Shubhachandra: The Jaina Concept of Himsā and Ahimsā

Shubhachandra suggested that for one to have a clear understanding of ahimsā, it would be necessary to understand the nature of himsā. He spoke of ahimsā as the highest form of religion that would be characterized by the non- appearance of attachments and passions. The notion of himsā, conversely, was associated with one’s state from which passion would originate. He also spoke of anekāntavāda – the theory of the manifoldness of reality and knowledge – as intellectual ahimsā.Elaborating on the notion of himsā, he dealt with five kinds of violence – the Śtula and Śukshma, Dravya and Bhavya, Bahya and Antartgat and Vyavahara and the nischaya. He also clarified very briefly that the notion of prāna is different from jivā.

More importantly, he asserted that one could not practice absolute ahimsā, but that an individual would ideally have to practice it according to one’s capacity, thus also clarifying that ahimsā would not be an impossible principle. It was in this context that he touched upon the notions of sankalpi-hiṃsā and ārambhi- hiṃsā – intentional and unintentional hiṃsā respectively. The notion of ahimsā, he said, came about in Jaina thought in order to resist the excess of violence in the dogmatic practice of religions that would in turn give rise to civilisation.

Yoga, he said, is heavily relation to the notion of karma, which, in Jaina thought is regarded as the activities of mind, speech and body. These activities in turn are believed to cause the influx of karma that would have to be dealt with by the practice of yoga. Therefore, committing himsā, he said would amount to a larger influx of karma and for this reason; the notion of himsā is also regarded as ashuba-upayoga. The heterodox position of Jaina thought, he said, was to a certain extent affirmed by its intolerance even to certain acts of violence that were permitted by the Vedas.

Report by: Melissa Azavedo and Sreeprasad


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