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Today, on this day of Mahavir Jayanti, instead of celebrating it as ‘Happy Birthday’ as

is fashionable, let us resolve to remember and internalise the core philosophy of

Jainism Viz. inclusiveness, epitomised in the aphorism Parasparopagraho Jivanam
(all life is bound together by the mutual support and interdependence). Man has a
rightful place in the universe, not of hegemony over the earth and its creatures, but
as part of an interconnected network with all beings, all of whom are equal and have
as much right to life as any human being. The Jain code of conduct is profoundly
ecological. Transgressions against the vow of non-violence include all forms of
cruelty to plants, animals and human beings. According to Jain belief all life, from
the tiniest insect unseen by the human eye to an elephant including the lives of plants
is sacred and all beings should be respected. Jainism is a religion of love and
compassion, the principle of ahimsa – (non-violence) being central to its philosophy
and code of conduct.

However, the exploding appetite for consumption and wasteful pattern of resource
use in India, for instance, have together conspired to create a process of the state
sponsored subsidized flows of resources to a narrow elite comprising organised
industry, services and the big landlords in the villages. The state bears a large
fraction of the cost land, water, power, raw materials, fertilizers, petroleum, etc.
supplied to these segments of the society to the exclusion of the large majority of the
marginalised poor as amply demonstrated by all the social indices, and what is
worse, all the scams. This gives rise to social conflicts as the benefits and burdens of
social and economic development are not equally shared, and different groups
exercise competing claims on a dwindling resource base.

The underlying reason for these disparities and exclusive growth is the tendency of
acquisition form attachments to possessions called Parigraha (possession) in Jain
philosophy. It becomes a vicious circle: they hoard their wealth and desire more
possessions, possessions become an end in themselves as an organic need.
Parigraha is the philosophy of the cancer cell which flourish by cornering the
nutrients of the surrounding cells and staring them to death. To overcome this
tendency of ‘cannibalism’ and the consequent violence, Mahavira invoked the
principal of Aparigraha (non-possession or non-grasping) as the core theme of
Jainism. Wants should be reduced, desires curbed and consumption levels kept
within reasonable limits.

Wealth creation must have a philanthropic goal. Giving charitable donations and
time generously for community projects is an obligation. Compassion and reverence
for life are the sheet-anchor of the Jain quest for peace, harmony and rectitude,
based on spiritual and physical symbiosis and a sense of responsibility and restraint
which have great relevance to contemporary concerns. Wealthy individuals are
advised to recognize that beyond a certain point their wealth is superfluous to their
needs and that they should manage the surplus as trustees for social benefit. Jains
are ordained to live a life of moderation and restraint and to practice a measure of
abstinence and austerity. Using any resource beyond one's needs or the misuse of
any part of nature, is considered a form of theft.. It is a principle of compassion and
social responsibility, which should be practised not only towards all human beings,
but also towards all animals and nature.

The greatest homage we can pay to lord Mahaveera is to follow the tenets of his
philosophy and not not get embroiled in superfluous pedantry rituals.
Happy Mahaveer Jayanti