Indian Philosophy – The Jains & Nonviolence

carrots in bundles

Much in line with their negative view of all karma, Jain monastics are famous for their radical practices of nonviolence (ahimsa).  The average Jain is a commoner, neither a nun nor monk, who does not engage in extremes, but nuns and monks often wear face masks over their mouths outside to prevent insects and microorganisms from flying in and sweep the ground on paths and in areas of ceremony to avoid killing them, as even though the killing would be unintentional, it would still be an accumulation of karmic involvements.  While Hindus and many Buddhists are vegetarian, Jains don’t eat root vegetables such as potatoes or carrots as the whole plant must be uprooted and killed.  Some only eat what has fallen from plants on its own.

gandhi and followers

Jains are sponsors of many charities which fight animal cruelty, and Jainism has influenced the world through Gandhi, who was not a Jain but had a Jain teacher Raychandbhai Maheta who taught him about radical nonviolence, and Gandhi had a direct influence on Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Cesar Chavez, Thich Nhat Hanh, the Dalai Lama and many others.

The Samans and Samanis, are an intermediary group between the ascetics and lay people, men and women who are not full monks and nuns who travel to common people to give the teachings of the purest monks and nuns who choose not to travel and harm the world and organisms in it by doing so.  In spite of this, Jains traveled even in ancient times great distances for business and trade.  As mentioned, while Jains are sometimes merchants and businessmen, Jain monks and nuns own nothing and do not travel.

jain temple