Saturday, April 28, 2012

Jainism concept of ahimsa

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The Jainism concept of ahimsa can be quite easily compared to the Christian idea of respect for life. Ahimsa can be simply defined as the policy of non-injury to all living things especially humans, animals, and plants. It is necessary to know that in the Christian faith as well, it is immoral to bring about harm to God’s own created beings.

The background of ahimsa goes all the way back to the sixth century B.C. and links to the thoughts and life of Mahavira. Mahavira, or “great man” was the founder of Jainism and followed the faith in the most extreme ways possible. For example, he would rip out five handfuls of hair, wander around only wearing a loincloth, and follow asceticism and ahimsa to their fullest. Asceticism is explained to be the giving up of all worldly possessions on earth. So Mahavira basically wandered around with no belongings. As for Christian teaching, respect for life is the most moral way to go about living.

Jains typically classify their regards for all life in five senses. The most protected of all are human beings and mammals. The fourth sense is anything with no hearing like wasps, locusts, or butterflies. The third sense is anything without sight or hearing. Worms and shell creatures fall under the second sense of anything with touch or taste. And the last sense, strictly touch, contains mainly the elements of the world. We being Christians to God, also keep such regards for all life, just in a less strict manner. For example, our sixth commandment, “You shall not kill” goes into much more depth than is actually written. This rule of God is understood to mean everything from brutal murder to taking the rights away from an individual is immoral. Besides it being immoral in our faith, it also lessens the quality of our community and even our world. Another rule of our faith that compares to the laws of Jainism’s ahimsa is that we lose our “closeness” and lessen our relationship with God when we commit harm to any of God’s living creatures. In Jainism, anything done to harm a living creature will also make the faith in their beliefs weaker. For example, in the movie viewed, “Ahimsa Non-violence” the man that drove to his occupation everyday instead of walking took the risk of killing anything on the road, and for this he is regretful and feels a lessening of his faith in ahimsa.

It is now clear that the Jain concept of ahimsa can be easily related to that of the Christian concept of respect for life.

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