According to the Tattvartha Sutra there are 8,400,000 species of living things – each of which is part of the cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth, and is therefore precious.
This central teaching of Jainism was made famous in recent times by Mahatma Gandhi, who was greatly influenced by Jain ideas. He made ahimsa the guiding principle of his struggle for social freedom and equality. Ahimsa means more than not hurting others, it means not intending to cause harm, physical, mental or spiritual, to any part of nature, for, in the words of Mahavira: ‘You are that which you wish to harm.’
This is the positive aspect of non-violence: to practice an attitude of compassion towards all life. Jains pray that forgiveness and friendliness may reign throughout the world and that all living beings may cherish each other.
This ancient Jain principle teaches that all of nature is bound together, and says that if one does not care for nature one does not care for oneself.
An important Jain principle is not to waste the gifts of nature, and even to reduce one’s needs as far as possible. As Gandhi said, ‘There is enough in this world for human needs, but no for human wants.’
Jain quotations on the Environment
“Lord Mahavira preached about the environment in the first book of ‘Acharanga Sutra’, which is accepted, as His direct words. The elements of nature were described as living beings and under the fundamental principle of AHIMSA these were to be protected in all ways – no waste, no overuse, no abuse, no polluting. If we follow these principles, then we would stop destroying our environment as well as preserve the resources that are available for all to share. If there are more resources available for all, then the poor will also get a fair share thereof”. Quotation from R. P. Chandaria, Chairman of the Institute of Jainology, 15 August 2008. Link to Institute of Jainology.
The original and longer statement can be found here.
For other faith’s statements on the environment, please click here.
Copied with permission from the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC).
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