compassion or passions has been made complicated by the existence of different systems of beliefs and faiths, religions, languages, philosophies, cultures, vested social and political interest of different leaders and their followers, scriptures that deal with specific aspects of life or soul, preoccupations of people with material life and economic interests, etc. Therefore, the concept of compassion, although secular, eternal and pure by its very nature, has been affected by vagaries of time, people, places and conditions under which these ideas emerged.

What we generally term as compassions in terms of kindness, forgiveness, pardon, sympathy, empathy, concern, fellow-feelings, pity, mercy, sorrow for sufferings of another, tolerance, non-violence, appreciation of other’s views, assistance to others in case of man-made or natural disaster or tragedies etc. are not real compassion as these have only temporary effects, and do not provide a lasting solution to human problems. They have a soothing impact temporarily, but do not cure for good. Suppose one provides food to a hungry person, it solves only that day’s problem. What next? Similarly, some medical assistance given to an injured person may help him, but does not insure him against death or future injury. If one tolerates someone’s wrong beliefs that does not help either as both are under delusion. The impact will be that both will suffer from an infinite cycle of births and deaths.

B. Classification of passion

All of us display passions of likes, dislikes, anger, ego, greed, delusion, moments of happiness and sadness and so on. Generally, passions are classified into four - anger, ego, deceit and greed. These passions may arise in three ways - due to contemplation, preparation and commencement of any activity and carried through with the help of mind, words and body. Further, these passions may be of three types - one’s own, or supporting the passions of others, or getting the passion accomplished by others. These passions sum up to 108, i.e. 4 x 3x3x3. Passions also relate to violence, falsehood, stealing, possession and sex. Each of these passions can be of many types. Jain scriptures, therefore, talk of 18,000 passions. Based on the five senses (passions) of touch, taste, smell, seeing and hearing and states of body and mind, living beings are categorized into four: humans, animals, beings in hell and beings in heaven. Depending on types of births, these are further subdivided into 8.4 million. Each of these types reflects different passions and hence living beings are further divided into 19750 billion. Further violence can be classified into four types - (a) deliberate (physical), (b) business related (earning livelihood), (c) household (domestic work) and (d) self-protection from an enemy. Monks abstain from violence relating to all six types of physical bodies (kāyas). Householders abstain from violence relating to 2 to 5 senses of life and minimize it with respect to life-forms with only one sense. Thus, the number of passions reflected in these living beings is so big that it is beyond the understanding of an ordinary person.

C. Towards non-violence

Non-violence is the quintessence of all dharmas. To be concentrated completely in the self is the highest dharma of non-violence, because only in this state of meditation there will be no violence to others in thoughts, words and deeds. The pure soul is the greatest follower of the same as it is eternally concentrated in the self only. The greatest dharma of non-violence thus can be practiced only by the pure self and hence the latter is the greatest follower of the greatest dharma of non-violence. Following non-violence, truth, non-stealing, non-possession and celibacy are considered to be vows to be practiced in spiritual endeavors. When a person gets completely absorbed in the self, these vows are automatically followed, and when not in the state of meditation such thoughts are shunned by the followers of the pure soul. Thus, the pure soul is the greatest undertaker of the greatest vows.

The cycle of passions is considered good or bad depending on one’s relative views guided by times, areas, faiths/beliefs in systems and the environment in which one lives, and so on. Social, economic, political and religious conditions dictate the type of good or bad passions one may have, for and against certain passions. Passions are generated temporarily and there is no absolute standard of measurement, as their interpretations are highly relative.

Often, it is easy to talk of overcoming passions, but difficult to do so. This experience or saying seems to be true because there are really no ways and means to control them. A dose of medicine has to be powerful enough to cure a person. Unless a person develops an attitude/ understanding of the marvelous and powerful nature of the self it is not possible to control passions for always and get rid of them for eternity.

Have compassion for passions. View our passions with abundant discretion. All beings have been afflicted with passions for infinite times and lives. Have compassion for the self. The passions of violence, untruthfulness, stealing, sexual passions, amassing wealth at the cost of others, and so on, will wither at once or slowly depending on the extent of realization of one’s eternal nature. Worldly life is characterized by passions, while the path to mokṣa is full of compassion for oneself and all fellow beings.

Compassion means that passions are not the objectives in themselves and hence, better to ignore them, overpower or control them by adopting a sublime path of mokṣa. Be indifferent to passions, and understand their impact on one’s present life and future ones. Compassion implies focusing automatically on one’s own real self. It is important to know that these passions are absent in the pure soul and hence, one loses interest in passions. Passions are like the flow of river which prevents crossing it. Knowledge of pure soul dries up this river and thereby makes crossing the river easier. Thus, by controlling internal passions, the external activities of mind, speech and body are automatically controlled.

Compassion aims at rejecting earthly passions of joys and sorrows and reaching inward with a vision to realize the pure soul. Living with visions of the pure soul is to be in a light house, while living with passions is like that of living in darkness. Once a person identifies himself with the eternal soul, disengaging the mind from temporal viewpoint and worldly pleasures, thus conquering all foe-passions, relative sentiments, likes and dislikes, then one has no friend or foe. The eternal soul has neither sex or senses nor a roaming mind. Once a person realizes to be a pure soul, one is conscious that sweet, hard or bitter words, friendly or inimical treatment are all due to the temporal desires and relations and consequent passions.

Thus, compassion provides consolation to an afflicted mind and offers an inspiring vision of divine life to all seekers of truth, it delights the hearts of aspirant souls and there will be only universal brotherhood and universal peace.


D. Universal compassion

Foundations of universal compassion: The objective of universal compassion is to move towards a theme on globalization of happiness and harmony. The foundations of such a theme of universal compassion are enunciated as follows:

1. Right identification

Taking the body for the soul is the root cause of all passions and miseries. With this false identification, one’s ego and other passions are imprisoned in non-living objects and chained in desires of worldly or bodily affairs. Moths die due to passion for light, deer get caught due to passion for sound, Elephants are overpowered when attracted by the touch of she-elephants, bees have passions for scent, and fishes get caught when lured by the taste of food.

2. Right knowledge.

Lack of knowledge of the self or pure soul leads to all wrong deeds, including killing and physical injury and also violent behavior in which one hurts others by words, deeds or thoughts. Other associated wrong things such as telling lies, including wrong interpretation of scriptures, stealing others’ wealth, acquiring wealth to carry such activities and excessive indulgence in pleasures of the body, including rape etc., follow. Therefore, inculcation of knowledge of oneself is the comer stone of Universal Compassion and Happiness.

3. Ignorance breeds misery.

Ignorance of the self breeds further ignorance. It imposes false solutions for the time being and ignorance erupts again and again like a volcano, leading to violence. Hence, it will be better to acquire knowledge of the self rather than pass through the complex ocean of passions which ultimately leads to breeding further ignorance, misery and violence.

4. Worthy human behavior.

Ignorance of the self leads to violence as a means to achieve ends which are not only non-religious, but are discouraging human behavior. Further, mixing of politics, religion, spiritualism and society complicates one’s behavior. Violence, certainly, based on ignorance of the self, makes us worthless human beings.

5. Understanding of growth processes.

Whatever progress/ development we witness today is the result of compassion. Economic growth is maintained, in fact, by great contributions of small people like farmers, tailors, vegetable vendors, shopkeepers, small industrial units, etc., as these people carry out their economic activities in peace and harmony. The world/ growth is built not by those who turned terrorists or violent attackers, but by those who live in harmony and peace.

6. No different standards in human behavior.

If one is hurt even a little bit - a small injury such as by piercing of a needle through one’s skin, or an ulcer, it makes one unhappy, Then think of a murder etc., how much injury one inflicts on others, simply in the name of a religion or false belief. All this is due to lack of true knowledge of the self.

7. Critical study of the self.

Most people understand religion by tradition and their understanding is not based on critical study. We are often guided by emotions rather than by reasoning. Discretion is the best part of valor, so goes the saying. Similarly, discretion is the best part of religion and understanding one’s soul/ self is the best discretion.

8. Acceptance of multifaceted reality.

Bias or prejudice is the product of ignorance of oneself and the external world. If better understanding is promoted, harmony will grow. The concept of multifaceted reality makes things simple and promotes harmony and peace.

9. Equality of all souls.

All humans/ creatures are souls, they are all equal in their potential and nature. It is the deeds that cause the differences. If this realization comes, there will be love and reverence for each soul, rather than hatred, conflict or violence. This universalization of the equality of souls needs to be popularized, and then instead of globalization of violence, there will be globalization of harmony.

10. Ecology of the self.

There is a need for promotion of Inner Harmony of the Self, health of mind and self, just as human health. Spiritually speaking one should be at harmony with one’s emotions and thoughts, only then harmony can sound together with the external world. Once one is emotionally upset, one’s inner harmony is destroyed and this engulfs others who come into contact with them. Ecology of the self is to be preserved for survival.

To sum up, happiness derived through senses, accumulation of wealth, greed, theft, violent acts, material pleasures are temporary, and the person who does these acts passes through upheaval of stress and tension. Happiness derived from the realization of the self and compassion is unique, abundant, infinite, unhindered, continuous and beyond sensual pleasures. Such happiness is hitherto unprecedented in one’s life.


E. Causation and instrumentality

Like any scientific enquiry, a given effect can also be brought about in spiritual science by knowing its cause. Without knowing these relations, misconceptions arise and it will be of no avail to make Herculean efforts to achieve something which is impossible to achieve. One will not get requisite confidence to undertake matching efforts to ensure success and will be aimless and groping in the dark.

Innate vs. instrumental cause. Every effect is caused by multiple factors which operate in a complicated manner. There are two types of causes - innate and instrumental. That which itself causes the change or contributed by the same matter through its properties/ previous form can be called the real, innate or fundamental cause. Factors which facilitate a change and remove impediments, but themselves do not cause a change are called associative or instrumental. The former cause is basic, fundamental, crucial, one’s own contribution, etc., while the latter is incidental, contextual, facilitative, attendant, imposed, superficial, temporary etc. (See Exhibit I).

Consider the following three illustrations:

(i) Making of a pot.

In the making of a pot, clay is the real innate cause as this itself changes into a pot, but other factors such as the potter’s wheel, stick, the pot maker, etc. are instrumental causes. These are called associates because their presence is important and can be seen or observed at a glance, but by themselves they are incapable of causing a desired change. The pot maker is the inspirational cause, while the basket in which soil is kept or support given by earth are passive factors. Through the process of change, clay eternally remains clay, but seen temporarily as a pot at that unit of time, and converted into a pot from its immediate previous form of clay.

(ii) The famous trio.

The matter, its properties and its forms together determine the true nature of an object. A piece of gold is matter. It has certain properties such as yellowness, rustlessness, fusibility, etc. It is possible to change its form of a piece of gold to a ring, a bangle, etc., but it remains gold with its innate properties; only the form has changed. When a bangle is ‘created’ out of a ring, the ring has been ‘destroyed,’ but all properties of gold are still ‘sustained’. Thus, matter is sustained in all forms or changes and never gets really destroyed. Only a new form is created, out of the destruction of the previous form and yet the same matter survives or sustains itself in all forms. This is the famous trio - Brahmā (creation), Śiva (destruction) and Viṣṇu (permanence or sustainability). These three are the innate changes that are constantly taking place in all substances in the universe and yet the basic universe remains the same; only the form changes.

(iii) Causality in bondage.

As said earlier, misconception/ bondage is caused due to lack of understanding of cause and effect relationship. For soul-based bondage, the real cause is change in perception of a soul and, at that moment, attention is diverted from material objects or fruition of karmic particles and hence this is only the instrumental cause. For material bondage (of atoms or particles), atoms are the real cause and the soul is only the associate or instrumental cause. However, for any bondage, both the types of causes co-exist. The primary reason for matter-based bondage to take place is soul-based bondage. Further, when a person acts according to the fruition of matter-based particles, perception-based bondage takes place. This cycle is repeated whereby misconception and ignorance are perpetuated and hence the cycle of life and death. Take the example of soul and body. Without the distinction between fundamental and instrumental factors: (1) Knowledge of the body is identified with that of the self; (2) the nature of the body is identified with that of the self; (3) control is exercised over the body when it is to be exercised over the self. It is the eternal nature of the self that leads to ultimate liberation, while the wrong impression is created that giving up other objects is instrumental in liberation; (4) changes in the body (movements of body parts, disease, hunger, thirst, birth, death, sleep, etc.) are identified as caused by the self. While changes in the body are caused by the nature of the body itself, one gets the wrong impression that these are caused by the self and vice versa; (5) changes in the body are considered to cause pleasures or pains to the self.

Only when a person understands the causal factors, one can acquire true knowledge about the self and divert attention from instrumental causes to the real cause and achieve self-realization. The key to self-realization lies in accepting the fact that every object is changing due to its own nature, and there is nothing that a man has to do in other objects. His domain lies in his self and not in external/instrumental factors.

F. Six-fold causation

Causes can be classified into six, as doer, deed, means, purpose, source and supportive stage. One who is independently able to perform is a doer and the accomplishment of doer is called a deed. Instruments used by the doer are called the means and reason for the deed is known as purpose and the deed emerges from a given substance named as source. The deed accomplished on some basis is called support/ basis. When instrumental factors or substances are mentioned for an action, such explanation is referred to as the empirical view and where the explanation is in terms of the nature or ability of the same substance it is referred to as the real point of view.

The empirical viewpoint is explained here, taking the example of the activity of making a pot. The potter is the doer and the pot is the deed of the same. Yje wheel, rod, etc., are the means, and the pot is made for storing drinking water, taking soil from the basket and the whole act of making a pot is accomplished on the basis of the earth, i.e., putting all on earth. In this example, every case is different, all exist independently. The doer is one, the deed is something else and the means are different from the first two. Similarly, functions of purpose, source and support are performed by different objects. Such explanation is far from the truth as one substance, in fact, cannot work for other substances. This is done only to explain associated or instrumental factors which can be either passive or inspirational in nature (See Exhibit II).

From the real point of view, every substance has the inherent ability to work for itself and all the six causes take place in the same substance independently and without interference or need for other substances for a particular action to take place. The clay has the inherent and independent ability to get converted into a pot and hence clay is the doer and the pot is its deed. Clay and pot are inseparable and hence the pot is the deed of clay only. Clay is instrumental by its nature to transform into a pot and clay is the instrument. The purpose of this action is the clay pot and the source of the pot is the clay only. Clay is the basis on which the pot is made. Like pot and clay, the empirical and real view of an act of violence is given in Exhibit III. Six factors are separate and different in case of violent act as per empirical view, but the real viewpoint explains the passion of violence of a terrorist through six-fold causation. The passion of violence itself emerges in a terrorist with oneself, by oneself, for oneself from oneself and on the basis and support of oneself.

Every substance is functioning independently by its own inherent nature. Further, every property of a substance has its own six-fold causation process within that property and similarly, every form of a substance has its own six-fold causation (Exhibit IV). That is, every property of a substance operates independently and is neutral to the operation of another property and each form takes place independently without the help of other substances or the previous forms of that substance. Such is the secular nature of properties and forms of a substance.

In view of the above explanation of process of causation, a pure soul has inherent power and ability to achieve liberation, by means of contemplating the nature of pure soul, and thereby realization of pure soul. The karmic matter in terms of its various eight-fold classifications also withers away by itself automatically. Liberation emerges or manifests from this permanent nature of pure soul, and the same manifestation takes place on the stage of eternal nature of the pure soul. Thus, the pure soul, of own-self, transforms into the state of liberation and hence called as self-made King of the Universe.

It can be seen that all the six causes are in the substance itself. Really speaking, one substance does not help another one in any action and every substance itself undergoes changes, within itself, by itself, for itself, from itself and on the basis and support of itself. This is the universal truth.


The main references include the commentary Acuya Amritchaudra on Pravanasar of Kundakund, verse 16 and the author’s Ph.D. Thesis submitted to the University of Madras.




Innate Cause (Fundamental)

Instrumental Cause (External)



Temporary innate cause

Innate eternal nature

Ability at that unit of time

Immediate previous form




Type of action/


An example of making a pot - empirical view

An example of making a ot - Real view

Real view – Nature of a substance

Real view nature of pure soul

Real view case of karma



Soil/Clay made up of

Only self

Pure soul

Karmic matter



Soil/ Clay –Transformed form of clay

Within itself - transformation of itself

Salvation/ Moksha -Pure fomi of Soul

Karma - action of karmic matter


Disc/Wheel, Rod, etc.

Soil/clay made by means of clay

By itself

By means of targeting on the nature of pure soul

By means of targeting on karmic matter


For storing water

Soil/clay - To stay as clay

For itself

For realization of pure soul

For realization of pain/ pleasure caused by karmic form

Donor (Source)

Taking soil from the basket

Soil/Clay – source was day for making a pot

Form itself

From permanent nature of pure soul

From permanent nature of karmic substance

Support/Basis of action

On the support earth

Soil/clay basis on the nature of clay

On the basis/ support of Itself

On the stage of eternal nature of pure soul

Stage provided by karmic substance



Type of Action/Causation

An example of violent act –Empirical view

An example of violent act –Real View


Perpetrator of violence

Passion of a violence


Explosion/Killing of people etc.

Carrying out act of violence as per passion


AK-47/Bomb etc.

His perverted passion


Harming the other group/country

Enjoys perverted passion

Donor (Source)

Taking money through drugs, trafficking, extortion or inspired by others/events

From perverted knowledge

Support/Basis of action

On the support of terrorist organization

Perverted concept of self





Pure/ Substance

Pure Properties/ Characteristics

Pure Forms/ Modes


Pure Soul

Relevant property i.e., knowledge

A relevant pure form


Retain the nature of pure soul

Retaining its nature i.e., knowledge

A relevant change of pure form


By its own power

By its own nature/ power, knowledge

By pure form


For pure soul only

Relevant property only, knowledge

For pure form only


From the pure soul

From given property only, knowledge

From the pure form only

Supporting Stage

Pure soul

Stage support by given property, knowledge

Stage supported by the pure form only



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Editor: Dr. Rudi Jansma