THE ETHICAL CODE ACCORDING TO JAINISM
Jainism prescribes 5 moral principles to be observed by all the Members of the society. These are called Pancha Vrathas , five
vows; Ahimsa or non-violence, Satya or truth, Astheya or non- stealing, Brahmacharya
or chastity and Aparigraha or non-possession. Of these 5 principles, the first, Ahimsa or non-violence is the most important vow.
Though the term is negative implying abstinence from killing any living being, it is really
a positive virtue based upon Universal
love and mercy towards all
living beings. Abstinence from killing other animals must be observed
by thought, word and deed - Mana, Vachana
and Kaya respectively. The
mere thought of killing is as much a moral evil as actually killing. Similarly, any word expressing the desire
to kill is also deemed as killing. Hence, the principle of Ahimsa
- non-violence, naturally implies purity of thought, word and deed actuated by Universal love and mercy.
Further, it is not enough if one
abstains from inflicting pain on other beings. How can
excuse yourself by saying: 'I do not kill' if you
engage an agent to carry out your desire. You are morally responsible for the evil deed committed by your
agent because he acts through your instigation. You cannot also remain
self-satisfied by saying. "Neither do I act myself nor do I have it done through my agent". If
you indirectly approve of such an evil conduct in others, that approval makes you
responsible for the cruelty of killing,
practiced by others. Thus one is expected not to kill oneself nor to kill through an agent
nor should one approve the evil deed.
In short, Ahimsa should be observed by Mana, Vachana and Kaya
-thought, word and deed respectively and violence should be avoided
in all aspects - Kritha, Karitha
and Anumodha - acting oneself, to make the agent to act
and passively approve the action wherever violence is practiced.
Thus, Ahimsa Vritha is binding on
all members of the Society whether
householder or ascetic. In the case of the ascetics, it is to be observed
absolutely without any limitation. It is obvious that its application should be limited in the case of
the householder. Since the vegetable kingdom is also admitted to be
constituted by living beings, i.e. one sensed
organisms, destroying this living being
is prohibited in the case of the ascetics;
but it cannot be enforced in the case of householders.
In the case, the householder
cannot engage himself in agriculture because
harvesting would imply the destruction
of one sensed organism. Without agriculture, there
would be no food for the members of
the society to consume. Hence, the
householder is expected to observe this principle of
Ahimsa only with reference
to the other organisms beginning with the two sensed ones
which are generally called animals capable of
moving or Thrasajivas. Thus limited, the
ethical principle is called Anuvrutha -
a minor vow to be observed by the householder. The
same applicable absolutely without any limitation,
is called Mahavratha - the great vow binding upon the ascetics.
This interpretation of the principle of Ahimsa naturally rejects the principle of Ahimsa
observed by the Non-Jains. The Buddhists excuse themselves for eating meat though they do not kill but only purchase
meat from the butchers. This is condemned by the Jains because butcher acts merely as an agent to
the meat-eaters and kills the animal to supply meat to the meat-eating customer. Hence, the person who eats meat
though he does not kill the animal by himself, kills the animal through an
agent and approves his action. Similarly, Jainism condemns the Vedic. Dharma which enjoins the killing of
animal as a religious ritual. Sacrificing of animal implies willful killing and blame is not
removed because it is done in the name of religion. Hence, according to the Jains, sacrifice of
animals in the name of religion, does not remove the responsibility of killing, because it is
certainly a moral evil.
or truth., this second principle also applies with limitation to the householder and absolutely to the ascetic or Yathis.
Since the whole moral code is based upon Ahimsa, every subordinate moral principle must necessarily be consistent
with the primary principle of Ahimsa or non-violence.