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World Peace and Non-violence

      Society consists of innumerable individuals having a common bond. That bond is mutuality. Plurality constitutes collectivity, but mere collectivity does not become society without the bond of mutuality. Without a common thread the beads would not make a rosary and it is of utmost importance to examine and evaluate the thread.

     Sometime back Lord Mahavira's twenty-fifth birth centenary was celebrated. On that occasion a Jain emblem was prepared which contained at its base the following sutra: Parasparopagraho Jeevanam. This is an important aphorism from the first Sanskrit book in the Jain tradition. It means that sentients (jivas) are mutually related through favour and obligation, i.e. beneficence. The industrialist pays wages to the labourer and the latter acts in a manner likely to benefit the former and to safeguard his interests. Likewise, the teacher imparts knowledge to the pupil and makes him go through a sacred ceremony. The latter moulds himself according to the teacher and respectfully obeys his directions. Both are examples of mutual beneficence. Life's formula is not conflict, for conflict denotes helplessness and is not an independent trait. On the other hand mutual beneficence is an independent trait. While treating life as conflict compels man to take the course of violence, mutual beneficence takes him on the road to non-violence. We live as part of society and the unit of society is the individual. Like individuals like society and vice versa. The above relationship is both ways true but relatively so. In modern times, society is conceived in terms of economic conditions and their management. It is assumed that if the latter are good the individual will be good too. Behind this assumption is the belief that the external cause can explain everything and that an individual's own quality and competence do not matter. Its converse is equally one-sided. It holds that the individual's own quality and competence constitute the basic or material cause of virtue and vice-versa and that economic management and social circumstances act only as external causes. Neither proposition encompasses totality which can be represented only by the formula --individual, economic management and social order. A relative and balanced transformation of all these three constituents can alone establish a healthy and non-violent society.

     Countries like the Soviet Union and China laid utmost stress on bringing about changes in the economic and social order. Consequently organizational changes did occur there but the individual remained unchanged. Even though external conditions are under severe control, economic and social offences continue unabated. A relaxation of controls might lead to an increase in crime. Thus mere organizational changes are not enough. As opposed to the socialist countries, Great Britain, America and India claim to have a democratic system where the individual enjoys the right to freedom of speech, writing and expression. In the democratic system the claims of the individual are not ignored and everyone has equal opportunity to grow according to his ability. However, there is no tight control on the economic and social organizations. The result is that while one individual can become a billionaire, another leads a life of starvation and deprivation. There is neither a guarantee of employment nor a limit to individual possessions.

     Both democratic and socialist systems have in them the seeds of violence. There is a need for a third system to usher in world peace. The Jain philosophy has an important principle called 'anekantavada' (the doctrine of manifold aspects). It considers the third alternative faultless--neither 'this' nor 'that' but 'this as well as that'. In philosophy both eternalism and non eternalism are acceptable. Anekanta will consider neither blameless. When both are integrated as 'eternalism-cum-noneternalism' we get the third alternative which is blameless. In the same manner it is possible to find a lasting solution to the problem of world peace by integrating the socialist economic system requiring a definite limit to individual proprietorship with the democratic individual freedom. The famous historian Toynbee talked of the twin questions of bread and faith. Neither in isolation can be faultless. Only that system can be conducive to world peace which ensures both in the right proportion.


     We are inhabitants of the same planet and share a common solar system. All of us are being affected by inter-planetary radiation and all of us are in need of a proper atmosphere and ecological cover. This natural state has given birth to the feeling of coexistence. Nature dictates that we cannot but live together. There are indeed impediments to the fulfillment of this natural requirement. These impediments are less natural and geographic but more artificial and imaginary. We have accumulated in our minds several notions and beliefs which have cut off our direct contact with reality. We see distorted images through the spectacles of these false notions and beliefs. One harmful consequence is that we have raised huge artificial walls between man and man making it impossible for one man to see, know and understand another. Differences of race, colour and religion constitute an unholy trinity that has so divided humanity as to make hostility among men appear more real than friendship. It is this hostility which has vitiated the natural concept of coexistence. How ironical that we have to make strenuous efforts to make people understand the principle of world peace and friendship, whereas no effort whatsoever is required to make them understand strife and unrest!

     A is a citizen of India and B of Pakistan. It is the nationality which divides them. The Indian feels more attached to his country's soil than he does to the Pakistani. In reality one man should be closer to another man, but in practice men feel more attached to things than to other men. Thus people feel much more attracted towards race, colour and religion than towards one another. The gulf dividing truth and actual behaviour constitutes a complex problem. Philosophy speaks of three kinds of opposition: pratibadhya-pratibandhak (that which is impeded-- that which impedes), vadhya-vadhak (the hunted--the hunter), and sahanavasthan (presence of one-- absence of another). The turning off of the electric switch results in darkness where there was light earlier. This is the first kind of opposition. The snake and the mongoose represent the second type of opposition. Lastly, water and fire represent the third kind of opposition. Now it should be obvious that coexistence is unthinkable in the face of differences and opposition. Jain philosophy found a solution to this problem on the basis of which the principle of non-violence was established. Anekanta has a comprehensive viewpoint about the avoidance of opposition. One of its canons is : There is nothing in the world like total opposition or total non-opposition. Similarly total difference and total non-difference are not true. Underneath opposition and difference are hidden non-opposition and non-difference respectively, and vice versa. If we see only opposition and difference, we encourage violence. If we see only non-opposition and non-difference, we destroy the belief in usefulness and imperil practical behaviour. Therefore, the solution to the problem of violence lies in viewing opposition/non-opposition and difference/non-difference dyads relatively and in trying to integrate and reconcile them. On this basis alone can the principle of coexistence be implemented.

The Materialistic Point of View

     Man's ego prompts him to be more and more ambitious. It is this ambition which lies at the back of materialism. He has sensations too and he always wants pleasant sensations. It is again this hedonism and love of comfort that props up materialism. And a materially successful person looks down upon all those who are less privileged. As a result of all this, the entire energy of the individual is being spent in indulging his ego and his pleasures. How can we then think of world peace and non-violence and of the ways of bringing them about? Peace and non-violence are no more subjects of philosophy; they are essentially human conduct. It is common knowledge that practice is much more difficult than precept and since a major part of society is motivated in its activities by ambition and the pleasure principle, the inevitable consequence is violence and unrest. How can we successfully change the situation? This question agitates our mind again and again. We do talk of non-violence but do not know how to break the cycle of violence. The question naturally arises whether it is so easy to give up ambition that one can do so merely on the basis of discussion and deliberation or whether one can give up the pleasure principle merely by reading about non-violence. Undoubtedly without saying goodbye to hedonism and materialism there can be no end to the cycle of arms race, wars, unrest and violence. Even if America and the Soviet Union agree to limit the arms race some other countries may resort to nuclear armament and once again create the problem of maintaining balance of power, leading to yet another race for manufacturing arms. This would create a state of perpetual war and disorder.

     Disarmament does offer a solution to the problem of war, but it cannot offer an adequate solution in the absence of a proper study of the factors leading to a war. And these factors are expansionism, the tendency of some countries to impose their political system and life style on others and the mentality of universal proselytization. We must address ourselves to finding the ways of removing these factors if we want to prevent wars and establish world peace.

Non-violence: The Eternal Religion

     Non-violence is an eternal religion but we do not accept it as such. It is only when humanity is threatened with destruction that we start thinking of non-violence and of the ways of spreading it. It is thus clear that the reason why non-violence is not developing independently is our habit of treating it merely as a method of crisis management. Though violence is a negative tendency and non-violence a positive one, for all practical purposes we have changed their places. As a matter of fact a serious misunderstanding has arisen because of the word non-violence, since it is taken to mean the negation of violence. By this reasoning, violence has become primary and non-violence secondary. It has led people to believe that violence and not non-violence is an unavoidable part of life. The rigmarole of violence automatically comes to an end once non-violence is understood to be an inevitable part of life.

Problem of Non-violence

     It is not difficult to prove the proposition that man has accorded full recognition to the need for and usefulness of violence. Today thousands of scientists are busy inventing destructive weapons and thousands upon thousands of soldiers are either undergoing training in the use of arms or staging war rehearsals. Thus all the three activities -- research, training and practice are going on in the field of violence. It shows the place and the recognition violence enjoys in our lives.

     On the other hand non-violence is gaining recognition in a state of helplessness and compulsion. Consequently there is no research, training or practice in the field of non-violence. And if any miniscule effort in that direction is being made somewhere, it is no better than a cry in wilderness. This, then is the big problem. Violence, though destructive, finds favour with people; non-violence, though one of life's basic truths, does not attract most people. For solving the problem it is necessary for those who have faith in non-violence to find new ways of thinking.

     Chanakya was trying to destroy the Nanda dynasty. Disguised he walked into an old woman's house. She extended hospitality to him and served him steaming porridge on a plate. Chanakya inserted his fingers in the middle of it and scalded them. The woman said, "You too are foolish as Chanakya". 'How?' asked Chanakya. The woman replied, 'Chanakya mounts a direct offensive against a capital of Nanda kingdom with the help of his small troops and gets defeated everytime by the huge Nanda army. What else is it if not foolishness? You too inserted your fingers right into the middle of the hot porridge. If you had proceeded gradually from the edges you would have avoided being scalded." It taught Chanakya a lesson. He started his next offensive beginning with villages and small towns and, having gradually added to his strength, mounted a final attack on the capital and brought down the Nanda empire.

     The empire of violence is very huge. Its armies are very big. A direct assault on it will prove unavailing. We should first try to change people's consciousness so that they feel attracted towards non-violence. Since early childhood the conviction should grow that non-violence is a must for peace and success in our lives. For it we will have to prepare a new scheme of mental training in non-violence. The chemicals responsible for violence will have to be understood and technique for changing them will have to be devised. The prowess of violence cannot be beaten merely by discussing and theorising. For it a change of heart will be needed. The practice of Preksha Meditation can bring about the necessary changes in the chemicals responsible for violence. Such a chemical transformation will be a long stride in the direction of developing non-violence.

Non-violence and the Education System

     The present day education system lays a great deal of stress on intellectual development. Our colleges and universities are producing excellent teachers, scientists, lawyers, administrators, educationists and businessmen. But they are unable to produce high quality ethical, religious and spiritual men. The left lobe of our brain has become overactive and the right lobe has become inactive. This imbalance has made the whole human personality unbalanced and an unbalanced personality becomes the cause of violence. Only a balanced personality can bring about non-violence. For solving the problem of violence it is necessary that our education system should aim at a balanced development of the intellectual and emotional aspects of the personality. Both the lobes of the brain have to be activated so that the right soil is created for sprouting the seeds of non-violence.

Non-violence and Willpower

     Why does an individual indulge in violence? This question has great importance for one who practices non-violence. Its answer compels us to probe the unconscious. We discover there what psychologists call a repressed desire that drives one to violence. It can be controlled only by strong willpower, which is the same as a strong vrata or vow. It is for this purpose that the Anuvrata movement is going on. The unconscious harbours ego which accounts for the individual getting enjoyment out of thinking very high of himself and very low of others. Discrimination practiced on the basis of race and colour is but one manifestation of man's ego. Irrational insistence too is rooted in ego. Here in also lies the seed of the communal problem. Here it is relevant to recall one of the vows of Anuvrata:
"I will believe in human unity, will eschew any discrimination based on race, colour etc as well as untouchability."

     But if we want to develop non-violence, it is not enough to be conscious merely of the present events. We should be equally conscious of the prime instincts causing the events. Thus it is necessary in the present context to work for disarmament and banning wars. But it is not enough, for it is only like fighting a fire without discovering its causes. We have to do both things-- fight the fire that is raging and, more importantly, find out the factors that have caused it. Likewise, solving the existing problem of violence and discovering the basic cause of violence are equally necessary. People working in the field of non-violence are much less concerned about the latter and this, according to us, is the biggest impediment to the growth of non-violence.

     Armament, disarmament, war and banning of war--all these matters fall within the jurisdiction of various governments. The common man has nothing to do with them. And those wielding power are not likely to listen to the talk about non-violence. We have, therefore, to involve the common people in achieving non-violence. These people, as we have seen, have no role in deciding matters of peace and war or of armament and disarmament, but they undoubtedly have the power to decide the destiny of those who decide the above matters. For achieving it,intense faith, incessant striving and complete devotion are needed. We have reason to believe that these qualities will emerge in those working in the field of non-violence.

World Peace and Non-violence

     Today we have conquered distance. We are no longer living as isolated individuals. Our activities and thinking now encompass not only the country we belong to, but the whole world. This is an important development. However, let us not forget the truth that the center of all consciousness lies within the individual, no matter whether it is individual consciousness or collective consciousness. Therefore, the dream of world peace cannot be realized without refining the individual consciousness. The individual is relegated to the secondary position as soon as peace becomes an organizational matter or a matter related to management. Now, what characterizes good organization or management is complete control. But such control is subversive of peace. Therefore, sooner or later, one will have to awaken social consciousness in individuals to ensure world peace. This social consciousness is in traditional terms consciousness of equity. Military rulers and dictators have survived through the exercise of total control. But we have now come a long way from the days of monarchy to present day democracy. This is an extremely important change. The next stage of the journey should be a government wedded and committed to peace, a kind of 'paxocracy'. Here it is not necessary that all democratic rulers should have faith in non-violence. The fact of the matter is that even though ideally democracy and non-violence are closely connected, today democratic governments have become close approximations to dictatorship. The system of 'paxocracy' will not be different from that of democracy, but the rulers in the former system will have to be men and women having complete faith in non-violence. Only in such a 'paxocray' can the dream of world peace come true.

Non-violence : A Practical Course of Development

     If only conferences could establish world peace, we could not ask for a greater blessing. Let us not forget that even governments organize similar conferences with the same objective of peace in the world. But the very same governments keep arming themselves to the teeth. This duplicity is misleading. What a contradiction! Both, efforts for peace and those for developing increasingly destructive weapons, made at the same time. People everywhere are opposed to war. They never like their own money collected through taxes wasted on wars and their instruments. Unfortunately governments thwart and defeat the wishes of people.

     Today there is no powerful platform of non-violence anywhere. People working for non-violence are scattered without any effective links and contacts, or even unity of purpose. Whereas nations with opposing ideologies have found a common platform in the UNO where they confer, deliberate and try to solve international problems, people bound together by a common faith in non-violence never meet, talk or sit together to find collective solutions to the world's problems. A global platform of universal non-violence should be created where the various problems of violence may be collectively considered and decisions taken on the ways of ending incidents of violence. Should it happen, it will be a great step forward towards the establishment of world peace.

     People working in the field of non-violence are in fact very inadequately trained and practiced in non-violence. It is necessary to frame a course of action to remove this inadequacy so that a cadre of seasoned and well-trained workers is created to spread the message of non-violence to every corner of the world.

     Peace brigades have been formed at some places but they are just a drop in the ocean. Renewed efforts should be made to strengthen the above experiment and to make it more meaningful.

     The above three-point formula of non-violence can greatly benefit the cause of world peace. All our thinking must be centered on it. Of course other programmes can also be proposed so long as we are clear about the aim---strengthening the faith in non-violence and faith in non-violence implies nourishing world peace. Let all our energies be trained in this direction. Our effort must be world-wide. May the cause of universal non-violence advance and flourish!


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