"l like the accessible way this book is written. It focuses on a most important aspect of Eastern
thought and demonstrates its relevance to our current community and individual lite in the modern
West. At the same time it traces the history of nonviolence in the East in a way that has not been
done before"—Harold G. Coward, University of Victoria
This book probes the origins of the practice of nonviolence in early India and traces its path
within the Jaina, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions, including its impact on East Asian Cultures. It
then turns to a variety of contemporary issues relating to this topic such as: vegetarianism}
animal and environmental protection, and the cultivation of religious tolerance.
"Usually the Jains are marginalized and seen as having only a minor role to play in the major
religious movements of Buddhism and Hinduism. Chapple shifts the focus and gives evidence that the
Jains set the pace for the "renouncer" practices of Buddhism and the Yoga, School. By placing the
Jains prior to the other "renounces" groups, one has a new vision of the way in which ahimsa or
nonviolence developed in India." Lewis Lancaster, University of A California, Berkeley
"The work as a whole goes beyond the normal confines within which nonviolence has hitherto been
studied. A good example would A C he how the author ingeniously brings together conflicting views
of world religions by the Jaina methodology at syad-vada, rendered by — him aptly as flexible
fundamentalism."— Padmanabh S. Jaini, University of California, Berkeley
Christopher Key Chapple is Associate Professor of Theology at Loyola Marymount University in Los
Angeles., He is the author of Karma and Creativity, co-translator of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali,
and editor of Winthrop Sargeant’s translation of the Bhagavad Gita.
This book sets out to explore the practice of nonviolence as defined in the Asian context. In
Western cultures, nonviolence usually denotes passive, non- resistant civil disobedience,
pacifism, and conscientious objection to war. It is associated particularly with the Christian
teachings of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and other radical reform movements that
rely on Biblical injunctions to “love your neighbor as yourself ’ and to “turn the other cheek.”
In India, nonviolence is referred to as ahimsa and is most closely associated with the Jaina
religion. It is a personal commitment to respect life in its myriad forms. Its most notable
application comes in the form of vegetarianism, universally observed by Jainas, and selectively
observed by Hindus, particularly of the Brahmin caste, and Chinese Buddhist monks.
The first part of the book, comprising the first three chapters, focuses on the origins and
history of ahimsa, its spread from India into East Asia, and specific forms of nonviolent practice
that can be applied to two modern issues: animal rights and protection of the environment. The
second part of the book turns inward, considering how the nonviolent perspective can influence
one’s thinking about others and about death.
The opening chapter of the book considers the origins of ahimsa in ancient India, with particular
attention given to the Jaina tradition. It advances the thesis that the practice of nonviolence
arose from an ancient renouncer tradition that later gave birth to Jainism and Buddhism and
heavily influenced aspects of Hinduism, including the classical yoga school. As part of this
investigation of origins, the fully developed classical Jaina tradition is discussed.
The second chapter traces the spread of this concept with the Buddhist tradition into China and
Japan, where stories of animal protection and advocacy of vegetarianism take on dramatic flair.
Some implications that Buddhist and Jaina treatment of animals hold for the contemporary issue of
animal rights are also discussed.
The third chapter, based in part on my travels within India, probes how Asian approaches to
nonviolence might help inform the newly emerging field of environmental ethics. It includes
references to Hindu feminist environmentalism, and to the possible interface between Gaia theory
and Jaina cosmology.
ln the second section of the book, models for a nonviolent self are explored, beginning with a
reflective essay on one of the greatest war epics ever composed: the Mahabharata. The interplay of
self and otherness is examined as a foundation for understanding both violence and nonviolence.
When other stands opposed to self, violence can proceed. When other is seen as self, nonviolence
The next chapter discusses the perspectival logic of the Jainas as an expression of nonviolence.
In contrast to dualistic assessments of reality that emphasize good and bad, positive and
negative, heaven and hell, Jainism offers a sevenfold view. In this chapter, a comparison is made
between the Jaina critique of other religious traditions and the modern field of inter religious
dialogue. The multivalent, nondogmatic approach found in the Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutra is also
discussed as a model for nonjudgmental, nonviolent thinking.
In the third essay of this section, the Jaina fast unto death is discussed in relation to the
practice of nonviolence. In light of Jaina cosmology and lifestyle, this observance provides an
intriguing alternative to modern medicine’s tendency to prolong life.
In each of these three_
essays, the self is seen in light of nonviolence, first by seeing self as other, next by expanding
the categories through which one assesses reality, and finally by not clinging to life when its
demise cannot be avoided.
The concluding chapter discusses some parallel approaches to nonviolence found in Western culture.
This book examines nonviolence from a variety of perspectives. It is both historical and
constructive. It is suggested here that the ethical challenge posed by ahimsa can help address
issues of contemporary life, such as the abuse of animals, the current state of ecological ravage,
and the disconnectedness and dehumanization of mass society. A system such as ahimsa, which
originates from outside the structures of science and technology, might help inform or perhaps
inspire new models for personal and societal reform.
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