Nonviolence to Animals, Earth, and Self in Asian Traditions

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Item Code: IHL628
Author: Christopher Key Chapple
Publisher: Sri Satguru Publications
Edition: 1995
ISBN: 8170304261
Pages: 160
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
Weight 350 gm
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"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 can prevail.

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.


Acknowledgments ix
A Note on Diacritical Marks ix
Introduction xiii
Part I. Nonviolence, Animals, and Earth
1. Origins and Traditional Articulations of Ahimsa 3
2. Nonviolence, Buddhism, and Animal Protection21
3. Nonviolent Asian Responses to the Environmental Crisis: Select Contemporary Examples 49
Part II. The Nonviolent Self
4. Otherness and Nonviolence in the Mahabharata75
5. Nonviolent Approaches to Multiplicity85
6. The Jaina Path of Nonresistant Death 99
7. Living Nonviolence111
Notes 121
Index 141
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