Jains and violence

bpj at netg.se bpj at netg.se
Tue May 27 09:15:19 UTC 1997

At 23:10 26.5.1997 +0100, Lars Martin Fosse wrote:

>My primary interest is in cosmology/cosmogony, although I also take an
>interest in Arthashastra. As for politics and violence, I know of very few
>if any religions that have made it beyond being a small-time sect that were
>able to contain violence in politics, even if they in principle wanted to.
>Christianity is a case in point, but I can hardly see that Buddhist and
>Jaina kings were able to contain violence in the highly competitive world of
>South Asian politics. Realizing religious ideals are usually the job of
>specialists, e.g. monks or nuns, or the odd idealistic layman.

Very true. The post of Sushil Jain makes this point very clearly. I have
spoken on the subject with several Tibetan Buddhist teachers. Only one took
the hard line that violence was wrong under _any_ circumstances. Most took
the view that it is the motivation of the act that matters: violence
committed in wilful destructiveness and hate, or in order to further
selfish desires and goals would naturally accrue demerit, while defensive
violence in order to protect innocent beings from immediate violent
agression would in principle be permissible -- with the caveat that the
action must be truely driven by compassion, and not by hate or selfish
cravings. Not surprisingly Asoka is given as a model of this attitude:
while he gave up looting and conquest he did preserve armed forces for
purposes of defense and maintaining law, order and the security of his

I would very much appreciate comments on this topic (defense vs. agression)
from the point of view of other Indian religions -- Jain, Hindu and Sikh.


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