Monday, June 1, 2009

Thou Shalt Cover Thy Mouth

I love to surf the net and randomly select an aspect of a world religion so that I may introduce myself to the awe inspiring diversity of our spirituality. I would love to learn about other beliefs from the practitioners themselves but outside of a local mosque (which I have yet to visit) there isn't much of a religiously diverse community in my town unless I drive into Nashville. What a friend I have in Wikipedia!

[The hand with a wheel on the palm symbolizes the Jain Vow of Ahiṃsā. The word in the middle is "ahimsa". The wheel represents the dharmacakra which stands for the resolve to halt the cycle of reincarnation through relentless pursuit of truth and non-violence.]

Ahiṃsā (Sanskrit : अहिंसा, Prakrit : अहिंसा) means “non-violence”, “non-injury” or absence of desire to harm any life forms. Ahiṃsā is the fundamental principle of Jainism forming the cornerstone of its ethics and doctrine. Vegetarianism and other non-violent practices and rituals of Jains flow from the principle of Ahiṃsā.
What does a religion look like with the principle of non-injury as its foundation? Well, take a look, but don't be too quick to judge. Although sweeping the ground as you walk and covering your mouth to avoid injuring even the tiniest lifeforms sounds a bit extreme (probably on the same level as wiping your bum with your left hand as some Muslims do in Islam) take note that the focus is to become mindful of the sacredness of all life. This is done because injury toward others is a behavior that injures and limits the soul's potential for attaining moksa, the liberation of the soul. Even words can lead to injury so at times it is wiser to stay silent.

What I admire about Ahiṃsā is that it is not done to please the Divine or because it's Divine commandment for humanity to follow but that it is done for 1) the general welfare of society and that 2) harming others harms your own soul. An internal drive to non-injury I believe is more beneficial to spiritual growth than following the commands of an external force. Jainism's approach to non-violence doesn't trump the Monotheistic faiths which asks their believers to internalize this behavior, but that the desire originates from within the soul. I believe the desire to avoid harming one another is essential regardless of where that desire originates.

Understanding the concept is one thing, internalizing it is another, and we're all guilty of failing to internalize this noble practice. But failure should not keep us from moving "further up and further in." Everyday brings us the opportunity to internalize Ahiṃsā by constantly testing us through interactions with our brothers. Without interaction how could we experience love? How can we call ourselves human if we can not face each other, let alone live as neighbors, as we harbor hiṃsā (violence) in the depths of our being? It may be that man is at its core violent in nature, but I pray that this is not the case. So until science cracks the nature vs. nurture question on violence this fallible creature will begin to cover his mouth.


Andras Nagy said...

When we harm another in essence we are harming ourselves...

Eruesso said...

I absolutely love this theme of interconnectedness that is not expressed as prominently in the West as it is in the Eastern Religions. Thanks for commenting.

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