My life as a Jain embraces non-violence and science
There are three basic pillars of Jainism: Non-Violence, Non-Possessiveness and Non-Absolutism.
There are three jewels, which are: Right Knowledge, Right Faith and Right Conduct.
As I write about my learning of the Jain religion, experiences and applications of Jain principles, non-violence has had a major influence on me. As per my learning, my perspective about Jainism is not to kill any living being, respect all living beings and to help all living beings whether they are as big as an elephant or as small as a microscopic cell. While learning about Jainism, I found it to be a very scientific religion, and I love science, so I love to learn more and more about it! My learning about Jainism started when I was about 2 years old and it still continues today at our temple and Sunday school.
When I was 5 years old, my mom and I were passing by the deli in the grocery store, something caught my eye. It was an animal rolling around on a stick. It was very heartbreaking to see all the pain and suffering the animal had gone through. From that day on, I was sure I wouldn’t ever eat meat (I also didn’t eat meat before).
While asking me to help with household chores, my parents told me to vacuum inside the house. When I was about to vacuum the stairs, I saw ants in the corners on the stairs. So, the principles of Jainism stopped me from vacuuming the stairs, because it would have killed lots of ants. That time I remember that someone at our temple had put baby powder to make ants go away without killing them, so I put on the powder and ants went away. I vacuumed the stairs the next day. This saved me from killing lots of living beings.
During one of the Sunday school sessions, my teacher told the class to always read the ingredients of any food before you buy or eat it. She said, “Especially check candies and snacks, because as kids, you love to eat them, but sometimes there are hidden ingredients which are made by harming other living beings,” for example, popular red dye (Carmine) and food coloring. Red dye is mostly made from crushed bugs. So, I especially check for red-colored candy and snacks. This teaching is now my second nature
In another instance, a small interaction with a Jain monk made a big difference in our life. During one of his lectures, he said, “Find someone to feed before you eat.” I asked my mom if we can find someone to feed. We went to the front yard and around the neighborhood to see if we could feed someone, but no one was there. Coming back with a sad feeling, we saw birds in our backyard. We were delighted and gave bird food to them and they ate happily. From that day on, every morning we see birds in our backyard, and we love to feed them, which puts a smile on our face.
The ultimate happiness comes when you help and not hurt any living being. To sum this up, I’d like to end with a couple of quotes stated by Bhagwan (Lord) Mahavir.
“In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self.”
“Kill not, cause no pain. Non-violence is the greatest religion.”
Diya Shah is 12 years old and lives in Chandler with her family. They are part of the Jain Center of Greater Phoenix, located in south Phoenix.
Diya Shah Guest columnist