Sunday, September 04, 2011

Buddhism and Jainism in South India - 8

I am writing this post by considering non-violence as the core concept of Buddhism and Jinaism. Sometime back I read a 9th century Kannada Jain work 'Vaddaradhane' (Filial Piety). What really struck me was the kind of barbaric death that the people had to experience to attain Nirvana. Some were killed by wild beasts in a revolting fashion or some were killed in grotesque accidents (sucked into a machine and cut into pieces).

These interpretations of non-violence or violence directed inwards ( and Gandhi was inspired by this and not by Jesus... where he merely found his backing) makes me think that  Buddhism and Jinaism were completely misinterpreted schools of thoughts when it comes to non-violence.

The way to understand the non-violence aspect of Buddhism and Jinaism is to look at the background of people who espoused these two religions. They all came from warrior classes. For these people, violence was a way of life. It's the truth. So, it makes sense for thinkers among them to delve into non-violence. I guess this is the same reason Stoicism looks good on Marcus Aurelius and not on me, a self-styled stoic. I never had power.

But does that justify the kind of inwardly directed violence that these Jain texts extol as a way to Nirvana? I suppose these thoughts infested Jinaism after it was taken over by non-warrior classes. These classes have blindly taken up non-violence and have taken it to the extreme. Since violence of battles or wars was never part of their life, they felt the need to direct violence against themselves so as to give validity to their non-violent way of life.

How can non-warrior classes then apply Buddhism or Jinaism to their life? I suppose they need to look into their way of life and humanize it. Let us consider a merchant. Should he be disgusted with money making (I suppose few Jains renounce wealth at some point in their life as a meaningless thing) or money making through dubious means?

Let's consider a warrior in this case. Should he be ashamed of defending his country? I think not. I would think he should be if he is attacking other countries out of greed thus being responsible for too much grief. The famous story of Ashoka has found this situation as a true reason to embrace the idea of non-violence.

Logically,  a merchant, for whom non-violence is a way of life, should make the dichotomy between money making through dubious means and money making through straight means if he follows Buddhism or Jinaism. But India's past history doesn't give any such ideas. At present, these religions are just fads.


anilkurup said...

Umm quite difficult to comment on the subject you raised. Limited knowledge!

I read William Dalrymple's "Nine Lives". The chapter on the young Jain ascetic woman was revolting. How a person gets fascinated by ,I would say outlandish philosophy and concept of Nirvana.
Live ones life with the least hardship to others and if possible with no bother to others, and enjoy ones life at the same time. That is nirvana we can feel, and know. Not the mirage people are after through self abasement.

manju said...

It would be helpful if people found it 'bad' explain why and people who thought it's a 'googly' ask what.