Jainism: A way to sustainable living, Part 2

By Nitin Mehta

This month celebrates Gandhi Jayanti, the 154th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi. Before Gandhi came to England in 1888, he was taken by his mother to visit a Jain monk who encouraged him to take a vow not to eat meat, consume alcohol or indulge in sexual relationships. It was Gandhi’s vow of not eating meat that brought him in touch with many famous people of the time such as George Bernard Shaw, Annie Besant and Madame Blavatsky. His nascent ideas of justice and freedom developed from there. Gandhi was later deeply influenced by the Jain visionary and poet Srimad Rajchandra.

It is now increasingly acknowledged worldwide that the biggest threat facing our planet today is global warming. The world is on a precipice and one of the biggest causes of the state of the planet is meat consumption. It is estimated that more than 92 billion land animals are raised every year for meat. So this planet has to sustain 92 billion farmed animals and more than 8 billion human beings; it is just not sustainable. The cutting of the Amazon rainforests, the methane gas released by billions of farmed animals, the loss of woodlands, and the spread of deserts are also contributing factors to the decline of the planet. Almost 70% of freshwater withdrawals globally and nearly 40% of the world’s grain is used for animal agriculture. Trillions of fish and other marine life are caught and killed every year, many in methods that are especially detrimental to the condition of our rivers and oceans. So Jainism’s care and compassion towards all living beings, and respect for all that nature provides, can be seen to be highly relevant in modern times, and indeed is a major part of the solution the world is crying out for.

To put this concept of Ahimsa or non-violence in practice, Jainism advocates an idea called Anekantwad. It means that truth can be arrived at from different angles. The belief, therefore, that different religions and ideologies are to be seen as different ways of perceiving the world, rather than a cause for violence, is fundamental to Jainism. If we look at history, we see that tens of millions of people have been killed by people claiming their religion is the only right one, and that others should not exist. Millions of people have died in the name of Communism, Capitalism, and in the name of a so-called ‘superior’ race looking down on those who are perceived to be ‘inferior’. All this would have been avoided if the Jain idea of accommodating differences had been practiced.

Jainism today is a vibrant religion with a huge cultural heritage and though small in numbers, there are around 40 thousand Jains in the UK today, its message of sustainable living is supremely relevant both here and the world over.

As an Anuvrat, or small vow, one should ask everyone, whenever possible if they are Vegetarian or Vegan. If they are not then one should impress upon them the importance of being Vegetarian and ask them to stop eating animals – including fishes – and eggs immediately.  They should then be encouraged to stop consuming dairy.

Nitin Mehta, MBE, was born in Kisumu, Kenya. He speaks fluent Swahili, Gujarati, Hindi, and Punjabi. As soon as he was old enough to understand that—by heritage—he was Indian, he became fascinated with the land of his forefathers. At the age of eight, his parents took him to India. His impressions of India left a mark on him which continues to this day. When he moved to the UK at a young age, Nitin delved deep into the philosophical and spiritual wisdom of India. www.nitinmehta.co.uk

Images courtesy of wallpapermania.eu and Provided

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