Ocean Of Problems - The Boat to Non Violence: 68 ►Principle of Non-Violence: The Role of Shravaka

Published: 05.07.2020

I often hear that non-violence of Jainism has turned the society coward. Jainism gets into subtleties of non-violence. It considers earth, water, fire, air and plants as living creatures. Killing small and big insects is also considered an act of violence. Fighting a battle is also considered an act of violence. Even killing one’s enemy has been considered a sin. This repetition of the word sin has turned the whole society coward. The young generation has got a lot of grievances against the present system of society. Often influenced by emotions the young generation also says, ‘We do not want this kind of non-violence and peace that turn the society useless and coward’.

Seeing the present system of society it is quite natural for young generation to have grievances. Why only the younger section, I also say that I do not need such non-violence and peace that turns the society coward. I also agree with the young men regarding this point of view that such discussions of non-violence must be stopped, that turns the society coward and weak. But I do not agree on this point that non-violence of Jainism has turned the society coward and powerless.

In the Context of Questions

It is true that Jainism considers earth, water, fire, air and plants alive. Whether big or small, stripping life of any living creature is violence, a sin, killing small or big creatures, fighting a battle, killing enemies and to nurture, preserve and expand one’s self killing a living creature is also violence. Taking someone’s life is surely an act of violence, even greater than that is negligence which is even violence.
Whenever there is negligence and in whatever form it is present is also violence.

Here a question can be asked if all the aforesaid traits carry violence and sin then should us not fight a battle. Should we not combat our enemies‘? Should we stop causing violence over water, plants and such other creatures for feeding ourselves? Should we not protect our pride? Should we refrain from leading life?

If we try to understand the context of these questions the path of solution could be made easier. The first question is whether killing enemies in a battle is violence, a sin. If this question is judged from the spiritual perspective then we have to consider that in the spiritual field, considering someone enemy is also violence, a sin. In the sphere of non-violence no one could be an enemy. It is a kingdom of love and friendship, a kingdom which is equally open to all and showers love on everyone. If a person following non-violence considers someone enemy then in my view his understanding of non-violence is incomplete. It is so because he doesn’t carry the feeling of love for everyone in his heart. He still discriminates between own and others. The most important point is if considering someone an enemy is violence then killing someone considering him an enemy could not be otherwise. Likewise how on earth violence caused for nurturing, preserving and leading life could be non-violence?

The second question is if battle is violence then should Jainas escape from the battle field? To escape from battlefields is cowardice and cowardice is violence. Violence and cowardice are followers of each other. Where there is cowardice there cannot be non-violence. Non-violence is present where there is fearlessness. Penance of non- violence becomes impossible in the presence of fear. Where a person escapes from battlefield, at the time of crises if a person hides himself in his house and tries to save his life, even if he is saving himself from gross violence there, but in a very subtle way he is violent only.Where a person tries to save himself out of his attachment how could there be non-violence? It is cowardice, fear and hence violence.

Where is non-violence?

In Geeta, Arjuna starts trembling seeing his own kith and kin in the battlefield. To give him realization Lord Krishna says-

हतो वा प्राप्यसे स्वर्ग जितो वा भक्ष्यसे महीम्|

‘Arjuna! Without any hesitation and argument fight the battle. If you die in the process you will attain heaven because killing enemies in battle is religious. If you win the battle then you will happily rule the kingdom.’

Jaina philosophical view is absolutely different from the above mentioned point of view. According to it battle is always undesirable. War is waged due to selfishness, expansion of empire, cessation of enemies, establishing one’s thoughts over other, communal interests and so on. Whenever there is a clash of welfare between two persons or nations the clouds of war start gathering. At the time even the neighbours turn into enemies. Even one’s brother stands in front carrying a sword. Who in fact were there in the battle of Mahabharata? Kauravas and Pandavas were brothers only. A brother adhering to immorality cannot even be turned into an enemy and killed in battle to enjoy the bliss of heaven according to Jaina perspective.

I personally feel that the above mentioned thoughts are going to confuse a person. The point worth contemplating here is that under any circumstances or indispensability killing someone is violence. The second point worth contemplating is that escaping from the battlefield, hiding oneself in one’s house is also violence. The act of killing is also violence and escaping is also violence. Then what is non-violence‘? Where is non-violence? Just in the middle is non- violence, where there is no killing and no escaping. A person doesn’t kill because killing is violence and he doesn’t escape because escaping is violence. Where he is absolutely fearless non-violence resides there.

Main Base of Non-Violence

According to Jaina perception equality and fearlessness are non- violence. The main pillars of it are balanced knowledge, balanced visualization and balanced character. To acknowledge something as it is, is balanced knowledge. To have reverence for it is balanced visualization. To live by it is balanced character. According to knowledge and discernment if the behaviour doesn’t live up to their expectation then at least knowledge and discernment must be right. A person must know at least what is his destination? Which way lead to it? Once the right destination and the right way are found then whenever the journey begins it will lead to the right path. A person, without having the right knowledge, whichever way he decides to move on, becomes his compulsion. But to consider it the absolutely right path is false knowledge. Jaina philosophy gives stress on this point that a person must deem violence as violence no matter how indispensable a situation he has to go through. A person must deem non-violence as non-violence no matter what compulsion he has to move under. Even in the presence of any indispensable situation violence will remain violence and non-violence would remain non- violence. Violence and non-violence can never meet.

The true form of non-violence is revealed where —सब्बे पाणा ण हंतव्वा—no creature is worth killing, when this principal is materialized into action the feeling of enmity ceases, the feeling of seeking one in many is developed and the perilous situation comes to an end.

Shravaka and War

Once the King of Gujarat undertook a journey. There was no military activity at the border of his kingdom so he was accepting invitations from his neighbouring countries in a quite relaxed manner. The days went on passing. He moved quite ahead of his kingdom. A neighbouring king, seeing his popularity and able administration of his kingdom got jealous of him. Seeing the opportunity he attacked. The chaos spread all over his kingdom—the king was out of kingdom, the soldiers were not well-equipped. The rival army had surrounded them from all sides and the communication from outside was also disrupted. What would they do? At this stage the commander of the any assured all the subjects. He spoke with determination——‘Maharaj(the king) is not present here so what? I shall work as per our queen’s instructions and defeat the rival army welcoming victory.

The following day the commander set off to fight the battle fully equipped. By evening he reached the battlefield. ln those days battle was not fought at night. The air-raids would also not take place. That’s why even having reached the battlefield the battle got postponed till the daybreak. Shortly after sunset everyone reached one’s respective tent and started planning for special warfare.

Suddenly the commander remembered something and seeking the minister’s permission he sat for meditation. That was the last day of the Paksha. The commander was a Jain shravaka. It is a fundamental duty of a Jain shravaka to transcend (Pratiksaman) at the last day of Paksha. The commander was very alert of his religious duties even in the battlefield. He named every small and big living creature, repeated his vow of not causing violence to them. He repented for his  past mistakes that took place unaware and criticized his sinful traits of unleashing pain to any living creature.

The minister having seen all this got shocked. The soldiers were also worried, ‘Shall we be victorious under this commander’s leadership?’ This question stood before everyone. A person who even refrains from killing an ant and considers it to be a sinful act, how on earth would he kill men? Would such a man who is stricken by guilt and cowardice be able to fight the battle? The senior officer of the army also got worried. Without seeking the king’s permission it would not be wise to replace the commander and that too on the basis of doubt. He was getting impatient to talk to the commander who was in meditation (Samayik). After the end of his meditation they met the commander. While conversing they put their doubt forward. The commander cleared all their doubts, but still their belief was perturbed.

The following day shortly after sunrise the battle began. The commander showed his skills and compelled the rival soldiers to retreat. The battle went on for some day. ‘There were ups and downs in the situation but at the end the rival army surrendered. The commander of the rival army also surrendered and the king regained his throne. Shortly after the declaration of the end of the battle the public of both the kingdoms heaved a sigh of relief. The’ victorious commander was respectfully brought back to his kingdom. The strange incident that took place in the battlefield also reached the queen. She summoned the commander and expressed her desire to know the secret of his transcendence. She asked him to bridge the gap between his thoughts and actions.

The Secret of Transcendence

The commander went for a vivid description of Jainism and the philosophy concerning it and said, “Maharaniji’ (Reverend Queen) you are already aware that I am a Jaina. I have a steadfast faith in the principles of Jaina philosophy. In Jaina religion on the basis of penance Saints and Shravaka - these two sections are divided. For the saints observing five great vows (Mahabrat) is mandatory. Non-violence is their ideal. They never cause pain to any living creature. My ideal is also non-violence. I also want to devote myself completely in the penance of it but you know that I am shravaka, a family man. I am attached to my life, family and nation. So I accumulate and also secure my possessions. It is my duty and responsibility. There is certain limit of non-violence for me and that is why I am not supposed to cause violence to innocent living creatures intentionally. Although my aim is to set myself completely free from violence but as long as l have certain obligations to my society and nation, I cannot refrain myself from my duty. I repent after having caused pain to any innocent ant whereas I also fulfil my duty by defeating my enemies in the battlefield.’

The commander extended his conversation and said, ‘Now perhaps you would like to know that when it is indispensable to fight the battle and in battle violence is indispensable, in a situation like this, is it not degrading transcendence if someone tries to transcend? When I went to fight the battle I knew very well that I had to combat my enemies. In the absence of our king I had to be very cautious and fight the battle, keeping this point of view I had set off. Then also I transcended. I had only one thought in my mind that even in the battlefield no innocent creature must be killed by me. I cannot get over Arambhja and Virodhj violence but at least I can refrain from Sankalpja violence. I must not violate the morals of war. That was all the secrets concerning my transcendence.

The subtle description of non-violence provided the queen a new perspective. The minister and the higher officials of army also got mesmerized by these fundamental ideas of Jaina philosophy.

I feel that this incident would clearly explain non-violence and the role of a shravaka to a great extent. The way Jaina philosophy has delved deeper into the subtle and scientific theories of non-violence no other philosophy has fathomed the abysmal depth of it. Now-a-days even science lies started considering earth, water, fire, air plants and so on as living creatures. Today’s science has also started being in agreement with Jaina Philosophy. With the subtle description of philosophical thoughts Jainism has also made the role of saints and shravakas clear. The problem arises when we forget about the roles. What is expected of us today is that we understand these role and make our perception clear.


Title: Ocean Of Problems
Author: Acharya Tulsi
Publisher: Jain Vishwa Bharati, Ladnun
Digital Publishing:
Amit Kumar Jain
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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Fear
  2. Fearlessness
  3. Geeta
  4. Gujarat
  5. JAINA
  6. Jaina
  7. Jainism
  8. Krishna
  9. Mahabharata
  10. Meditation
  11. Non-violence
  12. Pandavas
  13. Pride
  14. Samayik
  15. Science
  16. Shravakas
  17. Violence
  18. shravaka
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