Jainism – Redefining ‘violence.’

Reviewing my notes for Jainism, I had stumbled upon a peculiar idea. Jainism refrains from violence in any form through harsh asceticism, and even goes to the extreme with sallekhana – fasting to death. As mentioned in class, Jainists have monopolized the gem industry and diamond trade in India, a line of work that is seemingly “nonviolent.” However, this presents a contradiction to Jainism’s belief of absolute ahimsa. Wouldn’t such a monopoly of the gem industry be considered a form of “economic” violence, against other companies or groups competing within such an industry? Is there any way to truly live on this earth without engaging in some sort of direct, indirect, or inadvertent violence? Or would the definition of violence must evolve to encapsulate distinct circumstances?

One could argue that the body’s own immune system enacts violence against bacteria and viruses, a living organism and a, technically, non-living protein, respectively. And one cannot suppress their own immune system through sheer will, one has no control over their involuntary bodily functions which emphasize survival. It could be said that all competition, any competition is a form of violence against another; and this is reinforced through the logic of Jainist belief: refrain from Absolutism or “absolute truth”.

Whether it is economic competition from Gem industries, or natural competition for survival through involuntary bodily functions; Jainism’s concept for complete ahimsa, may just be, to a degree, seriously flawed.


  1. Indian Gem trade – New York Times


  1. Are Viruses living organisms?


  1. Are Bacteria living things?


  1. Characteristics of living organisms.


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