Modern Science, Jainism and Quest for Unity by Ela M. Dedhia

Metanexus Sophia. 2004.02.24. 3,130 Words.

Below is another paper presented at the International Seminar on ModernScience, Values and the Quest for Unity, held last month in Mahabaleshwar,India. This paper provides an introduction to Jainism and Science and iswritten by Dr. Dedhia Ela Manoj, College of Home Science Nirmala Niketan inMumbai, India.

Jainism is all about tapping our creative potential and of realizing and monitoring the creative force within us. It is not an austere turning back on life. Its message is all about the transforming of ourselves -- and with that the world around us through amity, appreciation, compassion, nonviolence, equilibrium, and concord, about ways to make our living significant and meaningful.

-- Editor


Modern Science, Jainism and Quest for UnityBy Dr Mrs. Ela M. DedhiaReader Designate, College of Home Science Nirmala Niketan

Humans, in their struggle for survival, used reason to acquire knowledge of Nature (science), invented new technologies to control nature, evolved political structure and society (civilization) and developed aesthetic, moral, religious and spiritual values. However overemphasis on material welfare has misled humans to use science and technology to exploit human themselves, animals and natural resources to their benefit without giving due consideration to the human welfare, animal welfare and ecological balance. This has resulted into degradation of socio-moral norms, cruelty to animals and to man himself and modern ecological crisis.

Science is concerned with improving life. Science has contributed to the survival of human and animals. But the paradox lies in animals being killed or tortured for testing, for medicines and therapies for human betterment.

There are several Issues, Challenges, Problems faced by all living creatures in the scientific and technologically advancing world by virtue of phenomenal intellectual growth and unlimited aspirations of mankind, mounting global conflicts. Human beings need to think aloud and revert back to self-regulation, compassionate relationship and adhere to the Natural Laws of Co-Existence mentioned in the scriptures of all faiths. We have to Live, Grow and also Create a favorable environment for all other living beings including ourself to sustain and survive peacefully. Humans, Animals, Insects, Botanical Wealth of plants growing flowers, fruits, earth, water, air and all other natural ingredients are to be well maintained and preserved.

The success of Globalization lies in the totality of all nations of the globe connected together in a healthy competitive atmosphere and with the true spirit of Sharing and Caring, Growing and Permitting others to Grow, and more importantly refraining from misuse of Economic power to cause harm or crush the dependent Nation for the sake of attaining superiority status or projecting as a monopolistic nation of the world.

We observe Terrorism in all forms born out of fundamentalism, super intellectuality, accumulation of economic or muscle power and superfluous ambitions. The revolutionary forces instigate mass upsurge, and throw the normal life of an average citizen out of gear. Life is unsafe and uncertain, in spite of overall advancement in science, technology and growth in economic index. Tension prevails in almost every human mind. Natural Sciences, Political Science and Philosophy blended with Religion can go a long way in arresting the negative trends of human Civilization, through a change of heart, increase of Tolerance and compulsion to stay together by means of Global Coalition. The global energy is to be channelised for productive use and not wasted out of intoxication. Humans to be more Humane.

Problems have arisen due to degradation of Nature.

Abuse of Science & Religion

* Human Abuse-

On the Scientific front- At Individual level- Abortion, Female Infanticide, Amniobiosis, Serrogative mothers, test tube babies, experiments on embryo. At Societal level- Information Technology, Genetic Engineering, Genetically modified organisms, Nuclear War.

On the religious front - At individual level- ill treatment of women in the name of religion. At the societal level- Wars due to Religious Obscurantism, Dogmatism and Fanaticism, which can be sorted out through interfaith dialogue, liberalism & critical evaluation of ones own faith

* Animal Abuse -

On the Scientific front- Animal torture through factory farming (for meat eating), Leather and Silk Textiles and Fashion Accessories, Other Textile processes, Animal Testing for Cosmetics (vivisection), Torture/Killing of animals for Jewellery, Entertainment (Circus).

On the Religious front- Animal Sacrifice (Bali).

* Abuse of Nature

On the Scientific front- Consumerism, Deforestation, Pollution of air, water and noise due to industrialization and globalization, irradiated foods through nuclear energy, ecological crisis.

On the Religious front- Rituals in the name of religion like yagnas (fire) causing air pollution, loud speakers, dance and other entertainments during processions and festivals causing noise pollution, immersion of idols in the rivers and sea and the bath in the Ganges causing water pollution.

Jainism and Quest for Unity

Ultimate Goal: According to Jainism the final goal is the elevation of the soul to the status of the supreme soul or fully liberated soul. The Jain Dharma regards only liberation (moksha) as the goal of life. It preaches that person who behaves religiously with a view to obtaining worldly happiness and satisfying selfish desires neither progresses towards the final goal nor does he grasp the essence of Dharma.

What is most important is that the spiritual aspirant marches towards it uninterruptedly and constantly. Even partial progress marks an attainment of the goal. Complete liberation is its final fulfillment. Such an individual learns the art of leading a happy and tension-free life even while living in the mundane world. Passing joys and sorrows do not deflect him from the enjoyment of inner bliss. The life style developed by the Jain Dharma on the above basis gives man the means to lead a peaceful, happy and healthy life. Religion is relation with oneself, with others/nature and with the divine. The realization of the divine within us is termed in different names such as Kaivalya, Nirvana etc.

Jainism believes that:

God: God is not the controller of the world. God is pure unattached consciousness, eternal, unborn, desire-less and not subject to reincarnation. All souls, which attain the above characteristics, belong to the category of a God. There have been countless souls of this kind and there will be countless of the kind in future.

The World: The world is real. The constant natural and causal changes of the modes of conscious beings, matter and other substances constitute the sentient and non-sentient world. This tallies with the concepts of modern science.

Man: Man is a living being endowed with special abilities. By birth there is no difference between one man and another man. Man can make his present individual, as well as collective life, happy and peaceful. For this what is needed is not the worship of a God but heroic self-effort. Any man can attain the highest good through his valorous effort irrespective of caste, nationality, creed or sex.

Unity of Dharma: Central importance is given to the soul where caste, creed and colour were not significant. There can be a plurality of sects but there can be no plurality of Dharma. True Dharma consists in subduing attachment and hatred. It is the same for everyone and for all times and all places.

Karma - The Law Of Deeds And Actions - affirms that there is moral causation and we cannot escape moral responsibility. Our lives are the product of our thoughts and actions. It suggests awareness of our actions so that we can grow and change in positive ways. The law of karma is meant to direct our awareness to the present and the future. Our self-awareness and moral responsibility can help us to grow and evolve. Our tomorrow can be constructed today.

Jainism is all about tapping our creative potential and of realizing and monitoring the creative force within us. It is not an austere turning back on life. Its message is all about the transforming of ourselves -- and with that the world around us through amity, appreciation, compassion, nonviolence, equilibrium, and concord, about ways to make our living significant and meaningful.

Stages of soul: Jain Dharma postulates stages of the soul: the bonded soul and the omniscient or liberated or supreme soul. The bonded soul may be characterized by an aversion to the quest for truth or is fully dedicated to the quest for truth. One who attains self-realization is a liberated soul- Supreme soul or paramatman. All those who are fully devoted to spirituality have the right to become supreme souls. This principle of attaining the status of a liberated soul transcends time, space and individuality.

Triratna: Jainism also put forward the triratnas(three jewels), namely samyak darshana (right faith) samyak jnana(right knowledge) and samyak charita(right conduct) as means of liberation(samvara). In the samyak charita(right conduct) they put forward the five cardinal vows(panchaseela) as the concrete means of liberation. They are ahimsa, satya, aparigraha, asteya and brahmacharya. The right relationship is the means of liberation.

Code of Conduct- 5 vows: The code of conduct comprising the vows is universal and can command wide acceptance from human beings living in any society. The values of Jain religion are based on five vows viz.- non-violence, devotion to truth, non-stealing, celibacy and non-possession. The entire life style of the Jain Shravak and the Jain Sadhu emanates from these vows and the foremost is non-violence.

Ethics and the path of spiritual practice: The ethical code needed for the practice of religion is much stricter than ordinary moral values. It aims at intensifying spiritual practice and eliminating the impurities of inner passions. The practice of self-restraint, control of the sense organs and mental restraint constitute its basis.

Rituals and regular observance: Such practice and props, which could be easily resorted to help in the progressive development of introspection and are essential for those who are incapable of intense spiritual practice. They (simple religious performances) are, on the one hand, easily accepted and on the other hand help the aspirant to attain spiritual heights through prolonged practice. Worship of saints, treating guests properly, etc. laying emphasis on the ways of worship which is free from violence, possessiveness and inequality

Anekanta: Jainism gives us the anekanta Philosopy (non-absolutism) to look at the world. According to this theory, you cannot arrive at the entire truth with the help of sense perceptions because senses have their limitations- they can at best arrive at partial truth. Besides, there are as many facets of truth as there are ideas. Therefore, before declaring that a particular idea is false, one must try to discover its latent fragment of truth. This is a humble but comprehensive viewpoint of the Jain Dharma regarding the quest for truth. Absolute truth cannot be grasped from any particular viewpoint alone because absolute truth is the sum total of all different viewpoints that make up the universe. Because it is rooted in the doctrines of anekantavada and syadvada, Jainism does not look upon the universe from an anthropocentric, ethnocentric or egocentric viewpoint. It takes into account the viewpoints of other species, other communities and nations and other human beings.

Ahimsa, non-violence: It has been the sheet anchor of Jainism. Ahimsa is one of the basic virtues. This singular uncompromising emphasis on Ahimsa is the special and exclusive feature of Jainism. In Jainism, Ahimsa is not mere human sympathy; it is empathy, the urge to identify oneself completely with other persons, other living beings, with the whole universe.

Jaina Scriptures say If you kill someone, it is yourself you kill. If you overpower someone, it is yourself you overpower. If you torment some one, it is yourself you torment. If you harm someone, it is yourself you harm.

The heart of Jainism is non-violence. Positively stated, Jainism is a religion of compassion, universal love and friendliness. It aims at the welfare of all living beings, and not of man alone. It maintains that living beings are infinite and that empty spaces in the universe are filled with minute living beings. According to it, there are countless single-sense organisms that take the subtlest possible units of material elements -earth, water, fire and air - as their bodies. To avoid injury to them as far as possible, man is advised to use them discreetly. From the ultimate standpoint of their original pure state, all living beings are uniform in their nature. Jainism teaches to look upon them as upon one's own self. Inflicting injury to them is inflicting injury to one's own self.

The Jain dictum parasparopagraho jivanam, that is 'living beings render service to one another'. The life of a living being is a life of mutual cooperation and assistance. Industry, labour, service and sacrifice of innumerable living beings are there behind the sustenance and growth of an individual. Thus every individual is indebted to the universal society of all beings. Even virtues and meritorious qualities can never be cultivated and fostered in isolation.

Violence enters first in thought, it then manifests itself in speech and then in deeds. That is why they say that war is born in the minds of men. Cruelty is not only an aspect of external behaviour, but it is also an inner evil tendency. He who is cruel at heart will behave cruelly towards all living beings. He who is compassionate at heart, will behave compassionately towards all. Moreover, the jain religion believes in the cycle of birth and rebirth. The soul is in one Yoni (existence) today; it may be in another Yoni tomorrow. It may be a fly today and a human tomorrow. This being so, man has no right to harm other living creations. There should be no enemy. Just as the head of a family looks after the welfare of the members of the family, a human being, who enjoys the highest place in the evolution of life, should look after the welfare of other lower orders of creations.

The universe is full of living creations, big and small, and, therefore, it is impossible to exist without killing or injuring some of the smallest of the living beings. Even in the process of breathing, or drinking or eating, we almost unconsciously kill many sentient beings? Therefore, according to Jainism the minimum of killing should be our ideal. It has given alternative forms of internal and external penances. Moreover, it is more serious where killing is done intentionally or through indifference. Therefore, great care should be taken in all our daily activities to see that the minimum of violence is committed by our deeds, speech and mind. Jainism has classified all the living beings according to their sense organs.

Jainism firmly believes that life is sacred, irrespective of caste, colour, creed or nationality and therefore not only physical or mental injury to life should be avoided, but all possible kindness should be shown towards all the living things. Ahimsa teaches us that recourse to armed force is an infallible sign of the brute in man, that war neither profits the victor nor the vanquished.

Ahimsa parmo dharmah (Non-violence is the supreme religion)

There is nothing so small and subtle as the atom nor any element so vast as space. Similarly, there is no quality of soul more subtle than non-violence and no virtue of spirit greater than reverence for life. Scriptures read, Do not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, insult, torment, torture, or kill any creature or living being.

The teaching of ahimsa refers not only to wars and visible physical acts of violence but also to the violence in the hearts and minds of human beings, their lack of concern and compassion for their fellow humans and for the natural world. Ancient Jain texts explain that violence is not defined by actual harm, for this may be unintentional. It is the intention to harm, the absence of compassion that makes action violent. Without violent thought there could be no violent actions. Parasparopagraho jivanam (interdependence) Mahavira proclaimed a profound truth for all times to come when he said: One who neglects or disregards the existence of earth, air, fire, water and vegetation disregards his own existence which is entwined with them. Jain cosmology recognizes the fundamental natural phenomenon of symbiosis or mutual dependence, which forms the basis of modern day science of ecology. Life is viewed as a gift of togetherness, accommodation and assistance in a universe teeming with interdependent constituents.

Samyaktva (equanimity)

The discipline of non-violence, the recognition of universal interdependence and the logic of the doctrine of manifold aspects, leads inexorably to the avoidance of dogmatic, intolerant, inflexible, aggressive, harmful and unilateral attitudes towards the world around. It inspires the personal quest of every Jain for samyaktva (equanimity) towards both jiva (animate beings) and ajiva (inanimate substances and objects). It encourages an attitude of give and take and of live and let live. It offers a pragmatic peace plan based, not on the domination of nature, nations or other people, but on equanimity of mind devoted to the preservation of the balance of the universe.

Jains, whether monks, nuns, or householders, therefore, affirm prayerfully and sincerely, that their heart is filled with forgiveness for all living beings and that they have sought and received the forgiveness of all beings, that they crave the friendship of all beings, that all beings give them their friendship and that there is not the slightest feeling of alienation or enmity in their heart for anyone or anything. They also pray that forgiveness and friendliness may reign throughout the world and that all living beings may cherish each other. Jain philosophy rejects static dogma. It accepts change and growth as intrinsic to human experience. It calls for inner change and growth. The word JAIN is related to Jina - which mans conqueror. Jina is one who has conquered his inner enemies. This emphasis on conquest of inner enemies is familiar to those who know what modern psychiatry is all about.

The quest for God is a quest for a transformed consciousness. And as the Indian poet Kabir says, But when deep inside you there is a loaded gun, how can you have God?

Jainism stresses APARIGRAHA, or non-acquisitiveness. This principle emphasizes limiting of possessions and avoiding attachments of a worldly kind. It may seem like an impractical principle. Yet in a world where our environment and our health are affected by waste and by over-consumption, this principle is pragmatic and important.

Abstaining from the four vices (kashaya)- anger, pride, attachment and greed

Conclusion: Spiritualists need to be open to scientific knowledge (witness the latest evolution debate) and try not to be selective in their acceptance of it, while scientists need to realize that there certainly can be a mystical, mysterious quality to the universe, considering the amount of bizarre and mind-blowing things we run across on a daily basis.

We need to arrive at universally acceptable solutions bringing Happiness and Peace to one and all without denying cultural plurality.


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