How Are Lord Mahavira’s Teachings Relevant Today?

The condition of Mauryan society in the 6th century BC was, to a great extent, influenced by religion. Religion could persuade a person to do anything. Some religious practices- animal sacrifices, superstitions, scriptural rituals- also divided the society on the basis of caste. As a reaction to this, as many as 63 sects emerged in that period. Jainism, popularised by Lord Vardhamana Mahavira, was one of them. Lord Mahavira's preachings were widely welcomed by the masses and some rulers.

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Lord Vardhamana Mahavira

In this modern world where most individuals seek their answers in religion, can the tenets given by Lord Mahavira still solve their problems? Let's find out!


THE DOCTRINE OF ANEKANTAVADA

The theory of Anekantavada deals with the manifold nature of reality. According to it, the truth has many dimensions. If a person thinks a fact to be reality, it is only because he views reality through his perspective. The same fact may be untrue for another person.


The “painting of the tree” is a classic example to understand Anekantavada. If you tell a group of artists to paint a particular tree, every artist will do it from his angle, such that, there may be several paintings of the same tree but from different angles. The task to assimilate all the paintings is nearly impossible. And even if it happens, the integrated painting cannot replicate the exactness of the tree. To sum up, there is no such thing as the ultimate truth and Jainism, while considering its own principles, respects other faiths as well.

Anekantavada is the solution to many of the current adversities. Today, differences in ideologies among various faiths are the root cause for many misdemeanors present in society. The theory suggests considering the existence of other beliefs and also advises the masses to respect them. Through this, the problem of racism, one of the major blemishes in human history, and many ills related with it, such as slavery, untouchability, discrimination, and so on, can be remedied. Religious tolerance is required, particularly in India, where hundreds of religions and ideas coexist. Blasphemy, mob lynching, and religious rioting can be reduced if everyone understands and adheres to this doctrine.


NON-VIOLENCE

The central premise of Mahavira's teachings is nonviolence, or Ahimsa. It involves abstaining from all forms of violence. This is the only one of the five "Mahavratas," or directive principles for people for life, that has been practised by its members since its inception. Jainism encourages people to practise nonviolence verbally, psychologically, and physically. It advises against inflicting harm on any living being, even if it is for the purpose of obtaining meat, medicines, or skin. It opposes the animal slaughter and the felling of trees (without any reason). It forbids condemns the intake of animal-based foods, honey, liquor, and roots like as potatoes, carrots, and so on. The Jaina concept of Ahimsa might seem extremist and impracticable, but its significance cannot be ignored.


Today, we always have the sword of nuclear wars hanging over our heads. In such circumstances, it is essential that we, as a community, try to apply this principle of Ahimsa in our socio-political life by treating every individual, of every species, equally. Mahavira, in Acharanga-sutra, also says that no one has the right to take the life of an individual. The leniency in the capital punishment law of India is a practical example of this.


Ahimsa also condemns the killing of any organism which has more than one senses. Today, we see many videos on the web about animal brutality and mass killings of animals which puts a question mark on the principle of Karuna or mercifulness promoted by almost all the major religions of the world. Killing of the plant kingdom also comes under the ambit of Himsa. As we march on towards creating a sustainably developed world, we must keep our forests intact.


APARIGRAHA

Aparigraha simply means not nurturing any kind of infatuation for possessions, both animate and inanimate. It is the root cause of all desires. When individuals fail to achieve those, it results in mental tension. Human wants are never-ending. The more they possess, the more they desire.


Today, newspapers are filled with gruesome incidents such as murders, rapes, and fraudulent activities. The main reason for these crimes is the want for more. These activities not only disrupt the social balance but also degrade the societal values of those individuals.


According to the doctrine, stealing someone's possessions or owning something that is not yours is also a sin. Under the banner of this philosophy, the problem of corruptive practises, which has penetrated society and whose negative consequences are fully responsible for social inequality in many developing and industrialised countries, can be addressed.

Aparigraha also disapproves of internal possessions like greed, anger, ego, jealousy, and hatred. Holding such thoughts against one another can force a person of weak intellect to commit serious crimes. It affects the feeling of brotherhood among people. Genocides and holocausts are the results of such extremities. A very famous quote by Rick Rigsby tells us the ill-effects of ego: “Ego is the anesthesia that deadens the pain of stupidity”.


Today’s problems like racism, discrimination, violence due to differences in idealogies, brutal crimes, etc. act as obstacles in making this world a better place. It is not that hard to understand that the implementation of non-violence, peace and fraternity can indeed bring about peace in the world.

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AUTHOR

Vrushabh Magdum

Pratha Content Writing Intern