Non Voilence & World Peace

Jain Books

Anekanta and Non-Violence

-Acharya Mahaprajna

The world we live in is dualistic, compound of separateness and oneness. The latter lies concealed, the former manifests itself clearly. Men differ from one another in several ways:

1. Differences of beliefs and concepts

2. Differences of ideas

3. Differences of taste

4. Differences of temperament

5. Differences of emotion

Differences of Beliefs and Concepts

Differences of beliefs have led to the creation of many sects and their innumerable followers. Sectarian differences are a sign of freedom of thinking. Man is not a mechanical but a thinking being. He has his own ways of thinking, postulating new doctrines and accepting them.

But, besides being thoughtful, man is emotional too. If he had been thoughtful only, differences would have remained just differences and nothing more. They would not have led to strife due to sectarian malice and cancour. So, it is not only differences of beliefs that cause sectarian provocation, but also certain obduracy born of emotions.

Differences of Ideas

Every man is an independent being. So differences of ideas are but natural. If he were a machine or if he was governed mechanically, he would have thought uniformly. Since it is not the case and since each man has a different kind of awareness, individual differences in thinking are not unnatural. However, these differences of ideas cause strife only when aggravated by emotions.

Differences of tastes

All people are not uniformly sensitive. The same thing can give the sensation of joy to one person and that of grief to another. Having these different sensations does not cause strife. The spark of strife is kindled by emotions.

Differences of temperament

There are as many temperaments and habits as there are individuals. It is the inner chemistry that is responsible for temperamental diffferences. But here too, these differences become a cause of strife when they are impregnated with emotions.

Types of emotions

Though the cause of individual difference is emotion, not all individuals have the same degree of emotion. Differences are caused only by the ascending or descending order of the degree of emotion. From this point of view there are three main orders of degree and nine secondary orders of degree:

1. Mild-emotion in a low degree

2. Medium-emotion in an average degree

3. Strong-emotion in a high

There are three degrees of mildness:

1. Weak

2. Medium-Weak

3. Highly-Weak

The medium also has three degrees:

1. Medium

2. Medium-Medium

3. Upper-Medium

Similarly, there are three degrees of the strong:

1. Strong

2. Medium-strong

3. Highly-strong

A mildly emotive man believes in peaceful coexistence. He does not take part in activities involving destruction and malice and can never think of lolling either himself or others.

Men of medium emotions are malicious and take part in riots and destructive activities. Men with medium-medium emotions practise hatred based on caste and colour, believe in untouchability and aggravate and spread social inequity.

People with upper-medium degree of emotions contribute to sectarian provocation and wilfully cause sectarian strife.

Those who have strong emotions indulge in violent activities like suicide and homicide.

Man with medium-strong emotions provoke violence on casteism and sectarian bases.

People with highly-strong emotions create a war mania in the people.

Violence and exclusive or one-sided viewpoint

The intenser the emotion, the more compulsive becomes false tenacity and obduracy based on one-sidedness. And false tenacity and obduracy based on one-sidedness are the main characteristics of violence. Violence is not confined to armament and war. Family quarrels, bitterness in human relations, racial, sectarian and regional conflicts, separatist thinking are forms of incipient violence which ultimately lead to armament and war. Disarmament and banning of wars are good principles, but we will have to first pay attention to the basic causes of violence. False tenacity pushes a nation into cruelty and opens the doors to violence. To reduce false tenacity Anekanta provides an important alternative.

The Basic Principles of Anekanta

Anekanta is an experiment in freeing oneself from false tenacity and obduracy. It has five basic principles:

1. Dialectical Relation

2. Co-existence

3. Autonomy

4. Relativity

5. Reconciliation

Dialectical Relation

Philosophical aspect: Only that exists which has its opposite. Existence is dialectical (yat sat tat satpratipaksham), i.e. No existence is without an opposite.

Practical aspect: The opposite is an obligatory part of one's being. Since it is complementary, don't treat it as an adversary. Behave with it as a friend. But what we see is that people following different social, economic and political systems do not respect one another and behave as enemies. Both in the Loka Sabha and Rajya Sabha the opposition has an important place. Even then it is not treated respectfully but as an adversary.

Reinforcing Practice aspect: The principle of opposites has universal validity. Even then because of his emotional and self seeking nature people treat those holding opposite view as enemies. For changing this emotional attitude, practice in reconciliation, proves very useful. Respecting views opposed to one's own is an important aspect of safeguarding one's being. Therefore, engaging repeatedly in mental reflection on reconciliation is essential.


Philosophical aspect: Every thing has countless pairs of opposites. They exist together.

Practical aspect: It is possible for two individuals with opposite views to live together. The beauty of this world lies in the principle of let us co-exist. Therefore don't think of destroying your opponent. Define the limits and stay within them --you within yours and he within his. Don't transgress the limits.

Reinforcing practice aspect: Opposition is a mental construct. It is this that is the main obstacle to coexistence. If we sublimate the emotions of fear and hatred, this obstacle will be automatically removed. For the sublimation of emotions repeated mental reflection on coexistence is essential.


Philosophical aspect: Every object has an independent or autonomous existence. None interferes with any other and so all objects are able to retain their identity based on their intrinsic qualities.

Practical aspect: Respecting and recognising the importance of individual freedom is a prerequisite of a healthy society. The value of individual freedom should not be underrated while conceding the importance of sociality.

Reinforcing Practice aspect: One person should not be a hindrance to another person's freedom. Only that person can do it who does not consider his view to be exclusively true. No one holding his view as absolute truth can help interfering with the freedom of others. Repeated mental reflection on autonomy or freedom is essential for changing this tendency towards interference.


Philosophical aspect: Our being is independent and absolute, but our personality is relative. Within the limits of personality our freedom is also relative. Therefore no man is absolutely free and since he is not absolute he is relative. The theory of evolution bases itself on struggle and strife. Anekanta bases itself on interdependence. We survive on the basis of mutual support.

Practical aspect: Those whose thinking is one-sided, view the individual and society separately in a fragmented manner. Some of them give absolute importance to society while some others give it to the individual. Anekanta has a holistic view. According to it both the individual and society are relative. If society were all important, individual freedom would become meaningless and if the individual were everything, relativity would have no meaning. Freedom operates within the limits of relativity and the latter acts upon and applies to the relation between the individual and society.

It is the absolutist standpoint that is responsible for embittering human relations. Even chauvinism and war are the products of the same standpoint. Human relations can be viewed in a much wider perspective on the basis of relativity. And properly understanding one's relation with objects, thoughts, dispositions and the body is very necessary for cultivating non-violence. If relations with men are governed by cruelty, those with objects by attachment, those with ideas by obduracy, those with dispositions by lack of restraint and those with the body by disposition, violence becomes inevitable.

Reinforcing practice aspect: Repeated practices are essential for changing a one-sided or absolutist viewpoint. Mere knowledge cannot bring about a change. Long and sustained practice is necessary for it. Mental reflection on relativity is essential for developing a holistic and relative viewpoint.


Philosophical aspect: No idea can be wholly true. It is partly true. Try to discover the truth in other man's idea even as you regard your own idea as true. It is a sheer obduracy to consider one's own idea as absolutely true and the other's idea as absolutely untrue. Such an obduracy or false insistence leads one to falsehood. The way to discover truth is lack of false insistence. A man devoid of false insistence can seek reconciliation between opposite views.

Practical aspect: Obdurate attitude is mainly responsible for sectarian provocations. One sect is not ready to accept the partial trueness of views held by another sect. Acharya Vinoba once wrote "I agree that the Gita has profoundly influenced me. Next to that is the influence of Lord Mahavira, the reason being my complete belief in his teachings." Mahavira has directed people to accept the truth (satyagrahi). Today everywhere we encounter satyagrahis -- followers of a policy of passive resistance as advocated by Mahatma Gandhi. I was also made a Satyagrahi by Gandhiji. But I knew who I was--not a Satyagrahi but a Satya-grahi (one who accepts the truth). Every man carries a part of the truth in him, which is what makes his life worthwhile. It follows that one should be prepared to accept each such part of the truth as a particular religion, creed or individual may have. We should become satyagrahi (accepters of truth). It is this teaching of Mahavira which has influenced me most next only to the Gita."

Reinforcing practice aspect: A man with 'reptelian brain' is always ready to spread sectarian and racial hatred. Its evil effects can be mitigated through persistent efforts. For begetting an awareness of reconciliation one has to mentally reflect on reconciliation.