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 The principle of Ahimsa - non-violence

  Jainism prescribes 5 moral principles to be observed by all the Members of  the  society. These are called Pancha Vrathas, five vows;  Ahimsa  or  non-violence, Satya  or  truth, Astheya or non-stealing, Brahmacharya or chastity and Aparigraha or non-possession.
  Of these  5  principles,  the  first,  Ahimsa or non-violence  is  the  most  important  vow. Though the term is negative implying abstinence from killing any living being, it is really a  positive  virtue  based  upon  Universal  love  and   mercy   towards all   living  beings. Abstinence from killing other  animals  must be observed  by  thought,  word  and  deed - Mana, Vachana and Kaya respectively. The  mere  thought of killing is as  much a moral evil as actually killing. Similarly, any word expressing the desire to  kill is also deemed  as killing. Hence, the principle of Ahimsa -  non-violence, naturally implies purity of thought, word and deed actuated by Universal love and mercy.
Further,  it  is  not  enough if  one  abstains from inflicting pain on other beings. How can excuse yourself by saying:  'I do not kill'  if  you engage an agent to carry out your desire. You are morally responsible for the evil deed committed by your  agent  because  he  acts through your instigation.


  You cannot also  remain self-satisfied by saying.  "Neither do  I act myself nor do I have it done through my agent".  If you indirectly approve of such an evil conduct in others, that approval makes  you  responsible  for  the  cruelty  of  killing, practiced by others. Thus one is expected not to kill oneself nor to kill  through  an  agent nor  should  one  approve the  evil  deed.  In short, Ahimsa should be observed by ManaVachana and Kaya -thought, word and deed respectively and violence should be avoided  in all aspects - Kritha, Karitha and Anumodha - acting oneself, to make  the  agent  to  act and passively approve the action wherever violence is practiced.
 Thus, Ahimsa Vritha  is binding on all  members  of  the  Society  whether householder  or  ascetic. In the case of the ascetics, it is to be observed absolutely without any limitation. It is obvious that its application should be limited in the case of  the householder.  Since  the vegetable kingdom is also admitted  to  be  constituted  by  living  beings,  i.e.  one  sensed organisms,  destroying  this  living  being  is  prohibited  in  the  case of the ascetics; but it cannot be enforced in the  case  of  householders.  In  the  case,  the   householder  cannot engage  himself  in  agriculture  because  harvesting  would  imply  the  destruction  of  one sensed  organism.  Without  agriculture,  there  would  be  no  food  for  the members of the society  to  consume.  Hence,  the  householder  is  expected  to  observe  this  principle  of Ahimsa only  with reference to the other organisms beginning with the  two  sensed  ones which are generally  called  animals capable of  moving  or  Thrasajivas.  Thus  limited,  the ethical principle is called Anuvrutha - a minor vow to be observed by the householder. The same applicable absolutely without  any  limitation,  is called  Mahavratha -  the  great  vow binding upon the ascetics. 
  This  interpretation  of  the  principle of Ahimsa naturally rejects  the  principle  of  Ahimsa observed by the Non-Jains. The Buddists excuse themselves for eating  meat  though  they do  not  kill  but  only  purchase  meat  from  the  butchers.  This  is condemned by the Jains  because  butcher  acts merely  as an  agent to the meat-eaters and kills the animal to supply  meat to the meat-eating customer. Hence, the person who eats meat though he does not kill the  animal  by himself,  kills the animal through an agent and approves his action. Similarly, Jainism condemns the Vedic. Dharma which enjoins the killing of animal as a religious ritual.Sacrificing of animal implies willful killing and blame is not removed because it is done in the name of  religion. Hence, according to the Jains, sacrifice of  animals  in the name of religion, does not remove the responsibility of killing, because it is certainly a moral evil. 


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