The Concept of Ahimsa in Jainism

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The Concept of Ahimsa in Jainism One of the smallest major world religions, with approximately eight million followers, Jainism and its principles still maintain a strong political influence in India.1 Founded by Nataputta Vardhamana, more commonly known as Mahavira, Jainism focuses its beliefs on living right through practicing non-violence in all aspects of life.1 Much like Hinduism and Buddhism, Jains believe in the ideas of reincarnation and karma and, similarly to Buddhism, followers of Jain practice a religion that questioned many of the principles of Hinduism and eventually branched off. Unlike Buddhism, however, Jainism emphasized a different principle in breaking the bind of karma, ahimsa. Though these other religions accept and utilize the concept of ahimsa, Jainism, as we will see, emphasizes these ideas of non-violence as a more central tenant to their religion and feel it is important to take further steps in their practice of non-violence than any other religion. We will see this emphasis by first defining and understanding the full nature of ahimsa and then by experiencing how Jains practice ahimsa in their daily lives. One of the primary guiding principles behind Jainism is the concept of ahimsa. Ahimsa literally translates to avoidance of himsa, or violence.2 Ahimsa is the Sanskrit word for non-violence but in the Jainism faith, takes on much more than that. “A phrase often found in contemporary Jain literature is Ahimsa paramo Dharmah (“Nonviolence is the highest form of religious conduct”)” (Young 106). For Jains, ahimsa does not just extend to physical violence, though obviously includes it. The concept extends itself to mind, not thinking violent thoughts, speech, not saying violent or harmful things, and body, not to commit physical acts of violence.3 Again, at the heart of ahimsa lie the premise of avoidance of “injury to sentient beings

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