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JVBL - Souvenir 2007 - International Ahimsa Day, October 2, 2007

Published: 02.01.2008
Updated: 07.01.2011

JVB London - Souvenir 2007

Message From Acharya Mahaprajna

Read At House Of Commons, London, U.K.
"International Ahimsa Day" October 2, 2007

The United Nations Organization has declared the birthday (2nd October) of Mahatma Gandhi to be celebrated as "International Ahimsa Day" every year. This is indeed a very important event. Through this declaration, the UNO has not only attracted the attention of the whole world to Ahimsa (non-violence) but also has presented a new alternative before the people of the world, who are reeling under the panic of violence and terrorism. This effort of furnishing a new orientation to thinking and vision is really commendable.

It is quite significant that the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi is being celebrated as Ahimsa Day. For, Ahimsa was so much absorbed in the consciousness of Gandhiji that both Ahimsa and Gandhiji became synonymous. Gandhiji's Ahimsa starts with the process of self-purification and then it spreads out as an application in the social field. But today, the original form of Gandhiji's Ahimsa has been lost sight of; the fundamental concept of self-purification and self-control have been sidelined, and people talk only of rendering the society to become devoted to Ahimsa.

In absence of right view, right conduct is not possible. At present, it seems that the attitude of human society about violence and non-violence is not wholesome. People only think in terms of war when they ponder over violence and non-violence. The world-peace is also confined to the abolition of war. This is a concept that is less probable and only little benefit to society accrues from it.

Let us start our thinking on Ahimsa from an individual. Every person is possessed of the consciousness of violence. On getting favourable stimulus, it gets instigated, which, in turn, has its effect on individual, family and society.

Ahimsa is in fact a matter of conduct. Its philosophical aspect is Anekanta (i.e. non-absolutistic approach to truth which has many facets). Anekanta in itself is the key to the exposition of the theory of the universal principle of co-existence. Through the application of Anekanta, it is easy to understand that two mutually opposite entities can exist together - co-existence is possible between them even while maintaining their own independent identity. The best illustration of this is the metaphysical substance in which all the three attributes, viz. origination, cessation and persistence always exist together. It implies that both - that which is unchangeable and that which is changeable - can co-exist.

The empirical philosophy of Anekanta furnishes the foundation for Ahimsa. There are
mainly five principles of this empirical philosophy of Anekanta:

  • Relativity (Sapekshata)
  • Harmony (Samanvaja)
  • Reconciliation (Samanjasya)
  • Independence (Swatantrata)
  • Co-existence (Saha-astitva)

If the first four, viz. relativity, harmony, reconciliation and independence are developed, only then can we have peaceful co-existence.

Thus, no development of Ahimsa is possible without Anekanta and in turn, no peace is possible without Ahimsa. We cannot expect the right conduct without rectifying the attitude or vision. Hence, we have to accept the fact that Ahimsa can sustain and develop only on the foundation of Anekanta and in the surroundings of Asamgraha (or Aparigraha) i.e. non-accumulation. It is the faulty system of economics today that is responsible for giving rise to violence and terrorism.

It was 2500 years ago that Bhagawan Mahavir classified dharma into two categories

  1. For ascetics
  2. For worldly people.

There are 12 vows in the code of conduct for the Jain lay-followers. On the basis of this scheme of vows prescribed by Bhagawan Mahavir, a social order of "vow-takers" got established. Some of the 12 vows that are quite relevant in the present context may be mentioned here:
Don't earn money through illegitimate means Put a limit to your personal accumulation

In addition to the above two vows, putting a limit to your personal consumption of goods can help in developing a decentralized economic system.

Gandhiji's policy was based on the trio of decentralized power, decentralized economic system and decentralized industry. Wherever the centralization of power, money and industry becomes intense, there is consequential augmentation of exploitation and violence. If that economic policy of decentralization had been adopted in India, then the rural people would not have remained so backward and so poor today.

Three terms given by Bhagawan Mahavir are very significant: Curtailment of desires Curtailment of accumulation Curtailment of violence

Pondering over these terms, we find that curtailment and decentralization both have the same implication. We cannot minimize violence, unless we curtail desires and accumulation.

The thinking that without violence, neither life can sustain, nor the society can sustain, nor can the nation be defended, furnishes the ground for violence to grow. To resolve this contention, the classification of violence given by the great Jain Acharyas is definitely worth considering. They have classified violence into three categories:

  • Arambhaja Himsa - the violence perpetrated during agricultural or professional activities such as commerce, industry etc.
  • Virodhaja Himsa - the violence perpetrated for defence against aggression
  • Sankalpaja Himsa - the violence perpetrated for establishing one's dominance (or sovereignty) over others or perpetrated due to the imperialistic and consumerist tendencies.

Ahimsa has to be cultivated gradually. Only after properly understanding the limitations of Ahimsa, can we establish it in social life. As far as the development of ahimsa in the social life is concerned, refraining from the third category of himsa is imperative.

It is the third type of violence (i.e. sankalpaja himsa) that is a threat to the world peace. The direction of the campaign of the Ahimsa should be to free the world from the sankalpaja himsa, in absence of which both aggressive and defensive violence would come to an end.

The first category of violence (i.e. the aramhhaja himsa) is inevitable for livelihood and therefore, only its limiting to some extent is possible, but it cannot be avoided altogether.

The "tit for tat" policy i.e. violence against violence or violence against terrorism, can only be a short-term policy; it cannot be regarded as a permanent solution. Therefore the need is to ponder over a long-term policy of ahimsa and that is the training in non-violence.

The main factors responsible for promoting violence and terrorism are believed to be - fundamentalism or fanaticism, racial or caste-based conflicts, hunger for power, urge for having dominance over the market and criminal tendencies. We shall have to think seriously on them from philosophical and psychological viewpoints. These are not the seeds of violence; they are rather the flowers and fruits of violence.

In fact the frenzy of anger or wrath, egotism, greed, fear, hatred and sexual lust - these are the seeds of violence. On the basis of the variations in space, time and person, they emerge in various forms such as fanaticism, racial conflict, hunger for power, establishing one's dominance over the market and indulgence in crime. Only through the effective training in violence, the seeds of violence could be rendered impotent.

Faith in Non-violence

Today the greatest crisis is that of faith. No effort is made to inculcate faith in ahimsa in the students. In young age, the materialistic attachment naturally gets augmented and it becomes difficult to build the faith in ahimsa in a person. The scepticism about the utility of the eternal value for ahimsa for the society is intensified. Today there is no provision for the inculcation of the values like sensitiveness, love, friendliness, compassion etc. in education. In the human brain, there are centres related with love, compassion etc. as well as with hatred, cruelty etc. It is estimated that the latter are relatively more activated than the former. Such situations cannot be changed merely through verbal education like reading a moral lesson. What is needed is a thorough training; a part of which may be lecturing but more important or powerful step would be -anupreksha (i.e. repeated contemplation with auto-suggestion).

The anupreksha is a method of super learning in which goal-achievement is made through the practices such as - sankalpa (i.e. a strong resolve), autosuggestion, kayotsarga (a systematic practice of self-awareness coupled with relaxation of the body), concentration of mind etc. These practices bring about the transformation of consciousness not only on conscious level but also subconscious or unconscious levels. The consciousness of violence also gets transformed.

The celebration of Gandhiji's birthday as "International Ahimsa Day" would be a source of inspiration but it may not serve as a long lasting motivation. If a resolve is made for imparting training in non-violence, together with the formal celebration, then such inspiration of even a single day could change the direction of life. Therefore, let all people make a resolve, namely, "We will bring about a change in our psychic elements of violence through practice of non-violence in our lives, in our bio-chemical mechanism through effective exercises and in our perverted view regarding ahimsa and then as a result, we will build a healthy individual, a healthy society and a healthy economic system."

And also,

"It is mental violence to consider the partial truth as the complete truth; therefore, I will develop relativistic attitude".
"On the basis of opposite conceptions, altercations and quarrelling take place; therefore, I will search for harmony in opposite thoughts".
"On account of frenzy of anger, violence is also intensified; therefore I will practise control over my wrath".

Let us make these three resolves on the occasion of Ahimsa Day and march forward in the direction of Ahimsa.

JVBL, Souvenir 2007

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