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Non-violence (Ahimsa)

Nonviolence is based on love and kindness for all living beings. Nonviolence in Jainism is not a negative virtue. 

 Mulnayak Shri Adinath Bhagwan,BIBROD, RATLAM

Among these five vows, non-violence (Ahimsa) is the cardinal principle of Jainism and hence it is called the highest religious principle, or the cornerstone of Jainism.Non-violence is the supreme religion (Ahimsa parmo dharma) It is repeatedly said by all Tirthankaras in Jain literature, "Do not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, insult, torment, torture, or kill any creature or living being."

According to Jainism all living beings, irrespective of their size, shape, or different spiritual developments are equal.  No living being has a right to harm, injure, or kill any other living being, including animals, insects, and plants.  Every living being has a right to exist and it is necessary to live with every other living being in perfect harmony and peace.

Nonviolence is based on love and kindness for all living beings. Nonviolence in Jainism is not a negative virtue.  It is based upon the positive quality of universal love and compassion.  One who is actuated by this ideal cannot be indifferent to the suffering of others.

Violence of every type should be completely forbidden.  Mental tortures by way of harsh words, actions, and any type of bodily injuries should also be avoided.  Even thinking evil of some one is considered violence in Jainism.

Practically, it is impossible to survive without killing or injuring some of the smallest living beings.  Some lives are killed even when we breathe, drink water, or eat food.  Therefore, Jainism says that minimum killing of the lowest form of life should be our ideal for survival.

In the universe, there are different forms of life, such as, human beings, animals, insects, plants, bacteria, and even smaller lives which cannot be seen even through the most powerful microscopes.  Jainism has classified all the living beings according to their senses as follows:

five senses  - human, animals, birds, heavenly, hellish beings
four senses  - flies, bees, etc.
three senses - ants, lice, etc.
two senses   - worms, leaches, etc.
one sense    - vegetables, water, air, earth, fire etc.

The five sense are, touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing.

It is more painful if a life of the higher forms (more than one sense) are killed.  All non-vegetarian food is made by killing a living being with two or more senses.  Therefore, Jainism preaches strict vegetarianism, and prohibits non-vegetarian foods.

Jainism explains that violence is not defined by actual harm, for this may be unintentional.  It is the intention to harm, the absence of compassion, and the ignorance that makes an action violent.  Without violent thought there can be no violent actions.

Non-violence is to be observed in action, speech, and thought. One should not be violent, ask others to do so, or approve of such an activity.

Source: Five Great Vows (Maha-vratas) - Complied by Pravin K. Shah
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