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Ecology And Jainism – Short Essay On Nature And Jain Religion

A short easy on the study of interrelationships of life-forms in nature and Jain religion.

Jainism emphasizes a continuity of life-forms – countless souls that take bodily forms in an eternal cycle of life and death. Although each life is valuable, human life in particular carries the distinction of being able to see the continuity of life processes. This web of life extends from elemental life forms through micro-organisms and plants up to the animal and human realms. Because these life-forms have no beginning and are eternal, each life-form has experienced virtually all possible states. Jainism teaches that violence condemns one to repeated painful, ignorant lives. For the Jainas, the highest human achievement is to purge oneself of all violent behavior, thus extricating oneself from all karma, and enter into a state of kevalya (perfect solitude) that requires no further birth.

Jaina philosophy sees the world as suffused with life and consciousness. The Jaina thought in this regard is best described as ‘biocosmology’ – the air we breathe, the soil we walk on, themselves arise from and are sustained by life processes and we, human beings, have the responsibility of seeing that we do not cripple this delicate life balance.

The Jaina community has over the ages lived life-friendly lifestyles. Monks and nuns take scrupulous care not to harm animals, plants and even microorganisms. Jaina lay person have long engaged in professions that require minimum violence and though many are traders, all eschew businesses that involve weapons or meat products.

Vegetarianism in Jainism is a part of their environmental beliefs. Huge tracts of land throughout the world are devoted to raising animals; huge amounts of water resources are needed to nurture animals. On the other hand, vegetable and grain cultivation require far less area and water. These, therefore, are seen as environmentally friendly food sources.

In the environmental movements of the West, many Hindu and Buddhist and Jaina notions such as vegetarianism, minimal exploitation of resources, kindness to animals, and village-based economies have gained favor, at least among theoreticians.

Svetambara, Therapantha and other movements within Jainism are beginning to develop their own models of environmentalism, rooted in traditional Jain observances of non-violence and non-possession. By seeing the broader implications of resource exploitation and consumption, life patterns need to be developed that will help resist the lure of new consumerism. The Jaina concept of non-possession corrects the acquisitiveness innate in human nature. It has been acknowledged that the Jains, due to their concept of the all pervasiveness of life, their non-violent practices and adherence to vegetarianism, have the most environment-friendly lifestyle.

Modern environmentalism acknowledges that changes in human behavior must be effected in order to preserve the balance of life on the planet for the long term. Jain lifestyle, or a variation of it, might help provide a sort of practical orthopraxy conducive to this need.

Source – 
  • Encyclopedia of Hinduism volume IV page 3 – 4 - Rupa  - IHRF
  • The Jaina Declaration on Nature (1993) L.M. Singhvi – Jaybhikku Sahitya Trust, Ahmedabad
  • Life Force: The World of Jainism (1991) Michael Tobias - Asian Humanities Press - Berkeley