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The Triple A Doctrines of Jainism: Their Value to Druidry & The Wider World

April 29th, 2011

In the ‘About’ section of this blog, I explain its rationale: “I spend much of my days writing ‘serious’ material that must fit into particular structures: books, articles, and workshop programmes. So to balance this, I am using this blog as a play-space: a place to relax and have fun – to share some of the strange, sometimes sad, sometimes hilarious material that comes my way. And it’s also a place to share ideas…”

There have been plenty of ‘fun’ pieces in here recently, so now let me share a more serious piece with you. It’s written in rather a dry style perhaps, but I’m trying to focus on specific ideas that I have found of tremendous value. This won’t be to everyone’s taste in this fast-moving internet world, but here it is:

The most famous festival in Jainism occurs every 12 years in the town of Shravanabelagola in Karnataka. The 10th century statue of Bahubali, Lord Gommateshvara, is annointed with water, milk and turmeric amidst great celebration.

The Triple A Doctrines of Jainism:

 Their Value to Druidry & The Wider World

‘aparigraha parmo dharm’.

 (Non-Possessiveness is the supreme duty or highest religion.)

Acharya Mahapragya

At the heart of Jainism lies a trio of related doctrines known as Ahimsa, Aparigraha and Anekant, which – although of great antiquity – have much to offer to our contemporary world, and to the followers of other faiths or none. Since I help to lead a Druid group whose concerns are very much focused on the contemporary challenges we face, I am particularly interested in the way these doctrines can be shared within Druidry, which over the last century has expressed a generous eclecticism and universalism.

Jainism, with its extreme reverence for all life-forms, is today seen as a religion that can champion ecological issues. From its beginnings it has welcomed women into the ascetic community, and it sustains one of the most cultured communities in India. It is responsible for the oldest libraries in the country, a highly developed system of logic and metaphysics that includes the most detailed doctrine of karma, finely carved temples, the earliest representations of mandalas and yantras in India, and a set of doctrines which, although ancient, speak powerfully to present-day concerns.

In addition to the value of exploring the differences between Druidry and Jainism,  which by their very contrast can help to clarify one’s own views, I am convinced that a study of Jainism has much to offer the Druid – and in particular, the trio of doctrines mentioned at the beginning of this essay, of Ahimsa, Aparigraha and Anekant.

Ahimsa is the Doctrine of Harmlessness or Non-Violence, made famous by Gandhi, and espoused by the other Dharmic traditions of Buddhism and Hinduism, but arguably first developed amongst the Jains. Whether or not this is historically true, it is undoubtedly the case that in Jainism, the application of ahimsa is more radical than in any other religion. Aparigraha is the Doctrine of Non-Attachment or Non-Possessiveness or Non-Acquisition, which is also found in the other Dharmic traditions, and applied rigorously within the Jain ascetic community. Anekant is the Doctrine of Many-sidedness or of Multiple Viewpoints (also known as the Doctrine of Relative Pluralism, Non-Absolutism, or Non One-sidedness), that is unique to Jainism, and constitutes, in some scholars’ eyes one of the religion’s most significant contributions to humanity.

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