Category Archives: Jain Philosophy

Jain sadhvi: Jain sutras prohibit dairy

 

Jain ascetics are increasingly recognizing the violence inherent in dairy products and speaking out.
In this video, Sadhvi Vaibhavshree discusses the question “Being a Jain and a follower of nonviolence, should I consume milk or not? I am confused as my family and I do want to drink milk and I am not sure what to do.” Her talk is in Hindi. Thanks to Prof. Pankaj Jain for rendering the translation (to which i have made minimal changes, including re-ordering her ideas to emphasize her “big reveal”).

 

You will be surprised today. I am going to reveal a big truth for the Jain society. In the Jain sutras, dairy products are called vigai and are prohibited in our shastras. Even root vegetables are actually not prohibited in our texts. In the 16th and 17th chapters of Uttaradhyayan, Sthananga Sutra, dairy products are prohibited. It is mentioned that such products cause sexual desires so a spiritual seeker should avoid them. An ascetic consuming milk or yogurt cannot remain an ascetic and will become sinful. However, today, our Jain society does not renounce milk that is a product of five-sensed beings but some of us do renounce root vegetables that are products of one-sensed beings. We should prioritize avoiding the violence to five-sensed beings before worrying about violence to one-sensed beings. We make excuses about nonviolence but refuse to change our habits of consuming dairy products. I am sorry to say this. If one wants to practice nonviolence, start from self, be free from attachments and aversions, and avoid the stress. When we commit violence to ourselves, we also commit violence to the entire universe, according to Lord Mahavira in Acharang Sutra. Violence to one is violence to all.

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Jain declaration on Climate Change

Our Jain religion emphasizes ahimsa and we care for all living beings. Given today’s challenges, it is time for us to take a position on climate change. We invite comments to this position! (The picture below is not ours, we like it but it is just for illustration. Our position is in the text .)

Earth pledge

 

A Call to Action for Jains on Climate Change

 Ahimsak Eco-Vegan Committee of JAINA

Climate change threatens to harm all living beings on an unprecedented scale. Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Muslims and others have all published their statements on climate change and make specific commitments to mitigate further damage. Our principles of ahimsa and aparigraha make Jainism a religion of environmental protection. The Ahimsak Eco-Vegan Committee of JAINA has drafted a position on climate change to translate our principles into actions.

We will hold a session on Sunday afternoon, July 5 from 4-5 pm at the JAINA convention  and invite you to participate in this session to discuss the right approach to present this position to the world.

Jain Declaration on Climate Change

In 1990, L. M. Singhvi wrote the Jain Declaration on Nature which described a Jain commitment to preserving nature. Almost 30 years later, there is an urgent need for action on climate change.

Jainism is one of the world’s oldest religions, having originated in Northern India well before 500 BCE and, as underscored by The Jain Declaration on Nature, is an ecological religion whose philosophies and codes of conduct inherently provide solutions to address our current crisis of climate change.  The principal tenet of conduct followed by Jains is that of Ahimsa or non-violence to any living being. As a result, practicing Jains are vegetarians.  We also have a long history of building sanctuaries for wounded animals. Jains refrain from the use of pesticides and herbicides, and the teachings prohibit Jains from engaging in professions that harm plants, animals and the earth. Another key tenet followed by Jains is Aparigraha (non-possessiveness). Ahimsa and Aparigraha as taught and traditionally practiced have great relevance to the climate crisis.  We also encourage our community and the world community to embrace new practices based on our fundamental Jain philosophy.

While there is no central authority that speaks on behalf of all Jains, the Federation of Jain Associations in North America (JAINA) is a well-established organization with an evolving agenda proposed by a number of committees. JAINA organizes conferences, activities and an education curriculum for Jains in North America. The Ahimsak Eco-Vegan Committee of JAINA affirms the consensus position of scientists that human activities, primarily the burning of fossil fuels and animal agriculture,  are the main cause of global warming. JAINA recognizes the extreme threat that climate change poses to all life on Earth.  We ask Jain individuals and communities to sign on to this Position on Climate change in order to make a public commitment to action.

Climate change in 2019

Burning massive quantities of fossil fuels to build and run modern society has increased the concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere from pre-industrial levels of 280 parts per million (PPM) to over 410 PPM. The CO2 molecules in the atmosphere trap heat from the sun. To date the average temperature of the Earth’s surface has increased by 1 degree Celsius due to warming by greenhouse gases released through human activities. Most of the extra CO2 and heat has been absorbed by the oceans, creating stress and dangerous living conditions for marine animals.

Higher temperatures have made life very difficult for many animal and plant species. In fact, tens of thousands of plant and animal species are going extinct every year due to habitat loss and changing climate. Hundreds of humans also die every year due to hotter conditions and from extreme heat events cause by climate change. Disease patterns are changing, with the most vulnerable animals and humans getting even sicker. Changes in the climate have already changed the geographic distribution of pathogen carrying mosquitoes and increased the risk of diseases such as Zika virus.

We see that sea levels are rising due to melting glaciers and hotter ocean temperatures. Low lying areas are flooding, causing people and animals to be displaced. Warmer ocean temperatures are also adding extra energy to hurricanes making them ever more destructive, again causing much loss of life and suffering.

We also see that forests are getting drier and wildfires are becoming increasingly more prevalent and destructive. All of this causes incredible suffering and loss of life – plant, animal and human. This is an unacceptable situation for Jains who hold that all life is sacred.

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Happy Earth Day and Special Call out to Southern California!

Big news in our community: The Jain Center of Southern California (JSSC) has decided to serve all vegan meals starting next year, with a transition period this year.  Pravin uncle of the JAINA Education Committee  gives us the inside story here .

As nicely described by Sagar of Young Jains here, the JSSC is the third Jain organization, after the Sri Digambar Jain Association in 2016 and Young Jains UK in 2017 to go vegan.

This is the first one in North America to go vegan. Fellow Jains have called on Northern California, Houston, Chicago and others to follow. Let’s hope they do. And with the JSSC hosting the next JAINA convention, we can hope that the biennial convention of North American Jains just might make a bold step that’s been a long time coming.

We Jains have a deep caring for all living beings and it’s an easy argument to eliminate dairy because we are saving the lives of dairy cows and their calves, egg laying hens and their chicks.

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If we reflect on Earth Day, and the myriad ways that farming animals contributes to climate change, pollutes the water and air, uses inordinate amounts of water and land, we can see the less direct but still important benefits of going vegan. Books like  Drawdown list plant rich diets as #4 in the list of most impactful steps to save the planet and all the living beings on it.

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Svetambar Muni encourages veganism

In the past, we posted a Youtube Video of a Digambar muni who recognized the violence in dairy production and consumption. Now the Svetamabar tradition is represented! This maharaj saheb gives a very inspiring talk about how our Tirthankars and disciples did drink milk in small quantities as medicine and even broke fasts with kheer, but how our current consumption of milk by the glassful is cruel and unhealthy. He encourages the audience to go vegan for 3 months, no excuses, no substitues, and to include non dietary aspects too. He has been vegan for 6 years and has noticed a difference in his way of thinking.
Please click the continue reading button to read the full English translation, thanks to Pranav Mehta. Labdhi Sagar Maharaj Saheb has quite a charismatic speaking style, and those of you that understand Gujarati can enjoy it!

 

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Why should a Jain renounce milk for Paryushan and Das Laxan?

mahavira

 

 

 

This photo depicts the story of Lord Mahavira meeting the angry serpent Chandakaushik whom he met while meditating in the forest. He is so filled with compassion that he does not harm the snake. When the snake bites him, milk issues forth from his foot. He is as filled with love for the snake as a mother is for her child.

 

One should not injure, subjugate, enslave, torture, or kill any living being including animals, plants, or insects — Respect for all living beings is Non-Violence. – Ächäränga SutraBhagawän Mahãvira

There are five acts or deeds, which should be known and avoided. They are:
• Tying animals where it could hurt them, or putting them in cages where there is no freedom
• Beating them with sticks or any other means
• Piercing their nose, ear, or amputating limbs or any part of the body
• Making them carry a heavy load
• Depriving them of food and shelter
Pratikraman Sutra, Lesson 7 on Non-violence

As Jains we have abstained from meat and eggs for thousands of years. Our practice of ahimsa has lacto-vegetarianism as a moral baseline.
So now, why vegan? Here we’ll cover the hinsa involved in milk products. We’ll do a separate post on eggs. On a Jain site, we hope we don’t have to explain what’s wrong with meat!

We can read the words as they’ve been passed down through Lord Mahavir’s  disciples and consider in modern times, would Lord Mahavir have told us it is OK to consume milk? Consider this question as you read the facts.

 

Slaughterdairycow

Dairy Cowsconfined dairy cow

A cow raised for her milk is forcefully impregnated yearly, and her babies are taken away within few days. She is either pregnant or lactating 9 or 10 months out of every year only to have the cycle repeat once she gives birth.
Certain amounts of pus and blood are legally permissible in milk. We use this milk in pujä and other ritual.
Dairy cows are no longer vegetarian. Along with grains, they are fed unnatural, high-protein diets – which include dead chickens, pigs, and other animals.
Using powerful hormones, the cows are forced to produce 6 to 8 times as much milk as they naturally would. Also in spite of heavy use of antibiotics, these animals develop mastitis, open wounds and other infections.
A cow’s natural lifespan is about 20 years, but cows used by the dairy industry are slaughtered after only 4 or 5 years, and their meat turned into pet food or hamburgers. Or in India, their meat is exported.

Veal CalvesVeal

All calves are taken from their mothers within few days. Female calves become dairy cows and Male calves become veal. They are kept confined, many in dark, tiny crates, where they are kept almost completely immobilized so their flesh stays tender. They are slaughtered in about six months.

Transport and Slaughter

Nearly every adult cow around 5 years of age and almost every male baby cow will be shipped to a slaughterhouse and killed. When transported in hot weather, many cows collapse in the heat; in the cold, cows can freeze to the sides of the truck until workers pry them off with crowbars. Cows are shot in the head with a steel bolt gun meant to stun them, but often this fails to render them insensible to pain. Dairy cows may be conscious when they are shackled, hoisted, and cut. Continue reading

Please consider giving up dairy products this Paryushan

Paryushan

 

The Jain Vegans Working Group issue a compelling plea based on the suffering and death involved in dairy product consumption. Please give up dairy products during this time that Jains traditionally fast, introspect, repent for past misdeeds, and make vows for spiritual purification. 

Paryushan, the Jain festival of penance and forgiveness will begin very soon. During the festival, followers of the Jain faith traditionally fastrepent, and forgive. For lay members, fasting often entails avoiding activities that are traditionally thought to cause more himsa than others, such as eating root vegetables or eating after sunset.

As someone who has come across the activities of the Jain Vegans Working Group, you will be aware of how our consumption of dairy (organic or conventional) leads to the immense suffering and murder of innocent cows.

  • Dairy cows are forcefully impregnated by means of artificial insemination to stimulate milk production.
  • Calves are immediately separated from their mothers at birth.
  • Male calves are slaughtered soon after birth or sold on to be reared for veal or beef (they are of no other value to a dairy farmer)
  • Dairy cows will normally get slaughtered before the age of 7, even though they could live up to 20 years if given the chance.  This is because at around that age her milk yield drops, and it does not make financial sense for a farmer to keep her alive when he is able to obtain milk from her younger (and more productive) daughters.

In light of all this, it seems reasonable that during Paryushan we as Jains should acknowledge and reflect on the suffering we have imposed on cows as a result of our consumption of dairy products.

Paryushan offers a perfect time to reflect on the actions we undertake in our daily lives and to make changes to our dietary habits.  So, in addition to the other activities you undertake, why not consider giving up dairy products this Paryushan

Jain Digambar Muni urges Jains to renounce milk

Jain Muni Ji Shri Vihar Sagarji Maharaj explains that jivdaya is not consistent with consuming milk. He shows photos of the situation of dairy cows in India and explains that by participating in this violence, we invite negative karmic consequences and suffering to ourselves. He urges us to quit taking milk and milk products. The video is in Hindi but English subtitles are displayed.
This is revolutionary! This muni has taken a courageous stand, in contrast to others that simply defer to tradition and refuse to see and speak truth.

 

The back story of this video is also interesting. Fauna Police is a rescue organization in New Delhi and Abhinav took the video below. It seems that Jain friend Gaurav had introduced Abhinav to the muni. Now that I follow Abhinav’s facebook page, I see that an increasing number of munis have been exposed to the truth behind dairy and some have agreed to abstain from dairy products.  Fauna police’s blog and YouTube Channel are impressive.  It is tremendously hopeful that change is occurring in India!

Jeevdaya Day in Toronto

by Professor Kirti Shah

Jain Society of Toronto celebrated Jeevdaya day on June 29. The event was organized by the Jeevdaya group an informal group set up to educate and involve Jain Community in compassion activities. There are several words to describe “compassion” in our tradition(Jeevdaya,Karuna,Pranatipat virman). This is fundamental to Jainism.

It was a whole day event. Dr. Tushar Mehta was the Master of Ceremonies for the event.It started with a presentation by Dr. Tushar Mehta on the health benefits of a plant based(vegan) diet.20140629_121004

Next, Sanjay Jain made an excellent presentation on Jeevdaya describing how his convictions grew over the years as he was confronted with choices. These choices led him to abstain from pearls, silk, leather, wool and eventually dairy. At every stage he was enthusiastically supported by his wife Prachi.Sanjay also arranged a display with ten posters and several models which described how current practices in food industry involve extreme cruelty. This was very well received.20140629_164045

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jain ascetics in the media, use of animals in medicines and veganism

UC Berkeley had a screening last week of a movie called “The Ship of Theseus” by Indian Filmmaker Anand Gandhi. Featuring 3 stories of people with donated organs, the 2nd story presented a monk named Maitreya, who by all implications (though not stated as such) was a Svetambara Jain. He was portrayed sympathetically, going to the Indian high court with a meat eating lawyer, arguing for better treatment of animals in research, and elimination of cosmetic and non essential testing. His adversaries are representatives of pharmaceutical companies.  There was footage of draize testing, with substances placed into the eyes of rabbits, clearly unnecessary and brutal. He was shown carefully placing a caterpillar on a leaf, out of the way of trampling human feet. The lifestyle of the monks was also shown quite poignantly, walking barefoot in pouring rain, searing sun, taking only small amounts of the food offered to them, but oddly that food included  milk or a milk product such as kadhi (yogurt soup) . And hence the disconnect. The movie actually portrayed him saying the word “vegan”, as in he didn’t expect the world to go vegan overnight, but it was unclear if the movie intended to show the contradiction that , traditionally, Jains eat dairy products or it was an oversight. But his ethical dilemma was not about eating dairy products; rather it came when he was diagnosed with liver cirrhosis, likely from a parasite that was portrayed under a microscope. For a long time he refuses to take medicine as he knows it has been tested on animals. There is even speculation that he will undergo sallekhana the fast until death that Jains with terminal illness sometimes conduct. But (spoiler alert) at the end he decides he wants to live. He takes medicine, accepts a liver transplant and at the end of the movie is shown in laymen’s clothes. The movie leaves open to question how he has reconciled his previous stance with the compromise that he had to make to save his life and whether he decided to leave the monk’s life. As dissatisfying as some of the contradictions of this portrayal were, the movie brought to life the Jain emphasis on ahimsa and the severe discipline of the ascetic life. I asked the filmmaker, who was present at the screening, if there was any real  monk on whose story the character of Maitreya was based and he answered, along the lines of what you can find in the Wikepedia entry for the Ship of Theseus, that Maitreya is a composite of Satish Kumar, Mahatma Gandhi, Abhay Mehta, and Shrimad Rajchandra, none of whom (as far as I know) actually address/ed animal testing or veganism. I hope that I’ve simply not been informed, but I am not aware of any Jain monks that have taken an activist stand, engaging and trying to change the mainstream society’s ideas of animal abuse, apart from opposing animal slaughter for meat. And perhaps that’s why this, opposition to animal testing, is the aspect of activism that was chosen to be portrayed. It would not have been so easy to show inner conflict it the moral conflict was simply about stopping the eating of animals, because actually that does not pose such problems for Jains. if they had dared to explore the stopping of eating dairy, an activist Jain monk or nun that could have taken on the force of tradition, that, too, would have been an interesting story!

Another media portrayal of Jain nuns is not so complimentary. William Dalrymple in “Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India” tells the story of a Mataji, a Digambara ascetic, who takes the nuns vows with a friend, only to watch the friend die of tuberculosis some years later because she refuses to take medicine, presumably  because the medicine involved violence to animals. The friend who dies eventually fasts until death. The protagonist nun cries at her loss and is berated by her guru. She eventually appears to decide to fast to death herself,though she has no disease. This portrayal, like the whole book, strikes me as spectacle, rather than of sympathy. Dalrymple seems to point to the nuns and say, look how odd, these Jains just starve themselves,  without distinguishing what is, at least to this medically trained reader, obvious depression in the protagonist nun leading her to lose interest in life. Her best friend is gone, her guru is un-supportive and she has previously renounced her ties to family and society. To me this rejection of life violates the reasons a Jain is to consider sallekhana. The moral question around the other nun not taking medicine for TB is not explored, written off as “tradition”.

Though both Nine Lives and The Ship of Theseus show Jain ascetics grappling with mortality and ahimsa in Indian society, the former is decidedly less sympathetic. I can only hope that a real activist Jain ascetic can address the public misperceptions around Jain practice and promote a meaningful  practice of ahimsa.The first sadhvi (Jain nun) to take the vows in the US was supportive of Prof Gary Francione’s message at JCNC in 2013. Will she or any other ascetic speak out for veganism? That will be a revolutionary moment in Jainism and possibly a media worthy one.

THe New Incarnation of Jivdaya: The Ahimsak Eco Vegan Committee of JAINA

In the late 1990s, the Jivdaya committee actively promoted veganism. It was clear that animal sanctuaries, the traditional institutions for Jains to give money in India to express their ahimsa, was not addressing the root of the problem of animal suffering and slaughter. I have posted some of the material from this era on this site.

This year was have a newly approved JAINA committee to represent these views and link them with our growing awareness of environmental choices that we make that can hurt or help animals and other living beings. Dubbed the Ahimsak Eco-Vegan Committee, our objective and goals follow.

 

Objective

The Ahimsak Eco- Vegan committee, as an expression of ahimsa, support veganism which we understand to mean not eating, wearing, or using animal products, because we object to both animal suffering and animal killing. We do not support animal use that is supposedly “humane” and we do not support the marketing of animal products labeled as “humane”.

The  Ahimsak Eco- Vegan committee, as an expression of ahimsa,  supports the reduction and elimination of activities contributing to harm of all life, global climate change and destruction of the planet.

Goals:

  • Promote local education and implementation of initiatives in support of ahimsak diet (veganism) and lifestyles (eco-friendly and non-use of animal items in clothing or other use)
  • Move towards fully vegan and eco-friendly YJA and JAINA conventions  events
  • Publicize activities and provide global leadership for the Jain lay, scholar and ascetic community toward an ahimsak diet and lifestyle
  • Provide health related education to the community on a plant based diet and conduct research benefitting our community and contributing to scientific knowledge on benefits, risks and risk mitigation of the modern vegetarian and vegan diet as consumed by Jains in North America.