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Environmental Conservation through Living Jainism

Stride of mankind from Ape Age to the present advance modern age is not
a miracle, which took place in few seconds. Man being a extraordinary component
of environment made this possible by implying his intellect, power and vigor. In
his beautiful journey of development, nature proved to be the true companion right
from the very beginning of his journey. It revealed itself gradually to the man
while he was steeping towards manhood. Initially he was influenced by physical
factors of climate, soil, water, air, place etc.i Hence, his relation with nature were
symbiotic and friendly. He also had respect for the devotion of nature towards
him. His tendency was to walk after nature. As far as human nature is concerned
he always wants to dominate his surroundings. Soon with increasing exercise of
superior brainpower the relation between man and nature and man and other life
forms and also with inanimate physical constituents got changed from symbiotic
to predatory. His approach, behavior and interactions became more and more
anthropocentric arrogating to himself the exclusive rights to use and exploit all
others for his own pleasure and increasing greed.ii With the advancement science
and technology, and increasing number of population man was inclining towards
maximum use of resources. After industrial revolution the rate of exploitation and
consumption of resources increased too much. In addition to direct pollution of
environment by industrial emission of poisonous gases into atmosphere and toxic
effluents into water system and soil the most harmful impact of industrialization is
that it is triggering consumerism more and more and to meet the increasing
demands more and more industries are coming up which further triggers
consumerism and the vicious cycle is going on. Before industrialization it was
only increasing number of people that was adversely affecting the environment.
Now it is double-edged sword i.e. of population increase and consumerism that is
cutting ruthlessly the very fabric of environment safety. Excesses by mankind in
overexploitation of environment constituents are polluting and endangering not
only the earth but outer space also.

The scenario, as of now and evolving the same was, is very gloomy. The
continuing degradation of environment and depletion of life supporting natural
recourses by exploding population and its reckless consumerism are matter of
serious concern. The air we breathe, the water we drink and the soil, which
produces our food, are getting more and more polluted. In many cities air has
become so much polluted by vehicular and industrial emission that people require
masks and frequent oxygen intake. The water in most of rivers and other surface
and underground water bodies is so dangerously polluted by industrial household
and other effluents that it is not safe even for bathing, much less for drinking.
Experts fear that if population, pollution and consumerism continue to grow there
will be fierce wars for water in future.iii Because of over exploitation of
underground water the water table is receding fast and has gone down at many
places from few meters to hundred of meters. This has also increased the fluoride
content in water at several places causing flurosis. Even in the largest water
bodies, oil spills and the other wastes including the hazardous atomic wastes are
polluting the seas surrounding the planet earth. Because of pollution and over
exploitation of various products from sea, its fishes, corals, shells, minerals and
others, these eco-systems so important for climate balance on earth, is being
damaged dangerously.
The health of soil is getting more and more precarious being over exploited
for feeding increasing number of mouths. Its natural productivity has almost been
decimated. The living soil has been turned into an inorganic machine. Requiring
more and more doses of chemical fertilizers to produce same quantity and
pesticides to protect monoculture crops from pest, these are poisoning the air, soil
and water bodies more and more. The poisonous pesticides are getting into human
system through food chain and causing of various asthmatics, psychiatric, cardiac,
other serious disease and even cancer. Forests, the important renewable natural are
the greatest casualty of galloping increase in population, consumerism and
urbanization. This has resulted in increasing erosion and consequent silting of
important dams and rivers. In absence of forests infiltrations of rainwater is
reduced and there are devastating floods during rains and than the rivers are dry
for the rest of the year. Every tree is a dam more efficient than concrete ones to
conserve and store water.
Forests work as sink by absorbing obnoxious and polluting gases and
convert them in useful products and purify the air. They ameliorate climate,
regulate rainfall, protect from fury of devastating storms, and provide a host of
products to fulfill human needs. The erratic climate changes, green house Effects,
widening ozone hole, melting of arctic ice-caps (already more than 48%) and
glaciers are all threatening our health and even survival. These renewable
resources of nature rejuvenate if exploited within the carrying capacity but
unfortunately forests are being exploited many times more. iv Like wise non-
renewable resources the various minerals most importantly the oil, on which is
based most of the economy and even agriculture all over the globe are being
exploited so much that their known reserves may not last 200-300 years. Then the
edifice of our civilization will crumble down, as the cracks are already visible. The
matter of vanishing resources, both renewable and non renewable are not to be
looked upon only, but the degradation and pollution of environment because of
over uses of fossils fuels, resulting in global warming, acid rain, climate change,
and depletion of ozone layer, is also to be considered seriously. The present level
of exploitation is high that nothing will be left for future generations, though; it is
the duty of every generation to pass on the treasure of nature for generation as they
received it from their ancestors. It is paradoxical that on one hand we love our
future progenies and on anther hand we are accentuating the adverse for them.v
The problem lies in our prevalent model of development, which has
established consumerism as an index of development. Nation, societies and people
are considered developed and even more civilized on the basis of their scale of
consumption. This has triggered mad race for more and more consumerism in
tendentious pursuits of insatiable sensuous pleasure ignoring the fundamental
principal of sustainability, which has remained mere a slogan. A development can
be sustainable only if the consumption inter-alia exploitation of resources is
limited to their carrying capacity and Ignorance of mankind has put
the whole living fraternity in crisis of existence.
Now the peak time has come when it is mandatory to step forward to save
our mother earth. Science and technology cannot be blamed for all this calamities
of environment and ills of the societies. Much depends upon how we use them.vii
Every individual, young or old group of people, societies, nation big or small, high
or low, rich or poor, educated or illiterate, strong or weak are responsible for
environmental degradation. Gones are the day when pollution at one place did not
have significant adverse effect on other place.viii The degree of pollution now is so
high that it is affecting everyone. It should therefore, be not only necessary but
also mandatory for all to follow the fundamental principles for environment
restoration and sustainable maintenance. But, it is a permanent fact of the history
of mankind that the human and social psyche does not remain same. Efforts have
been made from ancient time to modern time to propound the code of
environmental ethics, which have now taken a shape of social science. The field of
environmental ethics concerns human beings’ ethical relationship with the natural
environment. While numerous philosophers have written on this topic throughout
history, environmental ethics only developed into a specific philosophical
discipline in the 1970s. This emergence was no doubt due to the increasing
awareness in the 1960s of the effects that technology, industry, economic
expansion and population growth were having on the environment. The
development of such awareness was aided by the publication of two important
books at this time. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, first published in 1962, alerted
readers to how the widespread use of chemical pesticides was posing a serious
threat to public health and leading to the destruction of wildlife. Of similar
significance was Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 book, The Population Bomb, which warned
of the devastating effects the spiraling human population has on the planet’s
resources. Of course, pollution and the depletion of natural resources have not
been the only environmental concerns since that time: dwindling plant and animal
biodiversity, the loss of wilderness, the degradation of ecosystems, and climate
change are all part of a raft of “green” issues that have implanted themselves into
both public consciousness and public policy over subsequent years. The job of
environmental ethics is to outline our moral obligations in the face of such
concerns. In a nutshell, the two fundamental questions that environmental ethics
must address are: what duties do humans have with respect to the environment,
and why? The latter question usually needs to be considered prior to the former. In
order to tackle just what our obligations are, it is usually thought necessary to
consider first why we have them. For example, do we have environmental
obligations for the sake of human beings living in the world today, for humans
living in the future, or for the sake of entities within the environment itself,
irrespective of any human benefits? Different philosophers have given quite
different answers to this fundamental question, which, as we shall see, has led to
the emergence of quite different environmental ethics. Naess and George Sessions
have compiled a list of eight principles or statements that are basic to deep
1. The well-being and flourishing of human and non-human life on Earth have
value in themselves (synonyms: intrinsic value, inherent worth). These
values are independent of the usefulness of the non-human world for human
2. Richness and diversity of life forms contribute to the realization of these
values and are also values in themselves.
3. Humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity except to satisfy
vital needs.
4. The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with a
substantially smaller population. The flourishing of non-human life requires
a smaller human population.
5. Present human interference with the non-human world is excessive, and the
situation is rapidly worsening.
6. Policies must therefore be changed. These policies affect basic economic,
technological and ideological structures. The resulting state of affairs will
be deeply different from the present.
7. The ideological change will be mainly that of appreciating life quality
(dwelling in situations of inherent value) rather than adhering to an
increasingly higher standard of living. There will be a profound awareness
of the difference between bigness and greatness.
8. Those who subscribe to the foregoing points have an obligation directly or
indirectly to try to implement the necessary changes (Naess, 1986).ix

The environmental ethics, which have been developed as a specific science can be
traced out in our ancient culture and heritage as well. There have been saner,
enlightened people, saints in all ages at different places in all societies, who have
been cautioning against reckless consumerism for sensuous pleasure resulting in
degradation of environment and its life supporting system. They analyzed the root
causes triggering transgression on nature. These are greed, ego, lust and
infatuation for sensuous pleasure, which have no limits or points of satiety as more
they are provided for more they increase and continue to multiply, ultimately
eating away the very basic resources necessary for survival of all life forms
including humans. They suggested us to adopt code of conduct to keep wants of
people minimum so that demands or pressure on resources remain within the
carrying capacity and renewability of resources and such societies and people
under their influence lived in harmony with ambient environment in a given
situation. There is a series of enlightened schools of thought, which have been
proved to be the light beacon for the mankind since ancient time, and have
preached environmental ethics for a harmonious relation with nature. In Jainism
we can find a complete model of code of conduct, which ensures the harmonious
relation with environment.
The global ecological crisis cannot be solved until spiritual relationship is
established between humanity as the whole and its natural environment. Jainism
has been staunch protector of nature since inception of the Jain faith. The religion
of nature, Jainism paves the way to understanding nature's utility and the essential
nature of plants, worms, animals, and all sorts of creatures that have their own
importance for maintaining ecological balance. Jainism therefore says that the
function of souls is to help one another x
Spirituality is essentially an individual endeavor. Individuals create collectivity on
the basis of discipline and practice. Every basic reality of the universe is integral.
Jainism reconciled the parts of reality with the whole by means of the relativistic
approach. Spiritual relationships, from an ecological perspective, can be
understood with the help of some of the basic tenets of Jainism; 1) injure no
creatures (Savve pana na hantavva), 2) do not command any creature; 3) do not
own any creature; and 4) do not employ one as the servant (save pana na

Jain ecology is based on spirituality and equality. Each life form, plant, or animal,
has an inherent worth and each must be respected. Within Jainism, the term for
ecology might be Sarvodayavada, or the concern for lifting up all life forms, as
articulated by Samantabhadra (third c. A. D.), the prominent Jain philosopher.
Acarya Jinasena explained the same view of social equality by saying that the
entire human world is one because of the interconnectedness of different aspects
of the human community. Seeing other people as connected with oneself develops
the spiritual perspective through which all life takes on sanctity that can and must
be protected by observing the principles of ecology. The real task of religion
consists in removing bitterness between people, between races, between religions,
and between nations. That nature of religion has been discussed in Jain scriptures
in various ways in the form of Non-violence (Ahimsa). That Ahimsa can be
summarized: Aspire for yourself. Do not aspire for others. This is the fundamental
principal of Jainism.
Jainism, though a part of Vedic tradition, presents its different philosophy
on man and nature relationship. Jainism accepts that every soul whether of a man
or of a mono sensed insect is autonomous and independent. It believes in the
presence of soul not only in animate ones like human beings, animal, insects but in
inanimate thing also which are deemed as non-living by others like water, air, fire,
earth. These are called 'Sthavar Jeev' (immobile) in Jain literature. Jainism asserts
that there is a beginning less co-existence of soul and matter. Whatever soul
posses, whether the capacity of speech, breath or thought is the result of
interaction with matter. This philosophy of Jainism makes people behave
sensitively not only with living beings but with the materialistic things also.
Jainism does not permit anyone to exploit even the non-living beings. Apart from
the philosophy of 'Jeeva' (animate) one of the most crucial components of Jainism
is its theory of nonviolence that runs through the Jain tradition like a golden
thread. It involves avoidance of violence in any form through word or deed not
only to human beings but to all nature and requires reverence and compassion for
all living being at every step in daily life.xi “Knowing (and renouncing) severally
and singly the action against living beings. In the regions above, below, and on the
surface everywhere and in all ways-the wise one neither gives pain to these bodies,
nor orders others to do so, nor assents their doing so”.xii

Non-violence creates identity between self and self. Therefore Mahavira says,
"Kill no creature", One has to experience personally the consequences of one's
own Karmas (Anusamveya namappanenam, jam'ahantavvam'ti nabhipatthae).
Through this unitized experience, the existence of souls is established. Mahavira
goes on to say that one who is afflicted with lust is bereft of knowledge and
perception. Truth will always baffle such a person. He indulges himself in action,
causing violence to the beings of earth body, water body, fire body, vegetable
body, and others. These beings have consciousness (Santi pana pudho siya).
Non-violence doesn't pertain in its physical aspect only but in mental aspect
also, in-fact and factually more so in it’s mental aspect. Jain believes that violence
should not be even in the heart, mind and brain. Non-violence should not only be
practised, it should be present in mind and thinking, by way of concern and
compassion towards all life in nature. In addition to Non-violence, the other tenets
of Jainism, from which can be derived inspiration for preservation and
conservation of environment include vegetarianism, controlled way of life and the
concept of ‘aparigraha’. These tenets form a basis for the conservation of nature.
Practice of these principles leads the practitioners to the conservation of our
mother earth. In India, where the religion has been known at least since the 6th
century B.C., and in settlements abroad, Jains are in forefront of bringing greater
awareness and putting these principles into practice.xiii

Nonviolence, the humanistic element is based on the principles of equality and

equanimity as applied in society. Nonviolence still may allow for the theory of
caste, but one based on one's own deeds and not on one's birth. Jainism tries to
shape our attitude toward nature by prescribing humane and nonviolent
approaches to everyday behavior. Jainism inspired its followers to safeguard what
in contemporary discourse would be called the ecological perspective. Jainas even
today practice these principles and religious traditions prescribed for the protection
of nature. Through its philosophy, its ascetic practices, and in its narrative arts and
architecture, Jainism and its leaders have made efforts to create the society
dedicated to love for all creatures.

The Jainas are particularly well-suited to reconsider their tradition in an ecological

light, particularly because of their history of advocacy against meat eating and
animal sacrifice, as well as their success at developing business areas that avoid
overt violence. However, some challenges remain. One expression of
environmentalism involves tree planting projects. Though Jaina laypeople might
participate in such activities, their nuns and monks most likely would not plant
trees because of the harm caused to the earth in the digging process. Another
expression of environmentalism in India has been to establish forest preserves on
property surrounding Jaina temple sites. However, this generally requires blocking
access to prevent collection of fodder, resulting in a further impoverishment of
struggling peasants. In addition to these questions of organic and social life, the
extensive involvement of Jainas in heavy industries in India raises issues of
appropriate economic activity and environmental health. These instances
demonstrate the complexity of effectively applying ecological principles in a
religious context. Jainism presents a worldview that stresses the interrelatedness of
life-forms. Its attendant nonviolent ethic might easily be extended to embrace an
earth ethics. Both traditions include a strong emphasis on asceticism that might
discourage some adherents from placing too much value on earthly concerns, but,
as we have seen, Hinduism and Jainism both contain concepts that can lead to the
enhancement of core human-earth relations.
Environmental Ethics,p-1
Ibid, pp. 1-2.
Ibid, p. 3.
Ibid, pp. 4-5.
Ibid, p. 5.
Ibid, p. 5.
Environmental Ethics : A Dialogue of Cultures, p. 3.
Ibid, pp. 7-8.
The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Environmental Ethics, pp. 1-6.
Parasparopagraho Jivanam-Tattvarthasutra, 5.21)2
World Religion and The Environment, pp. 208-210.
Acharanga Sutra, 1.7.5
Earth and Faith : A Book of Reflection for Action, p. 63.