Jainism: The Buddhist And Jain Expression Of Ahimsa

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In this paper I wish to address the Buddhist and Jain notion of ahimsa and how it is understood

and followed in each religion.

Ahimsa is the Sanskrit term for avoidance of violence (hinsa). This belief holds all life as

equal and intends on preserving all life forms via mankind. Buddhism as well as Jainism, follow

non-violent principles in their quest for liberation from the cycle of rebirth. However, it is the

latter one that takes the principle of no-harm to extremes. To live a life according to the

teachings of Ahimsa, humans need not to see any type of division when it comes to creation of

life, and must seek knowledge from their respective religions to combat it.

Buddhism was created by Siddharta Gautama, a member of the warrior caste (kshatriya),

who founded
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A decisive point in

the spread of Buddhism beyond the Indian territory occurred when King Ashoka rejected

violence and adopted Buddha’s teachings. As a result, ahimsa became the means for preventing

deadly battles and averting any kind of evildoing.

Jainism, as mentioned above, takes the notion of ahimsa to the extreme. Jainism was

founded by Nataputta Vardhamana, better known as Mahavira, who as Gautama pertained to the

warrior caste (kshatriyas). The principle of ahimsa (non-injury), the first of the “Five Great

Vows” Jain monks and nuns must commit themselves to, constitutes the hallmark of Jainism.

Both religions evidently agree on avoiding any sort of violence and leading followers to shun

hostility. However, in Jainism monastics are required to take drastic measures to avoid taking

life, consciously or unconsciously (Young, 102).

The belief of ahimsa is thought to be the greatest attribute that both religions share.

Buddhism as well as Jainism recognize in their respective doctrines the negative karmic effects

that adopting violence and hostility has to society. The principle of ahimsa leads to love

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