Ahimsa, which means not hurting, not injuring, is the principal weapon of Jainism to fight with against all kinds of evils and misfortunes. By practicing it, men have attained to the Divine Status and all than is implied in that expression. It is not a mere theory that I am putting before you; times out of number has the principle been put to the test and never been known to fail.
Jainism points out the natural antagonism between the soul and matter; the body is the prison of the soul, and fleshes its bitterest enemy. Owing to the dominion of the flesh, the soul is undergoing suffering in a number of ways, and all its rank and power have been lost. Immortal by nature, it is now living terror-struck with Death; though omniscient and blissful in its own right, it is ignorant and miserable now!
Yet, its Divine nature has not been altogether destroyed; only its Perfection in that regard has been curtailed and imposed upon, as if its wings were sewn up, and it has been reduced to the condition of helplessness in consequence.
The evil influence of the flesh can, however, be destroyed, and the soul released from its power. And AHIMSA is the one weapon, which can actually bring about this devoutly wished for consummation.
Wherever ahimsa has been put into practice, it has speedily cut the bondage of flesh, and restored the lost Divinity and Perfection to the Soul. Jainism, therefore, rightly lays all the stress it can on the practicing of ahimsa, that is non-violence, under all circumstances.
The significance of ahimsa is that you should hurt no one, by word, thought or deed; and you must not even entertain the desire to hurt any one. For the doctrine is applicable to all the three stages of evil doing, namely, intention, preparation and the actual commission of the wrongful deed.
He who practices ahimsa must also refrain from employing another to do the hurtful act; and he should not encourage one who has done the deed afterwards, otherwise he would become tainted with the evil as an accessory after the fact, as they put it in the terminology of Law.
In regard to its scope, ahimsa is not limited to humanity; on the contrary, its application must be extended to all living beings. The Jains rejoice when they read in the scriptures of other religion statements like this: "I require mercy and not sacrifice!" These adequately show how far the scope and the protection is to be extended. Let it be clearly understood that if you have no love for the life in the animal, you will not have it for man either. There is no such thing as a sudden rush of affection for one form of life all at once.
Show no violence to any one; hurt no one; injure none not even an insect this is the Gospel of life. For Life is dear to all, and ahimsa actually allows all to enjoy life, unhampered and unmolested by any one else. Ahimsa really means, molest no one, not even your own soul!
Those who hurt or injure others without justification hurt their own souls first. You cannot injure any one or even entertain the desire to molest him without becoming tarnished with the desire to molest him without becoming tarnished with the taint of the contemplated evil. It is even conceivable that the being whom you wish to hurt may escape scathe less; but the action (even the thought) makes a mark on your disposition, engenders, strengthens or modifies an evil tendency in the mind, and in this way affects your own soul by blackening its character. Thus, all actions involving ahimsa (evil-doing) leave a dark-stain on the soul of the doer of inequity. The future destiny of the soul is composed of its own disposition one character. Where the character is merciful and marked with love and solicitude and sympathy, the future is excellent and joyful and glorious; but where the heart has become hard, black, cruel, merciless and unfeeling there, you have nothing but misfortune and calamity in store for its possessor.
The philosophy of ahimsa can be understood only with time and labour. For this reason one of the great teachers of our race said to the enquirer "Go and learn what that meanest, I will have mercy and not sacrifice." He did not explain it even at the time when he said: "If you knew what that meanest, I will have mercy and not sacrifice." In Jainism you will find a complete and completely explanation of the whole doctrine.
The operation of ahimsa is not confined to the unperceived Kingdom of spirit, the Kingdom within, so to speak. It extends equally to the outside world. Ahimsa will purify, ennoble and sweeten life in all departments and establish brotherly relations among men and communities and nations, as surely as it will purge the heart of all evil inclinations and
trait. For ahimsa is love, and nothing but love. Those alone can be expected to live
up to ahimsa who are actuated by pure love for others.
Love and hatred are the two principles on which people act in their dealings with others. Friendship, goodwill, mutual esteem and an abiding sense of unity of interests result on the path of love. Fear is destroyed, along with distrust and misunderstandings.
Hatred leads to opposite kinds of result; misunderstandings increase and distrust is the prevailing characteristic. Hatred is the cause of all quarrels and wars.
Where love would unite, hatred would separate and antagonize. If you wish to live peacefully with the world, you should follow the line of love. It may be that at times gain seems to lie in the grasp of the nation that is ready to help itself at the cost of others; but the taint of selfishness is sure to contaminate the national conscience, and bear fruit, in due course of time, however tardily it may be.
To the nation of the world Jainism proclaims with the voice of thunder today: Come brethren forget your enmities and your hatreds; embrace one another like brothers; you don't need to shed each other's blood. Away with the armies and with your armaments! Men are already groaning under the burdens of taxation, and will perish before you know where you stand. Learn to live by ahimsa, and love one another. You shall not need to arm yourself to the teeth any more. Do you think armies and warlike equipments can afford anything like real protection to you? Look at the fate of the great white Czar of all the Russia! He was slain by his own helpless peasants who only a few days before dared not stand in his august presence without trembling! Gone is the Kaiser too, who was the lord of mighty armies!
The surest means of safety is love, and nothing but love! But it must be an emotion of the heart a real live sentiment that stirs up constantly to action not a mere wordy avowal. Where love reigns, there is no room for fear. The science of modern politics is at war with the Science of Peace, and has led us into trouble and the difficulties, which the statesmen are unable to solve satisfactorily because of their selfish motives. Len the Doctrine of Love, as implied in the message of
AHIMSA Paramo Dharmah non-violence is the highest Religion, as taught by the Great Tirthamkaras now replace the mad rush for power and personal self-aggrandizement, and self-glorification. Your reward will be sweet yet.
Only he will be found willing and able to practice ahimsa and universal love who has understood the nature of his soul and of the enmity of the flesh and of the friends and allies of the enemy. Only he will have his heart saturated with the ennobling, friend-making, peace engendering emotion who knows that by loving others he helps his own soul to grow strong, while in hating any one, even a lowly worn, he only helps the enemy, that is the flesh, and weakens and enervates his real self!
In practical life, ahimsa will be found to be the one sure means of taming savage natures. It will civilize the uncivilized barbarian, and make him a good and desirable citizen. The householder, who is involved in the world and still very far away form sainthood, practices it with a little qualification. He cannot emulate the saint in this regard. For while the saint will hurt no, one, on any account, the good layman will yield to the need for defending himself in the practice of ahimsa. But he will never be the aggressor himself; and when compelled to defend himself he will use only just sufficient force to overpower the enemy. The King who knows how to temper justice with mercy is therefore protected by ahimsa. The layman also longs to enter sainthood one day, to be able to practice ahimsa properly.
The saint, who has renounced the world, and who wishes to make the conquest of his lower nature as speedily as he can, tries to observe the vow of ahimsa with absolute rigidity, in all respects so far as it is physically possible to do so. The highest Saints who have attained the Ideal of Life, namely, the Supreme Status, are able to practice Universal Love without any kind of qualification. Their nature is changed in the end; they attain to desiccation, and the Perfection of Divinity. All this is due to ahimsa, the principle of Love, the attribute of Gods.
From the standpoint of human psychology, also there are two kinds of men in the world who are, or at least should be, above racial and religious distinction. These are the really saintly men who practice Universal Love as a part of their religious discipline and the enlightened laymen who are fully impressed with the brotherhood of man, and the fact that in wishing evil to any one else one actually injures one's own soul. Observation and the study of human psychology fully support the view that a true saint will ever regard all humanity as his brethren, and will never think of hurting or harming any one in the least degree. To such a saint the practicing of Universal Love comes easy. He looks upon none as his enemy. If a man abuses him, he is not displeased with him; if one persecutes him, he will be thinking of only one thing how to serve him!
The man who does practice Universal Love, does not Love all beings alike. He will not be loving the animals, and is sure to be indifferent even to the fate of the millions and millions of human being whom he does not love. Many who profess to follows the ideal of love in their lives do not hesitate to devour the flesh of poor unfortunate animals.
It is idle to expect from such men that they will steadfastly adhere to the nobler view under all circumstances. During the last great European War, religious priests on both sides went on blessing their own armies, and maintained that they were fighting the war righteousness. Yet, both side professed the same religion, which was surely intended to be one of love. The explanation is that the sentiment was no deeper in their case than the lining membrane of their lips; their hearts were not affected by it. The past history of other nations also reveals the same sad truth in most cases. Probably the only exception is furnished by the followers of the Jaina Religion, who practice the rule of ahimsa. It is impossible for a Jaina saint to bless any offensive weapon or armies that are marching against their fellow men. There is not one instance where the Jaina Saints have forgotten themselves and their religious obligation in this regard. The Jaina Saint is really the man who practices Universal Love. He will not hurt even an insect, let alone man. He has left the world behind, and will not, on any account, look back. His heart is saturated with ahimsa; the even controls his bodily automatism, and will never, even in thought, wish harm to another living being, be he man or animal. Really, it is only when a man has become so far filled with universal love that we can confidently rely upon him under all circumstances. He whose ideals are no longer in or of the world will certainly not degrade himself by doing base worldly thing, like setting up invidious and hateful distinctions, amongst men.
Apart from the Saints, the only other class of men who are at all likely to stand firm in the belie of the brotherhood of man are those who are fully convinced of the need for practicing ahimsa on religious ground. You cannot expect your diplomats and politicians to fall into this class. These men are all the time actuated by greed and the lust of acquisition, and have even in sleep half an eye open to their own interest. And the pity of the thing is that while with their tongue they are uttering honeyed speech, with their hand they are actually getting ready to strike a deadly blow at those very men to whom their words are directed.
Religious men, too, will fail and have always failed to come up to the mark, wherever superstition and misunderstood theology have been the predominant influences in the human heart. Many persons have committed inexpressibly horrible atrocities on their fellow men in the belief that they were serving their god or gods by doing so, and therefore, he or they could not angry within. This is the type that will again and again flout both the moral conscience and public opinion, whenever he is able to have the upper hand. Their working formula simply is: might is right!
What is wanted is a firmly rooted belief in the doctrine that makes the soul responsible for its actions in subjection to natural laws. "As you sow, so shall you reap." There is no question of forgiveness of sin by any one; everything is governed by the Iron Law of Karma. As already stated three are two ways of behavior in relation to your fellow beings, either on the path of love, or on that of selfishness or greed. On the path of love, there are peace, joy, life everlasting for the soul; on that of hatred, misery, and trouble and suffering, and pain. Even in worldly matters hatred involves trouble for oneself and one's community, though at times we seem to thrive on the spoils and booty secured by unrighteous means. Past history, however, is there to show that never has an empire of men at any time survived a policy of selfishness. For a time, no doubt, they flourish, and then come to an abrupt end. Yet, while they are flourishing they all imagine that they can for ever go on dominating others with impunity.
The fact is that the selfish are always making enemies for themselves all round, at all times. These enemies for a time are unable to combine or overthrow the foe, but whenever there is an opportunity, they strike an effective blow. In hatred, energy is needlessly dissipated, and some day the hater is exposed on more points than he can defend adequately and is brought low at once. The danger in the case of great empires which are founded on the foundation of selfishness and hatred is that the virus of hatred spreads in their own community in the end, surely enough, so that he who would rule other communities by trickery and diplomacy in course of time will find his own people becoming affected by these undesirable traits of character when confidence will be undermined, patriotism destroyed and good-natured co-operation replaced by unhealthy individualism. When this happens the doom is sealed, and nothing can avert it.
The Jaina doctrine of Universal Love (ahimsa), which is altogether scientific and grounded on natural laws, is the one thing that is needed if we are ever sincerely to get over our prejudices. Nothing else will ever succeed. Can we not rely on the modern civilization to exclude prejudice from the hearts of men? I do not think we can:
Shall we not be able to arrive at the era of peace on earth through materialistic training and the treaties of nations? Most certainly not. For materialism only offers peaceful rest in the grave to the individual, and only cares for the society; but the curbing down of passions is a matter of the individual heart, and materialism possesses no sufficient inducement for its accomplishment. It is, in reality, our materialism that is responsible for much of our greed and covetousness, and, through them, for our hateful deeds. It will be a bit of very agreeable news if materialism were to start teaching renunciation. As for the treaties of nations, did we not observe their real value during the last war? Why compel me to say that to him who thinks he is strong enough to defy the whole world the treaties have not as much value as the scrap of paper on which they are written?
Neither superstition nor general education on materialistic lines will, then, be found adequate to change the hearts of men. What is required is the knowledge of the Laws of Nature that come into operation in connection with our emotions, and how they affect the soul and the relations of nations and communities of men. For once it is recognized that the soul is an entity whose welfare is of paramount importance and which is affected by its emotions and beliefs beneficially by the emotions of Love, and most harmfully by those of selfishness and hatred men will certainly refrain from doing what is harmful, and adopt the rule of Love.
Although it is not possible to do anything like justice to the subject in the course of the present speech, still some indication must be given of how the consequences of evil, and in general of all actions (karma), are forced on the soul. Now, it has already been stated that every action engenders or modifies, that is to say, strengthens or weakens, an existing tendency in the soul. The sum total of these tendencies is what is termed character, or disposition, which goes with the soul, and takes part in the shaping of its future destiny. The explanation of how this is brought about is this: all these tendencies are powerful active forces, which during life are constantly urgings and moving us for various ends. After death, also they remain active, and continue to vibrate. They have no hand and feet to set in motion then; but they work on the matter which the soul absorbs in the shape of nourishment, as a growing embryo, and with their agitations or vibrations mould the impregnated lump into shape and form. The symmetry of the limbs and form, the excellence and even the existence of the mind and brain, are thus directly dependent on the working of the store of the tendencies, which one brings with him from his previous life. Where the agitations are too violent, for instance, it may be taken that the excellence and symmetry of the mind and bodily organs will be impaired. This is just a mere indication of how the law of karma is put into operation to the advantage or disadvantage of an individual.
In order to impress a rational mind, like that of a modern boy or girl, you have got to convince him or her of the need for peacefulness and alter his or her emotional nature, destroying the element of savageness and barbarian greed from the heart. A rationally inclined mind can never, for all times, be impressed with dogma and ill-founded reason; and without the training and control of the emotions, it is not possible to make a man a real lover of peace. And the test of the real love of peace is that one should cheerfully offer his clock also when his coat is
claimed at law.
The need for the giving away of the clock over and above the coat will become more clearly impressed on the mind if we remember that many people and nations are now sitting tight over the properties and right of others. Do you think you have a right to dream of Universal peace innless these peoples and nations have that restored to them first which has been taken form them? Do you event think that you are honest in talking of such a peace when you do not begin by handing back the spoils and the loot? Let me tell you as a student of human nature that no amount of soft words and platitudes and pious wishes will ever mend matters. All talk of mutual understandings and all that sort of things, too is a pure wasting of breath. There is only one thing that can be effective, and that is renunciation which will compel the robber to restore what he has taken from his victim, the grabber to refund what he has grabbed from another, and the imposer of a yoke to remove it from the neck of the people on whom he has placed it. But such renunciation is only possible or him whose heart becomes saturated with the doctrine of mercy and love, that is ahimsa, and who feels compelled, by an internal longing, all his own, to put it into practice at once.
Why certain religions failed to maintain peace even among their followers in the past was because they failed to eradicate excessive greed and pride and lust from the hearts of their followers, who repeated the scriptural text that enjoins the practicing of love all right enough, but allowed it to be swept away from the mind by their rising passions, greed and pride and lust. In fact, certain religions directly fostered fanaticism itself.
Modern education is also not able to encompass the curbing down of the surging savage emotions and strong lust. They are beyond its scope and programmed as a matter of fact. The root of ethics with the moderns is only the social well being of the community; individual good is bound up in the social good, and may have to be sacrificed if necessary for the good of the greatest numbers. The individual and the society are therefore not always at one on the ethical side of life, and whenever a man has the prospect of making a big gain he may being to think how he can avoid the social law or escape detection. In religion the foundation of ethics is made to rest on the ideal of Divinity which, being the embodiment of Immortal Life, Omni-science, Bliss and Infinite Power, is greater than all the world's temptations put together. It is the love of this Great Ideal and the fear of the consequences of evil acting, which constitute an effective check on our savagery and lust and greed. And the greater the lucidity with which the mind comes to adhere to these two points the greater will be its faith in them. Hence, the importance of scientific explanation on which Jainism insists.
The foundation of almost all other religions is laid on the scientific basis in reality, but it has been obscured by the employment of the allegorical script. It is possible to get at the truth even now. I now ask you to look into your scriptures once more from the allegorical standpoint, and see if you do not discover real beauties in them. My own writing will help you in this enterprise, in which I wish you good luck from the bottom of my heart.
Let me say one word more as to the difference between the modern thought and Religion when properly understood. Modern thought has confined its attention to the world of the senses, where brute nature is fount to be red in tooth and claw. It knows nothing of the Kingdom of the Soul, or the Kingdom of God, which is within. It therefore from its own point of view rightly points out the main characteristic of life, which are struggle for existence and the survival of the fittest. There is no question of moral fitness here; but only of the physical and mental, that is to say, intellectual fitness. Religion, on the other hand, shows what enormous and almost incredible possibilities lie within our reach if we would cultivate inner tranquility on the lines of the ahimsa dharma. And let me further add that in Jainism there is no possibility of any one's being persecuted on the ground of his being an enemy of a god. In Jainism there is no place for such a contingency, as it does not acknowledge the being and existence of any creator or ruler divine or manager of the world whose enmity man could possibly incur. The Perfect Souls are the only Gods in Jainism; and none else! Thus, Jainism is the true refuge for all afflicted souls and all beings.
I might point out that materially also the probabilities are that no one who practices the ahimsa dharma sincerely and from his heart would be a loser in the long run; for the law of the correspondence of emotions makes it clear that similar emotions are roused and excited in the hearts of men on almost all occasions. If I give away my cloak also to a man who is unjustly seeking my coat, he is sure to repent of it in a majority of cases and become my friend. There are some really bad-natured men also, but their number happily is not very great, so that in the great majority of cases the rule will hold good and the evildoer chastened and reformed by the superior kind of the emotions of love of his victim. Those of the evil-doer's friends also who come to know of the incident will generally put him to shame and reclaim him.
To sum up: if you want to establish lasting peace on earth you must make men love one another. But you cannot change men's hearts by a mere stroke of your pen, or by preaching to them a sermon on sympathy and goodwill; you must engender the emotion of love by showing the paramount importance of its need and value in the first instance. What is needed is the broadcasting of the kind of education that will excite the sentiment in the hearts of men on natural and rational grounds, and will fill it with love and keep it filled for all times. Nothing else will ever succeed, as is manifest from a perusal of the pages of the World's History and the records of the religious persecutions in the past. Jainism to day invited the world, through this great assemblage of its leaders, to study the Science of Love, that is the Doctrine of Ahimsa, to be able to put an end to all forms of hatred and prejudice and to fill the hearts of men with love for one another.
Victory to the Ahimsa Dharma!